Thursday, December 25, 2008


First, the obligatory holiday greeting! We never sent out wedding announcements thinking, "We'll just send out a nice holiday card with a picture from our wedding..." but never got to those either. I promise to do better next year, and you will all have pictures of our baby girl wearing a goregous smile (because with Grant's and my genes individually, let alone combined, you know she's going to have one) and a headband with a really, really big bow or flower on it. I'm determined to build a wicked collection of headbands with humungous bows or flowers on them. Those are for the times I don't take her out in the onesie I saw at Wal-Mart and just know I'm going to have to buy that reads, "I'm a GIRL!"

We'll have a big, fun post on our holiday adventures. So far, we've managed a road trip that should take 5-6 but ended up taking almost EIGHT--and that was with GOOD traffic out of Chicago, and Grant and I have played Joseph and Mary for the first time a homemade nativity play (my nieces picking out parts for everyone figured I'm close enough to having the days accomplished until I give birth to give the appropriate effect).

As the time draws ever nearer (and although I'm not hoping that the doctor has missed the mark and I'll go into labor in two weeks instead of seven, I definitely want this bun to keep cooking I think I am nearing the as my dear friend from high school who recently had her first so accurately described, "Let's-Get-This-Over-With Phase") where our family grows by one, I'm ever contemplating what kind of family we'll prove to be as the years go by...

We'll Love them sooooo much. And we'll probably express that a lot, to them and each other. I'm worried that our kids will never invite their friends over because we'll still be making out in front of them when they're in high school. But, at least they'll know their parents are crazy about each other.

We'll have a boatload of Fun.
It might take us a while to figure out our own family traditions to share with them (we still haven't decided about whether or not to teach our kids about Santa--Grant's for it and I'm the Grinch but like we need to know now anyway--it'll be at least another 3 years before the one that's coming will even catch on) but we'll work it out. We'll work hard to teach them important things like Right and Wrong, the Articles of Faith and how to responsibly manage money, cook, clean and do laundry for themselves before they leave the house. But they'll also grow up knowing the ways of the Force (and that we never watch the director's cut of those movies), the difference between garden variety orks and the Uruk Hai (and that we always watch the director's cut of these), the deliciousness of Chinese food and at least a few token words and phrases in Spanish (Grant's mission language) and Hungarian (my mission language) respectively.

We'll mess up plenty too, but hopefully they won't come out of it too scathed for normal function in society. We are a little worried that they might think that "boobicles", "burnination" and "ingorify" are actual words...and we're worried about bigger things too like disabilites/diseases or any number of the personal challenges they'll face that we'll have absolutely no control over being able to fix...but we'll cross those bridges when we get there, I guess. And I reckon that they'll still be able to look back on a decent family life if we keep making sure we Love them and have Fun doing it.

But...I digress and I have been informed there are children who are eagerly awaiting a Christmas morning celebration, so I'll wrap it up there.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holy Cold!

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about insulating our house. Because it's not a real general appeal item I sort of decided not to talk about insulation more on the blog. Insulating my house is sort of a hobby of mine and I hate to force that on an unwilling audience. However, events this week have transpired that make it a lot more interesting.

In the first place, there's today. The weather outside is like something I (as a kid) never imagined human being have to live through. The high today is like 4 degrees. Right now my weatherbug thing says the current temperature is -2 outside. And it's really windy. Driven snow flying everywhere. The instant the air touches your skin, it's next to unbearable--it stings your skin in a way you didn't think cold could. You wear thermal underwear and lots of other layers and you still feel constantly chilled. Your car is seriously reluctant to start and then never really warms up. You just have to experience it to really know what I'm talking about.

It looks something like this

actually that's a picture from a previous snowstorm that wasn't nearly this cold. Amazingly people still drive around and do stuff in this weather. Actually we have had some fun as it seems pretty much impossible to get the car out of any parking spot without someone pushing from behind. There's simply no traction. Ashley can spin the wheels all she wants, but it's nowhere near as effective as putting a big strong burly man (yeah, I'm talking about myself) behind. I feel like I can almost push our little car out of a parking space with no mechanical help, thanks to the slickness of the road. Next time we go to any store we are getting ourselves a snow shovel.

