My Daughter’s Feathered Friend… The Furnace Man

Since our furnace up and died two months ago, we’ve had a steady stream of Furnace Men coming to our house. They’ve come to measure, estimate, install, check, adjust, and re-check. This is all very thrilling to my kids. They are fascinated with the ductwork, wiring, insulation, and all the special equipment. Even without all that, any visitor makes for an extra special day around here.

Throughout this process, I’ve had talks with my girls (ages 6 and 3) about proper behavior around Furnace Men. Our rules of conduct are pretty straightforward:

#1 - We let each Furnace Man have his own personal space, even if he is one of our favorites.

#2 – We use our inside voice and say “excuse me” if we’d like to say something.

#3 – If there is a special jump, or twirl, or pair of shoes we want to show the Furnace Man (and there always is), we wait until the end of his visit and then ask politely if we can show him whatever it is.

With a few whispered reminders, the girls generally do well and our visitors seem to enjoy the rockstar reception they get at our house.

wire bracelets some Furnace Men made for our girls during their lunch break

Yesterday was yet another very special day because Doug (one of my daughters’ favorites) came to inspect the ducts.

“Excuse me, Doug,” My oldest daughter began. “Won’t your face get itchy when you crawl down there?”

Doug was preparing to enter the crawl space under the house, and the last Furnace Man to do so had worn a ski mask. Doug gamely answered her question and was just about to descend when my three year old, Caitlyn, had a question of her own.

She stepped a little closer to him and said, confidingly, “Excuse me, Duck, but if you are scared down there, will you just let me know? I can go with you so you won’t be scared.”

Doug chuckled and thanked her. I thought that was such a sweet thing to say that I hardly noticed anything was amiss. He slid down the hole, turned on his headlamp and started to crawl away. Caitlyn peered over the edge and looked quizzically at his legs as he worked his way across the dirt floor.

“Hmmm,” She observed aloud. “He doesn’t look much like a duck.”


In hurried whispers, I explained to her that the Furnace Man was named Doug, and he was indeed, not a duck.

She nodded, but was apparently unconvinced.

After he reappeared, she doggedly followed him all around the house, helpfully pointing out the vents he was looking for.

“Here, Duck! There’s one over here.”

“Duck, you are very good at measuring!”

(Under my breath, I reminder her. “Doug, Honey. His name is Doug.”)

Undeterred, she rushed ahead to assist her friend. “Now, Duck. I think this is the last one!” She proudly exclaimed.

Duck was such a good sport about the whole thing, and he even waited around an extra minute to watch the dance-jump-twirl she had been saving.

Ah my sweet girl. What would I do without a three year old around to keep things interesting? :)


You might also be interested in:
Compromise or Sacrifice? – On Marital Bliss

The Time My Four-Year-Old Ran a Marathon

Daniel’s Birth Story – It’s a Boy!

Calories: How to Care Without Counting

Posted in Funny kids, I am a mother, Life as we know it | 2 Comments

An Ordinary January Day

One of the few homeschool blogs I read fairly regularly challenged readers to blog about an ordinary day each month of the year, so we could read about real life homeschooling, unvarnished.

I loved reading about this blogger’s day and I considered writing my own, but being a bit of a scientist at heart I immediately worried about bias. If I’m choosing which day to write about, and living that day knowing I’m going to write about it, won’t that make the day decidedly not ordinary?

However, I also wasn’t sure I could look back after having lived an entire day and blog about it in any amount of detail. For better and for worse, most of the specifics get lost in a happy blur for me by about 9 pm.

Here’s what I did: This afternoon, I spontaneously decided to blog about today. I scribbled down what had happened until that point, and then I tried to be ordinary after that point. Ha! :) It wasn’t a day with any special homeschool plans… or any specific homeschool plans at all, actually. Here’s how it played out:

12:00 am – I finish reading my scriptures (in the Old Testament), hang out a load of laundry, and kiss my husband (who is a doctor and is still dictating notes).

12:21 am – I pray and climb into bed, amidst a lively internal debate about whether I should go right to sleep or use those dangling 9 minutes to read a book I’m thoroughly absorbed in. Battle lost, I read Nicolas Nickleby until 12:30 am and then all my willpower is summoned to turn off the iPad. Whew!

