To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Cinnamon Roll Miracle

When I lived in Wyoming, I had the opportunity to flop my lip over some of the best tasting cinnamon rolls I've ever had. They were phenomenal. At least that's how I remember them.

Natalie Olmsted, a woman from church, had made them and they were the greatest things I had ever tasted. I remember I had several. This was back when my metabolism was AWESOME and I could eat whatever I wanted with no dire consequences. Now I can think about them and I feel my pants getting tighter.

I raved and raved to Natalie about her cinnamon rolls, she reached up, and ripped the recipe right off the inside of her cupboard door, and handed it to me. It was taped up with some old athletic tape, and had been typed out on a word processor. (Remember those?) I told her there was no way I was going to take her only copy of this recipe but she assured me she had it memorized and didn't need it. I was elated, because I had the recipe for doughy gold in my very hands.

Here we are at least 15 years later, and I have never made these. In fact, I forgot I had the recipe. I was thinking about what I wanted to eat for breakfast Christmas morning, and I remembered.....the best cinnamon rolls ever. I dug for the recipe and was quickly reminded of why I've never made them. I don't understand what dear old Natalie was saying. The recipe is confusing. I think I can make it out, but if I'm going to spend that much time making cinnamon rolls, I want to make sure I'm doing it right and not mostly winging it. I can wing it on anything in a skillet, but baking is a different ballgame entirely.

This is where I'm calling on you for a Christmas miracle. Help me figure out how the heck to make these decadent breakfast rolls!

I'm going to type it out exactly how it is on this piece of paper. It's like a map, and if you misstep, you'll fall into the pits of baking despair. All of my questions/additions are in italics. Natalie's original recipe is below. Help.

Natalie Olmsted

Bring to boil and set aside to cool:

2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oleo
(so water, salt, sugar, and oleo to a boil together? And oleo...should I substitute shortening? or butter? or a little of both?)

Let yeast soften. (and how long does this take?)

2 pkg. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. warm water

When yeast is soft, add 3 beaten eggs and liquid mixture. (liquid mixture as in what I boiled and set aside to cool, right?) Add 5 cups of flour and mix well. Then add 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix well. (Why can't I just add 7 1/2 cups of flour right away?) Cover with damp cloth and foil paper and put in refrigerator for 5 hours or more. When ready to make out, (Hey Brent! We get to make out when I make these!) melt 1 cube of butter in a 13x9x3 inch cake pan. Takes two pans for this. Divide dough in half. Roll out to thickness desired. Pour melted butter over and spread. (Just as much melted butter as I deem deliciously necessary?) Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up and cut. In a pan put 1/2 pound of brown sugar. (And in cup sizes, half a pound is.....?) Raisins and nuts can be added to brown sugar. Place rolls on top. Take 1/8 cup of whipping cream, 1/8 cup of hot water and mix. Pour over each roll. Let raise until double in size. (and how long does this take? Overnight? A couple of hours?) Cook in a 375 oven, for 10 minutes, then 350 until golden brown. Turn out on foil paper. [This can be frozen after getting them in pans with cream and water poured over before they raise. Take out and let thaw and raise to double and then cook as before directed.]

[] This does not work very well. They don't raise very hi.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why (do) We Live Here.

It's raining outside, I've got a hot cup of coffee, scentsy melting in the warmer across the room - pretty much the perfect fall day. That is, if I weren't sick, if Brent weren't sick, and if my daughter didn't have a fever. (I'm not sure she's sick per se, since she is cutting a tooth right now.) It's been quite the week with health - or lack thereof - in our house. Despite not feeling up to par, however, I will say it is the perfect fall day.

It's been a while since my last blog post - so long I don't even remember what the last one was about - and I don't really have anything funny or profound to share, but something about today just compelled me to sit and type. I am with my mind mumbles.

Fall is absolutely my favorite season - football, the smells, colors, football, home decor, baked goods - I love everything about fall. Pumpkin bread, football, apple cider, pumpkin seeds, Thanksgiving (my second favorite holiday, following 4th of July), perfect knitting weather. Fall embodies most everything I love. Except the fact it's the segue to winter.

Winter in Wyoming wasn't always pleasant, but it was quick and painless. Snow today gone tomorrow, wind, wind, and more wind, and lots of sunshine. I complained every year about the cold, but I take back everything bad I ever said about a Wyoming winter. Ever. I'm dreading winter. D r e a d i n g.

Winter here is more than just a season. It's a test of survival. An actual way of life. Winter is a resident. With voting rights. It starts around Halloween - if we're lucky to hold out that long. It turns cold quickly. Then until May - we're in the tundra of white. I love white - it symbolizes purity, peace, renewal......unless you're in North Dakota and it symbolizes six months of the year.

Last winter we got over 84" of snow. SNOW. EIGHTY FOUR INCHES OF IT! Driving through town was like being a lab-rat in a maze....a maze of giant white walls. Can you find your way to work without getting broadsided or sliding through an intersection? Scientists are dying to know.

And the cold. When it goes more than a week without rising above 0, that's cold. I'm not talking below freezing, BELOW ZERO. Goose egg. Absence of all warmth. Below that. When the forecasted high is a negative number, that just doesn't do it for me.

We've lived here for almost six years (many of you just lost the bet we wouldn't last here this long) and we have lived through three of the TOP FIVE worst winters on record. Talk about a welcome-wagon. "Hi, welcome! This is what it would be like if hell actually froze over. Care for some kuchen?" I've gotta tell you, Germans, Norwegians, and German-Norwegians are some tough breeds of people. They settled here and didn't leave. And people say they're stubborn......

