Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Father/Son Bonding

Michael has started saying, "Bye, Jed, I love you!" whenever he leaves for work, leaves the room, etc. Jed has started muttering back "Bye wuv oo." Michael beams.

We've all read the cheesy online articles about how important it is for fathers to talk to their children while in utero, so the child will form a loving, trusting bond with his father even before birth. Michael takes this very seriously. Every day, he lifts my shirt and leans tenderly over to speak to his child. "I WANT TO EAT YOU!" he growls/yells into my stomach, then drops the shirt and walks away, snickering.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Valentine's Day

For Valentine's day, Jed and I made daddy a banner and hung up Valentine's misteltoe in the dining room. The rule? You have to kiss every time you go under!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

100 Top Books meme

I NEVER do memes, but I couldn't resist this one, mostly because I was interested for myself. I've been trying to fill my literature gap over the last year or two... I've got a long way to go!

BBC's Top 100 Books

Bold: read
Italic: started

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Elliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Viper Change?

Not unexpectedly, since he has been indoctrinated by his father since emergence from the womb, Jed is totally obsessed with cars. This is more than your average "big truck" little boy stage. This kid has REALLY good taste. Since he was like three months old he would squeal and giggle whenever Dad revved the car. It's scary. It's in his genes. I hope 16 never comes.

Today he hauled Dad's February Car and Driver magazine into the bathroom while I got dressed after my morning shower. He flipped through the pages, pointing to cars as I named them. He especially likes the supercar comparos (see what I mean... scary!) One page specifically caught his fancy. Oooing and giggling, he brought the magazine over so I could see. "That's a Viper, Jed, a Dodge Viper." He looks at me quizzically. "Diaper?" "No, no, Vvvvvviper. Vvvvviper, it's a Dodge Viper." He looks down thoughtfully, deposits the magazine on the toilet seat, and runs from the room.

A few minutes, he returns, diaper basket in tow. He hauls the heaping basket over to the toilet and points from the basket to the magazine. He looks up at me, bright eyed and gears turning behind those greeny eyes. "Diaper?!" 'No, no, Jed, it's a car, a Dodge Viper." Oh. He thinks that over. "Dodge Viper change!" he announces and dreamily leans over the magazine, finger caressing the photos, one foot in the diaper basket and one a million miles away, pressing the pedal to the floor as he laps the Nurburgring in his own shiny red car.

Homemade Hot Fudge

The last few months I've been on a hot fudge kick... and especially lately, since I've had a pregnancy mania craving for banana splits, I've had hot fudge on the brain. I'm not much of a chocolate fan, but there's something irresistible about a thick, rich hot fudge oozing over cold snowy vanilla. I've tried a quite few recipes, including this simple one from food storage, one posted earlier this week at Smitten Kitchen (aka Dessert Heaven, that site is devastating for my waistline,) and this one from the Wednesday Chef. After a series of rigorous taste tests involving chocolate-loving men in my life, the vote is unanimous, the Wednesday Chef recipe simply can't be beat.

This is no wussy chocolate sauce. This is thick, thick, glop-from-the-spoon hot fudge, with a rich gloss and nearly black bittersweet flavor. It takes fifteen minutes, max, to whip up and licking the bowl will leave you jittery from chocolate sugar shock. So good! I have five cups of it sitting in front of me on my counter right now. Michael says I have chocolate smeared all over my face and I have a deep seated feeling of pregnant female contentment. :c) Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Recipe Provenance: Nancy Silverton to Wednesday Chef to yours truly, adjusted to suit Happy Mormon Housewife sensibilities

Fabulous Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes 2 cups

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla or almond flavoring, or flavoring of choice

1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.

2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.

3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in flavoring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beans Beans

Tonight I was supposed to give a food storage enrichment on BEANS. Nobody showed up, except Brandy, who was hosting it, so apparently beans are not high on most interest lists. This was fine, since Brandy and I love hanging out together and chatting it up anyway, but since I spent a bit of precious nap time typing up my bean recipes, I thought I'd make it worthwhile and share a few of them.

I made Spicy Bean Cake for our refreshments. Unfortunately, I forgot the baking powder which is kind of important. It was more of a Spicy Bean Mash. Still tasty, though, and so surprisingly healthy given how fantastic it turns out - light, fragrant, and yet still somehow hearty. I love this cake, even without an inch of cream cheese frosting...

Cream together:
1/4 c. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla

2 c. mashed pintos

Sift together:
1 c. flour (I usually make it with whole wheat)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves
2 t. baking powder

Add to wet mixture.