7:45 am – Doh. I have slept through the 7 am alarm and through my husband’s preparations for work. I’m awakened by my daughter kissing me on the cheek and whispering in my ear. (We’ve trained our kids on this point. I highly recommend it.)

It is 53 degrees in our house. The new furnace installed yesterday is already non-functional and now has a red light flashing on it.

Daniel (1) wakes up and I change his diaper and hold him while warming up bowls of oatmeal, closing vents, turning on space heaters, and deciding on an action plan for the furnace with my husband.

8:15 am – Caitlyn (3) needs some Mama time so I stop making oatmeal, put some warmer clothes on her and snuggle. My husband leaves for work.

8:30 am – Breakfast is on the table. Re-heated steel cut oats and some microwaved rolled oats to make up the difference, all with dates, raisins and cinnamon.

We sing two songs and recite ~8 scriptures for our memory work.

9:30 am – Done with breakfast, the kids play dolls while I make calls about the furnace. I take five minutes and build block towers for Daniel to knock down. He claps for me and gazes at me adoringly.

9:45 am – Daniel is ready for an early nap, so I lay him down. I (re)encourage the girls to get dressed for the day. Mackenzie (6) starts on copywork, writing thank you notes from Christmas and her birthday. Caitlyn plays and she and I do a reading lesson, #23 from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We add three stickers to her chart, because I had forgotten that step the past two days.

Notice the fancy chart, including the still-sticky corners from taping it to the wall three years ago when it was her sister’s turn to learn. It still manages to thrill my kids! :)

10:30 am – After doing a quick pickup of their room, Mackenzie plays and Caitlyn wanders into the kitchen to help me make homemade whole wheat bread in the bread machine. This usually takes 5 minutes but with “help” it tends to take longer.

Caitlyn runs to the bathroom after we dump in the salt, and I am summoned to wipe. Just as I am going to wash my hands, I hear alarmed cries from Daniel’s room and I dash across the house and over to his crib. He has managed to work his way into a corner, bottom in the air, head pinned and arm down through the slats of his crib. I extricate him and notice he needs a diaper change, badly.

I actually thought to myself as I cleaned him up, “Woot! Glad I didn’t wash my hands just now. I can change this diaper and wash ‘em once instead of twice. That’s efficiency.”

I settle him back down, wash my hands and hear an ominous clanking sound from the kitchen. I race back to where Caitlyn has been busy “finishing the bread” on her own.

Fortunately, it’s salvageable.

11 am – I ask Mackenzie to stop making a fort and go back to clean up a GeoPuzzle she had left out.

As I’m walking away, I check my email and realize the furnace man scheduled to come at 3:30 pm has called and left a message that he has an earlier slot. We are still cold so I rush to call him but find our internet connection is lost.

(We pay just $10/month to use Google Voice for our home phones and minimal pre-paid smart phones. Mostly it works great but it failed me right then because my cell phone wasn’t available.)

I reset the router, try again a few times and finally get through but, it’s no good! The slot has already been filled. As this is happening, I try repeatedly to shoo Caitlyn away so I can hear the call when it connects. She continues clamoring for my attention until I ultimately stop and look her in the eyes and explain why I’m busy. Then she contentedly goes and plays.

I notice everything is quiet so I steal the next 12 minutes to take care of a little online business (price comparisons for my mom on something she wants to buy the kids, finding a ups drop box for my husband to ship a return, and texting the info to him).

11:30 am – I realize Mackenzie is taking an awfully long time putting away a puzzle, and find that she and Caitlyn have since worked together to put that puzzle together upside down (cool!) but it’s still not in the box.

11:36 am – Daniel is still awake in his crib, so I get him up and start Mackenzie on her math (She’s in Singapore 2B doing money subtraction with borrowing). Then Daniel uncleans while Caitlyn and I match socks and fold laundry.

After doing her 20 minutes, Mackenzie just has a couple of problems to “rethink” but drags them out for an additional 20 minutes. For some reason this is excruciating to me and I’m running low on patience. I never yell, but I do tend to lecture when I’m frustrated. But this time, Caitlyn saves the day by announcing, “I gave them all mustaches!”

