Friday, August 10, 2012

summer beach weekend

the only time they're all still is when Milo and Otis is on
Lucy and her pal McKenna
Although this old blog has been quite quiet this summer, our lives have been anything but. One of our favorite summer memories so far was spending a weekend at the coast. Our adventure started at home where we got to hang out with our favorite little pal Eli on a Saturday morning.

From there we drove to Lincoln City to spend time with Chris's cousins celebrating Tracy's 30th birthday (Happy Birthday Tracy!). Unfortunately my camera was in the car during this part so you'll have to take my word for it that it was a blast. What a gift to live within a couple hours of the most generous, hospitable and most of all FUN people ever. We really need to get out there more!

Next we headed up 101 to Seaside, with a pit stop in Tillamook for some grilled cheese and ice cream. And this time we remembered the camera!

Maryn took this one.

Lucy gets the credit for this winning shot.

She's getting better!

We finally made it to Seaside that night where our wonderful friends invited us to stay at a charming little beach cottage with them. Early the next morning the kids were awake and ready to go, so we tried to tiptoe out of the house and down to the beach to avoid waking anyone else up.
super adorable house!
Brrr! The sand is cold at 6:30 in the morning
 This is a morning I will remember for a long time - watching my girls play with abandon, kicking up their heels in the water and sending cold spray high in the air, chasing one another through the patterns made by the rising sun on the ever changing shore. They are growing up so very fast. I try to hold these precious moments of fun and freedom as they come and enjoy them to the fullest.

Daddy found us!
Father-son bonding over more Milo and Otis

So precious

After lounging around the house a bit, we went out for breakfast and rode the carousel.

He looked a bit nervous at the beginning, but wanted "more" when it was over
We went back to the beach for a couple more hours of playing in the sand and sea. It was a perfect end to a perfect weekend!
two very tired kiddos on the drive home

Thursday, May 3, 2012

if you're appy and you know it...

The title of this post, while cheesy, refers to a few things of late:

The song sung many times a day around these parts for the benefit of this little guy (the son of our dear friends) who can clap and stomp and hooray with the best of them:

The cockney dialect of the most recent book I read, which was just wonderful and enlightening and makes me even more excited to pursue a career in nursing and/or midwifery (thanks for the recommendation, Karen!).

The abbreviated name of the organ of which dear Lucy was dispossessed during a 30 hour hospital stay two weeks ago.

It began one afternoon after rest time when Lucy woke up with a tummy ache. She was just not quite feeling like herself. Now this girl has a penchant for saying "my stomach hurts" then going on to play like nothings wrong until she hurls all over the place. There's just no knowing with her - she could be really sick, or she could just need a little extra fiber and a trip to the bathroom. This time it was the former, and saltines and gatorade did nothing to deter the onslaught of what I thought was a stomach bug. She went to bed early and I prayed it would be a 24 hour thing that would be over by morning.

The next thing I remember was being woken at 3:00 with a little face right next to mine saying "mommy, it hurts REALLY bad." My eyes weren't even open yet, but my momma radar must have been working over time because the first thought in my mind was "appendicitis." Lucy climbed into our bed, holding her right side. She was feverish, but apart from the stomach pain was surprisingly chipper considering the hour. The advice nurse checked her symptoms, asked a few questions (Does it hurt to walk? Does her abdomen feel tender to the touch? How high is her fever?) and Lucy and I were soon in the car on the way to the pediatric ER. Lucy talked the whole way there, and there was a little part of me that assumed we'd be sent home before too long. She just seemed too OK. She was even walking with me as we wound our way through the halls until someone took pity on us and walked me to the right wing.

