Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prayers for Daddy

“God,” one of my five-year olds prayed, “could you please keep Daddy safe on his trip? And could you please help the people around him to take good care of him?”

This suppertime prayer brought tears to my eyes last night. It even prompted a good spiritual conversation over supper; well, good until one of the boys realized we were having a Spiritual Conversation. Suddenly, the organic thoughts and ideas stopped, and out came the competitive Right Answers: “God? Jesus? The Bible? Helping Others?”

And speaking of supper, I’ve got to hand it to those marketing folks at Trader Joes. I was so excited to find a roasted vegetable pizza that was low in weight watcher points. Yeah. I was halfway through my reasonable-sized serving, thinking it was not too bad, but it was missing something. Hmmm. What was missing? Oh yeah. CHEESE. How can anyone, in good conscience, make and sell a pizza with no cheese?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

growing up

Getting ready for church this morning, I heard whispering in the noisy boys’ room.
“Tell her,” Twin A whispers to his brother, “come on!”
Twin B shakes his head, “YOU tell her,” he replies.
“Tell me what?” I interrupt, thinking there must be a terrible mess somewhere in the house.
Twin A looks down, “Well…” he begins.
“Go ahead,” I reassure him, “it’s always better to tell the truth. Always.”
“Okay,” Twin A continues, “we were just wondering, how come you treat us like babies all of the time?”
“What do you mean? How do I treat you like babies?”
“You know,” Twin B chimes in, “always buying us BABY underwear with BABY stuff on it.”
“Ah. So you guys just want plain underwear now, huh?”
“Yeah,” they both respond, visibly relieved to have broken the news to me.

How long did it take them to work up the courage to tell me this, as if I would be gravely disappointed that they no longer want to wear Bob the Builder underpants?

Oh, and after reading my “Survivor” post last week, a friend from church loaned me some extra sleepers for baby B. My husband’s comment? “This blog of yours is really paying off. Maybe you could mention something on there about how much I like the new Honda Odysseys that are coming out?”

Sure, honey. Consider it done. ;-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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.

Monday, February 19, 2007

President's Day

A bedtime conversation I wish I hadn’t started:

Me: Sweet dreams, boys. You can sleep as late as you want tomorrow because there’s no preschool!
Twin A: No school? Why?
Me: Because it’s President’s Day.
Twin B: What’s President’s Day?
Me: It’s a holiday.
Twin A: You mean like Christmas?
Me: No. Not like Christmas. You won’t get any presents.
Twin A: What’s a president anyway?
Me: The president is the person who runs our country—America.
Twin B: Do we live in the State of America?
Me; It’s not a state it’s a country.
Twin A: Oh. So we live in Illinois and the President lives in America!
Twin B: Will the president get any presents?
Me: Let’s talk about this tomorrow. Goodnight boys.

Today’s breakfast conversation: (A favorite today—yummy french toast with strawberries and bananas.)

Twin A: So, what’s the deal today?
Me: Well, there’s no preschool because of President’s Day.
Twin A: That’s right. Now, what IS President’s Day anyway?
Me: Basically, there’s no school and no mail. I have no idea what we’re supposed to actually celebrate on President’s Day.
Twin B: No mail? Why don’t we get any mail?
Me: Because it’s a holiday and the postal workers have the day off.
Twin B: Oh. Because it’s President’s Day. But we don’t celebrate it because we live in Illinois, right?

I give up.

Friday, February 16, 2007

It's Coming...

The noisy boys are headed to Kindergarten this fall. I have to say, this has been the longest, shortest five years of my life. When I was navigating their heavy double stroller through Walmart to buy diapers, I thought this day would never come. I fantasized about it, though. Little did I know what I was in for.

Kindergarten Roundup was this morning. All of the neighborhood children going into Kindergarten this fall met at the elementary school for a special meeting. We brought birth certificates and immunization forms and proof that we live where we say we do. We sat in the Learning Resource Room (a.k.a. library) and discussed what it means to be the Parent of a Kindergartener. And I have to be honest, I’m afraid.

Oh, the kids will do great. They marched right into the Kindergarten room with the other neighborhood children, excited to check out their new space. They know their letters, can write their names, and know how to take turns. It’s me I’m worried about. The “Parent Notebook” is huge, and full of “vital information to make the year a Success.” It includes two pages of volunteer “opportunities,” lists of required supplies, and about a million “must-not-forget” dates for our calendar. I actually got teary eyed during the Traffic Safety talk—not because my babies are going to Kindergarten, but because I am seriously afraid I will not be able to figure out the carpool line. (“Go West on Wendell, but if you can’t pull in, circle around again so you don’t clog up the line. Oh, and you can only park on the East side of Canary street because there are 80 school employees and only 55 parking spaces.”) Thank goodness we’re only three blocks away and can walk most of the year.

