Friday, January 29, 2010


There are some things in life that you can just count on. They just go together.

Like how huge sweatshirts are as comforting as a hug.
Like how every time I bathe, lotion, and clothe Thing 3, she poops two minutes later.
Like how cheddar cheese just gets yummier and yummier the older I get.
Like how gluten will, of course, be in your formerly favorite foods. Except cheese.
Like how your heater will break, just before it gets really cold.
Like how when you finally (FINALLY!) make an appointment to get your fe-mullet cut off and hopefully look like a human being, the weather forecast for your appointment time looks like this:

Which would not be a big deal in 90% of the country, but down here? This means almost a sure cancellation of the appointment and the triumph of the femullet.

There are some forces of nature that you just can't fight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I have embarked upon a remarkable adventure lately.
For me, anyway.

And that adventure is called "Try to contribute a little income to our home."

I started out looking for graveyard shift positions at The Valmart, because with a Bachelor's Degree that is almost 6 years old and still brand-spankin' new in the package and gathering dust, I'm not qualified for much.

But then a little voice whispered that I should start an Etsy business. I wasn't sure if this voice was crazy. Because I am not fabulously talented like my friend Erin over at Sutton Grace. (seriously. check her out.) I can't sew to save my life. I love to make handmade cards, but really? I'm no better than everyone else, if we're honest.

But I had put together some graphic design for friends recently, and had a fabulous time doing it. So when that little voice became a little more insistent, I thought, "Hm. Maybe I could do a little graphic design. Maybe."

And guess what????

Turns out, people kind of like what I make.
And that makes me feel amazing.

So I guess the point is kind of "Follow Your Bliss". Because I don't have a degree in graphic design. Heck, I don't even have photoshop. I just have Gimp, which is free. And for the first time in 6 years I am contributing, in whatever small way, to my family and society in a way that makes me feel bigger and happier and my life a bit fuller.

Here are a few of my favorites, so far.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Keeper...

Last night, after a frantic drive in an area that I am not familiar with, I pulled into the parking lot of a generic daycare that was absolutely packed with cars. A smiling man with a badge waved me on to the grass next to an ancient Ford truck. (I would so love a truck like that.)
I stepped out of my car and took a deep breath, clutching a yellow and black spiral bound notebook and pen. For the first time in almost 6 years, I had a class to be to.
I walked quickly to the front door. I had gotten lost on the drive, and didn't want to be late. On the glass there was taped a sign: "Welcome to Bee School."
Inside, there were more than 100 people. Some of them had generic name tags, which I was handed and told to write my name on. There were others milling around the edges proudly displaying tags that read "BEE MENTOR." How I wished I were already a bee mentor. They crossed my name off the list and handed me a "goody" bag. I wondered what you put in a goody bag for a beekeeping class?? Honey???
I peered inside hopefully and saw... stuff. A small rolled up bunch of burlap. A little stick. A big stick, cut in funny shapes. I smiled inwardly with the giddiness of the first day of class. I always get this same high from realizing that there are things that I don't yet know, but by the end of the class, I will know. And that makes me happy.
I looked around the crowded room and spotted an empty chair squeezed in between two other women. One of them looked kind of like me--the Mom type. Pink sweater. Inconspicuous earrings. The other woman looked like the Executive type. A bit intimidating. I slid into the seat and tried to make conversation with the Mom. She was rather cool, and gave short answers. When I asked her what brought her to learn about beekeeping, she arched one eyebrow and said "For personal reasons." I felt a bit rebuffed. Maybe we weren't supposed to make friends at Bee School.
I turned hesitantly to the Executive, and she gave me a broad smile. We had a warm conversation. Turns out that I was right--she is an executive at one of the big banks here. When I asked her why she was interested in beekeeping, she just laughed and said "I have no idea! It's just an itch I have to scratch." I loved her instantly.
The class started with a prayer to "God Our Father... er.... Or the Great Creator... whoever made the bees" and then launched into the lecture, and I furiously took notes. The history of bees. The earliest bees. The evolutions of beekeeping. Flavored here and there with stories from the teacher's own experience with his 50,000 bees. When he would go off on a story, I found lots of opportunity to look around the room and look at the kind of people who are interested in beekeeping.
Old Farmer types sat with slouched postures and closed eyes. A mom and dad with their son, who--from the disappointed look on his face, had hoped there would be honey harvesting at the first class. Lots of organic types with sigg bottles, short hair, and flowing clothes. An eclectic group.
The teacher emphasized very carefully the importance of being a bee KEEPER and not a bee HAVER. He said that if you have a hive of bees for only one year, then you are a bee haver. You don't care about your bees. They are a passing whimsy... nothing more. And he was scathing in his wrath for such people. "Bees are a GIFT and a BLESSING" he emphasized, "they are not here for your AMUSEMENT, so don't get them if you aren't prepared to take care of them and put up with them and get stung. A LOT."
A sobering point.
"But," he went on, "the thing you'll need the most to be a beekeeper is a love for it. And a love for them. For the amazing creatures that they are. That's what will make you a good beekeeper."
As I got in my car to drive home, that point was still in my mind.
I think that you could say much the same thing about children.
And I decided that I need to be a better childkeeper and less of a child haver.
Next week?? Building your hive!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gold Medal Parenting...

