Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Nativity Play

We had some friends over on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew, and the children acted it out. Next year we hope to have better costumes!
Joseph and Mary

Here's the baby!

Away in a Manger

A wise man

Two Shepherds

Happy Feet!

Esther has noticed that everybody else wears shoes, and she wants to too! She brought these to me (one at a time) and insisted I put them on her feet--she chose which shoes and what foot each one went on! She seemed to be quite pleased with the effect! Yes, there are 4 shoes there, from 4 different pairs--and obviously not al hers!
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Baby Wearing

I don't often post photos of myself, probably because I'm usually the one taking the photos. I asked my husband to take this picture last week; my baby is growing up fast, and I probably won't be carrying her around like this much longer--not that I object but she has become very fond of her own two feet! My sister gave me this Moby wrap when Esther was born, and it is one of my favorite baby-wearing aids; it's just one longs strip of somewhat stretchy fabric.
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Photo of the Birthday girl

I thought I should post this photo taken on Esther's birthday to document the day. Isn't she a cuty?
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I found these at the bottom of my washing machine. Does that make me guilty of money laundering?
Better do a better job of checking those pockets...

Government of the People, or Government of the Judges?

I've steered away from politics lately, but I saw this editorial today and thought it worth sharing. I especially agree with the last couple of lines:

"The people are not irrelevant in deciding the type of society in which they want to live. And we'd like to think the government of the people is not government of just seven people."

Children's nativity play and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A birth story

