Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Greetings from RHome410

Life isn't allowing much blogging time these days, but I adapted a blog-version of our family Christmas letter, which I thought (hope!) you might enjoy....

Merry Christmas 2014!

Once again, it’s been a busy, whirlwind of a year.  The kids get older, and some even move out, but life doesn’t slow, activities don’t decrease, and even the food bill seems to hold steady!  Not to complain, because we can be nothing but thankful for the family, health, interests, and abilities that make all of this busyness possible.

Bossy, Artiste, Eager, Sassy
Princess Bossy and Prince Helium continue life in the state far away, homeowners and doggy parents.  Helium works in a downtown law firm, and Bossy works part-time in the exec asst position for a dean at the law school.  
She more than fills the rest of her time with various ministries at church, plus community organizations.  For work, she attended a conference in The Netherlands in October.  With most of Helium’s relatives living in Holland, they’d been long hoping to visit there, so were happy to take advantage of this opportunity.  Helium went along, and they added days for sightseeing and visiting family.  It was amazing to look at the photographs and see they actually stood amongst the scenery and architecture we’ve seen only in movies and in books.  With that trip and Bossy’s visit home in July, we will have to miss seeing them this Christmas.
Prince Stoic is in year 2 of his electrical apprenticeship, currently working in a commercial, high-rise project.  He is one of the high school youth leaders at a Presbyterian Church near his home in the Big City.  Much of his spare time is spent working on his BMW or his motorcycles.  We count it as blessing that he doesn’t have a garage, so he comes home to use ours.  
Inventive, Artiste, Stoic
He made a trip to California for a motorcycle course, took a couple of jaunts with friends to Oregon, and will fly to the state far away to celebrate the arrival of 2015 with Bossy and Helium.  It is fun to see how close he stays to all his siblings.  He is happy to host them and they can count on him to provide support and advice (and join in some silliness).

Princess Sassy, Prince Steadfast, and the Grandprince were finally able to move into the space above our new garage a few months before Grandprince’s first birthday.  Steadfast is back at school this year, into his full-time, junior year in Engineering, but still working full-time, too.  Sassy is blossoming as a mommy and homemaker, enjoying nesting and creating their own little home.  

She enjoys attending the MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) program at church to fellowship with other young moms.  She still nannies occasionally & coaches junior high track in the spring. Grandprince goes along, a big hit with the kids.  He is growing so fast, and is so capable and smart -- He started walking before his birthday, and has so many words already!  We love being so close, seeing all of his new developments and discoveries, and getting playtime and cuddles.

Prince Inventive finished his Assoc in Arts degree at the nearby community college in June, and decided to take some time off before finishing a degree to build his savings and be sure about what he wanted to pursue… to be sure he was on the path God intends for him.  He moved to the Big City in July, and into an apartment with his original best friend and roommate, Stoic.  He thought he might become an electrical apprentice, too, but decided, instead, to continue his education, and will begin classes in January at a Christian University, Bossy's alma mater.  
He intends to complete his degree in Marketing, and hopes to represent the school as an admissions counselor after graduation.  Right now he works 2 jobs.  He has an impact position in the stock room at a nationwide clothing retailer, and also nannies, 9 hours a day, 2 days a week, for 3 kiddos, ages 2, 4, and 6.  He’ll continue to do that after he starts school.  Like Stoic, he loves working on, and driving, his BMW.

Prince Artiste finished high school in the spring, and thought she’d be following in her also-homeschooled siblings’ footsteps by attending community college before applying to a university.  A combination academic and athletic scholarship offer from a small, private college changed all that.  She decided to jump at the seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and this birdie left the nest in August-- the 2nd to do so in 2 months.  It was a tough adjustment in the house. In addition to classes and cross country practices and meets, she’s worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the YMCA, worked in the school library, and co-founded a Christian athletes’ group. 
It’s been a learning experience, but the school hasn’t been able to meet all of her expectations and needs. Artiste is currently working on her transfer to the same school as Inventive, where she plans to major in interior design.  She believes the school, program, and environment will be a better fit for her.  She’ll live on campus, and her brothers look forward to having her nearby. 

