Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's been a really long day today.

We had youth bowling this morning, so we were up and moving early. The kids were slow-moving, as was I, but we got to the bowling alley on time. Nothing spectacular for scores to report. I actually read a lot of the time I was there. In a case of significant irony, one of Eric's bowling league mate's name is the same as a sadistic murderer in one of Stephen King's short stories... When I shared this with people who knew him, we all laughed uproariously... This gentleman is so easy-going and kind, there is no way he fits the profile as described by Mr. King! I do enjoy Stephen King's writings--sometimes they get pretty off-the-map, but they make you think, and they challenge beliefs. I was so very jealous that Liisa actually got to meet him in person when he stayed at her hotel. When he checked in the poor flustered front desk person asked him "do you mean like the author?" to which he replied, "that would be me." Liisa was/is a concientious employee so she didn't jeapardize her job by asking for an autograph for me, but man I wished... He obviously spent a bit of time in the Minneapolis metro area, as his protagonist in Duma Key lives initially in St. Paul on Lake Phalen. Eric is reading that one now on my recommendation and I think he's enjoying it. I know I did.

Another funny story that Liisa and I were remembering from her front desk days: one day this man came to the front desk to check in and Liisa said to him that he "looked just like that guy from Tool Time on TV" (Al is the character). He laughed and said that was him, giving her his name, and she said something to the effect of "well that must be why you look like him!" and they laughed. Turns out he was at the right hotel but wrong site, so she got him situated and sent on his way, then called me all in a tither! She has met so many famous people working downtown in major hotels. I still think my favorite though is when Hootie and the Blowfish were staying at a small, exclusive hotel she worked at, and in doing some favors (in the course of her duties) for both "Hootie" and his stage manager, she was offered passes to the private concert they were giving for Microsoft execs. She asked if I could come too as I was a huge fan, and was told "Of course!" So there stood Liisa and I at the edge of an outdoor stage enjoying the hospitality of Microsoft and Hootie, a memory I will treasure always! Man that guy can sing!

I spent a significant number of hours today putting together a packet about Mascoutah, IL for my niece Memphis. She had an assignment to send "Flat Stella/Stan" somewhere in the world, and for the recipient to describe where they were, what it was like, maybe include maps or postcards, and photos. I included three maps, one of the town/streets, where I labelled my house, the schools, the church, and other landmarks; one of the area, where I noted places we go to that would be familiar to my niece, like the mall or target, and the air force base. The last map was a more distant one that included St. Louis. I wrote a letter describing things to her, and I included pictures of various places that are important to us as a family down here. I will mail it off to her on Monday. I actually had to run to Walmart (blech) to get a mailing envelope (as well as some milk and a few other groceries). I hope she likes it.

Liisa got safely home last evening early on, and she had no bad weather or difficulties. I was so relieved. I talked to Eric today and he's bored to tears today. There is no class on the weekends, and the guy he rode down with drove back to Missouri but didn't come all the way up to St. Louis, so it didn't pay for Eric to ride back. He got his internet working somewhat in his room, so he spent the day reading, watching tv, playing Everquest, and hanging out. Poor guy. He even did some studying, as after the test on friday he was #6 in his class, out of 40-some people. The kids and I are still managing well, and I made sure homework got worked on right after bowling and prior to any freedom to hang with friends/go places... It was a gorgeous day today so that was added incentive to get things done. I am such a task-master!

I can't promise to blog everyday next week like I did this one--for whatever reason it seemed to work out this week to do so, but I don't want to bore people either with a we did this and we did that...blah blah blah... Most days are pretty dull and static around here, not very interesting at all! But I will do my best to keep highlighting the important things and keeping you up-to-date on us!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday again, or should I say TGIF?

I am a bit weary right now--got up a little after 6 am after not going to bed before midnight (I got a new Stephen King book of short stories from the library and it's engrossing!), and I didn't go back to bed after taking the kids to school. Liisa wanted to make a fairly early start today as there is supposed to be lightly drifting snow to the north of us (all along her route back, of course), while we are to be grey and overcast, with minimal precipitation down here. Cliff, bless his heart, spent over an hour yesterday afternoon totally digging out her car (the side where she got plowed in, and the front) so that she could take off at will today, and I am so grateful to him. He is such a good kid! His parents are nuts to disown him--I am proud to claim him as one of "ours."

Anyhow, Liisa loaded up her car with most of the things she brought down last night, and this morning she grudgingly got up after I got back from dropping off the school kids. We ran to McDonald's for breakfast, as she wanted to go out before she left, and it was "free latte Friday" there (I was out of milk here at the house--amazing how 2 snow days with kids home, on top of the weekend prior depletes one of groceries quickly!)... She had to still scrape off the windshield and the roof before leaving, but was able to get to the interstate without difficulty. She is on her way back to MN and I miss her already! Her goal for being here was to lounge around, read novels, and "let Mom feed" her for 5 days ( OK, 3 plus 2 travel days), and I would say she was very successful at it! It was so nice to have her here and I hope her trip home is less eventful than the one here was.

We sent the remaining Christmas gifts back with her that Brie and Cliff had gotten but never mailed out, so she gets to play Santa in February to the cousins and Kristi and Rollie. Procrastination is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Although I am of the opinion that gifts are always fun, regardless of the time frame in which they are delivered.

Eric called last night and talked to all of the kids, only to have his cell phone battery die when it was my turn to talk (heehee). He said that yesterday was less difficult physically, and they had a study group meet last night to review materials on a test he was taking, I think today. He is missing my home cooking. Breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday are at the hospital cafeteria down there, and dinner is at the Golden Corral buffet. Then, on the weekends, it is strictly the Golden Corral, for Brunch in the morning and then again for dinner. I am guessing he will be glad to eat my cooking again, even if my menus aren't terribly exciting either.

