Friday, September 30, 2011

New fall decoration

The other day when I was searching on pinterest for a tutorial to make a button tree - one of those styrofoam cones covered in buttons - I stumbled on this beautiful thing:


Although I did start my other button tree project tonight (not finished yet, so no photos) I decided that it would be much easier and quicker to make one of these, but use fall-colored buttons instead. I stuck the wire onto a foam base and covered it with moss.


I really love how it turned out. I also love that I had almost everything I needed to make this project already. (So I had to buy the foam base and moss, but I had a huge box of buttons and plenty of floral wire). I love that this is a fun button-stash busting project (much like the other button tree I am working on).  I am already envisioning a winter-inspired version using white and silver beads that look like snow. I can't wait.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chalk Art

Judah and I play outside every day. Many days we play outside both in the morning and again in the afternoon. One of his favorite activities is to play with chalk. He will pick it up, draw a line or two, and then throw the chalk at me (we are working on the throwing) like he wants me to draw something. Even though I love to craft, I have never been big on drawing. But I do get tired of drawing little cars and sailboats - two of my better, easily-drawn items. I got a bit ambitious the other day:

My King Kong leaves something to be desired, but I was pleased. And since Jeff also gets the task of drawing things for Judah with the chalk, next we have a chalk outline Jeff did of Lucy the other night, which just sort of cracks me up. Good times.


I'm getting the feeling our kid is going to turn out a little weird.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two videos.

For whatever reason I just haven't felt like I had much to say or write over the last few days. So instead of a deep, philosophical conversation you will get cute video. Because my boy is cute. First up, here he is using a spoon. He is getting much more independent (which is usually fun to see) and LOVES to use the spoon himself.

video

Here, he just discovered the joy that is dipping french fries in.... honey mustard. Because that's what we had at our table. He doesn't seem to understand that you then eat the fry, but he'll get it eventually...

video

Monday, September 26, 2011

First ever pinterest fail.

I've had some great successes making recipes I've found on pinterest. For instance, a few weeks ago I made homemade crock pot tikka masala that seriously tasted exactly like what I used to order when I lived in a city where I could frequent an Indian restaurant. I can't believe I didn't post about when I made it.

Anyway.... So today I saw this recipe on pinterest for flourless chocolate cookies. They looked easy and delicious, and I liked that I had some egg whites on hand I could use up:


Beautiful, right?
Here's what mine looked like:

Umm... not quite the same.  I'm not sure what I did wrong, but the directions left something to be desired. They were still crunchy and chocolately, but not quite the beautiful, round, crackly-topped things of the photo. Oh well.

Anyone else out there with any fantastic pinterest successes or fails?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Exciting happenings....

These are not that exciting for anyone unless you happen to live in Greenwood, but this past week there opened BOTH a T.J. Maxx AND a Hobby Lobby.

I don't have to tell you how excited I am. The T.J. Maxx is seriously one of the nicest ones that I've been in. It has been so long since I've been in one, I had forgotten how much different stuff they have. I was excited to pick up a cute butter dish (I had been on the prowl for one for a while), some coconut flour (looked interesting), and another locking tongs to use in the kitchen.

And then there was Hobby Lobby..... My creative/crafty sense was on overdrive. Aisles and aisles of beautiful craft supplies and fabric. We already have an excellent fabric store in town, but it's nice to get a little bigger selection to choose from. And the ribbon! The ribbon selection was awesome. I picked up a wreath form and some styrofoam trees, thinking I'd make a book wreath like this or maybe like this. I'd really like to make a button tree as a Christmas decoration or maybe a twine tree? We'll see. As you can see, I'm already finding ways to fill up any free time I have with more craft projects.

Now if Greenwood ever got a Target, I'd never want to move...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cabinet!

Tonight Judah took all the stuff out of "his" cabinet - i.e. the one he is allowed to play in - and tried to climb in and close the door behind him.




He just didn't quite fit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jeff's Birthday

Jeff turned 34 this past week. Since I was working on his actual birthday, we did a little celebration on Sunday. The food didn't quite measure up to last year's party - it had been a loooong week - but we all still enjoyed the hotdogs and potato salad. (Especially me - since my mom made the delicious potato salad and hot dogs are easy to cook!)