This weather creates quite an interesting insulation problem. As you know I have insulated our windows with two layers of bubble wrap. Yet still the house has been really cold. In particular the room that we intend to put the baby in is uncomfortably cold. I mean, like below 60 degrees. Lately we have just kept the door closed since no one stays in there, but we are understandably worried about it as a baby room.

I have realized that in addition to the glass part of the windows, a lot of heat is lost through conduction through the metal frame of the windows. So I have started bubble wrapping the metal frames. As I was doing that I made what turned out to be a very important observation: there are cracks where the window framing meets the walls. Fairly significant ones People normally ignore these kinds of gaps because you can't see through them or feel air blowing through them. But that doesn't mean they aren't a pathway to the outside cold. We had some caulk left over from our battle against the mouse infestation here, so I spent a while caulking around all the joints of the windows in that room. We closed the door and went to sleep. This morning we opened the door, and the room is as warm as the rest of the house. Plenty comfortable for a baby. The difference between having a constantly bitter cold in our house, and especially in that room, and having a nice balmy environment was just a few cents worth of caulk and a few minutes of my time. And it even looks better than it did before.

In case I'm not expressing myself clearly, let me be more succinct. Caulk is my hero. After our Christmas travels we are going to get a few big tubes of caulk and go over all the window frames in all our windows, and maybe a few other places as well. I have a feeling cold air comes in through the gaps in the baseboards as well...and I know mice do. So cheap, and so effective. All things considered, a few drops of caulk were probably as important as all my efforts with the bubble wrap, if not more so. When we eventually get a house, I'm going to caulk every joint that can possibly be caulked, then I'm going to get outside caulking and do the same to the outside of my house. And then I'm going to do it all again.

So our apartment is now easily the warmest in the building since we all get the same amount of heat and ours is better insulated than the neighbors'. It's comfortably in the 70s (and we're working on getting it up higher) despite the temperature outside--in fact the inside temperature in our house is higher when it's colder outside because they turn up the heaters to try and keep our neighbors alive.

It's interesting how much energy is spent heating the house. You know it's a lot because everywhere there's no bubble wrap on our windows, ice and frost have formed on the INSIDE of our windows. We can walk up an touch open ice any time we want from inside our house without opening windows. So you know the radiator is putting out enough heat to be constantly melting that. It makes me wonder why the people who build buildings here in Chicago don't plan for the extreme temperatures more.

Anyway, this cold affords us the opportunity to do a lot of complaining and start a lot of conversation with people with whom we otherwise have little in common. It has taught us a lot about the value of different insulation strategies. Not to mention the value of a little hot chocolate and snuggling. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Video for Work

The other day I was having a bum day at work so Ashley made me a video to cheer me up. I loved it so much!

She makes that cutesy voice to cheer me up. And it works! But of course she's embarrassed about it so nobody say anything. :)

He cracks me up...

Grant's has an ENTP personality type, and any of you who know him likely have an idea what I'm referring to when I say that because he very often sits people down and gives them the test from the book and he's probably done it to you, too. He did it with me one of the first times we hung out, as he often does. Luckily, as an ESFJ, we're nearly a perfect match according to the book.

One of the qualities of your typical ENTP is the drive to explore new things, solve problems and constantly optimize. The stuff about cameras and insulation? Or our unblogged victories over the year and a half long mice infestation in this apartment and then successfully maneuvering our little car out of the bank it had been plowed into? The products of an ENTP personality. He finds a problem and then starts researching possibly solutions like mad until, and usually be means of his own design, formulates a plan to solve it. Like with the insulation.

Today he was further optimizing the attack on the cold in our apartment by spreading caulk along the edges of the windows and blocking any possible means of air to escape through the cracks, when it dawned on me: I've married my own dude from Man vs Wild.

Well, more like Man vs Suburbia, but you get the idea.

