Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lukewarm coffee and the pantyhose situation

I should rename my blog and call it "Lukewarm Coffee" because that's pretty much what I drink every morning. Lukewarm coffee. Which means that I haven't had (or taken) the time to drink it while it's hot. Which means LIFE is happening. And it's real. And messy. And I wish I could get my act together to drink it hot, but my act is just not that together. But compared to the I-must-be-perfect-and-put-together-and-never-appear-to-have-a-weakness former self, I like this girl much, much better. So, that's that.

Okay, onto far more important things like pantyhose. Pantyhose is far more than an accessory or necessity in my world; it's a situation.  Let's be clear about something: the last pair of hose that squeezed the blood out of my legs and made my waist bubble over happened about a decade ago. Or more. I can't remember. I do NOT wear hose. In fact, in the winter, I just wear pants every week to church because I can't for the life of me figure out how to pull off leggings and boots with a dress/skirt and I absolutely will NOT wear hose. But yesterday I had the honor of being at a very small wedding and since it was really, really cold and my legs were really, really pale and I only had short dresses in my closet, I did what I said I'd never do again: I bought hose. Even buying them (it?), I thought about how I'd much rather be buying a peppermint mocha with that $4.78. The act of purchasing them was almost painful. Not as painful, of course, as wearing them for hours and hours, but painful nonetheless. I also have no idea when it's appropriate to wear nude, black, opaque, or sheer hose, so I just went with sheer nude. Wrong choice, apparently, with a purple dress and black shoes in the winter (correct answer: sheer black). Don't judge--I grew up with all brothers so I have some clear fashion gaps and this is one of them. I pulled off the confident and I-meant-to-do-that appearance, but inside I was wishing my mom had given me a few more fashion tips. God, give me boys.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three Things Thursday

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Thing one: I have a love-hate thing with sending Christmas cards. I have a love-love thing with getting them. As for sending them, I love taking time to let old friends know they're thought of and loved during this season and to update them on our lives. But I don't particularly love the work of it all. My Christmas cards sat on my dining room table from Thanksgiving until early this week when I finally got my act together and wrote and made copies of the letter and addressed, licked, and stamped the envelopes. It's fun when I actually sit down to do it, but it's daunting every year. I'm reminded each day when I get others' letters, though, how much all that work is worth it. I rip open the mail before I'm even inside just to see family pictures and read about the lives of people I love. So, if you sent me a Christmas card this year, thank you for taking the time. I really do feel loved.

Thing two: Micah took his first steps yesterday! Four of them. He's still a far too efficient crawler to make the jump to walking, but we're close!

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Thing three: Movie rec for you. Last weekend, Phil and I watched Safety Not Guaranteed and really, really liked it. It was a Red Box gamble, but we won this time. Starring Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Rec and Jake Johnson from New Girl, the 2012 movie was an artsy (but not too artsy) and quirky movie about magazine writers who go to interview a guy who wants to travel back in time. Underlying the rather ridiculous plot are deeper themes of the need for human companionship, healing from past wounds, and the nature of love. Definitely not a comedy, but not completely a drama either. So, a dramedy. or a comedrama. You pick. I think you might like it. Here's the link to the trailer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'm back.

I'm back. Whew.

I get sick about once every other year (so thankful), but last Thursday I was due. I woke up at 2 a.m. with nausea and it decided to stick around for a while. Thursday morning, I dragged myself out of bed feeling weak, chilled, achey, and yes, nauseated. I spent the morning lying on the floor with a stuffed animal under my head while my child played around me. He thought the day was pretty great, actually, because he got to watch extra Baby Einstein movies and eat whatever the heck he wanted (read: puffs).

Phil got home that afternoon and sent me to bed with some nausea medicine. While I was in la-la land, Moo and his daddy went to the zoo--again, a pretty great deal for the little guy. I woke up a couple of hours later, forced down some saltines and water (all I had eaten all day), and was back asleep by 8 p.m.

Miracle of miracles, Phil was unexpectedly off work on Friday, so he took care of Moo and I felt significantly better after 13 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I wasn't completely back to normal, but my fever had broken and I could stomach the idea of food.

Good timing, too, because Phil and I had plans to go out OVERNIGHT on Friday for our anniversary. More on that later.

It took another few days for me to be able to eat regularly again. I knew I was better when I went back for seconds on ice cream the other night. :)

All that time in bed gave helped me formulate some blog posts, so here's a preview (in no particular order):

  • My declaration of independence (if you can guess what this is about, you're officially amazing.)
  • A movie rec
  • A comment on the tragedy in CT
  • Our 7th anniversary!
Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Christmas Edition

Thing One: It goes against everything I love about December, but we're not decorating for Christmas this year. I can't believe I'm saying that. Part of me thinks, "It won't take that long to do and you'll love it once it's up." But the other part of me is envisioning how many times I'll have to say "no" to the 1-year-old trying to pull down the tree and how I still have other things to do like baking for neighbors and getting our Christmas cards out and how I really just don't have the energy to decorate this year, especially since it's already December 6, and that means my decorations won't be up even three weeks. Why do I have to be so dang practical? (Sometime I'll tell you the story of the lady who paid me to decorate her tree and then made me show up to take down her tree the day after Christmas even though I had the flu.) I do love Christmas decorations, though, so I may just put up the tree anyway. But probably not. We'll see. If there was ever a year not to decorate, this would be it, because after this year, our kid will be old enough to want a tree with lights lights lights.

