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)

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


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!