Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

Giving thanks seems cheap to me sometimes. I think of times when I try to focus on gratitude to God, and my points of thanksgiving all seem so trite. I'm thankful for food - and yes, I am, but haven't lacked it enough to approach the depth of thankfulness held by anyone who has truly been without. I'm thankful for shelter - but I think that I take this for granted even more than I do food. The very abundance with which we're surrounded so easily undermines my feelings of thankfulness - perhaps I am not alone in this, and that is part of the reason why Christmas Creep has so thoroughly eclipsed this holiday. So I resolve this Thanksgiving to consciously give thanks to God for the very overabundance that mutes my thanksgiving, the ways he's restrained the darkness around us, the gift of his Son; I resolve also to seek out expressions of thanksgiving from those who truly know what it means. I've also decided to begin a Thanksgiving meme, so if you read this, please take part! Name one or two things for which you are truly, deeply thankful. 1. I'm thankful for richness that Mike and Chloe have added to my life. 2. I'm thankful for the afternoon I was able to spend with my Grandma a few weeks ago. She had a fall a couple weeks ago and has been quite confused since then, and while I hope that her health will improve again I'm very glad for that bit of time. I tag Heidi, Erica, Sammy, and Ben!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Week of Thanksgiving

This week I'm going with a Thanksgiving theme. I thought that I'd start with a bit of history: the proclamation of the Continental Congress establishing our first official, national celebration of Thanksgiving in 1782. By the United States in Congress assembled, PROCLAMATION. It being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eighth day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

First Steps!

Chloe very unexpectedly took her first steps today!!! We'd thought it would still be a few weeks at least before she reached this milestone, but a couple days ago we bought her a little push-behind walker-thing. At first she had a hard time with it - it's really lightweight and scoots across my parents' hardwood and tile floors really quickly. It was kind of funny to watch her almost running along behind it as it took her for a ride. She was so not in control. :-) Today, though, she was doing much better. I couldn't believe it when I saw her slowly walking across the kitchen floor, starting and stopping at will, letting go with one hand so she could try to open doors along the way. Such amazing skill development in just a couple days! So Mike grabbed her and sat on the ground, telling me to sit across from them... She fell back and forth between us... and then she took about three good steps toward me all on her own!! I couldn't believe it. My little baby turning into a toddler! She definitely still prefers her knees, but I think we're in trouble now...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid

In no particular order, here are some things that Parents magazine warns us to be afraid of in their December issue:
  1. "Researchers found an alarmingly high rate of iron deficiency among overweight toddlers..." which can lead to difficulty learning and "behavioral delays." (p. 35)
  2. Overwrapping your baby at night, which can increase the risk of SIDS. (p. 35)
  3. Giving your small child too much cold medicine can cause serious side effects or death. (p. 35)
  4. "The number of candle-related house fires nearly doubles in the month of December. (p. 36)
  5. Large amounts of hand sanitizer can result in severe alcohol poisoning. (p. 40)
  6. Nursing moms taking codeine for the aftereffects of birth should look out for "excessive sleepiness" in their baby, as this can be a sign of an overdose - "some women who are very quick metabolizers can have unsafe amounts of medication in their breast milk." (p. 42) Good thing I wasn't taking any painkillers... I would have been absolutely certain that Chloe was overdosing!
  7. In the 2003-2004 flu season, 153 kids died. Better get your shots. (p. 46)
  8. "An everyday trip to the mall... poses a surprising number of hazards that can cause severe injuries." (p. 54) These include store displays, which can fall over (p. 56)...
  9. ...escalators, which can cause little bumps, bruises, lacerations, and limb amputations (p. 56)...
  10. carts, which send 21,000 kids under five to the emergency room every year (p. 57)...
  11. ...elevators, which crush the hands and limbs of nearly 2,000 kids a year (p. 58)...
  12. ...oh, and right, they can also wander off. (p. 59)
  13. During pregnancy, there are "likely explanations" and "worst-case scenarios" listed for three symptoms (just because we don't worry enough already). If you see bleeding, it could be a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, preterm labor, a problem with the placenta... or nothing. (p. 75)
  14. If you have severe itching, it could be "inthrahepatic cholestasis." That shuts down your liver. Or it could be nothing. (p. 75)
  15. If you have swelling, it could be preeclampsia. Or it could be nothing. (p. 75)
  16. If you let your kid get too stressed out early in life, they'll never get over it - "Children who have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, early in life are more anxious and easily stressed as older kids." (p. 112)
  17. This goes for pregnancy, too - stress too much when you're pregnant and your baby is more likely to be premature, low-birthweight, hinder their psychological development, make them more anxious, and sleep more poorly. (p. 113) Stressed yet?
  18. Your kid could choke on a bouncy ball that's too small. (p. 116)
  19. Your kid's wooden blocks could chip, dent, or splinter. Or your kid could use them as a weapon. (p. 116)
  20. The discount crayons you got for your kid could be made of something that's not nontoxic paraffin (probably lead from China). (p. 118)
  21. Your kid's teddy bear could carry dust mites and allergens and can cause breathing problems or skin irritation. (p. 118)
  22. The little pegs on your kid's puzzle could come off and choke them. Or they could be made with lead paint from China. (p. 120)
  23. Your kid's toy instrument could be painted with lead from China. (p. 120) Okay, and I was sort of joking about the "lead from China" crayons earlier...

