Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Chicken, Fools, Museums

Better late than never. I'm joining Joyce once again to answers questions From the Other Side of the Pond

1. April rolls in at the end of this week and in celebration of that infamous date (April 1st) answer this question-What is something foolish you've done?

"Pressing milk makes curd, pressing the nose makes it bleed, and pressing anger stirs up strife." I think most of my foolishness comes right out the mouth.

2. With April comes Easter and that classic edible treat known as tell me...what's your favorite way to fix/eat chicken? That wasn't what you were expecting, was it? I 'fooled' you. teehee.

About twice I year I love to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. But then I have to drink a bottle of Dawn detergent to cut the grease off the roof of my mouth. My next favorite way to eat it is in Chicken Mediterranean Salad, which has grilled chieken (sliced) over mixed greens, pineapple chunks, red onion, cukes, shredded cheddar, and my own whipped up honey-dijon dressing.

3. What's the best museum you've ever visited? Or your favorite? Or the one you'd most like to visit?

The Smithsonian Museum of American History is one I've visited about three times, and it never gets old. I'm quite the history buff. When I had young kids, we took them to the Cincinnati Children's Museum, which was fantastic. For art, the Walters in Baltimore has stirred my love, and I really like the American Visionary Art Museum. But where would I love to go? The Louvre in France! I'd also like to visit the Met in NY or the Philly Museum. I feel so old liking art museums because I remember my aunt her friends getting a bang out of walking around what I thought were dull, boring places.

4. You know what they say about April showers...what's your preference-a shower or a bath?

Shower. It wakes me up and helps me face the day .If we had a super-comfy tub, I'm sure I'd be bathing more often.

5. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"...fact or fiction? Why?

Fact. Although, I once heard that 9 days should be the limit that spouses are apart. After that (according to this factoid) the two start feeling independent in a not-so-healthy way. I enjoy the occasional 4-day trips my hubby takes. The first two days I feel like a free bird, eating ice cream for dinner if I want. The third day I prepare for his homecoming, and the 4th day I'm usually really eager to see him. Of course, when the kids were little, I could barely wait for 5 pm to roll around every day! Ten hours alone without him was too much.

6. What's your favorite product made/grown in your home state/province?

If you count crabs, that would be it. I love Maryland crabs. There's nothing quite like 'em.

7. What is going on in the world today that affects you the most?

I wish I enjoyed being more "up" on current events, but they depress me or make me angry if I dwell too long, and I always have more than a hunch that the liberal media isn't quite telling the whole story. What affects me most is seeing all the problems (hunger, poverty, child trafficking, drugs, murder, illiteracy, superstition, slavery, disease) and feeling helpless to do a thing about it. I'm so thankful that God is in control of it all, even though it doesn't always look like it. The biggest problem is sin; all these other things are byproducts of people rejecting God's love and not esteeming His holiness. But I can't change people's hearts, either. I can't even change mine! Somehow when I pray I don't feel so helpless.

8. Random thought: I was thinking today about what it would be like to lose both of my parents within a year of each other. The reason? I went to a viewing today; my friend's dad passed away a few days ago, and his mom passed away last April, I believe. Their daughter will be getting married in May, wearing her grandmother's wedding dress. These things made me recall our wedding; Paul's mom died three weeks before our ceremony, barely 13 months after his brother died. I have a feeling that my parents will die close together, one of a disease, and the other of a broken heart. That's a depressing thought to end with, but it's been a heavy-hearted day for me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Think-Back Tuesday: Water, Water, Everywhere`

What I'm enjoying most about reading blogs these days are the many memories that people share of their childhood and adolescence. For better or worse, we all have unique recollections of long-ago (or not-so-long ago) times and events.

That said, I decided to create my own meme called Think-Back Tuesday. I'll try to come up with some questions to jump-start your memory. I'm looking forward to hearing how people of all ages answer the same questions.

I don't know how to make a cute little button to grab to link to, but if you just copy and paste the questions in bold to your blog, and leave a comment telling us you're joining in, we'll follow you to your blog. If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment with some of your memories.

Today the topic is WATER.

1. First of all, how do you pronounce the word "water"?

I grew up hearing and saying "WAH-der." When I moved to Baltimore (Balmer, Merlin), the natives pronounced it "wooder, " as in "How much wooder would a wooder chuck chuck...?"

2. Do you like to drink water, and if so, do you take it with or without ice, and do you put anything in it? Do you drink water from the tap? From your fridge? Do you filter it or drink only bottled water? If you don't like to drink water, what's your go-to thirst quencher?

I like to drink water if it's 1) in a glass, not a mug or anything styrofoam or plastic and 2) got ice in it. I drink it either from the tap or the fridge's dispenser, but usually from the tap because it's faster and I'm impatient. I love Desani water if I'm buying bottled water from a vending machine.

3. Do you like to swim, or are you afraid of the water? How about swimming in the ocean, a lake or pond? Can you dive and do you like other water sports?

I love to swim, and I'm not afraid of the water, but I have a great deal of respect for the water as a powerful force. I nearly drowned once at Rehoboth Beach with two of my children. Ever since then I have a healthy fear of ocean water, but it's more because my wild imagination conjures up things my eyes can't see in the ocean. I don't like most water animals, and for that reason, I avoid oceans, rivers, lakes--any water I can't see through. I can sit and watch it from a beach chair or fall asleep on the beach with great pleasure, but swmming? No thanks.

