WFMW - Lazy Susan by the Stove

I didn't come from a lazy-susan-on-the-dining-table family, so I've never used one like that, to pass the casserole or the salt and pepper. (Besides the fact that I prefer not to have two little boys experimenting with centrifugal force at breakfast.)

So when I happened to win this one at a church activity (one of my good friends MADE it), I was in a quandary as to what exactly I could use it for, to do it justice. For one, it is larger than cupboard size (about 15" in diameter), and for two, it is art, so why would I hide it under cardamom and cream of tartar in a cupboard?

Here is my solution: I put all my oils, vinegars, knives and other frequently used food-prep items on it, near my stove. That way, they are within easy reach, have a convenient spin option to prevent domino effect tip-overs, and when it comes time to scrub that blasted tile and grout countertop, I can easily lift the whole thing up and move it to another place. Plus, my friend's artwork makes me smile each time I cook.

You might not be able to get such a unique Lazy Susan, but using a large one (even if it is less decorative) as a handy open place to keep cooking supplies works for me!


Sevens and a Couple Other Things

I was tagged by Katherine to make seven lists of seven (OK, I asked for it - it was too interesting to pass up!), but I have a couple bits of running commentary to make first.

One, I read a post here on the 26th that cracked me up, all about "when you know" certain things. Well, today I have two to add:

You know your standards of personal beauty and hygiene have been sorely compromised by motherhood when the receptionist at the dentist office tells you that you smell nice and it absolutely makes your day, even though it's embarrassing to admit that it's just your new soap (Magnolia Blossom from a B&BW sale).

You know that your son is indeed your child when he tells his dad that he has relapsed into wetting his pants regularly after a near-perfect potty training experience, (notice the quotation marks - they're Cal's own words)"because there isn't a chart anymore." Oh, the perils of minor obsessiveness - the list-making, the necessity of charting progress - that get unwittingly passed down to three-year-olds who don't miss a trick.

Part of this insatiable appetite for order that Calvin inherited is a habit he has had since he was about a year old of putting things in lines. He lines up trucks end to end across our sofa; he doesn't stack blocks, but puts them in great lines across the expanse of his bedroom floor. (These lines have sometimes been killer at nighttime wakings if they didn't get picked up before bedtime.) I've heard this lining up thing is a phase that every child goes through, but it has been Cal's longest phase so far, and I'm pretty sure it's to do with genetics.

(I can say that I'm glad the roaring and biting phase didn't last as long. I finally figured out it was Cal's clever way of meeting people by engaging them in a game of "Lions / Dinosaurs," so we had to have a lesson on introducing oneself and asking someone if they'd like to play...something less carnivorous. But see there? Why do useful things like that need to be consciously taught, but the OCD traits I've been trying to tone down in myself just show up, of their own accord, in my innocent baby?)

Anyway, not too long after he started talking pretty well, Cal brought a piece of paper and a marker and two Matchbox cars to me and said something like, "Make parking." It took me a minute to interpret, but then I realized he wanted a parking lot for his little cars. Unbelievable. So I drew him a little grid and he was off to park them. Well, he STILL regularly asks for parking, only now he brings a ruler along with him when he asks (straight lines are important, you know). This is the parking lot from yesterday:
And while I hope that I am not still handing out stickers and marshmallows for going pee when he is ten, I think I will be a little sad when he doesn't need me to "Make parking" for him anymore.

And now....(drumroll)...my Se7ens...

7 Books I Love:
1. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
2. My Antonia (Willa Cather)
3. The Little House on the Prairie Series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Mark Twain)
5. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
6. Cold Sassy Tree (Olive Ann Burnett)
7. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
8. Only seven? But I must include the Thesauraus and the Scriptures…

7 Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
1. Sense and Sensibility
2. Persuasion
3. While You Were Sleeping
4. You’ve Got Mail
5. Chocolat
6. Somersby
7. Steel Magnolias

7 Things I Say Often:
1. That’s not a toy!
2. Come back here!
3. 1 – 2 – 3 …
4. Ehhxcellent.
5. Oh, come ON!
6. Nice.
7. OK, in five minutes, we’re going to…(the only way to get Calvin to come in peace.)

7 Things I Love About My Spouse:
1. He loved me first and wasn’t afraid to tell me so (and he still tells me all the time).
2. He knows a fair amount about just about everything.
3. He stands up for what he knows to be true.
4. He adores our children.
5. He is passionate about his work.
6. He is both sensitive and sensible.
7. When I am with him, I am “home.”

7 Things I Cannot Do:
1. Sleep through an entire night. (My babies have for some time now, but I can’t anymore!)
2. Stop biting my fingernails.
3. Get used to humidity.
4. Speak Chinese.
5. Ride amusement park rides that go in any kind of circle. (But I heart roller coasters and can ride them indefinitely with nary a barfbag in sight.)
6. Watch Teletubbies or Boohbah.
7. Ignore the misuse of: they’re, their, and there; it’s and its; to, too, and two; plural s and possessive s.

7 Things I Want to Do Before I Die:
1. Go back to Ukraine and see my peeps again.
2. Write a book that gets published and that people read and really like.
3. Become a good, efficient, consistent, unfrazzled housekeeper.
4. Learn to row crew.
5. Do a Jane Austen tour of England and spend a week in Greece just with David.
6. Learn to paint floorcloths.
7. Unbury my piano talent.

7 People I’d Like to Hear 7s From:
1. Angela
2. Tess(did you already do this one? I didn’t think I had read it from you yet, but let me know!)
3. Anyone who wants to…Tell me in a comment and I’ll add you here!


The Monday Update

Calvin learned about eyes in church this week. Not only did they make these great opticals, he wowed our whole dinner table with the complete story of Jesus healing the blind man. Seriously, I about started crying when he told it all, without a pause or forgetting any part. “Once there was a man who couldn’t see, and then Jesus came…” He did these little gestures with his hands to show how Jesus made some clay from the dirt, and the man washed in the river. “And as soon as he washed his eyes in the river, he could see again!” When his uncle asked what would happen if we didn’t have eyes, Cal said, “We would always bump into everything.” A.dor.a.ble.

The Shakespeare Company in DC puts on an annual “Free for All” each year in a beautiful amphitheatre downtown and I went with some friends from church on Friday night. The play was Pericles, which I had never realized was by Shakespeare, and it’s a pretty amusing epic story of the Prince of Tyre. It was a beautiful production, the weather was perfect, we shared fruit and cheese and crackers and spinach dip, and I had such a nice time. My favorite part of stage performances is always the staging and set design – I kinda get lost in watching how they create certain effects and how the scenes change so effortlessly, and how did they ever think of that? (For example, the revolving stage in Les Mis – endless wonder to me.) The props and design of Pericles were so simple, but beautiful and clever. I really, really love plays.

The sand box project continues today – “we” are making a lid. Lots of rain, squirrels, birds, pine needles and one neighborhood cat are poised to make the beautiful sandbox dream a nightmare. What I think would be ideal as a cover is something like these bowl covers, only bigger and out of tougher material. Brilliant, huh? Easy on and off, no smashed fingers when the boys try to open it themselves (which they will), and a clever idea to boot. Maybe I should market it. Wonder how rich I could get from the Code Yellow ElastiCover for sandboxes? Wonder if I could fashion a prototype…Nah. I’ll just let the husband go the 1x2 and hardboard route. But no one steal my ElastiCover idea – I’ll get to it someday.

We wanted to go to a “fun” swimming pool (meaning one with a spraying umbrella and small waterslide) today, but the boys are snotty and hacking, so we might just go for a ride on the train to Arlington Cemetery and see all the flags and the changing of the guard. A nice Memorial Day thing to do, I think.

I do want to say thank you to service men and women in every post for your work and your willingness to give it all in the service of your country and the cause of freedom. Political rhetoric aside, I personally feel that I owe the life I live of safety and relative peace in large part to you, and to those before us, who simply did what had to be done to build and protect a nation so that I can worship according to my own desires, I can say what I want to say without retribution, and I can enjoy the bounties and blessings of a great land without fear.


Before and After Saturday

(or, "Yes, Calvin, today is the day we're going to build a sandbox.")



My husband worked so hard today so that I could have something to blog about. And also so tomorrow we won't have the bedside scenario we have been experiencing each morning since Wednesday, when the sandbox project was first discussed in earnest:

6:00ish a.m.
(pitter-patter-pitter-patter-pitter-patter-BUMP into our bed)
Calvin: (In true chihuahua fashion)Is today the day you are going to make the sandbox, Dad?
Dad: No. Today I have to go to work. Saturday is the sandbox day. There are three (two, one...)work days and then sandbox day.
Calvin: (falling on the floor at Dad's feet as he gets out of bed)But I don't want it to be a work day! I want it to be sandbox day!! Why can't you stay home?! Don't take a shower! I want it to be the day you build a sandbox!(Continues crying and questioning and otherwise frothing until David is out of the shower, then resigns himself to another day of sandless dejection.)