Thing Two: I've been drinking my favorite Christmas drink (besides peppermint mochas): Chai lattes. I buy the Tazo concentrate at the grocery store and mix with milk at home for a delicious drink that tastes like Christmas. Mmmm.

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Thing Three: I did set out our advent wreath--my favorite Christmas decoration of all. I spent my childhood December nights around the advent wreath with my family, reading a devotional about the coming Christ, singing Christmas hymns, and eating little waxy chocolates out of cardboard advent calendars. More than tradition, I love the symbolism of the advent wreath, the candles that remind us of the coming Lord and the time set aside to anticipate Him, both as a baby in a manger and as a King who will come again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why I don't write

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There are two kinds of writers in the world: those who are naturals and those who have to work at it. I'm captain of team Work At It. And while I'm okay with that, it also means that writing is often more of a discipline for me than some sort of inescapable outpouring of words. And while I'm a pretty disciplined person, I find myself incredibly undisciplined when it comes to writing. Probably because it's really, really hard work.

I mentioned before that I've been reading a little book called How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silvia. Confession: I haven't actually picked up the book since I wrote about it last month, so I've still only read one chapter. But that chapter kicked my butt. What it said about writing was right, but I just don't want to do it. It's like meeting with your doctor and having her tell you that you need to lose weight or eat better and you know she's right, but please, please don't make me give up my ice cream.

Chapter one is about all the excuses we make for why we can't write. The one I identified with most:"I don't have time" or "I'd write more if I had big blocks of time." The author argues that our mistake begins when we try to find time to write instead of allotting time to write, and defending that time once we've allotted it.

I've never really allotted regular time to write. Instead, I've been what Silvia calls a "binge writer," putting off writing until I feel so guilty and anxious about it that I make myself write for a few hours just to get it out and and feel better about myself....until another month goes by.

The truth is that I haven't read past chapter one because I haven't allowed myself to allot time to write. There's a part of me deep down that needs to be convinced that writing is worth my time, and while I know in my head that it is, I still struggle to see it as "productive." Often, I'd rather do laundry, write a letter, return emails, make baby food, or clean my house than write. Why?

Because I can see my progress. 
Someone will appreciate it. 
I can check it off a list. 
I feel productive. 

Writing doesn't usually give me that. 

It's never done. 
Most people will never see it. 
The goal is almost never certain. 

I found this from something I wrote back in the summer of 2010: What I love and hate about being a writer is the discipline of it all. Hate that it rarely comes to you quickly. Hate that it's easier to do just about anything other than write. Hate how it isolates me for hours on end--all for the sake of a paragraph! But love how I discover myself. Love how the pages accumulate like layers of quiet snow. Love the feeling of moving people with words. And I couldn't do the love part without discipline, which I often lack as a writer. I was writing every day then, and it shows.

So, if I'm really convinced (and I amthat I'm a writer and that using my gifts to write is an act of obedience and worship to God, then writing is absolutely worth my time, and that time is absolutely worth defending. 

So. Now I have to do the tough work of deciding on what allotted writing time looks like. Once a week for 30 minutes? More? Less? I worry about committing to more than I can follow through on, but I also don't want to commit to so little that it's just a lesser form of binge writing. And I have to learn to leave my cell phone in the other room, the dirty dishes in the sink, the face unwashed if need be so that I can make writing the priority it needs to be. I need to quit being a slave to "productivity," need to believe in the worth of my writing. But how? My friend Melissa sent me a great New York Times article by Silas House that touches on the answer, I think. Click HERE to read it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We've had some days.

We've had some days over here.

Some yes-I-just-fed-my-child-a-hotdog-for-breakfast days.
Some why-are-you-awake-at-5:00 a.m. days.
Some do-you-really-need-to-cut-two-teeth-in-one-week days.
Some we're-going-to-the-grocery-store-because-we-need-something-to-do days.
Some is-that-guacamole-on-my-cell-phone days.
Some crooked-haircut-because-that's-the-best-I-can-do-with-a-wiggly-one-year-old days.

That's where we've been. And during nap times, I've just been trying to keep up with the rest of life, which felt very busy because we've been out of town two weekends in a row, and I don't like that, being so busy.

So, this week, we're taking it easy. No trips. Lots of playing outside at home. Lots of normal, uninterrupted routines. And it's been good. For all of us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Confessions of a terrible gift-giver

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It's the season of giving--spirits are high and people enjoy splurging on loved ones.

My spirits are high, too, but the thought of buying gifts for people makes me squeamish. Seriously. My palms start to sweat and that little constant coil in my gut starts winding a little tighter and I'm just not quite feeling well.

It's not that I don't like giving gifts, because I do. I love showing people that I love them. I'm just not the world's best gift-giver. There are two kinds of gift-givers in the world: those who are naturals and those of us who have to work at it. I'm clearly the latter. Once in a while I feel like I've hit the jackpot and found the perfect item, but most of the time, I feel like I'm playing it safe, selling out for a gift card, which is unoriginal but a sure win, instead of finding something unique and thoughtful. Unique gifts can sometimes backfire, so I just don't take the chance.

