Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Six stockings

I have been worrying a bit lately about my stockpile of stuff. It is on a shelf in our home, where I've lined up our very favorite shampoos and toothpastes and things bought for free with coupons -- or sometimes I was even paid to buy them! And it is nice to have things on hand so I know we won't run out before the next sale. But I have been thinking of things like sufficiency in Christ, the Christ who told us to give our things away, and I have been wondering whether I trust too much in my pile of things, even if they are very useful things I got for free.

This time of year gets me excited, though. At our church they set up a few giving trees, with stockings underneath you can fill with needy children and ornaments that tell you what you could buy for people at the local nursing home. Some of the gift requests were so simple, asking for toothpaste or nail polish remover. I got a few things and put them under the tree last weekend, with more than a week to go before the deadline.

Some of the stockings for the kids hadn't been taken when we went to church, though. I thought someone might take them at one of the later Masses, but I asked Joe to look to see if there were any left. I figured I could fill them with some extra CVS bucks I have... it sounded like fun. But I didn't expect Joe to bring home six stockings! (I definitely didn't tell him that, well, I was thinking he could just choose one or two.) So now we have stockings for one medium-size girl and five medium-to-big boys.

And to fill that many, we raided our stockpile. Toothpaste was on the list of suggested items! And oh, we had lots -- and toothbrushes, and sweet vanilla lotion for the girl, and lots of gum I'd bought during my chewing-gum-all-the-time days, and some candy. And with the last of the CVS bucks and a handy coupon that just arrived from JCPenney, there were a few toys for the younger boys and hats or gloves. Some really cool and hats and gloves! And a few dollars went to getting a good hat for the teenage boy.

It is confusing, living this life. Though I know some nuns who really do rely on providence to meet all their daily needs, and I admire their radical trust in God, I don't think that's quite how I'm supposed to do things myself, especially now that I have a husband and a little girl. But how am I supposed to do it? I know there is no such thing as guaranteed security in life, but being more secure some ways helps you be more giving in others... if I save money on toothpaste, I can put it toward better things. But seeking security on this earth isn't the point, and it is easy to get distracted by it. I wouldn't mind hearing anyone else's thoughts on these things.

I am glad to give the toothpaste away, though I know I will feel strange if I run out before the next sale and have to pay for more. I haven't paid for toothpaste in a long time!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No place like it

I have a kitchen full of unwashed dishes. Some have been in their piles since Thursday.

But Joe is working today, so we won't be able to wash them side by side this morning or afternoon, one handling the soap and the other wiping down counters, or making faces at the baby, or sweeping, or putting on good songs. And though the neighbor kids came over yesterday and filled the house with paper airplanes (I taught them how to make good ones), and though I know there are friends who might be able to talk on the phone, the thought of staying in today is a quiet one, and I realize I have no real, close friends here.

So I am putting the baby in the car and going to Cloverly, where my grandmother is full of old stories and my parents are happy to listen on a shady deck. It's still home, though this is too, and I'm always welcome both places, I and my daughter both.

I will be back to make dinner. And then the pile of dishes will be so big, well, we will figure something out, or maybe we will just leave them 'til Monday, hah, and dance a dance to celebrate. (But we almost certainly won't, because that might drive us a bit too crazy.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An appointment

I'd been dreading yesterday's dentist appointment for days, and not because I harbor any fear of getting my teeth scraped with metal implements (though it might make more sense than fearing tornadoes), but because I would be getting my teeth scraped with little Marija looking on.

I've taken her shopping and to church and to other people's houses and I've learned that even though I can plan things so she's likely to be calm or asleep, I can't ever really know how she'll behave. But the way things were going today, it looked like she was due for a long nap about the time I'd be getting examined, and she fell into a nice sleep in her baby carrier as I filled out paperwork in the dentist's waiting room.

They called my name and I took Marija into the exam room. When the hygenist looked at her I said, "She's asleep!"

"Oh, we like sleeping babies," was her reply.

And then Marija woke up!

And I thought she would fall right back asleep, but everything was so interesting she stayed awake. And I thought she would start to fuss halfway through or so, for sure. But oh, she stayed contentedly awake in her carrier almost an hour, looking around and playing with her hands and making adorable noises from time to time. Other staff members passing by would make little faces at her and oh, it was perfect.

The hygenist did say that a woman who came in recently with a baby a similar age had the baby scream the whole time, and the woman ultimately had to reschedule. And she said it in an understanding tone, and I am not so afraid of having a baby who might make a big fuss, because I know I won't be the first. And I guess I knew that before, but still, it helps me to hear it.

In the last couple weeks, I feel like I've really gotten things together a bit, and feeling like I can do almost anything even though Marija is here.

And the crack on my front tooth I'd been worried about is apparently nothing to worry about for now, so that is just wonderful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The sun came out!

It was beautiful yesterday, so Joe and I took the baby to a park in the afternoon. It might become one of our favorite spots: Gilbert Run Park, just a pretty drive away. There was a long lake with woods around it, and we took Marija in her stroller. She stared up at the trees and we realized we hadn't taken her into the woods before. What kind of parents are we... she's more than two months old!

I wish I'd brought my camera. There was a long bridge over part of the lake and very big ducks on the water, and we lifted Marija up to show her, though she seemed a bit under-impressed. Then we went over some crunchy leaves and across the earthen dam and along the trail around the lake, where we had views of the water and also the trees that kids had carved their names into over the years.

The way was bumpy but quick until we got halfway around, where we rested on a bench and looked at a beaver lodge. Then the trail got narrower and hillier, until finally we folded the stroller up and one of us carried it and the other carried the baby. It was quite a haul until we were almost back, when Joe found a little maintenance road that was smoother, and when we got out we saw the sign (facing the direction we hadn't been going): "Nature trail, rough terrain." The warning came a little late...

It will be really fun to go there when Marija's older and can marvel at the ducks and the little fish in the streams and all the low bridges through the swampy bits. And the park has the best playground. I wanted to play on it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

My little girl

Marija turns two months old in just a few hours, wow. There is a lot of time just changing diapers and such, but there is more and more time spent playing, and always new discoveries, like noticing the red spot on her tongue or realizing her eyes are lightening to look more like Joe's or my sisters'.

Her likes: milk, naps, being held upright, rattles, stroller rides, car rides, being sung to, dancing with Mamma or Tētis, anything interesting to watch

Dislikes: the dirty diaper coming off, the clean diaper coming on, needing to burp, pacifiers, when Joe blows his nose (she cries!)

Hobbies: making adorable coos and other sounds (favorites include "ah-gu," "hau" and "genng"), trying to fit her whole fist into her mouth, melting hearts with her smiles, napping with one eye open just to keep Mamma on her toes

It's really neat to watch her blossom, getting more interested in the world around her and participating in it more. She's also becoming more independent... of course she still loves to be held, and she gets held a lot, but sometimes she's happy now just to lie on a mat and watch me put laundry onto hangers -- as long as I do a silly song or dance every once in a while, hah!

