Tuesday, December 16, 2008

gimme a break

Life has gotten in the way of blogging--again--which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'm going to take a break for awhile.

In the meantime, I hope you and your families have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

gloves are of the devil

This morning was a yelling morning.

What a terrible way to start the week. Winter is here, and I’m still getting our gear organized. (Which is to say, I finally put away our bathing suits and beach towels and replaced them with gloves and hats.)

The problem is with the gloves. I’ve decided that children’s winter wear is of the devil. Seriously. The gloves all get together at night and scatter—quick! We match! Run to the other side of the house!

We probably have eight matching pairs of gloves for the noisy boys, which we keep in the blue plastic basket in the entryway. (I know. I am SO CLASSY.) In the morning, it should be fairly simple to dig out a pair of gloves, a hat, and scarf and get geared up for the walk to school. Except it’s not. Not even close. Which is why I start yelling things like, "If you'd put your gloves away when you come in, you'd be able to find them," and "I don't care if they don't match, just put them on. We're going to be late."

So there you go. Not a good excuse to yell at everyone. I’m redoubling my efforts at organizing our winter gear and actually bought two more pairs of mittens today to add to the stash.

Bring it on, snow. Bring it on.

Friday, December 5, 2008

first snow

Monday morning we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow. Oh the excitement! We pulled out all our snow gear (no small feat) and did a happy dance while we walked to school. And after school, being the fun Mom that I am, I suggested we go sledding.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We had snacks and bundled up and headed for our favorite snow hill. The big one. And that’s where my plan began to unravel.
The hill itself was great. The noisy boys enthusiastically grabbed their sleds and ran to the top while I walked with the toddler. Very, very slowly.

By the time we got to the top, I wondered if maybe I should have taken the boys to a smaller hill, since sledding was a new thing for our toddler.

I climbed onto the red sled with him and off we went down the hill. He loved it. “Fast! Fast! More fast?” he said when we got to the bottom. Of the really big hill.

We started the long climb up and were about a quarter of the way there when his boot slipped off the first time. The snow was deep and his hand-me-down boots weren’t a perfect fit. So I put boot back on, letting go of the sled in the process. Great. Back down the hill I went, to get the sled. Then up the hill again, with the toddler and his retarded boots. We were about halfway up when the toddler sweetly asked, “Mommy carry you?” He was tired.

So I carried the toddler and the sled up the very big hill.

It was a long afternoon.

Thankfully, the promise of hot cocoa lured everyone off the hill.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaNoWriMo



I'm done. Finished.

Now on to the editing phase! (After a nice long nap...)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

make ahead gravy

We brine our Thanksgiving turkey, which produces a wonderful, juicy bird, but predictably nasty gravy. (Too salty.) A few years ago, I found this recipe and have made it every year since. It sounds time consuming, but it's not. If you're in the kitchen already, it's just in the background, roasting or boiling. And it produces delicious gravy every time. And the best part? When you're rushing around at the last minute getting all the food on the table, you're not making gravy. You're hitting buttons on the microwave to reheat it!

Making gravy before Thanksgiving totally works for me. Now head over to Shannon's for more great tips!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

4 turkey wings (about 3 lbs.) or 3 turkey legs
2 medium onions -- peeled and quartered
1 cup water
8 cups chicken broth (canned or homeade)
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Have a large roasting pan ready. Arrange wings in single layer in pan. Scatter onions over top. Roast 1 1/4 hours or until wings are browned.

Put wings and onions into 5-6 quart pot. Add water to pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits on bottom. Add to the pot. Add 6 cups broth (refrigerate remaining 2 cups), the carrot, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove wings to a cutting board. When cool pull off skin and meat. Discard skin and save meat for another use.

Strain broth into 3 quart saucepan, pressing vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard veggies and skim fat off broth. Whisk flour into remaining 2 cups of broth until smooth. Bring broth in saucepan to a boil, slowly whisk in flour mixture, boil 3-4 minutes to thicken and remove floury taste. Stir in butter and pepper. Refrigerate up to one week or freeze up to three months.

Source: "Womans Day"

Yield: "8 cups"

Monday, November 17, 2008

day 17

Thirteen days until the end of NaNoWriMo. The writing is going well. I’m in a groove and just bumped my word count up over 35,000. At this point, I’m more afraid of finishing than not finishing.

(I know. Bizarre, isn’t it? This fear of success? One more thing to add to my list of Things to Bring Up in Therapy.)

What have I learned on this journey so far?

--At least half of doing something is simply believing you CAN do it.

--4:30 a.m. is really early.

--The Crock Pot is my friend.

--I cannot do it all. I just can’t. Letting go of certain things I think I should do enables me to do the things I really want to do. (And you know what? The earth doesn’t self destruct when I say “no.”)

--My husband is amazing. Still.

Thanks for following my progress! (And being patient while I totally neglect this blog...)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

week one

Well, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for exactly one week now. My word count hovers at just over 16,000 words.

I vacillate between loving my novel and hating it. One minute I think it’s great, and the next minute, I want to chuck it in the trash and start over with new, more interesting characters.

But I’m persevering.

And learning a bit about myself too.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

--I’m very competitive. I hate it when my “writing buddies” get too far ahead of me on the their word count, which compels me to write more. (Keep writing, Musing Mom! You’re a huge motivator for me.)

--I love chocolate. Having NaNoWriMo right after Halloween just seems cruel. Or wonderful. It all depends on how you look at it!

--I write more when I’m busy. On days when I only have an hour-and-a-half to write, I have no problem whipping out the word count. Give me three, and I’ll struggle. (Word Challenge is of the devil.)

--My husband is amazing. Seriously. His willingness to sacrifice his own time for me to do something I’ve always wanted to do makes me fall in love with him all over again.

That’s all for now. Back to Megan, my fifteen-year-old unreliable narrator who has gotten herself into quite a pickle. Oooh. Pickles sound good. Or maybe a twix bar. (Anyone want to join weight watchers with me in December?)

Monday, November 3, 2008

my inner critic

I roll over and squint at the clock perched on my nightstand. 4:32 a.m. A voice in my head tells me I’m crazy to get up this early. It’s cold. And dark. Besides, I’ll never finish a novel in a month, no matter how early I get up. Who am I kidding? And what if I do finish? It will probably be crap.

But I get out of bed anyway. I tell the voice in my head to shut up and I turn on the coffee pot and sit down at my laptop to read the last few pages of what I wrote yesterday. Some of is pretty crappy, but not all of it. I resist the urge to delete it all and just pick up where I left off.

My confidence level grows with each word, and after my hour-long writing session this morning, I’m at just over 7,000 words.

I can do this.

Which makes me wonder, what else could I do if I simply ignored that voice in my head? The one that says I’m not good enough? Not smart enough? Not deserving enough?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo

I know. I’m crazy. But I’ve wanted to do this since I first heard about it and at the last minute, decided, “Oh, why not?”

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’m joining thousands of other crazy writers around the world and writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. (It works out to 1667 words a day, not that I’m counting or anything.)

So far it’s going really well. I got up at 5, managed to avoid getting sucked into facebook (no, I do not want to be your friend), and wrote like the wind for fifteen minutes. 137 words down, only 49,873 to go.

And then my toddler woke up. Way too early. So I’ve been rocking him for the last thirty minutes, and now I’m listening to him yell into the monitor, “Mama! Up! Funny Show!” (He loves America’s Funniest Home Videos.)

So there you go. Day one and I’m off and running, in my own unique way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

monster meal


(Oatmeal with green food coloring and apple "worms")

It takes so little to delight young children, especially on a day like today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

soup

Souptacular08

I love soup. My family loves soup. So when I saw that BooMama was hosting a Souptacular carnival, I just had to jump in with a favorite recipe. With a family of five, if I want any leftovers, I double this recipe. It's so easy, and so good!

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
    
INGREDIENTS
• 4 cups chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 2 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, shredded (I usually use pre-cooked chicken and just cube it up.)
• 1 (4.5 ounce) package quick cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 cups milk


DIRECTIONS

1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine broth, water and chicken. Bring just to boiling, then stir in rice, reserving seasoning packet. Cover and remove from heat.

2. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.

3. Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium heat until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

where a kid can be a kid

I hate Chuck E. Cheese.

There, I said it. That happy place where a kid can be a kid feels like a special kind of torture to me. Vomity pizza and ALL OF THE LOUDNESS pushes me over the edge every time.

If you’re nodding in agreement, then what I’m about to say could very well change your life. (Or at least the frequency of your visits to Kid Nirvana, which will change your kids’ lives and make you a very popular mom. At least for a day.)