And I feel like it takes me forever to think of the perfect gift, which is hard for this productivity-addict; to me, those hours spent thinking and searching for the perfect gift could be better spent doing a million other things--again, not because I don't care about other people, but because gift-giving is so dang hard for me.

I also come from a brood of highly practical people. In fact, Phil says I'm the third practical person he knows, behind my mom and dad. So, I grew up in a family where we made lists for each other for Christmas. And we'd give and get what was on our list because that's what we said we wanted and that made us happy. No wasted gifts. No wasted time returning gifts we really didn't want. No re-gifting gifts we hated but couldn't return. But there were rarely any surprises. And there's a part of me that loves surprises--both giving and getting. It just takes so. much. work. So I'm working on it.

Last excuse explanation: it's really hard to hit the jackpot with a gift for someone you don't see or talk to every day, like my family. I see them regularly, but I miss those moments when my mom sees something on TV or in a magazine and tells me she really likes it and I tuck it away for Christmastime. I'm only there for the quick weekend, and it's hard to gather the essence of a person in a weekend. Maybe I need to get to know my family better. That's not true, though. I know them really well. I just don't know what to buy for them. It's a blind spot.

So, there you have it. I'm a terrible gift-giver. Not in the I'm-going-to-knit-you-an-ugly-sweater-for-Christmas way, but in the I'm-going-to-play-it-safe-and-buy-you-a-gift-card way. If you're on the receiving end of my gifts this year, know that I'm trying, but that I'd also appreciate a list of things you really, really want. Because at the end of the day, I just want you to be happy and to know that you're loved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The big ONE

Well, folks, we made it. One whole year with our sweet Moo. Celebration was definitely in order--for all of us. It's a miracle any time we're given another year, but the first year especially. We're all kinds of grateful.

His actual birthday was on Friday, and Phil was able to be home most of the day, so we gave him his gift, a plastic Radio Flyer red wagon and pulled him around the driveway for a while. We even let him take his best stuffed friend Raffe on a wagon ride with him--a treat since Raffe usually stays in the crib. Based on this picture, I'd say he was a fan.

Then we headed to one of our favorite parks to slide, swing, play on the car-on-a-spring, and attempt a family self-portrait.

Did I mention this boy loves his daddy? Because he does.

We had his party on Saturday, and I prayed for good weather because we were having 30 people at a park and the rain plan was my house, which is a little too cozy for 30 people.

Side note: I used to make fun of people who had huge birthday parties for their one-year-olds, who wouldn't know the difference anyway. Chalk it up to one more instance where I eat my words about parenting. On top of having big families on both sides, we also wanted a few close friends to be there too; we wanted the "village" that helped us this past year to also get to celebrate with us.

Back to the weather, which was absolutely perfect--sunny, a little crisp, but not enough to even need a jacket. And no one else was having a birthday there that day, so we had the place to ourselves. Moo spent most of his time playing with trucks in the grass (no big surprise there). Despite his skeptical face in this picture, he really was having fun!

But he did stop to eat his birthday cupcake (big fan--thanks, Mimi!) 

And, of course open gifts. Here's one of his favorites:

I have lots of sentimental, I-can't-believe-it's-been-a-year-already kinds of thoughts, but for now, I'll leave you with one last picture from this morning. I love every single bit of it--especially the bed head. Like father, like son; those boys love them some cars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Tis the season to be baking

It's been a while since my last recipe post, and since my baby is turning ONE tomorrow and I'll be all kinds of sentimental, I figured now was a good time to share some non-sentimental but totally delicious fall recipes. I've got you covered--breakfast, snack, and dinner. You're on your own for lunch.

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Pumpkin Banana Muffins. Pumpkin and banana are a surprisingly delicious duo, and these were delicious for breakfast or snacks. Since they're made with whole wheat flour and only a 1/2 cup of brown sugar for the whole dozen muffins, I'd say they're pretty darn healthy. That being said, I did feel like they were lacking in flavor, so if you don't ant to slather on butter like I did,  you could add a little sugar, agave nectar, dried fruit, or dark chocolate to the mix. Perfect fall treat.

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French Chicken Stew. Not sure what makes this "French," but I have my American friend Allison to thank for this one. It's perfect for a fall night and is a nice twist on chicken vegetable soup. I omitted the tapioca because I didn't have any on hand and I honestly had no idea what it was outside of tapioca pudding, which I'm pretty sure I've never had. I also used the Alfredo instead of the marinara. The flavor is unique, flavorful, and comforting. Definitely a keeper.

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Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Granola. Also many thanks to Allison. This is the perfect snack food--full of protein and lots of good-for-you stuff that you can't taste. Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients. You can do this. I promise.