She's been really sleepy today, and though it's let me be more productive than usual, I'm getting lonely without her to hang out with!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some things

Things Joe and I are currently managing just fine: cooking/eating, taking care of Marija, laundry, dishes, taking things in from the garden (a handful of raspberries every other day!), occasional walks, even sleeping (well enough most days).

Things we often don't manage nowadays: keeping the house clean, watering the plants and most other things.

Times I have been able to sit through church since Marija was born: 3 out of like 12. Those are the times she slept through it; more often, I end up walking her back and forth outside the sanctuary or finding a place to feed her.

I guess this is all in about the range of what I expected, but it is a little different to live it in real life than in imaginings. It is hard to imagine it has been just eight weeks since she was born; life without her in my arms seems long ago. People said everything would change, and many things did -- but it feels surprisingly like part of the same life as before, and it is.

Times when I'm sitting with the baby in my lap are good for prayer, but not as good as the head-swirling opportunities in the middle of the night, when everyone is quiet and I can really think.

Have had two nights of quiet dreams after a string of bad ones - tornadoes, lightning, deep cold water. Am feeling peaceful after times of imagining all kinds of bad things that could happen but probably won't. Maybe stories used to soak up the excess imagination, but lately my thoughts turn mainly to daily life and the people I love instead of the stories I used to breathe by.

I am trying to rely on the Lord
but trying harder some days than others.
I am weak
but He is strong.
This is something I need to remember.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New skills

I've heard motherhood can bring on a new efficiency. I don't know whether this is true overall, but I am suddenly able to down a glass of water like Joe always could, "glug glug glug" and it's gone. And the other day, Joe was telling a story while on his second slice of homemade pizza when he realized I was cramming my fourth slice down my throat -- meaning I'd just eaten half a pizza in a minute or two -- cause I had to pick up the baby from where she was lying across the room so I could feed her, too.

In the last seven weeks, I've also learned to juggle a baby from one arm to the other and smell a wet diaper at a distance. My Latvian is improving, since I'm speaking it to her. But I've lost much of my ability to finish the thought I started at the beginning of a conversation.

Maybe it will come back?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sister, sister, he's just a plaything...

Our home's soundtrack lately:

Having fun
With no money
Little smile
On his face
Don't you love
The little baby?
Don't you want to make it
Stay up late?

"Stay Up Late," by the Talking Heads

We actually don't want the baby to stay up late... at all... but it is fun to dance around to the song. If you want to hear it, it's here with some random unrelated video clips.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marija Kristina

Marija Kristina, born September 7 at 4:34 a.m.



Asleep


The birth went well -- and very quickly. We have had many jokes about our Labor Day labor. And in the days since, people have shown her and us so much love... it's amazing.



I love her


Things are going really well. She and I have been learning a lot, I think. Joe, too. I knew he'd be a great dad, but I'm still awed as I watch him with his little girl.



A kiss from her Tētīts


She keeps us pretty busy... I'm able to post now only because Joe is changing her diaper and then starting dinner downstairs. And though she's brought me to tears once or twice when she wouldn't let us put her down to sleep, these first weeks have been pretty wonderful.

Praise God for His many blessings.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

About harvest time


Some of our tomato crop


We've finally been harvesting our tomatoes... they make a really great sauce, but are best just fresh from the garden. I think they are better than candy.

I felt like stretching my legs today, so I tried mowing the lawn a bit, but I can't do it very well anymore, so I gave that chore back to Joe pretty quickly.



I look like I've swallowed a basketball.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Latvian sighting II

It has been more than a week now, but it is so strange I wanted to mention: I ran into a Latvian right here in La Plata!

It is a long story, but I was stopping by the American Legion building in town, which is under construction. He was one of a couple construction workers who gave me a word as I went by, and his accent sounded so familiar I asked where he might be from.
"America," he said, in a very Eastern European accent. I think maybe he is tired of the question?
"Ah, because I was wondering if you might be from Eastern Europe, like my family," I said.
"Actually, I am from Latvia," he said.
"Ah, my family too! Vai runājiet Latviski?"
"Jā! Un jūs?"

So we talked in Latvian then. He is working at the site in town for now and lives in a nearby county, and his sister lives even closer. Maybe soon I will get a chance to give her that awkward call: "Hello, I hear you're Latvian! ... I'm Latvian, too!" But probably not right away, between the baby being due soon and Joe's car still not working since it broke down a few days ago.

In other Latvian news, my favorite band, Iļģi, finally has its own Youtube channel! With music I haven't heard before, ooh! I hope they add more, because Youtube is still low on great Latvian music. (There is more music on their Myspace page.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Very hungry caterpillar

About those caterpillars... I think they may not leave much dill for me and Joe after all.

They look as if they have doubled in size in the last two days. There are seven of them, and though they spend a lot of their time sitting still, a few were eating as I watched today. They can eat well over an inch of dill a minute! At that rate they have totally stripped one of the plants and have moved on to some others.

I think I'll leave them, though, because I like watching them hang from their fat feet almost as much as I like butterflies. Though I told Joe that if we did want to save the dill bed, we could attempt a middle-of-the-night caterpillar transplant to some Queen Anne's lace growing along a house down the street.

Did you know that if an ant crawls along the nose of a caterpillar (because the caterpillar ate the dill flower the ant had been enjoying), the caterpillar will start to shake?

Today I had something like "walk barefoot in the grass" on my to-do list, and I got to cross it off at the end of the day! It was a really nice day.

Parenting III


The inside of our church, Sacred Heart in La Plata


Sometimes when I'm in church, I think of the love I get from Joe, or from Rose, or from some other friend or family member. There are some people who love so well that their love is sweet to receive even when you don't deserve it, even when you wish you could love them back better than you know how. And when I think on that human love, it seems easier to make sense of the vast love and attention of a perfect and loving God.

I pray I am a mother who loves her child with this kind of love.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We have guests

This is not as important as babies, but...

I do believe our dillbed has become home to some black swallowtail caterpillars.


I think it's handsome


I counted about a half-dozen, as well as some skins they left from when they molted! They make beautiful butterflies, and we should still have plenty of dill left over for our cucumber salads.

In other garden news, I had to tear out the squash plant (blossom end rot, augh!), but our tomato and pepper plants are sagging under the weight of ripening fruit.

We also have a pretty flower.



That is our clematis!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Grins

I was going to write about my life, but then I found out that my friend Heather, my heretofore partner in pregnancy, has just today given birth to a beautiful baby girl!

Nothing else seems nearly as important.

And I am now a bit more impatient to meet this baby in me!

Good thing I got some fabric in the mail today. Sewing and planting my spinach bed will at least keep me busy for now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Still here

People who are really looking forward to meeting the baby are becoming disappointed when I actually make it to previously scheduled social engagements. This has happened to me twice in the last two days.

"Darn it!" they say. "You're not in labor!"
"That's okay with me," I say. "I can wait."
"I know, but I'm impatient!"

I smile because it is funny and comes from love.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

While we wait

Look! Look! I made that bassinet skirt and liner!

