Sunday, December 31, 2006

speaking of sleep

"Hey, let's take a trip for New Year's. We can stay in a hotel with a pool and visit friends. It'll be fun!"
"Sure. It'll be kind of a mini-vacation."

That was my husband and me three weeks ago. What were we thinking?? Vacation with three young children? Are you kidding me? There are a number of problems with this situation. First of all, we are all sleeping in the same room. (And I do use the term "sleeping" loosely.) Second, Mom's don't get least not with their families. And third, my husband is sick. He's been fighting a cold all week, but now it's turned into more of a flu thing. So here we are. "Vacation." This is the stuff memories are made of, right?

Our time with friends was wonderful. They're family kind of friends, the best kind to have, and time with them recharges our souls. So for the time with them, maybe this is all worth it. Maybe.

At least the hotel has wireless access. There goes the banjo again...a hotel on New Year's Eve...what WERE we thinking?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

a good night's sleep

Yesterday, my honey and I went on a date. A real, live, no-kids-not-even-the-baby date. (And as a bonus, the boys LOVE the new sitter we tried out!) But back to my date. Even after almost ten years of marriage, my husband is still my favorite person to hang around with. And hang around we did! We did some shopping for the noisy boys' birthday, and then bought our Christmas gift to eachother--new sheets and pillows. We had agreed to forego gifts under the tree for eachother so we'd be able to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales and treat ourselves to some really fine bedding. It's been way too long since we replaced our bedding. Could it be...ten years? Quite possibly. So we splurged. Sheets, pillowcases, new feather pillows, the works! In the end, we spent $500 on this stuff. And that's with everything half off! But that 600-thread count egyptian doesn't get any better than that.

Okay, and since I've come right out with that obscene number, why is it that you can buy a flat sheet on sale for $99 and the pillowcase to match costs $60?

And why is it that we spend all week trying to have a conversation in between interruptions from the children, and as soon as we're in the van alone, neither of us have anything to say? Isn't that weird? Does this happen to anyone else? Of course, the silence didn't last long...not with me in the van!

Merry Christmas, honey! And thanks for the great date! ;-)

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Swallow

"Even the sparrow finds a home there, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young--at a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God!" (Psalm 84:3)

I soar back and forth
with the breeze,
scanning the wind for flies,
grabbing them as I go.
I search the high places
for just the right spot.
A cave; a cliff; a barn.
I search for safety;
long for security
for myself.
For my children.
What is this?
A stone structure!
And it feels just right.
Protected; warm; serene.
Yes. This is it.
I begin right away,
gathering grass blades and horse hairs;
making mud out of dust.
As the afternoon wears on
I’m exhausted,
but strangely content.
Friends have come to help me,
and together we whistle a joyful song.
I found home.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

things I don't understand about myself #187

Why would I circle the parking lot at the gym several times looking for a close-to-the-door space and then get on a treadmill going nowhere for twenty minutes?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

post-christmas poem

‘Twas the week after Christmas and all through the house,
I wrestled and struggled to button my blouse;
I remembered the pies and the cookies and cakes,
with fondness, though I wish I had said, “No thanks.”
The Christmas festivities were all so much fun,
and I had to sample my cinnamon buns.
But then it was time to face my worst fear,
I held my breath and inched ever near;
I stepped on the scale and stifled a scream—
It was the biggest number I had ever seen!
Exhausted I lay down on top of my bed
while the children excitedly danced on my head.
“What’s wrong mama?” they shouted with impish grins,
as I crawled out of bed to find my sweatpants—again.
“Mom’s on a diet.” I explained to my kiddos,
“That means no more candy or cookies or fritos.”
“Not that!” They cried, “No more ice cream or fries?”
“Without all that stuff, we’re going to DIE!”
But it was already done, my grocery list was complete,
with fresh fruit and vegetables and weight watchers treats.
Twenty-five pounds, that is the goal;
Now somebody, please, hide that ice cream bowl!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Some Pig

Yesterday I took the noisy boys to see Charolotte's Web. In a word? Magic. Kids or no, you have to see this movie. It's the best one I've seen all year, which says something--both about me and the movies I've seen this year! I love books, and usually movies don't even come close to capturing the brilliance of the written word. This one pulls it off. The themes of loyalty and friendship and sacrifice are poignantly played out in the beautiful friendships between Fern and Wilbur, and Wilbur and Charlotte. We laughed (thanks to some flatulant cows and a burping rat); we cried. (One of my boys reached for my hand at the end, and I began crying in earnest, not over the spider and the pig, but because my boys were both wiping their eyes. EMPATHY! EMOTION! Maybe I'm doing something right after all!)

