Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stills of a Christmas season

Ornament shopping, tree decorating, a birthday to celebrate. Cookies to make, parties to attend, a coffee, a pageant and home schooling. Cookie swap, cozy lunch, hot chocolate with whipped cream in a mug. Just words and images that bump and jiggle and work together to make a season that's full of family, fun, sweet anticipation and thankfulness.



Annual ornament shopping; lunch at Wegman's--modest husband; cookies as big as my hand



Erin with stockings on her feet; Tigger in a box; selecting ornaments



Santa on the fire truck; icy morning; Christmas placemat in morning sun


lunch box; happy girl; trying to decide which movie to watch


stocking; sugar daze from eating gingerbread tree; new reader

Our nativity set; pretty package; very good hot chocolate

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookies for breakfast


Yesterday I hosted a Christmas luncheon and cookie swap. Yummy. I downsized my list this year to be able to focus more on each guest, and I'm glad I did. For me, it was a cozy afternoon.



Salad greens with walnuts and dried cranberries
Cream of crab soup
Broccoli cheddar soup
Tomato, basil, mozzarella paninis on olive oil and rosemary artisan bread
Cheesecake cupcakes

This is a fancy way of saying we had salad, soup and grilled cheese sandwiches! It's all how you present it.

A friend also made snickerdoodles. It's the first I've ever had a duplicate. In order to push my cookies, I reminded guests that mine were called The Best Ever Snickerdoodles, in fun, of course. Hers were way better than mine! I ate some of hers for breakfast today.


I was immediately drawn to the peanut butter and kisses cookies since I only eat them once a year, if I'm lucky. I cannot seem to make them well myself, but I love it when someone else does. I didn't eat these for breakfast today. I'm saving them for lunch.

These little cupcakes were too cute. And very good. My favorite was the coconut lime. It was like eating a pina colada cupcake. My girls were all over them.



I didn't even taste everything that was brought. I told myself yesterday that the diet starts today! That was before I realized that chocolate mint sandwich cookies are the perfect chaser to oatmeal and orange juice. (Don't tell my kids. They are not getting cookies for breakfast.) But the diet starts soon!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eleven minutes

We're doing a lot of food gifts this year and I'm up to my ears in cookies. I have two great recipes to share. One is my friend Doris's ginger cookies. I make them every year and someone always likes them. Then again, someone else always doesn't, so try your luck.

I discovered this Snickerdoodle recipe and incorporated reader reviews to make it the best ever cookie without chocolate that I've had. Even Lanie was raving over these treasures and has declared them her favorite as well. Such a keeper and I'll be going back to the kitchen to make more of them tomorrow.

Ginger Cookies

1 stick of butter
¼ cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour, not sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
¼ cup molasses

Additional sugar to roll balls in.

Melt butter and add oil.
Mix with all other ingredients.
Chill.
Form into balls and roll in sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes on foil-lined cookie sheet.

Best Ever Snickerdoodles

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, extracts and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
3. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
4. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5. Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
6. Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
7. Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
8. Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
9. Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 11 minutes.
10. Remove from pan immediately.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home school review

We met with the county today to review our home school progress. The county guy says to Lanie, "What's your favorite subject?"

"Princesses," she replies.

"He means in school, honey," I explain.

"Recess," she says.

He smiles. "Well, aside from recess, what's your favorite part about school?"

She thinks for a few minutes and we wait for her answer.

"Lunch."

We had a fun chuckle over it. It was a good review.

Opposites attract


Don't look so surprised. I haven't been able to get these plates off my mental wish list since I saw them. And when I saw that they were on sale for 30% off, what choice did I really have? You don't have to answer that.