See the cuteness?

While I’m exclaiming over those drawer mustaches and we’re all laughing, Mackenzie corrects the problems and does a few extra for fun because she actually adores math. I put her in charge of finishing the laundry put-away job while I assess the state of the house.

12:30 pm – Panic. I’m watching a friend’s children at 1 o’clock and the house is about a 7 on the 1-10 disorder scale. I like to keep it near a 3 for playdates. Also, no one has eaten lunch. I put Daniel, “The Uncleaner”, in the pack and play with toys and the rest of us run around like crazy to pick up.

12:50 pm – Lunch. Warm whole wheat bread with avocado or homemade apple butter, and cut up bell pepper.

1:06 pm – Friends arrive and I’m still feeding the troops. I start the newcomers on some puzzles while dishing out more bread.

1:30 pm – All kids have been wiped and are playing but while I grab a bite myself, I hear the older friend tell Caitlyn (3) that she isn’t allowed to come in the play tent with the big girls. Mackenzie quickly and firmly responds, “I allow her because she’s my sister.” My heart just about bursts with pride.

1:32 pm – I decide to blog about today and scribble some notes.

The kids put on princess and dancing dresses and start setting up a great place to jump. I made huge pillows for just this purpose and they have a ball leaping off of furniture and creating an obstacle course.

Someone gets hurt. The jumping resumes.

I read three picture books. I take a call from the furnace man who can come early. I facilitate resolution of disagreements. I help with the changing of dresses. I let the furnace man in, and after an hour of close examination, he informs me that we are freezing because they forgot to turn the gas valve on after the installation yesterday. I leave my husband a voicemail to that effect.

Meanwhile, I’m cutting out yet another batch of laminated pictures that we use when we sing at the nursing home. I pick up a sheet whenever I get a spare moment and slowly the stack dwindles.

That photo is pretty much the last time I laid eyes on my favorite pair of scissors. I’ve made it a priority to keep careful track of scissors and markers ever since Caitlyn became mobile because she is a magnet for trouble. Here’s hoping the MIA pair surfaces soon.

2:30 pm I put Daniel down for a nap and decide to let Caitlyn stay up for another few minutes until her friends get picked up. (Their mom was at an OB appointment.)

3:20 pm – No pickup yet and I’m starting to wonder what’s going on. Caitlyn melts down, and I have a potty accident to clean up. I put her down for a nap.

3:35 pm – 3:47 pm – My friend picks up and apologizes for delay. Her children scream so loudly at having to leave, they wake up Daniel.

3:48 pm – 3:51 pm – I check and change Daniel’s diaper and I know by looking at him he needs more sleep. He wails when I put him down and I am walking out the door when I decide to stop, sing a silly song, snuggle him and hum. He rewards me with belly laughs and a sleepy smile as I leave the room.

3:51 pm – What’s for dinner? Oops. Why don’t I plan these things out better? I make a quick decision: Indian baked brown rice and massaged kale salad, and I’ll thrown in some sweet potatoes to bake as well. I start rinsing and chopping while Mackenzie comes over to chat about the playdate. She has some questions about how to handle tricky social situations and I help her think things through.

4:00 pm – I sit down with Mackenzie and review Logic of English lesson 7. We got up to 17 and then lost steam, so we’re reviewing and then picking up where we left off. She nails all the words on the first try so it’s painless today.

4:13 pm – Mackenzie sits down to color more handouts we use when we sing at the nursing home, while I move dinner along. We chat. She draws smiley faces on the umbrellas and starts humming the song from the Pixar short we watched as a family about umbrellas a few days ago. My heart melts and I hum along.

4:35 pm – I look at the clock and realize we’re way overdue for her Quiet Time (AKA Book Time). I send Mackenzie off with my phone to read A Little Princess. She’s thrilled that it is a short time today because we usually end at 5 o’clock and she’s getting a late start. I make a point of reading during Book Time each day as well, so I pull up Nicolas Nickleby on the iPad while I cook.

4:47 pm – Daniel is awake and wants to be with me but dinner is at a critical point. I buckle him in his high chair, scoot him right over by the sink and hand him a wooden spoon to whack on the counter.