Suddenly I had an imagine in my head of being deserted for reals--it would be a hayday for him! And he'd totally conquer it all--getting water, permanent shelter, finding food. I have no doubt our family would be totally fine.

It is pretty amusing to see him in action, though. He just goes until he fixes it, and he finds pretty impressive means to accomplish it. I've never seen anything like it.

Then again, that's true about most of Grant's personality. I've just never seen anything like it...

And it makes me really curious about the personalities of our children.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beaucoup Christmas!

(It's pronounced boo-coo. Don't ask me about the spelling, that's just how the French do it. Because they're kind of spikey and, well...kind of French.)

I think my earliest memories of Christmas Lights on Steroids come from the trip on Highway 59 between Ottawa (where we lived) and Lawrence (where my great-grandmother lived and all the family gatherings took place), KS. A few miles south of Lawrence, there was a house off the highway that really stood out from all the others with the quantity of lights and elements used--eventually they even had a fully lit sign that read, "Merry Christmas from the Smiths!" We also noticed throughout the years that the displays got more and more elaborate until one year abruptly they had disappeared altogether. We entertained many theories...maybe they moved? Maybe the neighborhood got together and signed a petition to ban it? Maybe the wife died and the husband was just too sad to keep putting the lights up? Who knows? It's a mystery to this day.

When I was in high school, a radio station in Kansas City sponsored a contest of "White Trash Christmas", and it just so happened that the winner of said contest lived not so far from my Dad's girlfriend's house. It was this huge house on a corner and they just went wild. Their display didn't have any order, it was just lots and lots of lights. The house was on a little hill and they had strings of lights just sitting on the ground streaming down from the house and ending with a set of lights still in the display case. It was pretty impressive.

In Jersey, there is a family on the street where my closest friend there lives who just goes to town on an Elvis-themed display. There's only one street that feeds into the little group of streets where she lives too, so often during the holidays it takes her a long, long time just to make her way down the street to get home. Crazy.

So I know that people can get "into" their Christmas lights and give the Disney Spectacular Main Street Electrical Parade a run for it's money, but nothing prepared me for this.

This is someone's actual display from last year. They actually timed it on a computer to music. I was stunned.

My favorites are the Amazing Grace and Carol of the Bells, but I haven't watched all the videos from this year yet.

I thought Grant and I were doing good with our tiny tree, two stockings and two strands of silver garland around our doorways...

Then again, I could see this becoming something he finds neat, gets into and learns everything possible about until he optimizes and masters.

Luckily I don't have to worry about that possibility until we have a house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Hero

So, I've gotten to know some pretty amazing people in my life. There's just been a steady flow all throughout, and I've looked up to them for their strength and capacity.

Turns out, I not only came from but also married into a family of really outstanding people all around.

I've never actually met this particular one, so I don't even have a picture to share, but we've gotten to know each other through our blogs, Facebook and emails and I've learned quite a bit.

*She's a return missionary, like me (Spanish speaking in South America, though I forget where...).
*She's a cloth diaper enthusiast (and a convincing one at that!).
*She's hiLARious (and introduced me to one of my favorite humor blogs)!
*She's my age(ish) and the mother of 3--an almost 3yo, almost 2yo and a 2 and a half month old (did I mention she had the last one at home?).
*I look at her in absolute awe.

Not only is she clearly an awesome mother, but each of her children has or is currently facing a major medical issue and she just handles it. She doesn't lie about being frustrated or that it's not hard but she doesn't let that stop her from dealing with it and getting done everything that needs to be done. Her blog reflects what I believe her attitude is--she just celebrates life. Yep, there are lots of challenges and just as she gets used to one another one seems to pop up and a lot of them are crazy things that no one else seems to have to deal with, but she still sees all that there is in the world to laugh about, find joy in and be grateful for. All that stuff that makes the challenges worthwhile.

Lots of people who read this already know about Danielle and what a neat person she is, but lots of you don't, so I thought I'd do my part by spreading the good news. Everyday we hear about people who are corrupt and do terrible, awful and sometimes unimaginable things...

