Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poison plants?

I wouldn't recommend munching on poinsettia leaves. However, I learned on Science Friday that they're not as poisonous as they were once thought to be. Neither is the American variety of mistletoe. If you're child decides to nibble either one, the side effects probably won't be worse than an upset stomach.

When in doubt, call 1-800-222-1222 to be connected to your local Poison Control Center.

The biggest poisoning danger during the holidays? Alcohol. Make sure it's out of reach, and keep a careful watch on kids when you're in someone else's house. (You never know what's in those bottom cupboards!)

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve!


Photo by me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One year ago today

This is a poem I wrote about my Grandma and about the day she passed away - December 30, 2007.

One year ago today
I watched you fighting hard to breathe
Then drawing breaths more slowly.
Between each breath it looked
As though you were already gone.
And then you were.

We searched in vain for your heartbeat.
How strange you didn't have one
When moments before you were with us!
Yet why did I feel such surprise?

Wasn't this the expected outcome
Of hospice care
Of so many hospital visits
Of a painful diagnosis
Of retiring
Of working
Of traveling
Of having grandchildren
Of going through divorce
Of moving to the desert
Of four kids in five years
Of marrying young
Of growing up in the mountains
Of being given life
Of living on this earth?

And yet we're shocked.
(We're always shocked)
Those still struggling to breathe
In a world where you are not
Drawing breaths of thankfulness
That this is not a world
Where you have never been.

Photo by me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Season of light (rail)

One thing that's new in this tradition-laden time of year (at least, new for us in Phoenix) is the light rail. It's "grand opening" was this past Saturday.

On that historic first day, I bundled up, and - with some careful cell phone coordination - boarded the same train my parents had gotten on a few stops before.

We enjoyed the view as we zipped through town to the Heard Museum.

The light rail will be free to the public through New Year's Eve. So, if you're looking for some cheap entertainment - hop on!

This would also be a great thing to do with kids. Little boys are especially fascinated with any kind of vehicle. Visit one of the sites along the rail or just ride a few stops and come back.

Photos by me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Something to think about...

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

I'll be back on Monday! See you then!

Photo by me. Verse: Isaiah 9:2

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve plans

Here's the Plan for today:

  • Breakfast for 7 (which you'll hear all about next week)
  • Shopping
  • Christmas Eve service (at the parents' church)
  • Hang out with my fam
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Fill the hubby's stocking
  • Settle down for a long winter's nap

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why we shop on Christmas Eve

The annual Christmas Eve shopping trip I alluded to before is one of those accidental traditions. Between running a business and spending time with his family, Dad often didn't have time to do much (if any) holiday shopping before Christmas Eve. So, as long as I can remember, he would take me with him on an epic December 24 shopping expedition.

I loved the one-on-one time with Dad. Mom loved a quiet day finishing up Christmas preparations alone - or, later on, with only one baby at home. Eventually, my little brother came with us. And, eventually, I was okay with that.

We'd go to the mall and feel really helpful picking out gifts for mommy. In between gift hunting, we would stop by the toy store, look at the puppies in the pet store and get Orange Juliuses. When my cousin was living with us, she started coming too, and Dad managed to keep track of three little kids.

Dad and us "kids" have continued the tradition, although it has evolved a bit through the years. We usually have most of our shopping done before Christmas Eve. And there are more of us now - last year E's girlfriend and her brother joined us. The Hubs is planning to be there this year. (In the past he's been sick or working.)

Also, we used to go out for breakfast before shopping. About the time I got married, I started cooking breakfast for everyone at my place instead.

The really funny thing is that my family, as a general rule, isn't into fighting crowds. This is a notable exception.

Maybe it's because it's the family time we're really fighting for.


Photos: 1) By me. 2) By Mom. 3 & 4) By me. Yeah, that's actually my parents' house. I tend to get so busy cooking I forget to take pictures.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Someone needed to say it

The fact that this is such a special time of year can make this an especially difficult time of year. I don't think I need to list a bunch of possible reasons. If you have something weighing heavy on your heart, you know.

