Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring, Thou Art Evasive

The calendar says, as does the sign:


  



    


And, for a few days, it did look like that.


  


But this is what we woke up to on Sunday:


  



  (our back deck and outbuilding)


And by the afternoon, when we drove to Belgrade (80 miles southeast) for Ethan's evening preaching engagement, portions of the interstate were closing.


  



(the view from our windshield . . . our road)  


   



   (the view from our windshield . . . winding down our mountain)


        


Yes, my dear husband, I realize this was *not* a blizzard. But they were stressful driving conditions, nonetheless, with cars in ditches and drifting snow blinding our vision. By day's end, we had 10 inches on our mountain. Yesterday was a calm day with incredible cloud formations over the far-off mountains, and today looks grey. And with a forecast of a week of snow, I do believe I'll put over the kettle for some coffee and hot chocolate.


  


And we'll all toast the color of spring.


  


White.


  


 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hospitalitizing

(What is the verb for trying to show hospitality to a friend?)


  



(our children enjoying hospitality with fun guests in a year now past)


     


Sunday we had quite a pleasant surprise. Ethan was not preaching; he had asked the former pastor to cover last Sunday as he prepares for ordination exams. As we sat together in the pew (a rare treat!!), he asked me if I recognized the man sitting behind us. I was not at church the week before (sick kids), and I just assumed it was one of the visitors Ethan had told me about.


  


"You don't recognize him?" he said. "From Vienna?"


  


Emboldened by the fact that it was someone I should know, I turned and looked at him full-faced. And then I DID know him -- an elder from one of our sister churches in Vienna, Virginia, a church where Ethan often preached night services.


   


It was wonderful, seeing this face from a state so far away yet never far from my thoughts.


  


We laughed incredulously at  his being here for the week, away from family for a business trip. Last night we caught up with him over dinner, filling him in on matters here and probing away about matters there.


  


It was delightful. And supper? Supper was thrown together late in the day, a recent go-to meal for guests. I keep expecting the children to get tired of the menu, but they only clamor for more come meal-time.


  


Which, I guess, is why it is becoming a regular stand-by.


  


Iced Tea (sweetened, of course, and made with one bag of Tazo chai and 7 bags of decaf orange pekoe)


Chicken Teriyaki (recipe below)


Rice (our new favorite from Costco)


Some sort of veggie (last night it was corn; often it is glazed carrots)


Some sort of salad (last night it was various lettuces, feta cheese, walnuts, and chopped apple)


Blondies (recipe below) with coffee


  


Chicken Teriyaki (adapted from More with Less's "Chicken Wings Hawaiian"):


 


Combine in saucepan:


1 c. soy sauce


2 cloves garlic, crushed


1 c. finely chopped green onion (or 2 onions)


1/2 c. sugar


2 t. dry mustard


2 t. ground ginger


1/2 c. butter


1/2 c. water


 


Bring to boil and cool. Pour over 4 lbs. chicken (or salmon, or both, if you have not enough of either -- which is what I did last night). Marinate several hours (or don't, if you're short on time). For chicken, cook in a 350 degree oven without removing sauce. Bake uncovered 45 minutes, turning pieces after 30 min. For salmon, bake in a foil tent at 425 degrees for 15 minutes; then check.


  


I like to save the juices for pouring over the meat and rice . . . scrumptious.


  


This can also be done in the crockpot with good results.


   


Blondies (adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook's "Butterscotch Brownies"):


  


Butter a 9x13 pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


  


Mix


1/2 c. melted butter, shortening, or vegetable oil


2 c. brown sugar


2 eggs


1/2 t. salt


1 1/2 c. flour (I use soft white wheat flour)


2 t. baking powder


1 t. vanilla


1 c. nuts, broken in pieces


a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips


  


Spread in the pan. Bake about 33 minutes (check at 30 minutes). Cut in squares or strips while warm (if you don't, you won't be able to get them out of the pan).


