Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spinning.


The instructor said that I would be sore today. She was right. It kinda hurts to sit down. But she promised it would get better over time. Winn and I took our first spinning class yesterday at Healthy Dan. If you've never heard of spinning, you can find out more about it here. It's a cycling class with motivating music playing (and sometimes a video projection of lights and colors on the wall at the front of the room) and an instructor who helps you through a visualization of a workout that simulates certain terrains (hill-climbing, sprinting, coasting downhill, then climbing again). It's not as fun as outdoor biking, but when you live in Minnesota with long winters, it's the next best thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brilliant.

Usually I sing a song with Jonathan while washing his hands to ensure a lengthy enough washing (Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, Dear Nobody, happy birthday to you), but today I got this new soap. Hats off to Dial for a fabulous idea. Timer beads. What a great way to help kids scrub their hands instead of waving them under the facet for half a second and calling them clean. :) When the timer beads have dissolved, you can stop scrubbing!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gnocchi.

Ahhh...bedtime. Such a sweet word. I can hear Winn reading a story about Pippi Longstocking to one tired little boy in the next room, and the house is calm. Hopefully he'll fall asleep more quickly than he did last night.

We had spaghetti tonight. Jonathan ate six helpings, I think it was. And he only stopped at that because it was time for ice cream. And here I thought I could eat a lot of spaghetti! Yesterday he helped Winn make gnocchi and chicken with chives for supper...




Note the interested canine drooling behind the counter...



Sunday, February 24, 2008

Exhausted.

It is a lot to get your first foster child, buy a farm, and put your house back on the market all in one week, along with all the odds and ends that those things entail (calls from the principal's office, visits with teachers, multiple appointments with banks and realtors, etc.). We have been bawled out and beat up (literally). I am mentally and physically exhausted. Thankfully today is Sunday. Church was refreshing, and this afternoon there is nothing on the agenda.

I finished this flannel quilt over the weekend. It's a birthday present for someone special. Can't say who just yet...it's a surprise!

Day No. 29: Ragtime.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Photo 28.

Winn and I were both in need of new treads for the gym, and the other day we found some good sales on running shoes at the sporting goods store. You have to bring clean, dry ones for the track, and ours were getting to be a little on the gnarly side.

Day No. 28: Shiny Sneakers.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cops and Robbers.

We had a serious game of cops and robbers going on here while I was making dinner last night. Jonathan demanded that I call him "sheriff" throughout most of the evening. His prisoner (some of you might know him as Winn) was banished to the staircase, as the banister is the closest thing we have in this house to jailhouse bars. I, the jail's mess hall cook, found the game to be particularly handy when I learned that the sheriff was more than willing to force his prisoner to accomplish several tasks for me while the soup and grilled sandwiches were on the stovetop, such as taking out the garbage and carrying laundry downstairs. I wish I would have snapped a photo of Winn headed down the stairs, arms laden with laundry, a toy pop-gun pressed to his back by a skinny but handsome lil' sheriff.

Tonight a pancake supper is on the menu, just as soon as the boys get back inside from their snowblowing and shoveling. I think I'll surprise them with some steaming hot cocoa and marshmallows too.

Photo 27.

Day No. 27: Blue night.


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This is the lonely weeping willow hanging over the pond on our new farm. I can't wait to see what it looks like in the springtime!

Monday, February 18, 2008

All in a day's work.


This is my laptop screen. Lots of icons, I know. Today I provided closed captioning services for a deaf patient at Mayo Clinic, a Mong girl in her twenties. I went to her appointment with her and took down in realtime what the nurses and doctor said so that she could read it on my screen. Her parents were present as well; and they didn't speak English, so there was a telephone interpreter for them. It was quite a confusing room for a while until we all got into a groove! It was kind of awkward and stressful, all of us in a tiny room, the doctor poking and prodding the patient on the exam table, me squished in between her mom, dad, and sister so that I could be near her with my equipment. I love it. I get such a thrill from being someone's ears for them, writing words like neurofibromatosis and watching them translate into English in a split second on my screen. I will be accompanying this particular client to her appointments all week and am already looking forward to seeing her again tomorrow morning, helping her to engage in a conversation that, without modern technology, she wouldn't otherwise be able to have.

