Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
But he didn't forget about that kitten. Ben began planning and plotting. He was going to save up his money - money he had been planning to use to in the arcade the next time we visited our favorite pizza parlor - to buy it and bring it home. I kept putting him off "That's something we'd have to talk with Daddy about, sweetheart..." and the conversation never seemed to happen. We went back to the store the next week, and the kitten was still there. And Benjamin's dreams kept growing.
After the children were in bed at night, my husband and I talked it over. We never outright considered a cat, but we were sort of skirting around it. It was a flirtation, yet one we never expected to go anywhere.
But the other morning our conversation picked up momentum, and before we knew it, we were seriously discussing it. Should I call to see if the cat was even still there? Where would we put the litterbox? When might we go pick the cat up?
We stared at one another. "Are we seriously considering this?" we asked each other. We'd been pet-free for just a little over a year, after keeping two older cats the entire 13 years of our marriage. It had been a welcome change, both financially and in terms of home maintenance. But maybe...just maybe, it was time.
Yes, we had a baby. Yes, we had a toddler. But Elise would be toddling soon, too, God alone knows if or when a baby might join our family. Maybe there would never be a perfect time. And the thought of our kids' shining eyes, how much they would love a kitten - it drew us.
So I called the red store. And...the black-and-white kitten was gone.
My heart sank. I'd even begun to think of it as "Oreo."
When I informed my husband, we were both quiet for a few minutes. Then, it became evident that as we'd both turned our thoughts toward introducing a cat to our household, our own excitement had quickened. We even began to discussing the possibility of two kittens instead of one. In the end, Jeff found another country store with some kittens who needed a home. And so, that afternoon we loaded up the van and drove out as a family to meet them.
We didn't tell the boys where we were going - in case the kittens were already claimed when we arrived. It was just a surprise destination...an adventure. And even after we found the kittens sleeping in their cage, the children still had no idea that they'd actually be coming home with us.
As our family walked to the counter to inquire, Kyle spotted a small sign attached to their cage. "Children left unattended will be given a free kitten." His eyes grew large, and his step quickened. A free kitten! Could it be true?
And so, it was. Despite the fact that our little ones were not left unattended, we left the country store yesterday afternoon with not one, but two free kittens. Two gray, furry, blue-eyed little ladies have come home to join our household. They're a barrel of fun, and have already given us plenty of smiles.
I have the distinct feeling that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
I'll share the story of how they came to live here, soon. For now, sweet dreams to us all...
My biggest boy turned 8 years old on Saturday! He is such a sweet, sensitive fellow. Such a fun-loving, re-purposing, soccer-playing, wrestling fellow.
Eight years ago, his arrival made me a mother. With Benjamin's birth, my world was changed forever. I will never be the same...and I am so grateful.
I love you, Ben! Happy Birthday!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Last week I pieced together something which turned out to be the best experiment I've had in a long time. The chocolate-covered candy I made last year was good, but it seemed to be missing some vital element. Therefore, I went digging...and determined that the lacking note was a little thing called butterscotch.
I preferred to not use packaged butterscotch chips, so I poked around some more, and came up with a recipe for butterscotch sauce. It called for brown sugar, butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. I've found that Rapadura and Sucanat are excellent substitutes for brown sugar, so I decided to go for it. I used Sucanat which I had powdered for a few minutes in my food processor.
The butterscotch sauce turned out beautifully! As for the chocolate, I followed Kimi's recipe for a wonderful honey-sweetened, dark chocolate coating. As soon as the chocolate was ready, I mixed in my butterscotch sauce. I then stirred in the peanuts, and dropped them in clusters onto waxed paper, and chill. So easy!
And so delicious. They turned out far better than I ever imagined. Now, the only challenge will be making them last until our guests arrive next week!
I didn't measure all the amounts, but this is approximately what I used:
10 oz chocolate sauce
8-10 oz butterscotch sauce
3 cups peanuts
I will absolutely be making these again. Definitely homemade Christmas candy at its best!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
~Dr. James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys
(After I'd decided to post this, I realized that I've posted it before. But it's been more than two years, and frankly I feel it's work a re-post. As mothers, we have our hands full. But God gives us the grace we need, daily!)
Monday, December 13, 2010
I've gotta tell you (and yes, I know that I've told you before) that it is not always easy or comfortable to have my kids help me in the kitchen. I suppose it's a control thing. It's definitely related to the potential for mess. It's also a quality control issue. But I flatter myself that I'm getting better about this.
Besides, there are just times when you've got to just do it.
Now, Sally Fallon writes, in Nourishing Traditions, that her one exception to the "no white flour" rule is pie crust.