I love reading birth stories, and as today is the anniversary of Esther's birth I thought it would be a good time to tell her story.
Last year was to be our first Christmas home with just our immediate family. Most of my family were gathering in Boston to celebrate together, and I felt bad to be missing the reunion but at 9 months pregnant no-one was going to let me on a plane! Instead we invited some friends over for Christmas Eve and planned a quiet celebration of the birth of Christ. My baby was due January 3rd, and as my first two had both come several days late I had pinned her arrival for sometime around January 7th.
The weekend before Christmas was busy. I went to the gym on Saturday morning and had a nice brisk walk on the treadmill. While I was there I noticed I was experiencing a lot of painless contractions--really the first I had experienced this pregnancy. I didn't think much of it. We went to the Church later on for Choir practice, then I walked a couple more miles (I really like walking, and find I handle pregnancy much better when I exercise) to drop off the Sunday service program for our church librarian to make copies. In the afternoon a friend called to ask if I could lead the music for her on Sunday, as she was home with a 3 day old baby. I cheerfully agreed.
The painless contractions had been going on all day, and as evening came they started to feel crampy. That's when I started to suspect I had a baby on the way. This was exactly mirroring my experience with Lily; a day of mild contractions, in the evening gradually becoming more intense and proceeding to real labor in the middle of the night. About 7:00 in the evening I called my friend Judi, who had offered to watch my kids if I went into labor before my mom arrived to help (she was in Boston with the rest of the family, planning to fly out on New Years Eve to help when my baby came). I told Judi I just might be needing her in the middle of the night, but was hoping to hold out until morning. I cleaned house a bit then went to bed and tried to sleep. Didn't work--by 10:00 I was up again. I think I pulled out a book and tried to read, but that didn't help much either. I fixed a warm bath, which did help, for awhile. By about 2:00 I was starting to think might not have until morning--I ten to have long labors but this was a third child and might go faster. I woke my husband up and told him we were going to the hospital. Then I called and woke Judi up and asked her to come (Thank Heavens for good friends!). I was having a hard time getting through the contractions at this point--I was having back labor, again reminding me of Lily's birth. I wanted my husband to stand behind me and rub my back while I leaned over a table.
Eventually we got in the car and headed for the hospital. I was in the back so I had room to change positions. Honestly, the ride to the hospital is one of the reasons I am strongly tempted to try a home birth next time. A moving car is just not a very comfortable place to be when you are in active labor. This time I was seriously afraid I was going to throw up any moment. Didn't happen till I was in the hospital though.
We made it to the hospital, through the emergency room entrance (the only one open in the middle of the night) and up to labor and delivery. It must have been obvious that I was in hard labor because they didn't bother with the little triage rooms but took me straight to a LDR (labor, delivery, recovery) room. I gave someone my printed birth plan, and they left me alone to change.
When the nurses came back in, they were smiling. "We have the perfect labor and delivery nurse for you!" they announced. "She is a midwife and is very supportive of natural birth."
Someone must have been listening to my prayers!
When my nurse, P., came in and intruduced herself, I was immediately impressed. We was indeed a midwife, and in the past had practiced independently and attended home births. She was very understanding and supportive of my desire not to have a medicalized birth. I asked about the hot tub I had heard about, and she agreed that I could go get in as soon as I had received a dose of IV antibiotics (as with my former pregnancies, I had tested postitive for group B strep). She got the IV in, and I settled down in the most comfortable position I could find, which was facing backwords with the top of the bed raised so I could support myself on it; I have found with back labor this is usually the position I want to take, leaning forward with my arms and head resting on something. At some point along the way P. checked and told me I was about 6 cm dilated. This whole time I was getting through the contractions by vocalizing and sometimes pounding my hands on the bed--both probably in an attempt to distract myself from the pain. The IV wasn't working and we finally figured out there was a kink in the line, when that was straightened out there was not problem.
Once I was done with the IV, P. and Nathan helped me down the hallway to the hot tub room. I wasn't sure how much help the water would be, as the bath at home hadn't made a huge difference. But sinking into that tub of warm water was such a relief I knew immediately I did not want to get out again until this labor was over! But I didn't tell anyone that.