Anyway, David is also proud of his work today, and hopes his mom is, too. He even put his tools away in the proper places afterward.

Calvin supervised. When the box was being framed, he said, "Nice job, Dad, but it's Rick-T." David asked him what he meant and he said it wobbled too much. When it was finished and we were dumping sand in, Cal told us, "This is a wonderful day for a sandbox. This is amazing!"

I cut the piece of fabric for below the sand so weeds won't poke through. And I rode in the car to Lowe's with David and the boys. The effort to have something to blog about is raising me to whole new levels of productivity. It's a beautiful thing.


I'm On "Snooze"

I somehow just scored a double nap - both boys fell asleep simultaneously in the car coming home from errands and neither woke up when I transferred them into the house! Do you know how long it's been since that happened? I have been waiting for a moment like this so I could blog in peace, but now I just want to nap, too. So, I'm going to!

Happy long weekend!


F is for Fursday

1. Firstborn – I am my mother’s, with six younger siblings. So I am ultra-bossy, uber-responsible and super prone to anxiety and guilt. But I am also dependable, introspective and lots of people’s “preshy” because of (or in spite of) my birth order.

2. Forty Pounds Less – What I weighed in high school when I thought I was one of the “bigger girls.” Oh, to do high school again, seeing the way things REALLY were…

3. Froth – It’s a verb! A word I picked up that means to vent, get on one’s soapbox about something, or otherwise express frustration or incredulity about a situation or issue. May or may not be accompanied by actual foaming at the mouth. Froth – it does a body good.

4. Fancy, Frills, and FrooFroo – I’ve always placed more value on the ability to be ready to go in 10 minutes or less, with or without dry hair – but sometimes I really do wish I was more girly and good at primping. If I ever have a little girl, there’s going to be pink and ruffles everywhere, maybe even a feather boa and toenail painting parties. I hope she’ll be able to show me how it’s done.

5. Frugal – I am not. My Forte lies in Frittering away anything that even threatens to burn a hole in my pocket. I’m sooooo much better than I used to be, though – If you only knew how many things I’d like to buy, and don’t…

6. Ford Freestyle – Our family car. Love the non-SUV gas mileage and the legroom in the third-row seat. And getting my doublewide jogger into the back is so much easier than it was in our Honda Civic.

7. Fashion Sense – Truly wish I had some. I cannot pull an outfit together to save my soul. Someone could make my life by nominating me for “What Not To Wear.” I so need it.

8. Fickle – I was engaged to David at least twice…It wasn’t him, it was me – giving the ring back, taking it back. Just the whole marriage idea! It’s serious business! Forever! And he waited for me to sort it all out, because he is anything but fickle. One of the reasons he is perfect for me. (Plus I have not just one, but two, Fabulous engagement stories to tell.)

9. Fudge, Fondue, Frosting – Could I make any list without including chocolate in some form?

10. Fireflies – One thing they have here that I never saw in Colorado – they’re “magic” in its best sense.

11. Flytying – I took a 1-credit college course in it, partly because of “A River Runs Through It” and partly for the easy “A.” I think I got a “B.” But I made some cool bugs, and I loved that little vice like I love freshly sharpened pencils.

12. Fireworks – They just thrill me. Seriously. I heart Independence Day.

For more F-F-FUN F-F-FACTS about me, look for French Fries, Foie Gras and Fanny Price in my Thursday Thirteen (below), and Floccinaucinihilipilification in my ABCs.

If you'd like to letter in telling about yourself, I'll hook you up. Just leave your request in a comment. I might even be generous and give you a capital AND a lowercase. Or maybe one in cursive.

Thursday Thirteen #1

Thirteen “Why’s” of My Own

In honor of one of the most charming habits of young children everywhere...

1. Why do the people at drive-up windows insist on giving one package of ketchup per fry? I had ELEVEN packets the other day for TWO small orders of tater tots. When did ketchup become an endless commodity?

2. Why does getting somewhere new always seem to take so much longer than getting home again? This is a good and curious thing to me.

3. Why does a Buy One Get One Free deal seem better than a 50% off one? Or am I the only one that is decidedly more compulsive over BOGOs than half pricers?

4. Why do home builders think it’s a great idea to wire a light switch in every room to an electrical outlet instead of an actual light fixture? I don’t need a smooth ceiling. I need light. That comes on with a switch that little guys can’t reach. That won’t fall over in climbing adventures, pillow fights and impromptu furniture rearrangement.

5. Why does rubber cement have a stronger bond if you apply it to both surfaces first, let it dry completely, then stick them together, rather than just painting it on and sticking it immediately?

6. Why do people have the idea that backing into parking spaces is some big logistical coup? Save your tactical driving for Alias.

7. Why are caterpillars entirely different colors as caterpillars than they are as butterflies? Are they born with genetic code for both sets of colors? Incidentally, when do caterpillars/butterflies reproduce – as caterpillars or as butterflies?

8. Why did someone ever think tile countertops were a good idea? Does grout not just say, “Grey gunk and Salmonella, come stay awhile?” Clorox wipes can in no way help me get over the lady wiping up her kitchen with a raw chicken or my own culinary foibles.

9. Why foie gras? Doesn’t the image of ducks waddling with their funnel-fed, fig-fattened livers bulging to the ground turn off even the most adventurous wearer of the Emperor’s new clothes? I will never be impressed by it – or taste it – again.

10. Why does Dora YELL everything she says?

11. Why does green salad always taste better when someone else makes it than when I cut the veggies and toss it myself?

12. Why did Jane Austen love Fanny Price the best of all the characters she created? As much as I adore Jane, I couldn't warm up to Fanny in the least. (We're talking the book here, not Hollywood's rendition.)

13. Why do I continue to approach the U-Scan with such optimism?

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!


WFMW - Scrapbook on a Wall

(hosted by Shannon)

Once upon a time I was a single student / young professional and I dreamed of being a scrapbooker. My visions of grandeur included volumes of memories meticulously and creatively documented in beautiful 3-ring binders that I would regularly pull out and peruse with my children and other people who visited and cared to see actual pictures of first slobbers, first steps, first kisses, and all the other "moments" of our life.

But then I had actual children, whose lives I wanted to preserve in all their die-cut and beribboned glory, but we decided we would rather eat than buy the pretty paper and other necessary accoutrements, and the time it took to create became hours of frustration because little hands kept grabbing the scissors or bumping the unglued layouts, and the fact that my scrapbooking table was also the breakfast, lunch and dinner table just meant chaos. So I packed it in, and this is what I do now, instead:

The inspiration was this, one of those photo mats around our engagement photo that everyone signed at the wedding reception. We look at it all the time, notice names, remember the people, and love the photo, whereas if the guests would have signed a pretty little book with a silk ribbon bookmark, that book would be gathering dust in our spare bedroom turned extra-large-closet-of-stuff-I-don't-need-to-unpack-therefore-I-won't.

Anyway, later I rescued an acid-eaten photo of David as a sleeping baby and put it, together with a poem (slightly adapted) from a love letter he wrote to me, and hung it in Calvin's first bedroom. Very sweet and memory-provoking on a lot of different levels...I cried when I made it, David cried when I showed him, Calvin cried lots of times while lying in his crib under it, and I think David's mom really liked it, too.

Another time, I gathered some favorite photos after Henry was born (I was feeling nostalgic for Calvin's lost babyhood - only nineteen months and already a big brother...sniff, sniff!), happened upon Michael's twice yearly 50% of frame sale and bought six identical frames with mats, put my little pictures in and hung them on a wall in our living room. I change the photos out every now and then as other special moments happen, so it's like an evolving scrapbook, and we see the cute moments more often than if they were in a book on the shelf...or in a box in "the room."

And last Christmas, I made these out of my favorite Christmas pictures of the boys and they are now part of our holiday decorations...Henry eating wrapping paper on his first Christmas and Calvin methodically opening a gift with those too cute PJ's (50% naughty, 50% nice).

Documenting memories this way helps me get a creative "fix" every now and then, they are visible and accessible, less expensive and leave me time to spend with my kids making actual memories. And it also doesn't seem like such an endless project either, because sometime I'll be out of wall space. Of course, then I can work on filling the Grandmas' walls.

It does look better in person than it does in these pictures. I was in a hurry to post before this became W-F-M-Thursday. Same excuse for the number of times I used the word, "moments."

Scrapbook on the wall works for me!

(Um, could someone tell me how to get the cool WFMW header on my post...?)


