Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Taste of Crab

You know, it's funny, one of these posts leads into another, and here we go again. I got thinking about the hermit crabs (thought about blogging again last night, since it wasn't until after Tim toddled off that I finished cleaning their tank)...maybe it's okay that they stay in his room and turn rank...that is, other than their smelly effect that would augment that which an 8-year-old produces all on his own...
That is to say, I don't think hermit crabs care if their tank gets filthy. I have three pretty good pieces of evidence and one minor piece. The first is that I know that crabs are bottom feeders, that is, scavengers, who eat what other animals leave behind as inedible. Also, one of the first things Tim's crabs will seek out when left out of their cage to walk on the floor is any shoe of Tim's. Even when all of ours are lined up against the side of the stairs, they invariably choose his. They love his shoes, whereas often these shoes get so bad by human standards that we throw them out, since at times, no amount of cleaning them cures the problem--you can smell them across a football field lengthwise. Yes, they love his shoes, and the surliest crab loves our laundry room. Maybe it's the smell of Tim's socks that draws him. But one time he disappeared and I found him about two days later in the dirty clothes. The next time, he disappeared and I found him about two weeks later, alive, in the dirty clothes. (Yes, I had been doing the laundry consistently all that time. I think he hid behind the dryer.)
The last evidence is that once you clean their cages, they just kind of look lost in the new, clean sand that goes in. They just look kind of confused and like they're trying to get their bearings. I think it takes them a couple of weeks to start getting happy. That is, if indeed those are smiles on their faces. It's kind of hard to be sure with hermit crabs.
All this analysis of their behavior shows me that you can't kill them (one day in the dirty clothes would certainly kill me), and that beauty is definitely in the...what are they on crabs...nostrils?...of the beholder.

Just Another Eventful Day at our House

Today our neighbors brought over the bed they gave to Tim. First, though, we had to get the old one out (good riddance, as far as Tim's concerned), moved some furniture around, and then I had to clean the carpet. It's amazing...I cleaned his carpet three months ago when I painted the room, and I think maybe he tracked up another six pounds of dirt in the meantime. And it's a good thing I got started on that, because I cleaned various other areas of carpet in the house, and probably because of the dirt pile we moved, they needed it badly as well! So I'm exhausted tonight...
In the process of moving the beds around, and Derek the previous bed owner coming over to help install it, I started examining the hermit crab cage (I don't know if you recall, but two of these crabs were given Tim by these same neighbors). Derek commented how he hated those things--one of the surlier ones had been their pet. Anyway, I removed the crabs from the cage since I realized (it's not so great to have animals in kids' rooms if they're not the most attentive caretakers) the cage hadn't been cleaned in a while.
Well, when Tim got this handful of hermit crabs, one got a bit nervous being piled in there with the two others, and clamped onto Tim's hand with all his might. I tried wrestling him loose but it only made it worse. After about 2 or 3 minutes he finally let go, and by then Tim had a purplish area where the creature had found his security. Derek then said, a little triumphantly, "That's why I don't like those things!" I guess he got the same treatment enough to know.
So anyway, Tim took it in pretty good stride, and tonight he was so uncharacteristically eager to go to bed--early. We all worked together to get the sheets on, and he went off to bed in the nicest way he ever has when he wasn't sick.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lofty Thoughts

