Saturday, March 31, 2012

his needs

Here is Gabriel.  He's my little sweetheart.

Now that he's three months old, I'm figuring some things out about him.  Besides the obvious, of course: he is pretty stinking adorable.

This little guy is a social creature.  Oh yes, it's true.  He wants to be where the action is.  He'd prefer to be held, and if he's not being held, then he'd like someone to sit with him, please.  He is definitely not into playing alone.  This dude isn't interested in solitude at all.

In many ways, he reminds me of a certain older brother.  An older brother who wears his heart on his sleeve. When these guys are happy, they're full of charm and smiles.  But when they're upset, then everyone knows about it.  I'm talking the whole neighborhood.  Possibly the whole city.  In fact, if you've heard a baby screaming recently, there's a good chance it was him.

I know, he doesn't look like he's got it in him.  But trust me, he does.

And so, our family is learning how to function around Gabe's needs.  His needs for tons of interaction, and company. The fact that he is decidedly a people person.  I've been doing more babywearing lately, which has helped.  Although, considering his tendency to spit up, it's a little bit of a gamble.  If I face him in, I get creamed.  If I face him out, there are fairly good odds that I'll have to re-make someone's sandwich for lunchtime.

Lately we've been doing our math on the floor in the play area.  The baby grins and kicks his feet, tolerates tummy time and generally ignores his toys, while the older boys and I discuss multiplication strategies and how to find something's area.  But he's likes that we're there with him.

We are figuring it out.  It hasn't always been easy, but we're getting there.  Now I just need to figure out how to orchestrate things so that the older boys are able to talk to him, read to him, play with him and generally entertain him while I fix breakfast.  As well as lunch.  And dinner.

'Cause this guy doesn't want to miss a thing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

my darlin'

I'm afraid this this bubbly beauty may not end up with a clever name after all.  The simple fact is, I just automatically refer to her as Darlin'.  

"And how are you today, Darlin"?"

"There you go, Darlin'.  Eat your flour and be happy!"

"Good morning, Darlin'! You're looking refreshed!"

You get the idea.  I'm afraid, that, even if I do give her an official name, she may always be Darlin' to me...  Oh dear.   Perhaps I should try referring to her as Clementine?

Incidentally, I loved this post today from Kelly the Kitchen Kop: The BEST No-Knead Sourdough Bread and Why Sourdough is the Best Bread You Can Eat.  It shares a little bit about why sourdough is so wonderful. (And yes, that is the recipe I use.  I make a lovely round loaf of sourdough at least twice a week.  We love it.)  As for me, I'm smitten!  In case you hadn't noticed.

I don't call just anyone Darlin', you know.

who's who answers!

It's finally time for the answers to the question posed by this post: Who's Who?  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's my answer in image form:

Top left: Kyle
Top right: Owen
Bottom left: Gabriel
Bottom right: Ben

First congratulations go to the grandmas, who positively nailed it.   dtalley also guessed correctly, and a number of you got them about half correct.  And half right is nothing to sneeze at - they are all brothers, after all!

Thanks for playing!

Monday, March 26, 2012

sourdough kick

I am on a huge sourdough kick lately.  Huge.

To quote my husband, "[I am] one sourdough maniac."

But don't let him fool you; he's been loving it, I promise.

So far, we've enjoyed bread, pancakes, waffles, and pizza crust.  Next up?  English muffins.  But I think that one's going to require a little extra adult support (in regard to the children).

I think I'm finally getting this thing with the starter.   Ever since I got this new starter, it has seemed totally healthy and happy.  Which makes me happy.  I just love seeing it bubble and grow.  Pretty much everything I've made has been a big hit with the family, and I'm having a lot of fun experimenting.  

In case, you're interested, here's a list of the recipes we've tried (and approved!) so far.

This recipe is so easy.  It only takes a few ingredients, and it requires absolutely no kneading - just some careful timing.  I don't even have a dutch oven, I just use a heavy ceramic casserole with a lid. It works great! We love this recipe; I make it at least twice a week.   I've even played with the wheat/white flour ratio a bit, and it works great with mostly wheat flour.  

Seriously awesome.  It just requires a little kneading the morning before you want to make your pizza, and the dough is so pleasant and easy to work.  The whole family adored this pizza, it's our new favorite.  And they've always liked the crust I made.  

An instant hit.

My family has always loved the soaked, whole wheat pancakes I've always made.  I'd also heard a few reports of people not liking the sourer version, so I was very unsure of how these would go over.  However, I was thrilled to discover that everyone loved them.  Every. Single. Person.  Score!