Go see this movie. You won't be disappointed. And have a fabulous Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Who me? Crabby?

"It is better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby, complaining wife." Proverbs 21:19

Are there days when my huband longs for the desert? I fear it may be so. Especially these past few days. My husband is frequently away on business, which poses obvious challenges to our family--to stay close, even when daddy's on the road. But the lesser-known challenge is that of "re-entry." Let me explain.

While my dear husband is away, I'm home holding down the fort. I take care of our three children, our house, and whatever else needs taking care of. I pretty much run the show, and when things go wrong, I have only myself to blame. Enter dear husband. Suddenly, he's involved, which is what I want, but it's hard to give up control over everything. Do I WANT to feed the kids breakfast every day? Of course not. But do I get crabby when he makes french toast and uses every pan and bowl we own to do it? You bet I do. Because I'm a control freak. No, make that Control Freak. You would think the twins would have cured me, but I'm afraid the control monster still rears its ugly head every now and then. I am working on this. And I'm learning, oh so slowly, to trust God. To really trust, not just say I do.

Oh God, help me to be the best of who you created me to be, overflowing with grace and kindness for all who cross my path and enter my home. Attune my heart to the needs of those around me, especially those of my husband and children. Let me be slow to blame and quick to forgive. And on this Eve of Christmas Eve, may our home shine brightly with the love of Christ.

Friday, December 22, 2006

a conversation

Me: Buddy? Those pants are too big. You need a belt.
Twin A: No I don’t.
Me: You do. Your pants are falling down.
Twin A: They’re FINE.
Me: They’re not fine. They’re falling down. Put a belt on.
Twin A: My pants are FINE. I DO NOT need a belt!
Me (squatting down to his level): You do.
Twin A: I don’t.
Me: You are a very stubborn little boy.
Twin A (with his hands on hips): I am NOT little.

He put on the belt. Pray for me people…he’s not even five yet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nobody panic

In the words of a good friend: Christmas is not an emergency.

Okay. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, does anyone know where I can find snowglobes? The cheap, plastic kind with mary and joseph and the baby jesus inside? Or maybe santa? If you ask my almost-five year old son what he wants for Christmas, he won’t rattle off a bunch of toys or games. He wants a snowglobe collection. Not a snowglobe, mind you, but a COLLECTION of snowglobes. Where are all of the snowglobes hiding? I’ve managed to find three. Can three snowglobes be considered a “collection”?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Pressure's on!

Our Christmas cards went in the mail two days ago. That means in the next day or so, 188 people will have this blog address. Up until now, like eight people have been reading my blog. Nine if you count my husband, which I don’t since he only reads the short posts. (And now that I’ve said that, I’ve got to keep writing so he doesn’t know I’m talking about him!) He’s also the one who insisted we put my blog address in the Christmas newsletter; after all, what’s the point of having a blog if nobody reads it? Right. Um. Sure.

And speaking of Christmas cards, I got a little nervous after dropping ours in the mail. The picture of the boys is adorable, of course, but the letter is…well…different. People will either think we’re really funny or seriously whacked! I mean, really, who writes about overwhelming piles of laundry and their husband’s vasectomy in a CHRISTMAS LETTER? Ah well. Too late now. I wonder if our friends will tell us they don’t want to be our friends anymore, or if they’ll just slowly slink away? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Crockpots and Hard Conversations

I met with a friend yesterday—a friend who typically asks hard questions. Yesterday was no different. Have you ever had a conversation so intense that you keep asking questions in your mind, even after the conversation is long over? It was one of those. Anyway, the afternoon went by and by the time I picked up the noisy boys at school and walked into my door, I had completely forgotten about the chili cooking away in my crockpot all day. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for my crockpot than I was last night.

And inspired by my cottage cheese post, a dear friend emailed me a recipe for corn muffins that was so good, I just have to pass it on. I should say that I’m pretty much a mix gal when it comes to corn muffins, so if you’re a “from scratch” corn muffin baker, you probably shouldn’t get too excited. But, trust me, I was excited. Celebrate with me people—another cup of cottage cheese gone from my fridge. Woo hoo!