Well, receiving beds is the theme this week, as time has further unfolded! Our neighbor Stacia came over and told us that they are getting her son a new bed and wanted to give Tim their old one--a bed I've seen at Ikea, and considered buying a couple of years ago (at near retail) at a garage sale. Wow!
When we moved into this house, I had a dream, you might say, of replacing all our couches with hide-a-beds and futons; putting bunk beds in any spare spots; and here we could host a host of happy guests in the case of some onslaught of Masters' Chorale or such populations coming through as might need hospitality. (As reality would have it, so far, I struggle to keep up housekeeping with just four of us, and often dread the idea that a visitor might find out that we're incurable messies...still, a person can dream, can't she?) There's something I love about adding to the bed possibilities here! And I know Tim will love to have some extra space in his bedroom to not throw his clothes on the floor...
The only potential problem with this bed is that it is one of those that perches up high so you can put a desk in underneath. Tim has been doing some interesting walking in his sleep lately--at least once actually running down the stairs in his sleep, yelling, "I'm coming! I'm coming!" The other day he was standing in front of his closet, yelling, "Where is it? Where is it?" I'm not sure what has so stirred him to bring this new pattern. Whatever, I think maybe a bunk-type environment might be fraught for the present with a certain amount of danger. I picture one of those cartoon scenes where Bugs Bunny is running suspended in mid-air. It would seem like a gentler drop than reality, until you think of the next scene with a bunny-shaped canyon at the base of it.
Still, what kid wouldn't want to try it out? Do I set it up and hope for the best? Do I leave it unassembled for a while and see if the walking subsides? Tune in next week for answers, keeping up on the changes among...the young, and the restless.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Garage Sale Provision by the Bunk

A couple of years ago we hosted a couple of wonderful little Japanese girls for a month and had a great time doing it; not only that, but we shared the gospel with them and it appeared that it was during their time here that they accepted God's truth, though the couple who brought them here had also shared it with them in times past. Well, the group is coming again (not our little friends; they have gone their own way somewhere); this time we're going to host three more of them (Lord willing)! So we had to start thinking about their guest room, which has become a storage room in the meantime. One of the mattresses had been transferred up to Tim's room, so we were down one bed. Well, last time, we were low one bed too, and our friends the Browns told us they had a mattress--and lo and behold, it was a very nice one. That worked out just great for the girls, but this year, we had to add two more beds.
Well, if you know us well at all, you know that we find garage sales to be a wonderful way that God provides for our needs affordably. This is important with all the job changes my husband has seen in his career (long story); right now he's been between jobs almost six months--come to think of it, the time before, he was between jobs also! So last week we were out at garage sales just three blocks up the street (counting our whole cul-de-sac as one block), and we saw a very sturdy bunk bed that would hold a twin mattress on the top; there was already a double mattress included on the bottom, in nice shape. Wow!
Only thing was, there was already a woman there who was working hard to get the owner to come down in price. So Katie and I watched quietly and listened. The woman was adamant that it wasn't worth the amount that the man was asking. He didn't like her manner and wasn't going to budge; she said $140 was too much. Finally he said, "Well, if you come back later and it's still here, we can talk price." She left.
About 4 minutes later, I asked him, "How much did you say the bunk bed was?" He said, "I'll let it go for $100. It was more than $500 new." Was that not a good deal! He agreed to a check, and as I started to write it out, he said, "Oh, just make it $90, and that includes the sweater." (The sweater I was planning to buy and had over my arm.) He disassembled the bed and helped me put most of it in the van. There were a few pieces that wouldn't go in because of size. He offered to help us home with it. I told him that was all right, stay at the sale, I'd get my husband and we'd walk home with it. When we returned for the remaining parts, he actually thanked us with sincerity as if we were doing him a favor by buying it. What a wonder! Is God not great?! Even to place it within walking distance of our house. Now we are pretty well prepared for our little girls to come. Maybe garage sale skeptics will see the merit in them after all; if not, that's fine, there's all the more for me! (Ha!) And above that, I find this a great, amazing and somewhat amusing illustration of how God provides for our every need.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:8-12