Go to Chuck E. Cheese in the morning. They open early, and it’s practically empty. Bring those coupons and buy hundreds of tokens for fifteen bucks. Split them up among your kids, even save some for another visit, and let your kids loose.

As my toddler now says: awesome!

Stay for a few hours and then leave. Last time we went across the street to Panera and had soup for lunch, but you could also just head home. Last time we did this Twin A. confided that he didn’t really care for the pizza much either.

So there you go. Chuck E. Cheese in the morning totally works for me! Now head over to Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips!

Monday, October 27, 2008

stating the obvious

I’ve been quiet lately on this blog, yet strangely unsure of how to break the silence.

It’s not that I don’t have things to say. I do. I just don’t know how to say them, or even if I should say them.

So I’ve been quiet.

Plus I had an article published recently on the MOPS website that’s been sending me a ton of traffic. And, you know, the best thing to do when your blog is getting lots of traffic is to not write anything. Otherwise, people might like your blog and come back and visit again, and before you know it, actual people are reading your blog. Yup. Much better to just stop writing anything at all.

It’s like the balloon thing all over again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

teenagers

Teenagers get a bad rap.

Frequently, when I complain about the challenges of raising three young boys, people chuckle, “Just wait until they’re teenagers.” And while I do expect the challenges to be different, and my grocery bill to be higher, I also look forward to watching my boys grow and become…whatever they’re going to become.

I was touched this morning when I read this piece in the Chicago Tribune, about a beautiful young woman who has down syndrome, crowned homecoming queen at her public high school.

For all we hear about reckless, superficial teens, it’s refreshing to read about a group of teenagers who seem to be getting so much right. And as a Mom of young boys, I’m encouraged. It is possible to raise thoughtful, caring, intelligent people in today’s world. It is possible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

planning to get sick

As you may have guessed from my previous post, the flu has been making its way through our household. No fun, but it did remind me to restock my “sick shelf” in the pantry.

Through the winter and spring months, I keep my pantry stocked with soda crackers, sprite, jello, and chicken noodle soup (my boys love the “Soup at Hand”). I also make sure we have plenty of paper towels, and as soon as someone in the family “drops,” we stop using cloth towels and switch to paper ones for drying our hands in the bathroom.

It’s a small thing, but when kids are barfing, it’s nice to not have to make a trip to the store.

Having a sick shelf works for me. Now head over to Shannon’s for more great tips! (And try to stay healthy. This flu thing stinks!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

in honor of last night

I don't usually recycle old posts, but this one is worth repeating. Originally posted in the dead of winter, 2006.

Survivor: Suburban Mom Edition

You’ll have an hour-and-a-half to go to the grocery store and the library, to stock up on everything you might need for the week. You’ll be stuck in the house for three days with two preschoolers and an infant; one of the preschoolers and the baby will have a stomach virus, while the other preschooler will be healthy and full of energy. Your spouse will be away on business.

You’ll be expected to keep up with the laundry—the baby only has four sleepers that fit. You’ll change sheets endlessly, clean toys, and wash your hands until they’re raw in an attempt to stay healthy yourself.

After being up most of the night with a vomiting child, you’ll be expected to carry on cheerfully with your duties, and have endless patience and nurturing for each child. The baby will whimper and moan when you put him down, so you’ll be expected to hold him for most of the day. Oh, and you’ll need to stay in touch with the pediatrician and keep everyone hydrated.

You’ll do housework three minutes at a time, so decide in advance the most important things and leave the rest. Neighbors will stop by unannounced, so you’ll get lots of experience in swallowing your pride—after all, the living room floor will be covered with pillows and blankets and tinker-toys, a make-shift bed/airplane, and you’ll still be wearing the sweatpants you slept in last night.

You’re watching your weight, so calories will be limited. By one o’clock you’ll have eaten most of your calories for the day in M & Ms in an attempt to stay awake and cheerful. It won’t work.

You’ll read stories, pretend to be a passenger on the couch-cushion plane, and change endless diapers. You’ll fix snacks and bottles, constantly aware that everything you dole out may come back up. Definitely skip the red jello and go with orange.

By three o’clock, you’ll want to collapse. You must keep going. You’re allowed to phone a friend or family member, but you’ll be knowingly exposing them to a highly contagious virus. There is no prize at the end—in fact, nobody will even notice or say “thank you.” Though in the middle of the night, while holding a cool washcloth to the face of your feverish preschooler, his little arms will slip around your neck and his eyes will lock onto yours, “You’re the best Mama in the whole wide world,” he’ll whisper. Your heart will skip a beat and you’ll go to sleep strangely contented, ready and willing to get up in a few hours and begin all over again.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

couch dresses

I went shopping last night. For a dress to wear to a wedding.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you already know that I hate shopping. (Remember the tube top incident?)

(For the record, I learned my lesson with the tube top thing. If you have to pull and tug to get it ON, don’t go there. You’ll never get it off again.)

I tried to go in with a positive attitude. I just need a reasonably attractive dress appropriate for an evening wedding. That shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? After all, people go to weddings all the time. Clothed.

True. But what do they wear? And—more importantly—where did they buy it?

Because, let me tell you, there were not a lot of options. Unless you count all of the dresses made out of upholstery fabric. I am not making this up. There were hundreds of dresses on the racks that looked (and felt) like couches, or worse, carpeting.

Who wears these dresses?

(I did find one, by the way. Macys. They had their share of couch dresses too, but they also had relatively normal looking dresses. And they were having a sale. So there you go.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

ka-boom



This was a wedding present. One of my favorites, actually. It’s one of those casserole carrier things that can keep a hot dish hot (or cold) on the way to a potluck. I’ve used it more times than I can count.

Last week, I was rushing around, getting ready for our MOPS meeting, and I heard a pop.

More like an explosion.

It was the microwave insert for my casserole carrier. I was heating it up to keep my egg bake warm, and then, POOF.



The toddler was impressed. “LOUD!”

What does it mean when a gift you got for your wedding explodes? It has been almost twelve years, but still.

Thankfully, our marriage is in better shape than some of the gifts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

toddlers

I love the way toddlers think about things. I often look at my two-year old and wonder, what on earth are you thinking?

Take this picture for example. We were on vacation last August, staying in a waterpark hotel, and the toddler opened all the dresser drawers upon arrival, putting one grape in each.



Which just made me stop and think, what does he see when he sees this empty dresser? Is it just crying out for grapes or what?

And the TV. We kept taking the money out, but he just kept putting it right back in. Because obviously that TV really needed a little bit of money sticking out from the front of it. (If you look closely, you'll see several coins sticking out from the bottom left of the TV.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Serious Tower

The weekend before school started, we took the noisy boys into the City to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We had been reading Roald Dahl’s books all summer, and they were quite taken with the magic of live theater. (Especially how they rolled Augustus Gloop up in the brown sheets to symbolize getting sucked up into the chocolate tubes…)

On our way into Chicago, the boys were pointing out buildings and asking what they were. Twin A. was impressed with the Sears Tower, and couldn’t stop talking about the “Serious Tower.” (We tried to correct him. "Sears. It's the SEARS tower." But to no avail. I don't think the kid has ever even heard of Sears.)

A few weeks later, he and his brothers built this. He took a picture and suggested that it "would be great for my blog." And so it is.

Behold: The Serious Tower.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

packing lunches

The noisy boys bring a lunch to school every day. Well, every day except Thursday, which is hot lunch day.

But every other day, I pack their lunches. It’s only been a month, so I’m no expert, but I have collected a few lunch packing ideas that seem to be working.

The first one? These thermoses, called “funtainers” are my favorite invention ever. I heat these up with boiling water, then put the hot food in and it stays hot (or at least warm enough) until lunchtime.



A few of our favorite funtainer lunches: mini hot dogs, mini meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and potato soup. The funtainer also keeps things cold, so sometimes I pack vanilla yogurt with a side of granola, or fruit salad.

I’m a planner, so when I plan our dinners for the week I also plan the noisy boys’ lunches. It’s usually pretty simple, but just knowing that Monday is sandwiches, Tuesday is leftover soup, and Wednesday is mac ‘n cheese is helpful.

I spend an hour or so on grocery shopping day prepping food for the lunches: washing and putting grapes in baggies, packing carrots, dividing chips and cookies and crackers into single serve portions, making pudding cups, and so on.

This small investment of time planning and prepping is well worth it during the week when I can pull together yummy lunches in a snap.

Head on over to Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips!

Monday, September 22, 2008

monotony

I’m bored.

