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NaBloPoMo

Apparently that’s a thing. Or it used to be. Have the BlogHer people running that show gone silent? If so, I’m hardly one to criticize. I haven’t posted here since January. January! I guess it’s a good thing this blog is titled, “SOMETIMES I Write.” Am I right? 😉

National Blog Posting Month. Like I have time for this! But I miss playing my instruments (the quills and keys) and I ALWAYS have something to say, plus I’m not doing it alone. My dear friend Mary posted about NaBloPoMo on her blog today and a tiny little spark inside my chest flared to life! So here I am! I’m posting every single day for the month of November. I can’t promise I won’t go silent again as we slide into the holiday season, but who knows? Maybe that little flame will become an unstoppable, roaring blaze. Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of Stranger Things…I still haven’t watched Season 2. I hosted a gaggle of teenagers last weekend to watch the whole thing, but I didn’t join them, I just set out food and drinks and slowly backed out of the room. I’m praying for a snow day or two so I can catch up. Speaking of catching up, A LOT has happened since January! Here’s a quick list:

  • I hosted a Murder Mystery Dinner with a friend (Prom fundraiser)
  • I hosted a Steampunk Prom with friends (Max was crowned Prom King)
  • My bookstore closed for good (Lots of mixed feelings about that)
  • I started a new job with a friend’s construction company (Loving it!)
  • Max graduated from High School (Hooray for both of us!)
  • I got a new tattoo! (See pic below)
  • I went to Oklahoma for two weeks in June for summer camp (It was hot)
  • I met a few of my favorite authors (I’m adding to that number on Saturday)
  • I attended Denver Comic Con (No, I didn’t cosplay, but I may have swooned a little)
  • I celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary and my 45th birthday (No comment)
  • I attended a funeral and a wedding. (I cried at both)
  • I drank A LOT…Chai, Moscato, Coke Zero, Tea (But not plain water. Gross.)
  • I joined a Brene Brown book club (She’s incredible and so are the five of us!)
  • I lost a few friends and gained a few more (I always gain more than I lose)
  • There’s an ex-girlfriend and a new boyfriend in our family (I adore them both!)

I’m sitting here thinking about what I will share with you over the next 29 days. When my writing is silent and buried for a while, I feel the need to expound on life. Once the words break the surface, it’s a geyser of facts, anecdotes, tips, joys, and pains. I may need to rename my blog. Suggestion? These might work:

  • TMI w/Niki
  • It’s My Blog and I’ll Cry If I Want To
  • The Cussing Christian and other Tales

Or maybe I’ll just stick with what I know, that sometimes I write, and my writing often touches on all of those things.

Want to join us for NaBloPoMo? There are no prizes, just the satisfaction of creating something to fling out into the world. Express yo’self! Speaking of that, here’s MY graduation gift for successfully homeschooling my man-child all the way through:

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That’s what I did and what I’m going to do forever, so I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

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I wrote this “end of the year letter” back in December. Yep. This is my life. I found this filed away in my notes on my iPad. It had its funny moments, so I thought I’d share it with you anyway. Besides, I need to chronicle these life moments, yeah?

Buy this shirt on woot.com!

Buy this shirt on woot.com!

YMCA…the song, not the place. Wafts of pizza, nachos, and cotton candy tickling my nose. A hundred or so small children rotating counter-clockwise, tiny skates on each foot, some clinging to the wall with an “Oh crap” look plastered on their faces. The poor things are eying the rink like it’s covered in banana peels.

Today is Pete’s 11th birthday and we’re spending a few hours at Skate City before ending the sleepover party of all parties. FIVE extra kids spent the night, but it was quieter than you might think. We have an X-box and a really nice TV. I didn’t hear a peep except for the occasional cheer floating up the stairs from the basement, and the raucous cry for more popcorn.

Being able to zone out and write at a skating rink is a testament to my 15 years as a mother and 40-ish years as a reader. It’s a gift. I would have preferred an extra arm or two, but you gotta be thankful for what you have, right?

With all of the recent tragedies in our life I thought it would be a good exercise for me to look over the past year through eyes of gratitude, and who better to share it with than the people we are most grateful for?

2014 was a crazy year for us as a family. That seems to be our pattern, so same story, different year. I won’t bog you down with all the minutiae, but let’s just say we’re now referring to the first half of the year as “before” and everything since as “heaven.” Okay, I’m exaggerating a teensy bit. Our year was split in half by our move away from the hood in Denver to lovely, safe, small-town Lafayette. Our parents were thrilled! We found a townhouse five minutes from our jobs, 12 minutes from church, and 13 minutes from Boulder. The daily commutes are over! YAY!