Fold in:
2 c. diced apples
3/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. chopped nuts

Spread in a greased 9X13 pan.
Bake for 40-45 minutes at 375.
Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


You know what's a really weird feeling? Frozen earbuds in your ears. Whoooeee!

Monday, February 16, 2009


That's my magical dish-defying lash. Cleans the sink with a single snap. Like Mary Poppins, but more lycra.

(It's remarkably difficult to dress a superheroine modestly, turns out, hence the Turkish fashion faux-pas.)

Thanks to my bro for the fabulous time waster.


As I staggered toward the stairs beneath another heaping load of laundry, I spied my laundry basket hanging out in the living room (serving as a matchbox car garage, I believe.) I freed one hand and pointed. "Jed, will you bring mommy's basket downstairs?" Jed chirruped and zoomed headlong about the room. I rolled my eyes, set down my load, grabbed the basket and threw it on top and continued weaving my way toward the basement.

Once downstairs, I started the usual loading/unloading ritual. I hollered for Jed, as he is a VERY big "warsh-musheen" fan, but he didn't appear for his usual shove into the dryer job.

A few moments later, I heard an object bounce down the stairs and land behind me, then a shout of gleeful victory from above. I turned around to find... my wicker diaper-change basket. And at the top of the stairs a red-cheeked, grinning kid looking enormously proud of himself. He'd found the diaper basket, stacked with freshly washed and stuffed diapers, wipes, and accouterments, thrown the contents around the living room and tossed the basket down the stairs.

He'd brought mommy her basket.

What a sweet helper boy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

True Love - Part 5

Yesterday was our Declared Valentine's Day.

And it was marvelous! After Michael left for work, Jed and I set to our super-secret Valentine's plans! First, I should mention that 1) I am not a particularly good decorator type person. I aspire, but I think too many years of ugly apartment dwelling made me stunted. Also, 2) I'm not terribly crafty but I like doing homemaking type activities, and I especially like crafts with my newly-capable buddy, Jedster.

We rolled out some newsprint and started tracing handprints and drawing hearts and squiggles all over it. I did some rudimentary lettering and wah lah! A Valentine's Banner for Daddy! We hung it on the wall and Jed ran around in circles, jumping up trying to grab it, thrilled with the new addition to our decor.

Then we got out the scissors and I cut hearts out, then handed them to Jed who happily sliced and diced to his little heart's content. We decorated them with markers and hung the hearts from our dining room fan, just in front of the banner. They made up our "Valentine's Mistletoe" and whoever is caught underneath gets kisses all around.

Later, we dipped Oreos in chocolate and sprinkled them with Valentine's colors. Jed, naturally, took on the important job of spoon and bowl licking. He REALLY likes Valentine's Day!

Making things and getting the house decorated with Daddy was so, so, so much fun. I love being a Mommy! And what's more, I love being a wife! I'm incredibly lucky to have a man worth dreaming about and doing silly projects for all day. I'll do anything just to see his happy smile.

That evening we got a babysitter (Jed's own babysitter here at the house for the very first time... he loves the attention.) and went out to dinner together. We chatted and laughed at a quiet downtown Asian restaurant, then went on one of our old favorite dates -- to Borders for browsing and hot cocoa. Despite the pregnant belly, stuffy nose, and tiredness, I felt just as happy and comfortable and full of light as I used to when we first started dating. I have such a wonderful man.

And today Michael gave up a eight hours of yet another weekend to go fulfill his church calling. He is as reliable and diligent and responsible as the day is long and I am so, so grateful to call him mine. I love my Michael Jed. Happy Valentine's Day, darling darling man.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Homefront Commercials

Have you seen these? So fantastic! "Shhhh! The Princess is sleeping!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

True Love - Part 4

Alicia's comment on my last True Love post made me want to clarify. It's true, my husband has sacrificed his dreams of a glamorous big-city photographer lifestyle for our family, but he never, ever makes me feel it. He never laments or complains, he always makes Jed and me feel like a million bucks and better than New York City anyway. We are partners, we chose this life together, and, gosh darn it, we like it.

Funny, because on the way home from a hot date to Autozone tonight, Michael brought up Alicia's comment. Our conversation went something like this:

Michael: I thought Alicia's comment on the blog was really true. You are my dream!

Me: Yeah, she was right. (smiling) You're my dream, too, True Love.

Michael: Well, actually, in my dream it's you and me driving in a Lotus.

