Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to spend New Year's Eve with kids

Life is Good: we are safe & warm!

Well, it is New Year's Eve! Oh, how I love this holiday, just like all of the rest. I love the dressing up and the socializing and the dressing up and the socializing! ; )

This year, we could not find a sitter from our shallow pool of options, so we invited friends over to celebrate at home with us. I had planned a 2013 scavenger hunt, 2013 coloring sheets, "mad libs"-style "what will 2014 be like" questionnaire and more. But alas, pneumonia hit their house and they are stuck at home. With the weather as frosty as it is here in Minnesota (in the negative teens!), a lot of people that I know are hunkering down so that they can ring in the new year without shivering.

I think anyone who knows me a little, knows that I love a party. I love a house full of friends. I love glancing at people I hold dear talking to other people I hold dear. I love smiles beaming and the rumbling of laughter permeating through rooms.

But I am okay with celebrating this holiday more quietly tonight. Because the truth is, wherever my three dudes are is exactly where I want to be. With them, every day is a party and every moment shared is a celebration. Oh, that sounds so cheesy, huh? But it is true, I am exactly where I want to be. I don't need a champagne fountain or a ballroom full of people I don't know. I don't need a small room filled with people I like or a girls' getaway or anything else to make me happy. These three are all I need.

And if you are reading this, this is what I hope for you in the new year. That you will have all that you need, wherever you are planted. I wish for you to have "enough" and know it. I wish for you to have "plenty" and acknowledge it. I wish for you to be satisfied with who you are and what you have, whether those things are tangible or not.

Thank you for reading this little blog of mine. Like me, it is flawed and a work in progress, but always well-intended. I am not big about resolutions, but I do love fresh starts. I have "grand plans" for organization and cooking and slowing down. I have "brilliant ideas" for play and learning and family time. As usual, I have more ideas than I have time. I don't know what is truly in store for 2014, but I know that with the right attitude, it will be one of the best times of our lives. Because right now really is the best time of our life. And one thing you can count on, I will aim to make it pleasant!

We are about to sit down to lobster bisque and I am wearing sequins. That sounds like a good way to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, if you ask me! Happy new year!

Life is what you make of it, so make it pleasant! And more! 

May your new year be blessed,

Monday, December 23, 2013

Best Crab Bisque Recipe Ever

Life is Good: so save the crabbiness for bisque!

Today, I made yeast rolls (that flopped) plus frosting for sugar cookie decorating tomorrow. I also made a fantastic apple crumb pie (recipe to follow soon) and I just finished making a delicious crab bisque for after Christmas Eve services tomorrow night. This is the second year in a row that I have made this bisque, so it just might end up being a tradition! The recipe is from Emeril, but I adjusted it a bit. Here is my version:

Christmas Eve Crab Bisque
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced onions
1 cup uncooked sweet corn from the cob
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 heaping tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 cups crab stock or fish stock
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
4 cups whole milk
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoons liquid crab boil
3 tablespoons blonde roux (click for how-to directions)
lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage (I get it already removed from the crab legs. I use about 1 lb. or more of crab meat because we like a lot of crab!)
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Chives for garnish

1. In a large sauce pot, heat the olive oil. 
2. When the oil is smoking hot, add the onions, corn, shallots, garlic, celery and saute for 1 minute. 
3. Season with Old Bay and other herbs. 
4. Add the stock, and bay leaves. 
5. Season with salt and pepper. 
6. Bring the mixture to a boil. 
7. Whisk in the milk, cream, and crab boil.
8. Bring back to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. 
9. Whisk in the roux, 1 tablespoon at a time.
10. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking until the mixture thickens. 
11. Stir in the crab meat, green onions, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 6-8 minutes. 
12. Reseason with a little more Old Bay, if needed. (This depends on your desire for saltiness.)
13. Ladle into a shallow bowl and garnish with chives.
 NOTES: I have made this without roux and it just makes for a soupier soup rather than a thicker bisque. Roux can be tricky, so don't give up if yours doesn't turn out perfectly the first time. I serve this soup with grilled sandwiches such as goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and caramelized onion.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Eggless Thumbprint Cookies

Life is Good: what's cookin'?

We have our mom's group Christmas social tomorrow, so I have pumpkin bread in the oven and now I am moving on to the easiest cookie ever. Ever.