Here’s the recipe:

Cheesy Corn Muffins
1 Cup 1 % milk
1 Cup cottage cheese
2 eggs
½ cup shredded cheddar
2 8.5-ounce packages corn muffin mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix it all together and put it into greased muffin tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done.

(Actually, that’s not what the directions say at all. It says to mix this with that and not to overmix…but since I was still distracted from said conversation, I wasn’t paying attention and just threw it all into a bowl. And it turned out fine! Who writes these recipes, anyway?)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help me out here...

Does anyone know where to find those strings to attach mittens to a child's jacket? I need two of them, and I have no idea where to look. Every time I pick up my kids from preschool, one of them says, "Mom? Can you buy us some mittens that hook on? Because EVERYONE in our class has mittens that hook on except us." And then I feel like a loser Mom for the entire ride home.

Don't get me wrong. We don't do everything that EVERYONE in class is doing. On Friday the lament was, "Why don't we go to the movie theater? EVERYONE in our class has seen the movie 'Happy Feet' except us." Now, I have nothing against the movie "Happy Feet." It's probably a really cute movie. But at almost five, my boys don't watch many PG movies. Usually they're too intense and have some crude language. (I know, how crude can penguins get? But seriously. We saw the movie "Over the Hedge" last summer and every once in awhile I still hear, "I've got make-up on my butt, dude.") And they're sensitive to violence. (Watching Emeril chop off a goose's head and occasionally shout "BAM!" is about as intense as we get at our house!)

So we won't be seeing "Happy Feet" anytime soon. Charlotte's Web is on my list though.

But back to the mittens. I'm not all about fitting in, but these do seem practical. And if they create a sense of belonging for my almost five-year olds, so be it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Why, oh why...

did I buy cottage cheese at Costco? What was I thinking? Now, don't get me wrong, I like cottage cheese. A little bit. No one else in my family likes cottage cheese...not even a little bit. And now we have a lot of it.

Did I think I would lose weight just by having a gallon of this stuff in my fridge? And why would I think that? Do you ever see thin people eating cottage cheese? No. Only overweight wanna-be dieting people buy and eat cottage cheese. I have a theory about this: forget butter and french fries, it's the cottage cheese and diet coke that are making us fat.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Spring Blossoms

The branches are barren and cold. I remember the beauty of the blossoms, though. They were real. Last March, seemingly out of nowhere, small buds appeared on those barren branches and became beautiful, delicate blossoms. The shades of pink and white and mauve lulled me into complacency—I’ll take a picture tomorrow, I thought. I’ll sit outside tomorrow, when it’s a little bit warmer, and I’ll take a hundred pictures. And then suddenly the wind came, blowing my picture all to hell. It’s unfair. I put up with this messy tree all year, sweeping squished crabapples up off of the patio and dealing with soggy, slippery flowers trampled into the grass, all so I can enjoy a month of beauty. But this year the beauty only lasted a week, and I feel gypped. Do I trust those brittle branches now, to become grand again? Can I live with the ugly and barren for a season, in order to experience the splendor of spring? Or do I chop spring-hope down because I’m in the middle of winter?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An Unexpected Gift

Today is trash day. Can I just tell you how much I hate trash day? Hauling smelly garbage to the curb in this damp, cold weather ranks at the top of my “least favorite” chores (and, trust me, there are many).

But today, a gift. My husband is home for trash day. He wasn’t supposed to be home. He was supposed to be in Ohio. After a grueling day trying to catch a pushed-back flight from Milwaukee, he finally gave up and drove to O’hare, hoping to catch the second leg of his flight to Ohio. The plane at O’hare sat on the runway for several hours before the flight was cancelled. So my weary husband drove home late last night and crawled into bed with me. (He did call me on his way home so I wouldn’t completely freak out!) What a gift!

Today is trash day. And I don’t have to take out the trash. This is a gift beyond compare. I’m sorry my husband has to miss an important meeting today, but just a little bit sorry. More than that, I am grateful. And on this cold, dreary morning that I don’t have to take out the trash, I am happy. New diamond earrings couldn’t make me happier. Well, maybe a little bit happier. But not much.