The worst is when the power goes out. Mostly because Brent makes fun of me for panicking, but it doesn't take long for the house to get cold when there's no furnace running. The power seems to go out in the middle of raging blizzards where the temperature isn't even on the radar. Something about high winds, brittle tree limbs, and above-ground power lines....I'm not sure, you do the math. My heroes - along with the flood fighters in the spring (we've got it all, folks - this is the land of opportunity!) - are the Xcel Energy employees who have to restore power in those conditions, up in a bucket truck being blinded by blowing snow and handling tools with gloved hands so I can stay warm.

Yet when you live through a spring (and survive yet another flood that is only supposed to occur every 100 years, but makes an annual appearance) and a summer here and experience the beautiful weather, the calm of the prairie, (and survive the tornadoes and brutal-but-awesome thunderstorms) - you realize why people stick around. It's always worth the wait. Besides, who doesn't love an adventure?

So here we are, another autumn. Another gateway to life on the frozen edge. I'll tell you what, though, I do love fall. This cup of coffee and unfinished sweater I've been working on for the last five months can attest to that.

I'm sure this post has got you wondering why I'm not a spokesperson for encouraging people to move here....I know, I wonder that too. Care for some kuchen?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


It's a question two-year-olds can't seem to ask enough. If you stop and think, though, adults probably ask it far more often, just not out loud. We're always questioning, always doubting, always trying to seek answers to things we don't have control over.


With all of the natural disasters that have occurred this year, I'm sure it's a question on many people's minds. Why the tsunami in Japan? Why the tornadoes in the south? Why the flooding in North Dakota?


I accuse my husband of always asking questions that can't be answered. He's a very logical, analytical thinker and needs to know the how's and whys of things, since he doesn't rely on emotions or gut-feelings like I do. I scold him every now and again for trying to determine the reasoning behind things we have absolutely no control over, or more specifically, for trying to determine the reason behind things I can't explain. (I don't know why I'm crying, I just am! Deal with it!)

It's no secret I'm not the best at rolling with the punches, and change is something it takes me a lot of time to adapt to. I tend to not question it, though, but rather focus my energy on what I can do to just keep going. Strength? Weakness? The answer is "yes." (grin)

There is one "why?" that has been lingering in my heart for a very long time, however. Why, dear God, why did you move us here?

Wyoming was my home. We moved there from California the summer before I turned 13. As time went on, it was just confirmed in my heart Wyoming was where I was meant to be. The wide open spaces, the mountains, the wildlife, the beauty, the people - I fell in love with all of it. And I fell hard. When Brent and I packed up and drove out of town on December 31st, 2005, I held a really strong front. But inside I was devastated. Broken. I was leaving everything and everyone I loved behind. And for what?

Months earlier when we realized I would (finally) be getting my AAS and we maybe needed to plan for a sustainable future, Brent wanted to return to school as well. He gave me the option of moving to Billings, Montana, or Dickinson, North Dakota. "I'm not living in North Dakota. If we have to move, let's go to Billings." Spoken like the very open-minded person I am....ahem.... We looked into jobs, housing, and schooling, and it seemed like nothing was coming together. As Billings was only about 100 miles from where we called home, I of course wanted to stick around. Alas, nothing came together. Nothing.

We prayed, we visited with our wonderful pastors at the church we were attending, and we prayed some more. One day after we had visited with Pastor Montey, we walked out of the church and I heard...yes, heard..."Fargo."

"Brent. Brent!"
"What?" He had walked ahead of me and stopped and turned around, as I was frozen where I stood.
"We're supposed to move to Fargo."
"Did God just tell you that?"
"Cool." As he turns around and keeps walking.
UM, HELLO?! God just told me we're going to move to the far east side of the state I swore I wouldn't live in, and you just say, "Cool" and keep walking?! Help a sister out, here!

January 1st, 2006, we rolled in to the parking spot of our new home in North Dakota. Did you catch that? NORTH DAKOTA. A state I swore I would never reside. I'm not sure what I had against it, really. It wasn't Wyoming. My parents and sister weren't there. My friends weren't there. Mountains weren't there.


On several occasions, Brent has told me I haven't seemed as happy since moving here. The fact is, I'm not. I miss Wyoming. I miss my home. I miss my friends. I miss my family. Life was literally as perfect as it could have been. We had no real major struggles, no real hardships, I was surrounded by everything and everyone I loved. We moved here - and not so much. I have never been surrounded by so many friendly people and felt like no one was my friend. I was lonely, missing mountains, tired of the putrid smell from the compost station/dump, and the winter - Lord have mercy - the winter was awful. In Wyoming, it gets cold, it snows, and the wind is merciless. But in a few days, the snow is gone and the sun shines more often than not. Here, it gets cold, it snows, it snows some more, the wind is merciless, it snows some more, and in a few days, it snows some more. The snow falls and it's sticking around for months. MONTHS. And you're going to be surprised that I'm not as happy here? Really?


The five and half years we've been here have had ups and downs. I can't rely on my parents for help every time I need something. They're 11 hours away opposed to 20 minutes. I don't have friends I've known since middle school who can read me like a book, know what I'm really trying to say, and have ancient memories with. I don't have the luxury of driving 5 minutes to my "thinking spot" which was a body of water, surrounded by mountains, and full of wildlife. I have to drive over an hour for a place somewhat like that (rolling hills don't really do it for me, though....). It just isn't what I wanted. And goodness knows, I should always get what I want.

Whoa. Spoiled much? Yeah.

So, I've resented God. For 5 1/2 years. I don't know why He moved us here, I don't love it here, I didn't ask to be here, so take that, God. Stick it. I'm mad at you.