I think that's all I wanted to write about for today... I am gonna get going on more hand quilting today and I have chores that need doing as well--laundry is backing up and dishes need doing (although Liisa, bless her heart too, did a huge load of them the other night and Brianne made the crack that Liisa was making her look bad by doing so... heeheehee... Think Brie will get the hint that pitching in is greatly appreciated?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

a fun girl's day out~

Today the gods smiled on us, the weather cooperated, and there was school, so Liisa and I had a girl's day out. We went down on main street and browsed a couple of shops there that had been closed last time she was here (we bought some wine and some bee balm at Bee's Hallow), then it was off to pick up Rei at school and run him home--we are guessing the new dose of meds he's on for his ADHD is upsetting his stomache and making him puke, thus his needing to come home. We next went to Chevy's for lunch (Tex-Mex) and margaritas, then over to The Bead Place, where Liisa found nirvana. She bought lots of fun things in bright colors and will be happily crafting once she gets back to MN. Then we stepped next door to the little Asian nail salon, where I had a pedicure and brow waxing, and Liisa got her fingernails done. It was so nice to be pampered and made lovely again! We got home about 40 minutes ago sated and satisfied!

(This is Liisa "watching" TV in my bed after our day out--the laundry basket of clothes is her version of packing for a 5 day trip--heehee).
I am making an old fashioned pot roast dinner tonight, and we will focus on homework, relaxing, and hanging out for our last night together. We also need to take a few minutes to dig Liisa's car out--it's buried under the 9 inches of snow we received (along with what got pushed up on it from the plow going by).
I tried really hard to convince Liisa she needs to stay a few more days just to let it melt, but work does take priority to hanging out I guess. It's been a wonderful few days to have her around though, and I am going to miss her when she leaves.

I got the center block all quilted on the wall hanging, and it is shaping up quite nicely. I had hoped to illustrate this entry with my pictures, but my camera has gone on "walk-about" and I have not found it yet. I assigned Aurora the task of taking some of the photos I want and I will try to post more of them later on.

Eric is doing fine in Arkansas, although he is a bit bruised and rug-burned in spots (like his elbow) and he says his back has some knots in it from the take-downs he's done. I think he misses me (at least the TLC I give him). I know I miss him, although over all we are doing fine. I talked to Justin at length yesterday and he made me smile. He told me he needs "a tiny lil puppy, with little eyes, little ears, a little nose, and little legs." He told me he would name her "pretty black puppy" and he would walk her on a leash over to Aunt Iisa's house to play with Max (Liisa's dog). He has it all planned out, and I'm sold... He just needs to convince Mommy and Daddy... It was definitely for the best that the babies didn't come down this trip given how everything turned out with the weather, but I hope they come see me at some point in the near future. I need a baby fix of my own!!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another snow day in the offing...

Well, the kids announced just after 10 pm that there is going to be no school again tomorrow (ok, today)... I am down one kid as Cliff's buddy went home, but still have the rest here. Eric wished me good luck with housebound kids and cold, dreary weather outside. Liisa and I just laughed as Aurora thanked her for bringing winter weather down with her, even if it is actually coming up from Texas and Oklahoma. We have had sleet and snow most of the evening and it looks like a winter wonderland outside. I did actually do a bit of driving today, just around town (went to the library and the grocery store) and took it slow and easy; the windshields were frozen solid and needed significant de-icing to be able to see out of. Brianne is planning to try and go to work in the morning (she does have an awful cold and had bad laryngitis today), so I hope she is careful driving. The precipitation is supposed to end early morning, and my guess is she'll take the van.

The cable guy did show up this afternoon and we now have cable television (expanded basic so that Aurora can have Animal Planet) on three televisions: the living room, the "loft", and in my room. After dinner I came upstairs to my room only to find a couple of kids camped out on my bed--everyone had claimed a tv to watch what they were excited to see, and as I said to Eric, three TVs and I couldn't watch what I wanted to watch! I did claim eminent domain over my room and tv, much to the dismay of the Animal Planet watchers, but I pointed out that we can negotiate on the other two tvs--that I deserve one for me, especially since I am not adverse to sharing most of the time.

I got the quilt top totally finished tonight and I am satisfied with it. I will get it pin-basted tomorrow, then try to take a couple of pictures before I start quilting on it. I decided to just go with the hand quilting thread I have here and not buy something new. I'm excited to get moving forward on it though. I can't remember what my deadline is to have it done by, but I think it's around Valentine's day. I should be ok...

Liisa and I are going to try and escape for awhile on Thursday before she leaves on friday morning. We will go to "The Bead Place", which also has wonderful knitting yarns as well as beading supplies of all kinds; then we are gonna go get our nails done at the salon next door to them, and maybe go out for lunch afterwards. It's been so nice having her here, and she has had quite the opportunity to get to know and spend time with all the kids over these few snow days!

Eric said that they continue to get rain in Arkansas where he is at, and it *may* freeze over tonight, but so far they are doing fine. He spent most of the day doing "combatives" today and said he felt pretty good despite all the physical exertion. It's starting to sink in that he isn't just working a few overnights and will have a day off soon and I am starting to miss him. Our 6 month anniversary is coming up in another week and in that time I have gotten used to having him around!

Sounds like the house is finally settling down. Liisa just shut down her laptop, and is headed to bed so I guess I will do the same. It is almost 1 am after all... Wish me luck with a houseful of kids again later today! I am so glad we have cable now, along with the gaming systems we have--plenty to keep bored kids occupied!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snowed in with a houseful of kids...