Personally, I choose sugar cookies.
I apologize for the blurriness!
Yes, all the frosting is yellow. That's the only food coloring I've been able to find locally, that I'm comfortable with using. But! Soon I want to order these food colors. I am so excited about them!
I used Wardeh's Basic Vanilla Frosting recipe, except that I substituted pastured butter for the coconut butter. The original recipe is amazing, but I found butter more convenient.
Color aside, our cookies turned out delish. I'm still using the Sugar-free "Sugar" Cookies recipe from My Year Without. So, so yummy, and no refined sugar at all!
Granted, there's refined flour. But once a year, I think it just may be worth it.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
...And so it was that Benjamin Wayne, firstborn son of a certain Jeff and Mindy, lost his very first tooth on December 12, 2010. The tooth came out a mere six days before his 8th birthday. It was the first tooth lost our offspring, and long anticipated.
And there was much rejoicing!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Ah, Christmas music. There's really nothing else like it, is there? Nostalgic, poignant. Happy, wistful, and yes, sometimes sad. Personally, I try to hold off on Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Well, let's make that until after Thanksgiving dinner. After that, it's a delirious festival of yuletide tunes, up until right around New Year's Day, when I screech to a halt, feeling hung over with the heaviness of evergreen branches and holly berries.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Because right now, this moment, my household is newly (re)awakened to the beauty (ethereal and otherwise) of Christmas music. And so, without further ado... not in any particular order, here are some of my dearest, most beloved Christmas songs. At the moment, anyway.
1) Precious Promise by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Do you know this song? Tender, honest, and poignant, it carries the fragile beauty of what was perhaps God's most "majestic whisper."
2) O Holy Night - covered by Selah. Breathtaking!
3) Joseph's Lullaby by MercyMe. A few years ago, hearing this song for the first time, I was reduced to tears - I could hardly see to drive home.
4) Going Home For Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman. This song always makes me think of my Grandma Oyer. The bridge makes me cry...every single time I hear it.
5) Christmas Offering by Casting Crowns. Yes!
6) Christmas Is All In The Heart by Steven Curtis Chapman. This wonderful season is not about having tons of money, the perfect tree, or opening presents. It's about "the love heaven gave" on that holy night. Here is a beautiful reminder of that truth.
7) O Come, O Come Emmanuel - covered by Selah. Hauntingly beautiful, the longing is palpable. May all Israel find her Messiah.
8) Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) by Amy Grant. So vulnerable and honest. I had the privilege of performing this song as a teenager, and it's meant a lot to me ever since.
9) Mary Did You Know. God's own Son, clothed in human skin. Incredible.
10) Worthy Is the Lamb That was Slain/Hallelujah by Handel, as performed by Twila Paris (and company) for the New Young Messiah album. Christmas? Easter? Does it matter? The line grows blurry for me here, because it's all part of the same amazing, beautiful, heartrending story. He came, He died, He rose. He is worthy!
Have Merry Christmastime!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
1) His new catch-phrase is "That gonna be fun!"
2) He has a fairly insatiable appetite for fruit.
3) He's very fond of his baby sister, though they rarely share an opinion on meaning of the word "fun."
4) He loves to sing his signature song, "Wah-Wah Day." No one has any idea what it means, but for Owen, it's what singing is all about.
5) He's so good at bedtime. Once we tuck him in, we never hear from him again until morning. He's been like this for ages...
6) He is now old enough for Sunday school, and he is so pleased & excited to go to his class every Sunday. Big boy!
7) He seems to have an imaginary friend. For months he's said things like "Where Dohda?" and "Dohda here, Mom." I had no idea what he was talking about, but recently I noticed him saying "No Dohda, no!" and "Dohda want take my Legos." When questioned, he revealed that Dohda is green. Also, he likes Dohda. So that's good...we've never had an imaginary personage in our home before, so this is totally new to us!
8) He doesn't nap anymore.
Well, except for the fact that about once a month I find him like this...
9) This boy would put together puzzles until the cows come home. Preferably puzzles with cows on them.
10) He's very fond of dogs, but whenever he pretends to be an animal, he always, always picks a "horsie."
Thursday, December 2, 2010
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, "diet" has the following definition(s):
b : habitual nourishment
c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight ;going on a diet;
Can I just stop here for a minute, and say how much I love definition 1.b? So great! But we won't even mention 1.d...except to say that I don't believe in that sort of diet - not anymore. That's a whole other post. Now on to the topic at hand...
My little one's "diet" is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. First of all, she adores vegetables. It's extremely unusual for her to turn up her nose at any kind of vegetable. She's not so keen on fruits, which is frankly just fine with me. Fruit is delicious, but from what I understand, it's a little overrated nutritionally. I'd much prefer that she eats a variety of vegetables.
