mixed bag

dylan and i drove the hundred and forty-something mile roundtrip to children's yesterday so that she could have another upper GI series. the great news is that everything looked perfect. the doctor didn't even think reflux was any sort of concern. so that is wonderful...except something isn't perfect--something has been making her violently throw-up most all solid foods.

so we're happy, but also frustrated. feeding her is so scary, and in two months she'll be a year and really will need more nutition than i can provide through nursing. after almost three weeks of exclusive nursing (since her last two-day episode after only the tiniest bites of food), i took a deep breath and tried again with solids. like the last two times, dylan was extremely reluctant, because of course she can make the connection! it's sad because she used to love whatever food we put in front of her; she was the happiest, most cooperative eater.

dylan wasn't into it at all, but i managed to get her to eat three bites of pear, and she didn't get sick. baby steps and little victories:)

i really don't want to pray anymore that they'd find out what is wrong, because she's seen probably a dozen doctors, and everyone keeps saying everything looks great. i just want to pray that whatever is causing her illness will disappear, that she will grow out of it, gain weight, and learn to eat well again. i know we serve a God who is able to heal like that, and i pray that he is healing dylan and restoring her to health.


hey hermano

my friend lisa just moved to california, and at her church this week, guess who she saw?

buster bluth!

the weird thing is, he used to go to my sister bethany's church in nyc, so she used to see him on the east coast. i can't believe i forgot about this when i mentioned bethany's celebrity sightings. or the fact that once she ran into job bluth at a downtown hotel:

frivolous though it may be, i love pop culture, i love arrested development, and i'm a little jealous. living in what may perhaps be the geriatric capital of pennsylvania, i don't tend to run into interesting celebrities. i once saw reba mcentire at the nashville airport, but that is not interesting unless you're a fan of country or her sitcom hijinks, and i'm not especially.

though i hate to admit it, when i was pregnant with dylan, i came home from my job at the housing authority and clocked untold hours watching "reba" reruns. we only have ten channels, and i was so sick i didn't even care that that show is terrible.

one time, i woke in the middle of the night to the sound of jim laughing in his sleep. he was laughing hard--real belly laughs. when he woke up, jim shared that his dream (which ordinarily he never remembers) was about the characters in "reba" making up secret codes using nonsensical acronyms like "G.A.S.M.A.N.C.H.A!"

jim's unconscious created a screenplay of an imaginary episode of "reba," and he thought it was so funny he laughed out loud in his sleep.

you can't make this stuff up.


fall down

1. approaching the morning fog, 2. Striped tights and a pumpkin, 3. Autumn's colours !, 4. Divinity, 5. orange leaves, 6. frolics on cold days necessitate the blissful consumption of hot chocolate, 7. Fort Ligonier Days, 8. October kitchen windowsill, 9. Apple Picking: Season's First II, 10. Finished work, 11. cranberry sauce, 12. Autumn Cycle

we are back from vacation, the leaves are changing (and falling!), the air is turning cool, and homecoming was this weekend at the high school. i can't deny any longer that autumn is here.

i know that fall is the favorite season for many people, but it is definitely NOT mine. i mean, the leaves are pretty, but then they fall, and what are we left with? six whole months of trees that look dead and very little sunlight. autumn has a way of reminding me that the winter of my discontent is on its way, and i know i will soon be mourning the passing of the leaves, warmth, and daylight.

all that being said, autumn has it's moments. i like sweaters, hot chocolate, and maybe even a bonfire as much as the next girl. i like bike riding at ohiopyle as the leaves change, and i love fort ligonier days--a huge fall festival in my little town that draws thousands of visitors for a parade, delicious food, and entirely too many crafts. it's fun, and i admit, i'm looking forward to that particular autumn delight.

i think my fall mosaic may just be psyching me up for, if not autumn itself, at least its colors and foods. those fall pleasures even i can't deny.


small and mighty

rhode island is pretty much the best state ever. i'd definitely move there. even though it's tiny, it has 400 miles of coastline and beaches. we are smitten, which is why even though we live in western PA, this was the third time we've made the trip.