Here it is, 9:30 am on a tuesday morning, and I have a houseful of (mostly) sleeping children. Liisa got in a bit after 9 last night after an eventful last 90 minutes of her drive here: we were under severe winter storm advisories and she encountered greasily icy roads as she hit the entrance ramp to I-64 from I-70. The car in front of her came to a stop as it headed onto the bridge over the Mississippi, and despite the fact she was only going about 25 mph, she couldn't stop, and slid into the median/bridge abutment on the left side of the freeway, creasing up her quarterpanel on the kia. She got herself back into traffic, totally shaken up, when the same car that caused her to slide did a 180 in front of her and almost hit her again! As she told me on arrival, she put on her hazards and drove the rest of the way here in the right lane, going about 35 mph... (she had semis boxing her in when she slid into the median, so all in all it was a terrifying experience for her, and she didn't even look at the damage to the kia til she got here... It's creased along the same place that the school bus had hit it previously, but is driveable). I poured her a glass of wine and we lounged on my bed til long after midnight. Other than being a bit shaken up and freaked out, she's fine and glad to land. In fact, she says she isn't leaving until the snow is melted and may be here til spring!!!!

In the meantime, the snow was falling at a steady pace, and school closings were being posted on the news, so I had premonitions the kids would be home today... Sure enough, Aurora woke me at 5:30 to say that school was closed and she was headed back to bed. Brie didn't go to work either (I hope she got up and called in at least) as she has no working windshield wipers on the CRX, and the van needs better tires on the front in particular--it slides pretty easily on wet. Probably for the best she stayed home... But that means I have Cliff and his best friend in the living room, Aurora and Kimmie in Aurora's room, Patrick, Rei and Brie in their rooms, and Liisa in the "loft"... And me, three dogs, and three cats... What a concept! I have an appointment today to have cable tv and internet put in so I hope this doesn't delay that process to severely... Cable would be lovely with all these kids running around! (We got a really good deal on the bundle package, and for just a few dollars more than Eric was paying for wireless internet and telephone we can add in the cable tv and have it all on one bill instead of 2--and have cable to boot!).

Eric's first day of classes went fine, although they too were getting freezing rain down there and he wasn't sure if he was going to be even going to class today as they too had schools being closed right, left, and sideways... Even the military base there had shut down to only essential personnel being required to be there. I hope that doesn't end up tacking on days he needs to be away. That would suck!

Anyhow, kids are getting up, so I guess that's my cue to get more coffee and direct traffic so-to-speak... Wish me luck getting them all to help shovel~

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just a quick note or two

I just want to post a quick couple of notes, as I have a lot to get done today. Liisa is enroute here even as I type, although she is coming alone. Andrea had a few reservations about the babies being gone for 5 days without her, something I can certainly understand and relate to, so we have tabled their trip to "another time". I'm just fine with it, albeit a little disappointed. Having their energy and laughter would be good for me, but having Liisa here will be a blessing too (and much less work!).

Eric got off safely to Little Rock yesterday, 2 hours later than planned. To quote him, "time was moving faster than he was..." He arrived at his hotel around 9 pm, and got settled in. He was concerned he had no internet, but discovered he does, much to our mutual relief (we plan to play Everquest together in the evenings to help pass time and "be together"). We quickly settled into our old pattern of telephone communication for a bit before bed, a well established routine from when we were courting, and while it wasn't the same as it used to be, at least it was better than being alone before bed.

I had a house full of kids last night as our brood was all home, and they had 2 extras here as well; dinner was noisy and chaotic, but it was fun to see everyone interacting. Today I need to crack the whip and be sure they help finish picking up stuff. I have my quilt top all sewn together now, and I fused most of the pieces into place for the central motif. I have to buttonhole applique them down in place so the fusing doesn't lift off with use), then I will add the last 8 bowling pins into their respective places and stitch them down (also by hand). Lastly I will layer it and do the quilting. I am going to start out hand quilting it, but if I run out of time, I may machine quilt around the borders... We'll see. I was bummed to find out that the shop in Edwardsville doesn't carry varigated hand quilting thread either (the owner suggested that perhaps it's a regional thing, that quilters down here don't use it as much as quilters back home). That may well be, but it's depressing none-the-less. I am gonna grab some thread I saw at Hancock fabric today (one of my outings) that I know will work, and may just see if what I have on hand can be used as well. I will post pictures soon of what I have done so far--just need to find the camera!

Hope everyone is staying warm: we are under a winter weather advisory down here and *may* get 3-6 inches of snow beginning after midnight tonight... I really doubt it will be that much (we got an inch yesterday and it's mostly gone already--didn't stick in many places, just blew around). We'll see! Hmmm! Just got a call from the church and our Women's group meeting for tonight was "postponed" due to the pending weather. LoL, that would NOT be a concern up in Minneapolis, where this coming weather is the norm... Some of these differences make me laugh. Oh well, I was planning to go until Liisa said she was coming, then decided to stay home instead, so now I will be able to attend when it is rescheduled.

I'm 0ff to run my errands now~

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday already?

It's been a really busy week! Eric was off Monday and Tuesday, thus we had running around to do; Wednesday and Thursday nights he worked, so he was sleeping during the day (and is in bed as I write!) and I did some errands on my own... Seems like despite having all the time in the world, very little of it is my own sometimes! Eric is trying to get everything he needs done completed before he leaves for training on Sunday morning, and I am very grateful for how organized and farsighted he is. I should have very little trouble managing things while he is gone. I suppose 21 years in the military and multiple deployments contributed to that, but for whatever reason, I do appreciate how well he takes care of me.

I have a confession to make. OK, actually a couple of them. I still have my tree standing in the corner of the living room and the ornament boxes still standing against the wall. They will (hopefully) be gone this weekend, but for now they are still in the way. We need a new box or set of boxes to put the tree into, hence it still gracing the living room, and I am not sure I could lift the rest of them into place in the garage, so those are chores for Eric before he leaves... Or maybe we can just leave the tree in place, a bit of greenery in the corner! (Not likely though--I want my window back!). Confession dos: I cheated on my sister with another stylist last night! I needed a trim desperately, and I didn't want to trim my own bangs a second time in a row (I don't do a very good job--it is clearly done by someone unskilled). I got a recommendation from a friend and used her stylist. She was very good, albeit really rough, but she did a nice job, giving me exactly what I asked for (an inch off in length all around, keeping the long layers intact, and fixing my bangs so I can now see again). I am satisfied with the style (it looks just like it always has), but it wasn't the same experience at all. No visiting about family, no catching up on things, no gossiping about kids or other things... I miss my sister! When I shared my infidelity with my sister she was very understanding (600 miles is a long way to go for a haircut), but I promised to keep any chemical enhancements or eyebrow waxings in the family!