P. got me settled and then went out. This tub was a big jaccuzzi type tub, not as large as a birthing tub but quite comfortable. I found that when a contraction hit I could turn on the air jets full force against my back and they made the contractions much easier to get through. In fact, once I was in the tub I didn't need to vocalize and was able to relax a lot more. In fact, Nathan told me he couldn't always even tell when I was having a contraction. Actually, my labor seemed to slow down after that, the contractions coming farther apart. Which was just as well, as I was very tired and enjoyed a few extra minutes of rest in between! Nathan was very sweet and sang Primary songs to me most of the night, as well as holding my head up with his arm while he knelt next to the tub. P. would come in every now and then to check the baby's heart beat with the doppler, and to bring me cold juice to drink. Otherwise she pretty much left us alone.
This went on for several hours. Sometime in the early morning I started thinking I was about ready to push. I didn't mention this to anyone else as I didn't want to be made to get out of the tub, nor did I want the dr. called. Instead when the next contraction came I tried pushing along with it. Sure enough, I felt the baby's head starting to descend--and I felt my water break. P. came in again to check the baby's heart beat, but I didn't say anything to her--she would have been required to get me out of the tub and back to my room. Once she went out I started pushing again, and with a couple of contractions I knew the baby was crowning. That's when I pulled the cord to call the nurse's station. Actually, I probably pulled that cord five or six times just to make sure they got the message! And somewhere in there I remembered to turn the air jets off because this baby was coming! By the time P. showed up I think the baby's head was out already. She assessed the situation pretty quickly, reached into the water, got the cord over the baby's head (it was wrapped around twice), and helped ease my baby into the world. In a minute baby Esther was out of the water and into my arms. She was a little purple and didn't cry right away, but P. just said to give her a minute and sure enough she started to breathe just fine. Actually, I don't remember that she ever did cry. Maybe being born into warm water is not as much of a shock as coming straight into cold air! P. pulled a towel out of the water and covered the baby with it as she was still on my chest--nice and warm. Actually, I probably had the water a little too warm--the heat seemed to help with the contractions, but I know I was sweating. Esther was small--7 lbs 1 oz when we finally got around to weighing her (a couple of hours later); my next smallest was Lily at 8 lbs 5 oz. But then Lily and Luke had both had a couple of extra weeks to grow inside before making their appearances! 5 or 10 Minutes after Esther was born I delivered the placenta (still in the tub). We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, then Nathan cut it (he was being cautious and actually took three or for snips to cut through the cord!) Finally P. got me out and took us all back to our room. It was another 15 minutes before the OB showed up, said everything looked good, shook our hands, and left.
This was by far the easiest birth I have experienced. I loved laboring in the hot tub, and also giving birth in the water. I loved having a birth attendant who was supportive and completely un-obtrusive. I stood up 15 minutes after giving birth and walked down the hall to my recovery room. I had no tearing or even significant soreness; in fact, later that day I remarked that I really didn't feel like I had just given birth. I was very warm from the tub and did not experience cold feet or feeling chilled as I had after my other births. I also feel that my baby had a calmer entry into the world than my others had experienced.
Baby and I were together throughout the hospital stay. Even when they took her down to the nursery to be evaluated and blood tested etc. I went with her (this is the same hospital where Luke was born and I remember them taking him for his heel stick and not bringing him back until 3 hours later--by which time I was pestering them with phone calls. I didn't know where the nursery was or I would probably have gone and got him. This time I wasn't going to let my baby out of my sight; interestingly enough with mom standing there the ckeck-up and heel prick only took a couple of minutes!) I did have to stay in the hospital for 48 hours--because of the group B strep they didn't want to let the baby go before that time. Nathan and the kids spent a lot of those 48 hours at the hospital with me; they would show up first thing in the morning and stay until evening. We all came home together on Christmas morning.
In a funny postscript, after coming home from the hospital I picked up a book called "What you didn't think to ask your obstetrician" written by a male doctor who obviously had no experience with water birth. His stated that water birth was safe under the right conditions but that the water would not help with labor pain. Huh, what does he know about it...just reinforces my inclination to not fully trust doctor's opinions!