For that reason , and the fact that there's no current in a pool, I am pretty much becoming a "pool only" kind of gal for swimming. I learned to dive in seventh grade up at Broad Creek. Once I got the hang of it, I was hooked. If I had self-confidence in a bathing suit these days, I'd probably dive in public, but I don't, so I don't dive anymore. I liked tubing at Kanopolis Lake in Kansas with my great friend, Barb, and her family when my kidders were young. That was a blast. I tried water skiing a couple different times, but flopped (quite literally). I'm rather sure I don't possess the strength to handle a jet ski, but I think it'd be fun if I went out with responsible people who could drag me to safety if needed.

4. When you were a kid, how did you cool off in the summer with water? Were you blessed to have a pool in your yard or nearby? Did you have to pay to go swimming at a municipal pool? Or were you relegated to running through the sprinkler? Did you take swimming lessons?

My earliest memories are definitely sprinkler ones. We played endlessly, my sisters and I, in the sprinkler. I can feel my ribs tighten when thinking about jumping into the ice-cold spray until I "got used to it." We loved showing each other the rainbows in the water, and pretending we were fairies leaping through those rainbows.

As a child in a tiny town in central Kansas, my same friend Barb (mentioned above) had a horse trough that was cleaned out and set up as a pool. It was probably not more than 23 inches deep, but we had a grand time. We made whirlpools till we were dizzy. We stayed in the pool till our skin was red or tan and our lips were blue. The funny thing is, I don't think her parents or mine were all that aware of when we were swimming. We could've drowned, but back then I don't think parents were obsessed with dinky pool safety.

The year I turned five I got baptized, but I think it was mostly because a boy named Chris (age 9) was also getting baptized. I "loved" him and thought maybe something magical would happen to us by "going down into the water" on the same Sunday. What a shock to be dipped into the cold baptismal pool and come up to find out that Chris had no more interest in me after my dunk that he had before.

In fourth grade, my parents gave us swim lessons at the Lyons pool. Later on, they left us in the good care of various church friends while they went house-hunting in Maryland. I got to stay with the Brubakers. They had a girl named Lurena who sang beautifully. I remembered sitting beside her on the piano bench learning the lyrics to "The Twelfth of Never." It was 'the' wedding song of the summer of '75. Back then I thought the title was dreamy; now I think, "cheeeeesy!" "Until the twelfth of never, I'll still be loving you." Whaaa?

The magical week that I spent with the Brubakers also fills my memory with these tidbits:
  • I had an enormous crush on their son who was probably 13. Kyle had a bike route that he had to get up at 5:30 for. I thought he was so grown-up and mature for not sleeping in when other kids were. I asked (begged?) if I could go along with him to deliver newspapers, and when he said "sure!" well, it might as well have been a marriage proposal in reverse.
  • The Brubakers lived near enough to the municipal pool that we could walk. And lucky for us, every day was a hot one. Lurena, Kyle, and I swam and swam. I'm sure it was a much bigger thrill for me than for them. They had to put up with this gaga goofy girl as she tagged along. But they were such sweet Christian teens, and showed me kindness and hospitality that has stayed with me all these decades later.

5. Are you a bath person or a shower person?

I'd say 90% of the time I take a shower. But if I'm sore or in pain, a good bath calls my name. I also relish the rare Friday night when I fill the tub at 8 pm, light a vanilla candle,
and take a good magazine into the tub. And when I get out and head to bed that I made with clean sheets earlier that day, and climb in at 9 pm, that's pure relaxation.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Project Simplify, Week 3 Report

The first 6 pictures are "before." I set out a Keep Box, a trash bag, and a Sell box.

Let's just say I didn't play by all the rules, but I did what my priorities dictated. The Project Simplify "hot spot" for week 3 was toys and kids' clothes. My youngest (the only "kid-kid") simply doesn't have many clothes to deal with. Easy. He's good at folding clothes, and he likes to organize, so getting his dresser in order was a cinch. Didn't take pictures of it.

The toys needed the concentrated effort, though. Joel doesn't have a lot of different toys (on purpose) but what he has sure did need " a going through." There was no good reason to keep toys in plain view when we have plenty of behind-door storage in our family room's entertainment unit.

I was pleased with the progress and the results. I was probably more pleased with the process, honestly. As a mom, what I noticed was growth in my youngest son's ability to part with things. He's a 9-year-old "saver". He's the kid who has begged me to save bottle caps, soda can tops, gum wrappers, cereal boxes, inch-long pencils, you name it, because "I can make something with it, Mom!" Well, I applaud the creative intentions, but the reality is, his junk sits there in a drawer looking like bottle caps, gum wrappers, and useless pencils, not something that the Smithsonian is gonna pay us for. So I generally put an immediate halt to his "collections." He is allowed to collect coins with his Dad, and I don't throw out Legos (except...shh..a few now and then). If he were a poor child, I probably would let him save that crap, but if he doesn't have an immediate plan for something, out it goes. I make him sit and do the art creation or throw out the "goods"! I don't want him to have to break a hoarding habit when he's an adult, no matter how well he could justify it in the name of creativity. The truth is, creative juices flow better in clear, orderly space. If I can spare him half the misery I've endured by "collecting" stuff, I will. I have been handicapped in this area my whole life, and only in the past couple years have I started finding freedom in really letting go.