Confession tres: I still don't have the quilted wallhanging done and ready to quilt. I don't know what the hold up is exactly, but my guess it's related to all the driving I have had to do lately with the kids, and just not having much time for myself or my projects. I was disappointed to find that none of the fabric stores (or even the local quilt shop!) carry varigated hand quilting thread. I always got mine at Quilters Cove in Apple Valley, or at Glad's in Minneapolis, and I don't have the color(s) I really want in my stash. I am thinking I may need to take a run up to the quilt shop in Edwardsville, but it's almost 45 minutes each way to get there, and that seems like a lot of gas expenditure for just thread... Maybe there are other things I need too! I can always look... Hmmmmm. I need it done in about 3 weeks, so there is really no time to order it online. Worst case scenario, I can always use solid colors and just do different areas with different colors... I got the batt and the backing fabric yesterday for it, so I am basically ready to go once the blocks are done being put together.

The new semester has started for the kids, and Patrick had to make a very adult decision about his plans for the rest of this school year and into the next. He does not have enough credits to graduate in May. Period. There is no way around it or to fix it. We met with the guidance counselor yesterday after school and he was given his options. Eric and I had prepared him in advance for this discussion when we had talked/brainstormed last friday night, but I think it was still a bit of a shock for him to hear it from the "authority figures". Bottom line is that Patrick decided to be a "Super Senior", meaning he will take classes again for the fall semester and graduate at the end of that term. He will take a couple of mandatory classes, then fill in the rest of the schedule with electives he's like to take (so it will be fun for him), and he's going to look at getting a job over the summer that will qualify him for the work-study program, allowing him to leave campus after 5th hour. He seemed relieved after telling Eric and I his decision, and he says he's not going to slack this term just because... At least he has room to breathe again (one option was taking 2 correspondence courses to make up extra credits on top of his current 8 period work load, plus a term of summer school, AND PASSING everything, just to graduate the end of June...). We are really proud of him. Now he just needs to get things done!

Brie is still waiting on paperwork back from the National Guard, saying they will pay for her education, so she is not in class this week (first week of the term). Cliff too is getting his stuff together, although his entry may be summer session. Eric too got registered for spring term at ITT tech; They are kinda jerking him around right now after taking off this winter term (his 5 weeks of training wouldn't be conducive to school attendance or taking finals!) but we are working to straighten that around. Rei and Aurora are doing fine. Aurora is looking at taking Driver's Ed this summer (God help us!), and we have promised Patrick that we will help him get his license before summer starts (he may need it depending on where he finds a job at).

I am so excited: Liisa just called and she is coming down to see me/us next week (come down Monday, go back Friday) and she convinced Tony and Andrea that she should bring the babies with her! I am just bouncing! My babies are coming to see me/us! Yay!!!!!! I won't even miss Eric that first week he is gone having the kids all here with me (heeheehee--ok, I will miss him, but having the distraction of the little ones will help).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A quiet Saturday night at home

It's Saturday night, the kids are all home and doing various things (watching movies, playing video games) and I have the tv on in my room, although it's a repeat of an episode I have seen. Eric is at work, Cliff just got off and is headed to a movie with a friend (another of our "orphans" down here), and it's so nice to have things peaceful. Reimond is headed to the bowling alley for 11:30 tonight to go to a lock-in there in honor of a friend's 13th birthday (who wouldn't want a night of free bowling, food, and sodas!), so I hope he's resting a little. I had started thawing pork chops for dinner, but they weren't ready to cook, so I gave in and ordered Pizza Hut... The Chocolate Strips aren't too bad, but I think I prefer the cinnamon-sugar ones myself.

Patrick and Aurora got 3 ball bowling bags today, a christmas gift from the grandparents (Eric's parents and my mom). They were quite happy to have them arrive--we ordered them last Saturday and they came in this week. Aurora bowled in an invitational tournament today and did quite well (high school team). She seemed satisfied anyhow! Brianne went out last night for her first time "clubbing"--went to an 18+ club with some friends for linedancing and entertainment. She got in just after 4 am as one of the girls she was with "passed out" after they left the club and they took her to the emergency room. She says there was no alcohol involved, the girl just said she felt light headed and dizzy and overheated, and then she keeled over. When I talked to one of her family members today at the bowling alley I was told she's fine. Probably just got overheated.

I've been pretty lazy today myself, other than running kids around. I did a few chores, but I also sat and read a novel I have been wanting to read by a writer formerly from Minneapolis, Tami Hoag. She writes suspense/murder mysteries, and her earlier works, of which this was one, take place in Minneapolis. It was really fun to read about familiar sights and places, even if it was a work of fiction. I haven't been missing the cold of "home"--my sister, my mom, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law all were telling me about how it had been -27 degrees there, real temp, with wind chills in the -50's; makes my -2 and windchills in the -teens seem like summer! I definitely don't miss the cold. When I spoke to Justin today I told him I couldn't come visit him for awhile yet, but maybe I could come in the spring when it is warmer. He told me I could come now, "just put on your coat and hat Gram!" Smart little cookie!

