A record of gratitude-1000 gifts

I heard the Baby crying this week so I went to see what was wrong. As I rounded the corner I she lifted her tear streaked face from the Girl's shoulder who had been comforting her after she bonked her head. I'm thankful my children can comfort each other, and go to each other for comfort.

I can hear the GH laughing hysterically from the other room. I have no idea what he's watching that's so funny, I just love to hear the sound of his laugh. It makes me happy.

The sight of the Boy carrying the Baby over the dry grass to the swings at Beema's house, so she wouldn't hurt her feet. And her smile back at me over his shoulder.


That all the only memory left of an ancient ritual filled with fear and evil and human sacrifice is a tradition of dressing up and getting candy. And pumpkins that look vaguely like skulls with candles in them still. Imagine being so afraid.

That a school in Canada wants to send money to help Chala take care of his kids. Which is a god send because they need so much right now.

Getting paid, finally, several checks at once.

The now familiar shape of the boulder strewn hills against the gray sky as we drove tonight. I've learned to love it here. I know I can learn to love somewhere else as well.


The comfort of routine.

Want to share yours? Do it here in the comments, or write a post and leave me a link. I would love to read them.


How (not) to make a Jedi Costume

First, you must give yourself less than two weeks before said costume must be ready.

Then surf around online, discover that there are really big Star Wars nerds out there, and steal some of their ideas.

Wait a few more days to buy fabric, because you need your husband to drive you to the fabric store because you don't have a car.

Put down the flannel you are holding in favor of the big role of burlap your husband holds up. It looks right. Forget everything you know about drape and fabric and how the stuff feels really nasty because, hey, it's cheap.

Next you must sew these. Don't ask why, just trust me, it has to be done. You can't start a new project without finishing an old one. This skirt that you started converting into two sundresses months ago must be completed before any other sewing happens. Plus they can wear the little outfits to the birthday party they are going to the next day.

Oh yeah, make a tutu for the birthday girl as a gift.

Finally, on Saturday night, you now have less than one week, cut out the robe.

Cut it as one giant piece like a poncho with sleeves. Think yourself very clever because you only need to sew sides seams and hem it. And add a hood.

Be a goof and cut the arm holes too small. That way you'll have plenty to do at 2am when you are squinting at the thing with a stitch ripper and putting in gussets to make the arm holes the right size.

Realize that you can't do normal finished seam with burlap, it's too stiff. Run out of brown thread while blanket stitching everything so it doesn't fray.

Decide to work on the tunic now. Opt for taking apart one of your husband's old shirts instead of buying new fabric. Start taking it apart and then take a picture.

You may only sew this costume at at night, so during the day you will make a tiny little leotard for the Baby's ballerina costume. Because if you are all going to a costume party, the girls need costumes too. Sweetly, the Boy thinks he's wearing one of the costumes you made him last year, and isn't complaining at all. It's a good cover for having the sewing machine out.

Actually, the tunic will work out fairly well. And then you can make a belt out of the bit you cut off the back so it's longer in front than the back like a "real" Jedi tunic.

Be sure to sew a light saber holder on the belt, This will earn you everlasting cool mom points.

Finally, pay the women at the sewing machine repair store, that's in walking distance, an exorbitant price for more thread. Cut out and sew in gussets. (They are diamond shaped in case you are hoping to reproduce this.) Blanket stitch it all to heck and then sew on the hood. It is way to big, but you will wait to alter it until after he opens his present. Because it's now 2 am the day before his birthday and you are still sewing.

Start eating marshmallows to stay awake, one at a time at 5 minutes intervals to keep you stimulated. Reflect that you don't really like marshmallows, but it's the only sweet thing in the house, and you really don't like coffee so... (4 days later you will go on a candida cleanse and eschew all sugar for 2 weeks so that you don't feel quite so polluted.)

Cut apart a brown skirt that never fit quite right to make trousers. Take a picture after you've started cutting. Decide to wait to finish the trousers until the next day.

Give him the tunic and robe on his birthday for a present. He will think you are beyond cool, which makes the sleepless nights worth it.

Sew his pants the next afternoon while 10 kids run across the carpet where you are cutting the last pieces.

At your mother in law's house that night you will sew a pink shift on which you will attach yards and yards of tulle to finish a fairy princess costume. But first you will make another tutu for the Baby.

You will finish it the next day just before lunch, only to madly clean up and make soup because you have guests coming. Only they don't show, and you are mostly relieved.

One hour before the party the GH announces that he is going to wear the kilt he married you in. With variations. What are you going to wear?

You want to puke at the thought of coming up with another costume.

After quiet time you will get everyone dressed and in their costumes while he wanders around yelling, "I had a kilt pin, do you know where it is." You will ignore him and continue applying glitter glue to the Girl's arms and face and hair. (Fairies have to be glittery.)

Once everyone is ready, it is too late to take a proper picture and you toss them all in the car before running back inside.

You throw on a sari that is hanging in your closet. You are silently thankful to the woman who made it up for you for making it so easy to put on. You run back out to the car.

You snap these pictures as people get out of the car and the light is fading.

Was it worth it?

Of course!

Even if you do look exhausted in all the photos.


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The Beginning

I moved back to Canada in May. The man who would become the GH went on from Bangalore to Nepal. There he found work to do feeding street boys every day, and being their friend. He would take them to a vacant lot and cook them a meal over his camp stove. He and some national Nepali friends were working on starting an NGO that would teach these boys skills and get them into apprenticeships and off the streets.