we spent one night on block island with my sister, bethany. block island is twelve miles off the coast and accessible only by ferry. we brought our bikes (and dylan's trailer!) and pedaled out to our favorite beach, mohegan bluffs. this is a picture of the wooden stairs that lead down to the beach:

when the stairs run out, there is a moderate scramble over rocks to get to the sand. it is so beautiful there--just the ocean, the sand, and the cliffs.
most people didn't hike all the way to the beach, so even though we passed some folks on the stairs, not many joined us on the sand.

after block island, we met my parents at a house they rented in wickford, a cute bayside town. we spent a day in newport on the beautiful cliff walk that meanders the coast behind the famous mansions, and we visited a winery for tastings and a tour.

we spent another afternoon at the beach in narragansett. it was a breezy late-september day, and only jim swam. i wish it had been warmer, especially so that dylan could have worn her swimsuit and played in the surf, but it was great just to be there. dylan loved the sea gulls and dogs, and jim was able to put his boogie board to good use.

in addition to our time in rhode island, we had two nights at my parents' in eastern PA and two nights in brooklyn, so from there we were also able to spend time with my grandma, my sister tiffany, my brother josh, and dylan's godparents, dann and nancy. we got to see josh's and bethany's apartments for the first time and better picture their lives in philly and brooklyn. being in the city definitely made jim and me nostalgic for our pre-camp life.

on our way home, we stopped in connecticut and had dinner with our friends
beth and charlie and their twin boys. these adorable little peanuts are not even four weeks old, and it was so great to see our friends as parents. plus, the babies made dylan laugh, which was pretty cute. she gets really excited about animals, babies, and little kids. dann and nancy's two cats had her squealing and giggling with much delight.

we loved having opportunities to spend time with people we love and don't see nearly enough, and it was definitely great being back at the beach and in rhode island.
and the rice pudding was unimaginably delicious--thank you, bethany!



after nine days, four states, and many hours in the car, team paul is home from our first family-of-three vacation. traveling with a ten-month-old is not exactly restful, but it was so good to spend time with family and friends and to see them lavish attention and affection on our little girl.

dylan was not exactly a fan of her pack n play on the road, and i am thankful that she is snoozing happily back in her crib. while we are definitely going to miss this,

it is good to be home.



in addition to saving us money and teaching us to be more intentional with spending and grateful for what we have, the "30 days of nothing" is having an unforeseen benefit: i now weigh seven pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight!

granted, i can attribute some of this to the fact that we aren't having to eat camp food in the dining hall, and of course, i am still breastfeeding, but our diet has been really good this month as a result of the challenge--no eating out, few snacks, and lots and lots of veggies, produce, and good whole foods. i never thought it would make such a tangible difference, and i am happy to be surprised:)


16 lbs of trouble

since dylan learned to crawl, her favorite destination is the tv stand so she can stick her fingers in the vcr. (yes, that is a circa 1988 old school nintendo on the right. yeah doctor mario.)

we are continuously telling her "no thank you" and relocating her. dylan always looks back to check where we are, and she completely knows it's not where she's supposed to be. defiance begins early!

dylan is also pulling herself up, and this week i noticed teeth marks all over the top railings of her crib! that can't be very healthy...


i heart nyc

my sister bethany went to college in new york city, a place of more sophisticated thrills than, say, colonial williamsburg, the place i called home in college. the height of off-campus excitement in williamsburg entailed jumping the colonial governor's palace wall at night.

in williamsburg, it wouldn't be uncommon to spot a reenactor at the drugstore, picking something up after work in full costume. bethany's celebrity sightings are a lot more interesting, however, and i love when she shares stories. she's seen dozens, but the ones i recall include sufjan stevens, chris noth of sex and the city, maggie gyllenhaal, and the kid who played henry on dawson's creek.

i think she might stretch the truth a little on these sightings. one time i was visiting her, we passed a little person who i didn't get a good look at.
b: "he's that actor. he lives around here; i see him all the time."

me: "the guy from elf?" (and the station agent--such a good movie!)

b: "no...."

me: "wee-man?"