I broke it gently to my husband the other night ...
"I know you said no frivolous spending ..." I humbly began.
His face fell. Like I had taken on the national debt. So I hurried in, "But I got the 12 Days of Christmas salad plates. I DIDN'T GET THE COORDINATING DINNER PLATES! And the salad plates were on sale! I used my mad money."
He continued to stare me down. I waited.
"These plates are an idol to you," he said.
I laughed out loud. I didn't even know he knew church speak, and here he goes like its his native tongue. I have to say I was rather shocked, but pleasantly so, despite the reprimand.
"I'm not worshipping the plates," I argued.
"But you haven't been able to stop thinking about them."
I prefer my girlfriend's approach to the topic, and I anonymously quote, "I do think that God wants us to enjoy beauty and hospitality."
Yes, my sister. I tend to agree more with you. Because if I left things up to my husband, we'd still have white walls, no pictures in the house, and not a single speck of character to adorn any countertop or shelf. There'd also be no cozy Christmas luncheon or cookie swap.
What does one do when one's spiritual gifts are in direct opposition with the husband's personality? How does one offer hospitality and its trimmings when a spouse prefers solitude and white salad plates? I've found many ways around it, actually, so there is a way. It's an interesting topic for another day. I'm sure I'm not the first whose "opposites attract" marriage has brought on complications with spiritual giftings.
Hasn't anyone written a book on this yet? A book that I can buy in 2010 after my self-imposed, yearlong book buying boycott is over?
The plates arrived today. They were packaged in a cute little matching drum box with golden cord. I opened the box carefully, and the plates were more beautiful in person (actually I saw them yesterday at the mall, under the exquisite trademark Williams-Sonoma magical lighting). Ahh.
Two turtle doves; it's two turtle doves.
And a partridge in a pear tree.
(Sorry for the ugly massive block of copy; blogger will not let me break my paragraphs up.)

Whispers

I've been enjoying reading Little House on the Prairie to Lanie at night. She looks forward to it too. If the chapter's a shorty, she even seems a little disappointed. So I make up for the lost time with extra cuddles and talk--the quieter the better.

Sometimes we whisper to each other about a secret place to meet in our dreams. Like the blueberry patch. Or the beach. Or a picnic spot at the park. "See you later in my dreams!"

Last night she wanted story ideas that she could tell herself as she fell asleep. My goodness, for nearly two years Shane and I had to come up with different stories for her and her storyline best friend, Piggette. We told so many stories, and some of them were so lame, but she didn't care. I suppose she fixed it all in her imagination.

But now, with new best buddies in her life, Piggette is just a memory. I asked Lanie, "Who are your best friends? Olivia and Ashyln?"

She said, in a whisper, "Yeah. And you, Mom. You're my best friend too."

I hugged her so tightly and didn't want to let go.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's not a party without Bob


Yesterday was Erin's happy birthday. We had some dear friends over to celebrate for a homegrown party. I doubt that Erin even understood the significance of the day. She knew it was her birthday, but as the day went along, it seemed same old, same old to her.

Until Bob showed up. When it was time to decorate the cake, I knew what had to be done. The question for me was: do I show her the cake or surprise her later? I decided to show her.

The cake:




Erin looking at the cake:



Erin leaning over to lick Bob. I stopped her in time!




She loved the red balloons I made up for her. She loved playing with Lanie and Ashlyn. She even understood the concept of unwrapping presents, and provided the appropriate "oohs" and "aahhs," however premature sometimes. All much to our delight.


I saved the VeggieTale castle for last. She was so visibly excited. I wished our video camera was working to capture it. Just sweet.

Last night, she brought all the VeggieTale characters to bed with us!
Thanks to our friends for braving the rainstorm and rush hour traffic to celebrate our little two. Yahoo!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12 days of Christmas

This morning as I prepared Lanie's breakfast, I started singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas." I haven't sung that song in a long time, as we aren't really carollers around here. As I looked into Lanie's eyes, there was a light in them, a certain holiday merriment.

A partridge in a pear tree.

But what comes next? Two calling birds? Two ladies dancing? I started to wing it. What did Lanie know anyway? Funny thing, when I started to sing the song backwards, I remembered the lyrics. Yet going forward, I stumbled over the lines.

Immediately, I thought of the lovely set of Christmas plates at Williams-Sonoma. On more than one occasion, I've been lured into that store. Their lighting is exquisite, the way the golden rays sparkle and glitter off every surface of gleaming piece of cookware. Copper pots. Saute pans. Dutch ovens. Panini presses. Then there's the aroma of the store that wraps an embracing hug around you so you'll stay a few minutes longer. Long enough to see the shelves stocked with rich chocolate shavings for the quintessential cup of holiday hot chocolate. Or the must-have cookie cutters for the upcoming cookie swap. Or for the $10 sandwich cutter you didn't realize you needed until your youngest was screaming loudly in the store. So you bought it. And later returned it when you regained your senses. But I digress.