And I'd say that's about enough for one evening, even though I'm only halfway through the magazine. Now don't get me wrong - I've found useful tips and products in these parenting magazines, including this one. Did you know that echinacea really does help prevent colds? Well, you do now.

My objection is that so much of what these magazines sell is fear. I don't dispute the factual basis of any of these items. Some of them are fairly minor, and I'm certainly not saying that we should knowingly expose our children to serious danger. But how much do we curtail their freedom, their ability to learn from the things around them, their sense of independence and exploration, just to keep them "safe"? What does "safe" really mean? How "safe" is safe enough? It seems that in the current cultural environment, there is no such thing as safe enough - if there's even a hypothetical risk, the responsible thing to do is to protect against it. That sounds good... but it doesn't sound realistic. Our world is not an especially "safe" place. (On a side note, I don't know why [heheh, okay, I do so] these magazines never recommend that people quit putting their kids in cars, as driving is clearly the most dangerous activity any of us engage in on a regular basis.)

I don't exactly have an answer to this, but I'm curious about what all of you think. An example: I think that Chloe will probably be allowed to climb trees... but I think of how high I climbed as a kid and what would have happened if I fell, and that's pretty scary. The thing is, I DIDN'T fall, and neither did any of my friends. I don't know of anyone who was injured at all in a falling-from-a-tree accident.

What did your kids do/ do your kids do/ will your kids be able to do/ will your hypothetical kids someday maybe be able to do assuming you ever have them which you're not saying you ever will? What kind of risk is unacceptable, and how do you gauge that risk? What are the benefits of allowing kids to do "risky" things? If you'd like to reflect on this a bit, you should check out Emmie's blog, Better Make It a Double, on the left sidebar. (Sorry about the link-lack; I think the relevant posting was in August. Or October. But probably August.) Maybe I'll post a follow-up with some of my own conclusions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drats, foiled again!

Google Video has foiled my posting plans for the day, and now I must run! Will I make it yet today???