Prince Go-for-It played baseball on school and select teams this year, so we spent much of the summer traveling the state for baseball tournaments.  He’s a good hitter and made amazing outfield plays. He was so fun to watch, and Mom got the best tan she’d had since she was 17!  ;-) Thankfully, it was the last tournament of the season when he was hit by a pitch that broke his hand. 
Go-for-it’s love for running has won out, and he is making it his only sport. He ran on the varsity cross-country team again this year, and earned his way to the district championship meet.  He plans to train hard to make the state meet next year, and, also, catch the eyes of college scouts in track this spring, and cross-country next fall.  His schedule is so full this year with his junior-year classes, drivers ed., running, his job at a local golf course, Young Life and Campaigners, and, of course, friends.  He’s showing impressive improvement in his academics, growth in his faith, and leadership potential.

Princess Eager is in 9th grade already!  She is quite the photographer and the pictures she took during Go-for-It’s baseball games were in high demand by all of his teammates.  She takes photos for friends, and was the official photographer for the Steadfast/Sassy family Christmas photos.  She gets the credit for pushing to attend the Prefontaine Classic track meet at Univ of Oregon in May, where she, Artiste, and Mom got to see world-class athletes compete.  We hope to make that an annual thing. Eager took her first ever airplane trip (alone) to visit the Bossy/Heliums for 10 days over Thanksgiving.  She had a great time, visiting attractions, helping Bossy with ministry projects, sharing Thanksgiving with B & H’s surrogate family, and ‘Black Friday’ shopping with her big sister.  Eager also ran for the high school cross-country team this year, and earned her varsity letter.  She went to the district championship meet as an alternate, which was her goal.  She still works as a childcare provider at church during MOPS and special events.
Prince CuddleBunny is a homeschooled 5th grader this year.  He is his mom’s sidekick, especially dedicated to accompanying her twice a week to take lunch to Grandpa on Wednesdays, and lunch and dinner on Sundays.  He always looks forward to making Grandpa’s gin and tonic at the appointed hour every Sunday, and exercising Gpa’s puppy.  
CuddleBunny played his first year of Little League baseball as a 3rd baseman, and was awarded his team’s Most Improved trophy.  He started the season understandably hesitant, but finished strong on defense, and hitting doubles and a triple.  His LL coaches switched to a select team, the same organization Go-for-It played with last year, so CuddleBunny made the move, too.  He loves the year-around practices, and can’t wait to start playing games in the spring.  He is truly Grandprince’s ‘Awesome Uncle CB.’  The little guy loves him so much, and CuddleBunny is a big help to Sassy when she needs an extra pair of eyes and hands.  He has been learning to fish from Go-for-It, and enjoyed a hiking/camping trip with Dad and Inventive in August.
While the rest of us gallivanted to sports events, Hubby worked 2 extra jobs this summer, also continuing progress on the garage addition.  He taught immigrant teens in the woodshop at a skills center near the Big City, and was also the work-based learning coordinator there for the summer. After that, he helped with framing on a commercial construction project.  He is disappointed in changes at school… The switch from trimesters to semesters, and other changes mean the students have less opportunity to take electives, including career prep courses like his.  He feels it is a disservice to the students who need those classes and is frustrated.  He is considering program changes to meet both student needs and changing district priorities. This fall season was his 6th as the cross-country assistant coach. 
Sassy recently suggested he try a Paleo diet… No dairy or grains… in order to lose weight and retain his health for the long haul.  He has dropped a few pounds, breathes easier at night, and he feels better, overall.  He enjoys taking our Lab, Rosie, for walks in the forest, while Go-for-It runs trails there.  He asked that Grandprince call him “Pop” instead of “Grandpa,” but in current Grandprince language, he’s “Bop!”

Life without my mom is a hard adjustment, and I feel spread especially thin this year, as wife/homemaker/homeschooling mom/sports-fan mom/mom to those at home and to those living elsewhere/grandma, and also loving daughter and sister.  Things like home projects, gardening, blogging, and sewing have given way to driving people and feeding people… or driving to feed people!  