Happy birthday my little Christmas baby!

What a mess

As you can see, our neighbourhood has a major trash problem--people throw the trash into the dumpster enclosure without bothering to open the dumpster and put the trash inside. After the racoons get to it, this is what it looks like. I printed up these little notes this morning to pass around the neigbourhood. What do you think? I'm not trying to be the garbage Nazi, but it does seem that a reminder is in order.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Play Time

Esther loves her baths these days. I guess the bathtub can be a fun place to play even without the water--this is where I found her the other evening. She kept saying "ba', ba" for bath.

Here's my little monkeys enjoying their new Christmas jammies.

Tot School 22 December

Reading Stories with Dad.
We've been busy. Here are a few of our recent activities.
Helping Mom bake.

Decorating Gingerbread houses. This one came from a kit. We tried to make one from scratch but it didn't go so well.
We also made a version of Carisa's bottle top name speller, only I didn't have bottle tops so we used paper circles with the letters. Luke and Lily both enjoyed the activity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Courage to Love

Lizzie, over at A Dusty Frame, demonstrates courage in loving and sustaining her husband through some difficult trials, including his incarceration. Her example has prompted me to consider the place of love in our lives and the need for us embrace love as a motivating force in our lives.
To truely love takes both courage and effort. During the last days of his mortal ministry, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the time preceding his second coming. Concerning that period of time he tells us: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24:12) Where is the evidence of the wilting of love the greatest? It is found where we should expect love to be strongest. On the one hand we see a generation of young people who hesitate to marry, choosing instead to pursue a series of casual relationships. On the other we see unprecedented numbers of families breaking down, husbands and wives abandoning one an0ther and pulling the foundation out from under their children. People are afraid to love. Maybe people are afraid of love, real love, the kind that binds us to one another with cords so strong that we sorrow in another's sorrow, suffer in their suffering, rejoice in their rejoicing. Love that can lead two people in the dawn of their lives to commit to one another for all the years ahead. Love that can then sustain them through all the sorrows, challenges, and human failings that mark the course of our lives. Love that inspires us to bring children into the world, to offer even the gift of life, and with it accept the burdens and responsibilities of parenthood with its sleepless nights, long days, and even potential heartache. Love that, in the sunset of life, still binds us to spouse, children, grandchildren, and future generations we may never see, while at the same time its strands tie us to parents, grandparents, and other loved ones gone before and make of death not only a time of parting but of reunion.
What are the characteristics of such love? In thr Bible, this binding and motivating love is sometimes called charity. Paul describes love of this type in 1 Corrinthians 13:4-8, 13
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
My mother likes to say "no-one can change without a source of pure love". Of course, the ultimate source of pure love is our Savior, whose atoning sacrifice on our behalf stands as the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Certainly when we understand that he has taken upon himself not only our sins but our frailties and suffering, and that he has paid that price not only for us but for every member of the human family, we can see that the way is open for us to take those frightening steps of change that are necessary in our hearts and lives. Unfortunately we live in a world that can easily overwhelm us with harshness and loneliness, and with incessant clamor that makes it hard to hear the voice of divine love. When this happens, our hope is to be warmed by the echo of that love found in the words and actions of those who are close to us. Love is both the guideline and the safety net that can allow us to move forward when our own faith and hope might be dim. It give us the security to move beyond self-imposed protective walls and barriers, to allow our own hearts to soften. The love between husband and wife, between parent and child, between true friends, warms us in a cold world and draws each of us closer to the true source of love and light.
As we fill our homes with light in this Christmas season I hope we can also fill any dark places in our hearts with the light of love.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quest for Simplicity: Eliminating Clutter from our Lives

My husband, with a background in Finance, frequently reminds me of the need to acknowledge a sunk cost and move on. I find a lot of truth in his observation. When we have invested ourselves in a thing or an activity, whether with our time and energies or our money, we find it difficult to let go even when our investment stops yielding returns and becomes a burden. And so we clutter or lives with objects or activities that drain our time and energy, while at the same time we strain to make room for those things that are truly meaningful. As I examine my life to determine what is clutter and what is not, I find it helpful to keep in mind concept of sunk cost. Something that is currently blessing my family--tangibly or intangibly--is not clutter. Something that was once a blessing, but is now only a burden, is clutter and should be let go.

Quest for Simplicity is a new feature on my blog aimed at helping eliminate the clutter in our lives. Clutter can come in many forms, whether it is physical clutter taking up space in our homes, unnecessary obligations taking our time away from our families, or emotional baggage sapping the energy we need to fulfill our responsibilities to God and our neighbour. I hope some of you will join me in taking a look at how you can simplify your life, cut back on stress, and make more room for those most important things that might be getting marginalized.
Feel free to grab the Quest for Simplicity icon and post it on your own blog. Write a post about what you are doing/want to do to simplify your own life, then come back here and sign the Mr. Linky; be sure to include the url for your specific Quest for Simplicity post.
Update: I have removed the autolinks from this page. Instead Mr. Linky will be included at the bottom of each Quest for Simplicity post I write; If you write a Quest for Simplicity post, sign the Mr. Linky at the bottom of my most recent Quest post. Once you participate once I will put a link to your blog on this page as well.
I look forward to hearing from you! Also, the code for the Quest for Simplicity button is now easily accessible in a scroll box below the button. Copy to your blog and you're good to go.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on simplifying life!

