Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sick

Hi Everyone.

I know it's been a while. I haven't had much to say since I've been sick.  Oh, not to worry. It's nothing serious--just an ordinary cold. But I do my best to make the most of it. I whine and complain as if it were pneumonia. But here's the thing:  Mommies do not get sick days. I have to get up, make food, wash clothes, tend to boo boos, and even play games and read stories even when I'm unwell.

Caroline has been sick, too. It's different for her, though. She has spent the last three days lying on the sofa doing absolutely nothing besides reading, watching DVDs, or playing with her iPod Touch. Part of me envies her. 

Poor me.

Caroline is not a patient invalid. She cries and says her throat hurts from coughing and she thinks she is going to die. I'm not sure where she gets this over-emotional dramatic thing. Hmmm.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cookery Nook

I wanted to write a post about my favorite cookbooks, but I couldn't decide which ones to choose. I have so many favorites! I finally decided to tell you about just three books from the long list and save the others for another time.



We'll begin with Faith Gorsky's An Edible Mosaic. Like Julia Child seeking to please her epicure husband, Gorsky learned to cook authentic Middle Eastern cuisine after marrying a man of Palestinian and Syrian descent. She began documenting what she learned in her delicious blog, also called An Edible Mosaic. Gorsky thoroughly describes ingredients and procedures, making it easier for cooks new to Middle Eastern cuisine to produce delicious fare. In addition to offering great recipes, An Edible Mosaic is a beautiful book. It has stunning photographs and each page has a border of Middle Eastern tile art. I also really appreciate the binding of this cookbook; it stays open to the page I want.

Featured Recipe:  Chicken Kebabs (Kebab Dajaj)
Preparing the chicken spice mix takes some time (it has twelve ingredients!), but the result is delectable! All three of my children like this one. That's saying something.


Sadly, I think my second selection might be out of print. When celebrity chef Rick Bayless travels with his family, they somehow end up in kitchens all over the world. Bayless and his daughter Lanie wrote Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures together. In it, they tell stories of their travels to France, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand, and Bayless's home state of Oklahoma. The recipes are mouthwatering, and the Baylesses' instructions are easy to follow. One of the reasons I have long admired Rick Bayless is that he has clearly made an effort to maintain family unity in the family-hostile restaurant business. This book is an example of the Bayless family creating something wonderful together. It might be difficult to find this one in a bookstore, but your public library may have it.

Featured Recipe:  Chicken in Mustard Sauce
This recipe is a simple way to knock the socks off of guests.  It is so very yummy, but not hard to make. My children all like it, too, but I have to call it "Chicken in Yellow Sauce" since they won't eat mustard.


I like to entertain, but I get overwhelmed by all the tasks that require my attention at the last minute. One way to minimize that pressure is to prepare the food and clean the kitchen ahead of time. The Best Make-Ahead Recipe cookbook from America's Test Kitchen helps me to receive my guests with a sound mind. As is typical of America's Test Kitchen, these recipes are accompanied by extensive explanation, but home cooks do not need to be intimidated by what appears to be a lot of instructions.  The recipes are not really that complicated. I especially appreciate the storing and serving instructions: how to bake immediately, how to bake after refrigeration, how to bake after freezing, and so on. Some recipes also come with instructions for making enough for a crowd.

Featured Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas
These are scrumptious! Enchiladas do take some time to assemble, but none of the steps is difficult. I've made these many times for my family and for guests.  


I will revisit this topic in future posts. It's been fun telling you about three of my favorite cookbooks. What cookbooks do you like? Tell me in comments.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dear Husband!




Today is my husband's birthday!  As part of my celebration of his life, I am dedicating today's post to his honor.

I met Paul when I had just completed a seminary degree and was working at the library that the seminary and the undergraduate college shared.  He was a new faculty member at the college.  He and I began spending time together within a few months of meeting.  During our casual dating phase, he and I had a minor disagreement on an insignificant matter that I can't remember now.  In the course of that conversation, he said something that amazed me, "You're right," he declared, "I'm wrong."