I fit in hugs and good talks, blessed to share in my kids’ interests and developing lives, and to spend time with my dad (who had a tough bout with pneumonia in Oct, but is doing well and getting stronger). Really, I have never driven as many miles as this year, and have a ‘frozen’ shoulder that often objects.  Thankfully, the sore one is the left, so doesn’t interfere too much with the rest of life (unless sleep counts!), the family is healthy, and our messy, ever-evolving house has the promise of a nice home underneath the drop-it-and-run-off-again mounds. --It has a protective clutter coating…?   ;-)

The Bible study group Hubby and I belong to feeds us in ways we need, both the studies we’ve done and the people in it we love, and who love us.  We’re learning a lot about taking each day as it comes, and doing what the Lord has for us in each one.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year… 
We hope you’ve accepted, or will accept, the best gift of all:
God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  
1 John 4:9-10


All of us at  RHome410

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Say it Now

It's not great to think ahead about the death of a loved one.  But it was so sad that I wrote a tribute to the things my mom gave me and meant to me in my life only after she was gone.  I decided that wouldn't happen with my dad, and I set out to do something about it.  It was a good exercise in using my grief for good, and distracting myself, too.

I LOVE the hand-painted, subway sign I ordered from CantonAntiques on Etsy, and have hanging in my kitchen.  I didn't think I could afford a custom one for Dad, and it was more heartfelt to put in the effort to make one myself anyway.

I started by making a list of the special memories and things Dad had done for me and our family.  Then I hit the internet for "DIY subway signs."  That's when I found this post by TemptingThyme.  The examples looked just like what I wanted, and the instructions were helpful.  

This technique used PicMonkey, which is a fun and free photo editing site. (To tell the truth, I splurged and paid the small yearly fee, so I could get more fonts and effects.) The funny thing is, for this project, it's not about editing a photo, image, or document, but covering an image with a solid color, and customizing the sign with text in colors and fonts of your choice.  I have to say it was quite rewarding.  I won't 'reinvent the wheel' by repeating the instructions you can follow on TemptingThyme.

After creating my 'masterpiece,' I saved it to my desktop, and placed an online print order with FedEx printing.  Click on "Set your own Print Options." Upload the image, and you'll likely get a message that says "this file contains non standard print size," and you can click on "review options" to choose a standard size or stay with the original.   If you choose one of the preset sizes, you will be able to preview your project.  For Dad's I chose 11 x 17", and hit "convert."  You can always trim if your project doesn't cover the whole sheet.

 I recommend specifying a heavier weight paper (32# or 60#) to prevent wrinkling hassles when applying the project to a board.  To do these prints in black and white are about 42 cents (!!!), and in color, less than $2.50.  You might be able to do the printing yourself, but only if you have a laser printer.  InkJet ink will bleed when you apply a finish.

I mentioned a board, and didn't explain where it came from...   I had Hubby cut and glue 3/4" boards to create a base of the proper size.

My print had a white background, so I painted the sides of the boards with white acrylic paint, and let it dry.  That didn't take long...A half hour, at most.

  The gluing/finishing process was the hardest part.  I used matte ModPodge.  I applied it to the board with a foam brush, and let it dry until tacky.  I applied the printed paper, smoothing as I went, using a dough scraper as a squeegee, to avoid any air bubbles.

On my first attempt, following instructions I'd found elsewhere on line, I waited only about 45 minutes before applying the finish coat of ModPodge over the whole project.  The paper stretched and bubbled (see pic above), and eventually scratched and tore as I worked to try to smooth it (see pic to the left).  Thankfully,  Hubby had made 2 boards, and I started over.  This time I let it all dry overnight after applying the paper to the board.  The next morning, I did 2 finish coats and the result was much smoother.

Unfortunately, after days of curing, and after it was in my dad's possession, a few air pockets formed. I used 24 or 32# paper, but there was also 60#, and maybe I should've used it.

--But my dad doesn't mind the little bubbles.  He said it was nice and commented that I'd remembered a lot of things.  It may not sound like it was a big reaction, but I think I heard a catch in his voice and spied moist eyes, which means, with a man who loves gifts but is a little tough to 'wow,' this was a success.  :-)  He's told me since that a lot of the staff in his assisted living facility have commented on what a really nice gift it was.  --I don't say this to brag, but to be thoroughly thrilled that he likes it so much and is feeling appreciated.  

I know I've been a little vague about the directions, so if you get lost after visiting TemptingThymePicMonkey, and/or FedEx, please don't hesitate to contact me for further help.

Mostly, I'm saying that if you have someone you love in your life who means a lot to you, and you have certain reasons you are thankful for them... TELL THEM.  Somehow.  You don't know when the opportunity will be lost forever.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Good Medicine

It is uplifting for a grandma's melancholy heart to have such a cheerful, adorably cute-- and quite insistent! --helper... 
(He pushed and pulled on my legs until I picked him up to let him in on the action.)