Then, he was taken into custody by the Nepali police, along with a French girl who stayed at the same hostel. After several hours they released him because they could find nothing to charge him with. They charged the girl with pedophilia. She sometimes helped feed the street boys and they were affectionate with her. It was a bogus charge, highly politicized. At that time Nepal was trying to pass legislation regarding sexual abuse. The police had to beat two of the boys, and bribe another in order to get them to accuse her. Aaron never saw her again. The French government got her out of prison and took her home.

This began a bad period for the GH. He stayed away from all of his NGO contacts because he knew the police were watching him and he didn't want to get them in trouble. He got a bad case of parasites. He started to get sicker, and sicker. One man who still calls him brother took him to his village and took care of him for a while.

But the GH got skinnier, and sicker. The parasites ravaged his body. He lost about 30 pounds in one month. Finally, after his letters had become nothing more than fever induced sentences about falling down again, he said he was coming home. Only home for him was in the US, and I wasn't there any more. He chose a flight that went to Vancouver, Canada and planned to stay in BC for a week. If he felt better, he would come and visit me in Alberta. If he was still sick, he would fly straight home to get medical attention.

It had been 8 months since I last saw him outside the church in Pacific Beach. I wasn't willing to take the chance that I might not see him again before he went home. So my dad and I drove the 12 hours through the mountains to meet his plane. (At some point he wrote letters to my parents introducing himself. So I'm sure my dad wanted to meet him too.) Our first reunion was with my dad and an elderly couple he was staying with nearby making small talk. He showed me all his pictures. He looked like a walking skeleton.

I had to go back to work the next day so we drove through the night again to get back. But he did feel better, and traveled to Alberta to see me for a month, staying with those same people that I met the first week his dad came to check me out. We spent a month talking, and going on dates, and talking some more. We talked about the kinds of things we wanted to do, how to raise children, how to educate them. We discussed theology, philosophy. We got into all of the little details that we thought it important to be on the same page as a spouse with before you married them.

It was pretty inevitable that we would marry. He had already spoken to my parents. He decided I was "the one" the day we met. It was just a matter of when.

The day before he went back to San Diego, we went out to the mountains west of Calgary for a picnic. We couldn't go to the place we planned on, because Jackie Chan was filming a movie there. We instead we found a lovely little meadow near a brook, surrounded on all sides by steep canyon walls.

As the sun set we sat near the fire, talking about dreams mostly, things we would love to do someday. We stayed talking as the stars appeared, and light started to shine over one of the ridges.

Suddenly he jumped to his feet and said "Come on. I think I remember seeing that it's a full moon tonight. Let's go and see if we can watch it rise."

So we wandered over to a place where we could see moonlight streaming over the rest of the canyon. We watched as slowly the moon showed it's face in the sky until it was hanging there, blazing in the clear night, with a misty halo circling it.

I revealed my inner nerd again, by telling him about a quote from an Anne of Green Gables movie. (Oh yeah. I'm cool.) There's a spot in the movie when she says, to the very unromantic Catherine with a smug C, the headmistress of the school she teaches at, "Isn't the ring around the moon enchanting? It's said that when a man and woman sit together under such a moon their hearts will be joined together in love forever." To which the smug Catherine replies that she is just silly or some such.

I couldn't resist mentioning this little bit of useless information that I got from a girlhood movie to the GH. He responded by observing that there was a ring around the moon the night we camped in the desert too.

"Oh yeah," I said, "I noticed it then but thought it would be just to cheesy to say anything about it at the time."

Suddenly he turned to face me, "I don't want you to be my girlfriend anymore," he said.

"Oh yeah," I answered, grinning. "Why not."

I was waiting for the punchline, sure he was telling a joke.

Instead he grabbed my other hand, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Carrien will you marry me?"

I felt the giggle still waiting in my throat sort of shrink as I realized what was happening. I took a moment to breathe. I wanted to be fully present in this moment as it was happening. And then I said yes of course.

Well, there was no sleeping after that, so after running around in giddy circles in the wet grass for a while we drove back into town and rented a few movies that we sat up all night watching. His bus for home left at 5:30 the next morning and we said goodbye again as that full perfect moon still hung in the pink light of dawn. Only this time we knew that we would see each other again. Soon there would be no more good byes.

Our first meeting

The first uh date?

so this is goodbye

Meet the Family


And now, 7

I still can't get used to this growing up thing that happens. My little babies turn into people and rush toward adulthood so fast. It feels like yesterday that I first held you, traced your perfect ears with my finger tip, spent hours just looking at you.

I don't get much time to look at you any more, not while you are still.

You can read now, which still feels like a miracle to me because I taught you how to. It's so fun to watch you get caught in a book, sucked into the pages and forget everything else. Of course, it's frustrating at times to, because there are things out here in the real world that require your attention. I love that you love to read. I feel like my job as your teacher is mostly done because of that. Oh, there's lots more for me to teach you, but now that you can read there is a lot more that you can teach yourself.

I like the way you get a book and your sisters snuggle up next to you as you read out loud to them. I don't know if you know how much they admire you. You seem oblivious to the way the Girl looks at you as you do something cool with total adoration in her gaze. You don't notice when she gets up and tries to do the exact same thing.

To have sisters who love and admire you is high praise my boy. It's testament to your character, and the way you treat people smaller and weaker. You are most often gentle with them. You take time to teach them something, even if they don't really want to learn it right now, or from you. :)

You play games with them. You involve them in the things that you are doing, most of the time.