Me: Oooo. (thinks) But where is Jed? In the trunk?

Michael: No, we're in the new 4-seater Lotus coming out.

Me: Oh, perfect, so Jed and Baby Z can ride in the back! But what about our other 3 children? Or have you not dreamed about them yet.

Michael: (Frowns) Ok, so I'm dreaming of the future Lotus 7-seater mini-van. Sheesh.

Yep, my true love, he's a dreamer.

Emergency Preparedness

Nothing like a minor disaster to bring into clear relief the weaknesses in one's emergency preparedness. I thought I'd jot down a few of the things I noted during our most recent disaster, so as to remember and carry out in the future.

The biggest concern I noted was simply that, well, my food storage really isn't meant for emergencies. All of my past experiences with needing food storage haven't been emergency situations -- they've always involved longish periods of time with no, or little, family income where eating from your food storage is a monetary issue, not an emergency. So that's how I've prepared.

In a short term emergency, though, I found there are a number of things I hadn't prepared for.

1) The biggest eye opener was the simple fact that in an emergency situation, we are not going to be alone. I am not just preparing for my family, I am preparing for our family + 5 to 10 guests. We nearly ended up having both our neighbors (family of 4) AND the Rosens (family of 5) over for a few days, and that would have been a challenge indeed. I'd read the little shpiel about "preparing for others outside your family" a million times in those pamphlets but this really brought it home.

This came up to bite me a few times. Yes, I had plenty of frozen leftover soup. But it was all in quantities for 2 1/2 people, and thus useless in a situation where I need to feed 8 with one stove burner. etc. etc. etc.

That being said, I did feel like we were pretty prepared in other ways. We had tons of TP, plenty of blankets, the blow up mattress that uses the car battery, an extra high chair, and a few other things that would have been challenging without. Considering we lived in a teeeeny weensy apartment this past year, we did pretty darn well.

2) Closely tied to the above, all of the food I have saved up is for our family. We probably could get by for 3 months on what I've saved up. But... we do not eat a normal diet. Michael, Jed and I could happily eat on lentils and wheat berries with brown rice for weeks on end, because we do that anyway! But other families don't. The Rosens were incredibly polite, but I felt bad that I really didn't have much food that the kids would like. I blessed my lucky stars that on a whim I bought a little bag of white rice at the store the day before, otherwise the poor dears may have gone hungry at least one night. I mean, of course if things got REALLY bad and they were starving to death we would all have survived on whatever there was. But in a short term emergency situation (say, less than a week), I really would like to have... comfort food. Stuff that kids are familiar with -- creamy peanut butter, mac 'n cheese, fruit snacks, apple juice, etc. They don't need it to survive but kids get super stressed in such a situation anyway, and having to eat chunky peanut butte on whole-grain pancakes really wouldn't help.

3) Diapers. My cloth diapers are brilliant for a long-term financial crunch, or for a devastating, long-term emergency, but they really aren't much help for a 3 1/2 day power outage in 5 degree weather. I had some disposables, but just barely enough to make it through (used my last one right before we made it out to Walmart.) If we had another family with a kid in diapers there who hadn't brought some, we would have been toast. Definitely need to stock up.

4) I should have some entertainment for older children on hand. We're very well stocked for 1 toddler. But three or four older kids... we've run into this problem with last minute babysitting, too. We need to buy some animated films or something. Games for kids. I hvae accumulated a few art supplies and some playdough, but that just isn't enough.

5) A few "do's." We usually have 24-48 hours notice before a really bad storm around here. During that time, make sure to:
- Shower everyone
- Do my hair
- Clean the house
- Do ALL the laundry
- Run to the store for a week's shopping
- Prepare a menu that can be made on a stove top
- Fill the car and extra cans with gas
- Trial run with the generator

I know many of your reading this were either through the same thing we were, or have been through other emergency situations. Any other ideas?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

True Love - Part 3

True love is a man who smacks his lips after every meal and heartily proclaims the food fantastic, no matter how slapdash or unrecognizable it may be.

True love is a man who climbs out on the roof on a cold, dark, rainy evening to clean out our gutters before the rain.

True love is a car returned with a full gas tank.

True love is honking car sounds from my son's bedroom. Baritone, so I know they're dad's.

True love is flowers and a party to celebrate my birthday, made up a week and a half late just because he wants me to feel loved.

True love is the dishes done last night after I emerged a long sick-kid bedtime struggle.

True love is the garbage cans brought in every week, even though it kind of is my job.

