Friday, March 29, 2013

98 and Still Counting!

It was the birthday cake that did it.

 A scrumptious chocolate cookie ice cream cake---just the treat for my grandpa's 98th birthday. Oh, it was tasty, but the very next day Grandpa started developing a serious case of the flu. You know, the real flu, the one that carries off weak, young, and old every year.

He coughed. He wheezed. Finally, he stopped coughing and that was worse because now his lungs were filling with fluid.

His lips turned blue from the lack of oxygen and his lungs squeaked and rattled with each breath.

Every movement was an effort, so mostly he just lay on his bed looking unconscious.

Mornings were exciting. Is Grandpa still alive this morning? Oh, good. Still breathing.

We prepared for the end, running through the check list of things to do "when". We thought about placing him back in hospice because clearly this was it. I mean, we can be excused for thinking that. He has----what is it?-----two fatal conditions plus a stroke already and has survived years longer than the doctors predicted.

And then, after several days of dying, Grandpa seemed to stabilize. He wasn't getting better, but he wasn't getting noticeably worse. Still, he was at such a low ebb that the end must be near. Only it wasn't, because after a day or two of a Marianas Trench of a plateau, Grandpa started to get better.

Grandpa always felt if a job was worth doing it was worth doing right, so when he got sick, well, he GOT SICK. And once he started to get better, he kept right on recovering. Now he is back to the level he was at before he got the flu, if not a little better. He's also continuing to make small improvements from his stroke in December--------the man's aging backwards!!!!!!!

So today I made Grandpa a special shirt, one to celebrate his astonishing achievements. Clearly, he is determined to be one of the 144,000 and be translated when Jesus returns-----who are we to stand in the way of his dream?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring = Skiing Weather

Yesterday I finally got to go skiing again after a week of being stuck indoors from all the stormy weather. Of course, the storms had brought a nice, fresh, DEEP layer of new snow, so all was not lost. But I was definitely ready for a change of scenery.

Now that the days are longer, there's time for some skiing after supper, so around 7:45 Caleb and I piled into our ski gear and "hit the slope", a hill out back of our property. We couldn't go on a very long trip because the snow is still too soft and fluffy. By tomorrow, it will probably be too hard and glassy. We have some very narrow windows for optimum skiing conditions around here!

Leaving our tree line and heading out into open country....

We left Finley behind for a while because he found something absolutely entrancing under the snow and stayed there quite a while before deciding that he really wasn't going to catch whatever-it-was.

It was absolutely beautiful out there, but it is some very empty space---not a place you'd like to get lost in. That's why I only go skiing out on the fields when the weather conditions are completely safe---something they almost never are.....

Poor Caleb has to use downhill skis clipped onto his work boots because I haven't found a ski boot at the thrift store that fits him yet. Maybe if he's very good, next year I'll break down and buy him some real equipment NEW! Maybe not....

I'm standing at the bottom of the hill here. Go Caleb---work those legs!

Finley is absolutely passionate about skiing. He loves it when I go exploring with him, but anytime except in the dead of winter the explorers return wearing a thick coating of ticks. So skiing is his only real chance for my beloved company, and the mere sight of skis in my hand is enough to send him into a bouncing, barking frenzy....

Isn't he CUTE!?

 From the top of the hill we can see for miles, but that's pretty much true of anywhere you stand around here. We could see for higher miles, OK! There was a bank of fog about a mile to the west, with trees just peeking through the top of it. It was like being on a real mountain......

By the time we got to the other side of the hill and started exploring some of the territory there, the sun was setting in warm, golden colors.....

 So pretty, but time to start back. I have no wish to explore moonlight skiing.....yet! Caleb and I climbed back over the hill and whooshed down towards home. As fast as people can whoosh who are sinking up past their ankles at each step.....

Be jealous, you daffodil-flaunting Californians. We'll see who has daffodils in June! How 'bout that one, huh!?

Friday, March 22, 2013

HIS Grace: And Don't You Forget It!