Pink tulips.

Day No. 26: From Anna.


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Photo 25.

Only 5 more photos to go on my photo project. I haven't done a very good job of keeping up with it in the last few days. I guess school finals, work, and a six-year-old will do that to you!

Day No. 25: Our silo.


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Speaking of barns...

Well, I've always wanted a barn...and now we have three! We're the proud new owners of 10 acres with outbuildings galore and an old decrepit farmhouse. At first glance the home might look unliveable, but through the dirt and grime and rotted boards and frozen pipes, we can see the potential in the old hardwood floors and high ceilings and ancient trim. So we'll be busy for several months or years (and if you come and visit us, we'll probably put you to work with a paintbrush too), but someday we'll have it back to its long-ago status of being one of the most charming farms in the area. And we might even have a few chickens by then too.

We still have to sell our house but don't want to do that until we have the farm fixed up enough to live there. I'm not looking forward to the whole having-the-house-on-the-market thing again. It's terribly inconvenient to have to be ready to leave at a moments notice while a realtor shows your house. But I guess there's not much one can do about that.

Things are going well with Jonathan. He's a delight to have around. When I picked him up from school on Friday, he got in the car and said, "I'm really sorry I have to tell you this..." (here I brace myself for something really bad) "...but I'm going to be losing a tooth soon." Boy was I glad to hear that! :)

And speaking of teeth, I found these in the pockets of a certain little boy's pants when I was doing laundry...

Homemade croutons.

1} Cut or tear the bread into pieces and place on a cookie sheet.
2} Melt a stick of butter and mix with garlic salt, ranch dressing mix, or any kind of seasoning you want to use.
3} Brush over bread pieces using a basting brush.
4} Bake for about 15 minutes at 360 degrees.
5} Store in a ziplock bag.

This is a great way to use up old bread or the heels that nobody likes to eat, and your house smells really yummy while you're baking them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We made it.

We made it through the first day without any major incidents. Jonathan is really a sweetheart. He helped me make supper last night by stirring the lemonade and rolling out the dough for homemade pizza. He (and Winn) had fun building houses and cars out of lincoln logs. Bedtime was a little scary for him, but with the hall light on and Sajak guarding his bedroom door, he eventually fell asleep. The school bus didn't come this morning, so we hopped in the car and barely made it there on time. It's not even 10:00 yet, and I'm ready for a nap. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I love barns.

I passed this quaint scene on my way to a job in a small town in southeastern Minnesota this week. I love barns. I'd like to have one someday. And some chickens too.

Day No. 24: The country.


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Waiting.

The social worker will be bringing Jonathan over after school this afternoon, so they will be getting here anytime. We're excited to meet him! I cleaned out the closet in his bedroom today to make room for his clothes, and yesterday I went over to my parents' house and borrowed some toys from my dad. He collects things for his "grandpa box," so I knew I could count on him to have just the thing for a six-year-old boy. I came home with a huge tote full of lincoln logs and another one full of tinkertoys. When he gets bored with those, I'll head back over there to trade the totes for the one full of legos and other good stuff.

Winn had a dozen roses and these chocolates waiting on my desk for me when I got up this morning. He also gave me a book when we met for lunch today at a little bistro downtown. Tonight we'll spend Valentine's dinner with our new little foster child and our houseguests who are here for surgery at Mayo. How romantic. :) We wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ice.

For quite a while now I've been meaning to snap a photo of this cool ice sculpture that's hanging outside our kitchen window. This morning after breakfast I finally did.

Day No. 23: Icycles.