 Jeff requested cupcakes again this year, and although initially he thought he might like the same flavor as last year, he also said he wanted cupcakes that were both frosted AND filled. Knowing Jeff's love of all things chocolate and peanut butter, I used this recipe for chocolate peanut butter cake, and took the ganache that is supposed to go on top and piped it into the cupcakes as a filling. Yum. Everyone really loved the cupcakes. Especially Judah.


 After dinner we all had fun playing bubbles in the driveway.




Happy Birthday, my dear husband.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Justice

Almost 18 months ago, my dad called me on the phone, crying. A good, honorable, upstanding man--one I had known since kindergarten-- had just been convicted of a very terrible crime. I was stunned. I was sitting in the parking lot of Office Depot, listening to my father tell me that he had actually been convicted. The fact that he had even been accused was shock enough, and although I knew his trial was ongoing, I had forgotten that it was the last day and that a verdict was forthcoming. As Dad told me, I just couldn't believe it. Ted was going to jail. He had taken me tubing, taught me Sunday School, and we had gone on family vacations together.

I often do not understand God's ways. Over the years I have seen many things happen that push my faith in knowing that God is good. All the time. This was another trial that I didn't understand. Many, many people have been praying for months and months that justice would finally be done.

Today, word finally came that it was. The State Supreme Court overturned his conviction and he should be home in the next week or two. Now I am the one crying, but it is with tears of happiness.

I still do not understand why this had to happen - why he had to spend so much time in prison and away from his family. I may never know. I do know that I had always grown up with a lot of trust in our justice system, and not very much compassion for prisoners. That has changed somewhat - for me and for most in the church I grew up in. I know that Ted himself, always a teacher, has done all he can to minister to other prisoners around him. He has continued to praise the Lord in the midst of this dark time, not growing bitter or losing faith. This attitude has been a witness to many more in the community who know him and love him.  I also am certain that God will continue to redeem this tragedy and use it for his glory.

Today, my heart sings with David in Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit,who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sweetness.

I have a sweet boy.

I love that he has started to try to give us kisses. He'll come over when I'm sitting on the floor, lean in with his attempt at puckered lips, and lay one on me.

He has recently really gotten into signing "thank you."  I had tried to teach him this sign a while ago, but it wasn't really working, so a few weeks ago I started using it again with him. Every time I give him something now, he'll sign it and give me a big grin. Especially if it's something like a cookie.

Judah really loves when I sing to him. Basically every night since he was a few months old I sing him a hymn as I'm about to put him to bed. Sometimes when I am rocking Judah before I lay him down, he'll point at my lips and grunt, which I take as an invitation to sing to him. It can be funny sometimes, because he seems to have preferences as to what he likes to hear and sometimes will shake his head "no" with certain songs. He definitely doesn't like the song "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" or "Good Morning to you." "All for Jesus" is still a favorite (most of the time), as is the Doxology and "Be Thou my Vision," but he really didn't want me to sing "Jesus loves the little children." I guess we all are allowed our preferences. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Becoming reformed.

I grew up in the Wesleyan church, which is a little odd considering that I'm now married to a Presbyterian pastor. I only bring it up because I was poking around the ol' internet recently and came across some interesting blog posts discussing people's different disagreements with reformed theology, and it got me thinking. I used to have these same thoughts about reformed theology. What was it that changed my mind?

I want to say, first of all, that I am incredibly grateful and thankful for the denomination I grew up in. Even though I don't really agree with all their theology, Wesleyans love Jesus and believe that what the bible says is true. I was surrounded by a church family that loved me and prayed for me and that is a blessing that has shaped who I am. I also don't mean for this to become some sort of argument or proof text battle. I only want to explain how I got here.

I remember once in college when the pastor of the baptist church I attended gave an illustration to make his argument against irresistible grace by saying something like the following (This was over ten years ago, so things get a little fuzzy): "The offer of salvation is like God standing in front of you, offering you a dollar. He doesn't make you take the dollar, and you just have to reach out your hand to get it." I think a lot of people probably feel this way - that when Jesus says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden," he is standing in front of every person in the world, palm up, ready to take our hand, and all we have to do is reach out. I certainly felt this way.