Anyway, on Monday, I said, "We'll work for 30 minutes, starting with the stuff behind this door, then work to the right. Throw away obvious trash, anything missing parts or pieces or can't be sold. The first section will be for your finished Lego creations." He sorted through Legos by color and used his Lego storage tower to organize pieces. I kept my promise by letting him quit after 30 minutes, and he declared, "That was easier than I thought, Mom!" --smile---

I dusted, made labels, and rearranged stuff. My plan was to put within easier reach the toys and art supplies that younger kids use when they visit. *Art supplies that won't ruin anything, mind you, if accidentally "discovered.")

The only cats we'll ever own are in this drawer.

I like his creative "Guns" label.

Plenty of space, yes ?

We worked 3 hours together in sum last week, and ended up with clean, organized, decluttered spaces. The toys can breathe again.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Crushing Sadness

In spirit, I'm flat on my back
and it feels like a
manhole cover is resting
on my chest

crushing me with sadness
but I can't cry because
I can't breathe

people hurting, getting old, older
and suddenly they're gone
and you realize you had so much more
to say to them, to hear from them,
to do with them and for them

and the young people hardly take notice
busy with their friends
their school, their fun times
they can't fathom getting old

like spring that won't come
winter hangs on in my soul
one cold blanket after another
being thrown on top of me as if I
can't feel

words that cut deeply,
people who give up on you
who don't really care enough to ask
about the details
or stick with you when you've vomited your emotional guts
on them,

who needs people who only call when they want something
from you
and keep record of wrongs
who find fault time after time?

I feel like walling myself off now
or getting a one-way ticket to who-knows-where.
Go where I feel welcomed
by people who have deep cares and care deeply
who are genuinely glad to see me
who actually initiate calls and
don't wait to be called,making lame excuses
about being busy, too busy for you, they mean.
people who say you talk too much
so they avoid you altogether

I Want to see heaven, I guess.
This crushing sadness, guilt, and grief
is threatening to swallow me alive.
How I
long for all this ugliness to be gone forever.
Pure communication face-to-face with Jesus.
I will never be told I'm not worth His time.
I will never hear I'm a failure.
I might actually believe I'm beautiful to someone.
I would not fill myself up with emptiness.
How can emptiness weigh so much?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flashback Friday: News During my Childhood

Did your parents watch the national and/or local television (or radio!) news when you were growing up?

Yes, they've always been news junkies. To them, "knowledge is power."

Did they have a particular favorite network or newscaster?

My mom loved Peter Jennings. She called him her second husband. I think my mom's infatuation with Peter Jennings was a combination of his being politically and geographically astute, using impeccable grammar, having a sonorous voice, and possessing dry wit, Canadian accent, and charming good looks-- though she would never admit to the good looks of any man other than my father and her own father. When 6:30 rolled around, "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings" trumped all other matters, big or small. All the noise and clamor in the house had to cease (the said noisemaker risking life and limb); all questions were put on hold, everyone's needs unattended to. Perhaps if you were red, white or blue (bleeding, passed out, or not breathing) she would excuse herself from Peter, but that was about it. If you needed toilet paper and the only person present to supply it was Mama when Peter was on TV, too bad. You either had to drip dry or waddle into the other bathroom for a new roll.

What about subscribing to the newspaper?
They weren't newspaper readers that I recall. My dad couldn't sit still long enough. I don't know why my mom didn't subscribe.
I don't know if the decision was financial or political, because she certainly was (is) a voracious reader. I do know that, for decades after we moved away from Kansas, they subscribed to the Sterling Bulletin. There was something refreshing about keeping abreast of the petty happenings in the small town where Daddy had pastored. Summarily, the news that came into our home was either global or small-town, nothing in between. Either the world was in a state of crisis, or Mr. Long had just found the first robin's egg of the spring in his backyard maple tree.

Did they shelter you and your siblings from news or was it discussed out in the open?
They would discuss news if we wanted to, but usually we didn't. It was dull, boring, grown-up stuff that "went in one ear and out the other."

Were you easily frightened by news events? Did your parents explain them?
No, I was not an easily-frightened child. I had big faith in God and a belief that my daddy would always take good care of me. My folks instilled a sense of "you're protected, don't worry," which I've appreciated so much. My parents are now the ones frightened by the news, probably because they are CNN junkies. Somewhere along the line they became doom-and-gloomers and survivalists. Not me. I still have big faith in God, and a belief that He will take good care of me. My hubby is also doing a darn good job at looking out for our welfare .

What significant news events do you remember from your childhood? What stands out about them? What is the earliest historical/news event about which you say "I'll never forget where I was when ________ happened"? (And where were you?!)
I remember campaigning for Richard Nixon. Yup, Nixon. My mom was involved with a college poli-sci group (she was a student) and was gung-ho into politics (always has been). We were living in Kansas City, Missouri. I was in second grade (the year I hated my first name, so went by my middle). I remember handing out all those ginormous lapel pins with the future Tricky Dick's picture on them.

I remember when the Watergate trials were all over the news. We couldn't watch anything else. It was soooooo boring. The only thing I gathered from what my parents told us was the President was being tried for something illegal. I thought someone as old as my grandpa couldn't possible be doing wrong. Only young people did wrong things, not ancient grandpa-types.

I remember exactly where I was when Nixon resigned. We were on vacation at a rinky-dink motel probably in Colorado (we only took one vacation that I remember that wasn't to relatives' houses when I was a little kid). I was at the motel pool with my sisters and dad. For the life of us, we kids couldn't figure out who'd rather be watching the boring TV instead of swimming in the pool ! I remember images of Nixon holding up two fingers of each hand and shaking his head, "I am not a crook!" and his cheeks sort of flubbered when he shook.