Talk about a two year old.

We've had hardships and struggles. Brent and I struggled - and I mean struggled - in our marriage. Buying our house was a nightmare. (Meth pipe in the bathroom left behind by previous residents...remember that story? Yowzers!) Making friends, real true-grit friends, wasn't easy. Not only was it not easy, it just wasn't happening. Period. We longed for a church like the one we had left behind, and weren't finding it. I nearly died while pregnant with our first child. These types of things would be the situations that would cause unbelievers to cry out to God, begging him for help. Not me. You're going to move us here and then dump these problems on us? Whatever, God. I believe in you, and I served you, and I moved here because you told us to. Now this? Betcha I can do it better.

So here I sat. Pissy and resentful for 5 1/2 years. (And I wonder why it was hard to make and keep friends?)

A few months ago I joined a women's discipleship group that meets on Friday mornings. We've been going through books of the new testament, taking a few chapters and reading them over five times per week. There have been several heartwarming moments, and things I've come across in the Bible I'm seeing from a fresh perspective, which is nice. But this....oye.

Acts 17. One of the chapters we were supposed to read this last week. During the 3rd time through it, I came across verse 26, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." It took the third time I read it for it to get me to stop and think. Whoa....wait....this could give me some insight here. You moved us here when you did on purpose...okay...but what purpose? WHY?

Verse 27, "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."

Ouch. No, really, ouch. I felt, when we lived in Wyo, I was very close with the Lord. I sought him in nearly all things, I ministered to his people, and my faith was reaching a pinnacle! I had it all going for me! Why would you move me away from that, to reach out to you, when I already was?

But, Val, you weren't.

I was so comfortable in my heaven-on-earth. I had my friends, I had my family, I had everything I knew, and I relied on all of it. I move here, I have none of those, and the one thing I still had, I neglected because I was mad at Him for leading me here! It's hard to reach out when you've got your arms folded across your chest while you pout.

So God decided, "Alright Val. Enough is enough. You've sulked long enough, and I'm going to answer your "why?" if you're ready to listen." I wasn't ready - it took me reading it 3 times before my eyes were opened to it.

And now here I am. In North Dakota. I've uncrossed my arms, I've stopped pouting, and I've realized I've been a big baby. I'm ready to reach, and I'm ready to grow, and I'm ready to let go of the resentment I've unjustly held for far too long. I'm now okay with the fact that it looks like I'm not going anywhere for a while.

And I'm proud to be a North Dakotan. You betcha.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Last Saturday was one of the nicest weather days we've had here in North Dakota. Granted, we've only had three nice weather days so far, so it's not like it had a lot of competition. I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and temperatures, though, and get some weeding done alongside the garage.

We have a planter on the south side of our garage that's home to a row of hostas. Last year, since I was a new mom and rarely left the nursery, let alone the house, it went completely neglected and when I gazed from the kitchen window, all I could see were weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. Before we got too far along in the season this year, I decided I would get a head start and clean the planter of unwanted plant life.

First of all let me say that my butt was so beyond sore - I may make weeding a part of a regular workout regimen. Bending, squatting, kneeling, and bracing yourself to pull those buggers out of the ground gives the old rump-a-roo a run for it's money. I had no idea I would be toning anything other than my arms. Buns Of Steel ain't got nothin' on pulling weeds.

I had Haley outside with me so we could both enjoy the sunshine and I could keep an eye on her while her daddy napped inside - he was sick and trying to get over whatever bug had a hold of him. As I was weeding, I was struck by the life lessons that parallel weeds. I glanced over at Haley and hoped I could remember these when she's old enough to understand, so I can relay them to her creatively. I'll share what I learned and hope it makes as much sense in your world as it did in mine.

The first thing I noticed when I got down and dirty, was a worm. Then four worms. Then an entire planter full of worms. I have an aversion to anything with more than four legs - everyone knows this. No matter if it's a spider, moth, dead or alive - I loathe and detest anything with more than four legs. I don't want it to touch me, see me, come near me - anything. I make this fact known to said creature by screaming or running away flailing any and all movable limbs in an attempt to escape it's evil presence. Worms have no legs - however, they have roughly the same effect on me. They don't scare me as much as something that can walk or fly, but they do gross me out. I tried to think happy thoughts and thank them for enriching the soil so my hostas could flourish.....and I managed to do so without being too grossed out. Thank heavens for gloves and gardening spades.

Second - weeds were everywhere. Once I got down to their level, they just kept appearing. I wouldn't see all of them at first until I really looked, and could see them sprouting up here, there, and everywhere. At first glance, it didn't look like there were all that many and I would be done in no time. Once I got going, though, I realized it was going to take a lot longer than I originally anticipated.

Weeds are something you have to stay on top of. The moment you think you can let them go unattended, they take total control. They take over. They overwhelm their space and completely dominate over any and all other life.

Weeds are also very deceiving. Some of them take on the appearance of harmless, pretty plants. In reality, though, they're noxious weeds with one agenda. Be the sole survivor. Ruin the resources, aspirations, and successes of everything in it's path.

The roots of weeds are just about ridiculous. Some of them go on forever - down to the core of the earth almost. Others branch out and spring up new weeds from their random shoots. It becomes an intricate, tangled system. Of course if you don't pull out the entire root, the weed will repair itself and grow back. More often than not, you will break the root - or in some cases not get the root at all, and only remove the part of the weed above the ground's surface. Some roots you'll never be able to pull out completely - it's a constant chore to keep the ground maintained so you can prevent as much of the weed's growth as possible.