1-2/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup white or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey (tip: spray measuring cup with cooking spray first so honey doesn’t stick)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 cups of mix-ins (your choice): I used: 1/3 cup wheat germ, 1/3 cup flax seed, 2/3 cup sliced almonds, and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (would recommend a little more than this)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Make sure to leave a few inches of paper hanging over the sides (this will help tremendously when you remove the baked bars from the pan)
  • Combine the dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, dry mix-ins as desired (wheat germ, flax seed, almonds, mini chocolate chips)
  • In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients: honey, brown sugar, oil, mashed bananas, peanut butter, vanilla extract
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing well until combined
  • Pour mixture into baking dish, making sure to spread evenly throughout the pan. Press the mixture down with a spatula to make sure it is firm and packed
  • Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown on top
  • Cool completely in pan
  • Once cool, slice into bars of desired size
  • Store in airtight container in refrigerator to retain crispiness

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book binge

I went through a bit of a book break, my brain only able to take in smaller chunks of info like magazine articles and blog entries, but now I'm back to reading books again and I've turned into a book binger. I'm reading SIX books right now. Six. And I have a stack of ignored magazines to catch up on. What am I thinking? I'll tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that all these books seem really, really good. That they're all interesting and different and that I'm not always in the mood to read the same kind of book.

Since I'm in the middle (or, let's be honest: the first chapter) of most of these books, here's a preview of the book reviews to come and a little explanation of why they're on my bedside table:

What to Expect the Second Year by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
My baby's about to be one, so I figured I should read up on what's to come. Always find these books helpful.

Give Them Grace by Elise M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Had this book recommended to me by several people I respect. It's all about changing our message to our kids from "be good" to "we're all messed up and need grace from God." Love that message and need to hear it myself. Really looking forward to reading more of this.

How to Write A Lot by Paul J. Silvia
This little how-to gem is no-nonsense and practical, short and sweet. Many thanks to my writer friend, Lauren, who suggested it and let me borrow her copy. More on this book soon!

Generosity by Gordon MacDonald
Our church sent this devotional to all the members since this is our "stewardship season." It has devotions for four weeks. Phil and I have read two. But we really, really like it so far.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A little late on this bandwagon, I know. This is the latest installment of what I'm calling "Phil and Cara's book they read together." Totally creative. Phil's not much of a reader, so it's always hard to find books that we both enjoy, so when he suggested this series that I had miraculously not read, I agreed. So far, so good, but it's slow going--not because of the book, but because Phil falls asleep about three pages in whenever we read in bed (my favorite reading spot). Slowly but surely.

The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor by Jonathan Rogers
I cannot say enough about how much I love this book (and Flannery O'Connor). Can't wait to finish it and write a review. Thanks to my friend Melissa for the suggestion!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Living generously

I'm learning about generosity.
About how I cannot be a follower of Jesus AND hold onto my stuff and my time.
About how I need to give more than just money.
How I need to give my time (my precious time),
my energy
my emotions
my thoughts
my talents
my agenda
my home
my things
my gifts.
Give them away.

"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11). 

Giving isn't about feeling good about myself.
It isn't about doing just enough so that God will bless me.
It isn't about feeling sorry for others or looking good to others.

It's a response to being shown the ultimate generosity.
God became flesh. For me. 
God gave of Himself and gave Himself. For me. 
THAT is generosity. 
And that's why I can be generous in every way.

Every experience in my day becomes an opportunity to be generous, to give my life away on behalf of another. And it's making me thankful. I can't explain it, but it is. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Li'l Engineer

If I thought Moo was a bit of an engineer before, today confirmed my suspicions. In a matter of hours, the boy did the following:

While playing with my cell phone (a luxury on his part), he managed to call Phil at work all by himself. Then, while "talking" with his daddy, he texted "LOL" (I'm not making this up) to some 3-digit number that he dialed.

Then tonight when we started to watch one of his Baby Einstein videos before bed, I realized that the DVD wasn't in the player like it was earlier in the day. Apparently, in a moment when I was out of the room, the Li'l Engineer had figured out how to open the DVD player and remove the DVD.

Smarty pants.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Like a dream

When Moo woke up at 5:00 a.m., I was convinced it was a bad omen for our family vacation to the beach--just the three of us. And when we got 45 minutes down the road and I realized I had forgotten my bathing suit, Moo's bathing suit, and my toothbrush, I was definitely feeling pessimistic.

I was all wrong.
Those were about the only bad things that happened on our trip.
The rest was like a dream. Really.

Moo was an angel in the car. Not one bit of fussing on our way there.

Stopped at a middle-of-nowhere gas station Subway for lunch and realized that it was by a state park that sat on a lake. Lovely. And spontaneous. We're never spontaneous, so that was extra wonderful.

While on vacation,
  • Moo learned to clap
  • We rented bikes for a day and rode to dinner, which we ate outside during sunset, and then rode back
  • Moo loved the sand and water. He crawled all around the sand and kicked his feet in the water. He even let us put a little hat on him.
  • Phil and I gave each other 45 minutes "off" each day to do whatever we wanted, so one day I took my journal and Nook out to the beach and another day I went for a jog. (Note to self: if you haven't been running in months and you decide you can totally crank out a 25-minute jog, beware: you WILL be sore by nightfall.)
  • We watched two movies: We Bought a Zoo and October Baby. Both good in their own way. Mostly, it was nice just to have time to watch a movie together.
  • Not sure about the helmet at first
  • The weather was perfect--low 60's to mid-80's. 
After a month where Phil was gone so much that I felt like a single mom and Moo thought "phone" and "daddy" were the same thing, it was good to reconnect, necessary to reconnect. It brought us such JOY to be together, unconnected from other responsibilities and people, and we left with sweet memories, ten videos, and about a hundred pictures. 