(Can I just say that out loud and get it over with?)

I’m dreading this week, not because there’s anything special going on, but because this week looks a lot like last week, which looks a lot like the week before that.

I get up, drink coffee, pack lunches, make breakfast, walk the kids to school, clean up, entertain the toddler, clean up some more, fix more food, throw in a load of laundry, and on and on it goes,

It’s not like I don’t see the importance of it all, I do. That’s why I’m doing it. But honestly? I’m bored.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Supermom is a figment of my imagination

My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning. I jumped out of bed, started the coffee, and went right down my to-do list. Lunches—check! Breakfast—check! Crock pot scrambled eggs for MOPS group later this morning—check! The toddler’s diaper bag packed and ready to go—check! Kids up and dressed and fed—check!

By the time we walked to school, I was feeling pretty good about myself. For about five minutes, I entertained thoughts like, “I’ve got this mothering three thing down. The toddler’s on a nice schedule, the noisy boys are getting their homework down and going to bed early. Look at me! I’m amazing!”

Right.

On our way to school, I noticed a few kids on bikes looked kind of dressed up. As the noisy boys joined their classmates in line at school, I noticed everyone looked nice today. That's when it dawned on me: it’s picture day.

And my boys are dressed in old t-shirts and army shorts.

Yeah, I’ve got this mothering thing down all right. When I remember to look at my calendar.

And the toddler with the nice schedule? Yeah. He’s been jabbering for the last two hours instead of sleeping. And now it’s almost time to walk back to school and get the noisy boys. No nap today.

Any illusions that I’ve got it going on over here are just that: illusions. I was reminded of that this morning at our MOPS kickoff meeting. If I try to do this motherhood thing on my own, it just doesn’t work. I need to rely on God and reach out to friends and family for support.

Supermom doesn't exist. At least not at my house!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somebody call Supernanny

It’s been one of those days. Baby b., who is no longer a baby, but very much TWO, gave me a run for my money today.

Sitting down for dinner tonight, he threw a full-on tantrum because he wanted candy instead of scalloped potatoes with ham. As I put him in our “time out” spot to serve his two minutes, Twin B. commented, “You should think about calling Supernanny to deal with him. She could come while we’re at school.”

“Yeah,” Twin A. agreed. “I think that would make a very interesting show.”

Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys. I’ll keep that in mind if things get worse.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What do I do all day?

I have been in constant motion since 5:30 this morning, and have very little to show for it.

Anyone else feel this way?

I got up, made a pot of coffee, checked email, started a load of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, packed lunches, cuddled my toddler, woke up the noisy boys, fixed breakfast, then walked the boys to school.

That was all before eight o’clock.

Things slowed down after that with a walk along the river with my toddler to say good morning to the ducks. We stopped on our way home to watch the construction trucks that were breaking up concrete at the gas station on the corner.

Home to play choo choos, a quick trip to the grocery store, lunch, books, and a nap for the toddler. More laundry for me, putting away groceries, making a batch of banana muffins, chatting with a friend on the phone, picking up the house, and folding laundry.

At 2:20, the toddler’s up, time to get the noisy boys from school. We walk to school and back, then gather around the table for muffins and milk. The noisy boys take the toddler outside to blow bubbles and run around, so I take advantage of the quiet and write this.

Because, to be perfectly honest, I’ve got to get that sex post off the top of my blog. Judging from the email I’m getting, people think we’re doing it all the time over here. Just for the record, I am no sex expert. And my husband’s not even in town at the moment.

Enough said.

Anyway, time to start homework, make dinner, and take the noisy boys to soccer practice.

Then back home for baths and bed. And for me to sit and think about what on earth I’ve done all day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the one where I talk about sex

Cameras were everywhere on that first day of school. Parents hovered like the paparazzi, snapping photos and waving. And when the kids went in, the crowd dissolved into a mixture of tears and happy dances.

(I was one of the Moms doing a happy dance, by the way.)

As we walked home, I chatted with neighbor, who had taken the day off work to commemorate the day. Her husband is a stay-at-home Dad.

“What will you do with your day?” I asked. Both of her kids were in school all day for the first time.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said.

“You can go to lunch! You can take a nap! You can have loud sex during the day!” I joked.

“Now why would we want to do that?” She asked, as if I had suggested pulling her toenails out one at a time.

To keep romance alive. Because your husband looks good to a lot of bored housewives on this playground. Because you can. I think all of these things as we part ways.

In our sex-saturated culture, it seems that married sex is an oxymoron.

Chrysalis is hosting a conversation today on Marriage and Romance.

After eleven years of marriage, I’ve got a few things to say about romance and how it evolves and changes over the years, especially when children come along. But I’ll keep my advice short and sweet: one way to keep romance alive in your marriage is to have more sex.

(This is the part of my blog where I try to forget that my dad reads it. And my grandpa.)

But really. Next time your husband winks at you across the dinner table, don’t roll your eyes. Wink back. Marriage is not meant to be a miserable endeavor. Flirt. Have fun. Have sex. And see if the romance meter in your home rises.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Is anyone else tired of politics?

Everywhere I go, it follows me. People I barely know feel compelled to tell me how they feel about certain candidates and their families—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And honestly? I’m tired of it.

As a Christian who doesn’t always fit the mold politically, or in any other way for that matter, I find myself feeling awkward and uncomfortable when conversations inevitably turn to politics.

It’s a good reminder to me to guard my words—not just about politics, but about everything. Even if something is true, do I need to say it? Right now? To this person? How can I be an encouragement to the people around me whose beliefs and life experiences are vastly different from my own?

I recently read the book unChristian by David Kinnaman. (Which I highly recommend by the way.) The statistics in this book will make you stop and think. The one I keep coming back to? Three percent of outsiders (or nonchristians) have a positive perception of evangelical christians.

Three percent.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

superfast

The Fall schedule is here, but not fall. Yesterday it was 93 degrees. (Thank goodness the noisy boys’ school has air conditioning!)

And Fall? It brings lots of activity with it.

So…in honor of the backwards edition of WFMW, here’s my question: what’s your “it’s soccer practice night and we just walked in the door, but I’ve got to get everyone fed” go-to meal? (It can be make-ahead or super-fast, either way!)

Thanks!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

being flexible

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Mom, it’s the importance of being flexible. It’s fine to make plans and have a schedule—in fact it’s great—but everything is subject to change. Everything.

Llama Papa was planning to meet a friend for dinner and bowling on Sunday night. He took the noisy boys to the pool that afternoon while I settled down at my computer to write during the toddler’s naptime. About forty minutes later Twin A. ran through the door, yelling “Emergency!”

I was on the phone with my sister-in-law, and jumped up to see my husband walking in, holding his dangling arm. He dislocated his shoulder. (He’s done this before, so he knew right away what happened.)

Ouch.

A kind neighbor drove him to the ER, and his sister met him there. (She offered to stay with the kids so I could go, but honestly, she is so much better with these kinds of things, I knew she could offer him more support than I could. And after hearing the details from the experience, I’m sure I made the right decision, seeing as I would have been passed out on the floor...)

I tucked him into bed a few hours later, drugged up and muttering that he needed to get those hooks hung in the closet.

I assured him the hooks could wait.

As can everything else on our schedule. I’m always amazed at how quickly time gets freed up when something like this happens. Nobody is ever too busy for a trip to the ER.

(Please pray for my husband. He’s feeling much better and planning to follow up with an orthopedic doctor this week, Lord willing. He leaves for a trip to Yosemite on Friday for a week of backpacking with friends. And, yes, he’s still planning to go.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

building community

It was a little thing. Spaghetti pie, actually. With bread and salad and ice cream bars for dessert.

She’s a friend from the neighborhood, so I brought the food over hot, right at dinnertime. She brought her beautiful baby girl, their third child, home just a few hours before.

“Thank you so much,” she said as I laid the food out on the counter and tucked the ice cream bars into her freezer. “This is amazing. Have people done this for you before?”

“They have,” I responded.

“Wow. Nobody has ever brought me a meal before.”

Let that sink in. Nobody has ever brought me a meal before.

When I told Llama Papa, he said, “Well, our church does something right.”

“Or, we, The Church, are doing something wrong,” I responded.

(I know. Ask him how much he appreciates my optimism…)

Are we so busy in our churches reaching out to one another that we miss opportunities to serve others in our community? Our own neighbors? Don’t get me wrong, the serving of one another in Christian community is a beautiful thing. Beautiful.