How that parallels life is this:

Sometimes you have to have yucky things (worms) in order to improve upon and benefit from what life hands you. It won't always be pretty, but in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

All is not what it seems. Especially when it comes to trouble. Sure you may think you'll be able to get away with it - it'll just be one time, only a little bit, no one will tell the difference....but once you start, that trouble seems to multiply. More and more issues pop up before your very eyes. You won't see the big picture the first time, and when you think you've covered all your bases, you're wrong. "His eyes are on the ways of mortals - he sees their every step." (Job 34:21)

If you're focused on the wrong things in life, they'll consume you. It's up to you, the things you deem important, but if you base those importances materialistically, the unimportant things will weasel their way in to the urgency of your day to day living. Your happiness will escape you because you'll work too hard to hold on to the things that give you no fulfillment. They're everywhere, and it's easier to fall in to their snare than to avoid them. (Jeremiah 50:33)

Don't judge a book by it's cover, as the saying goes. Sometimes when something looks innocent and harmless, it deserves a second glance. And a third. And a fourth. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where the father-of-lies has hold of far too many who make their way through life via deception and dishonesty. (John 8:44)

You won't be able to fight it all, avoid it all, or conquer it all. Sometimes the problems have roots that are far beyond our capabilities to destroy. The trick is to keep plucking away at what doesn't belong, and allow truth and beauty to grow and prosper. What doesn't kill us may make us stronger, but it doesn't mean we won't ever get tired of fighting the same battles. Even as we tire - we must remember sometimes the battle isn't ours to fight. Be persistent, be consistent, be firm in what you believe. The stronger you stand your ground, the less ground the "weeds" have to take root in. (2 Chronicles 20:17)

And last, and most likely least - stretch before you garden. It may save you from suffering from, as my college instructor called it, "DOMS". Delayed onset muscle soreness. In your bum.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Full Circle

This morning, Haley and I headed to the March of Dimes March For Babies. Brent is tucked away with the guys, reveling in the draft and the soap opera that is the NFL. It was just Haley and I and I was not sure of what to expect. There were a few hundred people, all in support of an organization that helped me maintain my sanity just over one year ago. I was flustered upon arriving as I was a whopping three minutes later than I intended to be, since I had to turn around and retrieve the stroller from the garage once I realized I had forgotten it. I signed us in, entered the arena, and the official countdown began. Three miles.

I was walking with a team of people from Brent's work. Actually, I was registered with them, but I took off walking on my own. I saw various groups of people, and just about every group had matching shirts of some kind. The walls were laden with pictures and posters of premature babies, and teams were walking "in memory of" preemies who never got to leave the NICU. As I was walking around, pushing Haley in the stroller, I started to feel overcome with emotion. I know - big surprise, Val got emotional - but it was so.....surreal.

Just over one year ago, Collette came in to my hospital room and introduced herself and told me she was with the March of Dimes. She was compassionate, understanding, and approachable. She told me what was up ahead, and how she was going to be there to help. She brought me a sandwich from Subway, and I ate cucumbers for the first time in my 29 years of life. Three days later, Haley was born two months premature. See if I eat cucumbers again. (I kid, I kid....)

As I was walking around the arena, a head of hair caught my attention - and I recognized it belonging to one of the NICU nurses from Innovis. Right behind her was another nurse, and right alongside her was Dr. J. Haley's neonatologist. I choked back tears. I remembered meeting him for the first time in the operating room, as he explained what they had to do as they whisked Haley out of my sight and in to the NICU. He spoke slowly and sympathetically, as I cried laying on the operating table. He asked Brent if he wanted to go with him, but I needed Brent to stay with me...they just took my baby, I couldn't be without my husband too.

As I walked around the arena, it was as if I was walking in a dream, and the reality was reliving the experience of delivering Haley prematurely. I didn't see Dr. J in his jeans and jacket, I saw him in his white hospital coat. I saw the nurses in their scrubs. I saw Haley in her isolette instead of in front of me in her stroller.

As I glanced around, trying to get a grip, I saw so many children, and overheard so many conversations. "She was 6 weeks premature." "These quads were born at 24 weeks and 2 days." "It's been three years, and we miss him every day."

The three miles were done. I started towards the door, and Dr. J was standing right before me. He recognized me and said hello, tickled Haley, and asked how she was doing. I told him she was 13 months now, but the woman from Right Track had her meeting 14 month milestones (and her adjusted age is 11 months, so she's way ahead of her time!). He was excited to see her and hear of her progress. I flashed back to the day in NICU when he was explaining her intravenous feeding and the nutrients that were in the bag. He joked, "This is food just like you and I eat. Burger King, McDonalds, just in liquid form."

I walked out to the car and put Haley in her car seat - still rear-facing, since she's not even 20 pounds yet. (17.5 according to our scale calculations at home...) I loaded the stroller in the back, and then settled myself in behind the steering wheel. That's about when I lost it.

I can't really explain or describe how I still carry the whole experience with me. How I still wonder what real labor is like. How I still remember Lois, the nurse, coming in and telling me it was time. How my stomach started spasming once they made the first incision. How the nurses came in my room to tell me how beautiful Haley was. How Collette sat with me at Haley's isolette for an hour one day, just being a friend. How I marvel at the miracle Haley is, and how grateful I am she avoided any and all complications post-delivery. I can't express what it feels like to hold a 17 pound baby, while remembering her 2 pound, 12 ounce frame. Wondering when her eyebrows were going to grow in. Wondering if she would ever nurse. Wondering if she was going to be okay once we brought her home. Tensing up before every pediatric or preemie clinic appointment for fear they were going to tell me some sort of bad news.