I have fallen in love with their "12 days of Christmas" holiday salad plates. Each plate represents a day of Christmas, so you get twelve. And they have matching dinner plates, sold separately. And I knew if I had them, I would remember how to sing this maddening song to my daughter. And we'd dine off the matching dinnerware, serenaded by the colorful lights of our Christmas tree and the song of our hearts during a merry season.

No matter what I do, my mind goes back to those plates. If it's not a WS e-mail in my in-box, it's the catalog enticing me from the counter. Or something as benign as a song to my daughter in the morning. It's a spell.

"Sing it again, Mommy," Lanie says.

I only get the lyrics right backwards, but she doesn't seem to notice my inconsistency. It would be cheaper to Google the lyrics. It takes my total, utter, weakening will not to go near that store. Especially when reader reviews comment on things like: something to pass down to children; beautiful artwork; being discontinued this year ... the urgency. I'm a sucker for marketing copy and the teaser of never seeing it again. There will never be another 12 days of Christmas salad plate! (When I wail it along these lines, it does seem rather foolish.)

But if you happen to come to my house during the holidays, and see my table adorned with a partridge or golden ring plate, don't judge me. I'm sure you've been snookered into a purchase before too. Instead, enjoy the delicious salad that I place on top of your plate and smile.

Resist, Courtney, resist.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Purpose ... ?

I subscribe to a few blogs. Ok, twenty-eight of them. And a lot of them have some definite reasons for being: home school information; being thrifty; a lot of blogs by Christians who provide thought-provoking looks at life and scripture; sometimes a blog is just outrageous and keeps me coming back out of curiosity. But one blog I read today mentioned how to have a good blog. She started off with purpose. What's the point of your blog?

What's the point of my blog? ...

Oh. So maybe "occasional thoughts of a wife and mom whose hands are busy and heart is full" doesn't sound purposeful, but it is descriptive. Perhaps if I had more purpose in my blogging, I wouldn't have lost my only subscriber. Yeah, that was a sad day for me when I checked out bloglines and saw my only subscriber had left me. It was like a break-up that leaves you feeling unsettled.

"It's me, isn't it. It's not you, it's me."

So not everyone cares that Erin is obsessed with Bob the tomato, or that Lanie is afraid of nearly every breathing creature under the sun, or that Shane likes to sneak up behind me and make goofy faces while I'm striking vanity poses doing self portraits for my blog. From time to time, I discuss the latest news and possibilities for mass destruction ... ok, I only did that once. I guess my blog is mostly about me and this life. It's the stuff I'd tell a friend over the phone, which is a lot of blah, blah, blah and then an occasional something wonderful. Or two. Except it would take a lot longer, and there'd be a lot of: "Lanie, I'm on the phone" or "Erin, don't hit your sister!" And by then, I'd forget what I was saying anyway.

My purpose is maybe stepping up to the canyon's edge to whisper, "I'm here." Maybe that's not enough in itself to accumulate mass fans, but that's ok. Because it never was my purpose. Thanks to all who were able to hear me out of this loud, echoing canyon of people vying for your attention. Thanks to everyone who keeps coming back.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It goes so fast

I don't know why I'm surprised that Christmas is just over three weeks away. It always falls on December 25, unlike Thanksgiving which can be any date as long as it's the last Thursday of November. I think what threw me off was that Thanksgiving seemed to come so late this year. And there wasn't nearly a week's grace period before December first. There wasn't an extra week of shopping or planning or even relaxing. It was Thanksgiving. Then it was Black Friday. Then it rained. Then it was December 1.

Where did the time go?

In a whirl, we got our tree up and decorated because Christmas is (just over) three weeks away. I wanted the kids to remember something of the season before it slipped away, something beyond the rushing and craziness of the holiday.

We found ourselves out on a rainy day yesterday getting ornaments from Valley View and then heading out for lunch at Wegmans(!). Erin was happily overcome by all the ornaments and lights. She spotted a My Little Pony ornament and held it in her hands the entire time. Wouldn't even let the clerk ring it up.


We did enjoy lunch out, and topped the outing off with bakery cookies as large as my hand. What a treat for a child's eyes to see so many sprinkles on an enormous cookie. We prepared to head back out in the rain to get to the car. An older woman was tightening her raincoat and hat about her. She smiled at the girls: Lanie, waiting patiently; Erin, red-faced and tear-streaked from having been told she couldn't have jelly beans.