"no, you know, the little one..."

"from seinfeld?"

"no. you know, that guy!"

"bethany, how many famous little actors do you think there are?"

"c'mon, you know who i'm talking about..."
clearly, i had no idea who the heck she was talking about. i still don't and frankly, i remain unconvinced that it was an actual celebrity sighting, but i digress. new york is an incredible city with a million things to do and see--museums, broadway, shopping, culture, you know the drill. i don't know exactly what it says about me, but my favorite place to go in new york is...

the rice pudding store! i'm totally serious and completely jealous that my town doesn't have it's own rice pudding store.

what? you've never heard of an establishment that exclusively sells the deliciousness that is rice pudding? it's pretty much the best place ever. i finally got to go in february when dylan and i visited bethany, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

to psych ourselves up for the excursion (as if i could have been more excited!), we read a review and interview with the shop owner that contains this priceless journalistic gem:
''Everyone,'' he said inaccurately, ''loves rice pudding.''
we're picking up bethany in brooklyn on our way to rhode island, and i hope we can stop by and introduce jim to the pleasure that is Rice to Riches. i'm already salivating thinking of which of the 21 flavors to try. caramel? tiramisu? cheesecake? and the toppings...espresso, pound cake, fruit...it's gonna be a great vacation.


the one where instead of buying nothing we spend, spend, spend

we made an indulgent and expensive purchase--a bike for me. we got a good deal, but it was a significant chunk of change nonetheless and certainly not in keeping with our "30 days of nothing."

we bought my old bike six years ago at toys r us, and it has served me well. i learned to navigate and love urban biking on it. ok, maybe not love, but i learned to be comfortable amidst traffic, and i loved killing two birds with one stone by exercising on my commute and making better time than i could in my car. after we moved here i took it trail riding and on camp's bike park, but i haven't been on it since before i was pregnant. the brakes on it were always dicey, and they never worked at all in the rain, which made for a few scary rides. otherwise, it worked well enough for my needs. well, it used to.

jim took it up to camp's bike shop to tune it up, and only four gears were working. i figured i could work with that, but then it turned out the brakes were shot and would need to be completely rebuilt. that kind of expense just wouldn't be worthwhile on an aged eighty-dollar toys r us bike.

so that is how we ended up at the sporting goods store. we looked a few years ago for a better bike for me, but all they had back then were a few junkies and bikes in the 300-400 dollar (and up!) range, but today they had models with decent parts and more modest price tags.

we have our hearts set on biking on vacation, so we decided buy a new one and make it happen. this summer we had already purchased a trailer and a kiddie helmet so dylan can join the fun. we are pretty excited about family biking in rhode island and back at home this fall, especially as the leaves change.
jim, modeling for dylan that "it's cool to wear a helmet!" she appears unconvinced.
her bike trailer converts into a sturdy off-road stroller. i know, it's kind of ginormous, but it also will seat two kids. we can't wait to take it to the beach!


misadventures in recycling

i set out this morning with the baby and a trunk full of a busted electronics in search of a "hard to recycle" drop-off point. finding it proved to be far more elusive than i had hoped as i became more and more lost in the rain. when i got there (seventy-five minutes after i left my house), they had already shut down, and a woman was taking down the sign. she informed me that i was too late, and i was crushed, since they only collect that kind of stuff once or twice a year.

she ended up having mercy and taking my stuff anyway. it cost 20 bucks for them to safely recycle the air conditioner which fried when an electrician overloaded a circuit at our house this summer. she graciously loaded her own car with our old computer tower and two monitors, including the one from jim's office that inexplicably started smoking this week.

i wasted far too much gas getting there, but it's not a wash. they'll recycle everything, and no freon will end up in the groundwater. a rocky start, but a good day for the earth:)


Critiquing Palin

I'm glad McCain has a woman on his ticket, and I'm happy to see a young working mom succeeding in a political game that is still largely an old (white) boys' club eighty-eight years after women won the right to vote in America. I don't know much about Sarah Palin, and I only just today read her speech from last week's convention, but I have two issues with her right off the bat.