Let it spill over, friends. And not because it’s one more thing you should do. If it’s just another obligation, then don’t bother. But as you build community with your neighbors and the people in your life, as you become friends and care for people, really care for them, let it spill over. Let the beauty of Christian community spill over and touch the people around you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

bad directions

“Which way to the junior high?” the boy stopped his bike to ask.

“The other way,” I pointed. “But I’m not exactly sure which street to turn on.”

“Okay,” he started riding away.

“Wait!” I called. “Ride up here with us. It’s only another block to the corner, and the crossing guard will know which way you should go.”

“I need to be at class in ten minutes,” he called. “I need to go.”

And then he zoomed off down a side street that doesn’t go through.

I imagine he got to school eventually, fueled on panic and bad directions.

I think about all the times in my life I’ve been at a crossroads, unsure which way to turn. I’ve needed to ask for directions more than a few times. Some have given me good advice, others, not so much. I think of how angry I’ve been at people who have steered me wrong, given me bad directions.

But have I ever considered that maybe I was just asking the wrong person?

Monday, August 25, 2008

loving having just ONE toddler...

The noisy boys love first grade. I love first grade. The house is quiet with just me and the toddler, but hey, I’m adjusting.

Today we went for a walk with a Mom in our neighborhood after dropping the noisy boys off, then took a trip to the library. Just the two of us. And can I just say this out loud? I love just having my toddler with me and going to the library and hanging out. It feels so easy.

Not that the noisy boys aren’t a joy because they are. But. Well. I’m really enjoying just having one child at home during the day.

Oh, and for the record? It’s only day five of school and I’ve already screwed something up. (Besides the school supplies…I’m not counting that because hardly anybody gets that entirely right.)

Nope. It’s the note in the lunchbox thing. A few days ago, Twin B. asked if I could sometimes put a note in his lunchbox because some of the other kids get notes from their Moms and he would really like that.

(I love that my child feels comfortable enough to just ask for what he wants from me. Love it.)

So this morning while I was packing lunches, I wrote a note to Twin A. and tucked it in his lunchbox. I packed Twin B.’s lunch, poured myself some coffee…and, well, this afternoon when I picked the kids up, Twin A. thanked me for the nice note in his lunch.

Um. Yeah.

I assured Twin B. that his special day is coming…tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

first day

Their new backpacks and lunchboxes sit by the door, waiting. “Is it time to go?" Twin B. asks.

“Almost.” I tell him.

I think of all the long days of parenting two babies, then two toddlers, then two preschoolers. How many times did I wish for this day? I wonder. And now it’s here—the first day of first grade—and I can’t believe it.

Twin B. walks ahead with his dad and baby b. while Twin A. and I walk behind them, talking.

“Where do I hang my backpack again?” he asks.

“On the hook with your name,” I tell him.

I watch as he struggles with the straps on his backpack. “This is heavy,” he tells me.

“I know, A. You’re doing a good job with it.” I want to reach over and take the backpack from him, carry it for awhile, but hold myself back. It’s not the right thing for my boy. He needs to carry his own pack.

Pictures and hugs and smiles as they join their friends in line, eager for this new year.

I bake a pan of brownies after lunch, hoping to make this cute pencil cake, but the brownies break around the middle, leaving a gooey mess of brownie stuck to the pan.

No cute cake to greet the noisy boy after school, just more hugs and smiles and a listening ear. Gooey brownies eaten from the pan will be fine, I think, adjusting my expectations.

It is what it is, right? The noisy boys would have gotten a kick out of the cake, but a brownie is a brownie—always a good thing!

Edited to add: The noisy boys had a great first day of school and the brownies were a big hit. Yay!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

school supply hell

I was tired. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. So many papers were coming home from school last spring, I just got tired of filling out forms and writing checks. So when the school supply preorder form came home, I set it aside, inadvertently missing the deadline.

Which is why I spent two hours last night wandering around Target and Office Depot with the noisy boys’ first grade school supply list.

It was a special kind of hell picking through the bins looking for two pink erasers and 24 sharpened pencils and 8 Classic Crayola markers, all times two since I have twins. I realize the math doesn’t sound complicated, but trust me, by the twentieth item on the list you start to question your ability to double. Five glue sticks each, but they only come in packs of three…how many packs do I need? (Don’t judge me. I majored in English for a reason.)

And those were the easy things to find. I also needed two orange folders and four yellow folders and three triangle erasers. Right.

And my personal favorite? Five fine-line dry erase markers in blue. Now, you can find multi-packs of fine-line markers in black, and you easily can find packs of four different colors, including blue, but good luck finding any sort of multi-pack of fine-line BLUE markers.

In the end, I bought ten packs of multi-colored markers to obtain the needed five blue dry-erase markers each. (Anyone need thirty fine-line dry erase markers in red, yellow, and green? I’ll sell them to you real cheap.)

I still need to find two boxes of 200 antibacterial wet ones. Once I’ve got that, I’m golden.

At least I was able to shop alone. And now I know: no matter what, never forget to pre-order the school supplies.

Someone remind me of that next spring when I’m drowning in paperwork.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

good times

School starts one week from today. As much as I can’t believe our summer break is over, I’m ready for it to be over. So are the noisy boys. We’ve had a blast, to be sure, but at this point, I think we’re all craving the structure of the school routine.

Especially after spending over twenty hours together in the minivan last week. For the record, twenty hours is a lot of together.

We drove to Minnesota and back for my family reunion, stopping in the Dells on the way to break up the trip. Overall, the kids did great. The trip home got dicey after about eight hours on the road…but we were only a few hours from home so we pushed through with the help of a bag of tootsie roll pops and a box of sparkle bandaids.

It was so good to be with my family, just laughing and hanging out. We rented a big dorm at this camp where we all stayed. The noisy boys loved swimming in the lake, going out on the paddleboats with their Grandpa, and jumping off the back of a pontoon boat for a swim. Baby b. loved all the attention that comes your way when you’re two and cute, and throwing rocks off the dock.

This side of the family only gets together every other year, so we missed the last reunion. (Baby b. was just a few weeks old then.) It was good to reconnect, especially with my Grandpa, who just celebrated his 88th birthday.

And I have two new favorite games: Ticket to Ride and Bananagrams.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

paint chips and georgie rooms

Things are sizzling around here. We promised the noisy boys a new bedroom before school starts, and it’s been quite a project.

Their old room has an adorable Curious George mural on one wall. They loved it, until about a year ago. Since then, poor George has been covered with basketball stickers and spiderman posters.

Because I can’t bring myself to paint over George, not just yet, we decided to move baby b. into the “georgie” room. Which meant that the twins would move into the guest room, and the guests would move into baby b’s room, which means…a lot of painting.

And while we’re at it we may as well paint our room.

Right.

The painter has been here every morning this week, and our entire upstairs looks like it threw up clothes and sheets and books and stuffed animals. We’ve basically been camping out in our own house.

Fun.

I realize I’ve been quiet on this blog lately. Between trips to the pool and painting and vacations, I haven’t had much computer time. Once school starts, I’ll be back to posting more regularly.

Only nineteen more days. (But who’s counting?)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leslie's battle with cancer ended last night.

Please pray for Tyson and T.J. as they grieve this unimaginable loss.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

leslie

Please pray for Leslie.

As I’ve mentioned here before, she’s been battling cancer since last fall and has recently taken a turn for the worse.

Please pray for her and her husband, Tyson, and their precious little boy, TJ.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

whatever you're doing

My first full day of writing workshop was amazing. Thank you, friends, for praying for me. I'm over myself and having a great time learning and growing in the craft of writing.

I first heard this song on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and it so beautifully articulates much of what I've been feeling lately. Whatever You're Doing by Sanctus Real. Wherever you're at in your spiritual journey, I hope it encourages you as much as it has me.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

I changed my mind

Remember in that last post when I said you should pray for Llama Papa and not worry about me, I’ll be happy just to be in my lovely hotel room not changing diapers or making beds or cooking meals?

Well, I changed my mind.

Pray for me, friends. This writing stuff is intense, and I am in way over my head. Seriously. The other people in my workshop are college professors and People Who have Published Several Novels. And then there’s me: a stay-at-home Mom from Chicagoland who can change a diaper really fast and publishes stories in magazines that nobody reads.

I think I need a candy bar. Or a drink. Not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

University of Iowa

I’ve been doing it for awhile now, I just haven’t mentioned it. Once you mention it, people ask about it. And then, suddenly, it’s a thing of stress. So…shhh. Pretend I didn’t say this out loud: I’ve been writing fiction. (Or trying to write fiction.)

And I like it.