And there we were, walking in that arena, in support of the group that was there to support me. For thanks to Collette. For thanks to the Innovis NICU. For hope that all the other babies born prematurely can have as good or better an outcome as Haley. For thanks to God that he chose to work a miracle in my baby's life. For me to have one more thing to be emotional about. :o)

As I drove away, along with trying to hide the fact I was crying for fear someone would see me in the minivan and think "That soccer Mom has done gone and lost it.....", I felt a sense of closure. A chapter in our lives is coming to an end, and it's time to start writing the rest of the story.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Morning Workout

How could you not love a God who has a crazy sense of humor, and a creative talent for grabbing your attention?

This morning started differently than other mornings. First of all, it’s trash and recycling day, which for some reason always makes me anxious. I just want to make sure Brent takes everything to the curb so I don’t have to. I had a bad experience once, where the garbage can rolled away from me….I slid…..I’m pretty much scarred for life. My tailbone hurts just thinking about it. Along with that, though, Brent woke up super early to attend the Bible study that meets at 6:30 on Wednesday mornings. This 1) makes me so proud and honored to have married such a God-fearing husband and 2) means I am flying solo in getting myself and Haley ready for the day.

I sauntered out to the kitchen at about 6:30 after finally rolling out of bed. I’ve been called a lot of things and “morning person” has never been one of them. It takes me about three hours to wake up, and that’s only after I’ve had the required 10 hours of sleep. It makes for some interesting days. I walked over to the coffee pot and noticed the clock wasn’t greeting me with the time.

Hmmm. I blinked, because surely it was just the fact I'm nearly blind without my glasses that I couldn't see the clock. Blinking didn't fix it.

I pushed a few buttons. Nothing. I pushed different buttons, and harder. It was plugged in – I unplugged and replugged. Nothing.

No. Oh man, no coffee?! Oh man…

I stood, dazed, and in slow motion reached behind me to open the fridge. Please don’t let this be what I think it is. Please don’t let this be what I think it is. Please don’t let this be what I think it is. I opened the fridge door – and – no light. Nothing. Our outlets on this one circuit of our kitchen decided to take the day off. I know Brent had been in the fridge, and the air was still cool, so this is something that had to have happened within the previous thirty minutes.

I tried to gather my thoughts and figure out the best way to fix the situation. First I texted my husband what was going on and ended with "I don't know what to do." Those are always the most encouraging "Good morning!" texts you can send your spouse. You heard it here first.

I then went down to the basement and checked our circuit breakers. Every one of them was in-tact. I decided they obviously must NOT be in-tact, and I should reset the kitchen ones just to be sure. Still no working fridge. Still no brewing coffee. I pushed the reset button – several times – on the outlet the coffee maker plugs in to. Nothing. I did the only logical thing left to do at that point. I pulled the fridge out from the wall and moved it to the opposite side of the kitchen. By myself. I crawled over the table, I crawled under the table, I lifted chairs out of the way, I played Superwoman, and I played her well. I didn’t have time to mess with the situation, and I needed to plug the fridge in to an outlet that worked so we wouldn’t lose all of our perishable items, and so the items that have already perished, could stay chilled and not stink up my kitchen. Not saying I have things like that in my fridge.....but it's always a possibility.

I went about getting ready for work and getting Haley ready for the sitter. I texted my dad a photo of the fridge in it’s temporary new home and he was of course texting me with fatherly instructions to check the breaker box and reset the GFI outlet. I love that I thought to do those things first. I don’t love that after knowing me for 30 years, Dad doesn’t think he taught me well enough to think to do those things first.

I was able to get myself together and get a few snuggles in before heading out the door. I dropped Haley off at the sitter’s and made it on time to my work meeting this morning. Just another day at the office.

I went home at lunch and looked at the empty spot where the fridge normally is. The paint is scorched on the wall, so we obviously have it too close to the back wall. I glanced down at the floor, and quickly wished I hadn’t. The floor. Was. Disgusting. Dust, dirt, hair, food, filth. I grabbed the broom, the Swiffer, and the bottle of Whistle and got to work. Once I had the area cleaned up, I went back to the GFI outlet and pushed the reset button again – to test my (in)sanity.

Power. The coffee maker clock started blinking. And you wouldn’t work for me earlier when I did this, because…..?

“Because you needed to clean your kitchen floor, dust off your refrigerator, and take care of the potential hazard. Plus, I wanted you to check in with me for some energy instead of your coffee cup.”

Oh! Well! Of course!

I don’t know how often you’re supposed to dust underneath, behind, and around your refrigerator, but after today, I’m almost positive you’re supposed to do it more often than never. Lesson learned.

I also found it interesting - and humorous - how dependent I am on a few appliances. The fridge, yeah, that's a given. But my beloved coffee pot. I love it, because it gives me warmth and comfort with which to start my day. But you know what else could fill that need on a deeper level? Starting my day in the arms of my Maker, and in the pages of His love letter to me. Lesson learned.

I believe God tests us and I believe today was a test of how I handle myself when things feel out of my control. I'm not sure I passed with flying colors (Brent pointed out we have extension cords...yeah, well, they don't make for upper body strength testing, sweetheart....) but I appreciate I was able to not stress out about the situation, and handle it with the humored spirit that enveloped me today.

Plus, I found a coupon for a free appetizer at LoneStar Steakhouse. Too bad it expired in July of 2009....

Sunday, February 20, 2011


What a month this has been! We have had key positions leave our department (read: people quit) which has more or less tripled my workload and squared-infinity my insanity levels. I always appreciate intellectual challenges but not all at once, and not involving things that actually matter. (read: other people's livelihood)

(read: I like to do this "read:" thing.)