One downside to living in an “older” neighborhood is that the Kindergarten classes are shrinking. People are moving in and not moving out, which is a good thing. Our houses may need work, but we all love our neighborhood too much to move. That means fewer young families are moving in, which translates to fewer Kindergarten classes. Five years ago, they offered two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions. Last year, one morning, two afternoon. Next year, it looks like only one morning and one afternoon. So, after several years of long, agonizing conversations with my “twin mom” friends, it looks like the noisy boys will be in the same class regardless of my desire to have them separated. I’m sure they’ll do fine together, they’ve proven that with two years of preschool. I’m just nervous about the big split in first grade. After six years of spending almost every waking moment together, with the occasional separate activity, suddenly they’ll be apart all day long.

But with this thick Parent Notebook to read, I suppose I have enough to worry about without adding that to the list. On the plus side, it looks like an awesome school, and with one of the best school districts in the country, I’m excited to see the noisy boys fly! (And secretly hoping at least one of them wants to join the school newspaper. I always wanted to do that, but never did. Even if they don’t join, maybe they’ll let me volunteer. ☺ )

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Last night I was thinking about Valentine's Day, and I had a flashback to myself at twenty-one. Twenty-one was not a great year for me. A series of unfortunate events had beaten me down, and I was convinced that I was somewhat unlovable. On Valentine's Day, I found myself wandering through Target after work, unsure of what to do with myself on this lonely romantic holiday. That's when I saw it: the heart-shaped waffle maker. It was bright red and made four perfect little heart waffles. I stood there, suddenly weeping, staring at this frivolous household appliance. Would I ever have children to make heart-shaped waffles for? With a tee-shirt declaring, "Men are Scum," I doubted it. (I am not making this up.) The waffle maker represented everything I wanted: someone to love, security, nurturing.

Fast forward ffffftmmmth years to today. My heart and home are full of boys. I read the above story and feel a bit embarrassed to post it. I mean, really, a self-declared spinster at twenty-one? "Men are Scum" on a tee-shirt? Was that really me? But it was me. And the memory of it makes this Valentine's morning even sweeter. I still don't have that waffle maker, but I didn't let that stop me. I got out my cookie cutters and made cute heart-shaped M & M pancakes for the noisy boys. They were duly impressed with my culinary skills, and squealed over store-bought Valentines and a box of conversation hearts. "This is the best Valentine's Day ever!" Twin B declared.

And after opening a heart-felt valentine from my own sweetheart, I have to agree.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

snow day fun

The twins have been very into tinker toys lately. Last week, they made a little person, complete with spiky green hair. "Look!" Twin B exclaimed, "It's Mrs. (name withheld)!" (Who also happens to be blogger, For Now .) Maybe you've got to know For Now to appreciate this. She's very stylish in hair and dress, and sports this cute spiky hairdo that nobody else I know could actually pull off. (Maybe you remember her "candlelight post "?)

Fast forward to today, an honest to goodness snow day. Since finishing their chores, the twins have been working on tinker toy creations and building a gigantic couch-cushion fort in our living room. Twin A just walked into the kitchen, all decked out with a tinker toy mask he made, complete with spiky green hair. "Look, I'm a clown!" Twin A shouted. Twin B excitedly added, "No, no...you look like (For Now )! Except she doesn't have a mustache!"

No she doesn't. And, for the record, she also had very nicely groomed eyebrows. And a great sense of humor!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Facing the Giants

“That was a great movie about God and football,” my five-year old son commented after seeing the film, “Facing the Giants” at our church. “God gave everybody what they wanted in the end,” he continued, “it was a happy movie, wasn’t it Mom?”

I have to admit, I didn’t have high hopes for “Facing the Giants.” When our church announced plans to show this movie for free as an outreach to the community, I was skeptical. Would it really attract that many people? As a pinch-hit volunteer in the four and five year old Sunday school class, the answer is a resounding, “YES.” We had eight visiting four-year old boys, and the movie isn’t even geared toward preschoolers.

Sadly, I don’t expect much from Christian movies, so I was surprised to find that it wasn’t completely hokey. It even had moments of genuine humor. But Twin B pretty much summed it up in the above exchange, and he’s only five.