Quite a few months ago I signed up for a week-long fiction writing workshop at the University of Iowa. Up until two weeks ago, I didn’t know if the workshop would be cancelled or not, due to flooding. (It seemed tacky to call during a state of emergency: “Um, hi. Sorry you lost your house and everything, but what about my class?”)



I had to scramble to find a new hotel since the one I had booked is closed until August, but classes are on.

And while I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing all week, I know what I won’t be doing: laundry, cooking, childcare, driving children around to birthday parties and playdates, keeping a two-year old safe at the swimming pool, sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, or even, not that I actually do this every day, making my bed.

I was going to ask you to pray for me while I’m away, but maybe your prayers should be directed to Llama Papa instead. Have I mentioned here before what a great guy he is? He is. Great.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

enjoy the season

“How long until Christmas?” Twin A. asks while he pours his cereal.

“A long time,” I tell him. “Why do you ask?”

“I can’t wait until winter,” he tells me, “Christmas, my birthday, and what’s nice about winter is you don’t have to mow the lawn.”

“Are you kidding me?” I ask. “It’s summer! We can play outside and go for bike rides and swim all afternoon and take a break from school. Summer is so much fun. Enjoy it, A. Don’t wish it away. Winter will be here soon enough.”

And so I remind myself today as I run after my fun-loving toddler: enjoy this season. Don’t wish it away. Sure, in a few years baby b. be more independent and won’t dump flour all over the kitchen floor or climb up on the bench to reach my cell phone, but he also won’t be cuddled up on my lap humming the “bum, de bum” song while I rock him. Instead of squealing “WADER!” every time we go to the pool, it will be old news. Fun? Yes. But not new and exciting anymore. Same with the zoo. No more “AMINALS! Mama! AMINALS!”

What season are you in? Are you enjoying each moment?

Friday, July 4, 2008

the farm

Some for you...




And some for me...




If you're planning a visit to Door County and have children, do visit The Farm. It was a highlight for all three of the boys. (And for me. Who doesn't love feeding goats and cows and baby pigs?)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WFMW - iced coffee treat

Finally, summer is here! At my house, that means long trips to the pool, entire days spent outside, and lots of watermelon.

It also means that most days, I’m one tired Mama.

One afternoon, desperate for a caffeine fix, but needing to stay home with a napping child, I concocted the following:

Mama needs Caffeine Iced Vanilla Coffee Treat

Fill a tall glass with ice.

Pour leftover coffee from the morning into the glass, filling about halfway.

Fill the next quarter of the glass with vanilla creamer (can be sugar free, if you want).

Now fill the rest of the glass with milk.

It’s not Starbucks, but it sure hits the spot on a hot summer afternoon! (And, as a bonus, it doesn’t cost four dollars a pop.)

Now make yourself a coffee treat and head over to Rocks in my Dryer and peruse more great recipes, five ingredients or less!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Proof that I shouldn't be allowed to use the grill

“I think this chicken is great! I love burned food."
Twin B.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rule #297

If you're married to a photographer, always wear clothes that match. Always.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Door County

I wake up early to the chatter of my youngest, sleeping in a pack and play at the foot my bed, “Daddy? Daddy?” he says over and over. Suddenly, he remembers where we are and he begins to yell, excitedly, “BAMMA! BAMMA!” (Grandma.)

I dress quickly, guzzle a cup of coffee, and throw him in the bike trailer for an early morning let’s-not-wake-up-anyone-else bike ride. The town of Ephraim is completely still, and I ride along the lake, listening to the birds and the chatter of my almost-two-year-old.

“Ducks! Ducks!” he points.

I ride back, have breakfast, and then another crew is out on their bikes. Llama Papa, Uncle Llama and the cousins all go for a ride.

And so our first day of vacation in Door County unfolds.

A week of digging in the sand, throwing rocks, swimming in the lake, reading books on the porch, going out for ice cream, and just hanging out follows.

As vacations go, it was a perfect 10.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I can stop anytime

I’m away from home, and knew that internet access would be scarce this week, but assumed I could pop into a café here and there and make a quick post. And I could, hypothetically speaking, but the café in the next town over with the free wifi closed at 6 o’clock.

I asked the girl at the ice cream shop next door if she knew where I could find wifi and she said, I am not making this up, “What’s wifi?”

Alrightythen.

I guess I won’t be around much this week.

Which is a good thing, right? We all need to take a technology break every now and then, right? (She says huddled over her laptop while sitting on the sidewalk outside of a fancy inn that she isn't staying at...)

I’m sure the twitching will stop any day now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

laugh

I’ve been a little uptight lately. Actually, a lot uptight. So when my friend sent me a link to this post, I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. Almost. Ahem.

Go read it. Laugh. Then report back here and leave me a comment with a link to the funniest thing you’ve read (or written) on the web in awhile.

A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.
Proverbs 17:22 (The Message)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

things I never thought I would say out loud

Don’t forget to wipe!

Did you use soap?

Get out of the refrigerator right now!

The next person who farts with their armpit will have a consequence.


And that was just yesterday.

How about you? What do you have to say that you can't believe you're saying?

**edited to add -- I cannot believe I just said this: Can you move over? I can't see the TV! (Um, yeah. We're watching Sesame Street.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

help

Why is it so hard to accept help?

I was just at the grocery store with baby b. Unlike me, he loves to shop. The grocery store we go to has a fun “car cart” that he drives, beeping and vrooming at people as we go.

The only problem with the car cart is you’re not supposed to take it outside. When the noisy boys were small, this was a serious issue. With just one toddler, though, it’s not usually a big deal. The checker puts the bagged groceries in a normal cart, I plop the baby in that seat, and off we go.

But today the checker put the groceries in the cart without unfolding the seat first, so there was no place for baby b. to sit. I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I just left. First I tried carrying baby b. and pushing the cart with one hand. Kind of tricky. Next, I tried holding baby b’s hand while he walked, pushing the cart a little bit at a time. It was ridiculous how complicated it was just getting to my minivan.

Two women stopped me on their way out and asked, “Do you need help?” It’s like I’ve got a built in “no” reflex or something because without really thinking about it, I just waved them on by. “No thanks! I’ve got it!”

But I didn’t have it. I really needed a hand.

Does anyone else do this or is it just me?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

happy father's day

“Mom?” my child whispers into the too-early morning. I was up with him at two, and between a headache and way too many deep thoughts, couldn’t fall back asleep until four. I roll over and wake my husband.

“Can you help him?” I ask.

He climbs out of bed without complaint, and then it hits me.

“It’s Father’s Day. I just woke you up at five-thirty in the morning on father’s day so I could sleep in.”

“It’s okay, honey.” He tiptoes out of the room, closing our bedroom door behind him so I can go back to sleep.

This is just one of about two thousand reasons why he is such a great husband and father. Happy Father’s Day, honey!

And if you need a nap later today? I’m on it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

made for grace

I cried the first time I read Ann's blog, Holy Experience. Her beautiful writing captures something about God's grace that resonates with the deep places of my soul. She finds words for things when there are no words.

In a culture of church shopping for what will meet my needs best, for leaving a church every time we become uncomfortable or feel like we don't fit, this post was a breath of fresh air.

don't do it!

I was just checking my sitemeter to see what brings people to my blog these days, and was disturbed to find the following google search: cooking llama when is it done. And in Colorado Springs no less!

Do people really eat llamas? Please say it isn't so.

Monday, June 9, 2008

messes



It started with a cake plate.

We had our small group over for a bbq and I made a lemonade cake and put it on my fancy pedestal cake platter, which is stored on a shelf in the basement. The next day the cake was gone, the plate was clean, but I was too busy to take it downstairs just then. So onto the table it went.

“Mom! Can you get this away from baby b.? He’s ruining it,” added more than a few art projects to the pile. I always mean to put things away, but when naptime rolls around, there’s always something else that urgently needs my attention—dishes on the kitchen counter, laundry to fold, or two big boys who need some quiet time with Mom. And so the mess just sits there, growing a little bit every day.

Now when I look at it, I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

Kind of like my life. Messes have piled up in the corners of my heart, waiting for life to slow down enough to sort through it all. And now there’s such a huge pile, I don’t know where to start.

Though I suppose it doesn’t really matter where I start. I just need to start.

Friday, June 6, 2008

more stories from the pottery studio

“This would make a nice gift for someone,” our instructor encourages. “I’m amazed that this is your first time at the wheel.”

“Thanks,” Twin B. responds. “But I think I’ll keep it for myself.”

All the way home, he beams. “I’m really good at this pottery stuff, Mom.”