Thumbprint cookies! I grabbed this recipe off the interwebs a couple of years ago. I love it because it has very few ingredients, it's eggless so my kiddos can eat it, and it is so simple to put together that the kids can help me make them. Normally. They are fast asleep right now.

I've adjusted the recipe a tad. Here it is:

Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies
Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use madagascar)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup strawberry preserves*
Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (I use madagascar)


1. Combine softened butter, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.
2. Add flour and beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.
3. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
6. Make indentation in center of each cookie with thumb (edges may crack slightly).
7. Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon preserves.

8. Bake 14-18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely. 

9. Combine all glaze ingredients in bowl with whisk until smooth.
10. Drizzle over cookies.

*Substitute 1/2 cup of your favorite flavor jam or preserves.

Advent Thoughts: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Life is Good: let's think about it

We've been very busy enjoying Advent (while trying not to be too busy!). I really love so much about this time of year...the anticipation of seeing loved ones, the excitement in children's hearts, the celebrations and parties. I love driving past Christmas lights at night, decorating sugar cookies and making other goodies. I look forward to each day's Advent activities whether that be drawing a picture of an angel, lacing and decorating a cutout of a gingerbread man, or reading our Christmas books right before bed. I also love the magic and mystery and wonder that surrounds Christmas. And when I think about the wonder of Christmas, my mind goes straight to Mary.

The year that I was pregnant with our eldest, our former pastor asked me to light the Advent candle one week at our church and say something about the season. "What should I say?", I asked. And he replied, "Whatever is in your heart." I look back on that now and realize that those were important words. For so many reasons. I think it is important to share what is on our hearts and to do it at church, especially. I love that he empowered me with and entrusted me with the freedom to speak to the congregation about "whatever was in my heart".

Quickly, the words came to me. It was easy to think of Mary. I was at this pregnant. She had been pregnant at this same time. And then I thought deeper.

Mary. She was just a girl. A girl. About the age of some of the youth at our church that Grant and I would hang out with on Wednesday nights. I considered what it might be like for one of those girls to be pregnant. That was unfathomable enough.

I thought about what it must have been like for Mary. An angel appears and tells her that she will be pregnant. Immaculately. And with the Son of God. What would we do if an angel just--poof--appeared before our eyes? Jump and shriek? Back away? Listen, but then doubt?

And yet, this young girl, this very young girl, we are told, listens to the angel and steps forward, accepting the responsibility, the honor to serve her God. And then she endures. Oh, what she must have endured. She was engaged, but not yet married. The whispers and ridicule she must have been subjected to. The unkindness and judgment must have been astounding.

And the fear, the anxiety of the unknown. Some of the most strong, modern, capable women I know---ones who are mature, well into their 30s, have been made into a puddle by pregnancy. That time in life can be worrisome and anxiety-ridden. There are so many variables, so many twitches and pings. And then to think of a young girl going through this all...

Think back. Do you remember middle school? That is about the age that Mary was when she was pregnant with our Lord and Savior. Middle school. I had a pretty great middle school experience, but it was still the most awkward and insecure time of my growing up. To think of Mary in this way makes her even more of an icon of strength to me. I ponder the faith and resilience and poise she must have had.

And the overwhelming pressure she must have felt. To be told that you will be the mother of the Son of God! The mother of the Son of God! King of Kings, Lord of Lords! The Prince of Peace! And yet, this, most likely, fragile girl of thirteen or fourteen--a teenager--believes.

Belief. So much of the Christmas Story is about wonder and marvel and miracle. And it is all about belief.

I remember being at a party a few years before we had our big kid. I was probably the least educated of the guest list. And I don't consider myself uneducated or without a properly working brain (well, at least I don't after my first cup of coffee!). However, this guest list was full of PhDs and graduate students and scientists and researchers. I walked into the kitchen to freshen my drink and discovered an academic discussion of why a "thinking person", a believer of science could never be a Christian. "There is no scientific fact!" "There is no proof!" I stood there and listened. I think I made a couple of remarks, but I knew this was not a "battle" I was going to win, so I decided to try, instead, to win the "war" with my example.

But for me, faith is not about scientific fact or proof. The Christmas Story is not about historical evidence or absolutes. My faith is about belief. And choice. I choose to believe.