I am the most fantastic mother. Ever.

This is what I was thinking this week as I scrambled over the seats in one of my friend's vans so that my son could pee in a pop can. The situation was desperate. And I certainly didn't want him to pee all over her beautiful van. So the Welch's grape soda pop can got to go above and beyond fulfilling the measure of it's creation.

I thought about what a fantastic parent I was, again, later in the day as I ran up the stairs at the local ice skating rink to grab Thing 1 from ballet, having left Things 2 and 3 locked in the car downstairs. It was pouring rain, for crying in the mud, and Thing 2 had no shoes. Because I'd forgotten them. So I ran upstairs and came rushing back downstairs, only to find my son standing in the lobby, barefoot, holding a dollar, with some woman holding his hand and glaring at me. "Is he YOURS?!" she growled, as I worried that her laser beam gaze was going to melt me on the spot. I didn't even reply, just grabbed his hand and shoved him out the door. Because she had no idea what a phenomenal mother I am.

It just confirmed to me that I am, truly, going for the gold medal in parenting as drove away from the ice skating rink with all my children screaming and I did the thing any good mother does: I pretended that there was a plexiglass barrier between the driver's seat and all the passengers (like in a limo) and made my way to the local Little Caesar's Pizza where I bought two five dollar pizzas to throw in the lion's den with my children while I went to hide in the bathroom as soon as we got home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Dear Dave,

I used your Marshall's Gift Card.

I am sorry. It just couldn't be helped.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day...

My children are clustered on the floor playing one of those games where you try to catch the fish. I am trying to figure out how to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

Because it is something to celebrate.

My oldest daughter's very best friend is the most darling little African-American girl. Emily isn't colorblind, as some people say. She loves that her friend's skin is like chocolate, as she says. She thinks that it is beautiful. She also thinks that her own skin, which is "bright", is beautiful. And I agree. I also love to hear her pretending to speak Spanish, as she slowly learns, and I love that she has friends named Fabiola and Jahir.

Martin Luther King Jr. said,“…I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they are judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin!”

I dream that, too.

In honor of the day...

Frederick Douglass' favorite food, Split Pea Soup
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound dried split peas
1 pound ham bone
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1.In a medium pot, saute onions in oil or bacon grease. Remove from heat and add split peas, ham bone or chopped ham. Add enough water to cover ingredients, and season with salt and pepper.
2.Cover, and cook until there are no peas left, just a green liquid, 2 hours. While it is cooking, check to see if water has evaporated. You may need to add more water as the soup continues to cook.
3.Once the soup is a green liquid remove from heat, and let stand so it will thicken. Once thickened you may need to heat through to serve.

I will be doing this in the crockpot, on low, all day long, and serving it with rolls on the side. I can't wait.