Andrea was telling me that they had another scan done on my granddaughter's kidney (she was born with only one), as there has been concern about it's functioning since she was born (six weeks premature and weighing only 3# 8oz.). She has vesicoureteral reflux (essentially, when her bladder is full the urine backs up the ureter and into her kidney, putting her at great risk for kidney infections, hence her being on daily antibiotics to prevent them see When they first diagnosed it they put it at a 2-3 in terms of severity, and hoped she might outgrow it as her body grows. At her follow up scan recently the nephrologist who saw her thought that it was greater than a three, and would probably require surgical intervention in the near future. I told them that if she needed surgery I would plan a trip up to MN to be with them because she will need to stay in the hospital. While for most kids it would be an outpatient procedure, because she only has one kidney they need to watch her more closely afterwards and will have to keep her at least overnight. Alexis is so funny these days. I talked to her on the phone as well, and she babbled at me nonstop, and even cried when Justin took a turn on the phone. I miss those babies something fierce. Andrea said they were talking about me today and even looking at a map; Justin accepts that I live far-far-away and pointed to the middle of Montana as being where I now lived. He reminded me on the phone that I got married and moved away from him, but that he has a big house and lots of room for my to stay there too--I can even sleep in his car bed with him.

Eric's ex is making the trip here to see the kids on Monday as there is no school (and it's one of "her" holidays according to the visitation schedule). I hope they have a nice visit. It is certainly impetus for me to do the housework--I prefer to have the main floor at least spotless when she is here. She might not care, but I do. Finals are over and the new semester starts on Tuesday. Rei passed all his classes (at least that's how it looked when I checked last--he still had a final not recorded). Aurora did very well, as expected. Patrick, unfortunately, struggled and it's gonna take an awful lot of work if he hopes to graduate in May. His quarter grades were not good, and it will negatively affect his semester credits. We had a long talk with him on Friday night and did some brainstorming on what his options might be (based primarily on info from when we met with the counselor and his teachers about 6 weeks ago). He understands we will aid him as we can, but the onus is on him to do his homework, be sure things are getting turned in, and that he is following through with what he says. Brianne made a token effort at getting registered for classes for spring semester, and will hopefully still be able to register next week (she needs a confirmation letter that the National Guard will be helping to pay for her classes). Cliff too is working on getting his ducks in a row for financial aid so that he too can register. We have our fingers crossed that it all works out.

Eric leaves for Arkansas a week from tomorrow. Luckily for us this coming week is his "short week", so we'll have some time together before he leaves. There is a possibility he may come home on the weekends as another person in his group is tentatively planning to drive back and forth, so he could help with driving/share expenses, but it's not for sure. I'm not getting my hopes up, but will take what I get. The kids seem content that just I will be here, and I'm sure we'll manage just fine.

Anyhow, that's what's new around here on this chilly saturday evening. I am grateful for the peace and quiet!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"I not ready yet"...

I bought this devotional book called "A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Women" because I was looking for something to add into my daily routine and I had been missing reading something that applied scripture lessons to daily life. The statement in my headline came from the title of the message dated January 11, and was followed by this Bible verse: "I am holding you by your right hand--I the LORD your God. And I say to you, 'Do not be afraid. I am here to help you.' " Isaiah 41:13. I have been pondering on this since I read it. The remaining story referred to the writer's grandson, who kept saying he wasn't ready to ride a brand new two-wheel bicycle yet, but he would be, "maybe next Monday," and how just as her son would walk by his child until he was ready to do it on his own, so too our Heavenly Father walks beside us and supports us until we too can do it on our own.

This has been resonating with me in part because as we have dealt with the struggles of the past few weeks, my opening up myself here in this blog has reminded me how many people truly do walk with me in my life, regardless of the miles between us. I have days I feel so isolated and alone, but the reality is I am never alone. I have my faith, which sustains me in all things, and I have people I can reach out to for support, advice, nurturance, and tough love. I feel very blessed in this, and it allows me to move forward, confident that even if I fall on my face sometimes, there will always be someone to help pick me back up, dust me off, and support my efforts to try again. I got a wonderful email from my father-in-law today about parenting and it brought a smile to my face because it is so very true. He, as well as my good friend Cindy, reminded me that the hardest part of parenting is allowing our children to fall, so that they can learn from their mistakes and move forward. I know that it's true--especially when it's someone else's kid--but it's so much harder to do when it's your own... (and I do count all of these kids "my own"). Perspective is a wonderful (if selective at times) thing!

It has also been pointed out to me that I have been fairly isolated of late; being down a vehicle with multiple drivers has made getting out of the house a chore at times, and my ventures into the world at large primarily consist of taxiing the kids to and from their activities. I did step out of my comfort zone and into the kitchen at church on Sunday, where I did the dishes after our monthly pot-luck, and listened in on the stories of people I don't know and engaged in casual conversation (I often find myself at a loss with small talk, but I am a good listener). I was the only woman in my age group there (the rest could have been my mother, or even grandmother in a few cases), but it's a start. I have been looking at job listings again and am mentally girding my loins to look into federal jobs again, hopefully at Scott AFB... There has to be something out there I can do, preferably with morning/weekday hours so that I can be here in the afternoons/evenings so as to not conflict too badly with Eric's schedule or the kids' needs... I'm praying that the "perfect" job is out there somewhere for me. At 46 years old, I have that duality of being both over- and under-qualified for so many things... I'm not giving up hope yet! I am going to look into volunteer opportunities, and I have noted down the date and time of the Southern IL Artisan's Guild Meeting, along with the dates and times some of their specialty groups meet. That might be a good outlet for me as well.

The important thing is that I'm not closing doors, or closing myself off. I know one of my faults is that I tend to coccoon myself off when I am feeling hurt, stressed, or overwhelmed (I call it the "turtle syndrome"--I pull myself into my shell and stay there until the storm passes), but it isn't helpful for me to do that on a long-term basis. That's partially why I am so grateful for those of you who know me well--and that you took the time to remind me that I need to keep reaching out and not hiding away. Thank you for your love and support! Honestly, things are slowly getting better, and I have regained some perspective again. I feel well loved and much blessed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The calm after the storm

I want to thank everyone for their words of comfort, support, grounding, and even a much needed kick in the hind end after my post yesterday. It has been much appreciated, and it helps alot to feel loved and cared about. Things are better today: the air has been cleared in a few places, and in others the turbulence is back to where it belongs and is being contained. Stress over finals is being managed, kids are getting back into their routines, and the sun is shining, at least for now both in reality and metaphorically.