Quest for Simplicity 13 December 2008

What am I doing to simplify my life right now? I have to say there is a lot that I plan to do, but finding time to actually accomplish it...ah, here we are allready in the endless circle--momentum carries us forward, and we keep doing exactly what we have been doing in spite of our best intentions!
Actually, I have been making an effort lately in couple of directions. One, as those who have been reading my blog for awhile may have noticed, is that I am spending less time online, including blogging. There is a delicate balance to be maintained here: on the one hand, the internet is a valuable tool, allowing me easily to connect with others, track my finances, stay on top of what library books I have due; on the other it is an ocean without boundaries that can easily absorb all my time in pursuits that, in the end, add relatively little value to the life of my family. I haven't quite figured out at this point what the optimal balance is, but I strongly suspect that in this area, less is more.
The other effort that I am engaged in is tackling the physical clutter of our lives. We have 5 people in a small home, and corralling and organizing lots of stuff is not something I am good at. Given the choice, I would much rather be playing/teaching/enjoying life with my kids than cleaning the house. I believe the solution here is a two-pronged attack. First is eliminating all unnecessary stuff, second is better organizing what remains For now I am going to focus on the elimination part. This goes very much against my nature; I have always been the kind to collect and keep things just in case I find a way to use them in the future. And if I hold on to something long enough, there is a pretty good chance that at some point that thing will be just what I need! The trouble is, I have to take care of the thing in the meantime, and I have to be able to find it when I need it! I have determined that, at this point in my life, I simply don't have the time and energy to dedicate to taking care of a bunch of things that are not currently blessing my family. They have got to go! I have been through several rounds of major decluttering in the past, most recently in connection with our move this summer (if you are a packrat, moving every few years can be excellent therapy!) I have decided that it is time for another round. I think it might be fun to report on lbs. of stuff given away as a method of record keeping. I plan to keep track for the next month--I will report back on January 13th :-)

Tooth Fairy

Lily came into my room early this morning: "Mom, you forgot to be the Tooth Fairy!"
I told her to go back to bed as the Tooth Fairy could only come if she was asleep. I gave her a few minutes then got up, took two dollars, and went to her room. She pretended to sleep while I pretended to be the toothfairy. The teeth were no-where to be found, but the money was left under her pillow. Amazingly Lily kept a straight face and kept her eyes clothes while I went out of the room singing a little song about the toothfairy. Eventually she "woke up" for the second time and was delighted to see that the Tooth Fairy remembered her.
As you can see, the identity of the Tooth Fairy is a big secret in our house!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christ-centered Christmas

I love the Christmas season. For one month out of the year we are invited to lay aside the weight of this world and instead contemplate the Hope represented by a birth in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Unfortunately, the world does not like to be set aside and finds numerous ways to invade our season of Hope. It seems that for many people the days and weeks leading up to Christmas have become a frantic rush of preparations and activities that, in the end, have very little to do with the birth we claim to celebrate.
During my time as a missionary in Japan, I witnessed Christmas from an entirely secular viewpoint. Japan is not a Christian nation, so I was surprised as Christmas approached to find Christmas trees and Christmas music in the stores. From my Japanese associates I learned that Christmas is, indeed, celebrated in Japan. That is, in many homes trees are decorated, presents are given, Santa Claus is acknowledged. The true spirit of Christmas, however, is missing, because the reason for Christmas is not celebrated. Christmas is celebrated in Japan because retail stores and other commercial interests have learned to exploit it. The true celebration, the proclamation "Joy to the World, the Lord is come; let Earth received her King!" in nowhere to be found.
Sadly, I find that this version of Christmas is far to common in our own country. We find stores feverishly vying with each other to sell the trappings of the season--the trees, ornaments, light displays, and to make us believe that this or that special gift will be just the thing to impress our family and friends. We find ourselves caught up in competitions for the best decorated house, the most lavish party, the most expensive or creative gift. Instead of being a season of peace, joy, and hope, Christmas becomes a season of fatigue and stress.
In constrast to the rush and flurry of the world we have the quiet image of a tiny baby, "wrapped in swaddling bands, lying in a manger". There were no gifts that first Christmas. The gold, frankincense and myrrh of the wise men would arrive much later on the scene. Instead, there were shepherds, following the directions of a heavenly messenger, kneeling in solemn wonder before the greatest Shepherd of all.
This is the Christmas I want for my family. The trappings of Christmas--the trees, lights, songs, food, gifts--should play a secondary and supportive role, pointing us towards and not away from the message of the angels that holy night: "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord".
This message, the message of a Savior, was the one I was in Japan to share, and that Christmas Day in 1999 we found a way to do so. One of our service activities as missionaries was to teach free Enlgish conversation classes, and Christmas day fell on one of our regularly scheduled class days. We planned a Christmas party to celebrate, and to teach the true meaning of Christmas. We read the Christmas story from the Bible, and our children's class acted it out in front of their parents and friends. It was a very sweet and simple Christmas. I was thousands of miles away from family and friends, but in the celebration of the birth of our Savior I was enveloped in the warmth of Christmas.
I pray that this Christmas and every Christmas can be such a celebration for my family.
Lord, with the angels, we too would rejoice
Help us to sing with the heart and voice
Glory to God
Glory to God
Glory to God in the Highest
Peace on Earth good will to men
Peace on Earth good will to men.