And for dessert, we'll be serving Martin Luther King Jr. favorite food:

Pecan Pie
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter. Stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and the flour; mix well. Last add the milk, vanilla and nuts.
3.Pour into an unbaked 9-in pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until done.

Edit: So, dinner was wonderful! Although we ended up with split LENTIL soup. (Already in the pantry = not having to go to The Valmart with The Childrens = :) ) and chocolate silk pie since one of our dinner guests was allergic to nuts. It's all about the spirit of the thing. We also assigned everyone a part and something to wear for a costume. Everyone read a short page about their person, with their best accent, and our guests included Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Abraham Lincoln, and--of course--Martin Luther King Jr. We have a tradition. Next year, expect pictures. ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Help for Haiti...

There are so many people reaching out to help the people in Haiti. I think all of us are yearning to do something--anything--but giving money just feels so... not enough. I think we all wish we could actually send bottles of water or open our home for awhile. For most of us, giving financially is one of the only things we can do. I spent some time investigating which charities were the best to contribute through, right now, to help in Haiti. Keep in mind that most of these charities have their own focus and mission in Haiti, and you may want to choose the charity that applies to the area where you would serve directly, if you could.

All of the following charities all have a Four Star Charity Rating.

Action Against Hunger USA --Already on the ground when the earthquake hit, this is a great organization if you'd like to contribute to the urgent need for food and water in Haiti. They are working to provide water to 35,000 residents and refugees from the quake, as well as basic sanitation supplies.

Unicef -- If you are drawn to the plight of the children in Haiti, then there is no better organization in the world than Unicef. 100% of your donation will go directly to caring for children. Since almost 50% of Haiti's population are children under the age of 18, who are particularly susceptible to disease and malnutrition, it is essential to get these children food, water, shelter, and reconnect them with their families.

Doctors Without Borders -- I have really come to admire Doctors Without Borders for the work that I've watched them do in the Darfur region of Sudan. They are truly courageous, amazing people who do amazing work. I've been really, really touched by their desperate need in Haiti. They are still working to save the critically injured in the most awful circumstances. Performing surgeries out in the open. Trying to save lives without equipment. If you want to help the people that were injured in the quake, then please--give here.
There are so many more amazing, worthwhile charities that you can give to, or rather--give through. For more information, please visit
Of course, I find myself closing my eyes and just praying a lot. Praying for the people on the ground, who are able to do and be what I am not. For the people still worrying and wondering about family members. For children who have lost their parents, and parents who have lost their children.
It's the most I can do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turning 30...

Something terrible has happened.

I have turned 30.

I don't know when it happened. I don't think it was on my birthday in October, because I didn't feel any different than I had the day before. When I was 29. So it must've crept up on me since then. Slowly. Like a haircut that grows out and you suddenly realize the truth: you have a fe-mullet.

That's how it feels to realize that you're 30. And it's about that cool, too. (Let's pause for a moment to consider Kristen Stewart's fe-mullet, shall we? I mean, she isn't even 30. And has millions of dollars. So there is only one explanation: Robert Pattinson is rubbing off on her. )

But back to me and my oldness.

I have lots of proof of my coming of age. For example, I have started washing my grapes. I can't even snatch a handful straight out of the bag without rinsing them in the sink, and I shudder just thinking about rat hairs (an average of 3 per bag of grapes) and grape harvesters going straight from Port-a-Potty to vine. Gross.

I never used to care. I used to just blissfully toss grapes in my mouth, tra la, as I put the groceries in the car. They looked clean to me, thanks. But now that I'm 30, I can't do that anymore.

Also, my car. It was made when I was 16 years old. That does not bespeak youth, my friends. Because "youth" drive cars that either a) bought by their parents or b) are so stinkin' old that they're retro and cool again. I know. Because when I was in high school I had the privilege of inheriting my brothers/grandmother's gold Dodge Colt hatchback. It was a fabulous stick shift that screamed "I'm too young to care! Bwahahah!" As a bonus feature, when you turned it off, it would turn back on again. Like Herbie. You literally had to kill it as you pulled into a parking space. It was the coolest car in the history of the world.