I just got a call from the shop and my van needs $400 worth of exhaust work, along with a quick fix on the shifter in the steering column (it's been dangerously loose and I have been worried about it slipping out of gear). It's do-able, and I will soon have my own vehicle back on the road. Thank God! We had heard it might be as much as $1000 dependent on what needed replacement, so the news is good! (It's seriously not worth putting a grand into fixing it--we'd be better off spending that on another beater!). They said it would be ready to pick up later today. I will be mobile again! Here's to hoping gas prices stay reasonable so that it's worth having it out and about!

Eric had a PT test last night prior to starting his shift: he did (if I remember correctly) 47 push ups in 42 seconds, and 50 sit ups in just over 60 seconds, not bad for a 41 year old... He says he won't be happy if it takes him the maximum 11 minutes to run a mile (heeheehee). He is preparing to head for his federal police academy training in just a bit under 2 weeks, and is also working hard to be sure I have everything I need before he goes. He's such a good man! He works yet tonight, then has a couple of days off. I hope we can squeeze in a date night somewhere in there. We did go out with another couple on Saturday night, which was fun, but we need some "us" time too. That has been few and far between of late with all that has been going on.

Anyhow, thanks again for all the support. I do appreciate it and it has helped alot! As my friends have said, this too shall pass and we'll look back on it and smile (I hope).

Monday, January 12, 2009

So very weary and heartsick over so much...

It has been the weekend from hell around here again. Teen drama, egocentrism, thoughtless comments and words, arguements, indirect and direct anger, angst... I feel drained and have nothing left over right now. I have spread myself so thinly I don't even know where to start to try and regroup... I am going to be intentionally vague on some things, because they are not my things to share, yet they are impacting and negatively affecting the entire family and I am at a loss right now...

Drama: does it ever end? Everyone seems to think they are in the right, are the innocent victims of unfair directives ("finals are this week; do you have your study guides completed? your projects completed? have you reviewed/written/read up on whatever you need to be working on?"). We had one child stay home "ill" on friday to WRITE, from start, a 20 page english project that was assigned before winter break (and if we had known details of, could have made into a really fun and well-done project), but no, it was "almost done", "worked on", "just needs a little bit more on..." all the way til friday morning, and then we discover "oops, not even really started yet" and the writer was "ill" over it. It got haphazardly written, and was turned in a half hour after deadline, not as complete or detailed as it should have been, and now we are unsure (because it missed the 3pm deadline) if it will get any credit at all... Today a different child was "ill" (read nauseous) because "oops, I didn't complete any of my study guides because I was so stressed and tired and overwhelmed all weekend (and didn't do any homework)" and says if they aren't done it will blow whatever chances there might be of passing... So that child is home today and grounded from all activities until finals are done (other than church or other family sanctioned activities)...

Nerves are frayed, and everyone is slamming into everyone else's last exposed nerve, sometimes innocently, sometimes deliberately. Tempers are flaring, tears are flowing, and everyone is apparently the victim and not the aggressor ("s/he made me mad; s/he is at fault--how dare it be said..."). And entitlement: "can we use the car to run to A (and then go to B and C and D--but we have no money for gas--oh and by the way, could I have $5 for xyz... What do you mean no? You are soooooo unfair!"). And it isn't just here: the kids in Minneapolis are dealing with their own struggles and heartaches, and I am too far away to do more than listen and offer love and support. I feel so stressed out right now! Limits are being tested, and while we are holding firm to structure and limits, accountability, and love, it feels like Eric and I are just trying to contain a leaky dam with scotch tape... It is feeling bigger than both of us right now. The worst part is that it's felt like this for almost 2 weeks now. That's how long some of these tensions have been building (or in some cases, playing out). I am just so very tired of yelling, sarcasm, rudeness, dirty looks exchanged, brooding, provocative statements, and slamming doors. It makes me look back fondly at the days of unit shutdowns at the center, where kids were either in their rooms separately and doing constant writing assignments OR were in community meetings taking accountability for their actions/decisions/behaviors and making plans for improving community functioning. While some of those skills *might* be effective here, with it being only Eric and trying to mediate it, I doubt much would come out of them. We are not, after all, a locked unit here... God knows I have been dreaming of working at the treatment center again daily though, or of escapist things, like being on a houseboat and floating down the river... Eric held me as I cried last night, so drained and exhausted from everyone else's pain and stress. So much heartache going around, and so much of it related to making changes. I love the explanation of change occuring when "the pain of staying the same is WORSE than the pain of doing it differently:... So very true--but none-the-less very uncomfortable.

Added into the mix, I got a letter from the Department of Veteran's Affairs on Saturday that stated I was NOT selected for further consideration for their open positions, despite being highly qualified for them. My guess is I am too highly qualified, but it is only a guess. I am very glad I sent out a new resume for something else, and I will keep looking. I had been ambivalent about the position anyway: it would have been great to have a job, but I had concerns about the hours and the schedule with our family obligations and Eric's schedule too. I got my biopsy results back on Friday and they said things were "within normal ranges," so what difficulties I am having are related to "normal aging processes," and if it continues to be at issue there are things that can be done invasively to help manage it. If I follow in my mother's footsteps I have about 7 more years of this to deal with this; I guess I will take it month by month for now. I still have to follow up on the ovarian cyst in another month, then hopefully I'll be done with doctors til April, when I have to get my med levels rechecked (thyroid/cholesterol) and refills on my Rxs.

I did get the quilt pieces all cut out over the weekend, and my sewing machine is indeed repaired and sews like a dream. I ran out of white thread though, and have to run and get another couple of spools so I can finish sewing the blocks together. I am liking the colors and how it is coming together, although I still wish I were better at piecing. The points/intersections don't line up 100% the way I wanted them to, and despite careful cutting and piecing, it's not perfect. I see the flaws, although perhaps once it is all put together I will be satisfied. I used sewing as my escape this weekend but maybe I shouldn't have--my lack of focus (or hyperfocus) may have contributed a bit to it not turning out exactly as I would have liked... Or maybe I am being too self-critical. I dunno at this point. Eric got the muffler tacked up on the van so we will be taking it over to the shop later today near Scott; we stopped in Saturday and they gave us a rough estimate of around $200 to fix the exhaust, so we'll see... We really need another vehicle around here--two are not cutting it.