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Dinner Conversation

Dinner tonight was split pea soup. Ingredients: dried peas, chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, olive oil (for sauteeing the vegetables), and thyme. The carrots I used were a little bit past their prime - not spoiled, but bendy and starting to get a little shrively - which got me thinking about the provenance of a lot of dishes like this, in a time before refrigeration and winter imports from Brazil. As Mike and I talked about this a bit, Mike came up with a scenario: What would we do if we were dropped into 1801, not in, say, Connecticut, bur right here where our house lies, at this very time of year, with only the clothes on our backs? Yeah, we'd be in trouble. :-) But we started doing some research (Nerds 'R' Us! Can we help you?) - really, what would we do?? It's a pressing question. It's cold out, we have a baby, we need shelter and food and oh, somehow we have to make a living. Our first thought: we need to find a settlement! We started going through our options and discovered that alas, we went back in time too far to make this easy on ourselves. H*olland wasn't established until 1846, when Albertus vanRaalte arrived with his Dutch Reformed separatists, so no help there. When they did arrive, the only inhabitants were the Ottawa tribe (who were friendly, and for whom the county is presumably named), "Rev. Smith, who worked among the Indians, and Mr. Fairbanks, a government agent." The description of the area sounds like a primeval forest, with "tree trunks so large that three men together could not embrace them." (Source here.) Can you imagine?? And this is only 150 years ago! Anyway, our immediate priority should be to seek help from this local tribe. But then where to, assuming that we didn't want to live out our days in the wilderness? Grand R*apids didn't exist as we know it - there was definitely a small trading post there by 1803, but maybe not much more. Detr*it is an interesting option - a French fort and settlement had been in existence there since 1701, then it was ceded to the British in the French and Indian War. It officially became an American territory only in 1796, five years before we our imaginary landing - and it doesn't sound like it was exactly a peaceful transition. Unfortunately, Detroit was completely destoyed by a fire in 1805, so that's a little sketchy. Chica*go (which, by the way, means "striped skunk")? There had been a trading post there since the 1770s, but it would still be another two years until Fort Dearborn was founded on that site... and there would be a nasty massacre there in 1812, so maybe we should just avoid Chicago. (And speaking of 1812, does the War of 1812 ring any bells? Yeah, that's when we were at war with Canada. Maybe we should head south.) Our most surprising option? St. Jo*seph, Michigan - that's right, the one by Bento*n Harbor. French explorers had passed through there as early as 1669, and there was a permanent trading post there by 1780. It's only sixty miles from here and the St. Joseph River also meets up with the Sauk Trail, which was apparently a major overland trail in Michigan. So here's the plan: Find the local Ottawa tribe. See if they'll help us get down to St. Joe's. From St. Joe's head to Detroit, maybe, or somewhere else with good connections east, to more civilized environs. And hopefully we can do this before 1812 and without running into any hostile tribes. Whew! Got all that? I expect profuse thanks in the form of a time capsule from anyone who is accidentally transported back to 1801 and whose life and health are saved by the information contained herein. Actually, why don't you just go ahead and buy me a big stretch of lakefront property on Lake Michigan. That should do it. Next question: Where on earth do we tell people that we wacky folks are from??? A question for another sketchy blogging day... :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Babies do eventually stop getting new teeth, don't they? Yesterday, Chloe seemed to be getting over her most recent round of teething blues - her nose had pretty much stopped running, anyway, which is usually a pretty good sign that the worst is over, and when I finally managed to get my finger inside that stubborn little mouth today, I found - guess what? - Tooth Number Eight! Tadaaaaaa! Yes, she is quite the overachiever on the tooth front and now has the full complement of front teeth: four on top, four on bottom. Done! I was really hoping, with this tooth done, that we would have a few months off before the one-year molars started coming in. Why I thought those teeth would wait until her one-year birthday when she got her first tooth at three months, I don't know. Wishful thinking, I'm sure. As I've mentioned before, she's been teething pretty much nonstop since we arrived home from Japan. In AUGUST. FOUR MONTHS ago. Yes, egads. Heh heh heh. Well, then there's reality, isn't there. Her nose began running to beat the band again this afternoon. And, hmm... why has she had her thumb stuck all the way in her mouth all day? And boy, is she GROUCHY! So back my finger went into that little mouth... And there's at least one big lump back in molar-land. Egads. In more pleasant news, we had a nice weekend of socializing, with Mike's Uncle John and Aunt Sandy stopping by on Saturday and my brother Ben and sister-in-law Sam coming over Sunday. We really enjoyed seeing everyone, and our Little Teether, bless her heart, does always seem to be cheerful when we're around other people, so we had a couple great visits. It was great to see you guys!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Which do you suppose would cost least: Running the faucet for a full minute to get warm water, nuking the cold water to warm it, or warming the cold water on a stove? And which would have the least environmental impact? Hmmmm...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Down Home

More on potties later! For now, a photo post.
We visited Mike's family a few weeks ago.

A bit of Halloween cheer.

Boy, does that tail look DEEEEEEE-licious!

Finally! A kitty I can catch!

I like leaves.


(Note: The four-wheeler is not in motion. :-)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Coming Out of the Water Closet

Mornings are busy. Gotta multitask.