True love is a man who goes to work every single day with a smile on his face, even though the day ahead might be long and un-fun.

True love is when a man sacrifices his dreams for his family.

True love is laying together on the bed, little boy between us, kicking baby within me, and sunshine streaming in through the window.

True love is when I find an arm snug around me at 3 AM.

True love is a man who spends his entire precious weekend cutting up wood and cleaning other people's yards because they can't do it alone.

True love is willing watches chick flicks with me. For the seventh time.

True love is when he comes home to a filthy house and a cranky kid and a sick wife and no good dinner and still tells me I'm the best mom in the world.

True love is a guy who pretends not to mind when his wife banishes the TV to the unheated basement.

True love is finding a piano in my living room one morning.

True love patiently looks for his wife's phone even though he's late for work.

True love is my Michael, true blue through and through. I know he'll love me and take care of me forever.

Monday, February 9, 2009

True Love - Part 2

I have always been a highly committed sleeper. I will confess that when in college I would go out to dinner with my friends, then walk over to the movie theater with them, stand in line... and then when they went in to the movie I would go home and sleep. :c) I loooooooooooooooove my night sleep, I love my naps, I love it all.

So discovering that I suffer from pregnancy insomnia was a shock and a terror, indeed. Anyone who knows me knows that if I don't get my sleep I'm a disaster zone. The last few months of Jed's pregnancy pretty much consisted of bloodshot eyes, dragging feet, and general cranky malaise.

There is ONE thing that helps, though.

My true love.

The best thing in the world for pregnancy induced insomnia is right next to me in bed. I have explicit instructions to wake him up at any time of night, when I can't sleep, for a back rub -- sometimes several times a night. Usually the poor man is only half conscious, but somehow his back rubs are MAGICAL. Someone his hands gently pull all the stress of exhaustion from me, lulling me into a quiet state of relaxation, until I slowly drift off to sleep.

And this hasn't been just a few times. My sweet, wonderful, magnificent man has probably awoken hundreds of times to a sobby mess of an exhausted wife. Every time he is kind, compassionate, understanding. And he puts me back to sleep. That's true love.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

True Love - Part 1

Every night, Michael puts Jed to sleep. I peek in the door to see the two of them snuggled into Jed's bed, blanket pulled up tight, surrounded by a sea of books that overflows onto the floor. Low light from the lamp spills across the two of them snuggled close. Jed leans against his strong daddy's chest, clutching a sippy cup of warm milk and muttering happily at his dad's latest tale. They wear an identical smile.

I sneak the door shut. It's hard not to watch -- I hear them in their giggling, whispering one to another, and making all sorts of outlandish noises. Ten minutes turns into thirty; the voices grow quiet. I hear a soft, warm baritone gently singing "... has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me..." Eventually even those strains die away. Silence, with the occasional murmur. Then nothing.

Far later, my husband emerges, rubbing his eyes. His hair ruffled, a goofy grin. I look up and an irresistible smile creeps across my own face. He never knows which of them fell asleep first. Just another tired dad putting his sleepy boy to bed, but his face radiates, radiates deep, satisfying joy. And it strikes me that this, truly, is True Love. Love that flows between us, creating life and peace and happiness. True Love found in a family, in a home.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Birthday Week

Rather than having merely a birthDAY, every year I declare a Birthday WEEK! This means celebrating and special privileges all week long, with lots of love lavished upon ME! Unfortunately, this year Birthday Week didn't end up quite as I'd anticipated.

Monday was the first day of declared Birthday Week. The day was fine, though everyone noted, with some cynicism, the usual hyperbole of our local weatherman. "This will be the WORST STORM EVER!" they declared for the umpteenth time in the last year. These men have never heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. We are all so desensitized. Nonetheless, when Michael came home he gave the radar a check. He came out of he office a little grave. "I think we should consider buying a generator." This would be crazy talk around here, in most cases, since we are in heavy "save for the baby" mode, but I felt impressed that maybe this time he was right. We zipped over to Home Depot where his dad had noticed a generator for a superb sale price. We snapped it up.

By the time we got home, I wasn't feeling to hot. Yes, I'd contracted yet another round of the stomach flu. Seriously, isn't there some sort of universal law banning pregnant women from any more barfing than necessary!!?!?! This is my FOURTH stomach flu in four months of pregnancy, for crying out loud. Anyway, it was nasty. Not as bad as some, but still no fun. I was up all night and out most of the next day.