Thanks for bearing with me as I complain and vent. I know it will get better and we just have to keep constant, but right now it's just really hard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Liisa!

It's so hard to believe, but 25 years ago Liisa was born and my life was never the same afterwards. Who could have predicted the joy (and tears at times) such a teeny, tiny baby could bring to my life! Liisa wasn't a planned baby: I was dating her dad and going to college when I found out she was "expected"; initially Jim and I didn't plan to get married, because I wanted a marriage to be for the "right reasons" (whatever those are), rather than a knee-jerk response to an unexpected pregnancy. My family was behind us 100% though, and I planned to raise her from the get-go. And Jim and I did marry, when I was about 5 months along. Wow, the time has flown past!

My pregnancy was hard at times--there were a lot of stressors on us, I was sick a lot, and it didn't help that she was born during one of the hardest winters MN had seen in ages. I tell the story of my last day after work: when getting off the bus the plows had been through, but people had not yet been out to shovel, and I was so hugely pregnant I sank in the snow drift up to my thighs and had a hard time getting out! I walked home crying my eyes out, went to my ob appointment, and was told it was time to be done working, my blood pressure was too high. Yeah, I felt like a beached whale in that moment...

I went into labor with Liisa shortly after midnight on the 7th, and the contractions stayed consistent. I went to the hospital late afternoon, and we were doing ok; I just wasn't dilating at a good pace. Then they added in pitocin, which SUCKED big time--the labor was miserably intense and so out of my control... And then there was Liisa, who was quickly becoming more and more stressed. I ended up going in for an emergency cesarean at 11 pm, I was awake for the procedure but had to be propped on my left side (because any other position and her heart rate would drop to zero!), and within minutes they had her delivered. She was so very tiny: all of 6 lbs, 6 and a half oz., and 18 inches long. She screamed bloody murder and that saved her life: her umbilical cord had been wrapped aroun her neck and shoulders and she was slowly being strangled as she descended in the birth canal, and when I laid in any other position, the unbilical cord was pinched off between her shoulder and my pubic bone, so that she was not getting what she needed from me. Her lungs were full of myconeum and they raced her to intensive care, where they suctioned her out, and there she stayed for over 12 hours before I could even see her once... I didn't get to meet my beautiful girl until after noon on the following day!

Back in those days, only immediate family could see or hold the newborn, so my siblings impatiently waited for us to come home from the hospital, and on the day Liisa came home it was 35 below real temperature, with a 60 below wind chill, and the thermostat went out on our car, a little Chevy Nova. We drove home with her so bundled in her car seat you couldn't see there was a baby in there! Neal met us at the apartment, to be our first visitor to hold her, and while he was disappointed she wasn't a boy, he loved her anyway. Kristi came over every day after school on the city bus to help me while I healed up (and picked Liisa up every chance she got--"Reina, I swear she was awake in the crib and starting to fuss--I didn't wake her up!--yeah right... And when she was 3 weeks old, we moved back in with my parents and sibs: 4 generations under one roof for almost a year. Liisa was much loved by all, much spoiled by all, and was as much a little sister in the family as she was a niece... She's still much loved and much spoiled!

I look at this beautiful daughter of mine and wonder how I could have been so blessed. My father always said a baby is a gift from God, whom he brings in his own time and for his own purpose. Liisa has truly been that. I am so very proud of the woman she has become: strong, independent, self-assured... She is so like me in many ways, yet in others she is more like my mom, and I see bits and pieces of Jim's mom in her too. She comes from a long line of strong and independent women (after all, my dad's mom came all alone to the U.S. from Finland as a 16 year old, and look at the family she founded!) so her roots are strong and deep. I love her joyousness and playfulness, as well as her ability to cut to the chase on things. Sometimes I despair of how concrete she can be (black and white thinking, where I see all sorts of shades of grey), but I respect that too, because she sees things clearly and isn't afraid to speak her mind or pussyfoot around. I remember holding her as a newborn in my arms and dreaming about what she would be like as an adult. I think MY dreams for her have come true: she is someone I am proud to have as a daughter, and I enjoy the friendship that we share along with the bonds of love between us. She has been my rock, my comfort, my inspiration, and my reason for being at various points in her life. I treasure my memories of watching her grow and mature, and I cannot believe how fast that has occurred. I really don't feel too much different today than I did when she was born. Oh, I'm a lot wiser (I hope), and I have experience to back me up, but I don't feel "old"... So who said she could grow up, anyway!

Liisa, I wish you much joy and happiness in the coming year(s); may you find love, contentment, and peace, flavored with enough trials and challenges that you can appreciate what you have and not take it for granted. I am so very proud of you and I love you so very much. God bless you my sweet baby girl, and be with you always!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grrrrrr another Ice Day and NO SCHOOL!

I was awakened at 5:30 this morning by Brianne asking for a ride to work because we had experienced an overnight of freezing rain... I got up, headed outside, and slid down the sidewalk to the car, then down the driveway as I attempted to get the driver's door open... I started the car to let it start defrosting, and headed inside to wake Eric--I was afraid to tackle the ice myself and it was glazed ice as far as I could see... Brie and Eric got the ice scraped off, and I rode along with to Krispy Kreme as I was already up and dressed; we heard there were multiple accidents on the freeways in St Louis, including a few that were totally closed, and that there were school closings being announced as well... The roads, once we were on the main drags and the freeway were wet but not horrible, but I was still glad I wasn't behind the wheel. We got Brie to work about 10 minutes late, then got home about ten to seven, to find NO ONE was up yet or ready for school (they usually leave the house just before 7 if they walk). Aurora looked up online to see if Mascoutah was on the closed list, and it wasn't (although neighboring communities were), so they all quickly dressed, grabbed donuts, and Eric drove them to school. Only to find there were closed notices on the doors and they were locked tight... Oh Joy!