"It goes so fast," the woman said to me as she looked at my girls wistfully. "My own kids are grown with children of their own. I'm a grandmother. G-R-A-N-D."


Tears almost stung my eyes. It wouldn't be the first time I've felt that bittersweet twist as I watch my babies grow. It won't be the last that I cry over them and their fleeting childhood. This fleeting season.


And here, so close to Christmas I find myself rushing around. Getting gifts. Making gifts. Decorating. Baking. Planning. A recital. A Christmas coffee. A holiday luncheon. Erin getting lost in it all ... she'll be two on the eleventh and there's barely time for a party. Just a cake and us.

It goes so fast.

I carve out the time to slow down and savor ... to admire the lights on the tree ... the feel of my children's tiny hands in mine ... the smell of their hair after a bath ... the close cuddles during a read-aloud. The richness of this season.

I want to say, "Don't close!" to the door that's pushing me from mother to grandmother. G-R-A-N-D. How did I find myself on this side so fast? I pull against the frame. I want to say, "Slow down!" to my little ones who are intent on growing up fast. It's not a race. Savor the days. It goes so fast. Savor the season. It goes so fast.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In the details

I felt as though I needed gentle lighting for our Thanksgiving table. So the night before Thanksgiving I ran out to Home Goods and found some really sweet crackle glass lanterns and pillar candles. And while I was there, they had teacups on sale. But not just any teacup. They had turkeys on them. In the details. On clearance. And perfect for serving up Butternut Bisque.


This year's menu featured:

Lanie and I spent the morning cutting out mini turkey and pumpkin shapes in the pie crust. We baked them for a few minutes to make the perfect dipping utensil for the pumpkin pie dip. Delicious.




The bisque ... that was a last minute choice at the store because my original plan of roasted zucchini and red onions fell through at the sorry sad condition of the zucchinis. What a relief! This soup was so delightful and smooth that I helped myself to it at lunch before the guests came and then at dinner ... and would happily eat it without so much a second glance at any other side. Except maybe the stuffing. I think it tasted so good because I used the fresh thyme from Denise's garden that she generously shared with me. Again, details.

I packaged up take-home gift bags for our guests of cranberry bread, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie dip. I traced out leaves from our backyard onto fall colored paper and cut them out, gluing them to the bag. Topping off with orange tissue paper. Festively written "Happy Thanksgiving" across each leaf. I didn't send home leftover plates this year as the meat market announced they were shorted for beastly turkeys, so I was offered up a skinny, weaker cousin: a seven pound breast. Boo, meat market!

Cloth napkins in sugared cranberry napkin rings. Turkey themed teacups. Gentle, crackled glass lighting. And the words: joy, peace, love, displayed around the kitchen. Some fruit from the Spirit. And all the details that made up a lovely holiday.

Of course, let's not forget the jelly sandwich for Lanie since she won't eat turkey. When I told Shane I was making butternut bisque, he said, "I'll eat a jelly sandwich too." Now I see where Lanie gets it ... I hope all the little details of your day yielded a rich and satisfying holiday.

Tomorrow: Valley View Farms.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We've got a busy one in store today. Looking forward to all the preparations but hoping love doesn't get lost in tasks.

I stop by A Holy Experience every time she has a new post, but today I decided to click a link within her post that took me here. So, I'm sitting at the computer, crying over my waffle plate, reading some of the most beautiful prose I've ever encountered. I challenge you to visit the link and see if you don't somehow view your life differently.

Friday we'll be fixing these little turkeys for breakfast ... it's probably the closest Lanie will actually come to eating a turkey this year. Or in her life. I'll take what I can get.

And Saturday is our annual visit to Valley View Farms for Christmas ornament shopping. Yeah, and then Wegmans (be sure to say it in song because it's that good).

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cold hands, warm hearts

Yesterday the flakes flew, much to Lanie and Erin's delight. In fact Lanie, who almost always complains of cold at having to walk down the dairy aisle at the store, was the first to suggest going out to play in the snow.

"It's flurries, honey," I said. "There's nothing on the ground to play in."

"That's ok," she said. "I just want to run around in them."

At 8 a.m.

So, at 8:20 a.m., we went outside. They took off like horses from the gate.