A kind woman from freecycle came over to teach me how.

It used to be two thift-store sheets and some thread and lace, and now it's pretty!



Bedroom ready for baby


Things are changing.

It's been a week since I rearranged my dresser to make room for baby clothes and things, but I keep opening this drawer expecting to find my socks and being surprised to see diapers instead.



Baby stuff... slowly taking over

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quiet hour

Joe left for work extra early again this morning, and after he did I lay down a while and read, hoping I'd fall back asleep. But I only floated along the edge awhile, my heart pounding faster than it needs to for napping, so I gave up and turned over and prayed for some dear people I know. And I heard the house make little knocks and cracks where the rising sun was warming it, like it was coming awake and stretching, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Woe

I slept lightly because I was thinking of sewing and childbirth. But Joe and I were up well before dawn, since he had to leave for work extra early this morning. Then he came back -- he had a flat tire, he said, and was taking my car.

I went out with a bad feeling and noticed that he actually had two flat tires. Very, very flat tires.

He rushed to get things together for work and I said I'd take a closer look and maybe call the police, since two tires don't usually go flat by themselves.

Then Joe noticed that our neighbor up the street had flat tires, too, and said that yeah, I had probably better call the police.

All in all, three houses on our street got hit. The tires have been stabbed. One of Joe's was stabbed something like ten times, which I find especially depressing for some reason. The police came out and took pictures.

I don't know why they left my car alone, but I'm glad they did, since the baby is due to come anytime. I'm not quite sure how they decided on the number of tires to flatten on each vehicle or the exact cars to hit at each house, but I don't think the houses they hit were chosen at random.

I think someone may be retaliating against us for something we didn't do. And I don't know if they're going to stop, or if there's much we can do about it.

But, nice things:
  • A woman across the street came out of her house this morning and asked what was going on when she saw the police cars. She was horrified on our behalf, even though I don't know her very well, which kind of reassured me.
  • The folk at the other houses that were hit are great, as I knew already. Men at both houses offered to lend me their air compressors, and then when it became clear the tires were damaged, one of them offered to jack up Joe's car and help with the repairs. I think Joe and I will probably take care of it ourselves this evening (well, mostly Joe with me watching, most likely), but the offer was a really nice one.
I still get along great with most of the neighbors. But I know now that it doesn't always matter how I get along with most of the neighbors, since one person with a vendetta (or maybe a few) can do a lot of damage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conversation of the day

At the doctor's office...

Me: "I don't mind if the baby holds on a little longer. I'm sewing something for it."
Doctor: "How far along are you?"
Me: "About halfway."
Doctor: "...You might want to work on it tonight!"

I am living in suspense. Certain signs point to labor coming soon and quickly, and I am glad I packed the hospital bag this weekend. But even aside from that, it is so strange not knowing when this life-changing event will take place.

Also, a woman at church told me that I look "too cute for words" today. Which is neat, cause I've outgrown my biggest T-shirts (am wearing one of Joe's instead) and I do not feel cute as a button.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This is not for the faint of heart

Is it bad that I take comfort in reading about the gardening failures of others?

I think my squash plants have a problem caused by irregular watering and a problem cause by wet weather... at the same time!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting ready

There are baby clothes in our laundry closet, little pajamas with their feet hanging down and tiny socks laid out to dry.

There is a rocking chair in the bedroom! Joe brought it home just yesterday.

There is teddy bear with a bear with a diaper on it sitting by the stairs.

There is a lot left undone. But things are beginning to take shape in a new way already.

It is still very quiet in this home, though. No crying at all...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hymn time

I don't usually know the songs the nuns sing at church in the morning, but I knew this one!

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Created summer

There was mist on the way to church and geese in the field along the way. The windows at the monastery chapel are open when it's hot, to let some air in, so you can hear the nuns and the cicadas singing at the same time.

I'm back before 8:15 a.m., already feeling hot and craving lemonade.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Firstfruits

One more happy thing...

We've had some violet leaves to eat, a bit of spinach, and some dill, but today we have something new from the garden:


A squash!

I'm so happy!

It will be dinner!

(If I'd done a better job at all this gardening, we'd have had lots of squash by now. Oh well... we should still have a harvest, if a late one, and I know a lot more for next year!)

Getting my exercise

I walked all the way to the library today, about a mile away, and back again. It was the first time in a while I took a walk so long -- but Joe is away, and I had some free time in the cool of evening. So I went out, pretty aware of my very pregnant walk. I have had a few people claim it is actually a waddle, but I'm not so sure...

Walking around the neighborhood in the evening is stressful because so many people are out, and so many of them are strangers. And I am not always sure whether I should make eye contact, smile, or just walk past. I hope people don't think I'm unfriendly sometimes! I get confused when I pass groups of people especially, and I am not sure if they are talking to me or each other.

Now that I have a big fat baby belly, though, people are less likely to ignore me as I pass. I didn't hear the girl on the playground the first time she said "Hello," though, so she tried "Hola!" So I turned around and said "Hi!" and then she asked if I speak English, which I don't get asked too often. But we had a nice time chatting about how we don't know the baby's gender yet and we have about a month until its due date. I think the girl was maybe in middle school.

I used to want a dog just to start conversations with people in the neighborhood. It's taken a little while, but I think it's pretty neat to have an even nicer conversation piece. I suppose people will be even more interested once the baby's born!

What if we moved here one day?

So one advantage to having an awesome sister-in-law who is also an accomplished civil engineer: we have a street named after our family!

It's in a neighborhood she helped plan in Brandywine, just a little ways north of us in southern Prince George's County, and we finally found it Sunday.


That's some sign



Joe giving directions



The excitable one



"Hiding"



Yay!


Everyone had their blinds closed against the sun and heat, so I don't think the neighbors even noticed us taking silly pictures on the street corner.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Learning to cook

We don't have many convenience foods at our house anymore, I've noticed.

We buy a few for sure, like the pink lemonade mix we drink down so often in the summer. We have a bunch of canned soups hidden away in a cupboard in the "sick stash," which was handy last week when we got colds and could just pop open a can of chicken soup for Joe's dinner. I had ramen with an egg in it.

But I eat a lot less ramen than I used to. I figured out that it's almost as quick to boil a bit of whole wheat spaghetti with some frozen peas, and then to pour off the water and sprinkle the noodles with olive oil and salt and pepper and herbs and maybe some parmesan cheese (mmm). I might have taken a picture had I not eaten it all just now.

Usually this approach to cooking is cheaper, too, though I am not sure any meal can beat the price of a ramen packet. I'm sure the spaghetti isn't too expensive, though, especially since our cupboards are stocked with sale-price pasta.

I still prefer ramen when I'm sick, though. Mmm.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Far from home

Maybe this interests me because it reminds me of the state-run ethnic mixing the Soviet Union did in Latvia and elsewhere, but I think it's interesting in any case: an article about China's not-entirely-voluntary (it seems) program to integrate Uighurs into the Han population.