 


I guarantee you'll love this blondie recipe. It's easy, fast, and so yummy.


     


Let me know if you try these!


 


 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In Lieu of Saturday Morning Cartoons. . .


This is for my dad, who I think will appreciate this bit of woodworking genius. And also for my friend Kendra's Zac, who I think will appreciate this bit of Jenga humor.


 



     


And Dad, go here for more fun.


  


Happy Saturday.


  


 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Library Day

Well, things are looking up. Everyone is still hacking and noses are still dripping, but I think we're on the upside of this cold. We took advantage of this wettest of final winter days -- wet from melting snow (well, and noses) -- to dash into our local teensy weensy library instead of the just as local la grande enchilada branch.


   


Don't get me wrong. The big library is fantastic. Granted, you do have to pay $45 to be given the privilege of paying late fees becoming a member, but it's so fun to walk around. They have animal skins and heads and an incredible encased-in-glass dollhouse with miniature everything that local Helenans have made  -- miniature secretary's desk made by the senator, miniature curtains by a Helena seamstress, miniature afghan by a local crocheter .  . .


  


It's cute as the dickens.


  


But man, are they nasty.


  


We've always felt a little strange going in, and we've tried to divide the group into two so that we don't look quite so much like a litter of . . . whatever. Even though I *have* seen other children at this library and there *is* a whole section devoted to children, it never fails: Every. Single. Librarian follows our crowd from the time we come in until we round the corner into the children's section.


  


But beyond this, a month ago, I paid them for damage done to a "Bob the Builder" video. Part of the outside casing was ripped, and I had to pay for them to fix it plus a "processing fee." Please. You're big . . . but only for here. You're not so big that the processing involved anything more than walking into the back room and sticking a piece of tape on the dang thing. You probably didn't even have to go into the back. Hey, I'm willing to wager there's a roll of tape right there on that front desk. Right next to the Book Drop.


  


That was irritating enough. Honestly, I'm not sure that we didn't create that rip; it's entirely feasible. In fact, I can think of more than one of my children who would have enjoyed peeling that clear plastic back. But then when I walked to the kiddo video section? A good 5-10 of the videos have similar rips. And they were videos we never checked out. So somewhere, there is another Ripper . . . one who has not been paying fees for them to grab a piece of tape and slap it onto the rip (on top of the fee to fix it. . . . how are these fees different?).


  


But Ethan drew the line when they called saying we owe $24 (price of book plus processing fee) for a children's book that was returned so water-damaged they can't use it (but we do get to keep the book when we pay! Oh, joy!).


  


I know water damage. We realized early on that it was dangerous to let children read books in the van when a foot below their reading level were two very wet, snowy boots. Added to this is the danger of the book falling . . . and then being left, forgotten, to die a slow, dirty, page-curling death by trampeling and drowning when the inevitable dropped drink lands on it.


  


So no library books in the van, unless it is a very unusual circumstance.


  


We learned this lesson BEFORE the damaged book in question.


  


And in fact, I remember returning that book. We used the drop-box at our local convenience store (I know, Montana -- don't you love it?). The drop-off is shaped exactly like a post-office mailing drop-box. It looks so much like one that I am convinced it's just refurbished. It's blue and it says, "Lewis and Clark Library Drop Box. CLANCY LIBRARY DROP-BOX IS INSIDE!" I can almost hear the pinched-nose librarians shrieking, "DON'T PUT CLANCY BOOKS IN HERE!"


  


And one day, I gathered the books from the library bag and Ethan separated them into the Big Library piles and the Little Library piles and put them in the appropriate boxes. There was no water involved.


  


But come on, people. The weather fluctuates between wet and snowy here. How difficult is it to believe that the courier dropped the book into the mud?  The drop box is outside. Or that a teenager (because they're the evil ones) thought it would be funny to drop his drink in there?