Another great thing about Elise's culinary tastes is that she is very excited about meat! When I've given her pieces of roast, or fished out tender stew meat, it seems that she can't get enough of it. I am so pleased that she's falling in love with grass-fed meat at such an early age. I've found that I personally do better when there's more meat in my diet - both in terms of how I feel, as well as my weight, and I think a love of protein can only benefit my daughter. She's shown great interest in raw cheese, too - something our whole family adores.
Perhaps the most exciting development is that lately my baby has been very into lacto-fermented dill pickles! Fermented foods are something I've been slowly trying to incorporate more into our family's life, and I am just tickled pink that my wee little daughter has taken to them. I hope she continues to develop a love for foods that will truly enhance her health.
She does love the few grains I've given her so far - though I'm trying to keep those pretty limited, since grains are so difficult for babies to digest. All in all, she's simply keen on food.
We've been trying out the Child-Led Solids method when it comes to baby food this time around, and it is such a gift for this busy mama. Added bonuses are that it's kinder to our food budget (already a major priority every month), and it contributes to Elise's sense of herself as an individual in our family. For the first month or so, I (a formerly by-the-book mama) wasn't too certain, but I've grown to really love it.
And when I look at my daughter's budding love for real food, my heart fills almost to bursting. I'm so pleased with her open-minded approach to the human diet. What a little omnivore!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Me: washing dishes downstairs
Boys: getting ready for bed upstairs
Ben: yelling "Dad! Dad! Kyle has a game piece up his nose!"
Well, at least we got it out without a trip to the ER.
Ben afterwards: "Mrs. Shuell said in Grossology that we shouldn't stick things in our ears...I guess that goes for noses too!"
And then we all dissolved into giggles
Last weekend Jeff and I had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. It's fairly new, local, and cozy. I'd heard really good things about the food, and we'd been wanting to try some of their fare. It was simply wonderful! And while I don't really see us taking the whole family (small space, restless toddler, picky eaters...), I have a feeling that Jeff and I will be back again soon. Anyway, while we were there, we had an interesting conversation.
Basically, I think I'm finally becoming acclimated.
It's been almost 10 years since Jeff and I packed up our stuff, and, in January 2001, said goodbye to the only place we've really ever known. We moved from Kansas (a state where we both loved living) and moved to Oregon...and the unknown.
It's funny in retrospect that, in spite of the major change we were about to experience, I had no inkling of any "transplant" issues. At least, I don't remember any. I remember thinking of it as a big adventure - a surprising response for an introvert like myself. But there you go. When people would ask me, "Why Oregon?" I would just smile with assurance and say "That's where God seems to want us."
And it was! With amazing speed, He threw open the doors, and before you could say "cross-country move," we were in the Pacific Northwest.
It rains here in January. It rains a lot.
Yes, it was exciting. Finding a place to live, finding a church, starting to put down roots. But there were major growing pains. The weather was a huge change. But even more than that was the culture shock. Let's just say that liberal Portland is a pretty big departure from the Bible belt.
So yeah, it's taken a while to grow accustomed to our new place.
But something in my spirit seems to be shifting. I'm quite sure that that, 10 years ago, I never would've suggested a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. I'm growing accustomed to the landscape, the mentality, the people...perhaps (just perhaps!) even the weather. This autumn, when the rains began, I found myself burrowing down. Grateful for my warm, dry house. Grateful for an excuse to cuddle my little ones.
Over the plates of hummus, pita, and lamb pies, I told my husband that I was actually kind of enjoying the rain this autumn. It makes things seem...cozy.
He stared at me, jaw dropped. But I stood by the word I'd chosen. Yes...cozy. Though it may be cold and wet outdoors, our homelight - our love - burns bright. And so, I do say that, this year, the rain lends a cozy feeling to my home.
But please, don't quote me on that come January...
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
While I don't necessarily consider Maya Angelou a spiritual giant, something about this statement resonates with me. Possibly it's because I endured a betrayal this year, by someone I had formerly considered a friend. But at the risk of sounding blithe, what would Jesus say?
Is this attitude wise? Prudent? Discerning?
Or does it fail to allow for God's grace? Heaven knows we all need it.
As far as forgiveness goes, there's no doubt in my mind about that. Forgiveness is always, always God's will. But at what point is it appropriate to end a relationship? To say, "This person clearly isn't trustworthy. S/he is dangerous to my emotional health."