5:00 pm – I should wake Caitlyn up but the sink is full of dishes, there’s an overdue load of laundry in the washing machine, and I’m still wearing a hat since I have yet to shower all day. Hmm.

I tackle the dishes in the sink and they are loaded in the dishwasher in 3 minutes! Woah. I clean up all the kitchen prep mess in 5 minutes, scoop Daniel and the wet laundry up on the way to wake up Caitlyn and we hang it up together. I am super mom!

As I unload the laundry basket, Daniel loads it up again with blocks. I also see him wandering around putting blocks in any other places that catch his eye. Mackenzie is engrossed in her book and waves me away when I tell her she can be done with Quiet Time. So much for a short one. ;)

I stop hanging up laundry and snuggle Caitlyn for a good 5 minutes. She wakes up pretty emotional from her nap and just likes to sit quietly in my lap before resuming normal life.

5:40 pm – Caitlyn, Daniel and I are cooking in the kitchen. This means Caitlyn is grating stuff in the food processor (she can read “on” and “off” on the buttons, which is very exciting for her). Daniel is busy unloading the tupperware drawer and helpfully redistributing its contents all over the house.

5:45 pm – I call Scott and tell his voicemail that dinner will be ready in 15 minutes.

5:50 pm – I pull the rice out of the oven, taste it, and realize I was supposed to seed the gigantic jalapeno pepper I used. The dish is much too spicy for anyone but Scott to eat. :(

6:00 pm – I’m mixing the salad when Scott calls to tell me that he has not received any calls or texts today because the WiFi was down in his office, that he will not be home for dinner, and that he loves me.

6:15 pm – I pull Mackenzie away from her reading only to discover she has made herself kind of sick reading on a screen in a dark room for too long (ever done that?). We start dinner together but she just picks at a sweet potato and then goes to lie down. Daniel did too much munching on avocado while I was making dinner so he eats part of a sweet potato and asks to get down. Before I know it, it’s just Caitlyn and I at the table eating our kale salad!

6:54 pm – Caitlyn is done. I wipe her up and check on Mackenzie, who’s already feeling better. We clean up the family room together using a timer. Daniel takes that opportunity to pull every garbage bag out of the big box under the kitchen sink.

7:20 pm – We go play in Daniel’s room with him. Hide and seek with his blanket is his current favorite game. Giggles, running, and “crashing” (his version of full body hugs) make for a fun pre-bedtime routine. I lay him down and the girls and I sing to him.

7:40 pm – Mackenzie is now hungry and eats while I read our current read-aloud, Winnie-the-Pooh. (We’re repeating some great ones now that Caitlyn is tuned into them more.)

8:01 pm – Scott comes home just as missionaries from our church arrive (as scheduled) to share a message with us. They show us this excellent video about seeking truth in a noisy world. We love having them come, but the visit takes longer than I had anticipated.

8:55 pm – Family prayer, family cheer, and family hugs. Scott drives the missionaries home. I deposit the girls in their beds expeditiously and linger in the hallway for 15 minutes to regulate on any illicit door opening.

9:20 pm – Finally, I chat with Scott and make plans for the following day. I pull up the laptop and blog about the day.

Still on the agenda: Scriptures, working out, showering, going to bed earlier than the night before.

Written on January 24th and I finally got around to pictures and links and publishing on February 7th

Posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 6 Comments

Calories: How to Care without Counting

For better or for worse, your weight depends on the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you burn. That’s it. The math is surprisingly simple and surprisingly constant, regardless of your genes. (It is, however, largely a reflection of your habits which is why being overweight appears to run in families.)

Considering the vast majority of Americans weigh too much, they are left with three choices if they’d like to regain their health:

1) Eat fewer calories.

2) Exercise more.

3) Eat fewer calories and exercise more.

The same options apply if you love your weight and would like to stay there. You have to make sure your calories consumed always hover around or below the number of calories you burn.

Exercise is gold. I wrote a post called Nine Reasons to Exercise that I refer back to periodically when my motivation runs dry or I get out of the habit. I also love this persuasive video. There’s just no getting around the fact that exercise improves and lengthens your life.

