Monday, December 31, 2007

off to find Prince Rillian

I check into the hospital tomorrow. I told Adam, "You take Bess and Gamgee, I'll take the baby girls, and I'll meet you at the other side."

I decided today, on my last trip to the hospital for daily monitoring, before starting the 24 hour monitoring tomorrow, that this is why you ought to read to your kids. My parents read the Narnia chronicles to me and my siblings when I was a kid, and my husband's parents read them to him. Because of that (and later finds like LOTR, and yet earlier foundations, like Bible stories) I feel like we know how to think about all of this.

It's not happening to us, we are happening to it. We are choosing to accept the charge laid on us, we're choosing to obey. It's like Frodo agreeing to take the ring to Mordor, or like Jill and Eustace obeying Aslan and going on that long, gloomy trip across the moors with Puddleglum. Because of reading stories like those, Adam and I know that obedience is a choice, but that disobedience is no choice at all. And that being given a mission is not being given a sinecure. But that the only real life lies in taking on the burden, going on the journey, obeying your Lord.

I can't even express how much it helps to think of the next few months in those terms. But I couldn't have predicted that even a few months ago. I didn't know that those stories would ever do me as much good as they're doing me now. But now I'm grateful that our parents introduced us to Lewis and Tolkein as kids (and that Lewis and Tolkein were introduced to Spencer and his ilk as kids).

On a more concrete note: I don't know if I'll have internet access at the hospital, so I might not be posting for awhile.

On a yet more practical note: please pray for us, for me there, for the safety of our unborn babies, for my husband and kids at home, and for the people who are so kindly coming over to take care of the kids while I'm away. (Neither house nor kids abandoned, praise God!)

And I'll see you on the other side!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Planned, Crockpotted and Frozen

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Get Rich Slowly. Today I found this old thread on eating cheaply, and this one on eating even more cheaply. While the article is good, the string of 100 or so comments is even better. I love reading people's ideas on how to do better things we all have to do anyway, things like eating!

So today I've been mulling over ideas for meals, and rueing the fact that I can't just sit down and menu plan, because I'm not going to be home to cook next week! Nonetheless, there's nothing that says that you can't plan ahead, so I'm trying to think up a strategy for cooking after the babies and I all come home again.

I love menu planning. I love making good food - veg and omni - full of good spices and good produce. I love filling up my cart at the ranch market with a ton of produce, more than you'd think our family could eat in 2 weeks, paying only $25 for it, and knowing that we're going to eat it all, because I know exactly what meals all of it is going to go into. Yes, we will use 15 onions and those four bunches of cilantro. The jalapenos? I have a plan for them. That giant bag of potatoes? You haven't lived till you've had my potato chickpea curry (really! ask my husband!).

So, I don't want to give up menu planning or the ranch market, but I am thinking that streamlining my food-prep process even further would be good because, well, I'm going to be (Lord willing and Christ tarry) taking care of two toddlers and two newborns all day (and night) when I get home.

Here are my ideas, and I'd love to have any of your brilliant suggestions too!

1) For the past month and a half or so, I've been doubling every meal I make and freezing half of it, so that my husband won't have to cook while I'm in the hospital. What if I kept doing this after I come home again? That would cut my cooking time about in half - I'd only have to cook every other night. But we wouldn't have to eat the same thing two nights in a row, because we'd have a freezer stash to draw on. So if we had corn sausage chowder one night (fresh), and we didn't eat the frozen portion till two weeks later, well, we'd be just about ready for it again. I really like this idea. Doubling is a bit more work, but not as much as making the same meal twice, not nearly.

2) Right now we usually eat for lunch whatever we had for dinner the night before. But what if I planned lunches too? Not a different thing every day, but one thing per week. Say, a big pot of bean soup and a couple loaves of rosemary foccacia? We could have soup and bread for lunch every day, and that would mean more dinner leftovers in the freezer. Lunch meals would have to each be cheap, delicous, and probably vegetarian. Here are the ones I've thought of:

-the aforementioned potato-chickpea curry,
-bean soup and bread,
-bread and hummus,
-homemade marinara over pasta with cheese,
-bean and cheese burritoes,
-lentil soup and corn muffins.

It'd be pretty easy to do a big batch of something at the beginning of the week and then just eat it all week long, especially if I did something from the freezer for dinner that night. That'd still just be making one meal that day.

So, bouyed up by visions of yummy legume creations, I went ahead and bought, with some birthday money, a cookbook I've wanted to have for a long time: Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I had it out from the library onece and loved everything I made from it (seriously: rosemary foccaccia - SOOOOOO good). I figure I'll drool over it at the hospital and make menu plans for when I get home.