"Snow, catch!" Erin said. She spun around and fiercely swatted the flakes. After five minutes, we were all freezing. We went back in to get gloves (oops, oversight in the thrill of running through flurries), at Lanie's insistance. Gloves, hats, Erin wanted nothing to do with them. So Lanie played solo for a while. She came in requesting hot chocolate. Which she generally prefers cold. But yesterday was a first for her, and she drank it warm. All of it, warm. This was a big deal, and she wanted to tell Shane about it herself when he came home from work.

My dinner lettuces were funky, so I had to make a 6:30 p.m. run to the grocery store. I took Erin with me. Lanie played while Shane ran on the treadmill. It was cold and blustery outside, but the sky was so very clear.

"Look at all the stars, Erin," I said, holding her close and pointing to the sky.

"Stars," she said, reaching high. "Reach it!"

Sweet, sweet children. Your simple joys reach deep inside me. Cold night, cold hands, warm hearts, full hearts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The reading list

There are so many good books on the market. I have to rush past book tables at the store. Or avert my eyes from beckoning shelves--even the grocery store has a significant book section. I don't dare visit amazon.com ... often. Today before Lanie's dentist appointment, I went into a Christian bookstore for the sole purpose of getting something pretty for my kitchen, you know, like something for the walls. I walked out with 2 VeggieTale movies (for the kids), a VeggieTale board book (for Erin), and three books (for me).

I have an in-basket on my desk, full of great books I mean to read. And on the bookshelves behind me, I can say I've probably read half of them a long time ago, about ten percent recently, and most need to be reread or just plain read. I'm drowning in books.

I suppose what I need to do is prioritize my reading list and my time. I would love to form a book club because then I would have deadlines to meet. And discussion groups to help cement concepts in my mind. I am so guilty of reading books and almost immediately forgetting what they're about. But it would have to be a book club slash playdate. And the books wouldn't be the fun fiction best sellers. It's the non-fiction stuff, historical, analytical, Biblical, soul-searching stuff. I wonder how many people actually care for this type of study or introspection. Especially people who want to come to a group with others and talk about it.

Anyway, not one for New Year's resolutions ... I do feel the necessity to publicly announce that I resolve now to not buy another book for myself, no matter how good the sale, no matter how good the jacket, no matter what--for the next year. Yes, until the end of 2009. Yes, I said it. For those of you who know me, or have helped me move, you know how many books I have, and how much books mean to me. So, this is big.

If I win books from other bloggers or receive books as gifts ... that doesn't count.

I will even (try to) curtail library rentals for myself in hopes of making a dent in my own collection.

Does anyone else have this problem? Am I the only one with an over-ambitious book appetite who's short on time and memory?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The contenders for this year's Christmas card

Technology makes making things so easy. Generally, we do a photo holiday card. But children's original artwork is nice too. I'm going to order our cards this week. Like Saturday. Or maybe even Friday. So if you get a minute, even if you don't care, even if you aren't on my Christmas mailing list ... could you take a vote for one of these:
Lanie's Christmas Angel:

Or a photocard of Erin and Lanie:





Thanks. Just leave your pick in the comments section. You too, Christy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sneak

Now, normally I wouldn't find this shot of myself worth saving (or posting for the Internet to see). I got my hair cut today, and was hoping to capture how fresh and smooth and straight it looks. Shane saw me snapping self-portraits, and thought it would be funny to sneak up on me.
I snapped this one before I realized what he was up to. I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face! What a clown!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mad libs

A good and faithful babysitter is a treasure, but an irresponsible and unreliable sitter dries the bones.

This isn't biblical. But it certainly rings true! It's very frustrating trying to find a babysitter who:

is Christian
doesn't have a boyfriend
has a license and access to a car
likes kids
has a good attitude
comes from a good family
and honors her commitment.

We thought we had one in the girl who watched our kids sometimes in the summer, but she has canceled at the last minute several times when I've had doctors appointments or other things. The missed appointments were frustrating, sometimes resulting in Shane missing some work to help me out, but if it was just so I could grab some me-time without having to wipe a bottom, fix a lunch, referee an argument--then it wasn't such a big deal. It was just life as usual. And that was just fine. And cheaper.

