Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Novice, expert ... master

Lanie got Bop-it for Christmas, which turned out to be her very favorite thing. In fact, it was a hit with everyone, including Erin. We all took turns, Erin's high score being five, and the rest of us, different scores. However, I maintained high score and gleefully, obnoxiously gloated it over everyone. You couldn't turn Bop-it on without being reminded of my high score, after which it was announced, I would announce it in egotistical echo, "Thirty-nine!"


And then, the jewel, "One hundred!"

Which became a slight taunt to everyone who had to follow me. By the end of our Christmas weekend, my one hundred had reached all-caps, smiling pride.


My one hundred unlocked the next level of expert. It gets really confusing at expert, and Lanie followed the commands better than my decaf brain did. So I let her run with it. While I managed a meager twenty-one at expert, she was climbing the ranks until to her great surprise, just minutes ago, she reached the coveted master level.

"One hundred!" said Bop-it.

"One hundred!" squealed Lanie, not unlike her mama.

Bop-it said, "Novice, expert," Lanie pushed the button once more to hear, "Master."

"Master," she echoed. I could hear the power surge.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's a wonderful life

Looking at Christmas lights after the Christmas Eve service; delivering cinnamon rolls and staying for a visit; decorating a lopsided gingerbread tree; kids eager to go to sleep in anticipation for morning; watching a classic movie till way too late and feeling tears sting my eyes over happiness; coffee brewing; Lanie surveying gifts under the tree; Erin's, "It's too many presents!"; competing for the high score on Bop-It; increasing fog and nowhere to go; an afternoon in pajamas; too much chocolate; lots of hugs and kisses; watching movies back to back and playing games; homemade pizza for dinner; being unhurried; feeling full.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Left brain vs right brain

The kids have been looking at a couple of gifts under the tree for about two weeks, brought over by their "grandparents" who visited on Erin's birthday. We were going to have them wait until Christmas to open them, but this morning, I changed my mind and let them open up the presents today.

Inside one box were several goodies, including two cute kits to make pom-pom creatures. The craft was on.

Lanie turns to her dad for help. I helped Erin.

Picture this: Lanie waiting patiently next to her dad as he reads the directions on the packaging. I hear words like "1-inch pom, 2-inch bump chenille, small piece chenille stem." And I look over briefly to see Shane searching the bag for the supplies to line up, directions in hand.

On the other side of the counter, Erin and I have spilled out the contents of the bag and are looking at the pictures, gluing and stacking pom poms and eyes and twisting pipe cleaners into shapes. We had three creatures made before Shane was even done arranging supplies.

I laughed at how our brains work.


We have played a game called "Grump Alert" these past two days. It was kind of fun the first day, but not so much the next. If someone is grumpy, someone else can call out "grump alert" as a light-hearted warning to cut it out. As if it were really that easy. And because we had even created this (lame) game, should give you a glimpse at what's been living in our house uninvited. I was not immune.

"If you could change anything about me, what would it be?" I asked Lanie as we sorted through a pile of laundry. I was feeling bad about my own grumpiness.

"Nothing," she said, looking at me straight on.

"No, really. Anything you want, what would you change?" I prepared myself for the worst.

"I wouldn't change anything about you," she said. "I like you just the way you are."

Grumps and all. Humbling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spending the holidays with Mr. Cookie Baker

Who didn't bake cookies this weekend? Well, technically we didn't. But I did prep the dough after reading Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington. We did a library run before the big snow came and I'm glad I grabbed this book. At the end, they list four different cookie recipes. We tried "Mr. Cookie Baker's Sugar Cookies." I'm going to guess Mrs. Wellington doesn't want me posting her recipe for sugar cookies, so you'll either have to go read the book to your three year old, or Google a sugar cookie recipe.

I recommend using parchment paper. Our first batch was glued to the pan and a huge disappointment. The second batch (with parchment paper) was lovely and made me change my mind about sugar cookies.

Homemade icing, sprinkles, and two helpers and we were ready to go.

Still, as much as I like cookies, I'm glad cookie season is almost over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

66 Books 2009

I finished up my last post for the year on 66 Books. A year ago I didn't consider what the finish line would look like: Christmas lights glowing in the corner, cup of tea on my left and Bible on my right, quiet house (except for my occasional coughing fits). Almost a year ago, I wondered who'd join me and how it would happen and what it would look like and who would read it. I didn't know then the new writers who'd join us mid-year. I didn't know of the kinks that would have to be worked out. Or how I would feel when I scheduled my last post for the year.