The month began with Haley reaching a few more milestones - crawling on her hands and knees rather than army crawling around. Moving from crawling to sitting with grace and poise. Pulling herself up to stand on anything and everything. Finally drinking water and not pursing her lips. She sat in a highchair at a restaurant for the first time, and now - she is sprouting her first tooth. Lord have mercy. The fever. The coughing. The congestion. The moodiness. The absolute "visible miserable" she has to endure. It's heartbreaking! You can barely see the tooth, and if you don't know what you're looking for, you'll definitely miss it. She sleeps all the time, cries all the time - over nothing and everything all at once - only wants to eat on her terms, and stuff that isn't as good for her as what mommy wants to feed her.....she is 11 months old (tomorrow!) going on 14. She cries when she's not getting enough attention, then cries harder when you give her attention because it's not the right attention, then cries even harder when you stop giving her attention after she scolded you for how you were giving her attention. Even I can't figure this out, and I have first-hand experience with over-the-top-emoting.

I feel so bad for her - we're doing what we can with Tylenol, Orajel, and TLC. One tooth in the works - 31 more to go. Brent and I are passing a cold back and forth - since Christmas, I believe. It seems we can't get it out of our system. It's the gift that keeps on giving. We're both tired of it, and just want it to go away. Stocking up on Airborne and multi-vitamins hasn't done the trick yet, but I imagine the end is in sight for this little cold. Please.

Brent and I had a fantastic Valentine's day. We've been together 10 years and have learned to celebrate every day instead of only once a year. (Insert cheese-o-meter here.) We did take some time out to pamper ourselves, though, and I treated Brent to his first-ever pedicure. Afterwards I asked him what he thought. "I wouldn't mind having another one. *dramatic pause* Weekly." Score! We wanted to enjoy a dinner of Red Lobster cheese biscuits with a side of crab legs and lobster tails for the special evening, but since they don't take reservations or call-ahead seating, and since we wanted to eat before 10 p.m., we ordered to go. I have to say, those biscuits make any occasion special. God bless the garlic cheese combination. And crab legs in butter. Brent also surprised me with a generous gift certificate to my favorite nail salon and I have beautiful nails now. Nothing says "I Love You" like nailpolish.

I've spent the last few weekends making my own baby food. Not "my own" as in for me, but my own as in for Haley, avoiding purchasing any pre-made foods at the grocery store. (Save for prunes. Have to have those handy sometimes.) So far my favorite creation is the avocado creations. I love turning avocados in to baby food, because it gives me an excuse to make guacamole, which is the greatest condiment on the face of the planet. My favorite creation thus far is the Jersey Sweet Potatoes/Banana combination. Add a Nilla Wafer, and it's like healthy banana pudding.

The big news is we got rid of the Slowpaz - Brent's faithful car for the last 15 years. The best news of all - someone actually paid us money, instead of us having to pay someone to take it off our hands. Hallelujah! We bought a Buick Terrazza that we've had problem after problem with, but after removing the astrostart *tear* it seems to be running smoothly. Now we have a minivan that tries not to look like a minivan, but has all the convenience of one, and we're okay with that.

Now begins the planning stages for our little one's first birthday next month. I can't believe it's been a year since that scary weekend in the hospital. Brent and I will soon be shopping for her special gift, and sending out invitations to her low-key, but still very special, celebration.

Party America, I'm coming to browse your aisles!

Friday, January 21, 2011


It was one of the worst nights in the NICU. Brent and I had both gone to give Haley her bath, as we had done every night. Afterwards, I gave her kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) to warm her up. The nurse slipped her inside my shirt, and she snuggled right into my chest - her tiny, frail frame against me and her bony knees bent in between us. Her petite fingers tickled my collarbone - her entire hand wasn't any bigger than the nub of bone at the base of my neck.

Two nurses we came to know and love had Haley as their charge. They sat with us and went over some "teaching". Teaching is a session where the nurses go over a list of items with you for things you need to watch for or be informed about: feedings, body temperature, breathing, bowel loops, heart murmurs, etc. While they were visiting with us, Haley's respiration sensor kept beeping. At one point, I moved her head to tilt it back a bit so she could get some air. She didn't like that and moved her head forward again. Finally, as the nurses were continuing to do their teaching, I started getting antsy and fidgeting around. The fact that her respiration alarm kept going off was bothering me. Her breathing was sporadic. I pulled her out of my shirt to swaddle her instead, and see if she could breathe better lying down than cuddled against me.

My daughter was blue.

The nurse gasped, I rubbed Haley's sternum, and Haley's color returned right away and she was breathing again. The nurse said, "Oh her head was probably like this" and she mimicked it being down - chin to chest - cutting off her little airway. I had tried to fix that. I held it together as I swaddled her and explained, stammered, that I had tried to fix it - that I wanted to put her in a different position to help her breathing.

They walked away for a bit and I got teary-eyed. Brent sat there next to me and assured me everything was okay, she was okay, it was all okay. But the tears started to fall. I sat there and stared at my daughter as she smiled in her sleep and the realization of how fragile she still was overwhelmed me.

More reluctantly than usual, I put her in her isolette to leave her for the night. The walk from her side to the car seemed painstakingly longer than I had been used to. The image of my daughter, blue, was frozen in my mind. My heart was deep in the very pit of my stomach. I was terrified. I was ridden with guilt. I was filled with doubt - of my own capabilities as a mother, and of what the road ahead would hold for our family.

The whole ride home I cried. I told Brent I had reached the "why me" stage. I was still supposed to be pregnant. We weren't supposed to have her two months premature. I shouldn't have had to leave my baby every night.