Unless it's Lego, then you just want everyone to leave you alone. You forget to eat, to dress, to do everything so obsessed are you with the Lego. You got new Lego sets for your birthday, Star Wars of course. In one day you had put all of the sets together, all by yourself without once needing assistance. Just 3 years ago, when you got your first Lego sets, I was the one who ended up assembling all of the pieces for you, and it was painstaking and hard and I hated it. Here is another way that you have grown up right in front of me.

You have matured in other ways too. You are more aware of other people, of what's being done. You often answer your own question. Instead of yelling "MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY, I HAVE A QUESTION MOMMY! WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GO?"

Now you will start, "MOM, when...oh right, you said to get my shoes on . I saw that you were getting that done and I remembered that you told me to put my shoes on before we could go. Right. I forgot."

I love that you still process these types of cues audibly so I can hear what's going on in your head. I also love that you are starting to pick up on these types of cues. All of those moments of me saying, "What do you see me doing? What did I just say? What do you think?" may finally be paying off. Whew.

You have friends that choose you now, and you choose them. Your play is all about guns and swords and secret missions. Yet, you are often just as happy to play "Hannah Montana" with the girls when they are around. You have no idea who Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana are, you just know it involves the girls posturing and standing on the picnic table while singing. But you know it cheers the girls up when you say, "Let's play Hannah Montana, you can be Hannah Montana." And so you say it when needed to keep the girls who want to play with you happy.

It amuses me to watch the dynamics that play out when your friends fight over you. Like when one of your boy friends wants you to himself to play Legos he will rudely say to the little girls, "No girls allowed, only boys."

And then the poor little girl in question will wander around feeling sad until she figures out how to make what she's doing look more fun than the Lego. You are fickle, but it's unintentional; easily distracted from one friend by another. You rarely need to look for people to play with these days.

You are ready to start reading a "big long book" now, no more Magic Tree House for you. Given the choice between, Treasure Island, Cry of the Wild, and Robinson Crusoe, you went with Robinson Crusoe. I smile to myself, because that's probably what both your dad and I would have chosen too.

I love the way you try not to smile when somethings is amusing, your mouth twists up in this way that is wholly you, and completely adorable. And I am grateful for the way you still get so excited about things. I never want you to stop doing that, jumping for joy and running around when you get good news. I save telling you things for just the right moment, just so I can enjoy your reaction. Please don't ever outgrow your ability to express joy so freely.

You are so excited to move to Thailand. You tell everyone you meet the Thai words and alphabet that you can remember. Gai means chicken.

You are excited that you may get to spend more time with daddy helping. He told you that everyone there helps out during rice planting season, and that he would take you along, and you are fully enamoured with the idea of doing something so important to help your daddy, and the other kids who are there.

I'm kind of glad that we still have the sleep disorder to deal with these days. The laundry is daunting, but I like that we have that to work through together and that you aren't all the way grown up yet. As difficult as it has been, I think it is forging our relationship stronger to have this to deal with together. I think we're both doing a good job with it, and I'm glad for the bond it gives us. How silly, that I would think to be thankful for something like that, but I am. I'm grateful for all the moments that I get to spend with you, all of the chances to learn about life together.

I have no idea how to wrap this up. I could go on and on talking about the things I like about you. The way you try to give me bone crushing hugs at night when you are in bed, the way you cheerfully play with or read to your sisters when I need some help, the way you are so serious an thoughtful about things.

You are a light to me. You are what makes me want to be better than I am, to be worthy of this privilege of parenting you. Your smile makes my day better, your joy reminds me to give thanks.

I love you, always.


Meet the Family

Life went on much the same as it always had after the GH got on a plane and flew away. Although, I'm sure there was a lot more wistful sighing at regular intervals on my part. We started emailing after he left Hong Kong and arrived in Madras.

Until the next Sunday.

I had met the GH's dad once before. I may have exchanged a few sentences with him that day in Mexico. That was the extent of our interaction. I didn't even think he knew my name.

That Sunday evening, during service, there he was. Then he pulled me aside and introduced me to some friends of his who were also from Canada. So we made polite small talk.

That was a bit awkward.

The next Sunday, there he was again. This time he walked straight up to me, pointed to the guy on his right and said, "Carrien, this is GH's younger brother E." And then he walked away. We stood there looking at each other for a second, and then had a bit of a conversation as well.

It was getting weirder and weirder.

So I emailed him, and told him I thought his family was checking me out. Why would they be checking me out? They hardly even knew me.

He replied.

"Er, I may have something to do with that."

His family thought it quite odd that he would spend his last few hours with them on the phone with someone else. So when his mom drove him to catch his plane the next day she started probing a little.

"So, how was the desert?"

"Well, I didn't go alone."

"Mmmhmmm, who is she?"

"Well mom, let me put it this way. Would you like to see a picture of what I think your future daughter in law may look like?"

And then by all accounts she nearly drove off the road. They talked about it, and me, and she agreed that perhaps this was the right time, and that I might be the right one. And then he gave her an awful picture of me just waking up in a sleeping bag that she tucked into her purse and prayed over for the next several months until we finally met.

He told me all this in an email. And then he typed, some what nervously, "I'm not so lacking in social graces as to propose over email, but you may as well know that unless things have changed significantly by the time I get back, this is what I'm thinking. Let me know if I should just forget about it."

Surprisingly, this did not scare me off. I say it was a surprise because other people in my life had mentioned marriage before, and I had run away screaming, metaphorically speaking of course.

So they had been coming to check me out. Talk about nerve wracking. I guess I passed though, or he said something, because after that I didn't see them again.