His willingness to admit fault and to change direction astonished me.  It gave me a glimpse at a rare trait that I seldom see in others and never see in myself: a marriage of humility and teachability. 

I don't like anyone to know when I am wrong. I either insist that I am right (even when everyone knows I'm not) or I spin my position into something resembling correctness, as if thinking about the issue in another way would be reasonable.  Paul does not do this, but he is instead humble enough to admit when he is wrong.   I so admire him for this. 

Since he is humble and willing to admit when he is wrong, Paul is a teachable man. He regards correction as a blessing since it enables him to learn and to grow.  He is daily becoming a better man, because pride does not get in his way.  This uncommon characteristic serves him well in both his professional and personal lives.  Whereas I always dreaded student evaluations, he welcomes them as a tool for improving his teaching.  It also makes him a good husband.  He never fights with me just to be right.  He always listens to my side, admits when he is wrong, and gently corrects me when I am wrong. 

This is just one of the ways he has been a good influence on me.  I still bristle when my mistakes are on display, but I am more willing to take notes than I used to be. God often uses marriage as a tool for helping us learn and grow, and he gave Paul to me as an example.  I am so grateful.

Do you know someone with a noteworthy trait that you admire?  Please tell me about that person in comments.

Happy birthday, Honey!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

All holidays make me a little homesick, but for some reason, Thanksgiving triggers that feeling the most.  The first time I spent Thanksgiving away from my family of origin was when I was studying abroad in England.  I was attending a university center in London, run by Brits and attended exclusively by Americans.  The school very kindly hosted a lovely Thanksgiving party for us.  It was an effort to entertain us on what they knew to be a day of homesickness for us all.  The party was in a large banquet hall with a dance floor.  Everyone was dressed up and tried to enjoy the party atmosphere.  My flatmates and I sat at a large round table and choked down a meal that was tasty, but a poor imitation of the Thanksgiving spread we had expected.  It was clearly English food.  It was good (don’t believe everything you hear about English cuisine), but it was not the sumptuous American feast to which we are accustomed.  It only served to aggravate our longing to be home with family.  We sulked back to our flat to feel sorry for ourselves.

I moved from home (California) twenty years ago, so Illinois is home now.  I have a dear, precious family here, and I’m looking forward to a traditional holiday meal with my husband’s relatives later today.  Still, I’m thinking of home.  It’s not fair to compare holiday celebrations since every family has its own traditions and expectations.  But I can’t help it.  I love my family back home, and I miss them.  The food will be wonderful, and the decorations will be beautiful and inviting. 

Even as I muse on what I’m missing, I expose how blessed I am.  I am so very thankful to have come from a family that knows how to celebrate.  There’s always stimulating conversation and lots of laughter over a spectacular meal.  Sure, we have our faults, but it’s a good family, and I’m grateful to have that in my background.  And I’m thankful for the reasons I am away from them.  I have home and family here that bring me daily joy. 


Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Clean This Room, part 2: Casualties of Housekeeping

A couple of weeks ago, I told a story from my childhood about cleaning my room.  You’ll remember that my mother had sent me to my room with the command to remain in there until I had cleaned it to her satisfaction.  Here is another such story.

I was tidying the room as instructed. I was organizing the shoes in my closet when I realized that one pair of shoes was not there.  I had left them in a room on the other end of our house.  This placed me on the horns of a dilemma.  Kid logic told me that I had to have those shoes if I were truly to organize my belongings, but I wasn’t allowed to leave my room.  What to do!  I decided I had to have those shoes.  I poked my head out the door to see where my mother was.  No sign of her.  So I tiptoed down the hall, through the living room, and into the other wing of the house (someday, I’ll have to explain this rather odd and large house—that’s a story for another day).  No one had seen me!  Whew!  Relieved, I put the shoes on my feet (the easiest way to transport them) and hurried back to my room.  This time, I abandoned stealth in favor of speed, tearing down the hall and into the living room.  As I rounded a bend, my ankle twisted on the wedged heel of shoe and I fell head first into a sofa.  I did not hit the soft cushioned side of the sofa.  No, my forehead collided with the corner on the back of it.  No longer afraid of being discovered, I screamed.  My mother and sister came running.  My mother knelt beside me and took my head in her hands.  My sister, who hadn’t had a good look, said, “Oh, she just bumped her head.”