More About Chicken

Check this out:
A protein, a starch, two veggies. One of my proudest moments. The chicken had a bit more kick to it than I thought it would, but my husband loved it and the kids both ate it up. (Henry needed ketchup, of course, and Calvin liked squeezing a lemon on it every few bites, but hey, they ate meat!!!) Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Chicken Diablo

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (I used the kind out of the plastic lemon)
2 tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used the equivalent of two cloves out of one of those huge jars of pre-minced garlic)
¾ tsp. ground black pepper
salt (optional)
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine everything except the chicken and the lemon wedges. Add the chicken and turn to coat it well. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour. (Mine marinated for half the day, but I don’t know how much difference that makes.)
2. When you’re ready for dinner, prepare outdoor grill for grilling or preheat broiler. Drain marinade into small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat; set aside. (I had to add a little more lemon juice to have enough to boil.)
3. Grill or broil chicken 6 to 8 inches from heat source 6 to 8 minutes on each side until meat thermometer inserted in center registers 170 F. (Yeah, didn’t use a meat thermometer – David just made sure it wasn’t clucking anymore by cutting the thickest piece and checking the inside after it had all cooked for about 15 minutes.) During cooking, turn chicken 2 or 3 times, brushing with boiled marinade.
4. To serve, garnish with lemon wedges.

This meal was great because the marinade was super simple to stir up, and then David was grilling while I steamed the veggies (8 minutes) and boiled the pierogies (8 minutes - Mrs. T’s frozen, but you could do mashed or baked potatoes or corn almost as quickly). So dinner was completely ready to serve in twenty minutes, and there were only two pans to clean up. Easy, easy, easy, and quite tasty. Not to mention nutritionally well-balanced and aesthetically pleasing. I think you could probably Tex-Mex the recipe, too, with lime instead of lemon, and some salsa and sour cream on top.

Didn’t really plan dessert, so I’ll think up something real luscious for that the next time I have a wanna-be-Betty-Crocker day. But this time around, that bucket of cookie dough I bought at Costco last week came in handy…ten minutes and there was a batch of warm gooey ones for whoever took three bites because they are three years old. Good thing I've resisted the urge all week to eat it in dough form by the spoonful, eh?

Funny blogging moment...When I read the comments on my post yesterday, someone said that the chicken thing was wierd, and I first wondered what was so odd about the ingredients I had mentioned in the marinade...THEN I realized that I had also discussed a headless chicken celebration in the same post. Maybe what's wierd is being OK eating chicken for dinner on the same day I was obsessively reading and chortling about Mike getting corn poked down his neck. All sorts of oddities come to light in the blogging process, don't they?


Monday Again

Time for a menagerie of miscellanea and some manic linkage to things that tickle me. Happy new week!

Small Town Interests
Gabriela has shared some great photos of the shrimp heroes of Small Town, Mexico, and it made me laugh. Also reminded me of a little-known but nonetheless fascinating festival that coincidentally just happened in my Grandma's hometown, celebrating a headless chicken. You've got to check it out. Really.

He Who Has Ears To Hear
Yesterday in church, Calvin learned that God gave us our giant purple ears. He wore them home and when I asked, "So did you learn what we can do with our ears?" Cal said, really exasperated, "We can HEAR with them, Mom. That's all." Allrightie then. I guess he won't be making a list of "Things Our Ears Can Do."
One Sweats, One Sleeps
Henry started going to the church nursery when he was 18 months old and most often ended up back on David's lap in the adult Sunday School because he cried and cried. Once David had him, he fell promptly asleep. Our church time is from noon to 3, and Henry is a religious napper (pun intended, but the description is accurate) since birth, so it makes sense that he'd rather sleep at that time than play. About six or seven weeks ago, he went in to the nursery, played fine for a few minutes, fussed when he felt tired (just enough for one of the nursery ladies to pick him up and hold him, but not enough to warrant taking him to Dad), then he almost immediately crashed on her shoulder, and she laid him down in a corner of the very noisy room where he slept soundly for the rest of the time. He has done the same exact thing every Sunday since then! A couple Sundays ago we started bringing his favorite blankie ("Fringies"), and I am now starting to think it might be a kind of Pavlov's dog reaction or a coping mechanism. It will be interesting to see if he does it when nursery is at a time that doesn't coincide with regular naptime. Hmmmmm...

A Good Book
David, with some minor trepidation, gave me this book for Mother's Day, and I just finished it Friday. It's a real thinking book, whatever you may have heard or think of Caitlin Flanagan. The last chapter in and of itself is worth reading - I cried. And I got a kick out of her examination of the clutter control culture and our fascination with Martha Stewart. That had my name all over it. Mostly, it fits Calvin's summary when he asked me, "Hey, is that book about a mom holding up the house?" Yep. So, if you want something a little analytical, somewhat humorous, a little feminist and a little anti-feminist all at the same time to read, I recommend this. It cured my ill-humor and I actually had something coherent to talk about with David at dinnertime.

A Yummy Meal Coming
I just put some chicken breasts (is that word gonna get me Googled in a bad way?) in a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, pepper and salt and it looks awesome. I'm gonna make David grill it when he gets home, and if the recipe's a keeper, I'll share it with you tomorrow. Mmm, mmm, mmm. And I thought to do it before 4 p.m. when the boys are "enjoying" arsenic hour and I am "done," whether dinner is or not. This could count as one more moment of glory in the chronicles of my housewifery. (BTW, that link mentions another great small town festival, if you enjoyed the story of Mike from the first paragraph of this post.)

The Countdown
David leaves in a crazy short amount of time. I try not to think of it too much, but it's right around the corner. In the meantime, however, we are going to bite our nails for Katherine and Taylor (I don't know who I want to win!), build the boys a sandbox, rearrange lots of furniture, visit another great park somewhere around here, and I'm going with a group of ladies from church to see a production of Pericles at an amphitheatre downtown. Will I not be excessively diverted? (That's my best Jane Austenese.)

Grandpa's Garden

Each Sunday we get together at my aunt's house and as we eat dinner, her husband asks around the table what each person learned at church today. I love this tradition and it is so fun to hear everything - from the three-year-old who learned that Heavenly Father gave us our ears, to the adults, who gained a great new doctrinal insight. It gives a nice spirit to the meal and we all learn something from each other.

I've been thinking a lot about my Grandpa for the last few weeks. He died suddenly, ten years ago this month, and sometimes I can still hear his voice or see his smile in my mind, and my heart aches, I miss him so much. For a few years after his death, I would catch myself thinking as I drove home from a school break, "Oh, I can't wait to see Grandpa! I haven't talked to him for a while." And then I would remember that it would be a long time before I can talk to him again.

But often on these Sunday afternoons and evenings, I think of letters he wrote to me just a few weeks before he died (I was in Ukraine, serving a mission). I get them out sometimes and read them, along with his obituaries and the myriad of newspaper clippings about him that people sent from home. He was faithful at letter-writing, and always anxious to know how I fared. Most often his letters were about the everyday happenings at his lumber yard and in the family - cousins playing basketball, someone in a fenderbender, my mom making a lovely dinner for everyone and inviting him and Grandma over. Almost always, he included a brief spiritual thought or mentioned what he had learned or taught at Church that week.

My favorite letter is on a sheet of graph paper with a window vendor's logo at the top - The letter is in pencil, and I know that he wrote it quickly one afternoon at work, tucked it into one of the lumber company's envelopes and sent it out with the company mail so I could have it from him that week. This is what it says:

In the summer of '94, your mom...gave me a little metal sign to put at the entrance to my garden. It said on it, "Grandpa's Garden." Maybe it came from Camelot where you worked. Anyway, I secured it to my garden fence near the entrance and I see it every time I go into the garden. It always reminds me of your family and it also recalls one of my favorite...hymns, "In the Garden"... I enjoy my garden very much, and I lay almost exclusive claim to it, since your Grandma is not much of an outdoor, work in the garden type. I find many pleasant moments out there and it gives me lots of opportunity to collect and organize my thoughts. I have prepared lots of wonderful lessons and eloquent sermons out there, not that any of them get presented in a classroom or delivered across the pulpit. I feel a certain closeness to the Lord out there. I am enclosing once again a "Family Circus" that says how I feel so often in the garden.

Grandpa was a thinker. When he was a Sunday School teacher, he always had a unique way of bringing a spiritual principle to light, making it apply to the lives of those who listened. In his other work as a church leader, he served so conscientiously, always with a mind not on how to impress people, but how to bless them. I know that in his humility, he likely never realized how much people listened and admired him, and perhaps thought that some of his best sermons never made it over the pulpit, but I loved his way of thinking and studying scripture, and the way he lived what he knew to be true. His life itself was a sermon to me.