Lily's First Violin Concert

I really, really should have pictures of this, but as you may have noticed, keeping a camera on hand is not one of my talents. Maybe someone else will post pictures and I can borrow some.
Anyway, Lily had her very first violin concert on Saturday. Her group of 56 beginning violinists performed at the beginning of the concert, which also included the orchestra I play viola in and a fantastic singing group. The whole concert went well, and I was especially proud of Lily, who marched out with her group and played in front of an audience of over 500 without any signs of nervousness. Lily tends to do very well in any situation where she is confident that she knows what to do and how to do it, but to panic if she is not sure she can meet expectations. In preparation for the concert we had been practicing her three performance pieces (Twinkle, Alegro, and Jingle Bells) in concert order for the last few weeks. On concert night we arrived early and I walked her through the whole process from lining up in the hallway, walking on, order of pieces, final bows, and exiting, several times. When performance time came she and all the other kids did a great job. And, if I do say so myself, our orchestra put on a pretty good performance as well! We have a broad range both in terms of age and ability. I think our youngest players are 8 or 9 years old, and the oldest is probably near 70. It's a really fun group to play with.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dairy Farm

In a follow-up to last week's trip to see corn being harvested, we went yesterday to witness the next step in the food production chain: a dairy farm. Really this post should have pictures; I didn't have a camera with me, but hopefully I can get some pictures from some of the other participants. If I do I will be sure to post some. The tour was really fascinating (Thanks Dave!) We pulled up outside and walked past a big milk tanker truck; a hose connected the truck to the milk silo inside the building. This truck will take the milk from the dairy here in Utah to a milk processing plant in Idaho. Inside the building, we saw the big holding tanks, about 30 feet high, full of milk. This dairy has cows being milked (80 at a time) around the clock, so the milk trucks are always coming and going to transport the milk. We got to watch the entire milk collection process. First the cows walk single file into the milking bay and turn so they are lined up in stalls (the do this on their own--they've obviously had lots of practice). Two or three dairy workers then go down the line cleaning the udders and hooking up the milking machines. There is a meter at each station that shows how many pounds of milk each cow gives. The ones we saw seemed to be averaging 25-30 lbs at one milking. Each cow is milked three times per day. When the milk stops flowing the suction machine automatically pulls up and off the udder. Dairy workers then go through spraying the udders with a disinfectant. Once one group of cows has been milked the gate in front of each stall opens; those cows move out and a new group comes marching in, as they line up the dairy workers hose down the floor. The milk is collected through tubes that lead to milk pipelines downstairs. These pipelines lead to the chiller, where milk is rapidly cooled to refrigerator temperatures; if I understood correctly the chiller is a basic heat exchange structure where tubes of milk move past tubes of a coolant (Propylene glycol I think). The process seems to be pretty efficient--the milk pipes going into the chiller were very warm (body temperature) and coming out they were cold. From there the milk goes into the silo-shaped storage tanks. Their temperature is constantly monitored. Every time a tank is emptied it is cleaned out with hot water (180 degrees F).
The whole process was fascinating. The dairy had a definite factory-production-line feel. The cows did look healthy and the process seemed clean. I'm not sure I like thinking about this long production chain (through the dairy, trucked cross country, through the processing plant...) that my milk goes through before I drink it...It certainly made a fantastic field trip adventure for the kids!