So yesterday, with the storm we've been having, my driveway drifted shut again. Great, big, tall drifts that went up and down like the waves of the sea. The truck I'm driving was parked safely out of the yard and down the driveway, but I still had to hoof it out there in order to go to town.

Now, two winters ago when my driveway last drifted shut, I didn't even have a sled. So I was feeling quite peppy that I had everything I needed to handle things if my driveway stayed closed. When it was time to go, I bundled up (boy, did I bundle!) and loaded my sled with 1 propane tank, 2 water bottles, and 2 bags. It looked like this....

The water bottle handles were threaded through the tow rope and the whole thing slid marvelously over the drifts.

Alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way to the car. 

This drift was a solid wall of snow rising chest high. And the truck is that little spot up in the left corner.

But still I was cheery, even laughing on my way out to the car at how fun it was. And then I got to thinking about how most people would find this situation intolerable, but that I didn't mind all the inconveniences. And how God measures out the circumstances of each life, never giving a person more than they could handle. Sure, I had to hike over chest-high drifts to get to my car, but I had my health and the legs to do it with. God hadn't stuck me out here with a child in a wheel chair, or having bad legs, or MS as some of my friends do.

I was really feeling quite thankful that God manages everything so well.

And then this morning happened.

It snowed all night last night, but the drifts weren't as big. The snow plow had come through and made a quick pass through my yard so I was able to make it all the way up to the house again after taking Caleb to meet the bus. I worked for a few hours around the house and then got ready to make a run into town. Let me interject here that I am driving my brother-in-law's truck right now, since my own van is in the shop. (I love you Van-essa! Get well soon!) The result is that I am driving a vehicle I'm unfamiliar with and one that is much too big for me. I need a booster seat to see over the steering wheel.

So as I stepped on the gas to get enough momentum to clear the drifts, I confidently drove right off the road and into the ditch. Stupid truck. Stuck in the same spot for the second time in two days, only this time worse, and with no one here to help me. I tried digging myself out, but to no avail. I had to call for help and wait for the cavalry to arrive.

While I waited, I busied myself with clearing around the tires, growing hotter and more irritable by the minute. "Stupid truck......mutter, mutter......can't see over the steering wheel.......mutter, mutter.....I want my own van back......mutter, mutter."

It was on my gazillioneth mutter that I got a little nudge from the Holy Spirit. Something along the lines of, "Remember yesterday? All that stuff about how God never gives you more than you can handle and how good He is?"

Sigh. Yes, I remember.

Because, if God was good yesterday and doing a rocking, awesome job of ordering the universe, then He's still good today. And there's something to be grateful about getting stuck and having to wait to be rescued while everyone in the county drives by and sees me sitting in the ditch like a loon. At the very least, it's a potent reminder that I exist and succeed only by God's grace. My good humor---on its own---changes as fast as my circumstances do. But with God helping, I'm able to have peace and equilibrium even when things go haywire.

The truck waiting for rescue.

Ok, YOU find the driveway, THEN you can judge me!!!!!

This is a picture of my driveway, honest!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy First Day of Spring!

As you can see, Spring looks a little different here than some places. Quite a few places, actually.  Today is a bright, sunshiny day, temperatures in the low 20's---with a sustained wind of 22 mph.  Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but when it's this chilly, that wind makes a BIG difference.

So instead of celebrating the first day of spring with a cracking good cross-country ski, I'll be getting my exercise from a boring old video while I wait for the next snow storm to hit.

The snow piles in my driveway, with the wind whistling over the top.

The street in front of my parents' house.

Here's a little bonus picture for you. There is a huge herd of deer that is wintering south of Westby. They stayed further out in the fields earlier in the winter, but now that the snow is deep and the forage is sparse, they are coming in close and eating from hay bales left sitting around.

I think the deer around here are super-cute. I've already told Caleb that my next project is going to be a deer rescue---a nice, big heated barn, plenty of food, and a deer-sized pet door for them to go in and out during the winter!