And you're not the only one who's having a hard time.

I just wanted to acknowledge that. Sometimes it's hard to admit we're hurting. Especially this time of year, there's a lot of pressure to keep everything light and happy, to walk around with smiles plastered on our faces. But it's part of being human. And it's one of the many aspects of life that doesn't conform to our calendar.

Photo by the Hubs, taken of my Grandma last year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

5 Fabulous Stocking Stuffers

OK, I'll admit it: I still have some Christmas shopping to do*. How 'bout you?

Well, here are some ideas. Each one is under $10 and will fit in your average-sized Christmas stocking:

  • Stickers - great for the car or the guitar case
  • Ornaments - a festive addition to the tree or year-round wall hanging

Orders placed with Standard shipping by midnight tonight (EST) will be automatically upgraded to 2-Day shipping.

More great gift ideas on New on the Avenue!

*Some of my shopping's done. Some of it's purposely reserved for Christmas Eve as part of an odd family tradition, which I'll be telling you about later. It's the rest of it I'm working on now. ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do we need to save handmade toys?

The first thing I read about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) sounded like uninformed panic. (No, it wasn't on your blog, I promise.)

So I kind of ignored the whole deal for awhile. But then I started hearing about it from people who had rational concerns. I thought I'd better see what the fuss was about.

Megan at SortaCrunchy summarizes the issue nicely:

In response to the alarming number of toy recalls in 2007 in which toys that contained dangerous amounts of lead and other harmful chemicals or posed other safety risks to our children were pulled from store shelves, the United States Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008. This act is certainly a first step towards protecting our children from harmful or dangerous products in that it mandates more rigorous testing of the toys we allow into our homes.

The CPSIA, however, would also impose such a terrible financial burden on any maker of toys that small, cottage-industry toymakers in the USA, Canada, and Europe will be driven out of business.

So I'm looking into it further. And, of course, I'll let you know what I find out. But it sounds like handmade toys might need us to come to their rescue after all.

P.S. In case you're wondering about Bold Avenue - we checked on this, and the company that handles the printing/fulfillment of our baby and kids products does have a product testing program in place.


Photo by me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The memorial service for my grandpa on Sunday was difficult (of course), but it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family I’ve lost touch with.

Some of the cousins I played with as a child now have children of their own, and it’s so nice to see a few little ones at our family gatherings again. It feels so different, but the family bond remains, and we have plans to see each other again soon.

These cousins and I would not be family - would not have existed - without my grandpa. And, in a way, we also have him to thank for the blessing of reconnection.


Photos by me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joy comes in the morning

It's late Saturday night, the night before my Grandpa's memorial service, and I can't sleep. I don't feel well. And I'm thinking about everything. Well, not everything. The rain, what I'm going to wear, my family, things I need to do (the next day, before Christmas, sometime this year...), and why I'm not sleeping.

Even though I wasn't really feeling sad at the moment, I went to the Desiring God website and looked up "grief". I found this post about a couple who lost their baby boy and how they found joy in their lives again. It did my heart good.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Grandpa on the existence of Santa Claus

When I was old enough to start doubting the existence of Santa Claus, I asked my grandpa if he was for real or not.

He paused only a moment before asking me a question: "Is God real?"


"Is true love real?"


"Then there must be a Santa Claus!"

Gotta love that Grandpa logic. He had me believing in Santa Claus long after the other kids in my class had outgrown the idea.

Photo by my family. Thanks, Mom, for finding it for me! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baby or no baby, some good tips

If you're trying to conceive or trying to avoid it, I'd recommend taking a look at this article, which I read on It discusses several different ways that you can monitor your fertility, including ovulation predictor kits, basal body temperature charting and one method I'd never heard of before.

Did you know that your saliva can help you predict when you're most likely to get pregnant? Oh yes. And it gets better. To see what your spit is telling you, you get a hand-held microscope...and lick it. The pattern you see will change as you get closer to ovulation.

I am not making this up. But I do think it's kinda funny.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Baby blocks

Soft foam blocks are a simple yet wonderful toy for little ones. And, yes, girls like to play with blocks too!