Once we got back to the house, I gathered myself together and started tidying up the bedroom. I let out an exasperated sigh as I asked Brent to tuck his sheet back into the foot of the bed. After he tucked it in, he stood up and wrapped his arms around me. I started to sob. He nestled his face in my shoulder and I just wept as he held me. I couldn't get the image of her blue face out of my mind. What would we have done if she wasn't hooked up to those monitors? How long would we have let her struggle to breathe? Kangaroo care was supposed to be the most beneficial, innocent way to bond with our preemie. She was supposed to be safe with her mommy.

I stopped crying, but didn't let go of Brent. I said a silent prayer, thanking God for my husband and for the fact that he was intuitive enough to know that was what I needed right then. I continued the silent prayer and asked God to protect our daughter and to never let anything like that happen again.

I didn't sleep all that great that night. Later in the afternoon the following day, I headed back to the hospital to spend some time with Haley. It was crowded in the NICU. Every parent, save for of one baby, was there. Haley's charge nurse was working on another baby but told me she would be right over. I reached in to the isolette and placed my hands on Haley - one on the crown of her head, and one cupping her feet. Her nurse came and asked if I wanted to do kangaroo care. I hesitated. Slowly, I began to nod. I had to sit in an office chair as all the rockers were occupied. She put Haley in my shirt. I checked the position of her head. I stared at that monitor displaying her heart rate, respiration, and O2 levels. For a solid hour and a half I stared at that monitor. I only looked away to give her a kiss or look down and check her breathing.

I was still rattled from the night before. She did fine.

Today, Haley is 10 months old. She speed-crawls laps around us. She feeds herself real foods. She babbles non-stop. She laughs when we play peek-a-boo. She doesn't fit inside my shirt anymore, and she doesn't cuddle nearly as whole-heartedly as she used to.

Ten months ago my life changed forever. I experienced things I never thought I would have to. I came to know just how deep, how wide, and how full God's love for us is. I almost lost my child - and that frightful night in the NICU, I thought I had endangered her life once again. God gave up His son for us on purpose. The heartache of watching your child suffer is inexplicable. Let alone to watch them die? I shudder at the unimaginable thought. Please, God, spare me from that pain. But He did that - for me. For Haley. For all of us.

That night in the NICU was treacherous for me, but the entire experience has taught me so much about prayer, grace, and His power. Life is hard. It throws us down and spins us in all sorts of directions - it beats us up and leaves us for dead. But there is life and freedom and forgiveness in God. He will carry us through the toughest of times, and He will sustain us through all of our "why me" moments. I have a 10-month-old miracle....and I praise God for the opportunities to share her story - His story.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Old Fashioned - It's More Than Just a Donut.

I love tradition. I love heirlooms. I love generational treasures - be they material items, or stories passed down. So many stories, trinkets, recipes, have been known to make me feel a strong connection to the generations before me. I always have a sense of wanting to go "backwards" in time, and re-live parts of history (taking the most modern of conveniences with me; my dishwasher and indoor plumbing ranking right on top of the list). Aside from having to have a latte more often than not, I have sometimes felt I was born in the wrong era. Life is too fast-paced for this country bumpkin. So often I feel we, as a society, take for granted what we have at our fingertips, and we forget to take the time to make special memories, to share favorite past-times, and to keep the practices of our ancestors.

If you've known me for more than ten minutes, you know I knit. I don't only knit because it's an addictive hobby and one of the most fun and fulfilling ways a person can spend their time. Although those are definite reasons of mine, they're not THEE reason. When I was eight years old, my grandmother Pearlaine, sat me on the sofa and taught me how to knit. She started me on making a dishcloth. I only ever knit when we were together those too few times over the years, and most of it was spent correcting mistakes rather than making much progress. It took me eight years to finish the dishcloth I started, but I finished. I was the only grandchild who did. I kind of put it away for several years after that, but since the age of about 23 or 24, I have knit (somewhat obsessively) ever since. It's something people used to do all the time. Men and women. They knit to provide for their families - clothes, gifts, socks, blankets. Not just super cool scarves (that you can purchase from me to benefit the March of Dimes - message me!) for the sake of looking trendy.

These same people who knit as a means of providing for their families also canned, baked their own bread, slaughtered their own chickens, grew their own gardens, ground their own flour, milked their own cows, dried their own spices, and darned their own socks. Yet today, you and I hit up the latest sales at Kohl's, grab a frozen dinner to pop in the microwave from our local grocery store, and swing by Target to buy a 45-pack of multi-colored socks to get us through the next few months.

I've been thinking a lot recently on what I want to pass down to Haley. I want her to know how to bake goodies from scratch. I want her to know how to make my awesomely delicious fudge. I want her to learn to sew. I desperately want her to learn (and enjoy) to knit. I might even learn how to can so I can teach her how to do it one day. I don't want to solely depend on our modern conveniences and technologies. I want to be able to hold on to the customs and traditions of those before me as well. My grandmother wasn't just teaching me a hobby. She was teaching me a skill. We have the luxuries of modern convenience before us, but there are valuable lessons to be learned and wonderful experiences to be had in doing some things the old-fashioned way. I will forever remember Grandma peering through her glasses as they sat perched upon her tiny nose, pointing to my dropped stitch and saying, "Now looky here. You have to go back and fix this. Remember how I showed you?"

If you've made any resolutions in the new year, and especially if you haven't, I want to challenge you. Take some time to find a new hobby - or try something from "the olden days" even just once. Bake yourself a loaf of bread. Make your own yogurt. Plant a garden and savor it's harvest. Learn how to knit. Sit down in the morning with a cup of strong coffee and a newspaper while you watch the sun rise from the comfort of your wooden rocking chair. Sit with an elder and marvel in the history of their lives as they share their stories with you.