We tried these for the first time this week, and they were delicious.  No leftovers whatsoever.  Another great option when I don't have time to soak waffle batter the night before, or just feel like something different.  A definite winner!

Several of these recipes (and more I'm planning to try) came from my friend Wardeh's fabulous website, GNOWFGLINS.  Wardeh has also put together a collection of sourdough recipes: Sourdough A to Z. It's just been bumped up on my list of Books I Want to Buy.  I just know it'd be a boon to anyone dabbling in sourdough.

I hope you enjoyed my list!  And no, I have not yet officially named my starters.  Suggestions are still being taken, so please do share if you'd like.  My darlin' definitely needs a moniker here.  I can't keep referring to her (and her infrequently-used, pale-faced sister) as "Hey you," now, can I?


Friday, March 23, 2012

mommy confessions

~While sitting on a chair in a circle at Bible study this week, I was dismayed to discover my left shoe splattered with spit-up.  Not surprising, but still a bit embarrassing... I guess Gabe and I both need our shoes scrubbed.

~I started to read one of my Jane Austen books, but then I decided I currently just don't have enough time and/or brainpower to do that right now.  You can't read Jane Austen half a page at a time.  At least, I can't.

~I kind of hate Legos.

~I have instituted a little thing called Lunch in the Living Room.  About once a week, the children get to have lunch while watching a video, and I dine alone (or with the baby on my lap) at the dining room table.  They love it, and a quiet lunch now and then works wonders for my sanity!

~At this point in my life, it is infinitely more fun to shop for and dress my daughter, than myself.

~I am obsessed with limes.  Which are definitely not local fare...  I would also kill (figuratively speaking!) to have a lemon tree in my back yard.  But no, I don't want to move to California or Florida.

~Sometimes, an hour or so away from Lunch in the Living Room, I'll look longingly at the laptop and call out, "Pinterest, I'm coming for you!"

~Tuesdays are hard.  I cry almost every week on the way to Bible study.

~I like to make homemade fudge.  And then smear peanut butter on top of it for even more decadence.

~Somehow, I am both anticipating and dreading the spring and summer months.  Don't ask me to explain it.  I think it has to do with having more skin showing during the warmer seasons.

~My 3-month-old spends 2/3 of his naptime in the swing.

~It's surprisingly effortless to come up with a dozen or so confessions at this stage in my life  Somehow that doesn't frighten me as much as it ought to...

~I think I may have another sanguine on my hands.  I just don't know if I can handle another sanguine in my life just now.  They're great fun and all, but man do they ever like to talk... And boy are they boisterous!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

who's who?

It's that time again!  Are you up for a challenge?  This time there's not even any pink to clue you in.  Can you tell which of these 3-month-old baby boys are Ben,Kyle, Owen, and Gabriel?

Go on.  Give it your best shot.  You know you want to.

Answers to come soon(ish)!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a nap and a prayer

When I first became a mother, I did a lot of praying.

I prayed for my baby's health, of course.  I prayed that he would be protected from that terrifying thing referred to as SIDS.  I prayed that I would know what to do, how to guide him, the ways to best protect him from the horrors of the world.

And I did a lot of praying that involved sleep.  I prayed for good nighttime sleep - for myself and for my little boy.  But possibly the thing I prayed most urgently about was naps.

"Lord," I'd say when he was obviously tired and fussy, but fighting sleep, "Could you please help him to nod off soon?  He needs it so badly, and I need it too, Lord.  It could only be good for both of us."  And then when he was asleep, I'd pray that he would sleep longer than the mere 45 minutes he was fond of.  "Please, Lord, please.  Could you help him to have a longer nap this time?  Please, please?"

I'm ashamed  to admit that when I didn't see the results I'd hoped for from these prayers, I sometimes felt bitter.  I wondered, what would it have hurt anything if the baby had napped for 90 minutes instead of 45?  Why couldn't he...and I...have had a little more time?  Why?

I suppose there must've been times when the Lord smiled down with amusement at my little displays.  As a new mother, I suppose I was pretty immature - at least occasionally.  Don't get me wrong: I still pray about naps.  And bedtime.  And sleep in general, along with a myriad of other things which may not seem to hold any eternal significance.  But over the years I've realized a few things.  They may not be incredibly brilliant: I'm sure that those experienced mamas out there will find this post rather unoriginal.  But back then I didn't really "get it."

'Cause it's not about the sleep.

Those nap times, those frustrating nights, had other purposes aside from my child's rest.  They grew my compassion for struggling moms, for one thing.  After all, an exhausted mother loves exhausted company....or at least an empathetic ear. And those days helped to keep me humble.  If one's child does exactly as one wants him to, it's easy to begin to take all the credit.   They taught me, eventually, that children are amazingly unique.  And that when I do find that I have a stellar sleeper, I should be very, very thankful.