(Insert limbo music here) I guess I’m a little easier to distract than I thought. Can I just say it’s really nice not to be out there holding someone’s hand, waiting for them to pull me down as soon as they can’t maneuver past a dog pile on the rink? If you’re still in that stage, let me sprinkle some hope on you:

Someday you’ll be able to be a sideline mom too.

We’re also known as the keeper of the drinks. Here’s a tip for you: Always bring a Sharpie. No, I’m not a germaphobe, but a lot of my mommy friends are. It also saves time when the kiddos come flying off the rink, chests heaving, sweaty palms extended towards their Dr. Peppers. Oh! And keep your feet tucked under you to escape the toe-crushing wheels of the uncoordinated. I’ve learned my lesson.

Yesterday was celebration Sunday at church. We focused on all the amazing things God has done in us and through us as a church family this year. I got to report that SEVENS served over 4,800 meals and distributed more than 15 tons of food through our SEVENS food bank this year. I don’t have numbers for how many pairs of socks and hand warmers we handed out, or how many cups of Starbucks we shared with our street friends in Boulder. Those things are hard to track when you don’t care about tracking them.

What I can tell you is it feels good to know that people were warmer, less hungry, and a lot less lonely because we hold ground there. Ministry-wise, we are keeping on keeping on. We are clinging to our dream of having a mobile outreach center/mobile showers and laundry facilities. It will happen. Someday.

Pete just skated up to me with a grin on his face. “Mom! They’re playing our song!” We have a song? I begin the process of tuning out the background noises until I can narrow down the tune. Apparently, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons is our song. I love that kid. He makes me smile. 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah, Mobile Outreach Center. Benny has been talking it up and we have some locals getting excited with us. We know we’ll have lots of opposition as well. A lot of the Boulderites would prefer we not help the homeless unless it’s to help them be less visible.

That’s as far as I got. The end.

Except it wasn’t. Our story continues. Things got worse before they got better. I’m actually still waiting for things to get better. Sure, I’ve had some wonderful people and things enter my life in the six months since I wrote this, but if I’m honest – and I always try to be – things still kind of suck. Never fear, I have a death grip on my gratitude. I recite at least one thing a day even if it’s just to myself. Things will get better. See? That’s my one thing for today. 😉

Doogie HowserRemember Doogie Howser? The world’s first blogger? Yeah, I used to admire how he could sum up an hour of drama in a few witty sentences. (Hats off to the writers.) I’m still working on that. Ha! I’ll settle for posting things in the same year as they’re written. And friend, if you don’t know who Doogie Howser is, you may be too young to read this blog. 😉

What have you left unsaid? Unwritten? It’s not too late!

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Guinevere 1

In June of 2011 we began praying for our friends, Jared and Jen King, whose daughter Guinevere was born at 27 weeks gestation. They spent months in the hospital, and we kept everyone updated on their Caring Bridge website. She was able to go home ahead of schedule and their life has been a wild ride since then. Every milestone has been celebrated, and she’s quite the little cutie. Jared and Jen are fabulous parents and continue to fight for Guinevere and the challenges she faces, which brings us to this post.

Guinevere

Jared called me a few days ago to tell me that Guinevere needed to be hospitalized again. I’ll let his update speak for itself, but I want to ask you to join me in prayers for healing, answers, rest, and provision for my friends and their beautiful little girl. Thank you!

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Sorry for the long silence, but, up until today, there hasn’t been much to update.

Guinevere is in the hospital because she has long had issues surrounding eating and feeding. They are, indeed, medical, not behavioral, issues. I haven’t mentioned this much to many because I get sick of explaining it long form and half the time still have people confusing it for her just being a picky eater or obstinate, and the other half still barely gripping the concept but getting that there’s “something” going on.

The bottom line has been: she hasn’t been eating well. We’ve structured our entire lives around getting her to eat. It was consuming the vast majority of our days. There were no “days off” from dealing with this. Occasionally, she’d have a good day, but she would only be able to consume about half of the calories she needed to survive on her best days. And those were about 1 in every 10. We had been jumping up and down, screaming for help for her since July of last year with little success. Her care team, including numerous specialists, could all see that there was something going on, but it was nearly impossible to get an appointment with the therapists and specialists that she needed to see because they were under such high demand.

So, last Thursday, Jen took Guinevere in to see her pediatrician. She explained everything, again, and in more detail, about all we were doing to feed her with such little success. Guinevere had actually lost weight since her last visit, and hadn’t gained any, overall, since November. She was only up 2 lbs since her birthday. The pediatrician could see that there was no other way to get the assistance we needed, so she ordered Guinevere hospitalized under the diagnosis “failure to thrive.” In the hospital, there is access to all of the specialists we need.