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Wonder of a Bit of ... Dirt

Who would have thought it? Those boys who have been mean to our neighbors on the one side, the boys from our other side, who never talk to us, came over and helped Gary and Tim this afternoon to finish moving the dirt pile from our driveway into the back yard. Wow. The Lord works in mysterious ways!
But it's more mysterious when you know a little more background on it. The other day our mistreated neighbors came and told us the boys were in our dirt pile. Well, I don't want my dirt pile spread all over the neighborhood, and I don't really like the fact that the boys play air-soft-pellet wars using our fence as a guard, which means that they run through our yard all the time and I find the pellets surrounding our house on all sides. Besides I thought the boys might appreciate knowing the contents of said dirt pile. So when I found that they were using it for playtime, I went over there (they had disappeared by this time, knowing that their opponent neighbor had been over), and knocked on their door. The boys were right inside, and they answered. I told them, "You might not want to play in that dirt, because I think it has manure in it." Well, that word has untold power! The best way I can describe it is that they all looked like they'd just swallowed a cup of lime juice...ha! (This comes to mind because of another blog you have to see.)
And they were somewhat talkative today, which they never are. And so the dirt was moved. Maybe being in the middle of disputes isn't as difficult as I thought. Maybe God will bring goodness out of the evildoings that go on here. We'll see. Maybe we need another load of dirt. No, we don't, not any sort.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Volcanic Solution

Tim called tonight on his way home from baseball practice. Dinner was in the making and he was hungry...I think he wanted a trip to some golden arches somewhere, but no dice. Anyway, in the process he told me that he hit a home run again--second time this season. I told him, "Tim, I'm going to be president of your fan club." He said, "Yeah, that's good. I'll be king." Okay, I think that makes me still second fiddle--but I guess that's a fan's humbling duty.
Then tonight, his fingers were still of a dirty brown hue from his afternoon digging our dirt pile from the front yard to put in our new vegetable garden--combined with whatever particles magnetize to a boy on a baseball field. I told him to wash his hands, which he said he had done. Well, I sent him in to wash again, and he came back still a mud-glazed brown. (I think I have a new alternative to tanning salons--charge girls for the right to roll around in our vegetable garden...) Anyway, then I told him I needed to buy him some Lava Soap to really get that grime to go away. His eyes widened. I told him, "Yeah, you'll be able to tell boys that you wash with rocks from volcanoes." He could hardly wait. "Kids will wonder where I got so black." I said, "The rocks aren't black, they're white--ground pumice." He looked a bit disappointed. "You don't have to tell them it's white. Just that it's from volcanoes." I think he's okay with that. It's definitely top on my list to buy on my next trip to the store.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Glutton set for Punishment

Tonight Tim really hit the jackpot. Some neighbor kids two doors down gave him a DQ ice cream sandwich, very much out of the blue. Then I gave him an Oreo as an incentive to do something. I also allowed him a piece of cake that was left over from the other night. (Note: This is not normal around our house--even having a cake around is aberrant.) He'd finished his dinner and even said it was good--that's two aberrations themselves; no wonder he had me in a good mood, you think?
So later tonight, the rest of us who had none of the former had some ice cream. Well, Tim was indignant, and wanted some too. He could not understand why we could and he couldn't. So I told him that if he had three full-size carrots, he could have some ice cream. (In my experience, food tends to kill my appetite and that's what I'm banking on with the carrots.) He had to peel them himself, which he again protested...but he did peel two. He was eating the first, and Katie made sure I knew he was on his first, not his second, and that the second was sitting on the table but there was no sign of a third. I knew already that this was the case. Tim had the solution, though, in hand. He broke the carrot into two pieces. Well, the one positive aspect of being conniving is that you have to be smart. Still, he has no hope for it to get him anywhere. Between Katie and me, we have him on a fairly tight leash, and he'd have to munch one more full-length carrot than he was hoping before he would get anything more. I was praying that his stomach would reach the limit first. If not at least he'd get his vitamin A as well as his calcium. I could have him run to the stop sign a few times tomorrow as a remedy for the other nutritional elements.
In addition, I'm counting on the fact that God may provide a built-in consequence for such gluttony--a likely stomach ache.

Post-script: At one and a half carrots, Tim started to complain of being full, and wanted me to deem that sufficient, which I would not. Wha-ha! Got him to eat some carrots--all for free. Something in my Scottish element loves that.

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings...