We kept emailing. We sounded each other out on every topic imaginable. We got to know each other as well as two people can through correspondence. We had a lot more in common than not.

I finally admitted to myself that I was caught up in love with him when some pictures he sent me arrived in the mail. Pictures of himself surrounded by a bunch of the kids he was teaching in Bangalore, pictures of him with colored powder all over his face during some Hindu holiday. I don't think I had realized until then how cute he was/is. It wasn't what I had been thinking about. But my was he cute. I spent a lot of time looking at those pictures, and every time I did it would make me smile.

In May it was getting close to the time that the girls and I were to return to Canada. The GH asked me to go and visit his family. We didn't know when I would be going to the states again, if ever, and he wanted them to meet me. So the girls and I, in our giant white 15 passenger Ford van made the longish trek from PB to Rancho Bernardo to his father's church one day. And there were a lot of kids there, lots of little kids, and they were all related to the GH it seemed. (he's the oldest of 8. The youngest was 4 at the time.) His mom came toward me and the first words out of her mouth were, "Are you the girl whose picture is in my wallet?"

"Uh, I don't know. You have a picture of me in your wallet?"

And she showed it to me, and we sat and talked, and she said she didn't want to be all pushy and interfering so she hadn't come to where I was to meet me, and she wasn't going to invite me over for dinner in case I felt like I had to go, but if I felt comfortable and if I wanted to, would I please call her and invite myself over for dinner sometime soon? And she said it like that, in one big, breathless run on sentence.

So I invited myself over for dinner, after taking a few weeks to work up the courage. And they drove a long way to gather me and take me to their place. I loved it as soon as I got there. The little kids running every where, the goats and the dogs and the big sprawling rancher. Everything was big happy noise and confusion. It was like a Sunday afternoon at my grandparents, only quieter.

Just like with him, right away I felt at ease. It felt like coming home.


the blessings are many

The Girl wakes up in the middle of the night. Deep rattling coughs shake her little body. I go in when I hear her whimpering and prop her up on pillows, smooth back white tangles from hot forehead, kiss her cheek. "I had a bad dream, " she says. She grabs my arm and cuddles against it. "I want you to stay with me mom." she murmurs. So I sit in the dark holding her, stroking her hair, and looking at the stars through the window. I'm filled with gratitude that I get to be the one who holds her when she wakes in the middle of the night. I feel like I could stay here forever, just holding her as she sleeps.

The day after I started thinking it would be fun to make ice cream for the Boy's birthday party, if we could afford to buy supplies (got paid) my neighbor brought over almost 20 cans of evaporated milk that she found at the back of her cup board while moving. Enough for plenty of ice cream. Which is good because we still haven't seen that check.

I sold a sling, which paid for a few other things this week.

Our neighbor made cup cakes and brought them over to share.

Another neighbor called and asked if she could bring snacks and juice.

The Boy loves his costume. "Do you know what this means mommy?" he asked as he wore it around for the first time. "It means I'm lucky," he whispered.

Yesterday I found the Girl struggling with a gift bag. "Can you get some tissue paper mom? I'm trying to give the Boy a present." Feeling a bit of a pang because I completely overlooked this part of the birthday celebrations, helping her give him something, I asked, "What are you giving him."
I'm giving him Black Beauty she said, showing me one of her favorite stuffed horses. "I think ginger is my favorite now, so he can have this one."

When he open the package he thanked her excitedly. I have generous children who are quick to experience and express gratitude. I'm thankful for them.


Parting is such sweet sorrow...

One of our friends was arriving on a plane that night at midnight. Her parents flew her home for Christmas, so the girls were all getting ready to go and meet her plane. I stayed behind, hoping to catch up on some much needed sleep.

I was laying on my 3rd of the mattress on the floor that 3 of us shared, mostly asleep, when suddenly the lights turned on and four other people jumped on me. Literally. Dori sat on my chest.

"So? Tell us?"

"Yeah, tell us about this guy?"

"Do you love him? Are you going to marry him?"

"Whoa, slow down. I just met him, I'm not going to marry him."

"Well, Rae says that there's something interesting going on."

"Ha ha, you so totally found a guy."

That's when I found out about all of the scheming and matchmaking going on.

And so I told them some of the details. And they wanted to know if I was going to call him.

I was torn. We had already said goodbye. Why bother calling just to say good-bye again?

But I did want to talk to him again...

All the next day I agonized, knowing that it was his last day in the US.

Finally, toward evening, I picked up the phone and dialed.

"I'm so glad you called," he said. "I have been kicking myself all day for not at least getting the phone number at the church where you're staying."

And we talked for hours again while he finished packing. He interrupted his conversation from time to time to say good-bye to his little brothers and sisters.

We talked about how we felt the day before mostly. And how we felt now.

And he said again that he loved me. And I sort of froze up, wanting to say it back, but not ready to just yet.

And then, it was time to say goodbye again.

Our first meeting

The first uh date?

so this is goodbye

4:30 in the morning

I've just brought the Jedi costume to a place where he can put the thing on and wear it and it looks right. I'd like to finish a few seams and sew up some matching trousers but, it's stupid late, and the sewing machine started making a clunking sound a few minutes ago, which is why I've decided to stop. Don't want the Baby to wake up again.

The GH blew up balloons earlier this evening and just as I was finished tacking them up everywhere, about 10 minutes ago, he came out of the bed room.

"Hey, what are you doing up?" I asked.

"He looked at me, his face all sleep befuddled and pale, "I'm wet."

"Hey, why are there balloons?"

"Well they're supposed to be a surprise for when you wake up in the morning."