I also remember having a very nationalistic mindset that the US was bigger and more powerful than any country on earth. When people talked about the Soviet Union and the Cold War, I thought. "Well, of course any war in Russia is gonna be cold. Duh!"

Those are my childhood newsy memories. How about yours?

Fighting Feelings of Failure

I can easily see how cleaning, decluttering, and decorating can become an obsession. But for the wrong reasons. This week I have felt like a failure as a wife, mother, teacher, sister, friend, and follower of Christ, but a success as a dejunker, yard sale preparer, and pet owner. Big deal. So what?

None of the conversations I've had lately have encouraged me. Not one. I feel like I might as well hang a sign around my neck that says, "Ultimate Failure." Across my back I should velcro a tag that says, "Kick me. I deserve it."

And now, back to doing what I've learned to do after failing miserably so many times before--getting rid of stuff. Everywhere I turn I just want to pitch and throw, and I think now that I'm a roll emotionally, I'll capitalize on it. I already got rid of 27 things this morning. That was the result of a conversation that was about the fifth rotten one I've had this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

I'm in the mood to do a random post, but needed a prompt. Happened upon this one at Dackel Princess. I'll try to make this short. Um, yeh. You heard right.

1. I am wishing I'd get a bigger piece of pie from my kids' time. It seems we're just catching each other "on the fly" lately. But hey, at least they're not away at college. They might wish they were.

2. I'm in the mood to buy a new vehicle. Don't need one. Just want to trade the trusty, reliable, comfortable, paid-for minivan in for something that makes me want to get in and drive just for the fun of it. I'm thinking Audi A6 or A8. Or a Porsche. I'm so done with American cars. I want some German engineering for wheels.

3. We've been invited to Sunday dinner at my son's girlfriend's house. Steve and Ambrey want to cook for their parents again. (Last time we hosted, which was fun.) I love being invited to someone's house for dinner. I cannot remember the last time our family was invited to dinner somewhere. I feel so honored.

4. My parents want to take a trip to Russia to visit missionary friends. But my sisters and I don't think their health is good enough. How do you talk your elderly parents out of going to a part of Russia that is like Siberia in winter when they feel "called of God"?

5. My son's music teacher at co-op has told me two weeks in a row now just how good he is at playing recorder. I look at her with disbelief. He pitches a fit about practicing, rarely gets through the whole piece without stopping to complain that he hates everything about music. The teacher says, "Well, he doesn't act like that in my class, and he is really good. I want him to play the hard song for the final presentation night." I am beaming. He is not.

6. Our master bathroom is next in queue for our remodel attention and dollars. I dread starting the actual work because it always takes longer than planned. Even if you double the time as part of your plans! I wonder how long we can live with the dollar-store liner held up by duct tape over the gaping hole in the wall?

7. Will spring ever arrive? Really?

8. I love playing fetch-the-tennis-ball with my dog. He gets two of them in his mouth, drops one for me, and chases with one in his mouth. My husband wonders if I can tell which one Reilly peed on. I say I choose not to scratch and sniff. Playing dumb makes me feel better.

9. My life needs more purpose and meaning. I feel like I'm shriveling up in many ways--spiritually, socially, mentally, physically. Too often I pine away for how life used to be.

10. I am ready to get a whole new wardrobe after purging so many pieces a couple weeks ago.
Today I wore an outfit that my 9-year-old told me looked like something out of the 70s. "Mom, light jeans? Are you kidding?" Okay, tell me this. Who invited the What Not to Wear crew to the house? "These are my art jeans for painting in," I replied. He shook his head, "Yeah, but not in public." Did I say he's nine?

11. I've lost the school records that I'm solely responsible for. When our little school closed, the receptionist handed me a big file of my son's records. Now I need the standardized test results and last year's final report card. The new school principal needs them to help in her decision, supposedly. I've looked everywhere I know to look. I hate losing important things. I hate feeling judged for not being completely organized at all times.

12. Of all contestants on American Idol this year, my favorite is Scotty McCreery--the country singer. Wow. Coming from me, that's saying something. But oh, can that young guy sing, and he just seems so sugary nice.

13. One of my art students was cutting out magazine pictures today for her Mother's Day collage. The idea is to cut out things that express what makes their own mom happy. This little girl blurted out, "I SO wish my mom loved horses. This is just such a PRETTY picture of horses!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Springtime Hodgepodge, Written Under a Blanket

Joining Joyce again, this time for springtime Hodgepodge. The only signs of spring today are daffodils and some greening of my weeping willow.

1. Sunday was the first day of spring. So they say. Ahem.
What is your favorite outdoor springtime activity?

Well, back to the first part . "They" say Sunday the 20th was the first day of spring, but I will always, always, always say it's March 21st. My firstborn's birth ushered in spring on that day in 1988, and forever his birthday is synonymous with the first day of spring.

My favorite springtime activity? Cutting daffodils for the first time and arranging them on the kitchen table in a white pitcher. I also-- (don't gag)-- enjoy washing windows and then changing my curtains.

2. Who would you want to come into your kitchen to cook dinner for you?

Hmmm. My first thought was Emeril Lagasse because he is so cute and personable and I love food that's been "kicked up a notch," as he says. BAM! He could also teach me a lot of things, I'm sure. I also think "pork fat rules" (gotta lummie sum bacon). But then I thought he would judge all my inferior cookware (inferior for him, good for me) or that I'd feel compelled to rush out and buy his brand before his arrival --you know, "suck up" to him?