A part that caught my attention:

Bi Wenqing, deputy head of the Shufu county office that oversees the Xinjiang labor export program, ... said that although the Uighur workers at the factories have the freedom to worship, the practice is not encouraged.

"We have been trying hard to educate them into disbelieving religion. The more they are addicted to religion, the more backwards they will be. And those separatists try to leverage religion to guide these innocent young Uighurs into evil ways," Bi said.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feathering my nest

I think I may be nesting.

So far, I haven't had the near-superhuman bursts of energy that some other mothers say keep them up all night so they can rearrange closets and scrub all their floors with a toothbrush. But this building nervous wanting to do things -- cleaning things, preparing-for-the-baby things -- it is a bit out of the ordinary even for a binge-cleaner like me. I wouldn't mind being able to think a bit less about diapers and things!

Joe and I have been sharing a cold back and forth this week, but things are good overall. Here are a few nice ones:
  • The African violet on the dining table and the peace lily in the kitchen are blooming beautifully.
  • So is the clematis we just planted in the back yard.
  • Digging holes to plant things has become much easier now that I am 30-some pounds heavier. I just stand on the shovel and in it goes!
  • I've had a few nice chats with neighbors in the last few days while working outdoors.
  • A sweet friend is getting married tomorrow.
  • A family in church just had new baby.
  • The baby in me moves so much sometimes, Joe has asked whether it's having a party in there!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hey, we did stuff

When Joe was out of town again, I did some work around the house and on errands, but I also saw my family and took a trip up to Harrisburg to see the American MusicFest with Rose.



People contra dancing (I joined in!)



A train passing directly over the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra concert



The Pennsylvania Capitol


Saturday I went to the La Plata 4th of July celebration and watermelon bash. There was free watermelon, mm, and more music.

I also did a lot of cooking. Unfortunately, I did not do a lot of dishes.

Today Joe is back home, and we went to the park I visited last week. It was still deserted.



Piney woods



Berry picking



Playing in the moss



Moss


The lakeside



A fishing bob stuck in a tree


And I will do a lot of dishes tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Changing directions


I just put away the last of the felts I'd had hanging around since Latvian school ended some weeks ago.

I wonder when I will use them again.

One of the reasons I didn't get a job right after moving to La Plata was so I could keep doing these other things I feel called to do: visiting my grandmother a lot and helping a bit with her care, teaching the beautiful children at Latvian church about God and all His wonders, spending time with my great aunt from time to time. I am seeing her tomorrow, and we are both looking forward to it.

For a while it was hard not to think of all the things I probably won't be able to do once the baby's born, or not for a few months, at least. When Bible study ended a few weeks ago, I knew I wouldn't be signing up again if a new course started in September. I don't know when I'll go back to teaching Latvian school, but it won't be this fall. I will miss the chance to share stories with the kids and listen to their interesting thoughts and prayers.

And while everything winds down for the summer, I've found myself with a freer schedule and a bit more mental space than usual. There's been a richness to this chance to think and do things on my own, and I am aware that this chance is fleeting. The baby is due in just two months now, and older parents tell me that is when everything will change.

But everyone -- even the other Latvian school teachers, my great aunt, my grandmother -- they are all so happy about this baby that will take me away from them for at least awhile. And I am happy, too.

And though I worried for a time about all the good work I won't be able to do anymore, it's funny -- it seems I'm being needed elsewhere less and less. There are a number of people interested in teaching religion to the Latvian school children, and I think I will be happy to see someone take my place. God has granted me a different kind of work, and it will keep me busy enough.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Snake sighting #2

This time, the snake in the yard was a bright green thread of a thing hiding under the ledge by the front door. It's the exact kind of snake I would like for a pet, actually, and after I got over my initial yelp of surprise I was tempted to pick it up (but didn't).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I wish I'd brought my camera

Joe's in San Diego again, and it's funny how quickly I can fall back into the patterns I had before we were married: going to church alone, wandering a park afterwards, sleeping and waking at strange times. For a little while it's almost like being unmarried again -- and then he calls me or I start planning the next few days, and so many of our thoughts and plans circle around each other. And then there's this baby in my belly... it's kicking like crazy this afternoon.

I'll have to bring Joe back to the park sometime soon. I'm actually not sure I was supposed to go there... a locked gate meant I had to park my car on the road, so I looked for signs saying the park was closed, but there weren't any. I got around the gate by a footpath.

I don't know if anyone goes there... the dirt road toward the lake was lined with wild blackberry bushes, with plenty of ripe ones for me. The road had beautiful butterflies, the grass had humble little wildflowers, and the lake was surrounded by pine trees and birds. I saw a bluebird!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hello, Vecmamma

At the age of ninety-seven, my grandmother is starting to get confused about who I am sometimes. She still knows her granddaughter Daina, though sometimes she forgets that Daina has already left college and even married that boy my grandmother likes so much... it's just that she doesn't always realize that I'm that granddaughter. A few times now, she's mistaken me for my mother, especially if I visit when she's groggy from a nap.

I try to greet her, "Hello, Vecmamma! It's Daina!" but sometimes she forgets or doesn't hear. And we'll talk awhile and it becomes clear that she's saying "your husband" when she should be saying "your father," and I try to gently correct her... but I usually can't bear to say outright, "No, Vecmamma, you're confused. I'm Daina, your granddaughter." And eventually she'll get it right on her own.

I have been expecting something like this for years now, and it is not so hard to take. The part I find strange is how nice a visit we can have still. I used to think that what made us so close were all those hours when I was little, playing dominoes and walking to the pond and watching Wheel of Fortune while I tried to subtly convince her to scratch my back. And those things still tie us together in a way. But even when she thinks I am someone other than the girl she spent so much time with, it still feels so natural to sit close to each other in her bed or on the couch, flipping through old photo albums or telling stories and just enjoying our time together.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's day

This time of year, the orange daylilies bloom in clumps along the side of the road. You can find them in Maryland -- some right here in La Plata, even -- but it was in Michigan, I think, when the long swaths of bloom caught my dad's attention some years ago.

My dad is an enthusiastic gardener, and maybe he appreciated how the lilies can grow even under the shady fringes of woods along the back roads. It was there, anyway, that he pulled over the pickup and got out with his shovel, dug up a clump of lilies and tossed them into the back.

I don't really remember why my dad and I were there -- maybe he was bringing me to summer camp? But in any case, I think I was probably by myself as I cringed in embarrassment, thinking something like, "Most people would just go visit a garden nursery!"

My dad is not like most people, and I am grateful for that. He has taught me many lessons in life, showing me that beauty is something worth cultivating and the way everyone does it is not necessarily the best way and many other things that have made me wiser along the way. And I'm excited because Joe is starting that same kind of lifework this year, though I know he won't do it quite like my dad did.

I think the lilies are still blooming every summer along the edge of my parents' backyard, bright orange under the shade of the fringe of woods.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seals

There are seals in San Diego. They have taken over a children's beach in La Jolla, a little ways north of downtown.