“You really are, B. You’re very creative,” I affirm.

“Even better than you,” he continues.

This is true.

Every time I sit down at the wheel, I have a plan. I want to make a mug or a vase, a bowl, and every time, I end up with something else. Something unidentifiable.

Twin B. sits next to me with his wet lump of clay, and lets the wheel turn around and around while he looks at it.

“What are you going to make?” I ask.

“I don’t know yet.”

And then as his hands shape the lump into something, he tells me, “I’m making a mug.”

And he does.

The day after our last class, he presented me with a wrapped package. “For you,” he says, “it’s a be-late birthday present.” He jumps up and down as I take it from him. “Open it!” he beams.

“Oh, B. I love it,” I tell him.

“I know,” he says, “that’s why I wanted to give it to you. Thanks for taking me to pottery class, Mom.”

And as I drink my coffee this morning, I’m reminded of my own imperfections. As a Mom, a friend, a follower of Christ. And yet God manages to smooth it out and make something good come of it all every time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

storybook stew



Storybook Stew.

The title caught my eye as baby b. pulled on my arm, eager to go see the huge stuffed bear in the lobby. I grabbed it off the shelf and skimmed it as I explored the rest of the library with my toddler.

This book is brilliant.

It’s a children’s cookbook with recipes and activities that tie in to classic children’s stories. Blueberries for Sal has a recipe for blueberry bread and an activity for scratch art. Heckedy Peg includes the instructions for how to make butter in addition to a yummy cupcake recipe.

I realize that clever Moms make these sorts of connections all the time and probably already think to make some kind of healthy Bear Country Punch after reading The Berenstain Bears and too much Junk Food. But for the rest of us, this book offers a wealth of ideas.

This week, Works for me Wednesday has a theme: Mom, I’m bored! Go check out Rocks in my Dryer for some great boredom busting tips!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

last day

Twin A. walks out of the building carrying his school bag and a huge envelope full of art projects. “Hey A!” I call from our meeting place by the flagpole. “How was the last day?” I ask.

“Good.” He says. “I got a lot of stuff to bring home.”

“I can’t wait to see it all.”

“And kind of sad too,” he continues.

Twin B. marches out proudly just then. “Hey Mom!” He says, giving me a quick hug. “Hey A. We had popsicles today.”

“Me too!” A. says. “Can we play?” he looks over at me.

“Of course. For a few minutes,” I tell them.

And so Kindergarten is over, just like that.

Later that night, we ride our bikes to the pizza place near our house and have dinner, then ice cream, and talk about our favorite things in Kindergarten: friends, playing, great teachers, writing workshop, gym.

We take the long way home, winding our bikes down the path by the river. A family of ducks sits at the edge, a Mama, Daddy, and three babies. The grown-up ducks quickly stand in front of their babies when they see us coming, hissing as we ride by.

I wonder at the parenting habits of ducks. When do they let their babies go? Do they do it all at once, or do they let go little by little, the way we do?

The noisy boys are pedaling as fast as they can on the trail. “Woo hoo!” Twin A. yells. “This is so beautiful!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

more stuff about me

Several weeks ago, LL Barkat tagged me over on her Green Inventions Central blog. Then on Monday, my friend 23 Degrees tagged me with the same meme.

It’s meant to be.

So here you go: six random things about me.

1. Coffee is not optional. In fact, when I was in the hospital with my gall bladder, I had to wait until the next day to have surgery. (The surgeon was busy watching some sporting event.) So I spent the whole next day fasting, waiting for the surgeon, and ended up on narcotics for a killer caffeine headache.

2. The day before my gall bladder attack, I went to a Tastefully Simple party at a friend’s house. I never ate any of the items that I bought. In fact, they sat in a box for seven or eight months before I finally opened it and gave them all away. I just couldn’t face the beer bread.

3. I love school supplies. New pencils, notebooks and markers give me a thrill. I always loved fall, going back to school, and new school supplies give me this same feeling of a fresh start.

4. I have no sense of direction. Seriously. If you tell me to turn south at the light, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

5. I don’t cry very often, but when I do it’s often inappropriate. I can sit across from a friend and listen to the horrific story of some injustice done to her and never flinch. But take me to the zoo with a group of happy kids, and I will weep. I know. I need therapy.

6. I’m stopping at five things, cause I’m a rebel that way. Which is actually the sixth thing. Sort of.

If you don’t want to play, that’s fine, but I tag a Musing Mom, Marmot Mom, FrazzMom, Mama of a whole lot of Drama, Mommy Cracked, and just to prove that I don’t JUST read blogs with MOM in the title, Linda.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

California wildfires, cancer and a bike ride

Winding through the neighborhood on my bike, I reach the trail. Everyone tells me this is a good place to ride, but I’m suspicious. It’s hard to shake the memories of bike riding through the mountains in California and be satisfied with this meandering path through the prairie, but I take a deep breath and embrace what is: this trail with its tall grasses and singing birds, fresh spring air, a measure of silence.

I breathe in the crisp air, sweet as Boone’s Farm wine, and quickly become intoxicated with its healing beauty.

My thoughts wander back and forth like the dirt trail I ride on. Even after almost seven years, I miss California. I consider the out of control wildfires there, grateful my mother moved away from Santa Cruz a couple of years ago.

I pray for Leslie, a constant prayer I’ve prayed all week: God have mercy. Be present to her. Heal her. Please, God. Heal her.

I coast down a hill and feel the cobwebs in my soul scatter, leaving me exposed; vulnerable. I ride along quietly with a keen awareness of God’s gentle presence. Unanswered questions sit between us. We’re quiet, like estranged lovers who run into each other at the mall, both waiting for the other one to say the first word.

A character in the story I’m writing dances in my mind, and I’m dying to write it all down. I consider cutting across the path and over to Starbucks where I can scribble on napkins, but I need to get home and shower, go to the grocery store, clean the kitchen floor. So I head back home instead.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm lousy. Thanks for asking!

The first time it happened, I was staring at the raw shrimp on sale for $7.99 a pound. Just a few minutes later, it happened again. This time I was handling lemons in the produce department, looking for a slightly tender, juicy one.

“How are you doing today?” the produce guy asks.

“Fine, thanks.” I respond.

“You don’t sound too convincing,” the produce guy continues. “Are you sure you’re doing okay?”

Well, actually I’m not.

But does the produce guy really need to know that? Seriously. Does he moonlight as a therapist, drumming up business all day long in the produce department at the Jewel?

What do you say to this?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

summer cooking

Summer is creeping its way toward us, one sixty-five-degree day at a time, and I can hardly wait. Summer means trips to the pool, playing outside all day long, and hanging out with friends we don’t get to see as much during the school year. Of course, it also means Mom has little time to actually get anything done, since we’re all so busy having fun!

One of the ways I like to save time in the summer is in the kitchen. Who feels like cooking when it’s hot? Not me. I have a notebook of summer meals that I pull out, with lots of main dish salads and grilling recipes. You can also find some great recipes on this Summer Food blog.

Here’s one of my favorite grilling recipes and a tip: freeze your meat right in the marinade. That’s right. When I buy meat, I buy a lot of it and freeze it in family-sized portions. I make two or three big batches of our favorite marinades, then I add the marinade to the ziptop bag right with the meat and pop it into the freezer (labeled, of course). The meat will marinate while you thaw it in the refrigerator. It’s simple. It’s easy. And it works for me!

Hoisin-Marinated Pork Chops
Cooking Light

The chops need to marinate for at least 8 hours, so this is a great make-ahead dinner.

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
Cooking spray

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add pork chops. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare grill.

Remove pork from bag; discard marinade. Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes on each side or until done.

Note: Store cooked pork in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop)

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 188(30% from fat); FAT 6.2g (sat 2.1g,mono 2.8g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 25.1g; CHOLESTEROL 62mg; CALCIUM 27mg; SODIUM 249mg; FIBER 0.2g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 6.7g


Head over to Rocks in my Dryerfor more great tips!

Monday, May 19, 2008

blog traffic

People all over the world are looking for help with their llamas. When I named this blog Llama Momma, I had no idea what I was doing. Seriously. I started the blog on a fluke, and found I really enjoyed blogging. So here we are.

Unfortunately, my friends over at google think this is a blog for cute, spitting animals.

The number one google search of late? Llama crafts.

Honestly, every day I have several people looking for llama crafts. And now it will happen even more because I’m saying it over and over again. Llama crafts, llama crafts, llama crafts. If anyone knows of any, pass them on in the comments or by email and I’ll post it as a public service announcement. Someone has to help these people with their crafts! And if the Llama Momma isn’t willing to step up, I ask you, who will?