So my new answer to the question would be "my cousin's husband, Rene." (Hard to take good pics in the limo, but you can see his incessant smile.) He absolutely shines in the kitchen, loves it, and is an extraordinary host. He fixed some superb tamales on New Year's Day this past year when I went to Texas-- for a mini-family reunion/NYE celebration-- and then hired a limo to take all of us (about 16 people) down to San Antonio's Riverwalk, where he had arranged (with my sister) a cruise on the river under Christmas lights, followed by service of hot cocoa on the top floor of a tower restaurant overlooking the entire city. That's what I'm talking about, baby. All the love and thoughtfulness and over-the-top memory making gift he has. The difference between having Emeril or having Rene in the kitchen would be love. I love Rene and would feel totally at ease with him in my kitchen. Emeril would impress me for sure, but Rene would bless me.

3. When did you last fly a kite?

Wow. I can't remember the last time I personally flew one. I remember when my husband and his brother Tony took the kids out to a big field and flew one. Or was that just a remote- controlled airplane? I don't remember if there was a kite or not!

4. What topic puts you to sleep faster than anything?
Almost anything dealing with electronic gaming or handheld devices. I am just not into video games, giga gadgets, "cool" apps and all that hoo-ha. As long as I have a computer and a working cell phone, I'm content with technology.

5. Which flowers do you associate with specific people, places, or events?

Daffodils--my oldest son's birth; daisies--my daughter's favorite; yellow roses--my husand's first gesture of "friendship" to me before he got up the nerve to actually use his words; poinsettias--our wedding; gladiolas--a former boss with a Spanish accent couldn't STAND them or the smell. Some were delivered at work one day and she went on and on, rolling those r's with disdain, about how "they jist remin't me uff my GRAN-mutherrr's fYOONerrhral in Pware-t'REEco. I think dey arhr ukly and dey STINK! Doan'jew agrhee?" One time, I shall never forget, I got flowers delivered to me at home from an anonymous sender. To this day I have no clue who sent them, but I was in a serious depression and they lifted me up and showed me God's love.

6. What significant historical events took place during your elementary school days?
I was unaware of world politics, for the most part, in those days. I do remember later that I was concerned about the hostages in Iran. My dad dug up a Christmas tree from our "back 40" in December, but the ground in January was too cold to replant it. Same with February. As we approached March, I was so embarrassed to be the only family with their Christmas tree still up. My mom (a poli-sci major and totally devoted to current events on the globe) said, "We'll leave it up till the hostages come home." She wasn't kidding. Replanting that five-foot pine was our celebration of the hostages' homecoming. I also remember (high school) the day Ronald Reagan was shot. He was my favorite President and I prayed and prayed for God to spare his life. I remember his humor: "I hoped that all my doctors were Republican."

7. Do you swear?

Yes. When I'm super angry/out-of-control mad, my speech is not "seasoned with salt" but "peppered with other things," I'm afraid. I wasn't raised like that. It shouldn't be part of my vocabulary, and it isn't the norm, but when I'm truly heated up over a searing hurt, it's like the proverbial sailor takes over my mouth.

Do you pseudo-swear? (You know crap, shoot, friggin'?)

Heck, yeah .

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I didn't realize how much I already loved our new dog, Reilly, until this past week. Last Friday his face and throat swelled up huge as a St. Bernard's, he was itching from head to tail, and he was having trouble breathing. We rushed him to the vet. He'd been bitten by a spider, the vet surmised. But Reilly survived the allergic reaction with steroids, Benadryl, and a lot of prayer.

Then yesterday he gave me another scare. I was in the family room, decluttering the toys, minding my own business. I had been ignoring him while "in my zone," and he'd fallen asleep behind "his" chair. He was lying on his side, and his eyes were open, glossy. I called, "Reilly?" No response. Normally he lifts his head. "Reilly?" I called more loudly. Panic. He didn't even twitch a tail. I screamed, "Reilly!" thinking he was dead! I thought, How? Did you choke on a Lego creation and I didn't notice? Or a sock? Wake up! Those glossy eyes freaked me out! But yelling in his face woke him up. Man! Be still my heart! Guess he was in his zone!

Here is swollen Reilly. Freak-ay!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Huli Huli Chicken in the Crock Pot

I had never heard of Huli Huli Chicken until two weeks ago when I picked up a copy of Cook's Country. The name is so cute, and the ingredients sounded unique and delicious, but the cooking thereof as written? Huh-uh, huh-uh. Complicated, time-consuming, and calling for mesquite coals for the grill. I don't do coals, thank you.

As the article which accompanied the recipe explains, "huli" means "turn" in Hawaiian. In Honolulu, there are literally dozens of parking lots dotted with huli-huli grills. Home cooks buy huli chicken, they don't make it. (I don't feel like such a cheater after all.) Besides, who wants to be caught flipping the bird?

All right, that was bad. Here's how I adapted the magazine version of Huli Huli Chicken to suit my style and ingredients on hand. Keep in mind, I don't measure--I estimate.