My family of origin are an expressive bunch. Usually their expression is rather temperamental and they can run over each other with comments and attitudes. Gary's family was quite the opposite--they would ignore the most enormous issues, hoping no one would notice the elephant under the carpet. He and I carry these tendencies into our family to an extent, in that I'm open and expressive and he's not so much; so though he talks and laughs at church and elsewhere, he's often much quieter (not in a hostile way, just kicking back and taking it easy) here at home. I think that's why he doesn't end up being a huge player in my blogs--there's not so much interaction to cover there.
I have been given a character trait connected with this expressive side that is for the most part for my own benefit--it is that I am generally happy in spite of most circumstances. It isn't anything I can attribute to myself; I don't stir it up, it just happens. Katie and Tim and I will be laughing and talking at the dinner table, and Gary sits back much of the time, a little bemused and just quiet. We don't really notice it too much, though we don't mean to ignore him; we just get so involved in the subject at hand.
Sometimes, though, it gets out of hand and I smile or laugh too readily, when I ought to be sober. This happened at our Women's Retreat when we were preparing for Communion. In fact, the women serving it were in a very right frame of mind, and I was glad for that. Dear Jeannie Marzolf was leading the sharing of the Lord's Table, and it was clear that she was overcome.
There was a transition time, and the women in the front row rose to serve the elements. I, unthinking, rose too, as if we were all standing to sing. Realizing my mistake but forgetting the circumstances for that flash moment, I giggled out in embarrassment. A woman behind me did the same thing, so either it was more understandable than it seemed or perhaps I led her to so stumble. Even while I was sitting there feeling thoroughly aghast at myself, I dropped my piece of bread on the floor. I was and still am so thankful that it is a remembrance of His forgiveness of our sins, and that He calls me His child! I definitely felt like a four-year-old during that time. All the more I was aware of my need for Him. It also indicates that even a seemingly positive trait needs to be handled properly at all times so that it isn't a sin factor.
Being of a happy disposition helps, though, in many of our troubles. I tend to focus on better things rather than worry or fret. But others are affected by it too. Sometimes the more sober sorts don't understand, but I don't always understand their sobriety either. Three times in the last couple of weeks, though, we have been told that our three different companions' cheeks hurt from laughing with us so much. And I didn't think we were being extraordinarily funny! I don't remember when I last felt my cheeks hurt; I guess they're more physically fit than I am as a whole. We just do laugh a lot in our lives, and I like it that we make others laugh some. In our previous church they were selling tickets to see a comedienne. I didn't see the need, since we laugh enough already.
Still, though I don't think of myself as a crying type, I seem to cry readily when I see a certain very few people (one reader may recognize himself here). I don't know why that is. They probably think I'm quite the case; I guess they're right. It didn't used to be that way...maybe it's the time in my life when things go all out of whack for a while; and anyway, I would rather feel deeply than not feel at all. Maybe there's light at the end of that tunnel. Surely I need to cry in awareness of my own sin, or that of others...still, I won't mind losing the tendency to cry at the drop of a hat, but please let me keep the laughter!
Proverbs 15:13 A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Unexpected Call and a Lot of Memories!