Shane and I haven't had a date night in six years. We recently started to consider church our date night because it was a Saturday night, we got to listen to live music, and our kids weren't around us. I think my pastor would be appalled to hear me refer to worship as date night. And forgive me too, Lord. I don't mean it in quite that way. But that's the closest we've come to it. Until this week when we actually planned a date night. I'm talking dinner at a restaurant that doesn't serve chicken nuggets, and a movie that isn't animated. And it was for tomorrow. I was looking forward to it all week. Until today when the sitter e-mails, "Something came up. Sorry!"

So I'm working on my mad mad-libs. The kind of rant where you just fill in the blanks with nonsensical stuff, because if you put the real words in, it would sound like a bunch of complaining, grumbling, jealous covetous stuff about what other people have and enjoy but you don't and, well, you get the picture. And it isn't pretty. Even after I started to write the real rant and replace the words, it still wasn't pretty. Or funny. Because nothing can really make light of the yucky stuff in our hearts. So I deleted the copy. Instead, I'm going to sit down and write a list of all the many blessings I have received, and just give thanks for them. Which is way better than any restaurant or non-animated movie anyhow.

Really and truly.

And I'm going to enjoy Friday night with my man and my kids. Maybe even get a movie from Blockbuster and some popcorn. Because this is the life: What better way to spend your time than with people who love you.

Generosity

Generosity is this month's virtue at Lanie's school.

It looks like this:

It's lunchtime in the cafeteria, and Lanie's school buddy, Madelyn, walks up to her and gives Lanie a quarter for the bake sale.

Lanie takes the quarter and buys a cookie.

She gives the cookie to a favorite friend, Olivia.

Generosity.

Before and after ... and after

Before. When Erin broke my glasses.

And after, when I got the affordable, but business-looking glasses.

And after again, when we took back the afforable-but-business-looking-glasses. I waited two weeks for these babies. I'm not letting them out of my sight. No pun intended.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween

Erin was Minnie Mouse. Only she didn't like the costume.

Lanie was an ice princess and felt very glamorous. We trick-or-treated about eight houses, then Lanie said her tummy hurt from all the walking. Houses are acres apart around here.

I ate too many candy corns and felt really grumpy.

Once we got home, it was nice to just relax and enjoy the evening together. We have so much candy left over!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Erin, a little girl


What Erin's up to:

She turned 22 months in October. She runs, dances, tries to jump. She climbs fearlessly. She goes easily to church group, gym daycare, friends' houses. She doesn't like to shop in mommy stores. She's in love with Bob the Tomato from VeggieTales. She's also got a thing from Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba. I think she identifies most with Widget and Bob the Builder (although we only have Bob the Builder books). Yesterday I talked to Lanie's kindergarten teacher about how she's doing ... Erin played in the class playroom. She went immediately to the tool bench and started hammering away, bypassing kitchen sets and girl stuff. When Shane hung up a lovely canopy in Lanie's room, Erin barely gave it a glance and headed straight for Shane's power tools. It's so fun to see interests developing at such a young age. And it looks like I've also lost my chances for having a helper in the kitchen!
Erin has a lot to say. She's got great manners and says: please, thank you, excuse me and bless you. She is quick to apologize and give hugs if she's hurt someone (read: Lanie). She loves to cuddle, nesting herself in my lap to watch a show or read a book. And she often falls asleep snuggled up against me. She plays with Play-doh, loves the play set outside, and puzzles. She is convinced she can walk downstairs without have to sit-and-scootch. I am glad the staircase isn't a straight drop and has a landing in the middle! I often find myself looking away from her as she tests her limits. With Lanie, I hovered. With Erin, I have to let her test herself. She stopped calling her blanket Noonoo and calls it Blanky. She is growing up too fast. She may very well be the last child I have, and there's such a deep sadness for me in that. While I'm glad beyond measure to have this little girl, it's sad for me to think that her firsts are my lasts.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dedication

I gave Lanie an old college composition notebook I had. I had barely used it and tore out the pages I wrote on. She thought this was really great. I told her she could draw pictures in it and write her own story book. She worked in this book in secret all summer long. From time to time she would invite a friend up to her room to show pages to, sometimes letting the friend add a little something to it.

There were days, too, when I'd send Lanie to her room for a time out, and as I'd walk past her doorway, there she sat at her work table, hunched over this book, working away.