8 chicken breast halves (I had boneless, skinless)
3 cups pineapple juice
1 cup water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 or 2 teaspoons garlic powder (or 4 garlic cloves, minced)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 small whole jalepeno (mine was frozen to start)

pinch of mace (for last step only)
fresh herbs for garnish

Put all ingredients into Crock Pot. Cook at least 5 hours, depending on thickness of meat. I also added halved baking potatoes. Every hour or so, huli the chicken around in the crock. When meat is tender, preheat oven to 420. (While oven heats--if you think you want thicker sauce like a glaze, remove as much "broth" as you can from Crock Pot and boil it on the stove to reduce it. At this point, I added a teeny pinch of mace because I didn't have ginger.)

Spread chicken and potatoes out on a large, foil-covered, sprayed baking sheet. Ladel the sauce or "glaze" over the chicken, broil for 5 minutes. Turn. Repeat. (Huli, I mean. Huli the chicken so both sides gets glazed and broiled.)

I served this dish with sauteed sugar snap peas, and garnished with fresh (barely grown) herbs to gussy-up my photo:). Oh, and I thought the dish needed a kiss of red, and I was out of tomatoes. So I made a strawberry daiquiri and set it close to the plate. Works for me!

Joel was not even halfway into into his serving of chicken when I heard him say, "I definitely want Samoa." (Okay, he didn't actually say that, but with his mouth full, it sure sounded like a pun!)

Letting Go of the Past, Literally

This week is Spring Break for my kids. No college classes, no homeschool. So naturally I enlisted their help to work on some deeper stuff around the house. The two without full-time jobs joined forces in the garage yesterday. What a disaster it was. Stuff stored from long ago. Trash from the night before. Recycled boxes piled up higher than my head. A defunct washing machine. An old medicine cabinet. Furniture that a couple of (packrat)extended family members have said they want back when we're done with it. (I guess to join the junky furniture it matches? I'm tempted to "forget" to return it, but on my honor, I will do as promised.)

Then there was the crib.

"Mom, can we finally get rid of this now?" I have said no for years, thinking I would pass it on as an heirloom. But it's really not in the best shape. And it's Jenny Lind-style, "so 80's." And yet I hung on and hung on to the memories attached to the crib. It was my parents' gift to Paul and me for our college graduation/baby shower gift. Our firstborn's crib. Our second-,third-, and last-born's crib also.

It was special.

Yes, it was. But I realize it is not special now. The children are special. The memories are special. But the faded wood, the broken hinges, the rusted metal? No. They're not special. They only represent the who-and-the-what that made it special. The time in our lives 23 years ago when we became parents was marked by magic, mystery, and mayhem--usually all in the same day.

As I looked at that crib, a rush of questions and statements flooded my mind. In about three seconds flat, I thought these thoughts:

1. You let your rotten womb go. Can you let this rotten crib go, too?
2. You're not letting go of your love of your children. In fact, they're ultimately loving you by helping you let go of stuff. Will you accept that?
3. Won't you prefer to give your children brand new cribs for your grandchildren, the same way you wanted a brand new crib for your babies? It's not like Paul hand-carved this crib and sanded it for four months. He's not Pa Ingalls.
4. You can pass on the legacy of faith in God's provision, not the legacy of fear by hoarding. How about that?
5. You're not the one who can create life and breath anyway. But you CAN create breathing ROOM. Remember how good that feels?

So, with a flash of courage--actually the courage God has been instilling in me for several months--I said, "Okay, go ahead. Take it. Unless--" I faltered as Sarah lifted the large front part of the crib, "unless you want to keep it for your babies?"

She quickly replied, "Uh, no thanks.I'd rather put my babies in something they're not gonna fall out of."

We both laughed, and that was that. She loaded it into the van. Steve put the rest in beside it. I have raised decisive children. And wasn't that something I prayed for when their tiny heads slept in that crib? That God would give them strong intellects and help them make wise decisions? That they wouldn't repeat the mistakes of their mother and father? That they would trust Him for their every need? Despite my example of clinging to things with one hand and to God with the other, my children are much less clingy to things and have more faith than I did at their age. What a blessing!

Letting go the past, literally, on the very day I was celebrating the birth of my firstborn, felt doubly good. God never takes from you what he doesn't replace a thousand-fold.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy 23rd Birthday, Ben

Twenty-three years already? Say it isn't so!

I was thinking this morning about your adventurous life, Ben. "Go for it" seems to be your motto. Like the Olympiads who say "faster, higher, stronger," (as in this post, which has a picture of you and your brother, a picture I love) you always push your limits.

Quite often, those limits have been pushed all the way to the ER.

I was listing your emergencies this morning. Have I forgotten any? I list these as battle scars, by the way--trophies in your case! They say to me, "No matter how it ended, he had a good time trying!"

age 18 months-- You got into rubbing alcohol the day before our flight to Kansas. I had inadvertently left the bottle open on the bathroom sink after sanitizing a thermometer used on your baby sister. To you the rubbing alchohol was a new drink to try? I was coming up from the basement with a load of laundry when I heard you scream. You were nonverbal at the time, so I couldn't know if you had injested it, gotten it in your eye, or just spilled it and were bothered by the fumes. But I couldn't chance it. Called Poison Control. They put me on hold. I called 911. Ambo came. Thankfully the blood alcohol test results were zero.

age 3--You pulled Dad's dresser over on yourself, having used the drawers as ladder rungs. Thankfully the twin mattress, which we kept on the floor of our only-air-conditioned bedroom for you and Sarah, cushioned the impact, and the edge of a photo frame nicked your forehead instead of gouging your eyes or breaking across your sweet little face.

age 7 --You broke your right radius going for a soccer ball with another boy, after being told to stop. The basement with a concrete floor at Beachmont was not an indoor arena. You were happy that it was your right arm broken because it got you out of writing and other schoolwork I had for you. The cast was a consolation prize.

age 12-- You wrenched your knee while snowboarding down our backyard hill. The fence was your foe. I had to help you up the hill and I was 9 months pregnant. You were a good head taller than me already. Sarah was mad because I was supposed to be taking her to visit Hannah within the hour, but had to detour to the hospital.

age 15-- You endured many lacrosse injuries, the worst being your shoulder that needed surgery years later.

age 19-- On July 4th you suffered a retinal injury while playing Tekball at Beachmont.