I loved where 66 Books took me. So much that I don't want to stop. As the year end approached, I actually felt like something very big would be missing from my life and I didn't want to see it end. Not only have I enjoyed the insight from so many others, but I have come to cherish my time getting closer and closer to holy words--and the God behind them. This whole process has caused me to slow down to listen.

There's a part of me that's kinda sad this year is over. Fourteen of us wrote over the course of a year and I am so moved by their commitment. Some have decided to join me again next year, and we'll have new voices blogging with us too. And while it's the same book, it's guaranteed to be a completely different journey.

I still have some openings. Anyone interested in writing can comment here or email 66booksinayear (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The worst day ever

According to Lanie this is the worst day ever, and I just might have to agree. Head cold that morphed into cough and fever. But it doesn't stop there: pink eye in both eyes. And it doesn't stop there, but I do because the horror is too great. Spent the day trying to get from doctor to pharmacy. Fortunately, my husband decided to help out and get the prescription for us as Lanie sat tearfully in the car wailing, "I just can't get out. Please take me home."

And so I did.

Loads of laundry. Tylenol. Popsicles. And at dinner she ate. As bedtime approached, her fear and anxiety grew at the thought of getting eye drops.

"This is the worst day of my whole life!" she cried. And I believed her. I tried my very best to calm her fears.

"I wish I could just drink the medicine. Why does it have to go in my eyes?"

I told her that her doctor prescribed the best medication for pink eye. That she would feel better, but she would have to take the drops.

"How long?" she asked. Wailed, actually.

"Three times a day for seven days," I said.

"Oh!" she said in great relief. "I'm so glad it's not a week!" And somehow I managed not to laugh. Just smiled and held her close.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie swap

For the past five or six years, I have looked forward to the Christmas cookie swap. It started out much differently in the beginning, and has morphed its way into a luncheon. I see the benefits of bigger gatherings and smaller gatherings, but when time is such a precious commodity, the smaller gatherings allow me longer time with friends.

Shane usually takes Lanie to the movies, and next year Erin will probably join them on their outing. But today, she was my little helper. She entertained Denise for much of the swap, until cookies actually started being transferred, and then she was there with chocolate smeared face, eyes at table/plate level, asking for more.

This year I made Oreo truffles, which are super easy. A friend graciously made some for me over the summer, and I've been hooked since. And she's such a good friend, she gave me the recipe.

Oreo Truffles

One package of reduced fat Oreos
One package of reduced fat cream cheese (eight ounces)

Chocolate chips.

In a food processor, add entire package of cookies and the block of cream cheese. Process till combined. Form into balls and put on a wax paper lined tray. Freeze.

Later, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Drop balls, one at a time and using two forks, turn to coat with chocolate. Set on waxed paper. Freeze or refrigerate. Put in mini muffin cups or arrange on a plate.

I also had cream of crab soup--a recipe from another friend who makes incredible soups. (Wow, I'm so lucky to know people who can cook--and are generous to share their secrets with me!) Funny, though, I think I got some of the measurements wrong now that I look at the recipe, but it still turned out good.

Cream of Crab Soup

4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs flour
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs dry mustard
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
cayenne pepper

4 cups milk
1 lb crab meat
3 tbs sherry

Saute onion and garlic in butter for about five minutes. Add flour and spices to make a blonde roux. When roux is ready, add milk and stir, bring just to a boil. Add crab meat and bring back to a boil. Immediately add sherry and remove from heat. Adjust salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chives or parsley. (I skipped this last part because I didn't have chives or parsley and there are only so many times my husband will cheerfully run out and get a missing ingredient.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mini fete

Erin turns three on Friday, but we had a mini party with some of her Wednesday playdate friends. She wanted a My Little Pony cake--my artistic abilities are limited to drawing a Bob the Tomato. I wanted a candy cane cake (because my artistic abilities are limited to drawing a Bob the Tomato). So I improvised (chocolate cupcakes, white icing, crushed candy canes, and a little pony figurine on top of Erin's cupcake).

Thought we were not going to have a party with the snow and sleet the night before. But woke to rain and melting snow, so that was good. We decorated gingerbread men cookies as a craft. One candy on the cookie, and handful in the mouth--and that was the kids, not me. One friend who couldn't make it asked me what our theme was: uh, sugar.

They turned out really cute.

But the singing was the best part for me. I love the look on her face.

After some playing, she comes up to me and whispers, "Mama, can I open my presents now?"

Too cute. I love her.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

As good as it gets

Lanie mentioned to Shane that I did a double workout today of treadmill and the balance ball lower body workout. He looks at me.

