Yesterday morning, Bill plugged something into an outlet in our den – the room with the computer – and the room lost power. He tried the circuit breakers, but this wasn’t a simple overload. He called maintenance, and they sent some guys out within an hour or so. They diagnosed a loose wire, and set about trying to locate it. They found the offending connection at the circuit breaker box, but they also found, among the web of wires there, about six wires that were charred.

Yes, charred.

This house was built just over a year ago. Fire, especially an electrical fire, is one of those things I’m paranoid about. And after last fall’s experience when my smoke-filled house failed to detonate a single smoke detector, I’m very grateful that God loves us so much He’ll bend over backwards to protect us from what I consider certain death. One of us, and not likely me, is destined for something greater, and we’re all benefiting from the Divine protection offered to that one.

For some time, they left us with some power: A/C and hot water and some outlets. By early afternoon though, they had cut everything off. They started mentioning alternative sleeping arrangements. If not for the A/C, I would have gladly just stayed without power in our own home. It was a great debate in my mind – the comfort of my own bed vs. the comfort of climate control. When you are 22 weeks pregnant, this is a tough call.

Since it wasn’t yet too hot in the house, we stayed for a while doing our sorting and cleaning and other fun getting-ready-to-move things. Then we opted to head to the pool. The maintenance guys were returning as we were leaving. Thank goodness, they called us an hour or so later and told us it was all fixed. And so, after feeding the kids pool-side deep-fried chicken nuggets and fries, we returned to the well air conditioned fire trap with comfortable beds.

As I’ve said to Bill perhaps a hundred times in the last year: I’m so glad we don’t own this house. Our 55 year old fixer-upper in New Jersey is a much smaller headache than this place.

The last page of another chapter

Bill’s parting words this morning, on his last day, after we had just touched on a few of the things on our to-do list:

Humperdink: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work. But, I’ve got my country’s five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.

Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

Today is a beautiful day.

A Recap of the Week

It was a long, busy, first week of summer vacation.

On Monday, Billy got his staples out of his head. I tried to make a same-day appointment, but they told me to just walk in. They made us (all 6 of us) wait for well over an hour. Some things you just have to offer up.

That afternoon, I had an OB checkup. In and out in 15 minutes.

Tuesday was my ultrasound. Wednesday, Fritz had an appointment with the orthodontist and had his expander removed. I can understand him so much better now. And the dentist called and was able to squeeze Billy in last minute for a tiny filling (the first cavity among the kids).

That evening, Fritz had his Scouts den meeting. Only 4 boys came. They all helped in a demonstration to make a foil dinner packet. Then the dad pulled out one already cooked and everyone sampled it. My boys thought it was great. It is true that children are more willing to taste food if they help to prepare it.

When they were all done, out came the snacks with plenty of extras for the siblings who were there (mostly mine, but I brought the snacks). All the kids were on the back of one dad’s pickup truck, but the 4 boys from the den plus Billy grabbed their snacks and ran off to a bit of woods across a field near the parking lot.

This left my girls and two other girls in the pickup truck with Petey. It took about 60 seconds for Petey to look around, assess the situation, and determine that he should be with the boys and not the girls. “Down, Mommy,” he said, and he was gone.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting little Mary Claire who is so very pretty. Mama Cris is another Catholic, military, homeschooler, and it’s a shame that our paths are crossing just this one time right now. The blogosphere is fine, but being able to hang out in someone else’s house while your children eat their complete supply of graham crackers tops 20 love notes in the com-box any day.

As we were leaving, her almost 4 year old daughter and my daughters were talking about a sleepover, which just isn’t going to happen in these few brief weeks. In the ever-mobile military, you have to accept that the physical closeness of friends (like the physical closeness of the spouse serving in the military) is a luxury. Just before Scouts on Wednesday evening, we ran over to another friend’s house to deliver a goodbye card that Katie had made. The departing kids were packed in the car, the parents were loading the last few things and waiting for housing to do the final walk-through. The mom and I hugged, we smiled, we wished each other well on our new adventures. We didn’t exchange cell phone numbers or email addresses. We like each other, we have stuff in common, we got along, but we weren’t able to develop a really deep friendship. Maybe I’ll never see her again. Maybe I will, and if so, we’ll pick up right where we left off. And in between, we will both have other friends with whom we’ll spend a few hours a few times lingering over tea and good conversation while the kids play, perhaps helping out in a pinch a few times, and then hugging and wishing well when it’s time for the next duty station.