His face cracks a bit, with that wry sort of grin I am coming to love. "Okay mom," he says, in a joking tone, "I'll try to forget when I go back to sleep."

And then I shooed him into the shower while I finished putting them up.

I decided, eventually, eying the Santa Ana's all the while, that we could plan something. And so, tomorrow after school, when all the kids come over to our house we are going to try and make ice cream following Chris's directions. (Shoot, I forgot to get spoons. Arrgh!)

And then one of the neighbors decided she need to bring cupcakes too, and a few of the teenage girls get off school early tomorrow and will be here to help me get things set up.

And, Megan is in town for three days only, and she will bring the Boy's "favorite ever friend" C over to play all afternoon, and then she offered to take us out for pizza. I think it will be a fun day.

On Friday we go to the in-laws and take a Jedi cake, and Saturday is the costume party at church.

So I may not get the next installment of our love story up today. There are 4 posts in my head that I want to write right now. But I'm going to go and hope for at least 4 hours of sleep instead. Wish me luck.


A Tale of Two Childless People-Update ***

This is a typical afternoon at my house. It feels like the entire neighborhood congregates outside my door. Some of these kids I actually watch while their parents go somewhere.
A lot of them just come over on their own after school. At least 4 of them don't have parents at home after school time. Some of them have teenage siblings who watch them from the hours of 3pm until 2 am when their mom gets home from work, girls who are hardly more than children themselves, on the cusp of puberty. They come to my house too.
(I have no idea who took this picture, that's me behind the planter.)

It's busy. For two or three hours I don't get anything else done. I fill cups with water, I wipe noses, I answer questions, I mediate disputes, I hand out snacks if I have any. Sometimes we have as many as 6 extra kids who stay for dinner. Yesterday I served everyone tea too, since they all asked, in little tiny tea cups.

It takes a lot of my time. I still try to get dinner started while I keep a watchful eye on what's going on outside but even that is difficult.

It's worth it to me. I'm glad to be the place where my kids and their friends like to play. I'm glad to offer a safe place for the kids who don't have parents around, or whose homes are too unstable to feel safe there too.

Often other families will join us. Other moms or dad's will stop by and hang out for a bit as their kids join the fun. The number of kids around usually tends to attract more kids, and their parents, and this is how we get to know each other in this little community of ours.

We've been here 3 years and not one person has complained.

Well, about two months ago a newly wed couple moved into the apartment directly across the green from us. We watched as they moved their, still in the plastic wrap furniture, into their newly painted white apartment. We watched as they arranged their perfect pier 41 patio furniture. We watched as their childless friends came to visit.

And we didn't really think much of it.

There were the attempts to smile and wave as they went by that were met with mostly glares from the reclusive bride, and then we just ignored them.

Well, last night they decided to come over to talk to us. They came together, her standing at his shoulder and mutely glaring as he did all the talking.

I'll spare you all the details, but here are few of the more amusing things they had to say.

They were so earnest and sure of their position and I choose to believe they were trying to be polite and just couldn't help the condescending tone in which this all was said, which only makes it more funny to me.

Them:We are both working on Masters degrees and we have studying to do and essays to write and it's really hard to concentrate with the sound of all the kids screaming outside. Even when we close our windows we can still hear them. (Their windows were wide open as they said this. And they have a plastic panel in their bed room window where they installed a non regulation air conditioner, so there is no glass, it's essentially open all the time. When last I checked, thin plastic doesn't stop sound like glass does.)

Me:You do realize that you live in a family oriented community right? If you don't want to have to hear the sounds of children playing perhaps you should have rented an apartment in an adult only community.

Them: Yes well, we're fine with the kids playing but it's just so loud. (It isn't anything above normal levels of kid play, except when someone gets hurt.) When we were kids we played outside and were taught to be respectful of other people. We had fun, but we didn't have to be loud.

Me: In my head-snort, snigger, yah right. I'm sure that's how you remember it. How many children have you been around in the past decade?

Them:We even notice that during the traditionally more quiet hours of 4-6 when families are having dinner it's still loud outside and there are still children about.


In my head-Exactly what planet did you say you were from again?

Out loud-Uh, 4-6 is when kids play outside. You know, after they get home from school and before dinner?

Them: The community ordinances specifically state that noise should be kept to an acceptable level.

Me: Yes, define acceptable. Almost everyone else who lives in these apartments has small children. My kids don't make any noise after 9pm and before 7am as the ordinances state, and in fact the only times they do play outside are between 3-6 most days.

Them:Well there is a playground just around the corner, perhaps you could go and supervise them over there instead. Kids should play at the playground don't you think?

Me:Let me get this straight, I should, instead of making dinner while my children and others play safely nearby, I should put my entire life on hold in order to sit and watch them around the corner so it's more convenient for you?

In my head-Yeah, good luck with that.

Out loud-Well, I'll talk to my children about the noise if I notice them being particularly loud, but I can't promise anything past that. There are several local coffee shops that have free internet if it's really a problem for you, or perhaps you could purchase a set of ear phones?

I hope they remember this day when they finally have kids. I so hope they remember.

I wasn't sure I wanted to wish them children out of fear for their children, but I'm willing to believe that they have the capacity to grow up and become less self centered given time and the blessings of offspring.

I imagine a moment 10 years from now when someone else comes to tell them that their little Jimmy is playing outside with his friends too loudly. It makes me laugh.

***Well, the childless couple seems to feel, at least a little, contrite about our conversation yesterday. They just brought over home made chocolate chip cookies "for all the kids". I'm so glad. I wanted to like them. This gives me hope.