So, anyone else figured out brilliant ways to make yummy, cheap, healthy food for their families? I'd love to hear about it. Maybe our comment thread can surpass the one that inspired this post!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. dinner tonight? Curried chicken in the crockpot, over rice. Mmmmm.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

baby, baby!

I went in to the hospital today for my first 1 hour monitoring session. Know what I learned? That it takes more than and hour to get an hour's worth of monitoring on two very active little girls! First one baby and then the other would slip off of the heartrate monitors, causing one nurse after another to come in and try to get them back on.

Luckily, the nurses at St J's are wonderful. I felt a bit like a celebrity, honestly, because they all knew who I was, and at least one came in just to chat! One of them told me that in the fifteen years she's worked there, they've only ever had two other cases of monoamniotic twins.

It was comforting to get to meet so many of the labor and delivery nurses, and to be reaffirmed in my belief that this hospital really has the best nurses ever (that was my impression during my stay for both my first daughter's birth and my son's). But it was also disturbing to be there for a few hours, in a patient gown, and then to get dressed again and leave, knowing that I'd just be back the next day and then the next, and then in a bit over a week, back and not leaving for over a month. Probably. So weird.

I look at the next two or three months, and want to take them all in a gulp, to get it done with. But it's too much to even think about. And God gives us grace for today, and not tomorrow. It's always today.

So, today went well. And tomorrow, He'll go with me again, and stay with my family at the same time.

I took Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God with me, and it was comforting. I take to heart his words that the best way to encounter God is just to do all the things that we would normally be doing, but instead of doing them for ourselves, we do them for Him. That means I can do this for Him, and I like that. I like the idea of getting these girls here being His business.

I've also decided that I wish the labor and delivery floor had different wallpaper. I think after six weeks I'm gonna be tired of staring at impressionistic blue and pink flowers. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Why it's nice (at least sometimes) to live in SoCal

Because I can go out on a December morning and pick these in my backyard:

I know they're funny tropical flowers, brilliant colors and awkward shapes, half pretty and half grotesque, but flowers are flowers, and they've been making me smile all week. Maybe it's just 'cause when they (very rarely) got some shipped in to the sub-Arctic village where I grew up, my dad would take my mom to the store just to look at them (I remember they sold for over $50 each, and that was $50 in the 1980's!). And now I can see them out my window and in a vase in my kitchen. It just amazes me. Doesn't God make pretty things?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. what's pretty in your part of the world this time of year?

Christmas dresses (Simplicity 5827)


Despite what you might think, these aren't for the twins. They're for my oldest daughter and her cousin (they were born less than two weeks apart) for Christmas. Aren't they pretty?

I found this pattern (Simplicity 5827, if anyone else wants to make it) and really liked it, though the idea of setting in sleeves made me nervous. But I should have been more worried about the zippers; they're much harder than sleeves! And I'm afraid mine don't bear close inspection. But the dresses as a whole are really cute.

I admit, when I first envisioned this product, I saw matching velveteen dresses in red and green, with white trim. But I took my daughter with me to choose the fabric, and she was sure that bright purple embroidered batik was the way to go. :) So I let her choose the trim, and I picked the solid fabric to match.

I really enjoyed making these. It was nice to do something so home-ec-y in the middle of all this medical drama. Very grounding and involving and distracting. I think I like sewing.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 13, 2007

links!

For your reading and viewing pleasure:

I have never seen one of these that lasted so long. I can't even imagine how long it took them to set it up.

And this brought a very welcome laugh: Mr. Collins Apologizes to Aspirin. Austen fans, enjoy.

And here is a blog of my husband's, explaining why, after coming to a liturgical church, he ended up staying. An excerpt:

What I found with liturgy was a service that took nothing for granted about the state of the person entering into it. Instead, it invites you in and engages your mind, rather than your emotions. And the eventual result is that your emotions begin to follow. Lewis must have been Anglican.

Now, instead of a nebulous experience awaiting me, I have a structure waiting for me that invites me into the worship, and helps me to quiet my mind and calm my heart. Instead of a bright, 'friendly' auditorium, I enter a quiet (if I get there on time), holy place, where I am obviously not the most important person there and neither is the person at the front of the stage.


Finally, for other medical nerds out there (i.e., those of us not remotely connected to the medical field, but who geek out on reading interesting medical stories), here's an article following up on the first person ever to have a face transplant.