How to Can Cake

I know, I know. Why would anyone want to? Well, about a year or so ago I read an article in a homesteading magazine giving instructions on preserving cake. And you know me, always trying new, different, and slightly odd things. I had to do it.

In the interest of full disclosure, there seems to be some variety in the opinions of whether canning cake should even be tried or not. But since I was taught to can by a genuine, old-school granny (the kind that broke all the "official" rules---with style), I figured it couldn't hurt to try. After all, I've never heard of cake botulism.


Canned Cake

Step 1: Wash your jars, rings, and lids. One of the best ways to can successfully is to keep things  as clean as you are able. Because cleanliness is NOT next to food poisoning. Also, make sure you have completely straight-sided jars---otherwise you won't be able to get your cake out.

Step 2: Grease and flour your jars as you would a baking pan. Don't get it all over the rim if you can help it, because a clean rim will make your job easier later.

Step 3: Choose your cake recipe---most any one will do. I picked a chocolate cake recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook and it worked just fine. Make the batter according to the recipe and fill the jars about halfway full. If you have one, use a canning funnel to reduce mess. Wipe any spilled batter off the rims.

Place the jars on a cookie sheet with rims and put it in the oven to bake.

Step 4:  While your cakes are baking, put your rings and lids in boiling water and let simmer while you finish the rest of the process.

Step 5: Your cakes are done when they pull away from the rims slightly and a toothpick comes out clean, same as with normal cake. Pull them out of the oven and rev your engines, because speed is of the essence now.

It's the heat of the cake that vacuum seals the lids, so it's important to get the lids on as quickly as possible. One needless caution to prevent lawsuits: The jars are hot. They just came out of the oven. Use oven mitts or a dishcloth to handle.

Step 6: Wipe your rims ONE MORE TIME. You can even run your finger around to feel if there are any crumbs. You can't get too fanatical about clean rims, because the smallest amount of junk keep the lids from sealing. Of course, then you get to eat the cake right away, so it has its compensations!

Step 7: Place a lid onto the jar. Put the ring on over that and tighten fairly snugly, but not too tight. Repeat with the other jars.

Step 8: Turn jars upside down on dish towel and let sit 24 hours before disturbing. Or, if you're like me, with the self-control and patience of a gnat, check after a couple of hours very carefully and see if your jars sealed. Repeat as needed. You will know they have sealed if the tops are sucked in and don't give when you press them.

Step 9: Now you have a whole bunch of delicious cake to enjoy or give as gifts. To use, simply open the jar, run a knife around the edges to loosen, and slice the cake into whatever thickness you want. It can be topped with fresh fruit, a glaze,  fudge ice cream topping, or anything else you want.

Unexpected company?

Boom! Open a jar.

Chocolate emergency?

Boom! Open a jar.

Want a quick, no-fuss dessert for the family?

Boom! Open a jar.

Get creative----it's cake on demand! 

Friday, March 15, 2013


The weather lately has been a capricious mix of snow and sun. We'll have days and days of warm weather---just long enough for the cats to say, "At last! Spring has sprung!"---before it all comes crashing down in another storm.

This makes for some cranky cats.

The only thing that lightens their doldrums during yet another snow storm is our wide-screen TV, otherwise known as the picture window. See, the birds around here are wary, skittish even. But during a storm, while the cats are penned restlessly inside, the birds come right up by the house.

Somehow the little feathered fiends KNOW.

You can see poor Boopsie's disabled ear in this picture. He got a touch of frost bite and now it flops.

One enterprising sparrow came right up and fluttered around the window. Fulton nearly gave himself a concussion!

Of course, not every moment is spent in breathless anticipation. Some of the time is spent resting up for action once the weather clears. Or something. It could just be that they're all a bunch of bums.

But every storm has an end, and eventually the cats get to go outside again. Thankfully!