I treasure the way he could share a verse or even a "Family Circus" or "Born Loser" and make it mean something valuable and spiritual, with a little wry smile tucked into it somehow. I often wish he was at our Sunday dinner table, telling us what he learned today or what he thought about this week out in his garden.

I like to think that I share his penchant for seeing the gospel truth in lots of things, and like him, I don't get to give many wonderful lessons or stand behind a pulpit, but maybe that's a little bit what this blog is for. Perhaps every now and then on a Sunday afternoon, I'll put away my dull drum whine and you can have a look at some of the beautiful things he came up with in his garden and even a thought or two that I get ahold of in my own garden moments. I'll try not to be too preachy, and I think he'd really enjoy them, even if you don't.

P.S. I loved my Grandpa's Garden so much that my wedding reception was there...My mom decorated it so beautifully with tea-lights in the little orchard and pink tulle on the white chairs around the garden tables, and a Colorado sunset behind the Uncompahgre Plateau. It made me feel close to all my favorite people - the Lord, David, my family, and Grandpa.


S-A, T-U-R, D-A-Y!!!

There’s always a funny little tension at our house on a Saturday morning. Most often, I am intent about doing something, not letting the one day a week that there are two adults in the house slip by in unproductive lounging about, or at least taking our leisure at some interesting spot in the greater metropolitan area besides the living room and kitchen at our own home. And David wishes for the rare opportunity to sleep in (what is that?!) or putter around the house, lurking at the computer, reading the factoids and tidbits of odd news he doesn’t get to fully take in during the workweek, maybe eat a late breakfast, an even later lunch, and call the bowl of ice cream at 10 p.m. dinner.

I will admit that sometimes, I am the sleeper-inner and he is the home project organizer/boy walker. But almost every Saturday, after one of us convinces the other to get out of bed for whatever reason, rescues Henry from his crib, and whips up some cold cereal and milk, we actually resemble that old dog food commercial, with the pit bull rumbling along muttering menacingly, “It better be bits, it better be bits…” and his little Chihuahua companion jumping back and forth over his back, nodding enthusiastically, “It’s bits, Spike! It’s bits!” Today, I was the Chihuahua and David was Spike.

He didn’t move from bed until I plopped Henry in the middle of it holding a mapquest printout of our destination. We had one small verbal scuffle en route over reading the mileage estimations on the mapquest printout, but by the time we ended up at Huntley Meadows Nature Preserve in the wilds of suburban DC, he admitted that I was right about the mileage estimations AND about getting out of bed to do something.

The boys were enthralled with the geese, blackbirds, and turtles everywhere. They would whisper with excitement when any of the animals was particularly close to the boardwalks. We saw a great blue heron craning his neck out on the marsh, and a beautiful white egret came in for a slow swooping landing. Four geese took off at once and Calvin was sure that they were racing to the sky. There were a thousand calls of all kinds of birds, and a wonderful feeling of being somewhere exotic. Wildlife everywhere, but not at all the feeling of a zoo, and I really thought before that these scenes of quiet natural beauty were mostly in Colorado or in art, like the great Japanese screens I saw at a Hokusai exhibit last week, but here it was in real-life. We stopped to watch three turtles come up and go under in a little muddy pool, and laughed at a goose whose entire head was covered in thick mud from diving into a bog for a bug. Calvin was thrilled with a yellow butterfly – “It’s my favorite color!!!” and Henry just liked leaning perilously over the edge of the boardwalks while David imagined how he would resemble the bog-dipped goose when he had to go in after Henry. That thankfully never happened. Although I would have considered it an additional highlight.

I was also reminded that both David and Calvin have what I call hunter’s eyesight – they can spot the most inconspicuous creatures from amazing distances, and enjoy watching them, while I am squinting and imagining the animals, trying to decipher the inadequate intructions of where to spot them. (“Just beyond this little rise, right past that blowing reed, to the left of that blue heron.” What qualifies as a rise? And what does “just past” mean? 5 inches, 5 yards, an acre?) Sometimes I just laugh with them and pretend to see the turtle that looks like an extension of the slippery stump it crawled up on. They can both spot things – foxes, deer, woodchucks, you name it – from a vehicle traveling 65 miles an hour on the highway, too. Calvin frequently makes us stop the stroller to pick up something like a gray feather from a little patch of grass that I can’t see when we’re searching for it, but that he eyed from the stroller and immediately wanted for a treasure. Random, fascinating talent. The things you realize about each other on a day together.

That was our Saturday. Always a nice gift, Saturday is. Even when we both putter around the house like pitbulls and the kids take up the Chihuahua role.

P.S. Later in the day, Calvin made another list. David, in his frustration over a bowl of Cheerios being spilled that he had just picked up from being spilled, said, “Dangit!” Calvin immediately reprimanded him, saying, “Dad, don’t say that. ‘Dangit’ is a bad word.” Then he proceeded with his list making: “Dad, there are… (mentally counting)…six bad words.” David asked what they were, and this is what he got:

1. stupid
2. dumb
3. shut up
4. dam
5. dammit
6. hell

Funny that “dangit” didn’t make the list that it prompted. Wonderful that he knew stupid, dumb and shut up are not acceptable. (Maybe he does hear!) Interesting that he knew about h-e-double-hockey-sticks. And a complete mystery where he got 4 and 5 from. (Oops. Maybe he does hear! But at least he knows what list they belong to, right?)



I like that word, doldrums. I remember learning it in 3rd or 4th grade maybe, and thinking to myself, “Oh! Like dull drums!” Somehow the image of very quiet, monotonous bass beat in the background made perfect sense to me. And then I read a book a couple years ago – maybe Ahab’s Wife or The Life of Pi – some sea-faring adventure, and doldrums were described so well in that context that they immediately applied to some days, weeks, months in my life. I sail into them more often than I’d like to admit. Sometimes it seems my life is a doldrum, one, big, dull, drum. (Similar but not quite as gothic as the girl in Beetlejuice and her dark room.)

I’ve been a leetle out of sorts since getting my tooth out on Monday. I was able to enjoy the best crabcake of my entire life on our anniversary dinner date, but codeine has become my friend since the menacing ache hasn’t really gone away until this morning, and I am so not one to pop a pain med at the slightest provocation. But have you ever noticed how if your mouth or your toe hurts, it is nearly impossible to function as a decent human being?

Henry has had a stomach problem for the last couple of days. No fever, hasn’t eaten anything different from the rest of us, but he is miserable and it has culminated in the sorest little chapped bum I have ever seen. He is sleeping still, at 9 a.m. – so not like him, but I think there comes a time when sleeping is the only way to get over a bug like this. And have you ever noticed how if the baby of the family is hurting, everyone is a little glum?

Anyway, the doldrums have set in and I have been a little hesitant to blog because I’m new and I don’t want new visitors to think I’m the downer of the universe and never come back. But I also believe in being real, so here I am. The song from Camelot comes to mind:

What do the simple folk do, to help them escape when they’re blue?
The farmer(?) who is ailing, the milkmaid who is glum,
The cobbler who is wailing from nailing his thumb?
When they’re beset and besieged – the folks not noblessely obliged –
However do they manage to shed their weary lot?
Oh, what…do…simple folk…do?

If I were to burst into song today, it would be a little like that, only with the question, what do non-slacker, enthusiastic moms do with their little ones all day? Do they really play with them and discipline them so wisely all the time? How do they get their housework done? Do they ever just abandon the housework and go zone out watching Backyardigans, and tell themselves that they’ll get to it after the kids are asleep tonight? Do they ever get tired of going to the park yet again or trying to dream up a way to get toddlers to eat meat? Tired of even considering the prospect of loading up to go to the grocery store or only being able to daydream about a complete reno of their living space? Do they ever shrug and roll their eyes at the dustbunnies just under the sofa and the sticky fingerprints on every mirror and windowpane, or are they always purposefully eradicating them? What do they do about the wearing restlessness that sets in when the dull drum just keeps that annoying steady beat and there’s no legitimate reason to brave the wilds of Target (or bring the wilds with them to Target, as the case may be)?

I like to think they just wait it out, like me, maybe bake a senseless batch of chocolate chip cookies and sit out back blowing bubbles for their two-year-old to pop. I know I'll miss these days sometime, and I know gale-force winds will come blowing through again soon, about the day after David leaves for the summer. My little ship will have some great waves to deal with then. But right now I think I need a good tropical storm to set me straight. A sea with a surface like glass as far as I can see in all directions is plain unsettling.