This military life is so impermanent. But in the final analysis, so too is our life here on earth. If you want to learn detachment to things, people, places: be a military spouse.

Yesterday, my friend Rachel and I went kid-less to the IHM Conference. I really enjoyed listening to Laura Berquist speak. It is comforting to hear someone who is at the end now of her homeschooling career (her youngest of 6 just finished high school) talk about all the same issues you face daily. There is hope, you can succeed, it won’t kill you, the kids will turn out great, your family will be strong. Now if I can just bottle that message and get a whiff once a month or so, I’ll be fine!

Then I had to hurry home from the conference to take the kids to their baseball team’s party. This coach, a neighbor and friend of ours, was great. Always encouraging, always displaying and teaching good sportsmanship, always pushing but not too hard – I wish all my kids’ coaches could be like him. It’s no wonder the team only lost one game. It’s not that we had the best hitters or that the coach put the strongest players at the key positions: we didn’t, and he didn’t. He just pulled from each kid the best effort they had and managed to get 7 to 9 year olds to cooperate as a team. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

The party was fun with a kids vs. adults (and teens) pickup game, hotdogs and chips, and trophies. {On the way there, Fritz, with a concerned tone, asked if I was going to play…you know, since I was pregnant and all. I assured him that I would not, knowing that chasing Petey would be enough for me, and thinking it was a good thing I had a toddler to watch since otherwise I probably would have been fool enough to join in.} By the time their later than usual bedtime came around, I was sapped. This weekend will be busy with the Scout Pack camping out tonight, and the boys crossing over to the next level.

Monday is Bill’s last day of work.

The movers come in 18 days.

That to-do list does not have enough things crossed off.

Silver lining

Bill got home last night from Alaska, and not a day too soon. The very first thing he did this morning was kill a spider in our bathroom – “a big ‘un,” he said. Eek! I had just been in there, but remained blissful unaware of its lurking presence.

If you’re a civilian and you’ve wondered about the term “Army Brat” and how it came into being, wonder no more. Bill and I figured it out about four years ago when he came home on a 4 day pass. The circus was in town. We took the kids. We bought popcorn. We bought souvenirs. It’s hard not to spoil kids when you know that they miss out on so much every other day of the week (or month or year).

Bill picked up a few things for them while he was in Alaska, too: stuffed animals appropriate for the state (a husky, a moose and a puffin), a small carved totem pole, a book on Balto, postcards.

But I won’t complain about the frivolity, since I’m the biggest benefactor. “I got you something,” he said as he pulled out a plastic bag and moved it under my nose. “I didn’t want it to stink up my luggage.” And “stink” it did: of spice and orange and cinnamon. He reached inside and pulled out another bag…and then another. It was like a matrioshka doll game as he literally peeled off a dozen wrappings with the smell getting stronger every time finally revealing a loose black tea flavored with cinnamon, clove, lemon and orange. He also bought a tea tin to store it in and a tea cup to drink it out of.

I’d rather he not go away for a week. But since he did, I’ll happily accept being spoiled.

Random thoughts from the cook

Peanuts do not go well with pumpkin. If the recipe calls for “nuts” and you think throwing in that small 1/4 cup of peanuts and the last of the walnuts too, don’t. The peanuts will overwhelm the flavor in a most unpleasant way.

If you make something yummy, like homemade macaroni and cheese, and you know the kids won’t like it, it is best to put heaping servings on their plates anyway. It is mentally much easier to scrape their plates into the garbage than to scrape the remainder from the crockpot into the garbage. And you do not need to eat a pound of macaroni and cheese all by yourself.

Do not make banana cream pie two days before your husband leaves on a trip. He will not eat his fair share before he goes.

It is much easier to “treat” skinny, need-more-fat-on-the-bones kids than overweight ones. It is difficult to avoid following the same diet of whole milk loaded with Carnation Instant Breakfast and Oreo cookie milkshakes yourself.

Making your own chewy granola bars in an effort to avoid high fructose corn syrup and in order to add certain other things (like finely crushed nuts since he doesn’t like nuts) will guarantee that everybody will like it, except for the one really skinny kid for whom the recipe was custom-made. This skinny kid will also declare ice cream to be “junk food” and make annoying statements like “I just don’t like eating” causing you to seriously wonder if someone switched babies in the hospital.