So this is goodbye.

We drove together out of the desert. Conversation still flowed but there were more comfortable silences in it than before.

He pointed to a hill on our right and said, "My parent's house is just up there, behind that hill."

He felt awkward not taking me home to meet them, but he wasn't ready to tell them about me just yet. (He told me that later.)

Instead he took me to an outdoor supply shop, about 2 miles from where we live now actually, and bought me a "decent water bottle."

We went to his favorite pizza place near the beach, and after a day of trail food we attacked that pizza, and the micro brewed root beer. We stopped on a beach to see if a flash in the wave was phosphorescence, it wasn't, and essentially just wandered around before making our way back to the church where I was staying.

And then it was weird. They were all staring at us. My friends. They would pretend they were talking to each other in hushed tones, but their attention was totally fixed on us.

He was flying to India in two days, and we weren't ready to say goodbye, so I suggested we head out to the beach near the church for a while.

We were both struggling. It felt strange, this part about saying goodbye. We had only just met, and now we were parting, and it felt...wrong. There was stilted conversation about where I planned to be one year from now, would I ever come back to San Diego? Would we ever be in the same place at the same time again? I didn't even have a permanent address. He didn't know if he would ever come back, but he planned to be gone at least a year.

I wrote my email address in his book, and told him he ought to get one so we could write. (Imagine. Remember the days when not everyone had email?)

And then he said, "Well, good bye. I hope I'll see you again someday."

And I said, "At least give me a hug before you go. It feels wrong not to hug you goodbye."

So he hugged me, and we stood there, embracing, staring at the waves for what felt like a really long time. And then he started singing, and I listened to his voice as it vibrated in his chest.

Finally, the song ended, and we broke apart, and headed back toward the church. He asked if he could hold my hand on the way back, of course I said yes.

And then we chatted for a few more minutes before he hugged one more time. "Goodbye, I love you", he said, and then walked away.

Our first meeting

The first uh date?


Gratitude- A Record

I started keeping a journal in High School. I still have it somewhere. It's a blue binder with loose leaf pages in it and on the front, emblazoned with emphatic ball point pen letters, are the words, "DO NOT OPEN."

The front page has a plea to whomever finds it after my death to burn it without reading it's contents, also written when I was a teenager. Looking at it now is really mostly funny, at the same time as it's embarrassing and painful. Every entry involves me HATING someone, mostly my parents in the middle of a divorce. I keep it around, I think, to make me humble.

Subsequent journals have been less, er, dramatic, but only slightly. They are still the place where I took all my problems and frustrations and spilled them out on the page. The conflicts with friends, the difficulties of growing up, of being afraid. There is the pathetic journal I kept during our honeymoon, oh sad, sad, honeymoon, where we couldn't have sex yet, and me trying to interpret each and every mood of the GH. And the pregnancies with the depression that sets in for 9 months, and the crazy feeling that everyone is being mean to me and hates me. They are not what you would call entertaining.

Journals have been my therapy for my entire adult life. If you read them you would think that my life was one series of traumas after another, because I never really wrote in them except when there was something painful to process. You may also conclude that I am prone to self pity, and you would be correct. These journals tell a part of the story of who I am, they tell people how I think during a conflict or when I'm stressed. If my children were to find them after I pass they would find a hidden side of me, a dark side that I wrestled with pen stroke by pen stroke.

And this is why I'm heading out to get a shiny new journal, one that hasn't been written in yet. I'm joining the Gratitude Community. I've been meaning to all month.

Beyond the immediate benefit if focusing on what I have, rather than what I haven't, I want my children to remember that I was also joyful. I want there to be a record of the things that I was thankful for, the moments that brought me joy day by day when they were small. Some of that is here already in this blog, but I want there to be more.

My plan is to post selections from my gratitude journal here every Friday. It will be the new and improved version of Small Joys Friday.

Here are a few to start.

I'm thankful that even though we're heading into week 4 with absolutely no paycheck, we still have what we need, and some of what we want. (The person the GH did work for last needs to be paid by his client before he can afford to pay us. Welcome to sub-contracting, it's fun.)

We haven't been able to buy groceries past a few dozen eggs and a gallon of milk, but our pantry is stocked well enough that it would be another month or two before we are truly hungry, though we will be bored very soon. (It's an involuntary 30 days of nothing, an unrecognized opportunity to blog.)

I'm thankful for food on the table every night.

I'm thankful for my craft cupboard, which has almost everything I need to make costumes this week.

I still have tomatoes growing on the patio.

We haven't needed to use the credit card yet.

The feeling of climbing into bed on a cool fall night and feeling the warmth start to radiate out from my body and warm the blankets as I fall asleep.

The Baby's face in the light of the nightlight, fast asleep on my arm, lashes snuggled on cheeks, mouth open.

No more fires have broken out this week.

We might get paid to day. And if we don't there is enough for tomorrow.


The first uh date?

At the end of our first conversation I had an invitation to go hiking in the desert with him. The GH was quite convinced that he needed to see more of me, and he was leaving for India in a week, so he made his move. We were talking about hiking already when he offered to take me.

It was the first awkward moment in the conversation. See, I was living with these 5 other girls, in a strange city, and country, far from home. We were there to pray, and serve, and we had an explicit no dating agreement. None. No looking even. So of course I hesitantly asked if I could bring them all along.

He didn't even blink. "Sure, no problem." he said. "Bring them all."

So he gave me his phone number, I was back to sleeping in a church on the floor by this time so I didn't really have a number, and we agreed on a date. (The details of that are all fuzzy, we couch surfed so much in those days I can't keep it all straight.)