Finally, those times of frustrating imperfection built my character.  They taught me, in their own mundane way, that God can be counted on even when His answer is "no."  They showed me that I could survive under less than perfect circumstances, and my children will survive too.  They showed me that God, in his ultimate fatherhood, loves me even through my silly little displays of temper...just as I love my children through theirs.

So pray on, tired mama.  It's okay.  You may even want to stomp your foot a bit at times.  God gets it.  He can handle it.  And He may even teach you something through it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

what do you suggest?

Here's the thing:  I want to give my sourdough starter a name.  Don't worry, I haven't gone off the deep end.  It's a done thing, apparently.  I spent an amusing period of time the other night, reading different names people have chosen for their starters.  It was hilarious.  There was a pair of starters named Herman and Lily Munster.  And one guy mentioned a starter which had revived, against all odds, again and again.  Its name? Lazarus.

I thought I'd see if you lovely readers have any suggestions for me.   But please do consider that I tend to think of my starter as a she.  When I croon sweet words as I give it a stir, I see it as a female entity.  After all, starters are always having babies.  Just something to keep in mind...

A few ideas I'm tossing around: Punky, or Punky Brewster.  I am considering keeping a wheat flour starter and a white flour starter, in which case I think Goodness and Mercy, respectively, could be fun.

So, any thoughts?  I'm very open to suggestions.  What do you think would be a good name (or names) for my lovely, bubbly little friend?

And please, don't judge me.  Some people play music to their plants; I talk to my sourdough starter.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

on marrying young

Jeff and I got married when we were fairly young.  That is to say, he was fairly young, and I was practically still in diapers.  Alright, okay.  He was 23 years old, and I was twenty.  Hardly unheard of.  But all the same, pretty young.

And lately I've found myself developed is one's personality, really, at that age?  Likes, dislikes, preferences. How one responds to stress, or conflict.   Personally, I feel that I'm quite a different person now than I was at the tender age of twenty.  Oh, many things have remained the same, such as my fascination with cookbooks, love of reading, and adoration of certain kinds of music.  I have maintained the same belief system.

But as I've grown and matured, things have shifted a bit.  Quite a bit. The way I respond to conflict.  Whether I stand up for myself in a tense situation - or don't.  The way I view people.  My worldview has expanded, and yet become more focused.  And I'm a mother, for heaven's sake.  I've been through a lot now which I hadn't back then.  Those experiences in and of themselves are incredibly shaping.

And here's the thing: as I look around at the adults around me, sometimes I just feel so blessed to find that I still like my husband.  Even speaking apart from LOVE here, I like him.  I liked him back then (obviously!), and I like him even more now.  I like the person he has become.

I like the way he fathers our children.  Oh, I'd seen him interact with kids before we got married.  His only sibling is a brother 14 years his junior, and I had seen how they were together.  I can truthfully say "I always knew he'd be a great dad."  But really, how can you know, at age 23, whether a guy will drag himself out of bed at 3 am to go cuddle our wailing toddler?  Whether he'll have a "sixth sense" about when a certain boy is running in circles beside his bed, desperate to use the toilet but too sleepy to know what to do about it?  How he'll react to a vomiting child, an annoyingly affected phrase repeated over and over until we all want to smash our heads into the wall...a sick wife?  How can you really know, when it's all yet to be experienced?

I like the way he serves our church.  I mean, I always knew he was a good guy - polite, well-liked by my parents (and all the other adults I knew).   But how could I know that he would get up early on the first Saturday of each month to organize and cook for a men's breakfast?  How could I guess just how tender his heart would be for those hurting in our sympathetic, yet also practical and so wise.  How he'd recognize the multiple parts to any story, be utterly vulnerable with the other elders in our congregation, get to potlucks early to help set up tables and chairs?  How could I imagine that he would spontaneously suggest we head to the hospital to pray with an ailing member of our body?  How could I see that far?

I like his sense of humor.  The way he encourages me to find ways to laugh in so many situations, no matter how maddening they may be?  How he reminds me, when things feel sour, of all the sweetness which our life holds?  How could I have known that his occasionally cheesy jokes would mature into such a good-natured mentality, which adds such depth and richness to our times together?