Mothering and Other Great Works

I have a BA in History and a half a Master's in Liberal Arts from St. John's College. It is a fabulous program, but I only have half a mind to finish it. It taps into my talents and interests, but my first semester being 6-9 months pregnant and the second semester having a newborn and no capacity to really discuss the Books that Have Shaped Western Civilization left me a little overwhelmed, and I have put it on hold again and again. The thing is, I yearn for academic learning, I have a fear of my brain turning to mush before I am out of the diaper-changing years (I religiously avoid soaps and talk shows because of this fear), and yet to sit down and read great literature and then take several hours a week to have interesting, thought-provoking discussions with other adults who have been reading, too, seems selfish and actually a bit unimportant right now. There is a big part of me that wants the degree because if I had it, I would actually be something, there would be actual documentation that I accomplished something, I finished something. I waffle between what I know is most important in the long run and what I crave right now; between book knowledge and life knowledge; between the thought that the best mom is the one who's satisfied with herself and the thought that the best mom is the one who gives everything she has to her children. I tell myself I can read all the Great Works and then some just on my own, but the real me knows that I won't unless I have to answer to someone. The decision to go back for the last year is one that dogs me at unexpected moments every day, and I know there is no one who can really tell me the right thing to do, but I just had to put it out there. Maybe it's just a question of timing, but it always feels like a question of priorities, and it's one of my innermost struggles. So, women of the blogosphere, let's hear it.


Pink and Chocolate Day

Five years ago today, David and I sliced into this masterpiece of scrumptiousness. It was the cake of my dreams (I had clipped the picture of it from Martha Stewart and saved it for years before and was so happy to find a good friend who would make it for me), on the most perfect wedding day ever. It still makes me happy to think of it.

When I got married, I had made sure I wasn't getting married just to get married, and that I understood being married wasn't the same as having a white dress and a cake. When I was sure of both those things, the next thing I wanted was to plan my wedding day so that it was the most perfectly enjoyable day of my whole life. Not the fanciest, not the most extravagant, not the most jam-packed, but the most pleasant and lovely. I don't think many brides have that, actually. But I sure did. And the pink and chocolate layers pretty much sum it up.

Pink is how I like to feel. I have never really allowed myself to be the princess type, kinda get annoyed at frivolousness, and generally shun girliness like handbags and 2-hour beauty routines, but I really, really love pink, and I chose it for a wedding color even before the Color Marketing Group said that it is in vogue (that's actually what they do, you know), or before it (and chocolate) was on every clothes rack in town. In fact, we had a hard time finding pale pink bridesmaids dresses that year, if you can imagine. But pink to me is being a woman in the finest sense. It's present, but not overbearing (unless you go fuschia, of course); it's feminine, but not froofy (unless you go ruffles); it's classy but casual; it's crisp and fresh and sweet and good. Everything a bride should feel. And, more importantly, everything David made me feel about myself, probably for the first time in my life.

Chocolate is how I want our marriage to be. Deep - in conversation, love, commitment. Rich - in memories, hope, sharing. Delicious - in friendship, fun, togetherness. It's the new black today, but for me it's also stress-relief, celebration, and hormone replacement. And as far as wedding cakes go, it's so much better than white fluffy shortening mixed with sugar, and it made me supremely happy that day.

But the best part of slicing into that cake on May 16, 2001, was knowing that I was married to someone who really knew me and liked me anyway, who had loved me already through thick and thin, who didn't mind if I did unorthodox things like have a brown wedding cake (can you believe people actually called it brown?!), and who can still make me feel all pink inside. As happy as that cake still makes me just thinking about it, he is the reason I still feel, five years later, like I did in this picture.

Happy Pink and Chocolate Day!



I had a tooth pulled first thing this morning and the codeine prescription that I disregarded when it was handed to me now seems like a pretty good idea. So I don’t have a very cohesive post for today. Just some highlights:

The boys (Henry saw it and went crazy over "Wohwah") gave me a card with this sticker badge for Mother's Day. They (David) gave it to me to be funny, so I wore it to church to be funny. Then it proved to be too distracting to one of the 3-year-olds to whom I was trying to teach songs about Jesus, so I took it off, which proved to be too disturbing to Calvin, who apparently had visions of me never removing it. Ever. That’s what I get for trying to be funny. Not even one adult so much as smiled at it. I treasure the Dora sticker, but I'm going to try to score a corsage next year.

In addition to Henry's other sweet little gift, Calvin made me this (complete with blue tulle shoulder/doorknob strap) in his Sunday School class, but his teacher actually ended up giving it to me because he refused to. Apparently, he was trying to color one whole side of it solid orange and wasn’t finished when class time was over. He told his teacher he wasn’t going to give it to me since it wasn’t finished. David asked him afterward if he was a good boy for his teacher, and Cal answered that he was, but, “I got a little grouchy because it was time to put the crayons away and go sing.” Oh, the things that we pass down…

I also got some sniff-o-rifics from Bath and Body Works and David gave me a very cool book, pertinent to my momming life and frequent blogging topics, which I am excited to read, and I will reserve discussion of that for a post when my sinuses don't feel twisted and novocaine isn't fading into waves of mild nausea.

Cal has started another list. This time it is a cooperative effort, and he has been asking me about adding certain things to it all morning. This list is, “Things That Grow.” First, it only had three items: Strawberries, Bananas and Tomatoes. Then he asked me about every fruit we have in the kitchen – “Do apples grow? What about lemons?” At one point he had about ten things that grow (mostly fruit) on the list, then condensed it to three again: Fruit, Tomatoes and Lettuce. Then it increased as he asked me about each vegetable he could think of, but now it’s down to a manageable list again: “Mom,” he told me a few minutes ago, “There are four things that grow! Fruits, Vegetables, Cabbage and Lettuce.” Leafy greens are apparently a category of their own for now. I’m debating whether I should remind him about things like trees, little boys and the national debt, or let him come up with those on his own.

Henry has started saying everything he possibly can. Today he saw what David was going to dress him in, and he said, “Bass-ball shut on.” (Translation: “Basketball shirt on.”) He loves balls. Cal has always been a truck and tool kind of boy, never played much with ball toys that we had, but Henry is all about throwing and catching, and can recognize and name the kinds of balls. He says, “Kick-ball” for a soccer ball. Other cute verbalizations include his rendition of the animal sounds, which are also his names for the animals. (A horse is not a horse, it’s a “Nay,” a dog is a “Woof Woof.”) The only animal he calls by name is a pig, and if you ask him what a pig says, he makes this incredible sound like a cat coughing up a hairball. So we ask him what a pig says several times a day.

But probably the best thing I've heard all week was Calvin's exclamation as we were driving home yesterday: “I’m so sweaty from all that church!”

ABC Meme

Accent - Straight-up American English. No southern drawl, "Joysie," or LA hip-hop here. Although several acquaintances whose first language is not English have asked me if I am British because they thought I had an accent, and when I lived in Ukraine people thought I spoke Russian with a Baltic accent. Henry Higgins would have a hard time placing me.

Bible book that I like - Romans. Some of my favorite spiritual insights have come from there.

Chore I don't care for - Bathrooms. Blech, blech, blech. David does them most of the time around here. Guess that's something else to think about, too, eh?

Dog or Cat - Neither right now, but never a cat (allergies and dislike). I'd love to have a beagle or a Rhodesian Ridgeback some day. And a turtle who we will name, "Dash."

Essential Electronics - Computer, Refrigerator, Microwave

Favorite Cologne - Can't say I know any colognes. Maybe Gillette aftershave - the best a man can get. (Man, I am prole.) I do love "Realities" for women.

Gold or Silver - Gold.

Handbag I Carry Most Often - None. If it doesn't fit inconspicuously in my pocket, I don't need it. I've had a diaper bag out of necessity, but most of the time I feel like any bags I'm carrying around hinder me more than the stuff inside them has ever come in handy.

Insomnia - From time to time. I'm just starting to sleep well again after a few months of it. David says I just need to learn to turn my brain off at night. Yeah, thanks.

Job Title: See "K"

Kids: Two boys, age 3 1/2 and almost 2.

Living Arrangements: Me and David share a room, Calvin and Henry share a room, and all of the miscellaneous stuff in boxes that we apparently heven't needed to live for the last three months since we moved share the spare room.

Most Admirable Trait: Sincere desire to be good and purposeful.

Naughtiest Childhood Behavior: My sibs would say I was bossy. Mom says I wasn't naughty - mostly got in trouble for doing stuff without thinking first (like riding my hot wheels wearing a new, floor-length tiered sundress she made for me - the tiers of the dress came off one by one around the wheels...); And I once slammed a bowl of oyster soup vehemently across the table when she told me what oysters were, because I was NOT going to eat DEAD fish. Guess I no longer have to wonder about Calvin's strong, but slightly misguided, opinions about such things.

Overnight Hospital Stays: Terrible chicken pox with delirium when I was two or three; the births of my sons.

Phobias: Hair (or other things that shouldn't be) in food; losing my keys, wallet, etc. (which may also account for the handbag issue.)