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We've had a full house of guests lately. This morning three of them had breakfast with us. Tonight I hear that we get to experience their North Dakotan hotdish for dinner. Yum! I don't think I've had hotdish since the potluck dinners after church up in Northern Minnesota when I was little. People just don't make it that much 'down' here.

I'm on my way out the door for a job in Caledonia. Looking forward to the quiet hour-and-a-half drive to just relax and think and gear up for the big change taking place tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Excited.

We got a call this morning from a social worker about a placement! They need a home for a six-year-old boy for about a month, and it might turn into longer. It was possible that we were going to have three brothers for the weekend as well, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen right now. Situations change so quickly in the foster care system. It's probably better to start out slowly anyway. So...maybe as soon as the day after tomorrow we'll have an addition to our household!

Day No. 22: All ready for you.


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Just got back from quilt group (I got all the little squares cut out and am ready to go to town on the fun sewing part!) and am trying to decide whether to make a cherry pie or cupcakes for a get-together at our house this evening. They both go well with coffee. :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bestest friend.


We had a pirate-themed Kids Hope party at the elementary school last week, complete with hats and eyepatches and hooks and games like "Walk the Plank" and "Treasure Chest." The kids (and the adults, I might add) had a grand ol' time. Kathy, our KH director, is always so creative with the themes and organizing of these events. These are kids who are struggling socially and academically, usually due to a chaotic home life, whether it's their parents' divorce or something else, and these parties are important to them--something that's done just for them. Thank you, Kathy.

Today Mallory and I worked on prepositions. I think she's finally got her nouns down, but she struggles with the other parts of speech and is way behind the rest of her class. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really getting through to her. There are days when it's a battle to even finish a single lesson page, let alone the entire stack. But then there are days like after the party last week when Mallory's mom came up to me and said that Mallory had told her that I was her "bestest friend in the whole world." And letters like this one that I got from my student two years ago who was graduating from elementary school:

Dear Betsy,

How are you doing? Hopefully you’re doing fine. I just wanted to say I’m going to miss you a lot. I want to say you’re a good mentor. I will miss you very much. I hope that you will have a great summer. I hope you notice that today 6/6/06 is the last day of school. I will miss you a lot. Thank you for your help. I appreciate it a lot.

P.S HOPE TO SEE YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!

Sincerely,
Sandy

So when it's a chore to finish a lesson or to get students to sit still and concentrate, I try and think of the time spent outside on the swingset just chatting with Sandy, or when her teacher told me how much she'd been improving. Or the summer evenings when Derek would come along with us to a church softball game and run the bases after the game, or the proud look on his face when he finally got the hang of tying his own shoes. Or the time when Mallory called me her bestest friend...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Photo 21

Day No. 21: From my sweetie.


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Maui-Maui.

I wish I could say the name of this post was due to a romantic Hawaiian getaway that Winn and I just returned from, but alas, it's just the name of a card game. A very fun card game though. Especially when you play it with these characters...


From left to right: Marsha (with baby Fisher), Kasey, Krista, Albert, Jessica, and Andy, each one a quality friend who we're blessed to know. Before a lively game of Maui-Maui, we enjoyed chicken pesto pizza and these delectables, which just so happens to be yesterday's featured photo. I've sure been posting a lot of food pics lately, ey? I guess you can tell where my priorities lie! :)

Day No. 20: Tasty treats.


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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Photo 19

Day No. 19: Cornbread muffins.


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Hope's Boy


Lately I've been hearing a lot about this book by Andrew Bridge, and it's up next on my list to read. It's a true story about a boy who was born into poverty. His mother, Hope, was institutionalized when Andrew was just seven years old, and he was placed in a foster home that didn't love or accept him. Years later he went on to become a Harvard Law School student and Fulbright scholar and has dedicated his life to helping children in the foster care system. You can find out more about foster care resources on this website, as well as a book review and information about the author.