Thanksgiving 2013. We deliberately make exercise a part of our family culture.

That being said, one pound of fat represents 3500 calories and running three miles burns just ~300-350 calories. Although there are many side benefits to getting out there and working out, if you use this approach without changing your diet, progress will be slow. You may actually find your appetite increasing (and your tendency to justify extra eating increasing) with the extra exercise, so the scale might not change much at all. Obviously, this can be frustrating. If you experience this and if exercise isn’t truly a habit for you, your new exercise routine will likely fall by the wayside. But, if you couple exercise with diet change, you’ll see results quickly.

In fact, the single most effective change you can make to lose weight and keep it off is to change your diet. Eating a diet based on whole plant foods will have you filling up on far more fiber and a wider variety of nutrients accompanied by far fewer calories.

Eat what?

I’ve written quite a bit about why we eat the way we do, but as a quick recap: We try to fill 90% of our diet with healthy food: vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds, and beans. It turns out there is a tremendous variety of delicious food that falls under this umbrella. We eat far better now than we did before we made the change 7 years ago.

It’s a diet that prevents heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and reduces the risk for many kinds of cancer. It’s backed by the best scientific research available. Eating like this has simplified our grocery shopping (and could easily lower the bill if we didn’t splurge on berries all the time ;) !), changed our palates, and given our kids the best start we can towards a healthy relationship with healthy foods.

A baked sweet potato is a truly happy wintertime meal for a toddler.

Calorie counting and pitfalls

With a healthy diet, calorie counting becomes unnecessary. So many healthy foods are high in fiber and water and low in calories that you can generally eat as much as you like at each meal and still achieve a healthy weight. No tiny portions. No growling stomach. Just big plates (or bowls) of yum.

Weight Watchers has it right when it comes to vegetables: They are zero points. The more you eat of them, the better off you’ll be. I’ve eaten like this through three pregnancies (with brief breaks for saltines and strange cravings) and nursing three babies. My husband lost over a hundred pounds and eats this way to maintain a healthy weight.

However, there are still several pitfalls to be aware of. If you have changed your diet and are still not losing the weight you want, or you see your weight creeping up again, or you simply want to get the biggest nutritional bang you can for your calories, read on:


Oil is not a health food. It is an incredibly concentrated source of calories with very little redeeming value. We use it, but only when it matters. Consider the following example:

My friend who was trying to improve her family’s diet mentioned she has a GREAT healthy whole grain pancake recipe, and mentioned that it does have some oil in it. When I asked her how much, she said “1/4 cup per batch, but we usually double it” (for her family of two toddlers and her husband). This friend had been trying to make changes in her diet to achieve weight loss.

Switching from white flour pancakes to whole wheat pancakes is definitely a positive change. But 1/2 cup of oil adds 960 calories to that recipe. And yet, the pancakes aren’t any more bulky or filling than they would be without that oil. Adding 1/2 cup of oil to that batter is adding 1.7 king sized Snickers bars worth of calories to the family meal. But, because the pancakes are whole grain, they still “feel” healthy so everyone stacks plenty on their plates and feels virtuous enough afterwards that they splurge on dessert that night. See the trap?

Ideas for reducing oil, and its worthless calories:
- Pretty much every new recipe we try at our house, we cut the oil in half right off the bat, and we often eliminate it entirely.
- I often saute vegetables in a regular pan, with no oil. Onions “sweat” and make it unnecessary, and I just toss in a little vegetable broth or water if something happens to stick.
- I often just greatly reduce the amount of oil I use in baked goods or I substitute in applesauce. (This works for things like muffins and pancakes. I don’t recommend it for desserts. You will have to experiment to see what works for you.)
- Think twice before using oil in a recipe: Will I taste this and appreciate it? A little olive oil drizzled on bruschetta is a YES for us. Many other things are a no.

Nuts and seeds

I love nuts and seeds. I grind up flax to dump sprinkle on our oatmeal and muesli, and I use it as an egg substitute when I bake. I use nuts to make Chia Pudding and Pop ‘Ems, along with creamy sauces for my lasagne and kale.