Finally, a day came when she was ready to unveil it. She had colored every single page, front and back. Inside it, she wrote a story about pirates, princesses, and all things Mommy and Lanie.

"This is for you, Mommy," she said with halo grin. "I can read a page to you every night after we read Bible stories."

My heart was touched. She let me turn through the pages. Indeed, there were pirates and princesses. But mostly throughout the book were pictures of Mommy and Lanie. And written so carefully on nearly every page were these words "I love Mommy."

She wrote a book. For me. Dedicated to me. About us (except for the pirate part, unless I'm forgetting some stuff ... or I'm the pirate ... ???). And full of love.

I wish that I could offer up my own work so well. "This is for you, Lord" in all that I do in service and in thought. Lanie, you teach me so many valuable things!

Doing dishes

There were three very hungry bellies in my car this morning as we left the gym after Lanie's dance lesson. I picked up some fresh pizzas at a nearby store. Popped those pizzas in the oven when we got home and everyone silently, ravenously feasted ten minutes later.

Shane encouraged Lanie to take her dishes into the kitchen when she was finished. I was helping to clear the table and passed by Lanie and she tried to pass her plates off to me. "Keep it going," I said, pointing to the sink.

I unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher and began to load the dirty ones as Shane wrapped up leftover pizza. Then he starts taking the dirty dishes out of the dishwasher!

"Wha--?" I ask.

"You can't put that in there like that!" he says of the pizza cutter. "It's still got cheese on it."

It only had sauce on it. Really. All the plates that had cheese on them were taking a soak.

Then he starts taking out knives.

"There isn't any cheese on those knives," I said in defense.

"We might need them sooner than we run those dishes," he explained.

I started putting the sippy cups in the dishwasher. I hear deep sighing. I look at him and see him shaking his head in disapproval.

"I'm going to have to reorganize this, I see."

This is what I mean when I say he's orderly, neat and tidy. Some might say obsessive, compulsive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Symphony

There's a music that plays in my house at night. It wakes me frequently and nightly. It's a symphony of sorts. No one else seems to hear it but me:

Shane snoring.

Erin's midnight requests, "Mommy, more milky please!"

Lanie, her sleepy time conversations. This kid is a loud sleep talker. And occasional sleepwalker. I've found her closed in dark rooms I didn't put her in or standing in the middle of the kitchen or asleep on the couch.

These familiar sounds of my nighttime family have worn grooves into my mind that cause my sleep needle to skip. And that's pretty fine with me. How sad when I can finally sleep through the night again ... when my house is silent, my children grown, my heart still.

Bravo, my musicians, for your sweet music.

Encore! Encore!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The cost of vanity

So, Erin snapped my seven-year-old glasses in half a couple of weeks ago, and in a mad rush I took my husband and kids to the mall to get another pair.

I got a flexible kind of daily glasses, and a really hot pair of sunglasses. If I could wear the sunglasses all the time and not look odd, I would. But the daily ones, we weren't so thrilled with. I wanted the flexible kind for obvious reasons--but that really limited my selection. Luckily, the store had a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy. So we got them.

Shane didn't care for them after looking at me for about an hour.

Most other people didn't notice them.

The ones who did were polite.

But Denise, she rocked me with, "They're ok for the business world, but you should have something else for being a mom." Along those lines. And I thought, yeah, I feel like a stuffy suit without the suit. I want something that reflects being a happy mom of two kids who enjoys chocolate, long walks through the neighborhood and all the other fun stuff I get to do.

So today, we loaded everyone up and went back to the mall. We went to a different store and I tried on a wide selection of rimless glasses. Nothing was jumping out at me. I even tried on Sarah Palin's style. It looks great on her. Me, not so much. Then a woman came in the store just raving over her frames and how perfect and lightweight they are and practical for a mother of four boys. I looked at the sales guy, who pointed to another case.

We immediately found something I liked for my face and Shane liked to look at. So down to the first store to return my glasses. Back to the other store to push the sale through. But then, they delivered the punchline ... I mean, I know they were being serious, but I just had to laugh anyway. The glasses won't be ready for about two weeks. And they cost a million dollars.

"I'm not paying a million dollars," I said, thinking of the million things I have scheduled this week, and the pair of glasses I had that are now sitting in a return tray in another store.

"I'm sure there's something we can do," the manager said.