Quote: "Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who also love you. And remember that love is not leisure; it is work." (Anna Quindlen)

Religion: LDS

Siblings: Two sisters, four brothers, all younger than me.

Time I Wake Up: Whenever I hear, "Ma-ma, get ma-ma," and several accompanying kicks to the side of the crib. Who needs an alarm clock?

Unusual Talent or Skill: I can spell pretty much anything, forwards AND backwards (a talent I picked up from elementary school spelling bees and playing Cranium). I love the word floccinaucinihilipilification.

Vegetable I Refuse to Eat: Never ate a vegetable I didn't like. I just like chocolate more.

Worst Habit: I'm a nail biter.

X-rays: I smashed (and locked) my finger in my car door - still don't know how that happened exactly, but it was FLAT when I finally got the door unlocked and open. It wasn't broken, though!

Yummy Stuff I cook: hamburger soup, chicken enchilada casserole, darn good chocolate cake, cinnamon breakfast cake, borscht, varenyky (like the Ukrainian babushky do it!, and potato salad (like my babushka does it!) - If you want recipes, leave a comment, and I'll ask my mom if I can give them to you.

Zoo animal I Like Most: Giraffe. Actually, I like Calvin's re-enactment of the giraffe he saw eating leaves at the zoo last week. And I am a big fan of tiny orange monkeys.

Now I said my ABCs, next time won't you meme for me.

This is the first meme I've ever done! I was tagged by my friend Tess, who got it from Morning Glory, who has one of my newly-discovered favorite blogs. Not even sure how to pronounce "meme" - is it just like it's spelled, with a long "e," or is it fancy French, like "meh-meh?" This blogosphere is a whole new world... Anyway, meh-meh-ing was fun, so Angela - TAG, you're it. And anyone else who wants to reinvent the ABCs.


Happy Mother's Day

Henry came in the house with his fat, dirty little fist crinkling up a single yellow pansy that he'd picked from the neighbor's flower bed. He was saying, "Mama, mama," as he came through the door, and when I answered, "Oh, Henry, did you pick a flower?" he got the brightest smile on his face and started a new chant: "Wah-ter, wah-ter." That's a pretty new word to him, and I couldn't believe he's already figured out that flowers need it. We were headed out the door so I quickly grabbed a plastic cup, put a little water in it, stuck the flower in, and said, "OK, let's go now." But Henry was standing there, looking up at the flower on the counter, his hands behind his back, rocking back and forth and just beaming that I had put his flower in the water, like it was the most beautiful thing in the world. Later when we came home, I noticed his "Wah-ter" had perked the flower up. I thought about his little boy happiness over that one little flower, and it seemed like the most beautiful thing in the world to me, too.


Simply Put

I am the children's chorister at church and part of my job is to teach them new songs about what we are learning this year. One of the songs is all about Old Testament prophets. It has nine verses, each about a specific prophet. A while back I was teaching the words about Noah:

Noah was a prophet, called to preach the word;
Tried to cry repentancem but nobody heard.
They were busy sinning, Noah preached in vain.
They wished they had listened when they saw the rain.

Most of the words are pretty straightforward, but I wanted to make sure that the younger children knew what it meant that "Noah preached in vain." So I asked some of the 9 and 10 year olds if they could explain what "in vain" meant. My hope was that they would put it in simpler terms so the 4 and 5 year-olds would understand better. One of the older girls said, "It means it was futile." I complimented her on that great word and asked if anyone else had an idea. Another boy raised his hand and said, "It means that it was to no avail."

By this time, I was at a loss and so flustered by their vocabulary that I decided to make it really simple - "Noah preached in vain" because it had to rhyme with "when they saw the rain."

What I was really thinking was, "Are you kidding me?" What 10-year-old knows the word "futile," or the phrase, "to no avail?"

Is that how kids talk on the playground these days?

"I waited the whole recess for a turn on the swing, but it was to no avail."

"I tried to study for my math quiz, but it was futile since I've been glued to my X-box this week."

"I begged in vain for my mom to let me wear my wheelies to church."

If so, it's important to let the English teachers know that persistence is not futile.


Do As I'm Doing

My two boys could not be more different from each other. I am constantly amazed at the way their looks, their temperaments, and their personalities are definitely their very own. And sometimes I feel like nothing that I "figured out" with Calvin applies to Henry.

But the interesting thing is that, different as they are, Henry loves to follow, follow Calvin. He does a remarkable job of replicating Cal's gestures, expressions, and even tone of voice (with words that almost sound like real ones). One of my favorite things is their banter at night before they fall asleep. Calvin will say something and Henry "answers," then they giggle. Cal enjoys deliberately teaching his brother words, and reports his word lessons to me at regular intervals thoughout the day. Calvin also enjoys deliberately teaching Henry "naughty" things, too, but that's a post for another day.

One thing that I have really been enjoying lately, are the less formal teaching moments, when Henry conscientiously watches what Calvin does and tries to do it just the same way. He is so eager to do everything just like Cal. I caught one of his efforts on camera the other day and of course, had to share. (Especially for the grandmas - I know they dig this kind of stuff.)

Cal asked for an Otter pop, with Henry on his heels asking for one, too. I gave them each one and told them they had to eat them outside. Cal decided to sit on the (nonexistent) step right in the threshold of the door, and Henry plopped down right beside him, scooting back and forth until he was positioned just like Cal, then commenced watching how an Otter Pop was "done:"
He watched with each slurp just like this, then squeezed the tube, just like Calvin did, then tipped it way up, just like Calvin did.
I get a kick out of this learning process. Calvin only had me and David to imitate, which was cute (and a little unnerving), but it is adorable to see someone so little have so much adoration and desire to learn by watching.

And as an added bonus for the aforementioned grandmas, more pictures.The boys needed to have hats to "work" outside like Dad:
And they had to put the hats back on after their bath to read stories with Dad. (There's Henry watching Cal again...)


To Educate, Entertain, and End Accidental Injuries

I'm a really big fan of They Might Be Giants' children's CD and DVD, “Here Come The ABCs.” Luckily, Cal and Henry actually prefer it over other more goo-goo children's music, and it is something that I can tolerate more or less ad nauseum (ad nauseum being the only way children like to listen to something they really like). The grown-uppish songs teach really cool things, like what a conifer is (it’s endless fun for a 3-year-old to point out conifers on a road trip, by the way), and that LMNO is not really one letter but four. And you can't beat the lyrics of "I C U" or "Alphabet Lost and Found."

There is one of the songs, though, that I wish would have been written differently. It’s called "Letter / Not a Letter." For one thing, you don’t really know what the song is about unless you see it on the DVD, because it is really just background music for letters, numbers and squiggles to flash up on the screen while kids (in the background AND your own living room) shout out if it’s a letter or not a letter. This has some purpose, I guess, but a video entitled, "Toy / Not a Toy" would be infinitely more useful to our family.

So, TMBG – or Julie Aigner-Clark (classical music would probably work just as well) – how 'bout if you make a video with the following items, as well as some actual toys, flashing up on the screen in random order to music so kids can identify, “That’s a toy!!!” or, “That’s not a toy!” Just think how brilliant - the music and pictures would carry the message so much more effectively than my constant chirping. You might want to include additional visual effects, stuff that will help kids who watch these kinds of things know that their moms aren’t just inventing the possible consequences of "playing" merely for their breakfast table amusement. I'd so appreciate something that could make my little Einsteins understand that these are not toys:

  • table or floor lamps
  • non-board books
  • closet doors (or any doors, for that matter)
  • toilet or toilet paper
  • anything under the kitchen sink
  • a faucet
  • scissors
  • pens, pencils, markers
  • the alarm clock
  • Dad's wallet
  • Mom's toothbrush
  • electrical outlets
  • extension cords or the cord of the vacuum
  • your brother's head
  • dust bunnies
  • dust pans
  • the pile I'm trying to sweep into the dust pan
  • CDs/DVDs/Video Tapes and their cases
  • power buttons on TVs, players, the blender or mixer
  • clothes from your drawers or the hamper
  • your drawers or the hamper after you've emptied the clothes from them
  • trash cans
  • rolls of Scotch tape
  • the computer mouse
  • the car keys
  • plungers
  • the diaper you just don't fell like wearing anymore
  • diaper wipes (even if you are "cleaning" with them. It's pretend cleaning, otherwise known as playing. Sorry.)
  • food (maybe just a no-no for the over-2 crowd)
  • broken off pieces of things

And for you moms who might read this, tell me really how many of the items on the list your children play with regularly no matter where you stash, lock away or elevate them (the non-toys, not your children), or if I've missed any of those non-playables that haunt your child-proofing nightmares. Also let me know if you prefer TMBG or Jules (Ms. Clark and I have never met, but I know we'd be first-name, nickname kind of friends if we did) for the job, so that I can really pester one of them to produce this much-needed teaching / safety tool.