The kids have napped some (Aurora has a cold, Eric sounds congested but denies being "sick", and I have been sneezing my fool head off and wiping a runny nose...), played video games (the Wii is getting a good workout today), and Rei's girlfriend was dropped off here with more games about an hour ago. It just feels noisy and confined and chaotic to a small degree... Cliff and I were planning a run over to SWIC to see about getting him enrolled and trying to find a work-around for his financial aid app given he has no access to his parent's financial info for the forms, but given the roads (which should be fairly melted by now) I am guessing we will wait on that til tomorrow. It's been fairly stressful around here in that he and Brianne have decided to take a break from their relationship, something that has been building for a while now and came to a head over the weekend, and Eric and I have made a point of saying we won't be taking sides, nor will we be removing "parental" support from either of them. It has taken a toll on all of us though, and (in my opinion) has triggered memories (for the kids especially) of when things changed with their mom. We are taking things a day at a time, and praying hard for both of them (as well as all of us) that these transitions will become smoother, and that civility, kindness, and respect will prevail. It's hard to see your kids hurting and know there is nothing you can do to make it easier, but what I hold on to is that God is in charge and has a plan. I have learned over time that praying "thy will be done" hold it's own kind of peace, even when saying it can be the hardest of prayers to offer...

Rei and Kimmie have decided to go walking outside, probably a good plan as Rei gets cabin-feverish easily; Aurora has headed back to bed for a bit; Eric is also sleeping (he's trying to stay on his overnight schedule so he doesn't get too off kilter), and Patrick is playing on the Wii. Cliff just left to go get Brianne from work (the temps are above freezing now), and when I finish on here I am gonna go start cutting out the quilted wallhanging I plan to make for the youth bowling raffle. Then hopefully, we can go get my sewing maching picked up later this afternoon from the shop--keep your fingers crossed all it needed was another new fuse and a good cleaning!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pictures of Christmas!

I have some pictures from our first Christmas here in Mascoutah, IL that I wanted to share. We had a wonderful Christmas; to quote Eric's youngest 2, "it was the best Christmas EVER!". In my not so humble opinion, it ranks right up there for me with some of the best I have had. We spread it out over a few weeks, given the travels of the younger kids, and we opened gifts here on New Year's Eve, amidst laughter, playfulness, and gleeful surprise.

These are, from top to bottom, putting up the tree the night before the kids had to leave (Cliff set it up for me, then the kids all put on the lights and started hanging ornaments), the front door of our house (not sure if you can see the two red bulbs amongst the white ones!), and our tree with most of the gifts under it on the 31st before our celebration. Then, on the 31st, we had our party. Rei's girlfriend Kimmie joined us for the evening (actually, she was here most of the weekend!) and she is a sweetheart. We were glad to have her here!

We used the tradition from my family of opening from youngest to oldest, and Kimmie and Rei went first. Rei got a movie he really wanted, some video games, and some gaming assecories (his flight to MN counted as part of his gift from Eric and I). Kimmie had gotten a "Hello Kitty" kitty from the build-a-bear workshop from Brie and Aurora, as well as some assecories from Eric and I, and Rei gave her some slippers (that he had forgotten in MN--She got them on Saturday when Liisa's package arrived). Aurora got a robe and slippers set from my sister and her family, which she really loved and wore the rest of the night over her clothes, and from Eric and I she got a nice camera. Patrick got a new "hobo jacket", which he needed to replace his old raggedy one, and Eric and I gave him a nice mountain style bike so he has an "eco-friendly" form of transportation now. Cliff received a number of misc. things, including some windpants he needed, as well as many Cardinal's related things (the baseball team, not the bird), and Brie got some clothes, games/movies, and a really nice tall tv stand/night table (with two drawers in it) for her large gift. Eric got some fun gag-style gifts, including a stuffed pig and fur-lined handcuffs (to celebrate his policeman status), and I made sure he got a nice lined Nike windsuit for when he goes to his training classes at the end of the month. I also got him some nice flannel p.j. pants, and a pretty glass dragon. I was with Eric when he bought my gifts, so I was thrilled with my presents: a beautiful cross with 6 small diamonds in it on a lovely white gold chain, a book by the "Yarn Harlott" I really wanted (I have link to her blog if you are interested in reading her stuff), a magazine subscription to a cross stitch magazine, and the kids thoughtfully got me candles, incense/scented oils, a beautiful glass dragon (a larger version of the one I got Eric!), and the first season of "House" on DVD. I am sure I will enjoy that while Eric is gone next month! The final picture is of Rei buried in a mountain of wrapping paper. If you look closely, you can see his hand...

Earlier in the week we had the opportunity to share Christmas greeting's with Eric's brother Tony and his wife Vera, and with Eric's parents, when we were in IN picking up the kids. It was so wonderful to see all of them, and the best part is how much it just "felt like family" being together. Tony and his wife had never met me before, so I was a little nervous going into it, although I adore Eric's parents, and couldn't ask for better in-laws; They were so warm and welcoming that I ended up feeling right at home, and it was a really good visit. The kids had fun, they had an opportunity to wear off a little energy rambling in the neighborhood before our 6 hour car ride home, and it was nice being all together. Reimond later said that he really had fun there, and suggested we go there once a month at least to visit! Eric and I agreed that would be nice, but as with MN, it's a bit far to go for a brief visit on a regular basis, albeit not impossible, as this visit proved... I too am looking forward to "doing it again!"

Eric is off this coming weekend (today is the start of his "short week, working only Wednesday and Thursday overnights), so my guess is we will take down the tree and get back to what passes for normal around here; I have had an emotional holiday this year, and while I do miss my family back home, it has been a wonderful start of new traditions and ideas.