No, thine eyes do not deceive - this is dear Chloe, sitting happily on her little potty. But wait! you say, She's much too young! Surely she'll be scarred by your parental pressure! She's not capable of controlling those muscles until she's at least two! *Ahem, ahem.* Allow me step onto my new-found soapbox. NUH-UH! NOT TRUE! EVERYTHING YOU'VE HEARD IS WRONG! Or something like that. :) Here's the story. When Chloe was just a twinkle in my eye, I saw a news feature on infant pottying. What I remember of the program was a couple crunchy parents holding their baby over a bowl rather than having the baby go in a diaper. I remember thinking it was interesting, but I didn't really get the point and thought that it sounded incredibly labor-intensive and impractical. After all, don't babies just kind of dribble pee randomly (and frequently) throughout the day? How could you possibly have that bowl under them all the time? And wouldn't you get peed on an awful lot? How is this better than diapers again? Fast forward a few months to when Chloe is in the midst of her "poop-christening the world" months. She always made it pretty, um, obvious when she was about to create a disaster situation. Mike and I had it down to a science - we would hear the preliminary grunts and whisk her off of any lap, carpet, or other absorbant surface she happened to be on, whip off her pants, unsnap the onesie... all so there'd be less for me to wash up when she inevitably spread her business all over creation. This newscast came to mind again, and one day when the "imminent explosion" warning lights went off I swept her up and stuck her on the big toilet. (I'm pretty sure I made some sort of freaking out AAAAK-like noise, as well, which may have contributed to her response...) She was not impressed. In fact, I think I startled her so much that the unchi reversed course and I don't think she went after that for quite some time. Infant pottying, 0; messy poo-poo butt, 1. Nonetheless, something about this stuck in my mind and I kept running across other little mentions of early toileting. A sleep book I read suggested starting with the potty at around nine months. There was brief mention in my dad's baby book of putting the baby on the pot in front of you at set times of the day "when the doctor says to begin training," and the context implied that the doctor would do that encouraging at a pretty tender age. Plus there was the poop that just kept exploding all around that innocent-looking little creature. Boy, did she love to poop (refer to posts here and here). It was really the poop that made be decide to start putting her on the potty when she was six months old. Then my determination left me a bit. We moved. Her poops calmed down when she started eating more solids. And anyway, what on earth was I supposed to do with a baby on the toilet? Nonetheless, I did start sitting her on the toilet in front of me some mornings. She didn't do much, but she did like playing with the toilet paper. Enter the blog Ask Moxie, which I read daily and which had a question a few weeks ago on just this topic. And now, now that I'm getting to the meat of the story, I'm going to have to summarize because it's getting late and I'm really, really tired (teeth. ugh.). Anyway, it turns out that the orthodox pottying gospel preached in North America today is a pretty newfangled invention, that even fifty years ago kids in our very own country were being potty-trained much earlier than they are now, and that this is still the case in many parts of the world. It makes sense, really. I don't suppose they have Pampers in tribal Africa. And what did my great-grandmother do with her tiny baby in steerage on a boat when they left the Netherlands? Hmmmm... be continued...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Props to Meijer

A couple days ago I made a quick run to Meijer after dropping Mike off at work - with The Little Teether in tow, of course. Since I usually have Chloe in a little "hip hammock", which is a sling-like baby carrier, I don't have total, unfettered use of my hands and arms - Chloe's usually trying to grab everything in reach. This makes bagging and carrying my own groceries in the do-it-yourself 12-items-or-less aisles a little more complicated. As I was attempting this very feat the other day, the kind (seriously! for once!) check-out attendant brought these bags to my attention, suggesting that they might be easier for me:

Notice how the photo of the bag is on my kitchen table? Clearly I was sold. Sure, they're a gimmick, but so what? Meijer is promoting re-usable bags! Fantastic! And it really was easier for me to carry than either the plastic (how many trash bags do I really need in the bathroom?) or the paper (will I ever remember to reuse these?) ones. Check out these features: See the nice long straps on the sides? Handy for throwing over the shoulder! And do you notice the little tab thing sticking out at the top of the bag in this view here? It helps the bagger keep the bag open on their bagging contraptions (take a look the next time you're shopping). It also has a couple divider pockets to keep your milk and juice (not big enough for a gallon, I don't think, but definitely any of your other carton drinks) from smushing your spinach. Just ninety-nine cents at your local Meijer store, and you too can save the world!