But there are also Heroes out there.

Real live ones.

And Danielle is one of mine.

New Skillz

One of my friends from church ran into a crunch a while ago and she had an out-of-town emergency that she needed to attend to immediately and without any warning whatsoever. The only glitch was that she's an office manager for a dentist here in Evanston and would be leaving the doctor and the other girl on staff totally stranded to cover her hours. So, she asked me if I wanted to make some extra cash...just in time for the holidays and shopping for baby stuff!

I came into the office and met the doctor and got about an hour and half of training and then showed up on Monday morning and kinda just picked the rest up as I went along.

It was a neat experience--I did receptionist stuff like answer phones, schedule follow-up appointments with people who need more work or come back in six months for their next cleaning, call people and remind them to come to the cleaning they scheduled six months ago even just in case they didn't get the postcard they filled out on their way out the door after their last cleaning, do the billing stuff for all the procedures, print out and fax/mail in insurance claims, update the office books and individual accounts for all the services performed and payments received, get deposits ready for the bank, make calls to different labs and such. But because there is just the one doctor and she doesn't hire any hygienists I also learned how to break down, clean, sterilize and set up a room after a patient's been in, how to clean and sterilize all the instruments and where they belong afterward, how to record on a chart for her where there are fillings or cavities while she examines a patient for the first time, how to prepare all the stuff so she can take an impression of someone's teeth, and stuff like that. It was a very empowering experience to get into the groove.

I learned a bunch of stuff about the world of dentistry and made some extra money, all while helping out a friend. Originally it was only supposed to be a few days, but then almost a month later...but that's okay. It was fun.

It was very reminiscent of my nanny job to some degree. Although my primary function was to do the office work and help with other stuff non-office related but helpful to her that kept me busy, I also had a definite social function as well. She's a very nice, talkative lady and she kept me engaged all day. As a nanny, my primary function was to help with the kids and around the house, and I also helped with non-kids but very helpful to her stuff that kept me busy (I'm very supportive of being used in this capacity--they might as well be getting their money's worth out of me! Getting paid to read the whole Twilight series drove me NUTS about my job at the nursing home),but I was a social outlet there, too. Every single day she'd come into the room I was in and start talking to me and we'd spend an hour just chatting away about this, that and the other--"Oh my gosh, listen to what happened..." or "You have GOT to see what I bought for [insert child's name here]". It was actually very comforting at the dentist's, because turns out I miss that interaction. Granted, keeping the Greek dentist from the North Shore company has a very different flavor than keeping the Jewish housewife from Jersey company--but they're both fun and very nice ladies.

And it was nice because it sure sped up the day so I got to my favorite part of it all the faster! The end! There's a sweet little church song for children that opens, "I'm so glad when Daddy comes home..." and I find myself humming it quite a bit, especially in the late afternoon when I know it won't be long before Grant heads back to the train.

I can not wait to teach it to Kendra and get her as excited as I am for when Daddy comes home.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Editor's Note

So, last week my sweet husband posted this:

Here is the stream of thought behind the photography.

1) Grant appears in the kitchen poised to photograph me. I stop what I'm doing and give a little pose. 2) After he clicks it, I realize he doesn't take very many pictures he doesn't want to share and I gasp as I say, "Grant! The kitchen's a mess, I look horrible and I'm
making a bowl of ice cream and they won't know it's not for me!" 3) "I mean it, get out of here and stop taking pictures!" 4) "Grant, come on isn't it bad enough that I'm fat and pregnant?" 5) "Come on, please. I've even got this incriminating box of graham crackers in my hand..." 6) Hanging my head in defeat.

Getting an education

Turns out, I got pregnant and realized I didn't know jack about having a baby.

So what do I do when I don't know jack about something? Heh. God bless Google!

I do a fair amount of research and I've discovered several websites that send out week-by-week newsletters with information about what's going on with your baby, how things are developing, what's happening to your body, etc, etc, stb, stb ("stb" is the Hungarian equivalent to "etc").