In November, you accidentally sliced your hand open with a box cutter.

age 20-- You ended up at Shock Trauma with a pulmonary contusion--the result of getting headbutted in the chest during a football game at Beachmont. Yippee! Dad and I said, "You can only be on our medical policy till the end of your 22nd year. Be careful!" You wisely replied, "I don't think I'll play at Beachmont any more. It always ends up bad for me. "

age 22 -- actually within weeks of your 23rd birthday, you got a full-time job with medical insurance! Hooray!

Happy birthday, Ben. Congratulations on the job, also. I'm sure you're an asset to the company, and I'm glad you and Dad are able to bond during your commute together every day. God has given you your adventurous spirit, your drive to succeed, your zeal for life. I love to see you enjoying this phase of your life with a special someone, also. Dee is a very good gift to you.

I'm praying that this year coming will be one of much growth, healing, forgiveness, change, greater love, stronger fellowship, and much fun in the Lord for you, me, and our family.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Daybook 3.18.11

Once again, a post inspired by the Simple Woman's Daybook.

outside my window...dark and a bit cooler than I'd like.

i am thinking... that I'm having a hard time believing that the best days of my life are not behind me. Father, raise my faith. Some days I'm very optimistic, but usually I am wallowing in nostalgia when times were simpler, friends were closer, family got together more often, I had a godly older woman in my life who let me know she cared and invited me over for coffee to talk about God,life, marriage, and how to get stains out of things and where to buy great fresh bread for half price...that kind of relationship I miss on a regular basis.

i am thankful for... good health, improved strength, daffodils, my children, my husband, his income and job satisfaction; our playful puppy and how Joel delights to throw the tennis ball for him time and again; humor; 9 toenails that are growing the correct way; the fun my kids have with their good friends; 78 degrees yesterday, God's everlasting love for me.

remembering... my bridal shower 25 years ago and how Paul kept it a secret from me. I was in the middle of cooking lasagne for him (to show off the mad skills I did not have) and just as I had all the noodles boiled, he says, "Let's go to McDonald's. I'm too hungry to wait to eat." So, rather than voice my disappointment in his alternative to home cooking, I "up and went" with him. Well, we got to the McDonald's parking lot which was right beside Levitz Furniture, and he says, "Before we eat, how about we take a look at furniture?" I think I said, "Well, I thought you were too hungry. How about we eat first and then look at furniture?" He mumbled something about maybe they close early. Well, he managed to steer me through to the back of the furniture store where we came to a door I thought was off limits to customers. He opened it and all these people yelled, "Surprise!" It took me a few minutes to realize the shower was for me. It's the first ever bridal shower I had been to!

from the learning rooms... Joel actually took a test at the school we want to send him to next year. It included math, reading comprehension, writing, and grammar. He said the grammar was really hard. He has difficulty remembering the difference between a noun and a verb. Pronouns completely stump him. Is he my son? Grammar is just one of those things I think he'll have an "aha!" moment for...someday. I can only hope. I feel like Beethoven whose son has just tried to sing and sounds like an ape in heat.

from the kitchen...nothing exciting except for a decluttered cabinet and drawers. I haven't been in a cooking mood lately.

i am wearing... my favorite sweatshirt (a half-zip , black GAP number); jeans, mismatched socks.

i am creating... a staging area for our church's yard sale. The staging area is growing from 1/20th of the living room square footage to 1/15th. Give me 2 weeks and I'll open the front door, post a MOVING SALE sign, and skip the hauling aspect of it all ! I'm still wondering if it's worth the bother.

i am going... nuts without enough mental stimulation. I either need to teach more often in a classroom, or go back to school. I feel my mind is rotting to mush.

i am reading... Understanding the Man in Your Life. I should ask him if he feels more understood now that I'm in chapter 3.

i am hoping... that my 9-year-old stops saying he wishes I'd have another baby. I know he can't possibly understand, and even though I am sure that I don't want another child, it still strikes a tender chord in my heart knowing that the baby factory is gone. Sometimes I just want to nurse again. Sometimes I just want to squeeze soft chubby thighs (that aren't attached to my own legs). Sometimes I want to just kiss a baby and run my fingers through silky angelic curls.

i am hearing... bath water running, Sarah bemoaning the condition of her room (knowing that her friend is spending the night tomorrow. This is the friend whose mom was my best friend back in the day. Kathy gave birth to Hannah 3 weeks before I had Sarah.) Again, I'm waxing nostalgic.

around the house...slowly but surely making headway in simplifying by decluttering and organizing. . Part of me just want to torch it and start over in an RV, and just hit the road.

one of my favorite things... is listening to my 19 year old sing in the shower. He worships with abandon.

pondering...if I can tolerate the pain of having removed what I think is an ingrown toenail.

a few plans for the rest of the week: briday shower for Sacha, b'day lunch for Ben, maybe play a board game, bathe the dog once the backyard dries out completely, walk on the treadmill (I've lost 5 this month, want 8 total); simplify a new "hot spot" (see previous posts if you haven't been tagging along)

picture for the day:
is actually a video of "my baby" . This song played while I was clothes-shopping today! So THAT'S what made me feel so nostalgic and baby-wanting today! It makes sense.