Well, the BIG DEADLY STORM on Monday night turned out to be a bust. Michael started having a bit of buyers remorse. But, I pointed out, we had a little bit of money coming for one of my articles that would cover it. I'm a preparedness junkie, and I still thought that the generator would be good to have on hand. Finally my intestinal system settled down Tuesday evening and I started eying food with some interest. By then, as is traditional, I could tell I was getting a cold. I always get a cold on the way up from the stomach flu. Sigh. No nap, sniffling and exhausted, I finally settled down into bed about 9:30. Snow mixed with rain had been falling most of the afternoon.

At 10, the power went out.

Michael pried himself out of bed (blessed 15 minutes) and went to hook the generator up. In most places, having the power out all night would be no big deal. But in INDIANA, no power means no sump pump. And since snow is almost always mixed with rain here, that meant our basement could flood. So he revved up the generator (wow, was that sucker loud), and hooked up the sump pump, as well as the fridge. He also blew our water pipes out so they wouldn't freeze. He came back to bed. Things were looking rough out there. We finally dozed off and then jumped out of bed when there was a thump on our roof. Maybe it was just snow falling off.

Our trusty generator. Saved our bacon. Literally. We ate it for breakfast Friday.

We dozed on and off between these wooshing thumps all night until at about 5 AM there was a HUGE BANG, and a sliding sound overhead. You could hear the roof supports creak and for a moment, we were sure that our tree had fallen over and was crushing the house. (Really, I've never woken up terrified so many times as I have in Indiana. Everyone swears that the tornadoes/earthquakes/massive icestorms since we moved here must be out fault because usually it's quite temperate here...) Michael rocketed out of bed to check the windows. All the trees were still up, we could tell in the dark, dark pre-dawn and thus far the roof had not yet fallen, so he snuggled back into bed. Not much sleep that night. Remember how fun big snow-storm power outages were when we were kids? Turns out when you're the parent, they aren't nearly so cozy and relaxing.

The next day, utter exhaustion. My cold was coming along nicely, I hadn't slept in days. I stayed in bed as long as humanly possibly with a toddler, not much relishing the thought of a 50 degree house. Brrrr! I considered my late-morning doze my own personal birthday celebration. :c)

We discovered the whooshing thumps of the night before. Those had been tree branches, gigantic limbs bigger around than my hips, falling from our tree, sliding off the roof, and landing in our back yard.

These photos don't even do it justice, the ruin of our poor tree was horrific.

The stumps of these limbs are about the height of my chest. I felt extremely blessed that they didn't break through our roof. This little old house is a tough ol' bugger.

Poor beloved maple tree!

Jed and I went out to check on our neighbors. We had about 2-3" of ice covered with 5-9" of snow. Slippery!

Later, I called around to all our friends to make sure they were all right. Almost everyone had lost power except the people in the newest subdivisions up north (no old trees up there, and underground wires) and the apartment complexes generally seemed to have been all right, thankfully. For the other 75,000 locals, though, power was out and for the long haul. Literally HALF of Vectren Power's customers had lost power. They estimated that many would be out of power through the weekend.

Thankfully, Michael's handy dad got in his Honda Pilot and four wheeled it over to our place to "tether" our generator into our house. By 1 o'clock, the furnace clicked on and I could feel heat creeping through our frigid house. Oh BLESSED GENERATOR!!! The moment I felt warm, I told Michael that his generator was the best present I'd ever received. With about 5,000 watts, we could run our furnace (low), sump pump, water pump, and lights. Not much else, but even that was fantastic.

By the evening, our good friends the Rosens decided that they could stand the cold no longer and came over to warm up and spend the night. We blew up the trusty air mattress with our car pump and threw it between the couches. The Rosens (all five of them) tumbled into our living room bearing pajamas, sleeping bags, and pizza. We had a festive evening and all settled in to sleep.

The next day, still no power. Our little house handled the eight of us fairly well, but the cold and lack of amenities made everyone a little cabin feverish.

The next day, still no power. Friday. The Rosen kids (1,3, and 6) were holding up remarkably, considering their prolonged displacement and general lack of entertainment. The whole family really was the most fantastic set of guests and we were honored to have them stay with us. But at this point we were all starting to feel a tad overstimulated, not to mention frustrated at STILL NO POWER!

Fortunately, that evening our power lines were hot again and Michael could hook us up to the grid. HALLELUJAH! I used every burner on my stove AND the oven all at the same time, and cranked the furnace to 70 while the kids took hot baths. Oh, the joy of modern conveniences! What relief! I almost had a hard time falling asleep that night without the roar of generator in my ears.