They are fast as fish in the water, but they look pretty lazy on land!


By popular request

Here are some pictures of pregnant me with Joe in San Diego. He was there for three weeks on business, so we had time to explore together on the weekends. It was great.

I look considerably rounder in real life, for some reason... so if you really want to see what I look like, you'll have to come visit!



I think this is a cypress



The Pacific Ocean in La Jolla



Pools and tidepools



Sandstone + ocean = fun



The lion is stuffed



Under a rare torrey pine tree (they grow on seacliffs!)



More torrey pines



Joe (the white speck) on a ridge in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park



Near some old desert petroglyphs



At the first Spanish mission in California

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wow

Oh wow. What a loving woman.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Back and smiling

So I know only a few people in the neighborhood... more of them keep to themselves or to other circles. And I am starting to be okay with that.

That's because I finally DO have a few neighbors I know. The yard sale was the turning point, actually. It gave us an excuse to chat with people, learn (and re-learn) a few names. I had a really good feeling about the family from almost right across the street, so when Joe and I were gone in San Diego for more than a week, we gave them the key and the older little girls watered our plants. The mom said I didn't have to pay them, but I did. What's the going rate for five sessions of plant-watering, anyway? I got a hug back from one of them, aww.

They were coming over only every few days, though, so even though I asked them to bring in the newspapers, the house started to look a bit unoccupied. Our lawn-mowing neighbor from up the street noticed the papers piling up, stuck them inside our storm door, and mowed our front lawn again!

There are a few other people I know well enough to chat with on the street, but I'm starting to think that what helps the most is having at least a couple good neighbors -- people who will notice you (or your absence) and help out if they can.

Now I just need to finish learning their names. The family almost right across the street has four children, and they ALL have long, unusual names that start with the same letter. One day I'm going to ask their mom for a cheat-sheet.

Nice neighbors make me happy. So does an evening without a huge downpour. I even got the back lawn mowed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Parenting II

We had ... (counting on my fingers) ... 17 people over at our house on Sunday for one of Joe's family potlucks. Everyone brought too much good food and the house was full of conversation. Nieces and nephews ran around our yard and played in a raucous game of Go Fish! in the living room. Just about every dish in our house was dirty by the end of the night, in addition to a small stack of paper plates, and the compost bin was full of corn cobs and watermelon rinds. It was good. 

After we waved our goodbyes and finished up the first phase of cleanup in the kitchen, though, Joe said he's getting a better idea of what it will be like to have our own children. 


A pint-sized greasy handprint left on the wall


I guess it seems different when it's our own carpet that the toddlers toss their food on, when it's our yard where they're sitting down onto my catsup-covered plate and tracking Play-Doh into the grass (even though that's a pretty good place to track the Play-Doh, in the general scheme of things). Joe gave the older kids oil pastels to color with, and now we can't seem to get all the pastel off our tablecloth. This is okay, Joe said, since we can just make that table our coloring spot. And we love the kids so much. But we do have the sense that once our home is inhabited by little ones, it will be a very different kind of home. And I imagine that might take some adjusting.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cleaning house

Just listed 30-some items on Freecyle, hoping someone wants the things we no longer want (mostly yardsale leftovers). This usually ends with no one wanting the stuff we were using just recently, which I always take somewhat personally. But maybe things will go differently this time!

Meanwhile, here is my favorite freecycle post in a long time:

Wanted - couple of hens - any area

I have a little bantam rooster that is lonely. He lives in the barn with my
goats. I have tried grouping him up with my other chickens but they ganged up on
him and beat him up. So after nurseing him back to health I put him by himself.
But he seems lonely. So if you have 1 or 2 hens, young or old, that you would
like to give up, I am sure that would make "Henry" very happy. "

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I thought I knew how to garden

I was talking to my mom about my garden this morning and feeling pretty hopeful. Even though a few of the plants I planted had died, I'd planted other ones in their place and figured I'd learned lessons for next year.

What I forgot was to go out and shade some of my seedlings from the sun. This is not something that's usually necessary, but I didn't get my wimpy seedlings very used to the sun, and they have been frying in it. So I just remembered now and went out to survey any damage.

What I found was half-empty beds. A few seedlings that were doing fine yesterday were gone completely -- and I found their shriveled remnants, uprooted, elsewhere in the garden. One of the strongest ones had its stem snapped - by what? - and it will finish dying in the next few hours. Some others were sun bleached and dead of natural causes, including a couple I planted just yesterday. Just a few look okay.

I'm not sure what happened. What would uproot my plants? I'm going to plant a few more homegrown seedlings this evening and buy some better ones to fill out the beds at the farmer's market on Saturday. And maybe the squash seeds I planted will come up stronger, since they've known nothing but the outdoors.

The blackberries and raspberries are my consolation. They look happy, it seems.

Haha

Oh, this made me laugh.

But if I was his mom and knew about half those things, I'd about die of fright.

How am I ever going to stand having kids?

I myself have survived many a ride around the block in the back of a pickup truck. But unlike my sisters, I was a bit scared all the time. I'm such a wimp.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wowee

Going out to mow the lawn a little while ago, I stopped with my toes at the screen door as a four-foot-long snake slithered past. Eep!

Wildlife doesn't scare me generally, but snakes that big do make my heart pound a bit, especially if I'm not expecting them.

It looked like a black rat snake (that is, black), but I'm really not sure what it was. In any case, it's not poisonous and probably something that will keep the mouse population down a bit, which is fine by me as long as it stays out of the house and preferably out of sight.

In other news, Joe and I have had fun mail and visitors lately, most of them of the non-reptile variety. And most of Joe's big family is coming over for dinner Sunday to celebrate various birthdays. Whee!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Overflown

It looks like we have a hummingbird living next door, with its nest is at the top of a sweet gum tree. It likes to sit on  the top of a tall, bare branch, surveying the neighborhood and making the occasional loop-de-loop. 

Like kids not home for dinner

Apparently, if you miss daily Mass about... oh... four days in a row, some of the people who know you are regulars will not only start to wonder where you are, but they will talk it over at length with the others and, upon your return, ask where have you been!

Joe had early meetings every day this week but today, so we didn't go -- not so strange for me, more unusual for him. Our absence was noted.

It's nice to be thought of, though. Next time we'll try to let someone know if we'll be out a few days, so they don't have to wonder.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back in time

This week I discovered Viena Diena, the online home of a project in which hundreds of photographers took pictures of one day in Latvia. Actually, they took pictures of two days -- August 31, 1987 and the anniversary 20 years later.

The pictures taken not even 22 years ago seem like a different world. I mean, I was alive then, playing with my My Little Ponies on my parents' carpet, but these are pictures of some other place, where men still drive homemade tractors and women share with their horses. Real horses. Or maybe moose.

So many of the pictures are great, but those that struck me most are here, here, here, here and here. And why are these mothers wearing masks?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Parenting I

Joe and I were at my parents' house on Saturday, taking care of the dog and my grandmother while everyone else was gone. Joe played his guitar while my grandmother listened and I played my kokle, and Vecmamma even played a little herself, just picking at the strings.