Palin dismissed Obama's community organizing experience in Chicago with this jab:
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except
that you have actual responsibilities."

Community organizers' responsibilities include helping disenfranchised and often neglected, poor, and exploited people and communities to find their voice to stand up to power and enact positive community change. Organizing is grassroots, in-the-trenches work that identifies and develops indigenous leaders within communities to ensure that all people in a community, not only the most powerful, wealthy, or connected, are represented when decisions are made. Tenant organizers, like my sister Bethany in Brooklyn, strive to hold landlords to account for their slum-like properties. Environmental justice organizers, like my friend Julie in DC, help neighborhoods protect their health and fight when the powers-that-be want to build trash transfer stations and hazardous waste dumps in their backyards.

Organizers can be a thorn in the side of government and businesses who profit from a status quo that marginalizes low-income people, but one would think that Palin, who claims to be a reform-minded friend to the working class, would respect and not demean organizers and the very people they work to empower and democratically represent.

My second issue with Palin is her support for abstinence-only education. My heart goes out to her and her family as they grapple with their teen daughter's pregnancy under such a big, intrusive spotlight, and I would never question her parenting. Children, and teens especially, make their own decisions, but I do think their family situation highlights what is wrong with abstinence-only education, a policy Palin supports.

As a Christian, do I think the place for sex is within marriage? Of course. But I also think that schools are in the business of education, and that includes health education. Parents and churches absolutely should be vocal about teaching teens about sex and morality, and we are remiss if we allow the culture to do it for us. But the truth is that not all kids will wait for marriage to become sexually active, and without education about contraception and safer sex practices, unplanned pregnancies increase and sexually-transmitted diseases spread.

Of course, parents should always have the right to opt out of sex education classes if they disagree, but not teaching about safer sex practices in schools is a costly mistake. If we really want to decrease the incidences of abortion in this country, which is something I believe people from both side of aisle can agree on, comprehensive sex education in how best to prevent unplanned pregnancies (whether through abstinence or contraception) is what school districts need to implement.


boob job

If the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization all agree that breastfeeding is optimal, why does it seem that doctors are always trying to push f*rmula? I received f*rmula samples, coupons, and gifts from my doctor, the hospital, and from the f*rmula companies in the mail. I gave birth at a birthing center in a hospital with a midwife and was clear about my desire to breastfeed, but I still left the hospital with a goodie bag from a f*rmula company instead of information from a lactation consultant, as they no longer had one on staff.

When Dylan was two days old, the nurse insisted she was hungry and the pediatrician instructed us to supplement with f*rmula until my milk came in (the next day.) I knew that newborn stomachs are tiny and that small amounts of colostrum are all they need in their first days of life, but nonetheless I left the pediatrician's office feeling awful, like I was starving my brand new baby.

We took Dylan to see a GI specialist today. She isn't gaining weight, and the doctor asked if I thought I was producing enough milk. Yes, I think I am producing enough milk. I feed her every three hours, and we're fairly certain they she's not gaining weight because she has been vomiting for the past two months. The doctor prescribed medication for reflux, ordered another upper GI series, and said to hold off on solids. Jim asked if we should give her anything like Pediasure to offer more calories, and she said, no, that's for older kids, but that it might be a good idea to supplement nursing with f*rmula.

Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that supplementing f*rmula for a child who nurses on demand is a good way to decrease the demand for milk and in turn decrease the supply. In that scenario, I'm fairly certain my milk supply would diminish. What the heck, doc?