There you have it. My first (and perhaps last) product review.

Now if only I can remember where I put it...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Love My Bathroom

This was supposed to be a one-week project way back before our sea shipment arrived in August...way back before I learned that simple projects like this aren't quite so simple when you have a baby who'd really like to eat the paintbrushes. We finally buckled down and finished it this weekend.
During... And after!!! I absolutely love it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Maybe It's Cheating...

...But the time change has convinced the Wee One that naptime is over already, so today's post will be that trusty standby - baby pictures!
A couple weeks ago we took a trip to Riley Trails, a nearby county park. Our intended purpose was to hike, but I did manage to get a little photo shoot in. Blogger won't load some of my photos... but I guess these few are cute enough.
The first time I set C down on the ground she got a leaf lodged in her throat and puked it up (yum, I know). As a result, most of the pictures I took on this day had Mike's hands in them as he tried to intercept all the ground yummies en route to her mouth.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Sunday Reflection - Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
The pantry is empty and the well is dry,
but I need fear neither famine
nor drought.
In quiet joy,
I know my God will provide what I need.
Though temptation screams from without
and my own sin snarls within,
my Good Shepherd
leads me
guides me
prods me
back to his straight path
that no-one may deny him
on account of my wandering.
I rest secure,
even though terror and trouble stalk me
every moment of this precarious life:
cancer and car wrecks,
far-away war and all-too-near hatred.
You stand ready to defend me
at a moment's notice.
You stay the hands of those who wish me harm,
laying a picnic in a battlefield -
so strong are you,
so protected am I.
I'm like the kid in the orchard
whose arms can't contain another apple,
your blessing so far exceeds my capacity to contain it.
You surround me with
every minute of this broken earthly life
And in the end
I'll dwell with you
in perfect peace
In the end that has no end.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nature's Bounty

This morning we woke up at the crack of dawn - before, actually, as the Queen of the House was done sleeping rather before the crack of dawn - and headed out to the Farmer's Market. Since our local market ends with the month of November, this was one of our last trips of the season. It also happens to be C's nine-month birthday today. As you can see, she had a blast.
As soon as you look away, this hat is SO coming off my head.
It was a beautiful, crisp morning, and lots of vendors were out. It's fun going at different times of the year and seeing what different farmers are there and what they're selling. We did still find a few peppers, but this time of year they're selling more broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, squash, pumpkins, apples, and pears. There are also more non-farming vendors than during the summer, selling local honeys and syrups and jerky and breads and peanut brittle, and even some craftier items, like wreaths and ironworking (I don't know what that would be called, iron crafts...). For the first time today we saw an animal farmer there selling organic grass-fed beef and pork and taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys. We ordered one! I'll be going out to the farm the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to pick it up. It'll have been freshly slaugtered, so won't need to be frozen at all! Pretty cool. One thing that was funny when we were talking to this guy is that he seemed to be trying to avoid saying things like, "slaugtered," "killed," and "we're cutting your turkey's fool head off." I suppose we don't really like to think about those aspects of of our food, but there's meat for you.

Ahhh... coffee! That's what I need... just a little more coffee!

And here is our bounty. We got loads of squash - I'm going to make a whole mess of butternut squash soup this week - apples, pears, cauliflower, peppers, and mushrooms. Oh, and the great find of the day was goma (sesame) dressing! That was my absolute favorite in Japan and I was SO excited to find it today.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Still Life

Aren't gourds cool?
Every evening, the light comes in the window and hits my little autumn display just so...
and its pretty stunning.
In other news, I've decided to participate in NaBloPoMo (otherwise known as National Blog Posting Month) this year. That means that I've just committed to posting EVERY SINGLE DAY in the month of November. Am I insane? Yes, especially since I'll be at my parents' house on dial-up while Mike is hunting. Oh, and there's Thanksgiving, too, which I've volunteered to host this year. So may skepticism abound! I figure that at the least I'll be motivated to post more often than I have of late, and at best I'll finally get around to tackling some more substantive posts - something I've wanted to do ever since I started this blog. Wish me luck, and hold me accountable!