  


So Ethan has pretty much banned us from going back there. This is probably more for their protection than for any other reason. I don't think I would be able to refrain from asking, "So which bison head did MY $45 member fee help buy?"


  


I know it's hopeless to argue with them. They will take one unsympathetic look at my crowd (which, right now, looks even guiltier with the snotty noses) before they stretch their surgical-gloved hands for my money. After which, I am sure, they will straightaway grab the Purell ("Imagine a Touchable World" !!!) and go back to their . . . processing.


   


So we stick with the teensy-weensy library. The one that only has paper cards (no barcodes!), but you don't even need that because the librarian knows our name. She's never even asked except for when we initially got the library card. She smiles at the children, tells us to take our time and enjoy ourselves even when we dash in ten minutes before closing, and flagrantly waives fees left and right.


  


We have to beg her to let us pay our late fee.


  


And some day, we'll pay the fee to the Big Guys. But I can't promise there won't be a Post-it attached: "Librarian is a service occupation.  Gas station attendant of the mind."~Richard Powers


  


And then we'll send our teensy-weensy library lady flowers.


  



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sick


   


This group is not feeling so cheery today.


  


I'm not superstitious. I'm not. I know I'm not. I even adamantly stated this to my husband a few nights ago, when we were discussing how wonderful it has been not to have sick kids this year. And honestly, I said, "And I don't have to be afraid to say this, because I'm not superstitious. I don't have to be afraid that being thankful for them not being sick is going to make them sick."


  


Apparently, it has nothing to do with superstition. Because I'm not superstitious, and they are all getting sick.


   


It started with Miriam (3). Every week after the AWANA (or, as Edee -- who is too young to go -- calls it, "I DON'T WANNA") meeting, we make the kids wash with antibacterial soap. This is because the first time we let them go, they got sick the next day. So now we diligently have them clean their hands while we try to see if there's anything we need to correct from their night's teaching.


  


But this time, she started sniffling before AWANAs. It turned into a cough, and then a nightly routine of her sobbing and wheezing and us fixing her warm tea and a cocktail of Benadryl and Tylenol before I rubbed her feet with Vicks and put some socks on her (it never hurts to cover all the bases!). She had finally gotten to sleeping more soundly.


  


Then, yesterday morning, Abraham (3) said, "My don't feel good. My need medicine." I kind of dismissed it as his ploy to try to get some bubble-gum tasting medicine, but when he was refusing dessert at lunch, I knew it was something more serious. Then he started turning pale, asking to lie down in his bed, and ralphing (ralfing? how do you spell that?).


  


Then, last night, it was Lily, and this morning Edee was in our bed with a fever (which she will not be again tonight. That child moves around more than anyone I know!!).


  


We're doing the usual: fresh pillowcases, movies from the library, reading stories, chicken soup for lunch, sticking to a strict naptime.


  


I sure am glad I'm not superstitious.


  


photo: the children lined up for church a few Sundays ago

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Snow Day and Sn'ice Cream

Our time is improving. It used to take both Ethan and me 45 minutes to get the kids ready to play in the snow, and yesterday it took just me 25 minutes. I know this because I put the macaroni and cheese in the oven, set the timer for 25 minutes, and it went off just after I had pulled the velcro tight on the last set of mittens.


      



   


Thursday night it snowed. The children were thrilled. We have had quite a few days of warm (at least 45 degrees), pleasant, enjoyable weather; but there were those bright red sleds, looking lonely and unloved. So when we woke up Friday to see snow falling softly on a freshly white world, they were elated.


    


And I was resigned.


  


I pulled out the recipe for my kids' favorite comfort food (homemade macaroni and cheese), threw the ingredients together and in the oven, and steeled myself for the trials to come -- trials in the deceptive shapes of mittens, gloves, hats, snowsuits, coats, and boots. Oh, and extra pairs of socks.