Yesterday we got an unexpected phone call. It was the Everett Historical Commission, calling to tell us that the 1907 house that we had lived in for 17 years (and sold 3 years ago) was to be granted an award for improvements made. The current owner referred the Historical Commission to us since we had done the work. The event happened today and we went as a family. It was actually quite a lot of fun seeing all the before-and-after pictures of so many houses that people had fixed up in the city. While we were in the midst of living there and improving the house, I don't think we felt that we were part of a larger picture, but today we realized that those who take care of their property and preserve worthwhile features of historical value do a service to the community as well as preserving value in the house for their own benefit. To tell the truth, our main motivation was to be able to sell the house without the buyers coming up with so many justifiable objections. I think we were pretty sure we'd never find anyone so gullible as we had been!
Most of the time that we lived in that house, we were faced with a long and varied list of costly and challenging repair jobs that we tried to accomplish every time that the time, money and energy coincided in their favor. I can't say that while we lived there we enjoyed and appreciated the process as much as perhaps we should have. But today, while seeing that others had faced similar daunting challenges, we realized the good in what we had done. It was good for us as well as for those who moved in after us. It was good for the neighborhood, and for the city as a whole.
I remembered back to when my husband and I had first moved in. Looking back, I'm amazed that we managed to buy it. We had quit our jobs in Portland and moved up here with hardly any money; I had just gotten a job at Boeing and Gary was working as a temp at that point. How did we qualify for the purchase? We hardly had any down payment, let alone any of the money that we'd need for the many repairs that we would have to make down the road.
The house was one of three in a row built by a ship captain, within close view of Puget Sound. We saw an oil rig come and go during our stay there, and the installation of the Navy Home Port, with the constant pounding sound to get the pilings in for the dock. Then the sound of the seals who took residence there for a while. After that there was the addition built onto Providence Hospital, and the sounds that had to do with that. All these things added interest, amusement and value to our stay.
The first day of ownership, though, we had severe buyer's remorse! In the middle of the night that first night I woke up to the train coming by--the tracks were just across the street and down a slope. I thought that the house had come off its foundation! After a short time there, we hardly heard the trains going by, but visitors did. We installed storm windows (with wood edges, to coordinate), and that helped a lot with the noise.
It had been occupied by hippies at one point, judging by some previous layers of paint; it had been rented out; the people before us hadn't owned it long, and hadn't improved it much either. It took a long time, but by the time we moved out we were very satisfied with what we had done to the house.
A lot of neighbors came and went during our stay; the fact that it was such an old neighborhood and close to town caused there to be a certain variety of characters that caused us concern in raising children there, especially our son who likes to be outside much more than indoors. We saw at least four significant fires from that house. The Abraham Lincoln made its much-awaited return from the Gulf just before we sold the house and moved away.
We removed asbestos off of pipes and an oil furnace in the basement; replaced the furnace and water heater; had a roof job and painting job done to the outside (some of the old paint was marine paint and nearly impossible to remove, presumably chosen by the ship captain who had built it); we had porch railings and a stand for our mailbox made, put on a wood screen door, and painted all the rooms inside. We added a sink to a "water closet" (a room with only a toilet); we added a dishwasher and light fixtures to the kitchen, added a desk counter area to one side of the kitchen, covered the disintegrating fir kitchen floor with linoleum, had the plumbing revamped and much excess plumbing in the basement removed; added a closet door to a pantry; replaced old black push-button light switches and knob-and-tube wiring; we dug out a stairway to the basement and replaced the rotted-out door down there. We filled in a hollowed-out underground area under the laundry room so the floor would be better supported, and bricked in some old openings in the basement that had once been windows facing that hollow area; we replaced an old wood sliding door with a hinged door to the back yard. There were many more things but these were some of the main things. I remember thinking how long that house had existed, and yet most of the doors even lacked the "boingy" things that keep the walls safe behind them.
At one point, the kitchen faucet needed replacing, and since the sink was a different size than any new faucet would fit, we had to replace the whole sink--which had built-in counters on either side. Therefore we had to have our counters done. If we were going to do that, it would be a good time to get the cupboards done. All because of a kitchen faucet!
We learned a lot of handyman techniques and also the importance of the admonition, "Let the buyer beware." We learned, as an aspect of buyer-beware (and the purchase of our newer house taught us further on this subject), the importance of having a home inspection, and also of fully evaluating a home inspection report before making an offer on a house.
That house has a great many memories, happy and sad, for our family, and though I don't think I would ever want to own another old house, I do appreciate what goes into maintaining one. There's just nothing like an old house; somehow they seem to absorb the history and character of the people who lived in them, whereas that seems to bounce off the walls in new houses, somehow. It could almost make me want an old one again. Almost.