The first one I found and signed up for almost immediately after confirming I was pregnant was the American Pregnancy Association. This site is by far the most formal--lots of good information on just about anything you want to know very detailed and specific. I sort of imagine a Martha Stewart-ish voice when I read the articles. The weekly newsletters amuse me because at the end of each one there is a section called, "Tips for Mom's Partner". Basically, every single week in a very nice way it says, "Shut up. Forget about anything you want. Pamper the dickens out of her. Worship the ground she walks on." And it gives some very helpful suggestions on just how to do that.

Then there's The Bump. The Bump is a little more colorful and a little more fun--it's kind of a community thing if you want to get involved, but it's also a lot of marketing. I get my newsletter every week but I also get several other emails on sales they're having and products they recommend. Yeah right, I married the notoriously spend-thrifty Farns and this is one way we're pretty compatible, buddy. Just give me my free newsletter. The information is pretty much the same stuff I learn from the APA, but they also compare the baby's size to produce, starting with a poppy seed and working up to a watermelon. Right now our little four-pounder is the size of a squash according to them. It's fun, but the sellsellsell vibe is a bit of a turn-off.

Then I found Baby Ga-Ga. This one is by far my favorite, because it comes in a couple of different flavors. One of them is, well...kind of obnoxious and yet still so on target! If you want you can research and get information in the Martha Stewart-ish/Miracle of Life context, or you can order it with a splash of up-front humor and reality-check. I prefer the later. And it's got the community option without the marketing, which I very much appreciate. I like the comical presentation of information and every week there is a little cartoon on the side that's hilarious. Actually, getting this newsletter this morning totally prompted me to write this post. I wish these guys wrote What to Expect When You're'd make learning about the horrific stuff less scary.

So, if you or someone you know is trying to get pregnant, is/are pregnant or someday planning on being pregnant--here are several different newsletters you can sign up for and you're sure to find one that's just right right for you, whether you have the Miracle of Life take or the Nitty Gritty take on bringing a person into the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas as a family

A year ago both Ashley and I were stuck in Chicago for Christmas. It was a lonely time for both of us, away from all family, so we got together to exchange presents and Christmas cheer.

It's a good thing we held our little party at her house because she takes a decidedly less grinch-like approach to the holidays (despite her attitude toward our friend from the North pole). It was a wonderful, beautiful Christmas for both of us.

Here is a picture from last Christmas:

Today we busted out the decorations. Thank goodness for Ashley and her decorations!

This year we are just getting started, but it's going to be great. Fewer presents, though. :)

Fun in the Kitchen

Lately Ashley and I have noticed that some things we do are remarkably white-trash-like.

For example, there's me cooking hot dogs over an open flame...on the stove

And then I noticed that since being pregnant, Ashley has come to love walking around the house in a fuzzy robe and sandals.

Here she is pregnant and essentially barefoot in the kitchen getting ice cream.

Haha, After the first picture she realized that she wasn't really dressed to be posted on the internet. Then she said she was going to look like a pig getting herself a big bowl of ice cream. She objected, and finally just let me take my pictures. She's such a tolerant girl.

It turns out ice cream was for me and she didn't even have any. But I just thought it was such a picturesque moment.

I love you, Ashley.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Scary story with a Happy ending

*Disclaimer--although this post starts with words like "pain" "worried" and "pre-term labor" and involves a trip to the hospital, everything is absolutely fine with me, Kendra and Grant*

Well, not long after I reported my fun of the Third Trimester Blues, I started noticing some things that started gradually but eventually got bad enough that I was in pain and worried. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, there was one spot on my left side towards the bottom of my belly that was really uncomfortable and although I had already felt it, Sunday it was much worse. After we got home from church it stopped being just uncomfortable and started being painful and I found myself sitting down double-over and breathing hard to find some relief while Grant frantically clicked through Google search results to see if he could find some piece of information that would be useful in helping me. We tried Tylenol, which seemed to take the edge off for a little while but when the pain came back in full force an hour later, we decided to stop messing around and call the doctor.