Then I read Ephesians. I mean, really read it. And came to this passage, from Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus...

Did you catch the beginning? It says "You were dead...." I think that maybe really reading and thinking about this passage is what got me. Over the years, it's also been one of the passages that I keep coming back to and thinking about. We are not standing in front of a Jesus who is holding out a gift to give us. We are dead. Not just a little sick, or blind, hard-hearted, or turned in a different direction. Dead.

Have you seen a dead person? I have, in my career, seen and examined a lot of dead people.  And they are so incredibly gone that there is no way anyone who is dead can reach out and take anything. I became a Calvinist because I know that no one, if given the "choice," would choose God. We cannot, because the option to choose something means that we are alive.

I won't say that it was an easy transition or that I think I have all the answers. There is much I do not understand about God's mercy, justice, and love. But I know enough to trust him, and every day I thank him for breathing life into my dead heart.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vacation.

Friday afternoon, I dropped Judah off with my mom and drove away for the weekend. It's the first time I've left him anywhere, except for the one or two overnight calls I had while finishing up residency. I was a little emotional about it when I dropped him off, but after that we all were fine. As I was saying goodbye to him, I gave him a few rounds of kisses until he actually moved my hands off his car seat, like he was trying to shoo me away.

Judah had a blast with my parents, and I enjoyed a most excellent ultrasound CME and getting to catch up with a few college friends. Jeff came down for the first night, but since he knows almost no one in Columbia and it's not quite as nice to visit as say, Boston, he decided to spend the rest of the weekend home alone since I would be busy pretty much all day with class. The class I took was wonderful and got me even more excited (if that were possible) about using ultrasound to help diagnose and treat disease. Although I currently do tons of OB ultrasounds, I'm looking forward to trying to do more ultrasounds to assess heart function, lung disease, and use it for procedures.

It was strange being back in the town where I went to college - it has changed so much that it felt somewhat foreign to me. I was having a hard time remembering what roads went where and how to get around. Even though I did miss Judah, I will say that I enjoyed having some free time where I didn't have to clean up anything, change any diapers, or worry about keeping someone else entertained. I went to a book store and browsed. I sat and enjoyed a quiet lunch outside. It was lovely (though it would have been much lovelier if Jeff had been there with me.)

Now I just need to plan a real getaway with Jeff. Any suggestions as to where we should go?? Within a 4 hour drive of Greenwood, if possible....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago.

Ten years ago I was a senior in college, enjoying a snooze-in since my first class didn't start until 11. I woke up to the sound of my roommate yelling something at the TV. I got up to see the towers burning and watched in horror as they fell.

Today, oddly enough, I was actually in almost the exact same physical spot as I was ten years ago. I'm back in the town where I went to college taking a class for a few days. During my lunch break I wanted to go and sit somewhere to enjoy the nice weather, so I picked up some take out sushi from a grocery store and went to oldest part of USC's campus. As I was sitting there, I realized what day it was and found it very odd that even though I have only been back to campus once or twice since I left, here I was, sitting a mere 100 feet from the apartment where I was that awful day.

I actually ended up skipping my first class that day. I just felt so unsettled that I didn't want to go, and the upper level advanced Spanish literature class wasn't really my favorite anyway. That semester I was also taking an elective class that involved reading African American literature and learning to play the harmonica. All I remember is going to that class, talking about what happened, and playing "Amazing Grace" together as a class. Our professor, a decided atheist, inexplicably loved that song, and that was how he wanted to process.

Thinking back on it, I cannot think of a better reminder of God's goodness in the midst of uncertainty.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Good Recipes

1. I've mentioned before my favorite salmon recipe. I just made it again tonight, and wow! It was really fantastic. Seriously, you should make this salmon. Soon.

2. I served it with some roasted potatoes I made using a Barefoot Contessa recipe, a new recipe that will be  getting a lot of use. I love recipes that are delicious, easy to make, and use ingredients that I usually have around. In case you want to make extra delicious potatoes, here it is:
      2.5 lbs red potatoes (I used white)
      2 yellow onions (I used one big vidalia)
      3 T. olive oil
      2 T. whole grain mustard (I used dijon)
      2 t. kosher salt
      1/2 t. pepper

Chop the onions and the potatoes into chunks and put on baking sheet. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together and pour over potatoes and toss to coat. Bake at 425 for 50 min (I think mine baked a little quicker).They should be brown and toasted.