So, for the first 48 hours, we were visited and observed and recorded, etc. They were measuring her caloric intake, as well as everything that “went out.” That has continued.

Yesterday, they decided that they were going to place a nasal gastric/NG tube (a tube that goes down her throat into her stomach through her nose, and has a snap enclosure that hangs down at the end of excess tube that hangs over her ear and down her back) and give her 400 calories of liquid nutrition over 10 hours as she slept. By their count, she’s taking about that much in orally during the day, and she needs 800 calories a day to be healthy and grow.

The placement of the NG tube was a difficult experience, but she has shown no proclivity to yank it out, which is pretty amazing. She’s such a trooper in that.

Last night, they gave her the first supplemental feeding. Today, she was a completely different person.

I had the best day of my life today. I’m not using excessive hyperbole. It was. It beats the day I got married. It beats the day that we found out she was coming. It beats the day that we brought her home from the NICU in August of 2011. Today, for the very first time, I saw my girl chew food. She has never chewed before. Ever. This morning, we were giving her little bites of blueberry muffin, which she would generally just mash around her mouth with her tongue before swallowing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I saw her jaw moving up and down. For the first time. Ever. With food. In her mouth. She ate about the same as one of her best days without the tube assistance, but feedings were much faster, and she was more participatory.

She held her soy milk container herself. Before today, we wouldn’t have let her hold it for fear she would drop it. She would not have had the strength or coordination/fine motor skills.

She climbed up on an ottoman and onto the couch in her hospital room. She never would have had the strength to do that before. It blew me away. At home, we always had to help her onto the couch or chair she wanted into.

She went over to another little girl, a good 25 feet from us, and she engaged her to play with the same thing. She would have never gotten 5 feet from Jen or dared engage another child socially without our provocation. A week ago, I would’ve told you that you were stupid and didn’t know my daughter if you tried to convince me I would witness that today.

There are other things, and I could go on and on. But, we had a really good day today. We have a long way to go. Do not get me wrong. We are no where near the finish line and my tough little person has so much work to do. But, today, instead of acting like a cautious 9 month old, my daughter acted like a confident 21 month old. And she chewed her food. It was the best day of my life, thus far.

 

 

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It’s been awhile. I thought I should check in, and reassure you – and myself that I can in fact type even when not under a deadline. So what’s been happening here?

The flu, the common cold, maybe Ebola, I don’t know. Some serious germs have been permeating our home for the last month. It’s ridiculous. We’ve prayed, rested, drank gallons of water and orange juice, rested, slept, watched a lot of Netflix, rested. You know, sick people activities.

I’m also recovering from foot surgery. I’ve had a cyst the size of a super ball on the inside of my ankle for over a year. I finally went to the doctor and was referred to a surgeon. Three weeks ago (while we were having a moment of health in our home) I had surgery. I have 2-3 more weeks of recovery time ahead of me, but if you think that has given me lots of time to sit around doing nothing, think again. I’m homeschooling three children. Right now we’re behind schedule and trying to catch up due to all of that sick people activity.

Yes, I said three. Will, the boy who has been living with us since last April, moved out in January. We did our very best to love him while he was with us, and I worked my ass off to help him graduate in May, but he decided he didn’t want to be here. I am still heartbroken over how things ended. He’s not speaking to us. I pray for him and hope he gets his head on straight and realizes how loved he is. In my pain, I feel like I failed some great task I had been given. I think I did the best I could, but he needed more than I could offer. And that just sucks.

We announced that 2013 is a Sabbath year for SEVENS. That means a lot of things, and you can read about here on our SEVENS blog. We’ve yet to start anything because of the illness we’ve been passing around, so our year is starting off with forced rest. Oh the irony. 😉 We are on the mend and figuring out what Sabbath looks like when it’s lived out in practical ways.

Some wonderful family from our church donated a minivan to us, and we are SO thankful to be a 2-car family again! We had been borrowing a car from our friends Zack and Melody for a few months. We’re blessed to know so many generous people. To Zack and Melody, and the mystery family, whoever you are, if you eventually happen upon this blog post:

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Trevor, Chris, and Allen are the creative gurus over at Sacred Margins, and occasionally invite me to participate in the process of writing about walking out one’s faith. They are working their way through the liturgical calendar, something none of us have done before because it wasn’t part of the faith tradition we grew up in. Anyway, my latest post was about Revealing Light which focuses on Luke 4/Isaiah 61 as part of the last week of Epiphany. I have not been able to let it go. I am blown away by these passages and didn’t get to share everything I wanted to, so I’m working on a second part that I’ll post here soon.