"Well, what can you do?" I ask. My children are fussing. We are done at this point. It would be another weekend before I could even think of trying on more frames. And now I'm left with wearing my very awesome and hot sunglasses all week long. This part is not so bad.

After some negotiating, I got it down to half a million dollars and half of the cost of the lenses. They threw in a rush order and some warranties against two year olds and democrats. I put down my deposit and we were out the door.

So yes, you will see me out and about looking very stylish in sunglasses: rain, shine, or night. And yes, vanity doesn't come cheap. It costs half a million dollars. Give or take.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pumpkin cake with streusel center

My sister-in-law is a fabulous cook. She wows us every year at Christmas with her delicious baking skills. I am lucky to get this dish all to myself since my husband is not a big fan of pumpkin.

For more great pumpkin recipes, visit www.lifeasmom.com.

Pumpkin Cake w/ Streusel Center

Streusel
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soft butter

Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup soft butter (not salt)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup of canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 cup sour cream (low fat)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease (w/ butter) & flour either a fluted cake pan or a loaf pan.

In a small bowl mix all streusel ingredients until crumbly.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar on med. (scrape sides down) until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mixing in between. Add pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla. Slowly beat in flour mixture on low until blended.

Spread half of the batter in prepared pan. Spread streusel over batter, making sure the streusel does not touch the sides of the pan. Top with the rest of the batter. Making sure the batter touches the sides of the pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 55 – 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack (about 1.5 hours).

You can frost with a cream cheese frosting or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Exclamation

I take Erin for a nap walk every day. Even in light rain. But yesterday was a very warm, sunny day. We went for our walk. I noticed her little body getting settled into a sleep position. Then all of the sudden she calls out with great joy and exclamation, "Mommy! Birds! Flying!"

I looked up into the sky and saw about 10-15 birds in flight. I let my breath be taken away for a moment and I felt her joy. What a sweet discovery ... and that it bubbled out of her so that she couldn't wait to share it with me.



Erin's pictured here with Bob the tomato, her new best bud.

Fluffy buns

For Lanie's breakfast yesterday, I made Fluffy Buns. They're actually popovers, but I wanted to give them a slightly more enticing name, taken from an episode of Pinky Dinky Do. These are good with jelly/jam, but I deviated from the norm and sprinkled mine with cinnamon sugar. And to top it off, I drizzled a 10x icing flavored with vanilla across them. It certainly had eye appeal to a kid! Maple flavoring would work just as well.

Fluffy buns

4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups whole milk (I used 2 percent), at room temperature
3 tbs vegetable oil

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt

cinnamon sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heavily grease muffin tins with butter.

In a bowl, mix first three ingredients together with a whisk. Then add flour and salt. Continue to whisk vigorously. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing evenly and filling to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 26-28 minutes. Don't open the oven door until they're done or they won't fluff correctly.

Pop them out of the muffin tin onto a cooling rack. Pierce each bun with a wooden skewer to allow steam to escape. Drizzle with homemade 10x icing to your heart's content. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

She's six



It's Lanie's birthday today. She's officially six. When I look at her face, she seems so big. But when I see pictures of her, she seems so young. "I'm so glad I had you first," I often say. She usually snuggles against me then, and smiles a halo smile.

For school, she's taking in Rice Krispie treats with sprinkles on top. And for Show and Tell, she's taking in a miniature pumpkin. We roasted pumpkin seeds with pumpkin pie spice on them for her to share with the class. She said, "I'll try one if Olivia does."

Olivia, eat the pumpkin seed.

I hope she has a special day. Shane's coming back today and will be home in time for dinner and cake. Friday she gets to take a friend to the mall for lunch and Build-a-Bear.

Happy birthday, my sweet pickle. I've had six great years of learning about you and trying to figure out how to be a good mom and role model for you. Thank you for keeping me on my toes, for developing a deeper sense of love, patience and understanding in me, for blessing me with your words and counsel--your insight sometimes takes me off guard. I love everything about you, sweet child. I'm a lucky mom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Little girl

My day began with two little ones snuggled up against me so that I couldn't roll over. After taking Lanie to school, and after tearing Erin away from the t.v. (she's hooked on Veggietales. She calls them beans. She wants to watch them over and over again.), I got Erin outside for fresh air and some play time. I also managed to get a few shots.

Like this.

And this.

And this.