"How'd that feel?" he asks.


"Well, I thought I would feel a lot happier after having done it. The treadmill part wasn't so bad, but a few of those exercises made me wish there weren't so many reps. And when it was all done, I felt really cranky," I say. I left out the part about how chocolate has a much more positive effect on my mood than exercise. "I thought I was supposed to feel happy."

"Well your happy feelings are forty years old now," he says. Like that's supposed to make sense.

"What does that mean?"

"It means: this is as good as it gets."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spicy Italian soup

Dare I ever trust a recipe to my hard drive again?

This was a tasty soup a friend brought over one day. I'm always wowed when people make good soups because mine generally turn out rather bland. I assure you, this one isn't. I made a big pot of it today and stuffed myself to button popping between two bowls of it and lots of slices of homemade buttered bread. Delicious!

Spicy Italian Soup

1 pkg (approximately one pound) of hot Italian sausage (I use turkey sausage), casings removed
garlic, minced (I used one enormous clove)
1 medium onion, chopped

Brown all together. Chunk up sausage. Drain fat.

1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste (which I did not have and omitted with no ill effects)
1 (or 2) cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
16 ounces of beef broth

Stir all together.

Add: carrots, cabbage and fresh green beans

Add to taste: pesto sauce (I used 1 teaspoon), pepper, basil (I didn't use)

I let it simmer on the stove while the bread rose and then baked. Served everything piping hot.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First flakes 2009

No sooner had I hit publish on my last post did I hear, "Mom! It's snowing!" followed by Erin's "Can I put my boots on and go out?" So we put on shoes and coats and went out for the novelty of the season's first flakes. Funny how the second the kids got out, tongues stuck out to catch flakes. It must be intuitive.

Erin; Erin's puppies watching from inside; Lanie

The kids decided they really did want to play outside. So back inside to get hats and gloves. Later, snow pants for sliding down the playset slides. After a good hour, they were ready to come in for hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Happily playing together inside with rosy cheeks and warm bodies. And outside, it's really coming down--rooftops and lawns covered. Sure is pretty.

Lanie; more snow; Erin catching flakes


Barely light in the room because of overcast skies and rumor of snow. A squirmy girl rolls over and looks into my eyes.

"Morning, Mama," she says and I smile, pulling her close. "Let's go downstairs!"

"Let's cuddle a few more minutes," I whisper and she burrows against me momentarily. A tap, tap on my shoulder and I turn to see Lanie smiling.

"Lanie!" Erin squeals. Our day is started. Shane rolls over to happy chatter.

"How many more days till Christmas, Daddy? Twenty or twenty-one?" Lanie asks. "Guess who we prayed for in the prayer chain last night?"

Erin climbs out of bed holding two Noonoos and three "puppies," walks over to the monkey we got at the zoo and squeezes his belly.

Screech, screech, screech responds its voice box. Again and again. Over and over.

"Seems fitting," I murmur of our little zoo. I love Saturdays.

Downstairs to start breakfast. Turn on Christmas tree lights. Scrambled eggs. Juice. I steal away to write and look out the window. And snow is falling.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My favorite heart

I love twos and threes. Oh, I just love them all. I love watching a personality emerge, along with all the likes and dislikes, the eccentricities, all of it. It's really cool to watch a person bloom.

Erin's going to be three next week, and honestly, the time flew by. I always say that. But it did. And I just want to write down every single minute of this wonderful, the softness of her skin, the tinkle of her giggle, the fun of her imagination.

Tonight, I don't know how I did it, but I broke a pair of scissors while cutting some flowers for a vase. Erin pipes up, "I'll fix it, Mama!" And she pulls a chair over to climb up and assess the situation.

Or at the playground today when the twisty slide freaked her out and she wouldn't go down it until her big sister demonstrated how fun it was. Then I spent the next forty-five minutes watching her go down the slide, and it could have lasted forever and I wouldn't care.

Or how she has a stuffed elephant, a plush puppy and Lanie's Webkinz pony and calls them all her puppies. She carries them around everywhere, her Noonoo blankets saved in bed for sleeping times only now.

Or lately as she recounted over and over about the scary monster in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. She said she wouldn't care about the monster if she saw the movie again, it wouldn't scare her. But she curled in closer to me anyway.

After dinner, she said to me quite unexpectedly, "You're my favorite girl, Mama. I mean, you're my favorite heart." And then I chased her down and covered her in kisses until my lips hurt.

The highest compliments I've ever been paid have been as a mother. And I cherish each one.