Some people dread family vacations, but we loved this one. And I hope that never changes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Moo update: 11 months

Let's just be cliche and say that I can't believe how time has flown, can't believe how big he's gotten, can't believe my baby is about to be one.

Okay, that's out of the way. Sometimes, you just gotta muck it up with the mainstream and get your cliche on.


This boy LOVES, LOVES, LOVES wheels. Dishwasher rack wheels, vacuum cleaner wheels, stroller wheels (especially stroller wheels), truck wheels, steering wheels. Wheels, wheels, wheels. Phil took Moo to the zoo the other day and he sat on the concrete and played with his stroller wheels for 30 minutes. Serious concentration. (And don't judge: I know stroller wheels are disgusting, but I have to choose my battles, and that's nothing a good hand washing won't fix. Besides, I'm all about building that immune system.)

He's also really into imitating sounds like sirens and animal sounds (sheep, horse, rhino, elephant, cat, lion, and dog).

He still loves animals and I still don't, so we make friends with people who have dogs and visit the zoo a lot. When we're at my parents', I suck it up and let the six cats and two dogs lick all over us and cover us with their hair. He has no idea how much that is an act of love for me. :) And he's still pretty smitten with his favorite stuffed animals, Raffe and Cola, and gives them lots of snuggles all day long.

Buttons that make something move or make noise are definitely in. He loves to push them and then look at us for affirmation. Precious.

Finally, he loves the outdoors. This boy would live outside if I let him. He usually cries when I take him back inside. It may be a loooong winter, folks.

He's also into being shirtless.
As for personality, he's definitely an extravert. He tends to be shy when first meeting someone, but then warms up and wants to interact and play games like peekaboo or chase. He's happy most of the time (except when he gets his diaper changed--cries every time), although he's very attached to me right now. He's affectionate with those he knows, giving kisses and snuggles frequently. He's extremely curious. I call him my little "engineer" because he's constantly trying to figure out how things work, turning toys over to look at the on/off switch, locking and unlocking doors, turning on and off light switches, and exploring every nook of everywhere. He's also persistent. When he wants something, he works at it and works at it (or works on me and works on me until I give in). He's very playful and silly, loving to dance, laugh, and play games, and he's very observant, noticing every sound or change in his world.

Our hearts are full! So much love for our little Moo. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Phil's been working 14-hour days this week, which means he doesn't really see Moo for four days straight and that he and I only have a few minutes together once we eat dinner, clean the kitchen, and shower. Glad this isn't normal like it is for a lot of families out there. That being said, I need some Saturday afternoon plans since Phil will be working and the days are loooong without that "Daddy's coming home" time. Anyone in Bham looking for something to do?

Apparently, I still look young for my age. I'll take it. In one day I was asked if I was a student by a lady at CVS and later was told, "Thanks, girl" by the guy who changed my oil. I really, really wanted to say "No prob, bro," but decided against it. Either I look young or I come across as naive. I'll go with the former.

Moo drinks milk only from bottles now, but I think I might maybe kind of be ready to move him toward using only sippy cups. I mean, not having to wash bottles every day would probably increase my happiness at least two-fold. So, my question is, what's your advice for how to switch from bottles to sippy cups? He drinks from a sippy cup now, but only water, and he probably only drinks 3 or 4 oz. of water a day, in addition to the 24 or so oz. of milk he's drinking with a bottle. My big fear is that he won't drink nearly the amount of milk he's drinking now, and that's important to me. I think I'm looking for some sure-fire, magic solution that doesn't exist (and I really don't want to go through several "I'm-thirsty-but-I-only-want-a-bottle" days), but I welcome your advice!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Disarray, rest, and the one-sentence journal

Moo and I just got back from being out of town for a week, and between the unpacking and the lunch-making and bottle-washing and the rediscovery of all our toys and the explosion of mail that happens when you return from a trip, my house looks a little scary. Looked. It's getting there.

Tonight isn't for straightening, though. It's for lighting a pear candle and opening windows of crisp air and thunder with rain. It's for hot green tea and feet up and a freshly washed face. 

It's for Silence. Stillness. Solitude. The combination I lack and long for most. It's where my good thinking happens.

I've been thinking a lot about my little writing resolution moment this summer to write regularly. I know words like "little" and "moment" make my resolution sound trivial, but that's sort of my point. It feels like it was just a fling. A little affair with writing that's lost its luster and its consistency and has just petered out. 


I know I'm a writer. I also know that my resolution to write every day and read books on writing just isn't quite realistic at this point in my life, at least not the way I envisioned it. So, I'm rethinking things. How can I write regularly? How can I make that happen? 