I choose to believe.

And so did Mary. Despite the whispers and ridicule of her culture and her very young age, she believes the angel. She believes in her God. She believes. 

Faith is what is in your heart. You can use all of the words you know--even if you have a PhD or are a research scientist--and you still might not be able to define it. It is ever-changing, ever-growing. It is a willingness to let go of scientific fact and historical proof to let your heart wonder and marvel and accept a miracle.

Mary allowed herself to accept the miracle. So that is what I am doing today. I am thinking of Mary. I am thinking about what this time before Jesus' birth must have been like for her. I am saying praises of thanks for her strength, her belief. And I am opening my mind and my heart even wider so that I might be able to even better accept the miracle of the Christ Child's birth. Today, I'm marveling, I'm wondering, I'm basking in the miracle.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to Pray

Life is Good: say thanks for it!

Yesterday before lunch, the little one and I had a playdough party. He was intent on making fish. And I was truly amazed that he figured out how to make something that pretty much looked like a fish all on his on. These fish were kind of mashed and mangled oval-ish balls with a tail. Er, fin. I continue to be reminded that he is no longer a baby.

Then it was time for lunch. So I asked him if he wanted to pray. We've been doing this since he was old enough to sit at the table. He hasn't always been able to present a coherent response, but we always give him the respect of the opportunity. Now he is speaking in detailed sentences and never refuses the chance to pray. Or talk. About anything! Hmm. I wonder who he gets that from?

Well, this was yesterday's prayer before lunch: "Thank you, God, for PLAYDOUGH! Fish. Mommy. Food. PLAYDOUGH!!! Amen."

I grinned the kind of grin you grin when you are trying so desperately not to laugh. It was funny. And sweet. And as we began to eat, I surmised that if I was giggling inside about that prayer, then God must be, too.

I don't think prayer has to be formal. I don't think you always have to get down on your knees to pray. I don't think you have to be in church or speak in the King's English or recite something that sounds like poetry to pray. I think God wants us to talk to Him in any way we can and about everything. Everything. Absolutely everything. Including playdough and fish and food and more playdough. I think God smiles and rejoices any time we talk to him. Resting on our knees, in the car, in the shower, five minutes before we walk into a meeting, anywhere, any way.

In this season of hustle and bustle, let's take time to talk to God. Whenever about whatever. And if you've never prayed before, don't let that stop you from starting. Even if it is thanking God for playdough. Or those kids who play with it. It doesn't have to be formal. It doesn't have to be anything except what you need it to be. After all, He made you. He made you to be exactly who you are. Talk to him about it.

We humans are a lot like that playdough...sometimes we are smooth and perfectly shaped and sometimes we are smashed and dented and rough around the edges. No matter what form you take today, God loves you. God loves you beyond words, beyond human comprehension. Rejoice in that today! (And talk to him about it.)

                                                     Photo from mommypotamus.com

"And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is." (Ephesians 3:18)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Christmas Books for Ages 0-5

Life is Good: Christmas is coming!

We are really enjoying Advent around here at the How to be Pleasant house! We've been trying to keep these days before Christmas peaceful and contemplative. One way we do this is by having a tradition of reading Christmas books each evening before bed. During the day, I have our favorites on the coffee table for the kids to look at or for me to read to them. Each year, I buy a new book for each child and give it to them on the first day of Advent. In no particular order, here are our top ten favorites (plus a few more):

1. The Nativity
This one is based on the King James bible, which is the version that my dad reads aloud to our family every Christmas before we pray as a family and then open gifts.

2. Room for a Little One
Nice repetition for smaller kids, this book focuses on a kind ox who invites animal after animal (each other's prey) to share his stable. The culmination of this book about generosity and inclusiveness is the invitation to Joseph and Mary and eventually, Jesus. A simple, but meaningful story, I also like the dreaming visuals.

3. God Gave Us Christmas
We fell in love with this series with "God Gave Us You". In fact, I often give that book as a gift for a first baby. It's message is perfection to me. God Gave Us Christmas begins with Little Cub asking about who invented Christmas and wanting to look for Santa Claus. Instead, Mama Bear takes Little Cub on an adventure to find God in the magnificent surroundings. Indeed, God is everywhere.