I still get f*rmula coupons in the mail, even though the companies know I am am breastfeeding; (you fill out cards.) They spend a lot of money and effort trying to entice breastfeeding moms to give up nursing, and many do, especially during the first few weeks when breastfeeding can be difficult. Sadly, once a mom decides to switch to f*rmula, the freebies and coupons dry up faster than her milk supply, and she must then foot the bill for pricey f*rmula while new coupons are sent to breastfeeding moms instead. It's a shame. Obviously, f*rmula companies are looking to recruit customers and increase profits, but I wish doctors would stand by their recommendations and really support breastfeeding instead of joining the chorus of voices pressuring women to doubt themselves, their bodies, and their instincts.


file under "things i wish i didn't need to know"

you know what else cloth diapers are good for? not the thin burp cloth variety but thick and quilty prefold diapers?

catching baby vomit and waterproofing a crib.

i'm just saying. it's been that kind of season around here.

His promised mercy is my fort

i don't have any words today, so i give you luther's, inspired by david's:

Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe)

From the depths of woe I raise to Thee The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark, Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain, Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! Are all in vain; In much the best life faileth;
No man can glory in Thy sight, All must alike confess Thy might,
And live alone by mercy

Therefore my trust is in the Lord, And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His Word Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort, My comfort and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience

What though I wait the live-long night, And ’til the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might; It doubteth not nor feareth;
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait ’til God appeareth

Though great our sins and sore our woes, His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows, Our upmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow


the party's over

we've had free internet courtesy of a wireless router mounted atop the barn and pointed the half mile uphill to the camp's offices. this backwoods set-up is, as one might imagine, pretty precarious. camp has decided to dump their unreliable set-up, thus ending our free ride.

as team paul shall now pay for our online privileges, this blog may be out of commission until next week. i only now realized (after i placed the order), that perhaps i should have waited until october when my stuff fast is over. my desire to consume is so deeply ingrained that weighing the pros and cons of the purchase wasn't even on my radar. bah!

i did manage to avoid consumer temptation today in the form of fast food as i left the doctor's office with dylan. it wouldn't have been a big deal, except i was running late this morning and left the house with only a nutrition bar in hand, so i was hungry. not planning ahead is my consumer downfall; it is so easy for me to succumb to take-out or drive-through when i haven't thought out my/our next meal.

this challenge has been good for our family in that regard. we've eaten good, leisurely dinners out on the deck for the last three nights, i've been trying and making up new recipes, and we've not not let any food go to waste. we've definitely been enjoying ourselves.

a praise: dylan's doctor said she looks great, although she hasn't gained any weight in the past few weeks, so we'll be watching/working on that. she is hopeful that dylan will outgrow these food issues and encouraged me to keep up with solids.

dylan used to happily eat anything i put in front of her, but ever since she started getting sick, she is wary of solids. she refused bananas twice this week but ate modest amounts of peaches today and yesterday. we are slowly making progress, and i am so thankful she kept it all down.

dylan was great at the doctor today. they pricked her to check for lead and iron, and she didn't even yelp. it looked more like a freaky ritual sacrifice than a medical procedure, as the nurse "milked" her little toe for blood samples and made a ridiculous mess. of course, dylan was barefoot, and i had to pull the car over on the way home after she pulled (chewed?) the bandage off and started making her own mess. fun times:)


challenge updates

spending: ordinarily, a trip to the grocery store is a big to-do. i organize coupons, study the curricular, and write my shopping list based on what it on sale. i save money this way, but i also spend more buying convenience foods just because i have a coupon and/or they are on sale. this week, i made it out the door for under 20 bucks for fruits, veggies, tortillas, and dish soap, and we've been eating tasty, wholesome foods. the gazpacho i made last night was underwhelming, but it was delicious tonight over enchiladas. i had cantaloupe and yogurt for dessert instead of ice cream. this challenge is proving to be good for health as well as our budget.

admittedly, i did do a little gift shopping yesterday. i never sent a gift to my younger sister for her birthday (in july!), and when i asked her what she wanted, she replied, "i don't know-- something used." (she's really intentional about buying used, organic, or fair trade.) i've been scouring antique stores to no avail, but yesterday i finally lucked out at a flea market i'd never been to before. i think shopping vintage bargains for someone else falls within the spirit of the challenge.