But nuts are calorically dense and throwing back handfuls of them (or frequently making creamy sauces with them) is not a good idea unless you’re burning the calories to justify those habits.

I keep it simple and stick to a handful or so of nuts a day. If I’m trying to dial down my weight, nuts and seeds are the first things I’ll watch.

These pop ‘ems are yummy and packed with calories. They’re perfect for a snack to take while hiking. They are terrible for a snack to eat mindlessly while watching t.v.

Processed whole grains

The second thing I might dial back is processed whole grains. This includes breads and pasta. Things like steel cut oats or cooked brown rice are fairly bulky and high in moisture content so they will appropriately make you feel full. But I can put down a lot of bread without quenching my appetite. So again, if I’m working out a lot (or nursing a hungry baby!) I will happily eat more nuts and processed grains. But if I’d like to reduce calories in my diet, rather than count anything, I just keep a lid on my consumption of these foods.

My muffins are healthier… but they’re still muffins. :)

My kids and I can polish off a whole loaf of my cinnamon raisin whole wheat bread slathered with homemade apple butter for lunch. But, if I want to pay attention to calories, I’ll divvy up a bell pepper or two for us before slicing up the bread.


At our house, we shoot for about 90% whole plant foods. We periodically make decadent desserts, go out to eat, eat fancy cheese on crackers, etc. This is not a daily or usually even a weekly occurrence though. Generally we just enjoy eating a variety of healthy food and we choose to indulge in fruit, dark chocolate, creamy nut sauces, etc. (can you tell I love my cashew kale recipe right now? ;) ).

However, we live in a culture in which it is totally normal to bring boxes of donuts to a doctor’s office to share (my husband’s kryptonite) and where every get-together includes food. There are a solid 2 1/2 months of the year of seemingly non-stop indulging on candy, pies, fudge, and cookies at every event. I’m usually the odd duck out, because I’ll often decline unhealthy food unless it’s extra delicious. (No store bought cookies for me because they’re just not worth it!) It’s telling that it’s nearly impossible to find a restaurant with truly healthy options.

I have written about how palates can change to love healthy food. Well, they can also change right back again with too much backsliding. Periodically, we find that we need to do a “course correction” and get back on track with how we’re eating. We have to make sure our habits are actually in line with our goals.

Backsliding is common with diet change because you have a lifetime of habits to break and a world around you that thinks you’re crazy. Simply get back on track as soon as you notice a trend you’re not happy with.

Failure to consider the source of the calories

I don’t mean to harp on waffles, but I just got a vegetarian recipe suggestion in my inbox for these Cinnamon Whole Wheat Waffles and they illustrate this point very well. The description says that this recipe uses oil instead of butter, for a lower fat breakfast dish. WRONG! Oil and butter have the exact same number of calories per tablespoon. And in this particular recipe, you are looking at 640 calories from oil for one small batch of waffles.

“But they are whole wheat!” you might say. Well, for that same batch, you’re getting 683 calories from whole wheat flour. It’s practically a tie. These are neither lower fat than they would be if you were to use butter, nor will they do your waistline any favors.

Before you eat big portions of something because “it’s healthy!” it’s good to understand where your calories are actually coming from.

To achieve or maintain an appropriate weight, you only have so many calories to work with. Make sure they fill you up and fuel you well!

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Kids, Why we do it | 5 Comments

Furnaces: 99.94% Effective

I’ll be 30 years old in April and as far as I can recall, I have had a working furnace every week of my life.

Except this last one.

So really, I have nothing to complain about.

In fact, in college, my husband and I lived in an old hotel-style apartment which was situated directly above the noisiest, most vigorous boiler you can imagine. It made the whole little brick building so blazing hot nearly year-round that we called it The Brick Oven. (The lack of air-conditioning of any kind ensured the summer months were right up there in temperature as well.) So all things considered, I have probably partaken of more than my fair share of generated heat in my life to this point.

In addition to celebrating ~1543 weeks straight of having instant access to warmth whenever I desired it, I’m also celebrating the following today:

- We are renting. So we will not be paying a penny of the major bill coming for a new furnace and heat pump.

- Our old furnace’s 28th birthday! It passed without any fanfare about a month ago, but considering furnaces usually only last 15-20 years according to The Internet, I should say ours deserves some recognition for “hanging in there” for so long.