Meanwhile, the humans are left with the task of digging ourselves out. After our last blizzard, the driveway was choked up again. I had moved the van outside the trees, so we still had transportation, but it was kind of a long walk up to the house.

That's why I have children....

Caleb, bringing our drinking water up to the house.

I was VERY glad the snowplows came through before I got home from my monthly trip to Walmart because I was not looking forward to hauling in all that stuff. Or watching Caleb do it---too, too exhausting, don't you know.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Space to Call My Own (sort of)

You'd think that as a grown woman, one who has lived separate from her parents for 11 years (I was a late bloomer, OK!?), I would have a space of my own already. And I suppose I do, in a way. One nice little farmhouse on the prairie.

But my house has a dirty little secret, one that I don't share with everyone.

It has.....children!

As any mother knows, children have a way of oozing into even the most sacred spaces. Most of the time your maternal instincts kick in and you don't mind---you may even find it enjoyable. But every once in a while, a mother's heart yearns for her own little space.

Just one little spot to indulge in her hobbies and personal development. You know---the things she used to do.

Well, I finally got one. A small island in an ocean of community.

A work table for my sewing machine!

I picked up this little table at the thrift shop (where else?). It had a raunchy piece of Formica stuck to it with some kind of tar tape. The lady gave it to me for $5 because it looked so bad.

But my eye pierced beneath its sad exterior and saw the gem it could be. I ripped the ugly top off, sanded it (not as well as it needed, but I was outside in the wind and it was cold), and painted it a cheery color.

The table used to be a school desk and children had amused themselves through the years by writing their names along the top of the drawer.

I left that part unpainted because I think the history is cool...

Now it stands in my living room awaiting an influx of mending, my own little oasis of personal space. Until John gets home for the weekend and has to put all his stuff there. But hey, baby steps.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I WAS Pajama Mom

My sister and I call it "the little voice." You know, the little voice whispering in your mind when God tries to stop you from doing something you'll regret. I wish it did more than whisper---megaphones and a 95-piece band come to mind---but I guess the idea is to train your mind to listen.

I'm not so good at listening. I'm a Day, and we don't listen, we talk.

Every week Caleb gets to stay late one day at school so he can work out. I drive down and get him after an hour and we head home. Very simple and straightforward. Last week was no exception, so when the little voice questioned whether I really ought to go in my pajama pants, I mentally shrugged my shoulders and headed out the door.

After all, I knew the routine and had all the contingencies worked out. If Caleb didn't see me, I had my phone and could call and have him paged. I guess God just hadn't noticed how prepared I was.

I parked the car and waited. I was just pulling out my phone to call when I saw Caleb coming out the front door. Smooth as silk. He walked up to the window and said.....

"Hey, Mom----it's Parent Teacher Conference today!"

Urge. To. Kill.

At that point he glanced down and saw my cheerful blue star pajamas.

"Ummmm. Can you run home and change?"

No, I could not make a twenty mile round trip and take an extra 45 minutes of time.

"But Moooooooooooom! I get 100 extra credit points in accounting and 10 extra credit points in English, and five extra credit......"

I steeled my maternal spirit and prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for my child. I couldn't let silly pride stand in the way of his academic success. I needed to let him know that he was more important to me than my sartorial success. I knew he'd be touched.

"Wait! You're not getting out like that, are you!? Can't you run home and change? Pleeeeeeeeeease?????"

Look, kid, take it or leave it.

The greedy urge for easy extra credit overcame his shame and I was allowed to enter the school. I will draw a veil over the trauma of the next half hour. During which I roamed the halls, met with teachers, and waited in line with other (well-dressed) parents. I do have to give credit where credit is due---all the teachers managed to keep their eyes up on my face. Very professional.

Suffice it to say that Caleb was very sternly warned that if he failed to bring the note home about PT Conference---and I happened to show up in pajamas---that I didn't CARE how many extra credit points he'd miss. There was enough love to do this once, but no more than that!

Pajama Mom is ready for Parent Teacher Conference!