3. Anyone else out there love iced coffee? This summer has been the summer of the iced coffee for me. For a while I'd drop by starbucks on my way to work, but that gets expensive. Then I tried just pouring my hot coffee over ice. Not nearly as tasty as the starbucks version, but the price was right. At our family reunion, my cousin Marion introduced me to homemade cold brewed coffee. It was an epiphany. Here is the recipe she uses. In addition to telling you how to make the coffee, there is also a recipe for this sweet cream to add to make it even more delicious. All I'll say is that it involves sweetened condensed milk. The great thing about this recipe is that it makes a gallon of cold coffee concentrate that stays in the fridge, which is enough to last a long while. She says a month. I'd say more like 1-2 weeks. Since some of us might drink a glass (or two) more than once a day. My only adjustment was to add vanilla to the milk mixture for extra flavor. I also love that I can make it decaf (or half-caf), which other places isn't an option. (Take that, Starbucks!)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

When "The Question" Bothers Me.

Through our time of dealing with infertility, I have gotten better and better at not being bothered when people ask me about having more children. I realize that they don't mean any harm; it's a natural and common question to ask someone with a child. Most people I meet have no idea of my history and have no way of knowing that even a seemingly innocuous question can sometimes make me sad. So I have just made a decision that that particular question is not going to bother me.

Recently, though, I was asked that question by someone who knows something of our struggle, with whom I have shared some of our trials, and who I thought understood where we were. Although I am honestly never surprised when I get this question anymore, this time it came as a jolt. I quickly gave my standard answer (We'll see, we'd love more, blah, blah....), but I think my smile faltered more than normal. This is not a close friend or even someone I'd say knows me well, so maybe she forgot? Maybe she doesn't understand that when I say that we had to use IUI to get pregnant the first time, it's not like we can just decide to get pregnant again and have it happen? Maybe she was trying to ask if/when we were going to pursue treatments like that again?

I'm not sure. All I know is that for the first time in a while, I was bothered by the question. I guess I just expected that if someone knows that we had such a hard time the first time around, they would understand that there is no easy answer to that question. Sigh.

So now I have renewed my resolve not to let that question bother me, even when I am asked by those who know our struggles.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A Few Judah things...

People, we have more speech.

I've decided that he's been talking more than I realize, I just don't pay close enough attention. This week I realized he's been saying "up" for a little while. I didn't realize, though, because it comes out like "buh." Today, I was thinking he said a more distinct "up," so he must realize that for his dense mommy to pick it up, he's got to be articulate. In addition to the word that means "doggy" (diggy or gigi) he also maybe says something slightly different when he points to a cat, although I'm not sure how to write it. He asks for "wa-wa" more and occasionally a banana "na-na."

A few days ago I handed Judah to Jeff because I was going somewhere (to work, maybe?). I leaned in to kiss Jeff and Judah leaned towards me and kind of smacked his lips. He was trying to give me a kiss. Totally unasked for. I melted.

He has started shaking his head "no" a lot more. Which occasionally is nice when I want to know if he wants more of a certain food, but I feel like his standard, go-to answer is always no, so sometimes it's hard to decipher what he means. We also are having a lot more of the tantrums and crying when he doesn't get his way, as well as more blatant disobedience that we are having to discipline. I do think he is slowly understanding what it means when I say that if he continues to do a certain bad behavior, he will get a spanking, which is a step in the right direction. 

My good napper is (mostly) back. I decided that he was just teething when I posted that he wasn't sleeping well. Most days he still takes two very good naps, although today he missed his morning nap and then slept for 4 hours this afternoon. He does have two new teeth on top, bringing his grand total up to six. I have a feeling the bottom ones will be poking through soon.

I love seeing him interact with babies - he loves to look at them and touch their toes and he really seems to enjoy them. He will give them a big smile and kind of tilt his head to the side in this really cute way. Precious.