I've been reading more magazines than books the past couple of weeks--partly because I'm in between books and am not sure what to read next (any nonfiction recommendations out there?) and partly because it feels good to finish something in one sitting, like an article. Anyway, I read an article recently about keeping a one-sentence journal, writing one sentence about each day (more if you'd like). That didn't sound too daunting to me. One sentence a day. There's a new journal by my bed just waiting to be broken in, and this might be how I'm supposed to do that. It's been sitting there for weeks because I'm intimidated by all the white space. So, that's the next step for me.

You writers out there, what do you do to make writing happen?  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Killer salsa

Tastebuds, prepare yourselves! This recipe is actually only part of a Cooking Light recipe for Chicken Tostadas (see picture), but since I had extra ingredients, I ended up using the salsa alone with chips and it was absolutely delicious (and easy). Fresh, chunky, and flavorful, this salsa is one I'll make again and again.

Avocado Salsa
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I substituted the same amount of lemon juice from the bottle since that's what I had on hand and it tasted fine)
1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup pre-chopped tomato (I chopped my own since I had several whole tomatoes on hand)
1/2 cup pre-chopped white onion (I substituted 2 Tbsp chopped red onion, which made up for the flavor lost in not including cilantro)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (I omitted because I didn't have any on hand)
1 avocado, peeled and diced

Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add tomato, onion, cilantro, and avocado. Toss gently to coat. Serve with chips.

Want to make the whole meal? It only takes a few more ingredients (chicken, black beans, lettuce, tortillas, cheese). Easy weeknight meal with a beautiful presentation and a crunchy-fresh flavor. Definitely recommend it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Summer reading: part two

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
So many of my students read and wrote about this book last year that I felt like I'd read this book before I'd read this book. But when we were in the mountains in August, my mother-in-law had it sitting beside the couch and I decided to pick it up. I was finished with it in less than 24 hours. It was an easy read--straight forward with a compelling story and no reading between the lines work. Since the story is so well known, I'll keep the plot short: it tells the story of Colton Burpo, who spent three minutes in heaven during a childhood surgery and returned to his body with stories to tell. What's interesting is that he doesn't just come out and tell the stories; he only tells them as people ask or make comments about that time. It's as if he thinks everyone knows what God's throneroom looks like or that God really, really loves us. It made me excited about Heaven, excited to see Jesus face-to-face one day. And it made me appreciate the faith of a child--not one that's ignorant, but one that is whole-heartedly trusting. Definitely recommend this one. Phil, who usually falls asleep about two pages into a book, is reading it now, and even he can't put it down!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
A memoir about one woman's solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, and really about her journey through grief after her mother died, and really about her own growing into herself, this book is fabulous. My friend Rebecca recommended it to me after learning that I enjoyed reading Jennifer Pharr Davis's Becoming Odyssa, another book about hiking. I can't say that this book made me want to do any through hikes in the near future, but it's a book Phil and I have been able to read together, and it's certainly lit a fire for us as day hikers. The author and I couldn't be any more different, but somehow I feel as if we're friends now, that if I met her I'd like her.  Her writing is humorous, honest, and well-crafted, and time reading this book was time well spent.

Fat Girl by Judith Moore
This was an impulse read. I was at the library with Moo one day and wanted to pick up a new nonfiction book. Of course, Moo decided that the quiet adult section of the library was the perfect place to test out all the new sounds he could make, and after seeing a few forced grins that communicated that's-so-cute-but-please-get-your-kid-out-of-here, I grabbed the first book that looked remotely interesting and checked out. But I'm glad I did. In Fat Girl, Judith Moore writes of her love affair with food, acknowledging that much of her food addiction has roots in her tragic relationship with her mother. She writes so descriptively and decadently of food that I almost wanted to eat the book as I read it. At the same time, the content was so sad and disturbing at times that I almost put it down. The book is short and the writing is easy to follow, and I liked the insights it gave me about those who struggle with food issues, but it's emotionally taxing, so keep that in mind if you pick it up. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer reading: part one

I've waited so long to post about my summer reading that I'm going to break it into two parts so you don't want to gouge your eyes out from reading too much at once. Without further ado, here's what I've been reading:

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
People, this guy can write. As in I wish I had read with a pen in hand because there were sentences on every page that I wanted to underline and draw smiley faces beside and drool over. That being said, this book took me forever to read; I just found that I could put it down for a while.

In the novel, the protagonist, Jayber Crow, tells the story of his life from early childhood to death, mostly taking place in one small town. Ultimately, this is a story about place, about living somewhere long enough to have roots, to know the land, to know life and death, and to tell stories. The story line itself didn't grip me as much as as the writing, but I think that's probably just me because my friends who have read the book liked the plot much more than I did.

While I liked Berry's Hannah Coulter better, I genuinely love the way this man writes. The word that comes to mind is unadulterated. It's as rich as the soil he tilled in his Kentucky farm. He also studied under Wallace Stegner (see Crossing to Safety below)--something I didn't realize until after I'd read both books. Overall, my recommendation is that you read a Wendell Berry book; I don't really think it matters which one.

Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
This is another book that I've read off and on for a while. Like two and half years a while. But I'm so glad I kept at it and finished it. For a book that tackles dense and difficult questions like why God allows suffering, it was surprisingly accessible. Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, spends the first half of the book addressing questions skeptics ask most often and the second half of the book explaining how faith in Jesus even works. He has about 40 pages of notes at the end of the book, and I appreciate how he draws not only on his own intellect and on scripture, but also on the wisdom of others throughout history. A philosophy major in college, Keller makes some thoughtful and convincing points about the questionable parts of Christianity, and even if you don't agree with everything he says (although I pretty much do), the book will make you think more intentionally about what and why you believe what you do. Thankfully, I did read this book with a pen in hand because I'll definitely be returning to it in the future, and when I do, I'll be glad I underlined a few things. Highly recommend. I kind of want all my friends to read it.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
An avid reader, my mother-in-law recommended Stegner's Angle of Repose sometime last year, and for some reason, I just couldn't get into it and gave it up after about 30 or 40 pages. Convinced (and rightly so) of Stegner's literary prowess, she suggested another of his books, Crossing to Safety. This one, I really enjoyed. It tells the story of two couples from vastly different backgrounds. Both husbands are English professors at a small college, so of course that part appealed to me. But really, I loved the theme of friendship throughout--the unlikely, sometimes-messy, sometimes-elated, sometimes-sorrowful nature of friendship. The plot was interesting and held my interest, but the characters really drove the story. I mostly loved that none of the characters was perfect, that they were depicted flaws and all. Since I've had mixed experiences with Stegner's writing, I'll wait for someone to recommend the next book of his to read, but this one I definitely recommend.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moo update: 10 months

This boy is more and more fun every day (except when he's teething). Here are the highlights:

Favorite foods: anything carbs--especially bread. He also loves bananas, green beans, yogurt, puffs, sweet potatoes, almost any meat, and cheese.

Most hilarious trick right now: He crawls over to our stereo and knows that if he pushes enough buttons, music will come on. More often than not, it's the radio, and more often than not, he finds the rap station. Then, he proceeds to dance by bobbing up and down and shaking his hands in the air. After that, he leaves the music on and crawls away to play, stopping every now and then to do a little more dancing. Ironic since his momma is so self-conscious about dancing. :) 

Other tricks: waving, making his "silly face" (a gummy grin with a scrunched nose), putting his hands up in the air for "so big," giving fives, taking rings off a tower and putting them back on, and mimicking sounds (makes a high pitched noise when he sees a picture of an ambulance or a cat).

Favorite activities:
  • Playing with Raffe in bed when he wakes up 
  • Eating Cola Bear's nose and snuggling him
  • Eating Animal Farm (still)
  • Crawling through his tunnel
  • Playing with his Things That Go sound puzzle
  • Throwing balls and then chasing them
  • Banging anything that's loud on the floor 
  • Shaking his shakers
  • Swinging outside
  • Going on walks
  • Walking to the end of the street to look at all the cars that come to the three-way stop
  • Spinning any kind of wheel
  • Turning off light switches
  • Opening and closing doors and cabinets
  • Touching buttons and knobs
  • Kissing his mama and dada
Not really into:
  • Reading...except before nap or bedtime. He wants to move and explore too much!
  • Getting his diaper changed or getting dressed
  • cruising or walking
What he's saying: 
  • dada (his favorite), baba, mama, nana, rara, gaga, and a whole jumble of other things usually peppered with some squealing. 
  • He's started saying "dada" and "mama" discriminately, which is just precious. However, since Phil's been working so much, he now says "dada" when I'm on the phone because he's so used to "talking" with Phil on speaker phone when he's gone. Cute-sad.
  • Has an extremely high pain tolerance. He'll crawl over to me and have a knot on his head I never knew about because he didn't cry. The good news is that when he does cry, I know he's really hurt.
  • Loves to bite our noses and starts laughing when he does it because he thinks he's so funny.
  • Goes on an eating strike when he's teething.
  • Thinks every ceiling fan should be on at all times.


Note to self: if you put a baby's wet diaper in the wash--even on accident and you're not sure how it got there--tiny pieces of silicone will be all over the inside of the machine when the cycle is done and you will spend 20 minutes vacuuming out and wiping down the inside of your washer. Then, you'll spend another minute contemplating whether or not you really have to re-wash all the clothes you just ran.  However, if the load was big enough, the diaper itself will still be in one piece, although it will weigh as much as a gallon of milk. I guess that's saying something for Pampers, though, right?

P.S. I would have included some quality pictures so you could follow along on my adventures, but my camera battery died and was being recharged. Sometimes life's moments just have to go un-photographed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


There are a few places that deserve a little extra recognition for their customer service, and they should come as no surprise.

First, Regions Bank. Last week, I was in the drive through, depositing some checks, and I'm sure the teller heard me talking in my silly voice to Moo while we waited for the transaction. The shoot whirs and I open the capsule to find not only my deposit slip but also a lollipop for Moo. Of course, they didn't know he was too young to eat it, but points to them for seeing the car seat, hearing the mommy-talk, and taking the initiative to give us the sucker. 