Rather than worrying about remembering deadlines at work, or when the last time you changed the filter in your furnace was, spend some time remembering the toils and labors of those generations gone by, and appreciate the hard work, craft, and skill they wanted to pass on to all of us.

"Now looky here." It will be a look well worth taking.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Memories

Every once in a while, something that happens will spur a thought - a memory. I find myself getting lost along the road to times gone by. Of all the things I remember, I always wonder what of my life I've forgotten. My sister will tell stories from our childhood and I won't have a clue what she's talking about. A friend will want to reminisce and I don't have a clear picture of what they're bringing up. But what I do remember, what I do have stored away in the picture albums of my mind, is so worth the resurrection.

I'm not proud of all of the choices I've made in life; not proud of some of the ways I did or said things. I'm proud of the fact I've made it here, though, and of the realization I'm not perfect, no matter that I thought I was close to it once upon a time. I remember some of it - but only so I can learn from it and not make the same mistakes.

I remember drinking from the elephant cup. I remember swimming lessons. I remember the hardwood floors of the house on Woodland. I remember Rick and Edie coming to visit. I remember going to Tawny's house and counting the train cars, and her sneezes. I remember Mom taking us to the pier at Pismo for walks. I remember the BBQs John King hosted. I remember Eric - and how much it hurt when the state said he couldn't be a part of our family. I remember Brandon Watson daring me to eat dog food at his house. I think their dog's name was Checkers. I remember Christmas Eve at Grandma Vida's. I remember the ride home with Uncle Steve after eating at Pea Soup Anderson's. I remember Steph's imaginary friend, Piggly Wiggly. I remember Roslyn squirting water in my ear, then helping her feed the rabbits. I remember stinging nettles. I remember the nieghbor's garage on fire, and shaking as I peered out the blinds of our living room window. I remember my first boyfriend, Brian. We never spoke, but somehow we were in a relationship. I remember Mrs. Jones, the librarian, and how no one rocked shorts and tights like she did. She was the coolest. I remember Mrs. Meagher telling me she would miss me at 6th grade graduation. I remember my "big bro" Dave, letting my sister and I ski behind him in the dirt as we hung on to the sleeves of his sweatshirt. I remember softball and running smack in to Sean Lindsey who was guarding first base. I flew backwards about twelve feet. I remember the first time I shaved my legs, and how it made me feel like the most beautiful and sophisticated seventh grader in the world. I remember (yesterday) wishing I didn't have to shave my legs. I remember having an enormous crush on Taylor - that lasted for years. YEARS. I remember Judy swiping pictures of him for me. I remember going back to visit and going to the movies with Taylor. I remember thinking of names for our children.

I remember moving from California to Wyoming, and how much I hated it. That didn't last long. Wyoming is my home now. Always will be. I remember Amy and Lizza and the ridiculous nicknames we had and the fits of laughter that erupted. I remember how Tiffani and I overcame our intense dislike of one another to become best friends - almost 17 years now. I remember getting Maloa's letter when Mary died. I remember walking, singing, crying in the fog. I remember walking to Jamie's house every day for lunch. I remember being paid to type papers for the boys. I remember being the mascot and sweating buckets during basketball season. I remember baking cookies. I remember fighting with Mom. I remember sitting on the hood of the car and watching the sun rise. I remember the house in the country. I miss that house. I remember being baptized in the pacific ocean. I remember hating life. I remember swearing I would never let a teenager pull the wool over my eyes, even though I was one. I remember the accident....and the other four. I'm much better at driving now. I remember the shooting stars from the southfork highway. I remember when Dad thought I was smoking. He was a couple of years premature on that accusation. I remember "dude" and Corral West. I remember being a size two. I remember my first apartment. Yuck. I remember the hike up Deer Creek. The longest hike of my life. I remember thinking my lungs were going to explode, but trying to pretend like I was fine. I remember waiting tables and the interesting people I met. I remember the Brass Rail. I remember teaching Justin how to two step.

I remember Tennessee. Nashville. Grand Ol Opry. Travis Tritt. My first tattoo. I remember those bugs on campus. I remember sitting on Jenni's roof. I remember breaking Brent's heart. I remember Aaron breaking mine. But the singing - lawh the singing. I can still hear the harmonies in that outdoor courtyard. Still taste the Taco Bell nachos. Still hear those bugs. Those blasted, huge bugs.

I remember being so sick right before my wedding. Salmonella. Strep throat. I remember Brent not wanting to dance. I remember crying in to our checkbook register. I remember him cooking me dinner when I was sick and learning that minced onions is an entirely different ingredient from chopped onions. I remember being content. Completely happy with where I was. I remember moving to Fargo. In the winter. Yesterday marked our 5th anniversary of moving here. I remember being surrounded by friendly people but having no friends. I remember the landlady's eye shadow. I remember the Las Vegas trip. My husband going to Mauritius. I remember auditioning for American Idol and Tiffani right by my side. I remember buying this house. I remember regretting buying this house. I remember our anniversary trip to Mapelwood. And the mosquitoes. I remember finding out I was pregnant. I remember being unexpectedly admitted to the hospital. I remember holding Haley for the first time. I remember the surreal feeling, realizing I was a mommy. I remember bringing her home.

And now it's the start of another year. Another opportunity to make more memories. To capture more snapshots of life and store them away in my mind. Another chance to reflect on everything life has offered me, and be grateful for the chance to remember any of it.