His absolute favorite thing is still anything with wheels or an engine along with animals of all sorts, especially dogs. He is constantly making a "vroom-vroom" sound when he sees or hears anything motorized. I got him some new pajamas with big trucks on them and Jeff went to get him up from his nap the other day and found him sitting quietly in his bed, pointing at the truck on his shirt saying "vroom-vroom." If he sees a dog he will point and grunt until we take him over to say hello, and he is slowly learning how to pet more gently.

In spite of the increased tantrums and disobedience (can I just say that whoever thinks that people are inherently good has apparently never met a 17 month old?) that toddlerhood brings, my sweet boy is still a joy and getting more and more fun as the days go on.
 

Friday, September 02, 2011

The saga of our roof or Why you should never hire Ideal Development Concepts.

I was reading Megan's blog today and could totally commiserate with her about her recent customer service woes. I then realized that I never really posted anything about it here, and now that the whole thing is settled, I thought I'd fill everyone in about how the whole thing went down.

Back in June, a strong thunderstorm knocked down a tree in our yard such that it side-swiped our roof and knocked off our gutter. Since we were all home at the time, we were thankful it wasn't a more direct hit and that there wasn't more damage.
This is what the damage looked like. Not too bad, but just bad enough that we were told that essentially the entire front half of our roof would need to be replaced. Mostly because there would be almost no way that they would be able to match the exact shade of green in our current shingles. Our insurance company quickly sent out an adjuster and approved the repair. They suggested a company called Ideal Development Concepts that they said they had worked with before, and told us we should use them. It was not a local company, but that was fine with us.
At first, things seemed like things were going ok. The guy we initially talked to seemed to be a good guy and understood what we needed. Then it quickly went down hill. He never returned phone calls until Jeff had called several times. It took him several weeks to finally send someone out to take a look at what needed to be done, in spite of him promising that he'd be out "right away". It took several more weeks for them to actually come out and do the work, again after telling us that they'd be out tomorrow, or the next day, or whatever. It took lots of harassing to actually get them to do it. The first day they showed up was to do some carpentry to fix the front of our roof where some wood had been torn off. They showed up, then left 20 minutes later, saying they'd be "right back," but that they needed to go get some nails. Who shows up to a carpentry job without nails??  They never even came back that day. Eventually they fixed the carpentry stuff, but it took another long while before they came back to fix the shingles. When they finally did come, (we were on vacation), our neighbor actually felt compelled to photograph them because they were so frequently not working.

They also left a large pallet of shingles on our lawn. In July. In South Carolina. For over a week. You can imagine how that ended - with a big patch of brown grass. We returned home from vacation to this:
Yes, in fact that is a different color shingle. That they stopped installing about 2/3 the way up our roof. The lighting of this photograph makes the two colors look more similar than they are, I think, but especially in the late afternoon it looked horrible. That was how they left it. There was no plan to finish, in spite of what we'd talked about with the contractor. Another neighbor also happened to be getting a new roof right around this time, so Jeff asked the boss man over there to come and take a look. Besides the obvious problem of having two totally different colors of shingle on our roof, he also told us that they had done a really, really bad job. The shingles weren't installed correctly, and the ones that were installed in the right way had been poorly installed. They were super crooked, and the siding they'd had to replace was also all wrinkled. On top of everything, they'd used a crappy shingle and left TONS of nails all over our driveway and in our yard. When we finally got back in touch with our initial contact, it became clear that he had hired some sort of sub-contractor to do the job, and acted like it wasn't his fault that they did such shoddy work. He tried to tell us they could fix the work, but by then we'd had enough of that company. (Jeff was so mad about it that he signed up for Angie's list just so he could leave a bad review.)

Thankfully, our insurance company sent out another adjuster who looked at everything and agreed that it all had to be done again. This time we hired a local guy who managed to get it all done a few weeks after we'd hired him. He also promptly returned calls and made sure that our lawn wasn't messed up. The workmen showed up promptly and cleaned up after themselves.  And finally, two months after this all started, we have our nice roof back: (Which in this picture doesn't even look green, but it is. But now the whole thing is the same green.)


So much nicer. We are thankful for USAA, our insurance company, who did a pretty good job (except in their first recommendation) of getting this taken care of, and our new roofing company who finally did a good job! The adventures of home ownership....