As we drove through the Mexican dark on our way back to civilization, I told Rae, as casually as I could, that I met a guy who had offered to take us all hiking. She uttered something noncommittal in response and we didn't speak of it again for a day or two.

Well, the GH and I talked a few times, consolidated plans, and the girls seemed excited to go. And then, just as everything was finalized, an odd thing started to happen. One by one they just sort of made lame excuses for why they didn't really want to go anymore. As more and more people dropped out, I started to panic. Here was this guy, putting himself out for us, and they were all canceling and backing out. I was so worried he would be offended. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to go, and I really wanted to.

I remember sitting and talking with Rae about it. First I was begging her to come, but she wouldn't. Next I was asking her if she thought it would be ok if I went by myself since no one else was going.

Rae was 18 at the time, the youngest in our group. She is still one of the sweetest, most gentle, innocent, and beautiful people I know. So how was I to even suspect that she was conniving behind my back? All of this, my current dilemma, this conversation, all orchestrated by her.

I didn't know that she had seen the two of us talking that night. She, being the perceptive soul that she is, realized something important was going on, and decided it was her job to help it along. So she told everyone else to back out. Her words later were, "He was so enjoying you as you spoke. You would say something and he would throw back his head and laugh. I just thought you should have more time alone together."

Lucky for her, and me, he didn't turn out to be an axe murderer.

She said to me then, "I think it would be alright Carrien. We all trust you, you're not going to do anything stupid." And then Carlissa, another one of our group, said something like, "Oh My Gosh Carrien, you're like a nun. You don't even look at men." Which was true, even then, my conscious thought was simply that he was another friend. She waved her hand imperiously, "Go, have fun hiking."

And so my tender, dear friends threw me to the wolves, or wolf. And I went pretty willingly.

I was so nervous waiting for him to pick me up. I second-guessed the whole thing. I told myself I was being reckless and stupid... and then he showed up, and smiled at me with that smile of his. And I shouldered my pack and slid into the passenger side of his 15 year old black BMW.

From that moment on it felt as though I had known him my entire life. I have never felt so completely at ease around someone as I do around him. Talking to him was like talking to myself. We camped in the desert under the stars and drank tea and ate ginger cookies and talked far too late. And then when morning dawned he showed me around the desert that he loved so much. That night and day we felt like old friends, like we finally found that friend we had always wanted.

It wasn’t romantic, yet.

But as the day drew to a close, and we sat on a rock to watch the shadows deepen across the desert floor, I kept finding myself wishing he would put his arm around me. It felt wrong to be sitting like this, so close, and not touching.

Instead he got up and announced that it was time to get back into town.


Birthday called on account of fire

It's the Boy's birthday next week. I still haven't decided where or how we're going to celebrate. Oh, I know some things. I know who he wants to be there, I know I am sewing a Jedi costume as a gift, and he wants a cake with a picture of a Jedi on it, in icing. [Cue maniacal laughter.]

But when, and where are still to be decided.

It started when I spoke to a friend at church last week.

"If you want to come to [her son's] birthday I think we're just going to the park nearby next week after church. I don't want to plan anything since last year he was born in the middle of a wild fire and I'm worried it will happen again."

She literally went in to the birth center on a normal day, and came out with a newborn wondering what on earth had happened.

That got me thinking as I tried to finalize plans for the Boy's party. Last year we had to celebrate on the road. We evacuated twice. Once to my in laws, and the next day from there to my husband's grandparents. We celebrated his birthday in the great grandparent's house while daddy and the uncles stayed behind to protect the family property.

I looked at the still barren hills near lake Hodges on the way home from church where they are just now rebuilding homes and I asked myself, "Will it happen again? Should I bother making plans?"

As I was pondering these things, lo and behold, Camp Pendleton burst into flames yesterday. We all wondered where it was coming from as we stood at the playground staring west at the smoke, and speculating.

So I have given up. On October 23, at an undisclosed place, and an undisclosed time, perhaps in an evacuation center, we will be celebrating the Boy turning 7. Everyone is invited who can make it. If we are near a kitchen I will try making cake. If we can get to our church's big Masquerade Madness party that weekend, if the freeways are open and there is no fire in the way, that will be really fun, we'll pretend it's all for his party.

The End.

Seriously, what would you do?


Milking the Weekend for all it's worth-how we all got sunburnt

So, this was last weekend, but there is no way you would know the difference if I hadn't told you. I just feel compelled to let you know. My camera needed batteries which is why I bring you last weekend today.

We finally went camping.
(Apparently when you are camping you must bring along your blaster guns and pretend to be stormtroopers.)

All year the kids have been obsessed with the idea of camping again. But camping in the summer here is just crazy talk.

Way too hot. And we've been way too busy.

So last Friday we packed up all the gear and met for our regular Friday night family dinner at a local campsite. And then we spent the night in a tent and went hiking the next day.

My head in the clouds girl.

And because that wasn't exciting enough, we packed up and came home in time to make dinner for guests that evening.

It rained all night, for the first time in months. So when the morning dawned grey and cloudy my Canadian self broke out the sweaters and made sure we would all be nice and warm for our day at church, then a birthday party, and then the Miramar airshow. For the first time this year I didn't make sure that we all had hats and sun screen before we left the house.

You know how this ends don't you? It was a fine sunny, although breezy SoCal day, and we all got burnt.
The GH was in a bit of pain after holding them up to see the planes for a while.

But it was fun.