And so great to have my kitchen used in one of the ways it was intended, even though baking with grandchildren seemed so far away when it was designed!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Anniversary I Dreaded

"It was a halo bright
     sent down from Heaven's light.
The sweetest gift--
     a mother's smile..."   

I miss it... I miss you, Mom.  

It's been a year now.  A long, hard year.  It seems so long that we've been without her that Mom's very existence seems almost like a dream.  But, at the same time, we got to "the year" landmark so fast.  (Here is what I shared about her at that time.)

Last November started out OK.  Mom was bouncing back from the surgery to remove a brain tumor, and recovering from the subsequent radiation, just as she had recovered, like a champ and against some major odds, from serious surgeries in previous years.  She was like a Timex..."Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'."  Or like a cat with 9 lives.  The tests showed that the brain tumor (which left no ill effects) had metastasized from elsewhere, but they couldn't find where.  All the scans were negative. November 4th, 2013, therefore, seemed a normal day for me... with every expectation that things would go on like they had. There would surely be a few turns and bumps in the road, but with the journey together continuing well off into the distance.

But the morning of November 5th, the doctor decided to scan her gall bladder to see if he could find a cause for some stomach pain she had.  An aggressive form of cancer, completely absent from extensive scans just 5 or 6 weeks before, was found spread throughout her abdomen and all her major organs. After hospice care at home, it took her from us only 12 days later.  At our dad's request for immediacy, we held her memorial service 6 days after.

Princess Bossy changed her flight plans 3 times, moving it ahead with each change, to make sure she saw Grandma one more time.  But Mom breathed her last just about the time Bossy's plane was landing at the airport.  --My mom always made us call whenever we got home from visiting them, wanting to know we'd made it safely.  She knew the princess was coming, and I was a little surprised she didn't use her strong will to wait.  But now, I think maybe God told her that the plane was safely on the ground with family there to meet her.  The princess was safely home, so Mom could be free to go Home, too.

We were fortunate to have a little over a week with her to hug, visit, and say lots of "I love you"s.  It was merciful for her, and us, that she didn't have to suffer for weeks or months.

But, it was somewhat like the whole family had fallen blindly into a sink hole.  In the blackness of the landslide there was sadness, fear, shock, and disbelief rushing around us, and, of course, many necessary tasks to perform, like it or not.  On the 28th, I looked at the date, realized it was about to be December, and burst into tears.  Where had November gone?!  So much had happened:  sickness, dying, death, the service, and then some.  Mom was 'fine' at the beginning, but hadn't made it through with us to the other end of what was a black hole of a month.  

It was time to start digging our way out with our fingernails... through unfamiliar territory back to some sort of new and odd normalcy. With a focus on making sure Dad was ok, safe, and healthy, and so busy trying to keep up with daily, family life in some kind of reasonable way, our grief has been infrequently aired, and the glimpses of sunlight have been dim.  It's felt impossible to be a good daughter, sister, wife, homemaker and mother, especially homeschooling mom, in the time and with the energy I have.  When I give to one, I am neglecting another.

When I was a child, I cried a lot.  It was frustrating to those around me, and seeing it was unacceptable, I grew out of it.  Years later a doctor asked me if I ever just threw myself on the bed and cried... He thought it might be good for me.  But I 'didn't do that kind of thing.'

This past year, though, the tears come out of nowhere, even when I didn't know I felt sad.  
 --In the doctor's office when she asked if I was stressed at all.  
 --When I'm feeling fine and a certain song plays on the radio.  
 --In the car when I'm driving down to see Dad, especially if I'm by myself.  

Sometimes it overtakes me even when CuddleBunny is along, but he is young enough to still ride in the back seat and doesn't see the tears flowing up front.  I just feel, suddenly, overwhelmingly SAD sometimes.  

Last week my dad wanted to go to the house and pick up some things.  It was the first time I'd been there since he moved to assisted living.  I saw the blanket we'd made my mom and her favorite red one that kept her warm until the end.  I wanted to curl up and hold them, and just wallow and cry.  But I had to keep track of Dad and help him where I could.  

Meanwhile, Prince CuddleBunny took the puppy out to play in the backyard.  Pretty soon, the puppy was back in, but the prince wasn't.  I went to see what was happening.  He was watering dead plants --the pots my mom had tended on the back porch.  Watering the plants was his special job for Grandma whenever he was there, and, there was no question, he had to do it this time, too.  He seemed purposeful rather than sad, but it was bittersweet to watch.  It was a glimpse into how he's handling this.  I wonder about how the kids are doing, and if they have feelings/thoughts/questions I should know about.  I worry there is something I should be doing or saying to help them, but am too busy and missing the signals.