But my mother pushed my bangs off my forehead and said, “No, she’s got a really big bump here!” She gently led me to the kitchen where she set me up with an ice pack.


It turned out to be one of the more significant injuries of my childhood.  A large lump with two purple gashes across it rose over my right eye.  Soon the eye had a bit of blood in the outer corner and a blackened bruise developed under the eye.  I brought it to show-and-tell at school.  I remember my delight as my classmates in third grade recoiled and shuddered when I lifted my bangs to reveal the gruesome injury.  It. Was. Awesome. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Autographed Books

I'm so grateful for the many visitors who stopped by my blog last Wednesday and for the kind comments you left. There was a lot of interest in my bookcase of autographed books, so for you, I'm posting a follow up. Readers who aren't interested might want to skip this one (it's long) and come back next time. Only really do come back, because I'll miss you if you're gone too long.

Some readers wanted to see more of my autographed books, and I will include some pictures later in this post. First, though, I thought I'd tell you more about how Paul and I built this collection with hints as to how you might start one of your own.

As I pointed out in my last post, I check the newspaper each week to see who might be coming to town. I'm lucky to live near a big city that attracts a lot of authors. The Chicago Tribune has a literary events page every Saturday. Your newspaper might have a similar offering. Our food section sometimes prints notices of cookbook writers' events, too. 

That's the primary way we find out about author visits, but I have two other ways as well. First, once you get to know which venues host great events, you can get on their mailing lists or you can make a habit of visiting their websites. Over time, you will learn who hosts great events and who typically botches the job. One of my very favorite venues is the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. They post their events clearly on their website, and I love their events.  

Finally, you can keep track of your favorite authors' book tours. For example, I can see that one of my favorites, Bill Bryson, will not be in the United States at all for the rest of the year. Boo. I also follow some of my favorite authors on Facebook.  

Once you've decided to attend an event, read the details closely. Some venues have certain restrictions such as no photographs or autographs only on the book being promoted. It's nice to know these ahead of time so that you're not disappointed. You should also note if the venue plans to give guests numbered tickets for a place in line. I always appreciate the venues that do this, because then I know my place in line is secure, and because I don't actually have to stand in line the whole time--they usually call us up in groups of twenty. Here again, it's good to know if they have any restrictions on the number of guests that will get autographs. Sometimes they say only the first 300 people will get books signed. If you're going to see someone very popular or very famous, you'll want to get there early. When I went to see Rachael Ray, the store was giving out wristbands as soon as the store opened even though the event wasn't until that afternoon. My husband got in line for me about an hour and a half before the store opened. Twenty minutes after opening, the wristbands were gone. Thanks, honey, for sparing me disappointment!

At most book signings, you can expect the author to read a selection from the book. He or she will take questions from the audience. Then he or she will sit at a table with a water bottle and a handful of Sharpie markers. You'll get in line as instructed by the venue host and wait. Eventually, you'll get up to the table where the author will sign the book--sometimes with just a signature, sometimes with personalization. If you're like me, you'll try to think of something clever to say to the author, but you'll just say something dumb like, "How do you like Chicago?" I'm such a dweeb.   

Some events include a lecture or an interview. I love these events. Some events are nothing but a signing. These are still enjoyable but not as much.

It is good form to buy the book that the author is promoting, but you can usually have other items signed as well. Rachael Ray was willing to sign ANYTHING including what she calls "spoonulas."  