Except when a particularly loud fly by scared the Baby.
But then when it was over we went to look at big military vehicles to wait out the traffic that was leaving. And that's when my fascination with the juxtaposition of cute innocence with military might began.

The Girl in a gunner's seat.

The Baby in a cargo plane.

The Boy in the cockpit.

And the hot man that takes me places.
To see the whole album go here


our first meeting

I wrote about the GH and how we met once before here. And it was long and boring to probably everyone but me. The story was lost in the details. So this month, I want to try again.

The morning I met my husband I almost stayed in bed instead. It was Dec. 27, 1998 and I was 20. I was sharing a tiny one bedroom apartment in San Diego with 5 other girls at the time. That's another story. But my friend Rae really wanted to go on this trip and kept asking me if I was going. So I got out of bed.

We met in Mexico.

Actually, we first laid eyes on each other in a parking lot in a large group of people as we prepared to cross the border into Mexico, but we don’t count that. I had no idea that I was meeting the person with whom I would one day choose to intertwine my life. He was just another name and face in a sea of names and faces. He was similarly unimpressed. He thought I said my name was Tureen and thought that my parents must be nuts for naming me after a soup serving dish.

A few short hours would be all it took to make sure that we never forgot about each other ever again.

We were with a combined group of churches and were taking food, clothing and baby blankets to celebrate Christmas with a church in Tecate. The GH's dad was a local pastor and one of the organizers of that trip.

I borrowed his key chain scissors to cover the food tables with paper. (Now I carry them in my purse, I borrowed them so often he finally gave them to me.) I noticed his very cool tattoo, which he designed himself, and we talked briefly about the difference between Pictish and Celtic art. And still we failed to notice each other, though I do remember thinking I really liked his smile.

There was a bit of a service, different people shared. My FIL gave the final talk and then asked us if we would all pray for his son who was headed to India for a year. (They were killing Christians in India then, much like they are doing now in Orissa state. More on that in a future post.) So many, many people gathered around the GH to pray for him.

I was pretty bitter about some things that happened in my very dysfunctional home church in Canada at this time, so I remember my entire thought process as, "Sure, they always pray for the pastor's kid."

But, since I was at that time still a "good little church girl" as the GH likes to put it, I at least stood up on the outskirts to sort of join in.

And then it happened. I saw him. I really, truly saw him. This happens to me sometimes, these moments of clarity, most often when I am praying. It's almost as though some membrane is pulled aside for the briefest of seconds and I can really see someone for the first time. Perhaps what really happens is that I'm able to let go of all my preconceptions and filters for a moment and see past them.

And there he was.

All I remember was thinking that he had the most beautiful heart I had ever seen. There was something so very sincere and faithful about what I saw in that moment that I desperately wanted to talk to him just once in order to see it again. Maybe that's when I started to love him.

It was so strong that it was three days before I was able to connect him with the guy I had had the two prior conversations with. In my mind they were different people.

So I watched him rest of the day. I watched him through the loud and exuberant Spanish singing. I watched him as I served hot dogs, passed out blankets to babies and hygiene items to girls that looked old enough to need them. I watched him as we cleaned up and ate home made tortillas and tacos, which was amazing food. And I saw a guy who could laugh out loud in a way that made every one else laugh too, who was loved and admired by every one who knew him, who seemed to know how to do everything, and was always helping someone with something. He had lived in this place for a few summers as a teen, pitching in on building projects, and there were so many people there who were happy to see him.

And I resolved to pass quietly away from that place without ever talking to him. I, quite perversely, didn't want to seem like another face in his adoring public. I never really liked to follow the crowd, even if I agreed with them. And then I was holding a bag of oranges to pass out for dessert. And there he was, talking to a friend. I offered him an orange.

And then I kept standing there, making stupid small talk, and we kept talking, and talking. The other person left soon after, and we kept talking.

He told me later that about 20 minutes into that conversation, it was as though time stood still for a second, and he knew that he was going to marry me. He described it as feeling like part of himself was looking back at him as we talked. Then he quoted Milton, which was the way to my nerdy English lit. heart.
Part of my soul, I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half:

The first uh date?

so this is goodbye

Meet the Family

The Beginning

Another marriage post

I'm doing a 10 part series over at wedded bliss on what husbands wish their wives wouldn't do.

Don't ask me how I've learned that over the years.

But now you can benefit from my mistakes.

Here's number #9-10 things your husband wishes you wouldn't do.

I'm inspired by Mary's love stories for October going on right now. I may come back and join in later today if there is time. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Time is the last thing I have more of these days. Someone please tell me where it all goes?


Hair Cut


The Girl came into the bed room very early one Sunday morning half way into her dress. Her hair was caught on one of the little "pretty parts". She asked me for help. I was so tired, and half asleep, and the Baby was literally laying across my chest snoring. I also can't see anything until I get up and put in my contacts.

So I told her to go and ask the Boy, who was already awake also, for help. And then I fell asleep again and completely forgot about the whole thing.

Fast forward to 5 minutes before we went out the door to go to church and I am brushing her hair. And big pieces of it start to fall out.

There were scissors involved in the detangling of her hair that morning. And the back was very, very short. And I was sad, and kicked myself for not being more alert and helping her myself.

So, Auntie K was called upon to fix things. Because she is good at hair.

My biggest fear of course was that she would look older with her hair short.

And she did. And I was sad, briefly. But in a way she looks more like herself, and more of her personality gets to shine through. And, it takes a whole lot less time to brush.

Sigh. Another milestone, another transition. I can't stop them. So I may as well capture them as well as I can.
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