- We can put a space heater in each bedroom and crank them about halfway up before blowing a fuse. That keeps everyone comfortable at night.

- We moved last year! In Oregon it is a balmy 36 degrees right now. If we were still living in Columbus, Ohio, we’d be hovering at 19 with snow in the forecast.

- My husband is more sympathetic than usual when the dishes stack up. ;) I have poor circulation in my hands and getting them wet when the house is this cold is bad news.

- Feetie pajamas all day long! My kids love it.

- Oatmeal, mulled cider, and pretty much any warm meal all taste 10x better than they did last week.

- Many memories have been made. Big piles of pillows and blankets with popcorn to snuggle close and watch a movie… dancing around the kitchen to stay warm… warm mugs of water on demand… I did mention 24×7 pajamas, yes? … working out with Scott in the evenings and doing crazy jumping jacks to help us warm up faster…

- We are on day 5 without heat and aside from a few giggly “I’m freezing!” comments from our oldest (and skinniest) child, I can honestly say that the only complaints I’ve heard about the recent temperature change in our house have been from me and Scott. My kids are total troopers and they inspire me to toughen up.

The adventure is slated to end 3-4 days from now so we’re trying to enjoy it while it lasts. ;)

Posted in Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Capes > Bibs

Posted in Funny kids, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Oregon gets snow! Who knew?

I was surprised by some very cold days and snow that stuck around for a while!

Here’s our front yard:

My girls insisted on going out to play as soon as it started accumulating even though we were caught a bit off guard in terms of cold weather gear.

I stayed in the warm house and occasionally popped outside to document my kids’ discomfort.

(Note Mackenzie’s shoes and Caitlyn’s lack of a coat!)

Actually, they had a ball and that picture was taken at the very last minute when they were frozen and heading in… and I insisted they go back for a photo. :)

I wasn’t kidding about the part where I hid in the warm house though. I really intensely dislike being cold.

My kids are made of tougher stuff.

In this picture they are “gathering the snow into a huge pile to jump in!” I think they’re still used to Ohio snow storms. ;)

Posted in Life as we know it | Leave a comment

Compromise or Sacrifice? – On Marital Bliss

About a year ago, Scott took care of the girls for two days and I flew to Philadelphia for my friend’s wedding. Of our group of five best girl friends from high school, I was the first married and the other girls came and supported me on my big day. Eight years had come and gone and another one of us was getting married so I wasn’t going to miss it if I could possibly help it.

High school graduation

On the day of my wedding

Did I mention I was nearly 37 weeks pregnant when my friend got married? I went anyway and I’m so glad I did. :)

This was taken a week after I got back from Philly! I was pretty pregnant.

I flew into Philadelphia, took a train and two buses and arrived at my friend’s house for the night-before party. It was pretty strange to spend a whole day on my own in a big city, figuring out public transportation and just being… alone. After being a mom of babies and toddlers for nearly 5 years, (and a wife for 8) making choices based purely on my own desires took some getting used to. It was great to get outside of my comfort zone and spend some time exploring the city and pondering life.

At one point at the party, I was chatting with several old friends. One was accompanied by her boyfriend and she asked me what my best advice would be to someone considering marriage (or something along those lines).

Honestly, nearly all of my friends in Columbus were married at that point so it had been a long time since I’d contemplated the dating scene or the selection of a spouse. My friend seemed to be in earnest so I looked her right in the eye and said,

Marriage requires sacrifice.

Another friend standing nearby quickly interjected, “You mean compromise.” (Incidentally, this particular friend was not married and didn’t seem particularly interested in marriage.)

I considered what she said, and replied, “No, that’s part of a happy marriage as well. But I am talking about sacrifice. Compromise might look like ‘I’ll do the dishes tonight if you do the dishes tomorrow night.’ Sacrifice looks like, ‘I may do the dishes every night for a whole year* and not expect you to reciprocate. I’m doing it because I love you and I’m happy to help you this way.’

My “compromise” friend had a visceral reaction to my response. I could tell she was getting all indignant about the idea of a woman doing all the dishes just to make her husband happy. But my theory is that in order to have a successful marriage, you have to put your pride on the shelf.