Saturday, the poor Rosens were still out of power. Turned out that their lines were hot but their home hookup had been damaged. They were at their wits end and I am sure sorely sick of our living room. Hopefully they will still like us after so much enforced togetherness. Despite plan after plan to hook up power or at least a generator, they were thwarted and ended up in our living room again that night.

Fortunately, the next day at church they were offered a lovely, empty condo offered by a single woman who was out of the country for a few months. The Rosens happily chugged off to their new digs (which actually sound really nice... lucky dogs) where they still reside to this day (10 days without power! For their side of the story, check out Brooke's Blog where you can discover how the tragic saga continues...)

Saturday morning I ventured out of the house for the first time since our Home Depot trip on Monday. As I inched our car down ice-crusted streets, I was absolutely shocked at the devastation. Michael had described the scene for me, but to see it in person was unbelievable. Southwestern Indiana's luxurious, overflowing green trees are its great beauty. We live, technically, in a temperate rainforest, and in the summer with all the foliage full out and blooming, this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. But our glory of trees became our liability in this storm. It looked as if a giant hand had reached out from heaven and torn handfuls of limbs from trees, tossing branches and trunks about, strewing them across yards, crushing cars and homes, blocking streets. Huge trees broken in half, smashed by the clean, glistening ice dripping from their branches. Devastation is really the only term that adequately describes what I saw that day.

These are the power lines across the street from us. The trees in the background line the riverbank.

In Kentucky, just a few hundred meters south of us, the devastation really was disastrous. More than 700,000 people lost power. In some parts of our stake, power is still out. They ran out of gas to run generators after a few days. The governor called it the worst disaster in modern Kentucky history. People are still literally suffering down there. The church has sent several truckloads of supplies to help, but there's not much to do. Everyone just has to wait as crews go through the laborious task of piecing back together a destroyed electrical grid.

All in all, I feel like the past week taught us remarkable lesson in gratitude. How grateful I am for modern prophets who counsel us to BE PREPARED, to have food and money and supplies on hand. How incredibly grateful I am for a worthy patriarch in my home, a husband willing to listen for, and act upon, upon the Holy Spirit's promptings. His willingness to respond saved our family a LOT of trouble. I've learned how much work we have to go before we are really fully prepared for whatever comes, but happy to see that we had plenty and we made it just fine. Mostly, I'm grateful that our family is safe, that we were able to help out friends in need, and emerge from the other side of an emergency situation unscathed, wiser, and full of thanks to a loving Father in Heaven who watches over us.

Pretty good birthday week, all told. An adventure, at least! And certainly one I won't forget for a long, long time to come.

Birthday Bike

Our baby Jed hardly seems a baby anymore. He has big strong boy legs and a low roaring voice. He speaks full sentences (garbled, but definitely there. "AhwangowaSIDE!" and has the giggliest sense of humor. He taught himself to cut with scissors and scribbles with vigorous enthusiasm. His uncanny ability to figure technological tricks out terrifies his mother - yesterday he figured out how to get the 9 volt battery connected to the carbon monoxide detector. He kisses his mommy when she bangs her finger or lays down for a nap. He tenderly cares for his Gitty and Munkee. His is a beautiful, perfect, loving child.

For his birthday, Jed got his dream come true -- matchbox cars, a tiny "hewichopter", a ball, and a big-boy bike. After trying out every trike, bike, and tractor at Walmart, he was absolutely bike insane that night. We didn't get the bike put together before his little party, so yesterday morning when he woke up, he ran out of his room towards the box shouting "My bike! My bike! Open peas! PEAS!!!!" He jumped and banged with box with overflowing enthusiasm as I cut it open and pulled the wrapping out. "Bike, bike!" I pulled out a wheel. A quizzical look crossed his face. "Bike?" Another wheel. This wasn't the bike he dreamed of all night. He noticed a crossbar sticking out the box and pulled furiously, grunting to get it out of the box. I popped out. "Bike." His face fell. I thought the kid might cry for a minute. To be trite, it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO cute. Michael laughed over the phone and said that now we know why parents stay up all night assembling bikes on Christmas Eve.

Last night Jed helped daddy put the bike together, running around and around his dad and peeking underneath to see just what dad was doing.

And at last! MY BIKE MY BIKE MY BIKE!!!! He can't use the pedals yet, but we can push him around by the parent push bar (it steers, too! Brilliant!) and scootch around by his feet. He insisted on riding it into the bathroom to visit Dad. Look at that grin.