Attempting to custom-make healthy snacks for the kids, use up ingredients in the pantry and make a meal for another family all in the same few days will generate a whole lot of dishes, crumb/sauce/debris strewn counters, and a dog happy from cleaning the floor.

St. Gianna’s Maternity Home Raffle

Danielle Bean has put together a tremendous fundraiser for St. Gianna’s Maternity Home in Warsaw, North Dakota. For every $5 donated, you get a chance to win one of the many prizes: from gift certificates to major retailers to autographed copies of books.

St. Gianna’s Home is a worthy cause. From the Director’s Message at their website:

We are here to help women who are pregnant and need a safe place to live.

Sometimes expecting a child can be overwhelming especially if the mother is not getting the support or help she needs from family members or from the father of the child. We believe every mother deserves to give birth with dignity and respect.

At Saint Gianna’s Home every mother will find love and support in a spiritual and family-type environment. The home offers safe shelter, clothing, assistance in finding a good doctor, educational opportunities including the chance to learn job skills and parenting skills. With God’s grace, good things can come from even the most difficult situations. The Gianna Home is here to stand by all mothers so that they can find the right solutions for themselves and their children.

So, you can be assured (as you cross your fingers and hope it’s your name that gets picked for a $100 gift certificate to Vera Bradley) that it’s all for a good charity, and any possibility of reward (like a handmade bracelet made from old rosaries or a handmade rug) does not negate that good deed.

Danielle, I can only imagine how much work this is for you (not saving your post is the least of your headaches, I’m sure). But, thank you. Your generosity surpasses that of any of your donors.

Not fooling anybody

My midwife just called. She has the results of the ultrasound I had done this morning. Everything looks fine, except…

…except, they estimate my due date to be two weeks earlier than the date given based on the first day of my last period.

This might be because I, well, um, didn’t really tell them the real first day of my last period. After my first three pregnancies where the babies all came late and doctors were threatening inducing me (Katie, in fact, was induced, but there are other reasons for that), I was fed up with arguing, tired of going “against medical advice,” and pretty ticked off at doctors who basically said that they knew better because they were doctors and my own personal experience with my own body and pregnancies wasn’t worth as much as their degrees.

Fritz came 10 days “late” and my due date was moved later after an early ultrasound. Billy came 11 days “late” and this due date was moved later because I had had one negative pregnancy test. Based on the first day of my last period, these guys would have been about 2 1/2 weeks “late”. The doctor refused to push my due date later with Katie because the ultrasound only indicated a later date of 6 days, not 7. She was induced 10 days “late” – more like a week early based on my prior experience, but you can’t argue with those degrees.

Since I’m moving, this midwife is passing the buck to the midwife in Kansas. I’ll see what she wants to do about this “problem.” I’m insisting that my last cycle was normal, and my dates are right. My kids have all been healthy with no signs of being in the womb too long. I know my cycles are longer than “normal” and I know I ovulate later than most. I predicted Jenny’s due date exactly right, and I was 4 days off for Pete. I just don’t want a battle royale in October.

Tasty Tuesday

I’m still clearing the freezer and the pantry. I had a half pound of elbow macaroni and a can of evaporated milk, so I threw together Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese. My kids prefer Kraft and won’t eat this, but I’ll try. If they did like it, it would make a great meal for late start mornings or busy afternoons, since it only takes 3 or 4 hours to cook. I’m serving it with leftover ham out of the freezer.

Tasty Tuesday is hosted by Angie.

Wedding Present Bleg

I need to buy a wedding present for a Spanish speaking newly married couple. I was thinking of a plaque that said “God Bless This Home” or something like that – in Spanish, of course. They have actually been married for a while and have two school-aged daughters, but just recently married in the Church – sacramentally. I’m checking out the usual Catholic retailers, but I’m not finding a plethora of choices for Spanish speakers.

Also, I’m looking for Marian items for another woman, from icons to rosary boxes, where Mary doesn’t have milk-white skin. Our Lady of Guadalupe is fine, but seems to be the only choice other than Black Madonnas which tend to be very Orthodox looking.

Both intended gift-recipients are from Central America and the second woman speaks about 5 words of English. I’m out of my league here in shopping for ladies with a very different cultural background. We share our faith, and although they admire my European Madonnas with fair skin, I would prefer to gift them with something that respects their heritage.