People are also looking for information on the following:

my llama having a baby

sleep habits of llamas

emotional llama

llama + missions

laundry launching llama


That last one has me wondering.

Every once in awhile, someone finds this post after googling making formula on a plane, or should I take my baby on the plane? And I wish I had some way to get in touch with them. No, I think. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to.

And my favorite? Just a few weeks ago someone asked: how do I make dinner with all of these kids my husband drives a truck. (Actually, that’s not a direct quote, but I don’t use profanity on my blog.)

And to you, overwhelmed mom, you simply do the best you can. Plan ahead and keep meals simple. Get the kids involved in the cooking if they’re old enough to help. And always keep a couple of frozen pizzas on hand. Go ahead. There is no judgement here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

making a difference

I live in the suburbs.

I love my neighborhood and the court I live on, where my boys can ride their bikes around and around while I sit on a bench sipping iced tea. We live close enough to walk to school, and in the summer, we splash in our neighborhood pool. Sometimes we ride our bikes to get ice cream cones at the end of the day.

It’s comfortable here.

When I read about the work other people are doing for Christ, sometimes I feel uncomfortable. Inadequate. I wonder if what I do is enough. Am I really called to the suburbs? I wonder. At times I think I’d rather go to Africa or Asia, anywhere but here, sharing Christ with my neighbors in this comfortable place.

I read about the work Erika Haub is doing in South Central L.A., and weep sometimes at the beauty of her calling. (And I’m not even a crier!)

My long-time friend LeeAnn, a.k.a. FrazzMom, lives in the Bay Area of California, but manages to take her children on missions trips across the globe almost every year.

These people are making a difference in this world.

Am I?

I’ve mentioned before my husband’s call to missions, as a sender. We got a letter yesterday from a family we’ve partnered with for over a decade, and I read with joy that their daughter just graduated from college, and their son is on his way. I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to witness God’s faithfulness to their family.

We’ve supported the work of Compassion International long enough that several kids have grown up sending us letters, and we need to choose a new child to sponsor. When I read about global poverty, I think of the work Compassion is doing around the world to change things, one child at a time. It’s a small thing, only $32 a month, and yet a child’s life is different because of it.

I take care of my boys, loving them and teaching them and feeding them. (And feeding, and feeding, and feeding.) I clean the kitchen floor. I vacuum.

Is it enough? Am I making enough of a difference in this world? Am I being faithful to God’s calling on my life?

Honestly? I don’t know. I hope so.

Friday, May 16, 2008

toddler talk

Light streams through the window as we sit down for breakfast together. Baby b. happily perched on his booster seat like a big boy next to me with my steaming mug of coffee. He eats his waffles, chattering happily.

“HOT” he says frequently, pointing at my coffee.

“Woof!” he exclaims when he hears our neighbor’s dog barking.

“More? More?” he points at the counter.

“What do you want more of?” I ask him. “You still have waffles.”

“More nandy? More nandy?” He points at the syrup bottle.

No wonder he loves waffles so much. He thinks he’s getting candy for breakfast! (Which, in a way, I suppose he is!)

**Note: title edited to deflect inappropriate google searches**

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the potter's wheel

My hands jump up and down on the wheel as I work the moist clay into what I hope will be a bowl. Gray water sprays my arms as I rub my forefingers along the rim.

“You’re making a huge mess,” Twin B. notices.

“It’s okay to make messes here,” our teacher reminds us.

“Yeah,” B. giggles, digging his own hands into the mound of clay centered on his wheel.

A few weeks ago when I asked B. what he might like to do, just the two of us, he immediately responded, “I want to take a pottery class.”

So here we are.

My misshapen bowl bends inappropriately and the more I try to make it stand up straight, the more it lilts to the side. “I think I need to start over,” I moan, ready to wad the whole mess up and begin again.

“Not so fast,” our teacher peers over my wheel, “it’s not over until it’s over. Some of my most beautiful pieces are born out of my mistakes.”

So I keep working with my sagging, sorry looking bowl, but it’s just not coming together.

“You know, if you bend the side a bit more and add a handle, it would make a perfect gravy boat,” our teacher observes.

And she’s right.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about me and all of my mistakes? Does he ever look at my life, shake his head, and think well, now she’s done it. What the heck are we going to make out of that? Or does he know he’s making a gravy boat all along?

Monday, May 12, 2008

the best toys




















Why do I bother buying toys for my children?

Honestly, baby b. is happiest with an empty box, my pots and pans and this old suitcase I pulled out of the closet a month or so ago. I planned to get rid of the suitcase, but the boys immediately adopted it as one of the coolest toys in the world.

So there you go.

Add a couple of couches to make forts with and they’re good to go.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

unmothers

I woke up at four o’clock this morning to get Twin A. a cough drop and had a hard time going back to sleep.

I prayed for Leslie, who would covet all of your prayers, today and in the days to come.

And it’s Mother’s day. I thought about that too. For many, this is not an easy holiday. I thought of those women in the night too. Grieving mothers. Women who long to be mothers but aren’t, for one reason or another. Mothers who have lost children. Children who have lost mothers.

These unmothers are on my heart this morning. I was one of them for so long, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely shed that feeling of not belonging on a day like today. As I go to church with my three sweet boys, I’ll be on the lookout for someone to encourage. Someone who is longing to have a conversation that has nothing to do with motherhood or babies or their own mother.

And this afternoon? I’ll take a long nap. I’ll enjoy a nice dinner with our extended family, and then I’ll sneak out for a movie with a friend. That really is my favorite way to spend mother’s day…or any day, for that matter.

Enjoy your day too, if you’re a Mom. And if you’re one of the unmothers who’s reading this? Know that you’re not forgotten today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

trying to be fancy

A few years ago, missionary friends were coming to visit, and I really wanted to make something special for dinner. My husband suggested grilling steaks or ordering pizza, but no, I wanted to make something fancy.

At the time, my twins were toddlers, and I didn’t have time for fancy.

Never mind that, I went to the market and picked up some beautiful halibut steaks, salad, and a loaf of fresh bread. Pulling out a recipe for peppered halibut, I rushed through the recipe, opened a bottle of wine, and warmed the bread.

We gathered around the table to enjoy our meal, and our friends dug in enthusiastically. And then Maria’s face turned bright red and she reached for her water.

Oh no.

I took a bite of fish and the pepper was beyond overpowering. I may as well have served a plate of black pepper to eat with a spoon. It was really that bad.

I immediately apologized and suggested we eat something else, but our missionary friends soldiered on. “Oh no,” Maria said politely, “it’s good!”

But she couldn’t breathe.

I learned an important lesson that day: there is a time for fancy and a time to order a pizza or make sloppy joes. A simple meal prepared well is much more enjoyable than a fancy meal you don’t have time to make. I also learned that the little box of black pepper in my cupboard is not a substitute for freshly ground pepper. Not even close.

For more tips on what doesn’t work, head over to Shannon’s for this week’s special edition of What Doesn’t Work for me Wednesday.

Monday, May 5, 2008

God hears

“Mom?” Twin A. whispers into the dark room.

“Yes?” I ask.

“I’m so, so scared.”

Taking him in my arms, I pray, “God. A’s feeling scared tonight. Would you help him to remember all the ways you love him and all the ways we love him so he could feel less afraid? Thanks, God. Amen.”

“Why do you always do that?” Twin A. asks.

“Do what?”

“Pray. It never works. I’m still scared.”

“It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? But God hears our prayers, A.”

“Then why doesn’t he DO something?”

Good question. And when I’m the one who’s scared in a dark room, I’m rarely satisfied with easy answers. But I do know that God hears us when we pray. No matter what the situation, we are not without hope.

“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." (Psalm 33:20-22)


Would you join me in praying for Leslie tonight? She’s back in the hospital. Pray that she and Tyson and their young son would be surrounded by the Lord’s unfailing love tonight.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

about the writing

I’ve been in a bit of a writing pickle lately. A series of stories and articles accepted last fall began to hit the shelves, which led to a sort of crisis of confidence. (I know, publication is supposed to have the opposite effect, but stay with me here.)

Suddenly, I started reading more and more about publishing and being a Real Writer, and, honestly, it freaked me out.

I’ve been writing creatively for as long as I can remember. Stories bubble up and I feel compelled to write them down. This is just a part of who I am and how I process information.

For the last few months, I’ve been paralyzed to write much of anything. All of my stories felt small and insignificant, or worse, big and scary to say out loud. I’ve laid awake at night worrying about how I might be perceived by my readers and my friends and people in my church when I consider telling certain stories. I fear being labeled or judged, or perhaps worse of all, deemed insignificant.