Should you bring your children? Well, you know what your kids can manage, but you should be prepared for them to be bored out of their minds. Bring something for them to do. Sometimes, when you're going to see a children's book author, the venue will make it child-friendly with an activity sheet or a snack or something. Alton Brown insists that families with young children cut to the front of the line so that they can get their youngsters to bed. So thoughtful! I took Caroline to her first book signing when she was six weeks old. She cried every time I tried to sit down so I had to stand in back and do the mama sway. Eight years later, she didn't cry at all at this event:

She is getting My Beloved World signed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Pretty cool, huh?

I have one last point before I show you some of the books on the shelf. My husband sometimes sends books to authors by mail and asks for autographs. I never do this, because the event is more important to me than the signature. Some authors never tour, however, and this is how Paul gets their autographs. This strategy doesn't always work (J.D. Salinger unsurprisingly returned Paul's package unopened; Harper Lee's arthritis was too severe for her to write her name), but sometimes it does work. He got an autograph from the late Robert Byrd (the longest-serving U.S. senator).

Now, on to the shelf itself . . .









Here are a few more signatures . . .

Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison 

Here's one that Paul sent to the author--Sandra Day O'Connor

Salman Rushdie (HUGE crowd--we had to sit in an overflow room) and Peter Mayle (he brought French bread and wine)

If you ever have a chance to see Mo Willems, GO!  He's a great presenter and makes it really fun for children.

The late Roger Ebert whose thoughtful essays about films have thankfully influenced many critics after him--he is missed.

I could be mistaken, but I think this is the one that started it all.  The first book signing I attended was H. Jackson Brown for Wit and Wisdom From the Peanut Butter Gang (he's better known for Life's Little Instruction Book).

Okay.  That's enough for now.  Thanks for your interest!







Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Other People's Bookshelves

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

Recently, over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, blogger Anne Bogel confessed that she can't resist inspecting the bookshelves of anyone she visits.  The comments revealed that not only do lots of other people do the same, but also that many of us love to show off and discuss the books on our shelves.  Common ground is found, conversations are launched, and new ideas are discovered.  

Anne invited her readers to join the discussion and post pictures of their bookshelves.  So here's my contribution . . .



This bin sits in our living room. It's where we keep books that we've borrowed from the library. We also keep library books in the sofa cushions, under the children's beds, and on the floor of the minivan.  As you can see, my children are on a My Weird School kick these days.  Regular readers of Modern Mrs. Darcy may also notice one of Anne's recommendations.

I also keep library books in a pile beside my bed.  These are generally parenting and housekeeping books.  That is, books that make me feel like a bad parent and a bad housekeeper.

Most of our books live in the basement:

I can't show them all to you.  There are far too many since my husband and I are literary pack rats.

Here is a collection of Bibles in various languages and versions:



We have to double-shelve some of our books.  Here is a collection of books that I only bring out at Christmas.  The rest of the year, they hide behind Christian living books:



  We usually don't bring guests to the basement, though.  The books we like to show friends are in the living room.  Here are some very old books including several that my grandmother used when she was a girl in school:



Finally, here is our collection of signed books.  Every Saturday, we check the literary events page of the newspaper to see who is coming to town promoting their books.  Sometimes we go on our own, and sometimes we drag our daughters along so that they can experience real boredom by standing in long lines.  



Here's a sample of just one of our autographed books.  This is Susan Cain's Quiet:



Thank you for indulging me, dear readers!  This has been fun!  Be sure to check out the other bloggers participating in this link-up!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Clean this Room!!!



Last evening, as I helped Juliet organize her closet, I told her the following story. . .

I wasn’t a tidy child.  That probably doesn’t surprise you, given what an abysmal housekeeper I am today. My room was always a mess. Gramma, as you know, is a scrupulous housekeeper, so she was understandably frustrated by the perpetual chaos that was my bedroom.  From time to time, she could endure it no longer and announced, “This room is a pigsty!  You go in there and don’t come out until it is clean.”

I wondered what I would do if I needed to go to the bathroom.