Let Them Be Little

Friday, March 18, 2011

Paper Decluttering Week: Before & After

Project Simplify's challenge this week: deal with the paper clutter in your desk/home office area, or really the area(s) where paper/office junk drives you the bonkiest. For me, it happens at the corner of Foyer and Kitchen.

"Twas not perfect but a successful week dealing with paper clutter. It's nevcr eliminated, just greatly reduced when I put my mind to it.

This was the area that I concentrated on and dealt with the 80% that I could. The other 20% (mail, school work, phone chargers) I need the other family members to deal with since it's theirs.

BEFORE pictures:

Junk drawer. Couldn't help but notice
we have copious amounts of Krazy Glue.
The stuff that holds our family together?

The innerds of "the office."

Is there a better place for the toaster oven so
our bills don't "accidentally" catch on fire?

Some things have got to go.

Per Tsh's helpful advice, I surrounded myself with trash can, recycling bin, "to be shredded" box (since we don't have a shredder right now), a "take action" box

and this one:

My cardboard categories helped immensely:

Aah. Move-in condition. Love it.

My cheerleader in the process, our 13-month old
puppy. Doesn't judge, but easily distracts me! How
could you not want to stop and play with this
cute, happy fella?

Worthy tenants can breathe now that the squatters
are gone.

The junk drawer now with stacked organizers.
I do have a penchant for pens, but the non-working
ones were evicted.

The other drawer, outfitted with coffee & filters.

VOILA! The finished project. Coffeepot has switched
places with toaster oven. There was less bumping into
the other "rush hour" folks this morning as a result.

And now I can see those four beautiful babies pictured here.
The oldest of the babies is 6'7" and turns 23 in a few days. His birth
initiated me into the Morning Coffee Club, among many
other things as a mother.

Perhaps that's what I loved best about this project.
Realizing that when the stuff is gone, or at least properly placed, it's a whole
lot easier to focus on the people you love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Engines (of Judgment)

"A promise made is a debt unpaid."

This post gets me out of debt, I think.

I promised I would show it like it is--my home's clutter.

Then I gulped. Quivered. Thought I felt hives jumping out all over my skin. Am I nuts?

I've gone back and forth, back and forth, daring one minute to expose the embarrassing things I could just as well hide, posting only on days I had just tidied up, or posting just the pictures around the home after I'd cropped, edited, or staged to portray my best Martha Stewart to blogland. The other choice: put it out there on a day I've done "diddly squat" about it and see if maybe the "real deal" puts other "real people" at ease.

Shall we start the tour? This is just Level One of my home. The other Levels will just have to keep for another day. Pass the Benadryl.

It does not always look like this. (Sometimes it looks worse.) Usually it looks better, but today I'm going for the intense gasp. It will be a gasp to rival the "shot heard round the world."

Got your seatbelt buckled? Gas mask on? Hair net in place? Okay, then, here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll turn your attention to the first photo. This is Grand Central. The motherlode of landings for mail, receipts, coins, jewelry, notices, coupons, pens, etc. A whole lot of "etc." It's the area I'm conquering this week, thanks to the impetus of Project Simplify.

By the way, that's not liquor on the fridge. It's iced-tea syrup. (I keep the liquor in my purse.)

We keep the doors closed for a reason.

reason being... Our miscellany cabinet would flaunt its abundance. Of phone chargers. Seriously, we have more cords than Octomom's uterus. This cabinet is a microcosm of Wal-mart, what with its lightbulbs so handily close to the pet meds, and the Chick Fil-A sauces within walking distance of the bill from my urogynecologist (otherwise known as a Zo-ologist).

We have a square foot of fridge-front property
for sale. Perked and everything.

The dining room server, a.k.a. the Lego
Aircraft Carrier Landing. Notice also the
liquor there. (Time to buy a bigger purse.)
A vase, a serving tray, an octagonal bowl (what do
I have with Octogons today?) and a coin collection.
Nice tablescape, don'tcha think? The eclectic look,
some call it.

The posture of these books really mirrors the way I feel
most days.

Where does your eye go first? To the Renoir
on the wall? Thought so. Even the lady in the
painting is trying not to look at the mess.


I see you! Great hiding place, ya'll! The go-to
place for broken lamps and other sundries.

An aerial view of the top drawer of my desk.

An overexposed image of an underexposed drawer.
The only impressive thing about it is Joel's drawing of a "Sattle Horse." :)

I bought this organ at an auction (around 1993)
to display vintage photos...and postage stamps ?
It has remarkable expansion capability...

as well it should--to file Blooming Florals and Dr. Seuss drawings.
Isn't that what every good Victorian lady used her
organ for? My hubby says it's time for an organ donation.

And it's time I get off the computer and do more
about this magnificent montage of miscellany.

Tune in tomorrow when the Et Cetera counter and
the cabinet of a messy mini-mart have been transformed
seemingly by magic.

You may now remove your mask and enjoy the effects of that
Benadryl capsule.