Enjoy!

great good news

We just got the path report for my husband back this morning, and found out that the melanoma didn't go any further than the first biopsy indicated, and that means that they've completely taken it all out. In other words: he's cancer-free!

Thanks be to God!

This lifts such a huge cloud from over our family. Our baby girls are still in danger, but now we know that Adam isn't. I'm so very, very grateful.

And the girls are kicking away in my belly as I type, so they're fine right now too. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Donkey Ears

Today for Advent, Bess decided that she wanted to be the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem. So we got out the blue and pink construction paper, and made her and Gamgee each a fine set of donkey ears, attached to a headband (think something like a paper crown, only with big donkey ears instead of golden spikes). Bess was delighted and insisted on being called "Donkey" all afternoon; Gamgee left his on for a few minutes and then insisted on sitting down and tearing them apart with great intent and joy.

So, while my daughter was pretending to be Mary's donkey, we got to talk about how the holy family traveled to Bethlehem and how Jesus was born there and how He was born because He loves us and it was another good day of looking more in depth at part of the Christmas story. I think we've really caught onto something good with this Nativity role-playing thing.

Except that sometimes Bess came come out with things like this: "Mommy? I'm the donkey and I'm gonna take Mary and baby Jesus and his foster-father Joseph and carry them on my back over to the playground so they can go on the pink slides. Okay?"

I just don't remember that part from the gospels . . . but the thought of her wanting, in her donkey-role, to do something kind for Jesus and his family, is touching. May her desire to please Him grow as she grows. Amen.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

today's Advent activity: pretending to be Mary

I didn't plan today's Advent activity.

I did plan day one: on Sunday I wrapped Christmas presents with my twenty-month-old son, letting him play with one of his stocking stuffers in lieu of the scissors. I got it all done, and I'm glad I did it so early because I was horribly sore by the end of the night! I think that sitting on the floor leaning over for a couple of hours straight taping packages closed is not something very pregnant women out to do. But I'm only going to get more pregnant, so I'm glad I did it now.

On day two, we just got out a few Christmas books and read them; well, one Christmas book and an Advent book. Pretty low-key, but that was nice after day one.

Day three now . . . day three was my three-year-old's idea. Bess wanted to be Mary, and was draping her blankets around her head "to look a little bit like Mary". I was the one who thought of securing her blanket to her head with a nice, stretchy headband, and our activity for day three of Advent was born. She drafted her little brother to play Joseph, though as he wouldn't tolerate the headgear his role mostly consisted of being told by his older sister, "You're Joseph, okay?"

But you know what? Playing Mary turned out to be a GREAT Advent game. Every time she told me that she was Mary, I asked her something about the Christmas story. Who was Mary? What did she say when the angel told her what God wanted her to do? And we talked about how Mary said she'd do what God wanted her to do, and how we ought to say, "Yes, Lord!" when God wanted us to do something. And how Joseph obeyed an angel's orders too.

One of Bess' own questions was, "Why is it good to play Mary during Advent?" Well, I hadn't thought of an answer to that one, because up until today, I hadn't even considered "playing Mary" an Advent game. But here's what I came up with: "Because playing Mary gives us a chance to talk about the Christmas story, and the Christmas story reminds us of how much God loves us. He loved us so much He sent His Son to save us from our sins."

So, if you're looking for a good Advent game to play with your kids, and they're in the middle of that hyper-imaginative stage, when they're always being fairies or bus drivers or doctors, trying playing Mary for awhile instead.

Or, if you like, try what we've planned for tomorrow: playing sheep. (You know, the ones that were watched in flocks by night?) I can't wait to hear what conversations come out of that one.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, December 2, 2007

one more link - on St. Nicholas

Since St. Nicholas' day is coming up this week (on Dec. 6), I thought y'all might appreciate this link. It's full of ideas for celebration, and also some helpful information about the Bishop of Myra, what is fact, what is fiction, what is probably fiction but is still a pretty good story. :) Can't say I agree 100% with everything on the site, but it's certainly worth a look. They even have a link to my favorite story about St. Nick: how he decked Arius the heretic.

(Thanks to my mom for the link!)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Happy Advent!

Today at church the organist played my favorite hymn, "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending", as the opening hymn. I love Advent.

Also, check out this link, with an excerpt of the Pope's new encyclical, "On Christian Hope". I like this part:

In the end, even the 'yes' to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my 'I,' in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.

All this talk of suffering is linked to hope when he says:

Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.

It's really worth reading.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell