Monday, December 20, 2010

Sacredly Magic Christmas

I LOVE Christmas time. I have memories galore of the magic, the excitement, the beauty, the giving...everything. I've celebrated in two different countries on two different continents with gatherings both big and small.  I've celebrated in the middle of the snowy mountains of Maine, the tea highlands of Kenya, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and in the rainy clouds of the Pacific Northwest.

It's not new information but it's new for each parent; celebrating with kids makes everything even more fun and more magical. This year The Princess is really getting what's going on around her. She got to help pick out the tree and we oohed and aahed over all of the decorations. I've caught her kissing her favorites more than once! My carefully placed display on the piano has been moved and rearranged more times than I can say and at some point Woody, from Toy Story, was added to the silvery glitter ornaments; the missing touch apparently.

We've walked through the fairyland of Zoo Lights and have an appointment to make a gingerbread house at a local coffee shop. Each morning we open another window in the Advent calendar (or two when I've forgotten to do it the day before!) and enjoy the surprise of what picture is hiding behind the flap.

We're singing Christmas carols all month long and this year I'm explaining a lot of them too. We've put out out all of my nativity sets and this year the Princess is playing with the non breakable ones and telling the story herself. We'll go to the Christmas Eve service and remember again why it is that we celebrate in the first place.

In the midst of all the excitement and magic, while decorating the tree and dancing to another Christmas song, I'm also caring for an infant. She sits on my hip contentedly taking in the sparkle, laughter and energy swirling around her. She's sleeps swaddled in my arms or in the basket at my feet. She forces me to sit and rest when it's time for her to eat. She's completely dependent on us for everything and it is such a privilege and a joy to be responsible for her care.

Which of course makes me think of Mary and Joseph and the privilege and joy they were given when chosen to care for Jesus. And my breath catches at the perplexing and profound thought of Jesus as a baby, like my own precious girl, and the magic of the season becomes so much more sacred and meaningful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An 80's movie star!

We built our house in Maine. I say "we" in a loose sense. It was my Dad's work of art but we kids were able to help with a few things. Have I mentioned the hauling of the wood?

One sunny day we were out on the build site and Dad handed us three kids hammers and nails. Free child labor! Our job was to nail the plywood subfloor to the basement beams. We started hammering diligently, a nail every few inches following the penciled line on the plywood.

Of course, the task turned into a small competition to see who could pound faster.

We were neck and neck until Ben let out a shout. Two hits and his nail was all the way in! Gretchen and I hurried over not believing him and demanding proof. He set up the next nail, gripped the hammer firmly and took a cleansing breath.


The nail disappeared into the wood, the head flush with the floor.

Amazing! Do it again just to make sure!


Again, the nail was firmly planted in the wood. We looked at him in awe. Our brother was the Karate Kid!  Ben proceeded to show off, testing his strength with another 20 nails and offering us tips as we tried to summon our own inner strength.

Excited over his new found skill and sure that Dad would be thrilled with it (and want to put him to real work. Imagine how quickly the house could take shape!) we called him over to watch Ben OWN the nail. Dad listened with amusement as we explained what had happened while Ben set up a demonstration. When the nail went into the wood like butter his eyebrows shot up in disbelief.

He took a closer look at what we'd been doing.

Turns out that penciled line wasn't a guide for where the beam was underneath... We went down into the basement and looked up at the new ceiling. A line of nails was poking through the plywood hitting nothing but air!

Sorry Ben, no Karate Kid for you. But man, it was exciting when we thought it was true!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm a winner...and crazy too!

So...I've been busy this past month.

No, not with the new baby or the precocious 3 year old. I've barely folded my laundry and done the bare minimum in making dinner. I haven't even made any Christmas plans.

What then, you ask have I been so busy with? Well, on November 1st I happened to read a couple of blog posts about NaNoWriMo and then saw that a couple friends on Facebook had decided to take the challenge. Curious about this strange acronym I hightailed it over to the website (what did we ever do without the internet?) to find out what on earth they were talking about.

Turns out the November is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth and there's a big challenge on the internet to write a complete 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. CRAZY!

So of course, without any thought whatsoever, I signed up to do it.

That's right. For thirty days I have been writing like a maniac trying to complete about 2000 words every day. In between crying babies/preschoolers, laundry, vacuuming and diaper blowouts. I'm ridiculous, I know.

However, after much craziness, a husband who has now confirmed that I'm certifiably insane (but was supportive anyway! Truly!), and eyes that have been permanently dry and red for the last 10 days, I am a WINNER!

Yep, that's right. I completed a novel in 30 days! It's a first draft, it's rough and needs much work but I got an entire story down in writing; beginning, ending and even a middle. It's a big accomplishment and I'm pretty proud of myself.

Now I have to go clean my house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving thanks for so much

It's that time of year to give thanks. I have an abundance of reasons to be thankful, so many reasons that it seems foolish to ever complain about anything. Here is my partial list in no particular order.

  • I'm thankful that not only do I love my siblings but I really LIKE them too and am thrilled that we keep working on our friendships.
  • I'm thankful for a husband who supports me and my cornucopia of obsessions and only makes fun of me every once in a while, in a loving way of course!

Giving me a break - Thank you!

  •  I'm thankful to two beautiful daughters. I will never come up with enough words to properly describe their perfectness.
  • I'm thankful that being a mother is more wonderful than I ever thought possible, even when it totally sucks sometimes.

So Sweet!
  • I'm thankful for parents who, no matter the circumstance, have always supported me, always loved me and always made sure I knew it.
  • I'm thankful for my imagination. It makes me laugh and cry and gets me into trouble when Steve asks me what's wrong and I have to confess that I'm worried about some character in my head!
  • I'm thankful for my new boots, which I REALLY wish I'd had last year when I was in Paris...whatever.

Why yes, that is us at the LOUVRE!
  • I'm thankful for Candy Corn.
  • I'm thankful that Candy Corn is only in season one month out of the year.
  • I'm thankful that it's acceptable for grown women to play soccer and that I found a team of them to play with!
  • I'm thankful for a job that I actually enjoy. It makes all of the balancing between office work and home work worth it.
  • I'm thankful that the love I feel for my babies gives me a mind boggling inkling of what God feels for me.

There are no words...

  • I'm thankful for grace, love, forgiveness and hope.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get a Job!

A friend of mine recently commented on Facebook about their son chopping wood and learning a good work ethic. It made me think back on a few of the different jobs I've had...

Black Walnut Picking - this is not as glamorous as it sounds. In fact it's not glamorous at all. The tree in question was HUGE. You could build a village of tree houses in it's branches! It rained walnuts over the entire yard. Mom and Dad paid us a penny for every walnut we picked up from the yard. With a tree that size there was potential to make some serious money (serious for an 8 year old anyway!)  However, the value of the income was seriously questioned by the actual physical labor! Black walnuts don't come out of the tree like acorns - a cute little nut with a hat on top. No, they come down in their own protective cover. Why? I don't know, black walnuts are hard enough that they could fall from the highest point on the tree onto hard concrete and not even crack... Then, if they sit on the ground for longer than say, 30 seconds, the protective covering starts to rot and what you're left with is a sticky, slimy, black oil slick over each walnut. That substance sticks to your fingers and then stains them for ages. Recap: 1 penny in exchange for bending over at the waist for hours while handling decomposing, finger staining, smelly walnuts that didn't need the protection in the first place.

Tree Trimming - Are you picking up on the tree theme??  Dad had connections to tree farms so one summer my brother and I were hired to trim the trees. No, not a Christmas tree farm where we'd lovingly shape the trees with pruning shears while imagining happy children opening their presents on Christmas morning. These were trees being grown for wood products (I'll leave it at that and not go into the finer details of tree pulp, chips, knots, lumber and harvesting... You're welcome.). We were each handed a small curved saw blade attached to a long handle and told to cut off the branches as close to the trunk as we could. I've always had weak arms...this was not the job for me. Thank goodness my younger but stronger brother was there too. Otherwise I might still be there hanging from a branch that my saw got stuck in and I couldn't wrench it free. I have no idea what they paid but I probably spent it on ice packs and ibuprofen!

Hauling Wood - I don't think I actually was ever paid for this, but it was definitely a job. Having to haul wood was the only time I've ever felt true RAGE at my Dad. This is stupid because he was out cutting and hauling with us AND it was the way we heated our house in the winter (in Maine!) so it was a family job and sort of essential for survival!  But, teenagers aren't known for their reasoning skills... You should know that the few times I've hauled a little wood as an adult I've quite enjoyed it!

All of this wood/tree experience is probably one of the reasons I really enjoyed my first real job out of college working at Weyerhaeuser in their research building with all of the foresters and loggers. I spoke a little of their language, knew how to use a saw and wasn't afraid of a little sawdust! 

Now...I'm just storing these stories up to tell my kids when they complain about "building character"!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Living in the Age of Why

There's a stereotype out there that 3 year olds always ask "why?" and drive their parents nuts.

If you come to my house you can see how that stereotype came to be.


The days are full of why questions but I'm the only one providing answers. It's a thought that comes full circle; no end, no beginning; just another question, another curiosity.

Below is a sample of true life questions...and a few of my answers, or lack of answer...!

Why did I open the car door when the car was moving?   To make my heart stop, apparently.

Why did I break the chair?   And why are there teeth marks on it too???

Why did I make a bad choice?  ???????

Why am I awake?  I have NO idea!

Why am I crying? Besides the fact that you tripped, fell headfirst onto the ground, bit your lip and are now bleeding?

Why are those flamingos in that yard? Good Question!

Why is that dog not a bird?  ??????

Why did you fold that?   To make it smaller
Why is it smaller?  Because I folded it.
Why did you fold it?  To make it smaller
Why is it smaller?  Because I folded it!

AND...repeat 10,000 times!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Life List

This morning I ran for the first time since The Sweetpea made her arrival. It was early morning; cloudy and cool with a little mist in the air as I ran along the river. I passed a guy running (granted, he was about 80 and the fact that he was even out running trumps my passing him any time...) and I didn't fall over! It was good in a painful sort of way. Hopefully I'll be recovered enough by next Monday to do it again.

I'm now sitting at Thatchers drinking coffee, eating a most amazing yogurt and granola blend and working on my computer. I've always wanted to take my laptop to a coffee shop and work on it while drinking coffee.  Yet another goal I can cross off my list!

I might not have to eat until dinnertime!

Of course, I'm not dressed in a cute outfit and I keep having to pick granola out of my teeth... But since I didn't specify "awesome boots with cute wool skirt" AND "clean teeth" on the list I'm going to cross it off anyway.

What's next on the list?

Where can I find a camel to ride?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bad Mommy

"Bad Mommy!"

The Princess hasn't actually said that yet but she could be thinking it. It's certainly running through my head sometimes.

Overall we're transitioning well. I know this. The Princess is happy more often than not. Sometimes The Sweetpea has to sit and cry a little bit longer than I'd like before I can respond, but she's thriving. I'm getting sleep and Steve is keeping his sanity (sort of) in the midst of work, kids and a start up company.

But there are the moments that sometime expand to marathon battle-of-wills sessions. My patience is at it's end and we haven't even finished breakfast. I've said "not right now" or "in a minute" too many times to count. She's playing by herself, a wonderful trait, but today it's only because I've rejected her multiple times. I made a fuss over yellow socks because they didn't "go" when I should have been focused on the fact that she was listening to me and following instructions.

I'm almost 33 years older than she is. You'd think I'd be better at this.

I still check on her every night before going to bed but she doesn't know that.

I love her to pieces. Hopefully she can feel it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dry Spell

The Sweetpea is in bed and asleep at 8:30pm which means I have two free hands for typing (or doing other things but I want to watch The Amazing Race; multi-tasking!)

But my brain feels dead and dry, like I'm trying to remember how to just spell words much less put them together to make sentences. Plus I don't have much rattling around in my brain other than diaper changing techniques and toddler-speak.

It will get better, I just have to start noticing the rest of the world around me again. In between the spit-up episodes and convincing The Princess that wearing cat pajamas all day for 3 days in a row isn't the best way to go.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Six Weeks's been six weeks since The Sweetpea made her arrival. I seriously don't know where the time has gone. It feels like it's been a blink and here we are. Yes, there have been some seriously long days in that blink but overall the speed in which we've moved continues to disorient me!

Six weeks is long and short. It's been one continuous juggling act. How many things can I do with one hand? How quickly can I get any one task done? (or realistically, HALF of the task. Any task takes AT LEAST two days right now!) How many outfits can I pull together before actually leave the house? It's mentally exhausting more than anything.

But I look at The Sweetpea and am shocked that she's outgrown the brand-new-newborn look already. She looks like a real baby now. She's cooing and chatting a little and her blue eyes have emerged from the film that covered them in the beginning.

The Princess has pushed through the growing pains of losing her only child, center of the universe status. She's caring and kind and sweet to her little sister and she helps me immensely!  She's still refuses to get close to The Sweetpea when she's crying - she can't handle the noise. But, who can blame her! You've got to hold to you principles and intolerance of noise is one of the "Royal Principles" around here.

It's been six weeks and I'm finally typing with two hands! For a few minutes at least. Small steps to independence that make me happy and nostalgic at the same time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


About a month ago The Princess started asking me a new question.  "Are you happy, Mommy?"

"Wow" I thought "What a thoughtful little girl we've been raising! So concerned with my feelings and my emotional health!"

I noticed that she often asked me this when she had just done something naughty...but at least she was acknowledging that her bad behavior was causing emotional stress for me, right? Very advanced for her age, I'm sure!

I've been very careful to answer honestly - Yes, I'm happy. No, I'm sad that you're not listening to me. Since I want to foster good communication between us I'm always sure to ask her how she's feeling - we're learning and growing.

Then the other day she asked me again.  "Are you happy, Mommy? Or are you Sneezy?"

So...we've been talking about the Seven Dwarfs for the last month????????????

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Princess and The Sweetpea

The Sweetpea

She has a light covering of dark hair on her head. It’s smooth and silky against my cheek.

She screams bloody murder when getting her diaper changed and if she has to wait more than 30 seconds to eat. Because we might just be starving her…  Other than that she’s content and quiet.

She’s not sure about the swaddle. She sleeps deeply with it but if she realizes she’s swaddled she fights to get her hands out.

She’s a great eater but She spits up A LOT!

She has long fingers.

Her toes are always cold.

Her left ear was folded down at birth. Now it’s popped up and she has nice little ears, close to her head.

She smells delightful.

She likes getting her head washed.

I managed to cut 3 fingers when trying to trim her nails the first time. I’m going to stick to the nail file from now on.

She sleeps peacefully through all of the kisses she gets from The Princess.

She likes the vibrating chair – WITHOUT the vibrations.

She eats every two hours but doesn’t cry or fuss in the middle of the night. Just lies there quietly if she does happen to have trouble going back to sleep. Mostly she just goes back to sleep though.

Her little mouth turns down at the corners.

She has and will always have blue eyes.

Sometimes she stutter breathes and it makes my heart stutter right along with it.

Sometimes she breathes so quietly I stare at her to see if there’s any movement before I start panicking.

I love to kiss her.

The Princess

She says she misses me whenever I leave or there’s the possibility of me leaving. It makes my heart sing and break at the same time.

She HATES to hear The Sweetpea cry. “Why is that baby crying?” she says over and over.

She asks/tells us to take that baby to a different room whenever The Sweetpea cries or gets ready to cry.

She showers The Sweetpea with kisses.

She asks “why?” all the time.

She’s reveling in the extra time with Daddy.

She struggled the first couple of days with all the changes, but the struggle was internal only coming out in little bursts.

The first time The Sweetpea cried she asked “Why is she crying?” then her chin wobbled and she burst into tears herself. I curled up around her and tried to soothe to pain.

She asked me to sing while she was in her bath. We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” together and I cried through the entire song, rinsing her hair with my tears.

She seems like she gained 20 lbs in the 24 hours I was in the hospital! How did I lug her around when I was 39 weeks pregnant?!!

She is amazing at playing and entertaining herself.

She suddenly seems so big and so grown up. But she’s still a little girl.

She’s so beautiful.

I love to kiss her.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birds...not just your feathered friends...

I originally wrote this as a Facebook note a couple of years ago. While we're trying to figure out how to schedule our lives now that The Sweetpea has arrived (more on that later!) I thought I'd move this little gem over here. 

Enjoy another laugh at my expense. There's a never-ending supply, trust me!

We spent the weekend on the Oregon Coast, home of many bold Seagulls... I love going to the coast in the winter when it's cold, rainy and windy. Going when it's sunny and beautiful is good too. It's really a perfect way to spend the weekend if only they didn't have so many birds around!

We have become early morning risers now that we have a toddler. Therefore, at 7:30am we were making our way to the local coffee shop for a latte and muffin before making our way to the beach to set the high energy child loose. Since I know that breakfast is the MOST important meal of the day, I broke into my muffin as soon as the coffee shop door closed behind us - I need to be properly fortified for a day of running around in circles on the beach with Miss High Energy!

I was 1/2 way through the muffin when we hit the beach (I'm a fast eater, the beach isn't that far...). A smallish group of seagulls were milling around near the entrance; far enough away to lull some unsuspecting fool into complacency, but close enough to spot any potential food that could be coming their way (small white pastry bags being a dead giveaway). I took two steps on to the beach and the seagulls raised their heads and started walking slowly my way. Steve is not haunted by birds like I am (please see my 25 Random Things note if you're not aware of my exact feelings about birds - blog addition: they're pure evil!) so he and The Princess merrily walk towards the ocean, completely oblivious to any impending doom.

I noticed the birds and immediately realized the mistake I had made in bringing a pastry bag with me (hello giant target on my back!). Of course, since I hadn't thought everything through I had eaten the bottom part of my muffin first - saving the top part, the best part, for last! What to do?? I was still hungry, had the best part of the muffin still to eat, and yet the seagulls were eyeing me, practically drooling. (Have you noticed that Seagulls have this little red spot on their beaks? It looks like blood - I'm just saying...) So, I did the only thing I could do. I started cramming muffin top into my mouth as fast as possible while walking calmly away from the birds.

They weren't fooled. They started walking faster and a couple of them took to the air so they didn't lose sight of their goal. I started to perfect my speed walking technique (without running - they always say never run - but maybe that's just for dogs!) as I stuffed muffin into my mouth and looked around wildly to see if an audience at the hotel windows had gathered!

The birds started to close in and I started to hyperventilate a little bit (maybe it was because I had so much muffin in my mouth I couldn't get any air into my lungs!) and I knew there was only one thing left to do. I grabbed the rest of the muffin out of the bag, crumpled the bag in my other fist and prepared to run. The birds sensed the moment of decision and before I had even thrown the muffin towards them they started to run towards me, gaining momentum to either take flight or just run me down. I threw the muffin in their direction and ran the opposite way with their cackles ringing in my ears! Steve and The Princess were still watching the spectacle from the sidelines.

Now, you'd think that I would have learned my lesson... But when you get up that early you often have amnesia. The next morning I again walked to the beach with my latte and pastry bag (same muffin - it was so good!). I remembered the issue right before turning the corner, but when I peeked around the edge, there were only 2 seagulls out there and they were way down by the water. I was feeling brave and I KNOW I can eat fast so I decided to risk it. I had no sooner opened the bag (they should give you quiet plastic bags, the rustling of the paper is a dead giveaway!) when a seagull suddenly appeared with a knowing glint in his eye. Just one though, so I thought I could probably take it if it came to that.

I started with the muffin top this time (I learned part of the lesson at least!). I had managed to get a couple of bites in when the Seagull let out a croak - obviously he was the sentry and that was the signal. Seagulls were suddenly circling overhead and gathering around me out of nowhere. I can only assume they were buried in the sand waiting for me because I was watching CAREFULLY and I only noticed TWO when I stepped onto the sand! They weren't taking any chances on losing out this morning either. They were coming from all directions and closing in fast. I knew that I had to act quickly and this time I called for Steve to come save me. Seeing the panic on my face (and probably hearing it in my feeble cry) Steve waded through the feathers with The Princess pointing out EVERY SINGLE BIRD! "B!, B!, B!"

I grabbed The Princess, shoved the muffin into his hand and took off at a run. He could fend for himself with the food! I wasn't hungry anymore and I figured he'd probably survive a bird attack. When we'd made it to safety I turned around to see what had become of my husband. There he was, walking calmly through the birds EATING his own croissant and KEEPING my muffin in his pocket to throw away later! (He said they didn't deserve it and he was keeping it to spite them!)

What I have learned:
  • It's difficult to NOT pass on your phobias to your child when your surrounded by them and they are inherently evil.
  • Never bring food to the beach no matter how brave you feel or how badly amnesia is affecting you.
  • It's good to have someone in your corner who will "spite" birds for you.

This entire story can be verified by Steve if you happen to think that I"m exaggerating...!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hysteria...the final frontier

10 days until the due date. This, of course, is totally dependent on "yet-to-be-named"... She could decide to come tonight or Labor Day or next year... (please Dr., intervene before then!)

Overall I'm feeling pretty good. Huge, yes. Unable to move or get comfortable, no. So things are good.


We're in the 3rd of a 5 day stretch of 90 plus degree days. We don't have air-conditioning.

I'm feeling an edge of hysteria creeping into my thoughts...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making Lists...and losing them even faster

I love lists. They give a sense of control and accomplishment. If you've made a list you've already gotten part of the job done. Gold Star for you and it's time for that well-deserved break!

Here's my summer list (as I've pieced it together since I keep losing the written one and then have to start over from "memory", such as it is) as we get ready for our new addition.

  • Make baby gift for new nephew
  • Make bedding for the crib
  • Make a new diaper bag - of course the old one will do just fine. That was a luxury item!
  • Transfer The Princess to a big girl bed - thanks Ikea!
  • Bake cupcakes for the Big 3-Year Birthday! - um...sort of done
  • Pack new baby stuff for the hospital
  • Plan menus and fill up the freezer with meals and muffins - freezer is bursting with blueberries. Not sure where I'm going to stuff any additional meals!
  • Make doll quilt for the Big 3-Year Birthday! - in process, just need to sew that binding on (for the last month)
  • Take The Princess on a few fun adventures before life changes drastically - Ladybug Walk, Honeybee Hike, Oregon Coast, Vintage Carousel, Farmers' Market. Yeah, I rock! (yeah, Steve helped!)
  • Make the distribution list for the baby announcement - don't worry, a FB announcement will happen too. We're totally plugged in over here!
  • Make some cute summer clothes for The Princess - diaper bag didn't happen...
  • Survive the summer - pending...
  • Try to keep the garden alive - yeah. It's still alive but I don't think this was the year to start this project...I think we're the embarrassment of the community garden.
  • Finish editing - can you ever REALLY be finished?
  • I'm sure there's more...I just can't remember right now

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best Laid Plans

I like to bake. Cooking isn't really my thing but baking I love. I'm pretty good at it. I've gotten rave reviews for my Lemon Cake and my Fresh Raspberry Bars. I even make most of the bread we eat in this house!

My grand plan has been to make cupcakes for The Princess's birthday which is looming directly after the Newest One makes her own arrival. I'll make and freeze them ahead of time and then just pull them out and frost them when life is crazy but the big 3rd birthday is upon us! Brilliant!

The weather has cooled a little and the idea of having the oven on this afternoon wasn't horrifying so I decided it was time for us to do a little baking. As is my usual plan of attack I decided to use a brand new recipe, never tested, never tried; a perfect plan when you have to serve something to guests and want to provide something edible, at the very least. Honestly, that's all I should hope for when I do things like this - impress with something you KNOW will work...keep your expectations realistic! (yeah right!)

You can see where this is going...

The Princess loves to bake and she's really good at it, except for tasting things. Not that tasting while baking is unusual but she's not discerning - everything from sugar to vinegar to flour to baking soda. It makes for an interesting experience.

Things went well, although messy, until we brought the oven into the mix...

The batter was heavenly, the final product tasty.

Presentation isn't going to win me any points though!

This is what they're supposed to look like.
If I cover them with a lot of frosting maybe I can pretend...
credit: Cupcake Blog