Second, Publix. Ah, this place just does. it. right. I don't go there very often because I can find most food far cheaper at Aldi, but I was there last week with Moo. He likes to have a little something to chew on while we walk around and instead of doing what I usually do (hand him whatever item from my purse is available), I decided to grab one of their plastic lids that goes on the to-go cups. He loved it. As we walked by the deli section, a woman came out and followed me part way down an isle asking if Moo would like some fresh fruit instead of the lid. I looked down and in her gloved hand was a fresh piece of watermelon and cantaloupe. Points, people. (As a side note, Moo was more interested in the lid, but I was pretty pumped about two free pieces of fruit!)

Third, the Birmingham Zoo. We joined about two weeks ago and have been several times. If you plan to go more than three times in a year, it's worth it to get a membership, and that membership is also good for 150 other zoos around the country. The place is always clean, has clear signs, has trash cans and bathrooms at convenient and logical places, and has tons of activities for kids of all ages. Points!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Thing one: It's possible that I'm a little addicted to Friday Night Lights. I discovered season 1 for free and now have to have a little daily dose. Just ask my husband; he says it's "the Other Man" in my life.  I was completely skeptical about this show at first. I mean, it's a show about football and my state is already so football-obsessed that it's eye-rolling, but I think that's part of what I like about this show: I understand the small town, football-is-our-life mentality. And while it's not my world, I get it. What I love most, though, is that it's not really a show about football. Football is maybe 10 minutes max of each episode, but most of the show is about relationships, and I particularly like the relationship between the coach and his wife. I love how they love, fight, laugh, respect, get frustrated with, and are spontaneous with each other--all the stuff good relationships are made of.

Thing two: I took Moo to our first "Mommy class" today, for lack of a better phrase. I'm not really into "classes" for infants, but it was at a nearby library and the woman leading our little music/story/puppet time was fabulous. Moo seemed to enjoy it, but I have to admit that I felt completely silly. Since Moo can't clap his own hands, sing the ABC's, etc., I was doing those things for him, which just felt goobery. But I'm going to have to get over myself because a) Moo loved it, b) it's free, and c) it's good for him to be around other kids. Oh, and d) it's not about me. Duh.

Thing three: Writing update: I'm working on the last draft (or two or three) for the essay I'm submitting to a magazine (deadline next week) and am designing and writing for a blog for our church. More on that to come, but if you don't see me around here too much in the next week, that's why. Exciting! Unfortunately, I've been completely unmotivated to write lately. I blame Friday Night Lights.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Here's what I know: God is good. He's sovereign, loving, kind, merciful, just, righteous, gentle, powerful, creative, forgiving, and patient. I believe these things to my core. I know that I know that I know they're true.


Here's what I also know: life is full of all kinds of suffering. A dear friend has just been diagnosed with incurable cancer. An orphan in America was born with a virus that will most likely leave him in a vegetative state. Whole people groups are dying in Uganda because they don't have clean water. Suffering is as far as I can see.

We listen to a catechism CD with Moo, and the first few questions are:
Who made you? (God did.)
What else did God make? (God made all things.)
Why did God make you and all things? (For his own glory.) 

So, here's the rub. I believe God made all things for His glory, BUT I'm struggling to see how cancer and feeding tubes and slow suffering bring Him glory. My tendency in the face of suffering is to either conclude that God just can't be good or to sweep suffering away with trite comments about God's sovereignty.

The truth is that that both exist. Simultaneously. God is good AND suffering will all of us, at some point, in some way. And I don't claim to understand that, but I know it to be true both personally and scripturally.

I do believe there's a bigger story going on, one I don't always see and one in which every confusing detail of life has a place. But that doesn't mean suffering isn't hard now, isn't overwhelming sometimes, isn't confusing and horrific and evil. Strangely, though, the times I've walked most closely with God have been times of great suffering, and isn't nearness to God is worth walking through the shadow of death this side of Heaven?

How do you give when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?

I don't usually promote specific sermons on here, but this one is an exception. Follow this link, then choose the August 26 sanctuary sermon ("How the King leads us to see and serve the hungry and needy") by Brian Salter. Worth every one of the 35 minutes.

Once you've listened to it, I'd love to know what you think.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My truest self

We were in the mountains a couple of weeks ago--a welcome change from my typically-stressful back-to-school August. Had it been a "normal" year, I would have been teaching instead of being in North Carolina with my family.

That day in August, when teachers started back and I stayed home, felt strange. There's just no better word for it. For the first time in eight years--in my whole life, really--I wasn't going back to school. I missed my coworkers, students, and teaching--all signs that I loved what I did, and I consider that a good thing. But, I also experienced considerable relief not to be starting the marathon-sprint of teaching again, not to have the burden of grading hanging--always--over my head, not to have to leave Moo every morning. I miss teaching, but not to the point of regret, and that's a very good thing indeed.

So, back to the mountains. There's something about those mountains--the Smoky Mountains in particular--that sets me alive and makes me feel like my truest self. I don't know exactly why I love the mountains so much. Maybe it's because I grew up in them. Maybe it's because Phil and I are reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild, which chronicles her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in California. Maybe it's because I'm reading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow, a beautifully written novel about place, about roots and knowing--intimately--your particular niche in the world. Whatever it is--probably a combination of all of these--I'm longing for those mountains where it's simple and quiet, where I sleep soundly, where the fog lazily drifts, and where I feel closest to God. I want more of that.