I worry that my writing is bad and my stories are worse. I worry that there is no market for what I have to say. I worry about being judged for what I have to say.

This is the baggage I carried into the Calvin festival. I joked with a friend that I was hoping to find my purpose in life while I was there. That’s not asking too much, is it?

And while I can’t say that I found my life’s purpose, I did find my way back to my passion: creative writing. I’m back to just letting the stories bubble up and writing them down. Whether anyone ever reads this slog is yet to be decided, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter.

A lecture by Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite authors, soothed me like a long soak in a hot tub. "There's no right or wrong way to write," she told us. Her own writing process sounds so much like my own--early in the morning still in pajamas--and it doesn't hurt that she got her first big writing break from Parents magazine. Her lecture comforted me like a warm hug from an old friend. It's going to be okay, she said through her words that didn't really say that at all. Just keep writing.

I’ve stopped reading the writer blogs full of sage wisdom and marketing advice. Instead, I’m reading books that fill me up. Beautifully written books not about writing, but about living with hope in this broken world.

My creative energy is back. I’m listening to that deep place in my soul that does have something to say. And for now, just writing it all down is enough.

Friday, May 2, 2008

because sometimes it's better not to know...

There's a group of neighborhood kids playing in my backyard, mostly Kindergardeners, but a few first graders too.

I'm in the kitchen getting dinner ready with one eye out the window, and what do I hear?

"It's my turn to be the dog poop!" Twin B. shouts.
"No, you're the plunger this time," the neighbor girl corrects him.

I do not want to know what game they're playing out there.

link love

Last week, Erika Haub tagged me with an “excellent or subversive” blogging award. I’m not sure which category she puts my blog in, but either way, I want to pass on the link love! (Incidentally, Erika’s blog, The Margins is one of my favorites. It’s one of the few blogs I read every single day. Well, unless the kids are barfing or something, in which case the only thing I read is the Children’s Tylenol label!)

Here are a few of my favorite excellent or subversive blogs. (I’ll leave it up to you to guess which is which!)

A Place at the Table
Patsy Clairmont
Chased by Children
Raising Cain
Eugene Cho
The Preacher’s Wife

If you’ve been tagged and would like to participate by handing out your own excellent or subversive blog awards, feel free to make up your own rules!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

for the guys reading my blog...

This is a public service announcement.

Mother’s Day is coming up. It’s less than two weeks away, and you should really start thinking about it now. Don’t panic, you still have plenty of time to create a nice day for your wife and/or Mom.

If you have young children at home, the first thing I want you to do is think about your wife. What does she like to do in her free time? Does she garden? Scrapbook? Read? Run? Go out to eat with her friends? These things will give you important clues that will help you select a nice gift.

Do not buy her a new vacuum or cleaning items of any kind unless she asks you specifically for them. Seriously. If she hasn’t asked for it, don’t buy her a new dustbuster to keep the minivan clean.

Enough said.

Does your wife like to read? How about a $5 Starbucks gift card, a new book, and a coupon for an evening off? On that evening, take care of dinner clean-up and send your wife off to Starbucks to read for as long as she’d like. Put the kids to bed and do any of the usual nighttime chores she does.

Does your wife enjoy dinner out with friends? Give her a gift card to her favorite restaurant and an evening off. Again, follow the clean-up instructions in the paragraph above. This is important. If she comes home to a messy house and frozen pizza crusts in the sink, it won’t feel like a night off.

Does she enjoy shopping? Give her a gift card to her favorite store and a Saturday off to shop and meet friends for lunch. (Some malls and shopping centers even have gift cards that are good at any store or restaurant in the whole shopping center!)

Buy her favorite flowers. If you don’t know what her favorites are, ask. It’s probably not roses. (The same rule applies to your Mom.)

Help the children cook her favorite breakfast and clean the kitchen afterwards.

Last year, my husband gave me a beautiful portrait of himself with our three boys. Somehow, he managed to get them all dressed nicely and off to get their picture done without me noticing. I love this picture of all my "boys."



Help the children make her a gift. Family Fun has some fantastic Mother’s Day craft ideas for all ages. One year for Father’s Day, I helped the noisy boys make personalized note pads. They drew their own pictures and we took them to Kinkos and had them made into notepads. It was simple and inexpensive for two four-year olds to make, and my husband loved them. Have the kids shop for a special pen for Mom, and you’ve got a fun, thoughtful gift. (You could make extras of these and give them to your own Mom if you need gift ideas for her too!)

Of course, jewelry is always nice. You know your budget constraints. If you can’t afford nice jewelry, pick something else. Just my opinion.

Whatever gift you decide on, write your wife a nice card and tell her how much you appreciate all she does as a Mom. Help your children do the same. (One of my favorite Mother’s Day cards is from Twin B. His preschool teacher promted him with “I appreciate my Mommy because she…” and he said, “helps me wipe my bottom.” I will keep this card forever.)

Now let me talk to you, Moms. Give your husband a break and tell him exactly what you want for Mother’s Day. If you’re hoping he’ll guess, let me tell you if you haven’t figured this out yet: he won’t. I don’t know your husband, but he probably wants to please you. Explicitly tell him how to do this. You’ll both be happier in the long run!

Oh, and in case I don’t say it later, Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

LLama Momma on the road...

I have a confession to make: I’m directionally challenged. In a big way.

If someone tells me to go north on such and such a street, I have no clue what they’re asking me to do. “So, left at the KFC or right?” I need to clarify, confessing my utter lack of orientation most of the time. Maps are of little help, as I often can’t find myself on them or figure out which way to travel once I’ve found myself.

People are usually surprised to know this about me. Or at least, they pretend to be surprised, which is a kindness, I suppose.

At Calvin, L.L. Barkat climbed into my mini-van, despite my warnings that I have issues in this area. She is a kind, brave soul. Having dinner with her was a highlight of the festival—she is every bit as energetic and articulate in person as she is on her blog. And, as I mentioned before, brave. She kindly describes our adventure in her post Looking for Lil. Which reminds me, I need to look up the meaning of the word “lichen.” (See? I told you she was articulate!)

I attended the festival with a poet friend, and as we drove through Indiana on our way home, well, home for me, to the airport for my friend, my driving challenges took a new twist in the form of the tollway.

I should back up here and say that I live in Illinois. I am only too familiar with the tollway. As an I-Pass user, I don’t think about it often, but the reality of tolls is always with me, hanging on my windshield.

So as I approached the toll in Indiana, I noticed the sign for I-Zoom or I-Pass. I chose that lane, noting the speed limit of 5 mph. In Illinois, the speed limit is usually 20 mph, and you just zip right through the lane.

But apparently in Indiana, they expect you to stop. Like, completely.

Too bad I didn’t.

And now I fear that my poet friend may need some kind of therapy to recover from our sweet fellowship.

You know those little bars that block some toll lanes, lifting after you pay the toll? They’re quite resilient. Should you hit them, they just spring right back into place.

Not that I would know anything about that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Uwem Akpan

Before attending the festival, I hadn't heard of Uwem Akpan. Like a child on Christmas morning, I raced from workshop to workshop, unwrapping gifts of words and ideas. Discovering the writing of this talented Nigerian, Father Akpan, endures as one of my favorites. During a workshop with Mary Karr and Franz Wright, my appetite was whet to know more about this gifted writer.

Mary Karr told a story of wandering into the hotel lobby the night before, and seeing a Jesuit priest wearing a beautiful silk robe sitting there with a huge pizza and liter of Coca-Cola. She woke her friend, Franz, and together the poets joined Uwem and spontaneously shared his pizza and a dynamic conversation from one to four in the morning. (About the baby Jesus, according to Mary. But you have to take everything Mary says with a grain of salt. She’s psycho. If you’re reading this, Mary, I love you. I use the term “psycho” in the nicest possible way.)

Listening to Father Akpan share his writing process, I was struck by his broad smile and rich laughter. I was amazed by his solid faith in God, yes, but more than that, his joy.

It took him five years to write the short story, “My Parent’s Bedroom,” in which he articulates indescribable horror in Rwanda, through the eyes of a child. Keenly sensitive to the fact that he wasn’t there, nor had he ever visited Rwanda, he wrote it and rewrote it, meticulously researching every detail to get the story exactly right.

How does one write about such things without losing hope? (The story is beautiful and powerful and horrible. It will haunt you. You can read it here.)

Akpan’s book, Say You’re One of Them, is due for release this summer.