There are still no foster kids in our home. I talked with our licensor this week, and she said that their placements have gone down considerably in the past six months because of a push to do family placements, meaning that they try and place neglected kids with their own family members first (grandmas, aunts and uncles), which really is best for the children. So I guess it's good that they haven't needed us yet. They did ask us this week to take a 16-year-old girl who is pregnant and chemically dependent, but we decided we'd better stick to our 0-10 age range for now. To be honest, we're scared of teenagers, and we're not sure that we'd have the necessary skills and experience to handle them.

It's possible that we'll start doing respite care for a 10-year-old boy one weekend a month, beginning sometime soon. We're waiting to hear more about the situation from the social worker.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bargain buy.

And the best part of it is...they're flats.

Day No. 18: Six-dollar shoes.


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To make you smile.


Just giggling at this photo of my niece Caitlyn this morning and thought I'd spread the cheer. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Quilting.

Projects are so much easier to finish when you have people like Julie and Rebecca and Eleanor to inspire you. Joining these gals at quilt group this morning was fun, and I got all the squares cut out for a birthday gift I'm working on.

Day No. 17: Flannels.


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My little buddy Ashton was there, too, with his momma. As you can see, he's quite the ladies' man!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Photo 16.

We've been married for over five years now, and all our wedding gifts (dishes, towels, etc.) are beginning to show it. I hope that Winn and I aren't!

Day No. 16: Chipped.


I think I'm all caught up now with my photo posts after being gone for the weekend. Click here to view the entire "30 Days of Photos" album.

Hodge-podge supper.

What do you make when you have a half bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer, tomatoes that need to be used before they spoil, freezer-burned chicken that you don't want to toss out, and crescent roll dough that's past its expiration date?

Day No. 15: Chicken-broccoli ring.


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Photo 14.

Day No. 14: Through my windowpane.


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Photo 13.

Sajak and Sampson (Tim and Dianna's Golden) wore each other out over the weekend. Here they're stopping for a water break...

Day No. 13: Taking turns.


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Home safe.

Yum. I just had some toast with honey on it. It was from a honeycomb that I got from a friend, who got it from a neighbor of hers who raises honeybees. Hmmm, I think I'll go have another piece.

What should have been a 4-hour drive home yesterday ended up being about 5 1/2 hours, the first 4 of which were pretty slow-going due to the snowfall in Iowa. At about 5 o'clock, thanks to the Superbowl, traffic lightened, and we made it home without incident, which is more than we can say for the 30-plus cars we saw in the ditch.



Again, what would we do without coffee, especially on a drive like that!


I felt completely safe in the care of my competent and trustworthy driver. Apparently, Sajak did too...


So we got home around 7:30, which left me with 4 1/2 hours to complete two tests, one exam, and some discussion board that was all due at midnight. I had already done two homework assignments in Iowa over the weekend, so at least those were out of the way. I'm not sure how, but I managed to finish with 40 minutes to spare. Nothin' like cuttin' it close!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mail.

I love getting mail! And today was a fun mail day, with some special deliveries from friends. What creative gals with the homemade packages and cards!


The week sure flew by, didn't it? Winn took Tuesday and Wednesday off work, so that kind of felt like a weekend to me. So it doesn't seem like another weekend should be here yet. But yay, it is! I was at the hospital in Mankato for a job today, and what do you know, Uncle Paul happened to be working on a cafeteria remodel in the very same building while I was there! Unfortunately, I didn't get to see him, but I met up with Aunt Barbara and Cee and Mario afterwards at Dunn Brothers Coffee. Now Winn and I (and Sajak, who's already all excited and pacing the floor and whining because he knows that something's up and that he probably gets to come along...and he loves going places) are getting ready to head south (Burlington, IA) to Winn's bro's house for a visit. We hope to see our niece Emily's basketball game and help remodel their bathroom while there. I'll have to post my '30 days' photos when we get home on Sunday night. Have a great weekend!