no paper towels: i hid the paper towels in the closet, made space for a cloth drawer under where the paper towel roll used to be, and so far, so good:)

this blog provides good accountability! tomorrow, i'll take dylan to the doctor. ordinarily, i would stop for coffee afterward, but not this time...



am i going challenge crazy? i read about this one today and couldn't resist. a few months ago i read about eliminating paper towels, and honestly, the idea had never occurred to me before. i was intrigued. it was something i knew we could do; we have and use dish towels for hand drying and sponges and cloths for wiping counters and other cleaning tasks. we use cloth, yet i continue to buy and we continue to use paper towels for extra "icky" tasks or when we just feel lazy.

we are on our second to last roll, and now seems like the perfect time to take this two month challenge to wean ourselves off of these disposables. i will clear out a kitchen drawer for the rags, towels, and cloths that are currently in the less-accessible bathroom storage, and it begins:)

gonna put you in a trance with a funky song

it's been, what, nineteen years since the new kids on the block first got elementary school girls' hearts a flutter?

i had on the tail end of the view today, and who was performing not one but two songs but NKOTB, reunited? it was kind of surreal to watch them sing and dance and twirl their mics. their new song had the exact soundtrack and silly lyrics of past hits like "please don't go girl," except not nearly as catchy. they reprised their hit "step by step," but it all definitely smacked of trying too hard and cashing in too late. they should have staged their comeback when n'sync and the back street boys were ruling the charts.

i loved donnie; he was my favorite new kid, hands down. he had a cap on today, so i couldn't really tell how he looked, but he played a dad on a short-lived CW series recently, and i remember thinking his heartthrob days were over. who was your favorite new kid? let 's be honest, no one's was danny or jon--i'm talking donnie, jordan or joe.


on labor day and needless consumption

this morning i was this close to taking dylan to the mall today for no reason at all. labor day sales were going on, i have some gifts cards burning holes in my wallet, and i had the urge to spend, even though there is nothing we need.

when i stop to think about it, the idea of shopping on labor day kind of sickens me. the whole point of labor day is to rest from our labors and to honor those who work. labor day ought to be a sabbath. hiking, playing outside, grilling out--all good ways to celebrate labor day. shopping, eating out--not so good; think of how the person waiting on you is spending their labor day!

in pittsburgh, i was a youth pastor, and i loved my work. when we moved to ligonier so that jim could take a great job, i was underemployed for a disheartening twenty two months when i worked as a waitress and a coffee shop barista.

ligonier is a pretty touristy town, especially for the retired set, and i vividly remember waiting on a well dressed couple in their sixties. the woman was picky and demanding, and they required a great deal of attention. i tried to be as pleasant as possible as they returned perfectly good food and implored me to fulfil every individual wish. the woman excused herself, and as i refilled the man's drink, he began to make small talk. he asked me if i was in school, and i said that, no, i had graduated a few years before. he asked from where, and i told him william and mary. then, unbelievably, the conversation turned in an especially unpleasant manner:

man: "does your college know you work here?"

me, puzzled: "no."

man: "you might not want to tell them, or they might revoke your diploma!"

i was dumbstruck that a complete stranger would insult me so viciously. what did he know about me, about my life or how desperately i was looking for something better, something challenging, something that would actually pay back the student loans that partially funded my demanding education?

i guess the moral of the story is that people have worth independent of their job (or education), and no one deserves to be disrespected, even if their job involves serving you--maybe especially if their job involved serving you! and always leave a good tip for good service:)


owlhaven is challenging people to curtail non-essential spending in september, and we've decided to join in. this means no more amazon orders, no sheetz breakfast sandwiches after church, and no trips to target. she is also challenging people to cut back on convenience grocery store purchases in favor of less expensive (and healthier) homemade whole foods.

we are going on vacation in two weeks, and i know we'll eat out some on the road, but before and after vacation we'll do our best, and on vacation we'll try to be conservative and intentional with our spending. i'll let you know how it goes.
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