I like the way he supports me.  His heart for homeschooling - how he encourages me when I sometimes feel so frustrated about the transition of doing school with two elementary ages,  (essentially) two toddlers and a baby in the mix.  How he's always willing to brainstorm ways to help things go more smoothly?  And even how, when I was going through a particularly dark time recently, he broached the idea of looking into a charter school?  I knew he must've been worried about me to suggest such a thing, and he passionately believes in homeschooling, but he loved me enough to make the suggestion.  (Don't look for any changes in our home educating soon, though.)  How could I have known, in those tender early years, how he'd encourage me in my interests, stick up for me with the children, and defend me when I've come under attack? How could I have guessed that I would've known I could always, always depend on him?

And I like the way he loves me.  The way I'll catch him grinning at me at the most unexpected times, affection written all over his face.  How he finds me attractive even when I feel my most repulsive. That he loves the way I look in sweat pants?  The fact that he loves my body, whether the size of my jeans is double digit number or a single.  How could I have known, gazing at him under the stars as he proposed, or standing with him in the front of that church, or even moving across the country with him when I was 24, how tender he would be with me, how sweet, how ardent, how faithful?   How could I possibly have guessed that the lanky teenager I fell in love with, the one with the piercing blue eyes and the oddly-colored pickup truck, the one who took me on my first date when I wasn't (quite) 15 years old...that he would be the love of my life - and what's more, the person I liked best in the whole wide world?

And I know...we've grown together.  We've shared experiences that have bonded us, built our marriage into what it's become.  And yes, there are ways that we're still those starry-eyed sweethearts on our wedding day on that hot summer day in Kansas.

But still.  Oh, still.  Sometimes I feel so blessed that I could burst.  Because not only have we chosen to love one another, not only does he still make my heart flutter and my pulse race, but truly, amazingly, wonderfully...

I still like him.  I really, really do.  And what's more, I like him better now than ever.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Owen's Birthday

Last week, Owen celebrated his birthday.

He was only a little bit excited.

He had a "firetruck" party, with several of his favorite friends.

There were games...


...and presents.

 We love you, Owen!  Happy 4th Birthday!


Thursday, March 15, 2012


I'm torn.  Really, really torn.

In many ways, I'm enjoying this age (even though she's two) so much.   She's sweet, and funny, and loves to help me in my daily tasks.

When she gets up in the morning, cheeks flushed from sleep, all smiles, hair tousled, arms stretched out for me, I just want her to stay this way forever.

And yet, in many ways, I'm so excited to get to know the girl she's becoming.  The girl who loves having "pretty toes," and wearing ruffly skirts.  The girl who insists on a pink plate at lunch, thankyouverymuch.

The girl who clearly needs her own pretty apron.  Although she doesn't seem to mind borrowing the Home Depot one belonging to her big brother.

Yet in many ways, she's still a baby.  A baby who cannot be trusted alone with play dough.  

And who paints on herself while I'm distracted during schooltime.

At any rate, I cannot speed or slow the passage of time.  And so, I'll do my best to cherish the way things are, while they remain.  I'll relish the snuggles, the sweet times, the ways she's growing up.

And treasure up these precious moments while I can.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

sour and sweet

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to bake sourdough bread.

The girl did a little reading.  She found a place where she could get deactivated sourdough starters, and ordered two little packets of dehydrated goodness.  One of them, she opened.  The other one, she tucked away for a rainy day.

But she never had much luck with baking sourdough.  She tried and tried, but the bread never seemed to rise properly.  It tasted okay, but it was very dense.  Then life's business stepped in, and the little starter began to fail.  It didn't thrive.  The girl let it go in the process of packing and moving, and the starter was no more.

Once, the girl was given a fresh starter.  But she was confused by wildly varying instructions, and the starter died.

Fast forward a few years.  The girl developed a new passion for sourdough bread, and bought it regularly.  She began to think of that other deactivated starter, and finally decided to go for it.  She studied up on the stuff.  She took meticulous care of it, following instructions precisely, fretting over whether it's warm enough, getting enough air.  Did it look right?  Was the kitchen too cold?  What was wrong, that it wouldn't perk up properly?

The girl studied and studied.  She felt that she was cramming for a test.  She watched video tutorials, asked people's advice.  Finally, she deduced that she'd neglected the second starter for too long - it was, simply put, too old.

And so, she starts fresh.

A friend has offered to share some of her starter, and she eagerly accepts.  When she brings it home, she vows to take good care of it.  She feeds it regularly (and with great tenderness), learns more about the problems she had in the beginning. At long last, she has a bubbly, healthy, happy sourdough starter.  And there is much rejoicing!

And not long afterward, she pulls this out of the oven:

She swoons.  She is in love.  Her husband is in love too....and they are not just in love with each other...but with the wonder that is sourdough. Great sourdough tastes awfully sweet!