(RIP, 1980 Dodge Colt.)

My current car has none of the above qualities. Sometimes I have a certain impoverished pride in it. Like it's my own version of thumbing the powers that be and all their minions in pristine, new minivans and Honda Pilots all around me. That I am superior from them, in my bumblebee of a minivan. But in truth, I'm sure that it tells them exactly this: "I'm 30 and I don't care."

Other evidence:
I'm suddenly obsessed about putting eye cream around my eyes to avoid the "signs of aging."
I will no longer eat dough that has raw eggs in it. Yech.
I find myself saying "Why is it so COLD in here?" all the time.
All fast food suddenly tastes like grease. I could swear that some of it, at least, used to taste good.
And finally--I have started actually, truly, trying to be frugal. And by frugal I mean "Oh dear! One more day until payday, and we're completely out of food! Oh well, I'm sure I can defrost this unrecognizable meat and toss it in a pot with this limp celery and make a fantastic soup. Ohhh...and while the fridge is empty, I can give it a thorough scrubbing! Bliss!!"

It is official. I am old.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Last night, in the middle part, Thing 1 started crying. In all her five-year-old-ness, she was longing for some "Girl Time" and a "Girl Show." At 3:00 in the morning. I told her that mama wasn't up for Girl Time. Mama wanted sleep. So she settled for me snuggling in next to her while she fell back to sleep.

As I lay there with my tall, thin little girl curled up next to me, I started remembering the first night home with her when she was a newborn.

It sends chills down my spine to this day.

Do you remember your first night home, with your first baby? Especially if you were alone?

We had come home on that bright June day and I had laid The Baby down in her crib. Brand new crib. Brand new crib set. Coming Home Outfit that was way too big. She looked so incredibly tiny in that huge crib, but I walked away and considered myself a success. I had put The Baby down for her first nap. Ten minutes later, a tiny squawk, and I jumped off the couch and waddled to go and get her.

And so went the day.

Evening descended and The Spouse went to bed. I was left holding this little person, and I had no idea what to do with her. We'd bought all kinds of contraptions... but which one was for the first night home???

I laid her in her crib. She screamed. Holding her out at arms length, I put her in the car seat. I'd seen parents do that before. She screamed. Feeling a little frantic I put her in the portable swing we'd bought and turned it on to it's highest setting: ZOOM. Her head flopped to the side and her body lunged forward. I snatched her out of the still moving swing.


I walked to the kitchen and considered calling the maternity ward at the hospital. They'd managed to get her to sleep for two nights. Maybe they could tell me what to do. Heck, maybe I could just take her back there for another couple nights. Or months.

Fear clutched at my heart as the clock slowly ticked past midnight and tiredness set in. Why wouldn't she sleep? I'd changed her 10 times. I'd fed her every other minute. She didn't look the least bit drowsy.


I turned on our huge, old garage sale television and put "Pride and Prejudice" in the player. Jane Austen always lulled my off to sleep. Surely a 5 hour BBC version could do the same for a newborn.

Around 4 in the morning, she finally drifted off to sleep. On the hard floor. With my hand under her little head.

Picture me laying next to her. Cold. Uncomfortable. Not daring to move in case it woke her up. Terrified to leave her there. Maybe she would turn over (HA! FIRST TIME MOM ALERT! HA!) and smother. Maybe someone would break down the front door and kidnap her. So I slept fitfully for an hour, until she woke up.

The next night, I called my mother and begged her to come over. I couldn't handle another night. And my Mother has never appeared more beautiful in my eyes than she did that night, like a shining Angel of Salvation come to rescue me from my own ineptitude. In all her seasoned wisdom, she found the solution that saved us: put her in the laundry basket and tilt it up because she has reflux.

And there was peace.

I thought of that last night, as I extracted myself to go back to my own bed. And I hesitated, just the last bit. Time is going so fast. There are so few nights like this left. I was tempted to stay and be cold and uncomfortable, just to stay there with her and smell her curly hair. I was tempted.