Another child would have set to work and steadily put the place in order.  I was not that child.  For me, cleaning my room was like an archaeological dig with new discoveries under each layer of debris.  “Oooh,” I would say as I pulled artifacts from under the bed, “my Barbie carrying case!  I haven’t seen this in weeks!”  Then I would become reacquainted with the toy by playing with it for a while.  This was the pattern for the day: unearthing treasures, playing, sighing, returning to my project, repeating until suppertime.

It took most of the day. 


I looked at my daughter. She was dressing Polly Pocket who had been lost in the depths of the closet for weeks.  I put on my pith helmet, grabbed my shovel and brush, and returned to the dig.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perspective Grows Over Time

Today, I have a rant for you. 

What follows is an example of a conversation that drives me crazy.

Child:  Please bring me a spiral notebook with a red cover.
Me:  Sorry, I don’t have a spiral notebook with a red cover. 
Child (with intensity):  But I NEEEEEEEEEED one!!

Here’s where I have to resist the urge to say, “Oh!  I didn’t realize you NEEEEEDED one.  That changes everything.  Let me get my magic wand and conjure one for you.”  But instead I follow a  strategy of offering alternatives (a blue cover anyone?) or of suggesting a trip to the store the next day.  These are rejected as the child insists that the particular item is the only acceptable one and must be presented immediately. 

I’m not sure why this bugs me so much.  I guess I want them to accept the disappointment without falling apart, but maybe this is too much to expect of a child.  They are immature and don’t have the perspective that comes from forty-plus years of making do with what we’ve got. 

I think it also irritates me because it illustrates the entitlement that children often exhibit.  It’s as if Mom and Dad are here to satisfy all their demands; parents must pony up whenever they want. 

These situations do drive me crazy.  They happen often in our house, and I want those kids to accept that I am not able to give them everything they want.  It’s not just that I don’t want to—I am not ABLE to. 

Sometimes, though, the above conversation is followed by the child finding her own solution to the problem.  Maybe she’ll take the dreaded blue notebook and glue a sheet of red craft paper to the cover.  Voila!  A red notebook!  Every time this happens, she will install in her memory these truths: Mom doesn’t give me everything I want, and it turns out okay. Over time, she will develop perspective. 

I hope.

Have a good rest of the week, everyone.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Halloween, part 2


I just had to share this with you, dear readers.

Recall from my last post that I tend to resist the gorier aspects of Halloween, but as you can see, my sweet daughters take a different view.  Juliet is setting up a haunted house in the basement. This poor little baby is on display at the foot of the stairs. I'm not sure what she has suffered.  

Sigh.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Halloween



Halloween is next week.

I don’t love Halloween.  I could probably live without it altogether.  I hate the grisly decorations that some of my neighbors set up in their yards.  I don’t like the gory Halloween shops that pop up in abandoned storefronts every year. I blush at the slutty costumes that women and even girls are expected to wear.  I am concerned about how tolerant we become of depictions of evil and of the occult.

Still, our family celebrates Halloween.  Despite my objections, I don’t see anything wrong with dressing up in a costume and collecting candy from the neighbors.  I can put up with some decorations, too, as long as they fall within certain guidelines.  I want my children to have fun with their friends even while I put limits on how we will celebrate.

Here is a list of what I consider acceptable decorations:

·        Spiders

·        Cats

·        Bats

·        Spider webs

·        Full moons with dark clouds in front

These decorations are spooky without being evil.  I do not allow witches, ghosts (with the exception of one very cute candleholder), or dead bodies emerging from the yard. Obviously, I have no problem with harvest-time d├ęcor such as leaves, Indian corn, pumpkins, and scarecrows.

I have similar rules regarding costumes.  I will not allow anything wicked, gruesome, or too scary.  We generally limit ourselves to pretty or funny costumes.  This year, Laura plans to be a detective, and Caroline wants to be a purple fairy.  Juliet intends to dress Goth—she’s hovering on the edge of what we will permit.  I will never, ever allow my daughters to dress as prostitutes on any occasion—certainly not for walking the streets collecting candy.
 