Before we all shoot our eyes out.

Oh, and what do you think of a follow-up project for other age-groups, like "Food / Not Food" and "That's a Toy, But That's Not How We* Play With It?"

(*See the last two paragraphs of this post.)

Thinking Some More

I didn't want to make the Molvania post any longer than it already was, but there is something more to say...David asked me after he read it if I was going to miss him, or just miss him taking the boys off my hands for a few choice minutes every night. I thought it went without saying, but if he's wondering, maybe you are, too. Lest you start to believe I am only considering the practical inconveniences caused by his absence, I can tell you that I've simply tried not to think too much about being without him beyond the parenting logistics. Besides, most of what I'll miss while he is gone is the loveable minutiae impossible for any spouse to describe, and it's mostly just between him and me. So rest assured that I'm not just using him for childcare, and don't be alarmed it I keep the shnookiewookumness of our relationship to ourselves. We like it that way.


Listmaker, Listmaker, Make Me a List

Cal likes to make lists these days. He gets that from me, only his lists are more fun. We both do it to bring order to our lives, but mine are the old "To Do," "To Buy," "To Make," "To Call." His are all about the world as he sees it. He thinks them all through very thoroughly - I can't really discern if it's minutes or days that he spends organizing his lists - and then he comes out with them all making perfect sense, while we're riding in the car or having "quiet time on the couch." (If I call it a nap, he won't do it). This is his list from a couple weeks ago:

"Mom! There are FOUR animals that are black and white!" (Then he uses his fingers to count them off for me:)
1. A panda.
2. A zebra.
3. A skunk.
4. A penguin.

This was his list today:
"Mom! There are THREE things that hop!"
1. A frog.
2. A pogo stick.
3. A kangaroo.

If you were expecting a bunny rabbit on that one, sorry. It didn't make his list.

Gearing Up and Thinking

David volunteered for a work project in Molvania and is leaving in June for three and a half months (16 weeks/roughly 112 days). We recently went shopping for all the “gear” and clothing he will need for such a stint, and that’s when it hit me that he is really going. This is something that we have been mulling over for a year or so, but it’s always been far enough away on the calendar that the reality hadn’t sunk in. He was originally scheduled to leave next week, so it has come upon us quickly and although he has all his gear now, I don’t think I am entirely prepared.

Funny, because the first thing everyone asks when they hear this bit of news is, “Whoa, what does your wife think?” Some are more creative in their line of questioning and say, “So, I guess you and your wife discussed this a lot before you decided to go, huh?” David likes to answer, “My wife? She can’t wait for me to leave!”

I did say that. I’d like to be able to say I said it with one iridescent tear in the corner of my eye, and added, “Because the sooner you leave, the sooner you will be back in my arms, darling.” But actually, it has just reached that stage of any long-term expectation where I just want to get it over with. Like Week 42 of a pregnancy. You think I’d know better than to induce by now. However, if he really wanted to say something for effect, I think he should say, “My wife? Do you think I should tell her?”

Just in case you have the same burning question (that is, “What does your wife think?”), you’ve come to the right place. The world may never know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, but it can now get to the center of what David’s wife thinks of him being out of the house and country for three months on end. Just remember, you read it here first. (And I’m sorry it’s so long. What can I say? I’m a thinker.)

We did discuss it a lot, even before he started looking into the possibility of his in-depth Molvanian experience. What’s more, we prayed a lot about it, and feel peaceful moving forward. So I don’t really have a great, “You want to do what?!” conversation to retell.

I did – and do – have some misgivings. They come and go, like other moods and dark thoughts. They are usually about his safety, or my sanity. Both issues have been addressed each time he has gone away for a week of training – about once every month since January. He is learning everything he needs to know for any extreme situation he might confront in Molvania, which puts me, and his mother, at more ease.

I won’t pretend that I haven’t contemplated widowhood, or envisioned having to tell his family, namely his mother and our boys, if something were to happen. I’ve thought about that long and hard, and though it’s unfathomable what I really would do or how I would do it, there are two things that make more sense to me than holding him back: 1) something terrible happening to him in Molvania is statistically less likely than something happening to him driving down the Beltway on the way to work every day; and 2) it’s like Dory told Nemo’s dad: if our main purpose is to avoid anything that might happen to us, or to keep things from happening to those we love, then pretty soon, NOTHING happens to us or the people we love.

(Another good question, which, interestingly enough, no one has asked him: “What does your mother think of this?” This is what she says, “Well, he didn’t call for advice on what to do, he just called to inform me of what he was going to do, so my job now is to be supportive.” Good mom. Good thing David’s not dumb enough to try the same tactic with me. I wouldn’t be as gracious.)

Every time he leaves for a few days of the training that makes me feel better for him, I have realized that I’m not so sure about me. I love my kids. I like playing with them and taking them places, but pretty regularly, enough is definitely enough. I’ve learned that I simply can’t be what they need physically, emotionally, or spiritually when I start running on empty.

When David is here, I pretty much live for 6 p.m., or whatever time he will be home. Whether this thought process is conscious or not depends on the day, but it is nonetheless true that just knowing he will be home in 3 hours…1 hour…5 minutes…makes me much more patient and pulled together than when I know he won’t be home for five days. Or 112. So here’s my plan of action to remedy the situation:

I will hire a real-live babysitter (instead of trading with my young-mom co-op friends, because I don’t need to have to watch other people’s kids at a time like this) to come at a specific time two or three days a week for a couple hours in the afternoon, when the boys are at their most “energetic” and I am at the end of my frayed rope. I might stay home while she is here and take a shower or a nap, or pay the bills or blog, or I might go to the movies or for a long walk or shopping. All undisturbed, mind you. I will pay her to play with them and be nice to them so that I can recoup my ability to play with them and be nice to them, then I will feed them a real, home-cooked dinner (that relieves guilt), bathe them and put them to bed.

I will also get a membership at the Y and go there on the days I don’t have a babysitter coming. Membership includes two hours of free childcare every day while I work out, so this will kill two or three birds with one stone – I won’t be a total whale of a woman when David comes back, I will get some me-time, and the boys will enjoy swimming, crafting, and dodge-balling with other kids and other people telling them “no, no!” for the fifty-billionth time. Then we’ll all come home, I’ll make a nutritious dinner for us to enjoy after our exercise, then I will bathe them and put them to bed.

I am also planning some fun outings, a little trip to Colorado to visit the grandmas (I think that’s a great idea as long as I don’t think about the going through security part and down the airplane aisles with two little kids part), and some other little milestones just to mark the time as it passes.

I’m trying to think of a way to make a visual countdown for the boys – a sticker chart or a paper chain for each of the days ‘til Daddy comes home. We have a nice evening routine, and I think that will be the toughest on the boys, when there isn’t the daily bathtime-storytime-prayers that Dad is a big part of. So I need to think of ways to help them with that.

I also vacillate between thinking, “Don’t be a wimp - it’s only three months, not two years or something,” and “But he’s going to be gone the entire summer. He’ll miss Henry’s second birthday and the 4th of July (my favorite) and his birthday and my birthday. It’s going to be a long, long time.” So my plan is to take it five minutes at a time – something I’ve never done my whole life.

It’s not like we won’t be able to communicate, though. He’s just traveling to the other side of the world, not disappearing off the face of the earth, for crying out loud. I started this blog partly so he could look in on home as frequently as he wants. And we’ll talk on the phone (although we had a long-distance romance and engagement and neither of us are phone talkers). He’s even promised me a love letter, maybe.

The other things I keep in mind are that 1) he believes in the project and his purpose in going, and 2) he is getting compensated accordingly for agreeing to work fro three months in a country untouched by modern dentistry. This was a chance to get out of our measly remaining college-stupid credit card debt, buy a couple pieces of furniture and have a nest-egg for when the housing market gets realistic in a year or two. The risk and the sacrifice are substantial, but an opportunity to get financially above water in three short months rarely comes along. It’s like David says, we’re not doing it for the money, but if the money wasn’t in it, we wouldn’t do it. If that makes sense. Somehow, it does to us.

And that’s pretty much everything David’s wife thinks about this. What I really think, though, is that this whole experience is going to be a blessing of appreciation for our marriage, and a tribute to all those single parents in the world, who do this kind of thing, day in, day out, often with no relief and no expectation that there will be someone coming home to bathe the kids and put them to bed in 112 days. I know almost all of them would say, “You just do what you have to do.” And I will, but not with as much finesse, I am sure – I’m an amateur and a temp.

I’m sure there will be some days that I think much more interesting and colorful things than I have recorded here, so look for future posts on my summer as a single mom.

Oh, and I know David isn’t going on a picnic either. But he can start his own blog if he’d like his story represented. I’d consider listing him under “honorary redshirts” on my blog if he does.


Monday, Monday

If I were a drinking woman, I'd swear I have a hangover. I don't know what one feels like, even, but I can imagine. I can also imagine what it might feel like to have a MAC truck run over me in my sleep, then do a forty-eight point turn-around on my sinuses like they're a tight parking space at the grocery store. Maybe both are the same feeling. All I know is that some kind of low pressure systme moved in last night, my head feels all clogged, I walked across the living room floor first thing this morning and it felt like I was stepping on Reese's Puffs (oh, wait, I was), and little people keep YELLING - at me, at each other, at inanimate objects, and they want me to feed them and build forts for them. And all the lights are so BRIGHT. If that's not what the morning after a hardy weekend out is like, then I'll just stick with the MAC truck comparison. If it is, then it's a good thing I'm not a drinking woman.

If I were a pregnant woman...well, I'm not. So don't even think it. I think I just needed one more day of weekend. That's all. I spent the two days I had dancing with my Swiffer and a cricket, and catching up with old friends. I need a day for silence and stillness, then I could start with a Monday tomorrow.

I tried to talk David into calling in sick today. He reminded me he wasn't sick. I told him he could say his wife was. He said, "You're not, really." Stinkin' honesty. So I said, "Well, you could just tell them you can't come in today because your wife won't let go of your leg." And then he began one of his endearing hypothetical dialogues. (I get at least one such dialogue a day. Some are more entertaining that others.)

"What? Your two-year-old won't let go of your leg?"
"Um, no, my wife won't let go of my leg."
"Oh, I see. Totally understandable. Take the day. Take the week, if you need to."

He got my hopes up with that last line, then he left and here I am, engaging in a therapeutic blog, massaging my temples and rubbing my eyes, and typing sporadically. I'm also playing "This little piggy" intermittently (was that originally a drinking song?), just so my children know I do indeed hear them YELLING, am conscious of their toes kicking the keyboard every two seconds, and can feel them climbing up the back of my chair with a blanket-turned-wall-of-a-fort.

My other therapeutic activity is brainstorming a great redo of the boys' bedroom. I dream of the day I can potterybarnify my home (and realize the total williamssonomafication of my kitchen), but for right now, IKEA gets me through quite happily. It is going to be awesome. I promise to post "before" and "after" photos as soon as I get the plans off the drawing board and into reality.

Anything will be better than where they sleep now:

Just kidding. This was one of their projects a while back. They have an endless and tiresome fascination with emptying the books off the bookshelf on a daily basis. No number of time-outs, or explaining how to treat books like the friends they are, or slamming the dear books back on the shelves angrily - nothing - seems to eradicate this unfortunate recurrence in my life. So I am slowly learning to laugh at it. Laughing about it is easier now that Calvin can take it to a whole new level of creativity, and fashion beds out of the bottom two shelves. He's been wanting a "funk" bed for some time now. Guess he's tired of just dreaming about it, and he's taking action.

That makes two of us. I feel another busy weekend coming up, one that involves paint, shopping and clothes and toy sorting. That will almost certainly help me out of this post-weekend funk. But it will probably lead to another Monday like today, when I wonder where the weekend went, why I wasted it cleaning and socializing, why David can't take a day off so I can rest, and why a blanket fort is so vital right at this moment.

I may be starting to understand the whole drinking thing.

Addendum, two hours later: I was feeling better, or at least in better humor, after blogging today and I came downstairs to microwave some pot pies for us to eat. (They don't come in tins anymore! A new discovery for me! Makes lazy lunches even more do-able!) I poured the boys some juice, and told them lunch would be ready in a few minutes. Calvin said, "Mom, you're taking real good care of us." Sometimes it's just uncanny, his little appreciative remarks. Disturbing. And the guilt! Somebody pour me a cold one.

And I Thought I Was So Original

Here it is - toilets, panic, and the words "code yellow" all in one article. My whole ten days of blogging was already written by someone else ...shoot. Foiled again.

But I bet my kids are cuter.

And I can't just quit.

So, What Have You Been Doing for the Last Year or So?

Today we met up with some old, true, great friends from David's graduate program. We all live within fifteen miles of each other, but it seriously has been almost two years since we've talked, really. We've been living our lives, apparently perfectly parallel, since we haven't crossed recently.

Their oldest is six now, and their three-year-old is - imagine this - the same size as Calvin already! And they are expecting their third in July. He changed jobs, months ago, and likes it a lot better than what he was doing the last time we knew what he was doing. Funny how at one time we were all in the big post-college job hunt, anxious for each other and wrapped up in each other's interview processes and job offers, praying and hoping together and expecting babies at the same time and freaking out about the cost of living, and now we just mention the life changes in passing. It was strange and great at the same time that after such a relatively long time we could get together, cook up some hotdogs, our kids could play, and we could talk again like it was just last weekend that we did the same thing.

But with that kind of friend so close by, why don't we get together more often? Or send e-mails? The answer seems easy - there's the career ladder and home improvement projects and preschool programs and teaching music on the side and church work. We click, "mark to reply" but the time just gets away somehow. It seems sad at first that the day-to-day grind should keep us from being a more integral part of each other's lives. What a shame.

But wow - what a blessing, too, to have people in life you can meet up with from time to time, share memories, laugh with over new and old things, see a snapshot of where they are now, and treasure always as friends, even when "doing lunch" should be possible more often, but it's not.


Moments of Glory

Did you think I was exaggerating? Nope. Sometimes it really is eighteen loads. Clean, but piled high. My usual excuse is that it’s a lot easier to shuttle laundry through the washer and dryer than it is to fold it with two tunnel-burrowing, back-climbing, pile-tipping boys in the house with me. (I really have actually cried over spilled laundry once or twice.) My excuse this week is that the blogosphere beckons. But I’m not as proud of my washday slothfulness as posting a picture of it on the World Wide Web would imply.

What I am proud of is that I convinced David to take the mostly potty-trained 3-year-old and my other favorite child to the National Zoo today (perfect weather!) so that I could catch up on the housework un-“assisted.” I’ve been itching to clean the kitchen floor, which has needed attention since I took a shower the other day, and it's really been too long since I was able to sit here and fold a mountain of laundry while taking in a little Colin Firth. Yep. That's what I call multi-tasking in its highest form. I can’t achieve that level of homemaking bliss with the sock throwers ever with me. Besides making my laundry folding job more like hunting and gathering (that’s man’s work!), they also tantrum (yes, that’s a verb) if they can’t watch THEIR shows when the TV is on. I can’t possibly be expected to fold laundry with tantrums happening (even if they are in another part of the house), and I definitely can’t fold laundry accompanied by THEIR shows. Diego just doesn’t do it for me like Darcy does. I explained this all to David, and he did it! He did it! He did it! Hurray! I scored four hours of quiet cleaning time. Of course, I was compelled to actually do housework once he left (which is why I didn’t get around to writing this until after the my-mama warriors were in bed), but it is still a proud, proud moment. Our house smells good now. And our feet don't stick. And our drawers and closets are no longer bare.

I am also proud that when I saw this HUGE wha-wha-whatever-it-is during today’s WetJetting frenzy, I didn’t hyperventilate. (My husband now says it's a cricket, but that was no mere cricket, believe me.) I tried to kill it, but it JUMPS, people! HIGH! FAR! UNPREDICTABLY! TOWARD MY BARE LEGS! So I banished it using the broom. And I didn’t even yelp or cry or run to the corner of the house directly opposite of the beast and stand on a chair. I took a picture of it. Which answers the age-old question: If a wife encounters a creature from hell while her husband is gone, does anyone hear her scream? Not if she's going to live to blog about it later.

One more thing I am proud of today: I made a blogger pal last week. I don’t think I’ve just walked up to someone and asked them to be my friend since kindergarten, so I’m out of the habit to say the least, but my alter-ego blogging extravert just up and decided to e-mail someone whose blog she liked. One small step for me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk to one of my neighbors, but even though they have woofers in their living room against the wall that touches my living room wall, I don’t think any of them would be as cool as her and put me on their blog roll! It makes me feel so celebrity, since before I only had a very local readership of 4.75 people (Henry has to have me read it to him, and I think he only understands ¾ of my humor). Thank you, thank you very much...You love me! You REALLY love me!

Incidentally, as soon as I figure out how to post a blog roll, Tess will be on mine, because she talks about very fun and interesting stuff, including Cornhole. I so want to learn how to play. I think I will study up on it, make me some corn bags and target boxes, and take it home to Colorado for the family reunion this summer. Funny if “city slicker” me could take back a game that involves actual corn kernels to the home of the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival. Maybe then they will know that you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl. Now THAT would be a moment of glory.