In the evening, we went to  Mass near there, like we used to. A tiny little baby was being baptized, and after it received the holy water and the holy oil and the priest was talking about how wonderful it all was, the baby broke out into the most radiant little grin! Those nearby let out little squeals of laughter.

But I think I paid more attention to the  young couple in front of us. Both their toddlers were pretty squirmy, and they kept handing them board books and snacks to try to keep them calm and quiet. The little girl piped up when everyone else was singing, but her "la la la!"s were not nearly on tune as the liturgy, and she kept going even after everyone else was quiet. The father's attempts to shush her were in vain. The mother told their boy to be "quiet as a mouse!" but he didn't really listen, either. Then the boy threw up in the pew and the parents made a hasty cleanup and exit. 

(Note to self: when we go to church with kids, we should bring along something to absorb bodily fluids so we don't have to catch them with our hands.)

I don't really remember the sermon. But I really had a lot to ponder about parenthood, and the baby was kicking besides.

Joe made me stand up with the other mothers to receive a special blessing for Mother's Day coming up. On the way out we got little flowers -- marigolds! Mine is so pretty. I already planted it in a pot outside.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aw

Our neighbor mowed our front lawn and even swept the grass from the walk! What a great feeling.

I am capable of mowing the lawn, but not at the same time I'm working in the garden (with many breaks). So that was actually really helpful.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Threshholds

This article fascinated me on a couple levels:

Gilbert wrote about a study that showed people’s happiness with their lives and correlated that information with their salary.

What did he find? $40,000 is a truly magic number. Below that number, people were much less happy with their lives - people with a household income of $20K or $30K were generally less happy with their state of living than people earning $40K.

As Trent (who wrote the article) pointed out, that number won't hold true for everyone. Cost of living varies with your location, your dependents, the amount of debt you have. But he writes about the idea of having enough.

When Joe and I moved to La Plata, he left the decision of whether to take a job right away up to me (which was weird!) (and cool!) (but wow, what a big decision). We realized I didn't need to work for pay, and though of course we could use the money, I think things are working out better for us this way, at least for now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Springtime asparagus

This may be my favorite article on cooking ever, because it is about life as much as it is about cooking.

Today I am smiling because not only do I suspect my capon will be defrosted in time to roast it for dinner, but because there was asparagus to go with it at the farmer's market. Mmm mmm mm.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happenstance

Hah! I thought the guy coming to install our new thermostat might be quiet, but it turns out he's a HUGE fan of The Cure, and he figured out that someone else in our house was, too. (What, the multiple Cure albums in the tape holder by the thermostat and the hand-drawn picture of Robert Smith on our coffee table gave it away?) I actually learned things about The Cure I didn't know. I didn't know there were things about The Cure I didn't know. Maybe Joe will come home and tell me that I knew them once but forgot.

About the thermostat: it is fancy, programmable and tells the electric company how much power we use in real time, so they don't need as much guesswork when they buy it to sell it to us. It also lets them raise our home's temperature several degrees during the day in the summer. We get credits on our electric bill for participating -- and a free light bulb.

Read these over lunch

Though it does not comment on any matters of international importance, this is one of the greatest things I've read in a while.

And I enjoyed the very last part of Answer Man's Sunday column.

Neither card nor flowers

I guess it is a good thing the gardens I wanted to take my mom to for an early Mother's Day trip were closed for renovations. I planned a fun afternoon at the Baltimore Art Museum and it ended up being well-suited for yesterday's cold and rainy weather. Joe came, too! Now he is suggesting we take my mom to museums for Mother's Day every year, hee. We'll see.

The destination was a surprise from my mom... which meant that I didn't find out until we got there that she had actually been there before. But she and my dad had mostly taken in a special exhibit last time, which meant we could explore the permanent galleries. I appreciate whoever curated the European Art section, where we spent most of our time. There were the usual things -- religious art, portraits, landscapes -- but they were almost all fascinating, especially the portraits, which are usually a lowlight for me.

There were also nice, long descriptions with extra details accompanying the works, which meant I had interesting things to read and made it through the exhibit in about the usual time, instead of zipping through ahead of Joe, who studies things for longer. We also got to see old mosaics, elaborate quilts, and fancy furniture next to a chair made out of a few hundred number two pencils. No Sitting Allowed.

We scrapped my original plan of going out for ice cream afterwards and instead found a nice cafe where my mom got a coffee with whipped cream and biscotti, Joe got hot chocolate, and I had really great lentil soup that came (a surprise!) with bread and herby dipping-oil. We made it back to our parking meter with just five minutes to spare and then drove through the city's Druid Hill Park, which has a big lake and a nifty tower that looks like a castle. My mom and I talked so much on the way home that I missed my exit to get off of I-95 and we had to take a detour.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It was a good day for it

Our yard sale take:

$27.61 in cash and change
minus $5.12 spent on posterboard to make signs
plus introductions to several neighbors
encounters with a couple more
and a cookout invitation.

I'm pretty pleased.

We also got rid of a couple boxes worth of things, and the rest are dusted off, boxed up and ready to sell or donate elsewhere. Alas, though, we STILL have our enormous white elephant of a spare microwave. We were offering it free, too!

I think we would have had a lot more traffic if all our signs hadn't gotten taken down sometime between yesterday evening and this morning. Maybe they were illegal?

Monday, April 20, 2009

I know I shouldn't be afraid

Last night I had a tornado dream. They have come often since at least early high school, when I started keeping track. But this was truly one of the worst, with a sudden bad ending in a building without a basement, the kind of ending that leaves me lying awake with my heart beating hard. The feelings of the dream followed me a way into the morning, as sometimes happens.

Now I hear the area's under a tornado watch 'til 10. And I know tornado watches aren't a big deal. And I know God is in control and meeting Him isn't something I should need to fear. But I still think about how my house doesn't have a basement, and neither does the church for Bible study.

So I guess I am praying for fearlessness. And I am remembering all of our jokes about how, since tornadoes only hit La Plata every 74 years or so, Joe and I should really be okay.

Does anyone have a cure for bad dreams? I have had three in the last week or so, on a variety of bothersome themes, though I probably have even less need to fear phantom killers in the mountains of Afghanistan than I do hypothetical tornadoes.

This one makes me laugh even now

Rainy days make me sleepy. I went to Mass with Joe this morning and then slept through most of it, oops.

On the way, I was feeling crummy and watching the rain come over the windshield and thinking about how I'll need to fight off the urge to nap while I finish my Bible study lesson today. 

"It'll be hard to study the Bible in this weather," I said. 

"You could just study inside," Joe said.


And if I'm the only one who laughs at that, that's okay.

Easter humor

On Saturday, we came back from church and Joe immediately went to check on the pizza dough he'd set to rise. 

"It is risen!" he said triumphantly. And a pause, and "It is risen indeed!" 

It was the best pizza dough.