Just another week.  Then we can move on to move on to more wholesome holidays. 

 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hired Help

I’m glad my last post reflected my deep and abiding love for my daughter, because today I’m going to tell you about how mean I am to her. First, let me offer a bit of context.

I am not a great housekeeper.  I do not like to clean house, and I am not naturally good at it.  Those of you who are good at housekeeping will not understand what I’m talking about.  “Naturally good?” you’ll wonder, “you just clean up and keep it clean.  What’s to be good at?”  But those of you who work hard at it and still have a messy house will relate.  Some people really are naturally good housekeepers and some of us are not. 

Where I live, many families, if not most families, hire help cleaning their homes.  The frequency varies, but almost everyone I know has a cleaning service to tend their homes at least twice a month.  This is a luxury my family cannot afford.  We are getting by in an affluent community on a college professor’s salary.  I have to clean my own home. 

A few months ago, I decided to hire help in spite of our limited budget.  I persuaded Juliet to clean the downstairs bathroom every Saturday for a paltry sum.  She was eager to line her wallet, and I was eager to unload one task.  The arrangement worked well for us.  The bathroom sparkles!  I especially appreciated her desire to maintain the work during the week, and I was amused by her exasperation with family members who spoil her work.  She spoke the very words I so often have said myself.

I have one complaint about her work.  She does it too late in the day.  I have asked her to complete the task before lunch.  I don’t want her to put it off and find that the day is gone before she gets to it. 

Here’s where I turn into a meanie.  This past Saturday, I reminded her that I wanted the bathroom cleaned before 11:30.  I explained that we had plans all afternoon, and that all our household chores had to be finished in the morning.  This was especially important, because it was Caroline’s birthday and we had company coming for dinner.  She insisted that she would get to it.  I didn’t want to nag her, but I wanted to let her know what was at stake.  “Juliet, if you do not perform a task according to your employer’s instructions, you get fired.  You lose future opportunities to earn money.”  She again said she would get to it. 

When 11:30 rolled around, I sighed and began cleaning the bathroom myself.  I was on the floor cleaning the tile when Juliet passed by.  “I would have done that for you.  You don’t have to do it.” 
I reminded her of my earlier warnings.  “It’s too late.  You’re fired, honey.”  She began to cry and hurled excuses at me:
  •      I didn’t think you were serious.
  •      I was busy.
  •      I couldn’t see the clock from where I was sitting.
  •      You didn’t remind me.

“I don’t want to be fired forever,” she cried, “I like cleaning the bathroom!  I like earning money!”

“And I like having your help, but I need reliable help, Juliet.  I need someone who will do the job the way I ask her to do it.”

So I lost my cleaning lady. 

Over the coming weeks, I will give Juliet opportunities to show me that I can count on her to be responsible and to live up to her obligations.  I really hope that I can re-hire her on a permanent basis. 

My house needs her.




Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Love Story


Almost eleven years ago, when I was a newly minted mother, I enjoyed a treasured moment that has remained with me to this day.  I was awakened in the night by a hungry baby’s cry.  I shuffled to the nursery in my bathrobe and slippers with bleary eyes and messy hair—a distinctly unromantic figure.  I mechanically lifted baby Juliet from her crib and nursed her in a rocker beside the window.  When she had had her fill, she relaxed in my arms, dozey and happy.  She had the sweetest face (still does!) with delicate features and tiny rosebud mouth.  She was almost bald except for a growth of soft, pale fuzz with a swirl of reddish blond hair at the crown.  Even though I was exhausted and shabby, I was aware of the romantic aspect of that moment—a young mother cuddling her drowsy baby who was dressed in footy pajamas, moonlight streaming through the window.  As I looked down on Juliet, I was flooded with love for her.  It is difficult to describe the intensity of that love.  It was overwhelming.  I adored this child.  Suddenly, I was astonished by a new thought.  “Oh my word!  This is how my mother loves me!”  I had known my parents love me, but it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone loved me that much, that powerfully. I am deeply loved.