   


We headed out. Ethan must have heard the children from his off-the-garage study, because when I got out there, he was making a new sled trail. The one the kids had started using was dangerously close to the van (as you can see from this picture that the camera took when I threw my body -- with Jonathan almost toppling off of my back -- into the path of the girls' sled).


     



    


Ethan is a real show-off of a sledder. My sled rides average 3 seconds. His average about a minute. It's ridiculous. He sticks his arms out and sways with the sled, maneuvering around trees and rocks and vehicles. He decided to give Benjamin a lesson in Sled Steering 101.


 



  


Benjamin braced himself for the absurdly long ride that was to follow:


  



      


Not everyone was thrilled to wait her turn:


  



  


But there's not much a ride on a sled and then Papa's shoulders can't cure, or at least soothe from an all-out wail to a gentle sniff-sniffle.


  



 


  


Jonathan and I kept the girls busy collecting a large bowl of snow (no dirt, no footprints, nothing yellow).


  



  


After an appropriate 25 minutes (YES! We were outside for as long as it took us to get ready!), we headed indoors for lunch and dessert: Sn'ice Cream*. It was such a hit that the kids asked if we could please make this again and again, and Abraham declared he was going to make "Snow Noodles for beakfast formoddow [translation: breakfast tomorrow]." Thankfully, he forgot this part of his plan this morning.


  


After naps, we headed out for our weekly Buy-One-Get-One-Free coffee and steamers, and then at Walmart Ethan spotted some snow cone sleeves and flavorings.


  


Come on, snow. We're ready.


      


*Sn'ice Cream:


  


2 cups milk


1 cup sugar


1 T. vanilla


 


Mix until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add to large bowl of clean snow. Stir; serve immediately. And brace your teeth!


  

Shoeing

Thursday we were invited to some friends' house to watch them shoe one of their Clydesdales. The pair that our friends own are true working horses -- they are used in Jeff's logging business. So, understandably, it is very important that their feet be in top shape. The entire process can take four hours (removing old shoes, shaping new shoes, nailing new shoes on, filing hooves), but we only saw the last bit of the last shoe to be put on good ole Bonnie.


   



  


(Photo: Jeff readying a nail. Incidentally, this is the man about whom Miriam [3] said, "Oooh, I like that boy. He is SO. HANDSOME.")


     


The contraption that she's in is called a shoeing stock. It was handmade for them by the inventor. These  horses are STRONG, and, according to Jeff, he would not have survived horse logging without the stock.


  


  


Afterwards, we were invited inside, where a teeny dog ("Princess") captured 2-year old Edee's heart. I think she is absolutely enthralled with the idea of a DOG! ("No, it's a puppy dog, not a kitty cat!") that is smaller than she is. She kept loving on her and offering her anything she could find as a present (Edee was doing this to the dog, not the other way around!). As we left, we told the kids, "Wasn't this fun? Say thank you!" Edee turned to the dog and said, "Thank you, puppy!"


  


Notice that there is very little snow on the ground. Later I'll post some pics of what happened that night. Gather the snow boots, everyone.


   


   

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Day at the Park

Monday we played it low-key, spending time at home and then touring around Helena for a while. We looked at a house that was for sale (too much work!) and then headed for a new park we'd recently discovered.


   



     


For the first time, Jonathan loved the swing. He didn't grimace and hold his breath every time he swung backwards.


   



    


Everyone liked hanging out on the painted stage . . . although the blue of the painted sky looks pale compared to the blue of God's handiwork.


   



  


But I do think the hit of the day was watching the telephone company repair poles just outside the park fence:


   



    


In other news, Ben (7) asked me the other day, "$100 is a lot, right?"


  


Yes, that's a lot.


  


Lily (5): "So is God older than $100?"     


  


Um, yes, God is older than 100.


   


Lily: "Is He older than $1000?"


   


Yes, He's much older than 1000.


  


Lily: "Then He sure must have a lot of crinkles!"


    


. . . Anyone have a chapter and verse on that one?


 


   


 

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