But sleep and comfort won. And there was peace.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Random Things

1. I got a new candle yesterday at Marshalls. It is called "White Rose Truffle." Doesn't that sound disgusting? But it isn't. It actually smells really, really good. Kind of like white chocolate and unicorns and daisies. I'm loving how my house smells.

2. Yesterday I got into a fender-bender with a guy at the BP. It was my fault. But I really think it was his. The reason that I think it was his is because I didn't have to put on the brake to stop, and it took him several feet and a sharp brake. Furthermore, while my *vintage* 1996 Honda Odyssey now has a dent on the front, right hand corner--his *vintage* Buick LeSabre had only a crooked metal strip, which he kicked right back into place before telling me "It's needs ta be FIXED." (By the way, if ever there was a car that screamed "Go ahead and hit me!" it's mine.) I'm pretty sure when he says that it needs to be fixed, he's referring to the transmission that's rotting out, the tires that were obviously bald, and maybe that rear window that was covered in plastic and duct tape. I tried to emphasize to the insurance that I in NO WAY came near the engine, the roof, or his poor precious neck. (This is just a law suit waiting to happen.)

3. Anyone seen the movie "New Moon"?? You know when they go see a movie, and the title is "Punch Face"?? I can not think about that title without laughing. They couldn't come up with anything better than THAT???? Hilarious make believe hollywoodland.

4. SOMEONE ate the last of my gluten free Chex. I want to cry.

5. How much crying in one day is normal for a three year old? I'm just wondering. Because yesterday, I swear, it.did.not.stop. And I know I'm not the WORLD'S GREATEST PARENT by any means, but I'm doing my best here. I'm not denying the child life or air, which is how he behaves. Goodness. Can't wait until HE wakes up every morning. Sometimes, motherhood just bites. I'm sorry. But it needs to be said.

And on that cheery note!! *wave*

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good, Better, Best.

As I've mentioned, my theme for this year is "Good, Better, Best" based on THIS speech by Dallin H. Oaks. (It's a really good read.) Every day, I'm trying to weigh my choices, and take that split second to make a better or best choice. In my first few days, I've been amazed at how MANY chances I have to choose. This morning provides a perfect example.

The Spouse woke me up at the unholy hour of 6:30 so that I could get Thing 1 out the door to school on time. (I smile as I say that because he woke me up just as he was leaving for work, so I have NO room to complain, really.) I got my daughter up, dressed, fed, and ready to go. As I shut the door after putting her in carpool, I turned and faced my silent, dim house. The other two kids were, miraculously, still asleep. I shuffled towards my room thinking about how I might sneak in another 10 or 20 minutes of sleep, which sounded blissful. It's cold here in North Carolina right now, and our house is drafty, so I couldn't think of anything better than snuggling down in my warm covers.

Then I heard the little Jiminy Cricket in my head whispering "Is there something better you could do before the kids wake up?"

To which my instant reaction was "What could be better than sleep???" But my answer was already there:I could work out. If the kids slept 20 more minutes, I would have my weight lifting in for the day. I wouldn't have to try and do that while keeping kids happy. And that would be a better way to spend 20 minutes than sleeping.

Cue big sigh.

Then Jiminy Cricket piped up again "Come on, isn't there anything better than working out?"

At which point, Jiminy Cricket was becoming annoying. Because wasn't working out and giving up sleep ENOUGH already?? But there it was. If the kids slept 20 more minutes, I could have my Bible reading done for the day.

Trudging back to the bookshelf, I reached up and took down my Bible.

Choosing "Better" and "Best" isn't easy. Although it's easier if you think of things in those terms. Also interesting that, once I was done with my reading, I automatically went and did my workout while the two younger kids ate breakfast. Like that decision was already made. So I'm learning that, for me, being "good" is fairly easy. Coasting along and doing the basics is something I've gotten pretty good at. But taking it up even one, let alone two more notches? That's tough.

Especially when one of your choices is sleep.