I was very surprised when my doctor's partner picked up so late on a Sunday evening (I caught him doing paperwork) but I spoke to him about what was going on and he said that it didn't sound like I was having contractions (because the pain was localized in one spot and lasting a long time), but told me to come into the hospital just in case and they'd put me on a fetal monitor and check everything out.
He said especially since it was my first baby. I kind of think that means, "Since you've never done this before and have no idea what you're doing or what's really going on, we'll make sure it's all okay."

Did we mention that if you drive south on the street we live on, after half a mile the road literally turns into the entrance to the parking lot of the hospital where I'll be delivering? Naaaice.

And, everything was fine. I was starting to feel foolish once they did put the monitor on me because by that point there wasn't any pain at all. was kind of nice because a doctor came in and did an ultrasound so we got to see our baby again and everything is looking great and she's growing just beautifully--even starting to measure a little earlier than her first due date and she is for sure a Kendra Kay and not an Elliot Landon. They had us wait for an hour to test me for a UTI, which came out clear. We spent the time cuddled on the hospital bed listening to our baby's heartbeat. It was really neat to point out to Grant that whenever the beat was interrupted by what sounded like static, that it was the baby moving and I could feel it. He was really surprised to hear how much she moves around! I was a little too, because I can't feel absolutely everything she does.

But, the test came out clear and we were back home and in bed by the usual time. The experience was actually an overall pleasant one because we got to see the rooms in the maternity ward and they're really nice--they do the labor and delivery all in the same room. They just pull away the bottom half of the bed when it's time for the mother to start pushing--and there's a TV with a DVD player/VCR and a stereo, even a mini-fridge and everything. We were really impressed. We just snuggled and listened to our baby for an hour. I almost actually fell asleep.

However, the best part about it was we found the miracle cure for what ails me.

It's so simple, it's ridiculous.


I've long since known and personally experienced that there are a few basic rules to taking good care of yourself.

*Get plenty of rest.
*Get proper nutrition.
*Get ample exercise.
*Drink plenty of water.

I've been pretty good about having all of those in check, especially over the last few months but we've kicked the water up a notch and have noticed dramatic results. I replaced my five or six 3/4 pint glasses with 7 or 8 3/4 quart glasses a day and ooooohhh my. We measured it out to make sure I'm not actually drinking too much, but when we asked the doctor she said I did the best thing by starting with water and taking Tylenol and that in the future I should just drink "as much as you can stand". So we took it to heart. Apparently although pregnant women should be getting at least 2.5 liters of water a day, pushing 1.5 gallons doesn't do you any harm.

Hardly! Right now the only thing that's bothersome about pregnancy for me is maneuvering my big belly. Literally. I feel awesome. I think I was already doing pretty well because I had the other things in check (I know we make fun of the number of supplements I take but I really do think they're making a difference), but now that this hydration thing is in check there is absolutely nothing stopping me!

I mean, I still waddle and even more with each passing day. There are times I literally catch myself with a strut that resembles that of Warwick Davis. There's also the simple logistics of having a pregnant belly--I still ask Grant to pick things up off the floor for me when he's around. And when I wake up in the mornings my lower back is usually pretty stiff, but I just get up and start waddling around and it loosens right up after 10 minutes and doesn't bother me at all for the rest of the day. Of course, there is still the frequent trips to the bathroom but that is a price I very, very gladly pay for the freedom from almost all other discomfort. No pain of any kind unless I'm not getting enough water and then all I have to do and guzzle a big glass and with in a few minutes...nothing. And since my belly is constantly so full of water my insatiable appetite has all but disappeared! It's a grand and glorious thing.

So, even though we were a little worried when the doctor said, "Come in" we are feeling soooo very blessed we did! Gosh, I can't imagine whining about that pain in my side for three whole months!

She's still not due for more than two months, so there's plenty of time for other things to pop up and give me grief but I'm enjoying this while it lasts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


We got a dang scanner! Now we can share this picture of Kendra with the rest of you.

It's a couple of months old. She's much bigger now. Pushing three pounds, apparently.

Still small, though.