I am glad because when I was reviewing the Easter story with the little kids at Latvian school yesterday and asked whether Jesus was a ghost or really alive, they answered surely, "really alive!" They could even tell me how they knew

Gosh, something's sunk in. It's wonderful. Other years they were so sure he was a ghost.

Our house has also seen the "broccoli of destruction," if you use Joe's translation, or "the broccoli of perdition" using mine.  If that doesn't make any sense, well, that is probably because you did not expect references to Christ's betrayal to come up while leftovers were being put away.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Maybe late, or maybe not

The Lord has indeed risen, Alleluia! Glory and kingship be His forever. 

It seems like everyone else has so many good things to say about Christ's resurrection this time of year, but I feel oddly incapable of joining in. Joe and I went to church Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and then for the Easter service Sunday morning, and even as I sang from the pews or the chairs in the Friendship Room, I was probably soaking up more than I was bursting forth.

Big in my thoughts lately has been the ways we are blessed beyond measure, even though my human pettiness sometimes seems bigger when I have colds and hard moments. But there is still this great sense of gifts undeserved, especially the one tapping me from time to time from inside my belly. 

And to have the goodness of this loving Lord reigning alive always, not only over this growing child, but over sinful me? Offering to wash us clean? To guide us in bright paths? To be with us beyond the end of the world and this life and everything? 

It was all so concrete back those centuries ago -- the Son who was whipped and mocked and lifted up to die, the folded burial cloths left once he rose to life again, the message of the Savior to his confused and frightened friends. And the bigness of what it all means becomes concrete here, too, though the scenes are not as dramatic. If only I knew how to see and share it better.

In the meantime, there is so much goodness to rest in. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finding peace

Now my spinach is growing up and the sunny days make me want to find all the outdoor chores I can. Apparently Thomas Jefferson felt a bit of the same way: 


And here is a really interesting article on a man's repentance, also from the Post. What I wonder about the most is his wife and their marriage, which is so little discussed. What would it be like living with a man so full of hate? Why did she? What did she think of it all? 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Personalities

Peter's commentary on our cherry trees blooming so much later than their neighbors: 

"The little girl trees haven't learned what their aunts are doing yet."

They are sweet cherries, by the way. In a year or two, once they are bearing a few fruits, one should have yellow cherries with pink cheeks, and the other should have deep, dark red cherries.

Cherry blossoms

After a few weeks of cherry blossoms all over La Plata, the little treelings in our backyard finally burst their first buds. 

I have meant to write about the cherry trees since Peter came over to help me plant them in the fall. They were wedding presents, and once we had them growing up among the grass in the backyard, the yard started to feel like a place worth being.

Fall is a good time to plant cherry trees, apparently, but was disconcerting to watch them lose their leaves right away. So I was really happy when their buds started swelling a little while ago, and I was really happy when I saw the first white blossoms this morning!

I was going to take pictures of the pioneer buds, but then we had a thunderstorm. By evening, the open blossoms were missing most of their petals. 

So no picture today! But maybe I will have one soon, once a few more of the buds open.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Light show

Oh yeah, did you hear about the somewhat-mysterious light and accompanying boom that terrified the residents of Norfolk? 

We could see it from our neighborhood! We were almost home from visiting Joe's family and I (the driver) was pretty startled to see what looked like a strange sort of orange firework, or perhaps a meteor, coming down above the trees.  Joe saw it, too, though he took it in better stride, and we talked about what it could be as we turned onto our street. We figured it was just a few miles away, though, and not across the Potomac River and 100 miles further on south! 

Anyway, it was probably a meteor, seems to be the latest conclusion. What a world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vertical!

Hey, it's my keyboard!

I believe that, while I worked at the Dispatch, I got more comments on this keyboard than I did on the actual quality of my work.

It had been used before me by a co-worker with wrist problems until she switched to a position that required less typing and more keyboard shortcuts. The keyboard sat unused until I asked if I could maybe use it, and everyone said yes, please, because it scared them. And no one ever borrowed my computer again.

It took me about a day's practice to type fluently on it, and soon I was back up to 90 words a minute or so. 

The side mirrors are mostly meant to help you with the numbers and the function keys, since all but the most adept touch-typers like to peek when they punch those. The text on the F and # keys is even inverted so it shows up right in the mirrors.

I got to take the pricey keyboard with me when I left the Dispatch, and no one was sad to see it go (except occasional kids who came through the newsroom on job-shadowing days, for whom it was definitely a highlight). The mirrors got broken off in the move, but it still works great. 

Now I use Joe's computer and keyboard more often than I use my own. I miss the lovely vertical, which is sitting quietly next to me.

With child

For April Fool's Day I tried to convince Joe I made him a Veggie Meat Experiment for dinner, but he didn't fall too hard for it before he saw his soup and turkey melt (like a tuna melt). I had just the soup, yum.

Then we were talking about times I've been fooled before, including the time Steffie had us all on LiveJournal thinking she was pregnant -- classic. Joe said I could tell people that we're having twins, which would have been genius had I actually remembered to do it before the day was up. 

Anyway, yesterday probably wasn't the best day to tell people that I'm pregnant since I actually am. (Wahoo!) And I know some people know already, but some don't, so! The baby is due August 29th or so, which is the day before our first wedding anniversary. That means I'm at the beginning of the fifth month of pregnancy, which means the baby is almost the size of a large mango and I'm getting nice and round in the belly. 

Joe and I are really excited. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is excited, especially people at church! When we told the people who go to daily mass at the monastery with us, they cheered, and they told us, "Your baby's going to have 150 godmothers and godfathers!" On our way out today, they told me to enjoy my dill pickles and my strawberries. Mmm... both sound good to me, but maybe not together. 

I have been sick at times, but I'm more often really hungry... much of the time I'd like to spend posting on here has instead gone into endless rounds of making snacks and eating them. And since I know someone will ask: yep, I've craved some things, mostly salty snacks like french fries and potato chips in the beginning, and also Indian food. I have now memorized the location of every McDonald's in the area, though I didn't visit any of them. There are no Indian restaurants nearby, alas.

I might have felt the baby move yesterday, but I'm not sure. And I should get to see it again today, since we're having our second sonogram! I'm hoping it goes well. We're planning to keep the gender a surprise, though I've had a bit of a premonition. I'll let you know if I was right! And Joe will probably let you know if I was wrong. :~)

I'm guessing I got most of any questions you have, but if you have any others, ask away!

Here is a picture from sonogram number one, taken a month and a half ago. You can see the head on the right, the belly to the left, and the teeny, tiny hands.

The baby

Monday, March 30, 2009

Music made for sharing

If you don't mind tapping your feet a bit, you can listen in here and tap along with me: 




The thing that entrances me about this video, besides the way the song builds, is the bass player, who apparently has a tiny baby in her backpack. My favorite comment from the YouTube page: "I'm guessing the baby is going to grow up to be a musician."

World waking up

At the monastery on weekdays, there are daffodils and cherry blossoms, and it is shawl weather again. Today Sandy was wearing something light red with sparkles.