We were sent for an ultrasound which the ER doctor said could be anywhere from 50-98% conclusive for diagnosing appendicitis. He was also concerned the pain could be related to an ovary as it was lower than usual appendix tenderness. I asked the technician if her appendix looked alright. "No, I wouldn't say that" was the response, and I made some calls in preparation for an overnight stay. A few hours and one IV later we were settled into a room upstairs at Doernbecher Children's Hospital - the same room we were in 4 years ago as little Lucy recovered from open heart surgery. Here is a photo of her before surgery, smiley as can be:
The entire procedure was less than 45 minutes long, and it took her longer to come out of anesthesia than it did to remove the angry appendix. It had not yet burst and the whole thing from onset to surgery was perfectly textbook. Lucy was home the very next day, with a tiny baind-aid over her belly button and was running around the backyard that afternoon. Modern medicine is amazing!

playing in the backyard with Eli - less than 24 hrs after surgery

A classic case of appendicitis starts with a stomach ache and low-grade fever and can mimic a stomach flu. Gradually (usually over 12 hours), pain localizes in the lower right quadrant of the belly and becomes quite acute. Symptoms in younger children are hard to read, mainly because they cannot articulate exactly how it feels or where it hurts. It is far better to be safe than sorry, and although appendicitis in youngsters (under 11 years old) is rare, the appendix can often rupture because treatment is sought so late. I have taken Maryn to urgent care in the past with possible appendicitis and was both relieved and chagrined to realize it was only constipation. But saving ourselves a Heaven is For Real ordeal is totally worth an extra copay and mild embarrassment.

The upside to all of this was getting to see the sweet bond that has developed between my girls. Lucy's one constant concern was that Maryn would miss her and would be lonely without a playmate. Hearing them talk on the phone to each other was priceless - I am so thankful to see that their friendship is deepening with age, and Maryn's sweet care for Lucy was precious to see. It cracked me up when seconds after waking up from anesthesia Lucy asked "where's Maryn?" She arrived back to the room in a stupor but instantly sat up in bed and rummaged around until she found the stuffed frog she wanted to give her sister. She promptly fell asleep again :)

Our friends and family were amazing as well and I felt almost silly for receiving dinner, flowers and gifts for the kids when Lucy was running around like crazy hours after arriving home. I am so thankful for family, great medical care, and friends who never fail to come through. And a little girl with a generous spirit and silliness to spare!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Valentine dinner + chocolate shortbread recipe

Thanks for the sweet words about our valentine story! It was fun to think back about that time and the newness of it all. What a whirlwind the next two years turned out to be! I'm thankful we took a chance on that first date :)

In honor of our first Valentine, our tradition is for Chris to make dinner while I make something for dessert. We eat at home instead of braving the crowds, and it usually takes place on a day other than Valentines because I have a habit of deserting my hubby on Love day :) For the first couple of years after we had kids, we put them to bed early and ate a nice meal together - a romantic date in the comfort of home. But as the kids grew we decided to make it a family celebration and now the kids help set the table and make things fancy while Chris is cooking. And then they ask that Daddy cook all the meals from now on because it ends up being so delicious!

making chocolate shortbread hearts with the kiddos

For dessert we used one of Chris's favorite recipes for shortbread cookies. The recipe is from the Kutsch Family Cookbook, but just in case you're not a cookbook carrying member of our family, I'll share it right here, at the end of this post :) They're easy and scrumptious and I bet you can't eat just one!

A sweet friend gave us the best Christmas gift EVER when she gave us a box of things to open each month for the next year. Part of February's surprise were these place-mats which we decorated with things we love about each other. It is so much fun adding to our traditions each year! And I'll have to do a blog post all about her clever gift soon :)

hard at work on the place-mats.

Candle-lit dinner for four with homemade chicken Alfredo and bruschetta. Mmmm...
Totally out of focus photo in which I chopped off my hubby's head, but doesn't he have a sweet smile?? Someone please teach me how to take low light indoor photos in weird lighting cause I need help :)
Carol's Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder                      2 cups flour
1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar                  1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter                                            1 tsp vanilla

Using a food processor, pulse all dry ingredients in the bowl until mixed. Cut cold butter into small slices over dry ingredients. Add the vanilla. Process until it holds together in a clump. Form the dough into a ball and flatten slightly. Roll out on a floured surface until it is 1/2 inch thick (don't go too thin!). Use a cookie cutter dipped in flour to cut out circles or shapes, and place them 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

The dough is just as yummy as the rich, buttery cookies - just ask Chris :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine Story

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my first date with Chris. Ten years ago today I waited in giddy anticipation for my friend, the one I had shared so many late night college talks with, to pick me up from a cinder-walled dorm room and whisk me away for a romantic Valentines date.