Check out the adorable blocks Bethany at 3.0 (Beta) made for her little girlie (with info on how she made them)! Just precious!


Photo by me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grandpa's home

My grandpa passed away this past Thursday.

But we've been losing him for awhile now. He has spent less and less time with us in the present day and more time living in the past or simply sleeping.

I remember the man who was really my grandpa - the soul inside the sleeping body.

He recited poems he'd memorized and told great stories. He was a quick wit, and you'd have to stay on your toes to keep up with him. Sometimes he'd get this twinkle in his eye, and you'd know he was "pulling your leg." He loved plants and gardening - pruning bushes, caring for his roses, sitting outside and drinking in the landscape.

He used to own a house with pyracantha vines covering the wall outside the front door. When I was little, I was fascinated by the bright red berries, and someone told me that people couldn't eat them, but animals could.

That gave me the idea (helped along, no doubt, by Grandpa's excellent story-telling and my wild imagination) that at night all these animals would wander through Grandpa's yard looking for food. And that they depended on us to pull some of the berries off the vine and scatter them around the yard for them. So that's exactly what we did every time I went over there as a child. We referred to this little routine as "feeding the critters."

More recently, when he lived with my parents and his mind was playing tricks on him, there was a period when he kept asking for a ride home. "I don't care who takes me there, I want to go home!"

I'd try to reassure him, "You are home. See, your room is there. We're all here with you. You're home." He remained unconvinced, and it broke my heart every time.

Today - even though the loss aches inside of me and tears are blurring my vision as I try to type - I am so glad to know that finally Grandpa's mind is as sharp as sharper than ever. And, finally, he knows that he is truly Home.


Photos were all taken by members of my family. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Arizona heat

They say that once you live in Arizona awhile, your blood gets thinner.

I mentioned that bit of local "wisdom" - and the fact that I'm not sure it's true - to an engineering student from India. She paused for a moment, and then replied, "I suppose, thermodynamically speaking, that would be correct." Um....okay.

Whatever happens thermodynamically, the fact is that pretty much anyone who's been through an Arizona summer no longer can tolerate the cold as much. You can move here from the frozen reaches of upper Michigan in May, and, by fall, you'll be reaching for your jacket if temperatures dip below 65 degrees.

Which explains (to those of you in cooler climes) why people in Phoenix have and use central heating. Our next door neighbor asked us how often we turned our heater on last year, and it was often enough I wasn't sure.

That got the Hubs and I thinking that maybe we could get by with using it less often. Last year the Hubs bought me a space heater. This year we started using it a whole lot more. In fact, we didn't even turn the main heater on until Thursday when a friend was coming over with her little girl.

We use the space heater in the room we're in. Or we put on an extra layer. In the morning I come downstairs all wrapped up in a blanket, and it's pretty cozy. During the day, we open the blinds and let the sunshine in.

We're saving energy, saving money, cuddling more, and everyone wins!

Obviously, this minimally-turning-on-the-heater thing may not be the best solution for everyone. But it was an adjustment we could make. Maybe there's something else that, if you just thought about it, you could adjust too.

P.S. I was going to do another post about recycling, but I decided to mix it up a bit. More recycling beyond the bin will be the subject of a future PSBN post.


Photos by me. The one of the Hubs was taken last week right before he left for work.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A day of beauty and thanks

Can you still call it tradition if you don't do it every year? On and off since I was a kid, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving with a picnic (and a walk), rather than a traditional sit-down dinner.

This year, for the first time, we picnicked at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum. (You've already seen a couple pictures - here and here.) It was fabulous. Mom made sweet potato chips (also a first), and we had those along with turkey sandwiches, cranberry sauce and veggies under the trees.

We took a hike around the arboretum...

enjoying the views....

...checking out interesting plants...

...and learning new things.

The previous day's rain had stopped, and the weather was perfect.

Once it was closing time at the arboretum, we drove back to my parents' house for pie.

(What? Did you really think we would skip pie?!?)

I am so grateful for this beautiful day of family and friends!