Monday, December 11, 2006

“The Handmaid and the Carpenter”

Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite authors. As a rule, I buy everything she writes. (And she’s one of the few authors I “splurge” on new copies for.) Her vivid descriptions and attention to detail make me want to give up as a writer. I will never capture the human experience as thoroughly as she does.

“The Handmaid and the Carpenter” is a novel based on the biblical narrative of Christ’s conception and birth. Berg places this story in historical context and her imagination breathes life into it. In a word—beautiful.

The vulnerability of both Mary and Joseph is palpable. I held my breath when Mary went into labor and Joseph knocked on the doors of already-full inns. From the biblical account, I knew they were in a bad situation—there would be no room for them. And yet I had never considered the utter desperation of a woman in labor, looking for a place to deliver her baby. How desperate would a woman have to be to lie down and give birth in a barn? I wept as I read the fictionalized account of Christ’s birth, both for it’s beauty and it’s humanity.

Friday, December 8, 2006

For my Father-in-law...

Or anyone else who want to buy me a Christmas present!

Here's my List:

• Starbucks gift cards (I'm down to only 9 cents left on my card -- crisis!)
• Subscription to The Sun (
• Did I mention I'm down to only 9 cents on my Starbucks card?

I'm sure I'll think of something else. What did Linda want? A new mixer? Maybe I could swap her mine for a few days of babysitting! Heck, who needs a mixer anyway? :-)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Being Present

I hate housework. The mundane details of running my home bore me. I unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher only to load it with dirty ones again. I put away the basket of clean clothes and immediately fill it. My life is a nonstop cycle of monotonous tasks. And so I distract myself. I call a friend while I fold the laundry; I listen to music while I unload the dishwasher. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this approach, I do think that multi-tasking every detail of my life poses a hazard.

Too often I bring this attitude to my role as mother. I organize the toy box while I “play” with my children; I set up a craft and write thank you notes while my children color Christmas trees; I turn on Frosty the Snowman and give my boys a bowl of popcorn while I fold laundry and tidy up the living room. While there’s nothing innately wrong with this approach—after all, it allows me to accomplish important things—over the long haul it sends a dangerous message to my children: you are not worthy of my undivided attention.

How do I feel when I try to engage my husband in conversation and he’s distracted? When he’s technically answering my questions, but he’s also reading a magazine article? I hate it. I feel unimportant and uninteresting.

When I give myself fully to my children, when I am fully present to them, our relationship deepens. When I color Christmas trees, make playdough snakes, and curl up on the couch with that bowl of popcorn, I send an important message: I love being with you. And suddenly the mundane takes on importance and I find joy in it because I DO love being with my children! (And here’s a parenting tip to all of you moms who are shouting at my blog right now, “But I have to make dinner! I have to do the laundry!” If you consistently give your children one hour of yourself—one undistracted hour—they will often play independently for at least as long.)

Oh, how boring and mundane I must seem to God! And yet the Creator of the Universe delights in me. He enjoys being with me. I think I’m so clever, so interesting, and yet, to Him, it must feel an awful lot like making playdough snakes for the twentieth time today. He doesn’t say that, though. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

Rejoice! God is with us.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

And with my other boy...

Me: Who’s going to make my breakfast today?
Bryce: YOU!
Me: What? You’re not going to make my breakfast for me?
Bryce: No! We’re not ALLOWED to make breakfast.
Me: What? Not allowed to make breakfast? What kind of mother do you have?
Bryce: A MOTHER mother.
Me: What’s a MOTHER mother?
Bryce: You know. A MOTHER mother!
Me: What does a MOTHER mother do?
Bryce: Cook.
Me: Anything else?
Bryce: Hug. Kiss. You know…EVERYTHING!

Aw, shucks. ☺

A recent conversation...

Andrew: Mom?
Me: Yes?
Andrew: Is Santa Clause really just a guy dressed up in a suit?
Me: Why do you ask?
Andrew: I think he’s just dressed up in a suit.
Me: Why do you think that?
Andrew: Because he’s everywhere! There’s like a hundred and one THOUSAND Santa Clauses!
Me: Hmmm. How would you feel if he was just a guy in a suit?
Andrew: It’s fine. I think it’s fun.