So now that it's been a year... The anticipation of this month looming closer was a source of anxiety for me.  Is this adjusted life supposed to be normal now?  Is it supposed to be OK to be without her?  People feel bad for you and understand that you're sad when you say your mother just passed away, or even in the past several weeks.  I'd imagine that when you say, "My mother died over a year ago," most would think, "Yeah...So?... Get over it."

A vein of sadness runs through my soul now, presently pretty close to the surface. I have just realized that, even if it gets deeper, it's permanent.  I don't mean to sound dramatic, and don't plan to give in to it, or obsess about it, 24/7.  But it's part of my story.  Mom was part of me, and still is, of course, but the void she left is now a part, too.  I will never NOT be sad to be without my mom.  

There are so many things I still want to ask, and so many things I want to share.  She'd be so excited to see how what our GrandPrince is learning, and so fast! -- Actually, no, she'd be delighted.  --That better describes how she enjoyed such news, and celebrated the people in her life.

As my sister reminds me, Mom wouldn't be happy that I'm sad, or that I spend any time crying.  She'd want me to rejoice in her freedom from pain and her transition to eternity with the Lord.  And I do.  I imagine that she is joyfully singing praise songs, day and night... and we await the day to join her.  But I am here, where she is not.  Death and sadness are part of living in this fallen world, and it's serving to make me a deeper person, learning new things about myself and God, and with more appreciation.  

This is only so hard because I was so blessed.  Thank you, God, for the great blessing who was my mom.  

Feeling the sadness does not mean I don't have faith, and I guess it's just what I have to do right now.  It'd be nice for someone to see it and really understand when it overtakes me, and that it's always there to some extent, but God does.  I think He's trying to teach me that He's all I need... That in a world where I sometimes feel that no one truly knows or sees me, or holds the net when I need one, He does.  

Psalm 139: 1 - 6

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rock may crush Scissors, but not Steel

Hubby said he'd get my old, beloved pizza stone cut down for me to fit in the Gagg oven, so along with the pizza steel in one, I could utilize both cavities for last week's big pizza feed.  Unfortunately, he thought he could do that just minutes before the crowd arrived, forgetting or not thinking that it would have to heat for an hour or more to be of any use.  That meant I enlisted the help of the special, Gaggenau baking stone and element again, giving them another chance to prove their worth.

Kitchen forum friend JC thought there might be something amiss with my Gagg stone, because of the white crusts I got on previous pizza baking outings.  So this time, I had Prince CuddleBunny fetch the infrared thermometer Hubby got in a goody bag at a conference.  After preheating for well over an hour at 500, the surface read about 500 degrees.  So I'd say the element is doing its job.

Speaking of temperature, that is part of what makes the competition between the Gagg stone and the baking steel a little bit of an unfair fight.  The steel bakes pizzas well at higher heats than the stone does.  I need to keep the stone at about 475 when I'm baking pizzas, but the steel can stay at 500.  

As you can see from photos I took well into the pizza feed, I wasn't getting equal results from the different surfaces.

The first "pop"...Just 2 or 3 minutes in, shortly after the pizza hits the hot, hot surface:

On the Gaggenau stone and element set

The great rise on the baking steel

And the baking steel pizza is beautifully done in about 8 or 9 minutes, 

while, at that same point, the Gaggenau pizza stone pizza needs an additional 5 to 7 minutes.  

I admit that I still use parchment on the stone, and my friend
 says that may be affecting my result.  But that would mean
forming each pizza, one at a time, directly on cornmeal on
the pizza peel, and that just wouldn't work well
for the number of pizzas I need to bake.

That means the steel put out at least 3 pizzas to the stone set's 2.  My guess would be that I baked 8 pizzas on the stone, and 13 better ones on the steel.

I'm done.  The Gaggenau baking stone set loses again.  It's not worth my time (and the muscles to heft it around) for that result, and even though I got a deal at the time I bought the oven, it still far more than the price of a baking steel or other stone options, and wasn't worth the expense.  I still hope Hubby gets to cutting down my formerly favorite stone, and then I can compare it to the steel.  I've missed using the double oven to its full capacity to make pizza!

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