I don't have any answers here; I'm still trying to figure this out in my own mind. So, what do you have to say about it? I covet your thoughts, truly.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
...the fact that I told my 2-year-old to go upstairs, take off his wet things, put them in the diaper pail, put on clean briefs, and he did it.
...my daughter's smile.
...the fact that I got both pie crusts for Thanksgiving dinner rolled out and into the pans just seconds before the baby woke up from her nap.
...the fact that my son loves books so much that he followed me through the store the other day while reading his new book.
...the safe travel we've enjoyed over the years.
...my warm, dry home.
...the fact that my parents, and my husband's parents, are still married to each other.
...my wonderful family.
...the wonderful family I married into.
...the sacrifice that Jesus made, and the knowledge that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Together in the rocking chair
The house so quiet
She and I alone awake
Relaxing, her little body a sigh
Eyes closing again, a gentle tugging
Her tiny hand lightly running along my forearm
And back again
As if to reassure herself that even in the dark
I, as familiar as her own skin, am here
Holding her, snug on my lap
We are warm
Relaxing, together, in this dark quiet time
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The other day I spoke with a woman, and in the course of our conversation, she referred to herself as "chubby." I'm telling you, friends, this lady did not have ten pounds to lose. I would describe her as willowy...slender...slim. But she didn't see herself that way. Not at all.
For the past few months I've been mulling over the issue of women, weight, and society. The subject came up because the women's Bible study group I'm part of is doing Beth Moore's Esther study. It is phenomenal. The full title is "Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman."
And boy, is it ever. Especially when we measure ourselves against society's standard instead of God's.
In the study book, she talks about the young girls gathered in Persia (Esther 2). They're described as "beautiful." So...beautiful. Young. And then what? They're given 12 months of beauty treatments. Bear in mind that these young ladies were already beautiful. They weren't the girls who needed "help." Alright...maybe they could've benefited from a new hairstyle. Perhaps their feet were a bit calloused...everybody can use a nice foot soak, right? But really...12 months? It seems rather excessive.
Perhaps the Persians suffered from the same quest for perfection which we modern women do. There is such pressure on us: often pressure we heap upon our own over-processed heads.
So, when I heard the word "chubby," that day, I immediately thought, "Why are we so cruel to ourselves?"
This is not a foreign concept to me. I've been plenty cruel to myself over the years. When I lost 60 lbs from 1998-2000, I did it through cruelty. I deprived myself. I didn't let myself eat anything that was truly delicious. And worst of all, I was mean. I called myself names. If I slipped up on my diet, I was merciless. No personal trainer could've shamed me more than I shamed myself.
And that's been so much a part of my relationship with my body, with food. When I "messed up," I would shame myself. If I wasn't the size I wanted to be, I would shame myself. Maybe if I was ashamed enough, I would shape up. Maybe if I was ashamed enough, I would behave myself.
It worked, sometimes. But the thing is, it didn't really work, not in any way that counts. Because in treating myself that way, I devalued myself. I treated myself like something - a thing - which must be beaten into submission. Instead of what I am: a vessel shaped by the hands of the Potter.
Health is important. Absolutely. America is in a health crisis. We need to seek health, to take care of these bodies we live in here on earth...no doubt about it.
Still. Let's learn to be kind to ourselves. To love ourselves. Let's give ourselves some grace. For the sake of our children, let's be gentle with ourselves. Ladies, I challenge you to go stand in front of a mirror. Start at the top, and spend some time thanking the Lord for his wonderful creativity. The way He created our eyelashes. How our joints work. The intricacy of the human hand. Thank Him for the way your body has supported your children - both before and after they were born. Thank Him for the ability to hold hands, stroke a cheek, embrace someone you love.
With all their "flaws," our bodies are amazing.
There's nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. Accentuating your best features. Playing to your strengths. Yes, be healthy. Nourish yourself.
But please...accept who you are a precious child of God, exactly the way you are. Right now, in this moment. Not a few pounds down the road. Not just before you had the baby. But right now.
Sister, you are loved. Cherished, precious, exactly as you are. You can rest in that promise.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
...your son says he wants a Nintendo DS to help him learn Roman numerals.
...you find the thought of leaving the house on more than one weekday morning utterly exhausting.
...you love the idea of scheduling school terms around your calendar.
...you take an abacus along when you visit Grandma and Grandpa's house.
...the kids get a day off when mom is sick.
...you sometimes turn on "Sid the Science Kid," and call it Science.
...you hope and pray that your kids will finish their Reading chapter before the baby wakes up from her nap.
...you have an Educator's Library Card in your purse, even though your profession is "homemaker."
...you can take the gang to have lunch out, even though it's the middle of the week.
...you get excited about ordering curriculum.