4. Little Golden Book The Christmas Story
You can tell that this book was written many years ago. I like the old-school artwork in this book and the fact that they tell the story beginning with who Mary was and who Joseph was and how they came to know that they would be the parents of Jesus.

5. Who is Coming to Our House
This was one of the first Christmas books I bought for our big kid. It is really perfect for little ones because of its repetition. A story about animals preparing the stable so that Mary & Joseph can arrive and baby Jesus can be born, now our big kid likes to read it to our two-year old.

6. Song of the Stars
This book has magical artwork and lyrical words. It tells the Christmas story from the perspective of the animal and natural world. Excitement builds as we hear how "the skies shouted it to the seas that thundered it to the waves" and more.

7. Christmas Angels
We have both the hardcover (with pop ups) and board book (shortened) versions of this book. (My mom must have really liked it, huh!?!) We chose to read this with our Goddaughter the other night before we decorated Christmas cookies and opened Christmas gifts together. We like this one because it tells the Christmas story beginning with who Mary was and how she was told that she would be Jesus' mother. It also talks about Herrod and that he was a threat to Joseph, Mary, Jesus. Throughout the book, angels are emphasized for their communication roles. On the final page, it talks about how we don't always see angels, but they are all around us and that the same is true of Jesus.

8. The Story of Christmas
The first page of this board book asks, "Do you know why we give gifts at Christmas?" and answers that it is to celebrate baby Jesus' birthday. It then tells the story of Jesus' birth in bite-sized pieces easy for a baby and toddler to understand. It ends by saying that we give gifts to show each other our love and to say, "Happy birthday, baby Jesus!"

9. This is the Stable
This book has a peaceful, sleepy cadence. The repetition is great for little ones, but it is so much more. Each page addresses a piece of the nativity from the star to the shepherds to the wise men. I really like that the artist chose to show more Middle Eastern-looking people in this one. Jesus was most likely not blue-eyed with blonde hair!

10. Nighty Night, Baby Jesus
This one is great for the under 3 crowd because it uses the sounds of the animals in the stable to tell the story of their discovery of Jesus. But older preschoolers will like it, too, mostly for its cartoon-like visuals.

11. The Crippled Lamb
Not the most "politically-correct" title, but a lovely story about a little lamb with a disability. If it weren't for his disability, Joshua the Lamb would never have been witness to the Christ Child's birth. This story shows that such as the shepherds, God chose some of the least (of the animals) to be the first to welcome His son, proving that in God's eyes, we are all loved and valued no matter what makes us different or "lesser" from others.

12. Humphrey's First Christmas
This is our first year with this book. I got it off of Amazon.com after reading the synopsis. After the first read, I was a bit disappointed. But then, I read it again and realized that this book talks about something that our other books don't: selfishness. I think selfishness is one of those themes that pops up a lot in parenting. Teaching your children to be selfless is an ongoing adventure. And at Christmastime (aka gift time), I think parents need to be especially on top of this. So I am now happier with this purchase than I was in the beginning. Humphrey is a camel who spends a lot of the book complaining and thinking of himself and his own needs. And then he discovers the baby Jesus and becomes enlightened. It is a good book to use as a discussion tool about selflessness and selfishness.

13. The Little Shepherd's Christmas
The other purchase this year, I chose this book for our youngest because the main character is the youngest brother. The little shepherd wants very much to keep up with his brothers. They aren't always kind to him. But in the end, the little brother is one of the shepherds to experience the heavenly host of angels bringing the message of the birth of the Christ child. He is also one of the first to see the baby Jesus. And finally, the older brothers show the little brother love and respect.

14. If you are looking to read about the Christian faith all year round, we really love the Beginner's Bible. It has kid-sized stories and cartoon-like illustrations. Both kiddos like it and our little one requests it by bringing it to us and asking to, "Read God?".

All photos and links are via Amazon.com.

I'd love to hear what your favorite Christmas books are! Please leave a comment or post on the blog's Facebook page.

Merry Advent!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New uses for old things

Life is Good: my kids are sure to eat their veggies tomorrow night!

I was just spending time (okay, wasting it) on Pinterest and I came across a pin that made me (almost) shout, "Hallelujah!"