Then my thoughts took another turn.  God loves me even more than that.  Wow.

I have heard other parents say that you can’t really understand the love of God until you have a child.  This assertion is not supported by scripture.  For one thing, it devalues those who do not have children, suggesting somehow that their walks with God will always be inadequate. In fact, none of us has any ability to measure the work of the Holy Spirit in fellow believers.  Moreover, our God can reveal himself in any way he likes—whether by making us parents or by some other means. 

In truth, the love of God will always be in some way unknowable.  Consider the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus: 

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19. (New International Version)

We keep learning about God’s love.  We keep plumbing the depths.  We keep searching the heights.  God, in his time and in his wisdom, increases our knowledge with each new experience of his love.  He gave me a glimpse of its breadth and length in the moonlight that night.  I return to that memory from time to time, and I am flooded with gratitude.

I pray that you, my dear friends and readers, would know (at least in part) how deeply you are loved by God.  You are his very precious child.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Children Make No Sense

My children are mysteries to me.  Here is a sampling of the conundrums that confront me daily:
  • Why aren’t their shoes together?  One upstairs, one downstairs—why?  How does this happen?
  • What’s the big objection to sleep?  I confess, I do remember crying at bedtime as a child, but now it’s my favorite part of the day.
  • When I speak, what do they hear?  Is it like that Far Side cartoon describing what dogs hear: “blah, blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah, blah, blah.”
  • How much ketchup do they need?  Really. 
  • How can a person not like artichoke hearts?
  • I admit, flatulence can be amusing in the right moment, but children do not distinguish the right moment from the wrong one.  And I’m raising girls!  
Am I alone?  What riddles do your little darlings offer you?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sacrifice

I have been thinking a lot lately about sacrifice—specifically the sacrifices that parents make for their children.  When my mother was a child, her family was very poor.  She and her siblings have told me stories about their level of poverty and about the sacrifices that my grandparents made as they worked toward providing a good life for their children.  I think, for example, of my grandparents’ commitment to the study of music.  My mother took piano and cello lessons as a child.  Grandmother, who was busy enough already, bartered services for those lessons.  While my mother sat at the piano with her teacher, Grandmother would clean the teacher’s house.  She would then go to her own home to clean house, sew clothes for four children, tend the garden, prepare meals, shell almonds for the Blue Diamond company, and all the other things Depression Era families would do to survive.  Only my mother’s sister became a serious musician, but I am confident that music study has enriched life for my mother and my uncles.  They understand music and appreciate it, and although they do not play instruments today, music is still a part of their lives in some way.
               My husband and I are trying to figure out how we will pay for all the lessons our children want to take.  Of course, we cannot and should not sign them up for every fascinating activity, but we very much desire to give them more than our budget allows.  As I reflect on the sacrifices my parents and grandparents made for their children, I wonder what I need to give up my daughters’ sake. 
               What is going to change for us?  Probably not much.  The truth is I’m not made of the same mettle as my grandmother.  I think it’s a sacrifice to trim my own bangs so that I can pay for my girls’ haircuts in a salon.  I am glad to have had the example of my foremothers, though.  They help me gain perspective in the midst of my complaining. 

               Paul and I will find our way.  In some cases, the sacrifice will involve saying “no” to our daughters when we would prefer to say “yes.” In other cases, we will say “no” to ourselves.  Like most parents before us, we know that our investments in our children will mature into rewards—not rewards for ourselves, necessarily—rewards for our girls and, one hopes, for our grandchildren.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation




My family recently went camping at a state park about two hours away.  We are novice campers, but we did our research and managed to pull off a nice, inexpensive vacation for the kids.  The biggest adventure of the trip occurred on the last day.  Paul, recognizing that his introverted wife needed some time to herself, invited the girls to accompany him on an expedition through the forest adjacent to our campsite.  He left me alone with my thoughts and the breakfast dishes.  I had just rinsed the final plate and was about to begin drying when I heard horrible screams in the distance. “DADDY!!!!!!”  “AAAAAUGH!!!!!” I dropped my dish towel and began to run down the path into the forest.  My imagination brought to mind a number of terrors. Had Paul fallen into the ravine?  Were the children okay?  What had happened?  Soon I met the girls on the path running toward me in hysterics—arms flailing, tears streaming.  Paul came along behind them, and all around was a swarm of wasps.  We all returned to the campsite quickly with the children sprinting in all directions as they tried to escape the fiends.  Caroline had wasps crawling in her hair and all over her fleece pullover.  She began frantically tugging at her pullover.  I did what I could to help them calm down so that the wasps wouldn’t sense a need to defend themselves against the large, noisy threats that had disturbed their nest.  “MOMMY HAS ONE IN HER HAIR!!!” Juliet cried out.  Paul began swatting a bit too firmly for my liking.  Caroline finally managed to get her fleece off and threw it to the ground promising to leave it behind.  Laura was crying but was the least hysterical of the three.  The girls demanded that we leave immediately.  This seemed like a good idea to us, so we loaded everyone into the van and drove away, hoping that a break from the wilderness would help them compose themselves.  Paul, Caroline, and Laura each received several stings.  Juliet, the most panic-stricken of the three, escaped unharmed. Caroline declared, “I’m never going outside again.” 

As it turned out, the five of us spent the next several hours hiking a canyon at the state park.  They even seemed to enjoy it, although they did recoil at every single insect they saw along the way.  Except for the butterflies and dragonflies.  After the hike, we returned to the campsite to eat lunch and to pack up for home.  The girls refused to get out of the van.

Paul cannot do anything without reviewing the event to list what we have learned.  Here’s what we learned on this camping trip:

(1)    You cannot have too many towels.
(2)    Make sure you have a sleeping bag for each person.
(3)    Don’t forget table knives—especially if you plan to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
(4)    Double check your first aid kit—it needs children’s ibuprofen.  Also, more adhesive bandages.  It doesn’t matter how many you have; you will need more.
(5)    You also need more wet wipes than you think.
(6)    You also need more charcoal than you think (that is, if you plan to grill—maybe you don’t need to).
(7)    Children want s’mores every night.
(8)    Begin dinner preparations early so that you don’t have to wash dishes after dark.
(9)    Don’t try to take down the tent at the last minute. 
(10)  When you take kids into the forest, lead the way—don’t let them go ahead of you.
(11)  Don’t be stingy with ice.  Buy it every day.

Believe it or not, the children are willing to try camping again, so we might actually get to use this list of lessons.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Post Script:  Today I was attacked by a wasp—in my basement!  Don’t tell the children or they’ll never go down there to feed the cats.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'm so excited!  I'm writing my very first blog post ever!

I'm not really sure what this blog will be about.  As I suggest in my "About Me" section, I tend to be a bit of a dabbler.  I do a little crafting, a little cooking, a little reading, and a little writing.  I work just part time.  I exercise off and on, but I'm not training for marathons as some of my friends are.   I can't keep house to save my life.  My children are healthy and sort of clean, but I don't have any parenting gems to offer anyone.  I suppose this blog will be about all of those things.

Since we are just getting to know each other, maybe I should tell you a little more about myself.  Maybe you've already read "About Me," but of course, that only captures a little bit. I should at least introduce you to the characters in my story.  My husband's name is Paul. He is super smart (he's a college professor), surprisingly funny, and very nice to me.  Marriage is easy with a man like him for a partner.  We have been married for fifteen years.

Paul and I have three daughters.  Juliet is 10, Caroline is 8 (almost 9), and Laura is 6 (these are pseudonyms). They are wonderful girls, but they are works in progress--just as we all are.  I hope I don't embarrass them in these posts or reveal too much of their privacy, but I do want to share with you the ups and downs of bringing up young humans.  

Well, that's all for today.  Please come back so we can visit some more.  Bye!