At Mass on Sunday, we noticed a number of little girls in new pink jackets, and a few older women, too!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yesterday I bought tomato seeds

And today there is snow covering the backyard.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One more thing

I asked the internet how many tomato plants it takes to feed a family. The numbers recommended for a family of four range from 6 plants to 24. Ack.

Dreaming of greening

I've spent much of the morning planning this year's garden. It is not a big yard, but I got down to mapping it out, and there's a lot of plantable space. More than I can probably plant this year, actually! I hear the way to do it is to expand the garden a bit each year, and that does seem the most manageable way, but oh, I wish I could just fill the yard with flowers and fruits and vegetables.

A corner of the yard doesn't drain very well. I'm going to try to see if I can get things together enough to make some raised beds, but it will still be wet underneath. Are there any plants that like such conditions? Other than rice, I mean...?

I'd have thought I was too young for this

When I worked at the Dispatch, writing obituaries was one of my favorite things. People are so interesting. But aside from the few "glory obits" we ran -- the long staff-written pieces usually reserved for community leaders and accident victims -- there weren't many obits worth reading. Most of the paid ones (those in tiny type in the back of the local section) were written like mad libs: 

[Name] [euphemism for "died"] [date] [location]. [He/she] was born to [parents] [location] [date]. [Military service info, if any, plus small flag icon.] [List of survivors.] [Etc.]

Our favorite euphemism for "died" may have been "was carried to heaven by the Lord's angels." 

But HERE! Not only is the type of the obituaries bigger, but they are full of interesting details. A fellow in Wednesday's paper "enjoyed gardening, farming, spending time with his family and grandchildren, playing poker and dancing with his wife." I imagine his wife liked that! Then there was the woman who got her purple belt in karate at the age of 67 (I think). There was the man who, in addition to many other interests, developed a habit of driving to the local store, parking, watching people out the car window for hours and eating cheese curls. The employees of the store even dedicated his usual spot to him!

No one here is "carried to heaven by the Lord's angels," though -- or if they are, the obituaries don't mention it in as many words.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Singing praise

The weeds in the backyard have purple blossoms now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Springtime?

I saw some robins the other day.

Now the ice-cream man is circling the neighborhood.

He is making me hungry!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Memories

Some of you will have heard this story before, but I was reminded again by this post about helping strangers.

People say it is usually a bad idea to give cash to strangers, and I think that is often true. It is easy to be scammed and often better to point people to charities with screening procedures, or perhaps to hand out granola bars. (I'm planning to keep some in my car to offer to people with signs by the side of the road.) But I think there are exceptions...

Once, when I was still in college, a man caught up to me in a church parking lot in Silver Spring. He said he and his wife had just moved halfway across the country so he could take a new job, but their apartment wasn’t ready, unexpectedly. They didn't know a soul in the city and didn’t want to go to a homeless shelter (and, honestly, I wouldn't either…) and he asked if I could spare some money to help pay for a couple nights at a cheap hotel.

He showed me a copy of his lease and a printout of the hotel quote, and he said he could give me a check to pay me back as long as I promised not to cash it for a few weeks, until he got his first paycheck from his new job. His wife was waiting in the car.

It was the kind of thing that would have been pretty hard for me or anyone to verify, and I doubt any charity would give this man cash for a hotel room. I felt that this guy was probably telling the truth, though, so I went to an ATM and took out my last $80 or so. (My summer job would not start for a few weeks.) The man gave me a check to cover just about all of it and wrote his phone number on it.

When I called a few weeks later to see if I could cash the check, the number was dead. It was an out-of-town number, and if it had ever been in service, it had been discontinued after the move. So I cashed the check anyway, and it didn't bounce.

Wasn't it winter just yesterday?

With the weather a little warmer and the sun out again, I noticed the grass in the backyard is getting greener, and there are even little flowers in it, eeeee!

On a totally different note, it's strange to find old music again. I'd totally forgotten about some Stabbing Westward songs Joe and I used to listen to, but they came up in a conversation the other day (Joe was probably quoting random lyrics, as he does), so I looked them up. Whoa. They are hard-hitting songs, but they don't hit me the way they used to anymore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Looking out

Joe left around 4 this morning for a quick business trip and will be back sometime after 9 tonight. It is quiet in this house. Usually I close the blinds as soon as evening comes on because I don't like the idea of people watching me as I cook dinner. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it...

But tonight I was eating late, and I had time to go upstairs to think and pray and distract myself in the meantime. (I shouldn't have been distracting myself.) It was past sunset but I didn't bother closing the blinds. The only light came from the computer screen, and that turned itself off eventually. Outside I could see the bare trees against the sky, which was gray after the snow and rain today. I don't usually look outside at night anymore...

The sky drew darker and darker. Lights shone through the blinds of the houses across the street, and people pulled up to their homes and opened doors to their dogs and well-lit living rooms. One man looked back out in my direction, and I ducked to the side, worried he could see me. Several kids ran out of another house and down the street. I wonder where they were going...

Monday, February 16, 2009

What pretty carrots

Today is Joe's birthday. I gave him a present a few weeks ago, so we are not doing much tonight. Still, I am making a better-than-usual dinner.
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I didn't realize at first that I had such a special carrot, though!


Friday, February 13, 2009

The prodigal

The warm weather has come with gusty winds throughout Maryland. Yesterday was blow-things-out-of-your-hands, stop-you-in-your-tracks windy. The day before was a little better.

Still, when Joe and I came home and saw that our recycling bin was missing, we weren't sure whether to blame the wind or a careless neighbor.

Yesterday, we came home in the evening to see the bin on our front stoop. Returned!




It will soon be labeled with our address. So will our trash can and its lid.

Do YOU love any turtles?

"Do you like this card with the turtle?" I asked my grandmother yesterday as I picked the card up off of her bedside table. 
I'd sent it to her earlier in the week. She studied it for a moment. 
"It is a nice card," she finally concluded. "But who can really love a turtle?"
I guess it went over better than the owl cards. I'd sent her two or three of those before she told me she thinks owls are creepy. 

Even better was the moment my grandmother looked at the dog lying on the carpet and solemnly declared, "The dog is dead." 
"It is not dead," I told her. "It is sleeping."
"But I don't see it breathing!"
"I can. See that tuft of fur there, rising and falling?" 
She really does love the dog, and she watched it carefully for a few minutes, just to make sure it was still alive. 

But best of all was the moment, as I was leaving, when my grandmother held my hand and told me to have many children and a full life. I love her, and I know she loves me even more than she loves the dog (though only the dog is allowed to lap up the last of her sweet coffee straight from the cup).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Though I guess they didn't have toilet paper back then...

I'm prepping for my Sunday school lesson at the Latvian church. The youngest classes will be hearing about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I've decided. The kids usually do a pretty good job of listening as long as I use the felt board to illustrate the story, but I'm getting a little tired of the routine. So I'm thinking this is a great opportunity to let the kids wrap each other in toilet paper.

I wonder if this is a great idea or a bad one? I guess I'll find out on Sunday...