Lately, the big kid has been dawdling at the dinner table. A lot of the time goes by with talking, which is always enjoyable and often funny and so of course, we don't discourage it. But dinner time has also become a test of my creative skills. All of a sudden, this kid who has eaten like a champ, adored veggies and all things nutritious, has discovered that there are kids (at school) who actually don't like nutritious foods and don't eat what's given to him. So some nights, dinner is a chore.

That's why I was so excited to see this pin... It's a Real Simple exercise in 101 new uses for old things: kids edition. The excitement came with #19: rolling dice as a game to get kids to eat that number of bites of their veggies. This is brilliant. My kids will totally fall for this. I mean, enjoy this. We are doing it tomorrow night!

As for the other 100 uses, some were okay...like uses silly bands as wine glass identification, plastic eggs as snack holders, and kid art as wrapping paper (I've been doing this for four years. Very cute.).

Some left me a little "meh" like a baby food jar as an Easter egg dying stand or a used matchbook glued onto a card. If my husband had given me that card before we were married, well, he would be "what's his name" now.

And some of the ideas totally grossed me out. Like using dryer lint for modeling clay. Gross. I am all for recycling and reducing my carbon footprint, but ew. No. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Okay. Truth is, after I saw the dryer lint idea, I stopped looking at the rest of the ideas. But you should! ; )

Friday, December 6, 2013

Best Eggless Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever

Life is Good: I smell cookies!

Since our kids have an allergy to eggs (our eldest has a severe, life-threatening one), baking and treat-making is sometimes a challenge. Fortunately, I have my mom in my corner! She adjusted a to-die-for sugar cookie recipe from my church's cookbook called "Betty's Sugar Cookies" and, Betty, I don't know who you are, but you are a cookie goddess! She uses arrowroot as a thickener in this recipe. Eggs do not provide taste in baking, they just act as a binder, so to substitute, you must find an appropriate binder. In this case, arrowroot works like a charm!

These cookies have made our kiddos happy on a number of occasions. They are not a melt in your mouth, super soft cookie, but rather a crisper version of a sugar cookie. They are yummy on their own, with a glaze (powdered sugar, vanilla, and water) or with a thicker frosting (hello...cardboard is delicious with a thicker frosting!).

Here is my mom's recipe:

Elsie's Eggless Sugar Cookies
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. butter, softened
4 - 4 1/2 c. flour (use 4 first and add in the last half cups slowly if your dough doesn't seem stiff enough)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
2 T. vanilla (I use Madagascar)
1 T. arrowroot

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients together and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Cut into shapes
4. Bake at 350 degrees  for 12-15 minutes.
5. Allow to cool completely.
6. Top with a glaze or frosting.

NOTES: Make sure that your dough is cold. I work in small batches and keep the rest in the refrigerator while I use cutters. This dough will puff up otherwise. This dough does not work well for cutters with intricate designs because of the "puffing up" capabilities. This recipe works best when using a mixer such as a Kitchenaid. However, it can be hand-stirred, too. In case your dough is way too dry, you may add a little milk to it, a teaspoon at a time, to get it to the right consistency. (But use caution and don't get it too wet.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quotes about Kindness

Life is Good: don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Sorry to be vague, but to protect the identity of the innocent (and the guilty), I will say that...I had an experience this week that brought me to this notion:
Kindness and unkindness are both like boomerangs. Whatever you put out there, comes back to you.

I just can't wrap my brain around why some people choose to be snippy, rude, unkind, and mean instead of just being kind. Let me tell you, kindness is easier! It takes a whole lot more thought and energy to be unkind. And my guess is that it doesn't make you feel any better inside either.

And the biggest exclamation mark of all is that I am not talking about a situation involving my five-year old! Nope. I am referring to a(n) adult(s). It seems like such a waste of life. We only get so much breathing time, after all.

I was noodling over this thought when I scrolled down my Facebook news feed and saw this from Momastery:

I LOVE IT! It's true! If you are snarky on Facebook, rude in a text, short in an email, judgmental on Twitter or a whole host of other offenses, you...as Jeff Foxworthy might say... might (not) be kind. Or something like that! And like I said in this post, "Words come out quickly and there is no taking them back. When you put them out into the world, you have no control over what others will do with them. So you better be sure of every syllable." None of us are perfect. But I don't think it is aiming too high when we aim to be perfectly kind.