The theme “nothing is impossible with God” really shines through. A young couple choosing to trust God in difficult circumstances sees God work miracles. Wonderful. The downside? It was a little bit like reading a Christian romance novel: you know exactly how it will end as soon as it starts.

Am I just cynical? I believe God can do the impossible. But I also know that life is messy and new trucks from God rarely show up in any of our driveways, even if we really, really need a new truck.

I’m reminded of a friend who, years ago, was on bedrest in the hospital with twins, one of whom was not expected to live due to a severe birth defect. One night I was so grieved for my friend, I prayed until early morning for God to do the impossible. I didn’t pray a polite, “God, comfort my friend” prayer. I anguished for her and cried out for the impossible—for both of her babies to live. Not long after, her daughter was born, lived a few hours, and died in her arms. Is God still good? Of course He is. But there is no simple answer to life’s most troubling concerns, and while miracles are awesome, they don’t often come, even when we have great faith.

I wish this movie had ended without every problem being wrapped up into a tidy package. Maybe they lose the baby they prayed so long for; maybe they adopt a special needs child; maybe their car dies and they both walk a long way to go to work. But this was not a film about “God’s plans are not always our plans,” this was a movie about, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

In any case, eight four-year olds I have never met before heard the story of the Good Shepherd, who cares so much about each of His sheep, He leaves the 99 to go after just one. Many seeds of faith were planted today, and for that, I am thankful.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


We’ve all experienced it at one time or another: that uncomfortable moment in Bible Study when someone dares to tell the whole truth. “My uncle molested me as a kid,” or “I had my driver’s license taken away for drinking and driving,” or “I had an abortion when I was fifteen.” Personally, these revelations scare the heck out of me. What am I supposed to say? I start sweating and feel slightly nauseous. Are other people going to start telling their secrets too? And—the real reason for my discomfort—will people expect me to share MY secrets? It’s socially inappropriate, this sharing, but in the context of Christian community, IS it inappropriate? And in the small group setting, isn’t it strangely preferable to praying for someone’s Cousin Susie’s nose job?

I was reading in Mark 5 today, and the first twenty verses detail the account of a man who was demon possessed. I find the story interesting on many different levels—I mean, the guy was DEMON POSESSED. He was thrashing around uncontrollably. His life was a disaster. Jesus sent the demons living in this guy into a herd of 2,000 pigs, who proceed to drown themselves in a nearby river. Can you even imagine? Anyway, here’s the part that really interests me. In verse 18, it says, “When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go, too. But Jesus said, ‘No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been’” (Mark 5:18-19).

How much easier would it have been for this guy to climb into the boat with his savior and begin a whole new life? How much more difficult to go home, to the people who knew him, and start over? I mean, think about it. This guy has some serious baggage. But Jesus tells him to go home and tell his friends about God’s mercy.

The question that’s nagging at me is this: can we truly share the wonderful things God has done for us without sharing the details of how desperate we were when Christ found us? Am I so concerned about being appropriate that I miss opportunities to share God’s love? And am I really concerned with being appropriate, or am I just trying to protect myself and whatever “image” I may have constructed for myself?

What does it mean to be authentic in the context of Christian community? And, more importantly, what does God require of us?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

a living sacrifice

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” (Romans 12:1)

I start the day reading through a yet-to-be published newsletter for a friend who is looking for editorial suggestions. Detailing the destruction of an orphanage in Kenya, this newsletter breaks my heart. I weep over my coffee, open my Bible and begin to read the above verse in Romans. What does it mean for me, a middle-class, suburban housewife, to present my body as a living and holy sacrifice? To truly worship God today, on this stay-at-home snowy Tuesday?

I consider the orphans in Kenya as I make blueberry pancakes for my own children. I sing along with the worship music on my kitchen stereo:

“Jesus, I’ve forgotten the words You have spoken / Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim / With a doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly wisdom / Forgive me for my unbelief / Renew the fire again / Lord have mercy / Christ have mercy / Lord have mercy on me / I have built an altar where I worship things of man / I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You / Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing / Pardon my transgressions / Help me love you again” (Lord Have Mercy by Steve Merkel).

After singing the song, I feel spiritual, even though I’m sweeping up uncooked macaroni noodles from the kitchen floor (don’t even ask). I choose not to become impatient with the noisy boys for running circles around the living room and yelping like coyotes; after all, what else can they do to blow off steam on this sub-zero day?

The day goes on and I’m tired—tired of changing poopy diapers; tired of refereeing between the noisy boys; tired of cleaning up the kitchen. I don’t feel spiritual anymore, but decide that must be the point—this must be the sacrifice part, right? I keep working and try to think about Jesus, but my mind is already wandering to the pot roast I plan to make for supper.