Monday, December 4, 2006


Next in Line

Imagine the noisy crowd
clamoring for the attention of Jesus.
The paralyzed. The blind.
All calling His name.
I see myself there,
lame in heart.
while others push ahead.
The stench of sweaty bodies
makes me nauseous.
The noise level rises.
The excitement is palpable:
The blind see.
The lame walk.
The deaf hear.
And I’m next.
I can see Him now.
If I reach out my hand,
I can almost touch Him.
Where is He going?
I throw my reserve aside and call out:
“Wait. Please!”
But He’s already in the boat.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Highly Stressed Spring

My boys love to take things apart. About a year ago my husband’s tape measure broke, so he let the twins open it, just to see how it worked. They were impressed, to say the least! Andrew was especially impressed with the warning printed on the inside: Do Not Open. Highly Stressed Spring.

We recently bought a new CD player, so Paul helped the boys take the old, broken one apart this afternoon. They oohed and ahhhed over all of the pieces, curiously looking them over and asking questions. Then out of the blue Andrew asked, “Dad? Is there a highly stressed spring in here?”

There wasn’t, but neither of us could believe he still remembered such an uncommon term. This is especially funny to me because I often wonder if my children are brain damaged. Seriously. Just this morning I found a photo from our refrigerator cut into little pieces. Bryce claimed ignorance:“Is that against the rules?”

Um. Yeah.

But apparently something is sticking. Highly stressed springs for instance. Go figure.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Snow day!

Well, it's official. Winter has arrived in Chicagoland! Yesterday was a snow day, so no preschool for the big boys. They spent the afternoon outside, happily shoveling the walk and knocking icicles off of the bottom of the mini-van. Oh, to be 4 ½ again!

I love just being at home when it’s cold and snowy. And if I can’t curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee, a rare event in my life these days, I’m in the kitchen baking. Here’s a favorite wintertime recipe. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Almond Granola
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In a small saucepan warm the oil and honey. Carefully stir in the vanilla (be careful because it bubbles up).

Pour liquid over oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon; finish mixing by hand if needed.

Spread granola in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan.

Bake 40 minutes stirring carefully every 10 minutes. (I would probably bake a few less minutes next time)

Cool on pan on a rack.

Stir in cranberries.

Store in airtight container. Will keep 1 week at room temperature or 3 months in freezer.

Friday, December 1, 2006

You're reading what???

I’ve recently started a new Bible reading program. After my youngest son was born (about four months ago), I was looking for my Bible and couldn’t find it. Anywhere. Digging it out was the first step. Actually reading it was another thing entirely.

I’m a much better Christian when I don’t read my Bible. I’m a very kind person, a good mother, a good friend. Need a last minute sitter so you can run to the doctor? Call on me! I even catered a Christian event recently, just for fun. (No small task with three children under the age of five!) And all of that without ever opening my Bible.

Today, on the other hand, I’ve read Proverbs 1, Psalm 119, and the entire book of Colossians. And I feel terrible about myself. Because making chicken for forty people or babysitting a friend’s children does not make me a better Christian. The truth is, I don’t measure up. Not even close.

But it’s not about me. And that’s good news.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is your Mama a Llama?

I can't believe I'm starting a blog. Seriously.

I love reading blogs, though, so I suppose it was only a matter of time. And since I bought a llama today, my blog name is perfect: Llama Momma. Actually, I'm only part-owner of the llama. And he lives in Ecuador, I think. A friend actually coordinated the llama purchase. Let me explain.

Two years ago I got a call from my Aussie friend, who was turning 40. She wanted to do something outrageous, and so she organized a llama hike with a few other friends. (I was priviledged to be invited!) Now, if you've never been on a llama hike, you really must go. We all flew into Salt Lake City, Utah, rented a car, and drove to the middle of nowhere. Our guides let us stay in their "guest house" overnight, and the next morning, we were on our way. We each carried a day pack with water and snacks, and our llamas carried the rest. For the next two days, we hiked beautiful trails with our llamas. They really are amazing creatures. And that business about llamas spitting? It's not true. Only llamas who have been mistreated actaully spit at people.

We wanted to get llama tattoos to commemorate our trip, but Salt Lake City seems to be a bit short on tattoo parlors.

So here we are, two years later, and we've bought a real llama instead. My friend emailed the old llama gang, and we all pitched in $37.50 and bought a llama for a family who lives in Ecuador, or someplace where a llama would be useful. I think I'll get a llama photo or something in the mail.