...your kids get excited when you declare a Game Day, even if it's math games.
...you're always keeping an eye out for caterpillars.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I'm from celebrating our close birthdays with my grandma. Two days apart. Sweet times.
I'm from sharing a bedroom with my brother when I was little. Living across the street from a small college campus, where we explored, pushed a stroller, and rode bikes. Attending campus worship.
I'm from moving twice during elementary school. New towns, schools, churches, friends. I'm from finding a Christian girl in my 5th grade homeroom class, who had also just moved, and whose name rhymed with my own. Blessed to have her as one of my oldest friends.
I'm from the plains. Wide open skies. The most spectacular watercolor sunsets. Rolling hills. The feeling of breathing deep in the open air.
I'm from a town with only one stoplight. I'm from it being a big deal with we got a McDonald's. I'm from a graduating class of 100, in a town populated by 4000 people. The Tulip Festival. Octoberfest. The Dutch Mill, the Independence Day Parade. Town pride.
I'm from comfort food. Meatloaf, casseroles. Potato-cheese soup. I'm from regular desserts. Whoopie pies. Chocolate cake. Butterscotch brownies, No-Bake Cookies in the summertime. Too many cookies to name, really.
I'm from the choir. Sixth grade. Junior High. High School. College. Church. I'm from the drama department. Willingly staying in the chorus. Loving the excitement of performing without the responsibility of a speaking part.
I'm from playing the recorder, the piano, and the trumpet...for a while, anyway.
I'm from keeping two guinea pigs. A cocker spaniel. Two cats. But rarely more than one kind of animal at a time.
I'm from playing with dolls. Generic, Cabbage Patch, Barbie. Birthday parties with my friend for a "baby's" birthday, complete with cupcakes. Writing novellas to chronicle the happenings in my Barbie-people's lives. Intricate storylines.
I'm from giving my heart to the Lord after hearing Luis Palau speak at a nearby convention. Having waited to commit until I knew it to be my own faith, I went down for the altar call. Saved at 13.
I'm from keeping diaries. Hearbreaks, hopes. Happy times, times of bitter loneliness. Circles dotting the "i"s and flourishes on the "y" of my name. Thrills, growing pains.
I'm from having God's hand on my life, whether I knew He was there or not.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
~I just searched my old blog posts in hopes of finding out when Owen got his first tooth. I still have no idea.
~Finally made these Pumpkin Cake Bars, and then I could not stop talking about how yummy they were.
~My daughter does not yet have a baby book.
~Contrary to what one might think, I do not love doing homeschooling. I'm not one of those people who just longs to be with my kids 24/7. But the thing is, I believe in homeschooling. And what's more, I feel a definite call to homeschool. So for me, it's more about obedience and the greater good, than the other things.
~I send my children outside to play, as much for my own well being as for theirs.
~Recently, I caught my baby trying to eat a dead spider. (shudder)
~I have been sucked into watching the farewell season of Oprah.
~After years of teasing my husband for his love of podcasts, I have inherited his iPod, and am now hooked on listening to broadcasts from Cheeseslave.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Yes, as of last weekend, our pretty little darling is a whole three-quarters of a year old. At 9 months, she is...
...army crawling. She gets around pretty good, and while her method doesn't exactly keep her belly clean, it seems to suit her.
...crazy about vegetables! She'll eat almost any vegetables, but is fairly selective about fruit. Hey, I'll take it.
...adored by her brothers. And it's totally mutual.
...so happy that people rarely believe me when I say she needs a nap.
...a master crumb-finder. This girl explores the dining room, lingering under the table in hopes of finding debris from her brothers' meals. She's often successful. If there is food on the floor, Elise will zero in on it.
...not afraid to tell her big brothers when she'd had enough.
...still not keen on spending time in the car, but it's getting better.
...sleeping a delicious 10 or 11 hours without eating at night - and then sleeping a couple of hours more before she's up for the day.
...undeniably, absolutely, super excited about the fact that her first Christmas is coming up.
Oh wait...maybe that's just me.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Ben relished a chance to help Grandpa with the firewood.
Owen was quite taken with their new puppy, Cookie. I think it's safe to say the feeling was mutual.
The boys had a fun wrestle time with Grandpa...
Elise had the requisite sink bath...
...oh, and I did I mention that most of us had the flu while we were there? Good times. But...Grandma made chicken soup, and Jeff took care of the sad, sick little boys while I was sick in bed, myself. We could see God's blessings through it all (for example, the baby slept through a lot of nighttime angst) , and we survived.
So that's it: a taste of our visit to Idaho, our home away from home. Without the germs we unintentionally brought along as a hostess gift...