The noisy boys are officially driving me crazy, so I turn on Sponge Bob Square Pants and read a few of my favorite blogs. I cry reading CLC’s post about the refugee family she’s helping. I read Ed’s blog and begin to feel inadequate. I think about my friend, For Now , who’s making soup for her church’s food pantry, so the people who come for groceries will have something warm to eat while they wait in line—the same food pantry that Craver serves so faithfully at. And what am I doing? Tending to my baby’s diaper rash and serving snacks to a couple of rowdy preschoolers.

I go back to Romans. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2).

Is it God’s will for me to reach out to the poor and speak out against injustice? Absolutely. And as I allow him to transform my mind and heart, I’m praying He’ll give me concrete ideas as to how I might begin to do this in the midst of this season in my life. Meanwhile, comparing my life to the lives of others really serves no useful purpose. Today, God has called me to serve my family. To change poopy diapers, organize crafts, and fix pot roast.

And so this day ends over chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven and hot cocoa. A quiet moment with my noisy boys; a cuddle with the baby; a conversation with my husband.

I’m still not sure what it means to be a living and holy sacrifice, but I pray that my work and my heart were pleasing to God today.

Back to Basics

Sometimes I make life more complicated than it is. Baby B. has an ear infection, and has been taking antibiotics for the last four days. The antibiotics have given him an upset tummy, and while I’ve been changing his diaper at least every hour, he’s managed to acquire a terrible diaper rash. Yesterday it looked so bad, I spent the better part of my day tending to it: no more baby wipes, just warm water and a soft washcloth; lots of naked time on a pile of blankets to “air out;” plenty of cream when his diaper was on. As the afternoon wore on, I became more concerned. My always-happy baby was getting so fussy! It must be his sore bottom. I rocked him, sang to him, played with him, all to no avail. When the noisy boys got home from school, I was fixing them a snack, and the baby’s eyes widened. That’s when I realized what the problem was: I had forgotten to feed the baby. He was an hour-and-a-half overdue to eat. Yikes! I am so not qualified for this job...

Monday, February 5, 2007

the first of many

Yesterday we hosted our first ever Superbowl party. When my husband first suggested inviting people over, I thought, “Oh, let’s not.” I’m really not into sports. At all. And then I had a realization: I am the mother of three boys. These boys will, hopefully, grow up into guys. And most guys are into sports, at least a little bit. (My husband, thankfully, falls on the “little bit” side.) Suddenly, it felt like my civic duty as a Mom of boys to host a Superbowl party. So we did. Besides, with the Bears playing, I think it was against the law in chicagoland to not watch the big game. So, we invited our family and a few friends over, bought a bunch of junk food, and huddled around our suddenly-too-small TV.

The noisy boys’ best buddies also happen to be five-year old twins, so we included their family in the festivities. All four boys lined up on the floor with their chips and dip and root beer, cheering and yelling whenever their dad or uncle did. They lasted longer than I thought they would before retreating to the family room to play with their airplanes and tinker toys, joining us every now and then when things got rowdy.

I tried to watch the game, but my mind kept wandering. I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t this be a great day to go into Chicago and visit the Art Institute?”

At least there’s food at a Superbowl party. Here's a favorite recipe—super yummy and fun to make with the noisy boys!

Hot Buttered Pretzels

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
1 cup warm water

1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its two kneading cycles, then cancel the machine, shape the dough into a ball, coating it with flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Manual/Mixer Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces. (I did 16, for smaller pretzels.) Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup boiling water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope, and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Have you ever heard of "FLOAM"? I hadn't until today. The noisy boys got some for their birthday, and asked if they could open it up today. It looks innocent enough. A small plastic container full of little blue pebble-like bits. The package says, "Fun you can feel. Mash it...Mold it...Mix it...Smoosh it...No Glue...No Mess." Sounds pretty harmless, right? WRONG. It's a lie! This stuff is OF THE DEVIL. Holy cow. We opened up the package and blue goop dripped everywhere. I tried mixing it back into the strange little beads. It felt kind of like smooshing up rice krispie treats, except the marshmallows had gone cold. Nasty. And messy. The noisy boys didn't want to touch the stuff, which is a good thing. It's going in the trash. (To clog up the landfill with more useless crap! At least disposable diapers serve a PURPOSE.)

Of course, the noisy boys cleaned up their toys in record time this afternoon. I told them I'd cover them with FLOAM if they didn't.