Speaking of writing, my friend Luke (also a blogger extraordinaire) gave me an amazing book to read. The WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield is exactly what I’ve needed these past few years. Have you read it? If you are a creative soul, you should! Luke said so.

I never did update about my reading challenge last year. My goal was 104 books. I managed to read about 60, not including the children’s books I read with my kids. If I included all of those, I blew my goal out of the water! My goal for this year is the same. On average, 2 books a week. We’ll see how it goes.

Do you have a reading goal for the year? What’s new with you? Let’s reconnect.

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I’ve got a couponing high…

My friend Andrea and I taught a Couponing 101 class at our school this morning. It was exhilarating! I probably need to get a life for thinking this is the highlight of my day so far, but I get a kick out of teaching others how to not spend money as I am still somewhere in the learning process myself. I’m trying to break the negative self-talk habit, and finding something that I’m naturally good at has a beautiful sledgehammer effect.

New year, well, new day, so new start. Again. And as many times as it takes.

I’ll be back to tie up a few loose ends from the past few posts and announce my challenges for 2012. BUT, I’m off to cheerleading practice aka Writer’s Group. A few hours with my crazy writing peeps and I’ll be ready to sit my butt in a chair and pound  lovingly tap on the QWERTY for a while, regardless of how long this couponing high lasts.

Ciao! 😉

 

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My Parent’s Snowy Departure

My mom and stepdad fly in from Wisconsin to spend a week with us every year. This time they stayed 9 days – longer than they ever have – and we still didn’t get to do everything we wanted to. Then this morning we woke up to 4 inches of snow. I’m the daughter who confidently said, “It’s supposed to be in the 60’s all week. Just bring a light jacket.” I should have known better. 😉 My friend Kay posted this in FB:

It’s been a good 9 days, but early tomorrow morning we’re headed to the airport, so this is going to be a short post. I have meetings all day tomorrow, and a class tomorrow night, so I guarantee that Friday will be pajama/crash day at our house. However, I’ll still post part 2 of Hobbies Shmobbies tomorrow sometime. Hope you all have a wonderful Thursday!

 

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My friend Rae gave me 6 pie pumpkins a few weeks ago and they’ve been judging me from the kitchen counter ever since. 😉

We are a pumpkin loving household, but I confess I haven’t used fresh pumpkin for anything in years. The canned is so easy to grab and bake with, and I hate the icky factor of cleaning out pumpkin goop. Then Rae told me she bakes the pumpkins whole. Seriously? You can do that? Cool! So I searched the web and found several recipes for Pumpkin Butter and decided to experiment. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of this process. I’d fail as a photo blogger. The photos used are from people who thought ahead. Here are pics of pumpkins before and after baking:

         

Here’s what I did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry 6 pie pumpkins and place them directly on the baking rack in the center of the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes. When it buzzes, start checking for doneness by sticking a fork in about an inch from the stem. If it goes in easily, the pumpkin is done. I baked mine for an hour. 6 pumpkins produced 12 cups of puree.
  3. Wearing oven mitts, pull them out to cool on the counter for a bit. Pull the stems off and use the fork to split the skin away from the flesh. The skin peels off easily. Cut in half and lay open to cool faster. When it’s cool enough to touch, scoop out the goop into a bowl so you can roast the seeds later on.
  4. Puree the soft pumpkin chunks in a food processor and let it drain for an hour in cheese cloth or a paper towel lined in the bottom of a colander to get the excess liquid off.
  5. Transfer the pumpkin puree to a 6 quart crock pot, and follow the recipe below, tweaking it until it tastes like you want it to taste. Some people like it really sweet, some like it a little spicier. Do what works for you and your family. This recipe is for a small batch, but I used my multiplication skills and used all 12 cups for the pumpkin butter.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter

2 cups of cooked, pureed pumpkin (or canned pumpkin)
1 cup honey (or sugar)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in crock-pot and stir to mix well. Cook on High for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it cooks. Do not let it burn or stick. After it is done, fill pint jars and seal. The USDA does not recommend canning pumpkin butter due to differing pH levels among home recipes, but there are many people who do it anyway without incident. I chose to refrigerate and freeze mine in Ball freezer jars (shown) once the butter was completely cooled. This recipe easily doubles, triples, etc. Remember I started with 12 cups of pumpkin.

My family loved it. Not bad for my first try. What new things are you trying?

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