We had known each other for almost two years and had become good friends; spending time together over the summer between semesters and working together on the college newspaper. What began as hanging out together in groups of mutual friends became long evening talks on the Biltmore wall overlooking Butterfly beach, just the two of us, sitting long into the night while the waves crashed out of sight below us and provided the background to conversations about life, love (or lack thereof), the future and other silliness that I can't now remember. In a story much like many others at our little Christian college (where most of the girls joked about going to get their Mrs. degree), friendship grew into something more, culminating in a "DTR" (define the relationship) talk over milkshakes at a Carrows downtown. We were new to this dating business and nervous, worried about ruining what had become a familiar and comfortable friendship.

So it was with slight unease and nervous excitement that I waited for Chris that night. I remember that feeling so well, though many of the other details have been lost. I knew whatever happened, things were changing, and I've never been great with change.

As I hopped into his car we exchanged shy smiles. We drove the familiar route to the beach with the heat on, mitigating the California version of a cold winter's evening. Chris had the trunk packed with picnic blankets and an assortment of goodies including warm wassail and I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and planning. After getting everything arranged on the beach he announced that he had to go get one thing and would be back in about 10 minutes. He had ordered dinner at a nice Italian restaurant up the road and wanted to bring it back piping hot. I was a tad disappointed to be left alone on the beach for even a few minutes, but the backdrop was beautiful as the sun began to set so I waited alone with my thoughts for him to return with the food.

a beach sunset

As I sat there watching the ocean waves chase one another back and forth across the sand, I felt happy and hopeful. I waved to a woman walking her little terrier by the water and was content with my thoughts, all the while periodically looking out for Chris to come back with dinner. The sun sank lower in the sky, surrounding everything with a pink glow. The air felt a little colder and my head turned with increasing frequency in the direction of the road, looking out for the familiar black car. The sun dropped lower still and the woman with the dog walked back up the beach nodding to me again. I caught her shaking her head slightly as she walked away and realized what I must look like to her, sitting alone with a picnic at the beach on Valentine's Day. I was getting worried now, and feeling a little sorry for myself to boot.

It was around this time that Chris returned, chagrined and blushing, boxes of food in hand. Apparently his order had been lost and in the midst of the Valentines rush he waited quite a while for it them to re-make it. We dug into the food as the sun slipped away beyond the horizon, and sat together under a quilt as we watched the last pink clouds fade into the indigo of night. As we packed the car to head back to campus, any nervousness I felt had dissipated with the clouds and I returned back to my dorm with a feeling of assurance that this was all going to work out. In fact, I told my stunned friends later that night that I was pretty sure Chris was the guy I would marry. Naive as that statement was, and as influenced as we probably were by the Christian college dating ethos (which has many, many flaws), eight and half years later I'm still absolutely sure that we made the right decision.

Us after our honeymoon in 2003, wearing more red than anyone should - ever.
Looking back, I can see how this first date was the perfect beginning to our almost nine years of marriage. As much as we try to plan our lives down to the last detail, unexpected situations arise that throw our plans off course. In a marriage as in life, I've found that our expectations of one another can be unrealistic, influenced by books or movies or a culture that flaunts stories of fairytale romance and happy endings. The fact that our picture perfect picnic had a hiccup was a perfect precursor to life together as flawed human beings doing our best to love one another in the midst of and in spite of those flaws. I would much rather have the reality that brings us closer together through the hurdles than the fantasy that denies such hurdles exist. And of course I am learning that the reality is the fantasy if we open our eyes to the miracle that is our choice to love another person through it all - the good the bad and the in between.

Our first Valentines Day as husband and wife, February 2004
Happy Valentine's day to my love, and to all our family and friends! Hope you enjoyed hearing a bit of our story :)