Selfishness gets left at the door and the beautiful thing is, you actually end up happier and more content when you think less about your own wants and needs and more about the other person’s. Compromise asks “how can I get you to agree and still have things my way as much as possible?” Sacrifice says that you are willing to walk THEIR way, hand in hand.

2004, during our engagement

As I tried to articulate to my single friends, my husband’s happiness should be near the top of my priority list. Because I love him, I would move heaven and earth for him. I would certainly wash all the dishes if that brought a smile to his face.

Here’s the kicker though: Doing so should also bring a smile to MY face. There are definitely times when sacrifices require… well.. sacrifice on my part. But there are many times in a good marriage where it is truly a pleasure to give something or give up something because you know doing so will bring your spouse happiness.

If I’m having a hard time with something I know I should do for my husband, all it takes is a quick mental review of some of the hundreds of things he has willingly sacrificed for me and for our family before I’m much more willing to do what needs to be done.

Also 2004

Laundry lessons

I still chuckle thinking back to our first year of marriage and what I learned while folding laundry. Scott likes his socks folded a certain way: in thirds. I grew up just folding over the tops, so that’s how I was doing all our socks. As I recall, he politely requested that his be folded in thirds, and I promptly got huffy and full of what I considered at the time to be righteous indignation.

Here I was, already doing HIS laundry and now he wanted to be particular about his socks?! Who cares how socks are folded?!

For a while, I would just fold down the top anyway and he’d quietly fold his own socks in thirds later.

This, I’m amused to recall, drove me batty. I was convinced I was married to a stubborn crazy person.

Had we not made a commitment before marriage to only speak positively about each other to other people, I’m sure my friends would have heard an earful about my impossible husband and his rigid approach to laundry.

I don’t recall when I had a change of heart… but it might have been on one of the days when Scott had woken up early yet again to clear the snow off our car for me because he knows my hands get cold super easily. Whatever the reason, on this particular day I was once again folding socks and I thought, “Who cares how socks are folded? My husband does. And I don’t.” And since that day, I’ve folded his in thirds. Easy peasy.

(When my five year old started folding our laundry, I taught her how her daddy likes his socks folded and she was excited. “Now I can make Daddy happy with nice socks!” She’s a wise one.)

A shortcut to marital harmony

A similar scenario was played out in many different ways during our first year of marriage, and periodically since then. In the beginning, we’d sometimes have loooooonnnnng conversations as we tried to “compromise” on things we both had opinions about.

Now we spend our talking time on more fruitful subjects.

When our opinions differ on something, we cut to the chase. “This is a 9 for me” I’ll say, meaning it’s pretty darn important and ranks highly for me on the 0-10 Scale of Importance we use. “Meh,” he’ll say, “It’s a 3 for me.” Done deal. He cheerfully goes along with my way even if he would have chosen differently if left to his own devices.

A little wisdom earned through lots of failure

Since that one brief conversation with my friends, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice and how it’s been key to my marriage and my happiness. I’ve seen in hindsight how my hesitancy to sacrifice has caused unnecessary heartache and conflict. I have reflected on occasions when one or both of us has sacrificed greatly for the other and it’s been crucial in getting us through difficult times.

And it must be said, if you haven’t learned to find joy in sacrificing for those you love before having children, you’re in for a crash course the first time you’d like a solid night’s sleep after welcoming a baby to your family.

If I get asked a similar question about keys to a successful marriage again, or perhaps what to look for in a future spouse, I’d answer:

Marry a hard-worker. Marry someone who loves you and shows you that love by sacrificing for your happiness. Marry someone who you communicate well with. And if possible, marry someone who makes you laugh. :)

And in case you’re wondering, my husband was the one who pretty much washed every dish for a year for me when I was pregnant because he knows dishes are my nemesis.

Marrying this man was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Neither of us are perfect but there’s no one I’d rather walk with through life.

Here we are, walking out of our reception and completely oblivious that the coming months would bring sock folding woes. We were clueless then (and still are today) about the legitimate sorrows and triumphs the years to come will bring, but I’m glad we’ll face them together.

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