And then I remembered a couple of quotes I had saved to my pinterest boards. This one is great for not giving too much thought or attention to meanies:

 from withallourhearts.com

This one goes hand in hand with my boomerang idea...

from beyondyoga.com

And this. This is such a great mantra. Don't give awful people your power and don't let them harden your heart either...

I can't control other people's actions. And I certainly can't make sense of it when those actions come from a place of darkness. But I can choose my own "weapons" carefully. And I choose kindness. Every time.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude for Hope

Life is Good: we always have hope


Month of Gratitude, Day 30

Well, last night after the kiddos were all snug as a bug, I sat down at the computer to write my final "Month of Gratitude" post. It could have been an easy one... I'm grateful I don't have to write a post every day for an entire month starting tomorrow! ; ) Indeed, it has been a lovely exercise to write about my blessings and especially to focus on the little and simple things. However, trying to carve out time to write each day has not always been so simple. I've enjoyed the process...thinking and writing. I have loved the feedback from friends I know and new internet friends I have never met. It's been good for me to sit down and be quiet. It's been good for me to save some thoughts for my kids and share what is on my mind. But to be sure, this mama has a full load and so I breathe a sigh of relief at the idea of writing a post or two each week moving forward.

So as I said, last night, I sat down to write. It had been a good day and I was grateful. We had begun our Christmas celebrating. We had spent the morning downtown at Macy's. On their 8th floor, they have a "Day in the Life of an Elf" display that is really adorable. They have several scenes of animated elf dolls doing their daily tasks like making candy and other goodies.

We met a close friend and her kiddos that, like ours, are 2 and 5. It was fun to watch the kids delight in the magic.

They bounced around from scene to scene. Literally. The excitement took over their little bodies. It is no surprise that people call it the "most wonderful time of the year". These kids were reveling in it.

Later, we watched "Moose Crossing", the puppet show in an adjacent room on the eighth floor. It was cute and for four bucks a person, it was a real bargain. Our kids loved it. It was a mixture of real puppets...

shadow puppets...

and marionettes...

 After the show, the puppeteers brought out some of the puppets and let kids try them out. What an extra special treat. We were the last ones to leave, so we even got to peek at the back of the stage.

We came home to lobster bisque (yum!) and then set off to see Santa at a local photographer's studio. The kids got 15 minutes to talk with Santa about toys and the North Pole and anything else that was on their minds. And we got a cute picture for their memory boxes.

It was the most relaxing, enjoyable Santa visit of our five and a half years of Santa visits. Thank you! But if you are wondering why our little ones aren't sitting on Santa's lap, it's because the wee one is far too discerning for it! That is as close as he would get. And that was okay with us. He sat on a stool next to Santa and said, "Merry Christmas!" No tears. Success.

It was a good day. A very good day. A day full of fun and frolic and magic. And I was grateful.

Before I wrote my post, I decided to check my accounts. And when I did, I learned that a friend's father had passed away. Tears filled my eyes. My heart ached.

Allyson and I forged a friendship over conversation. Like my friend, Pip, Allyson is older than I am. I grew to adore her and admired her for many reasons (I wasn't a teenager yet, but she was one of the most real teenagers I had ever met, wise beyond her years, and just a really good-hearted friend) and I think I valued her friendship in a different way because, unlike the girls my age whom I had been friends with since we started school, I felt Allyson had really chosen to be my friend. We hadn't just always been friends, but rather, she picked me to be her friend. Even though I haven't seen her in a long time, our friendship was very special to me and I look back on those years with such warmth.

So I put my post on hold. I couldn't think about anything but Allyson and her family. I called my mom to tell her. She gasped. We felt the sadness together. I prayed. And prayed. And prayed again. I asked for comfort and peace for their family. I thought about Allyson's children. In a correspondence with her, I told her to hug them all tightly. I felt so glad that she had them to hug and hold on to.

I awakened this morning thinking about Allyson again. I thought about what a great day our family had together yesterday and all the while, hers was saying goodbye to her beloved father. Our hearts were bursting with enthusiasm, their hearts were breaking. And still, I began thinking about this being the first day of Advent and why we celebrate it--the anticipation of our celebration of Christ's birth. The Christ Child. The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace. The little, tiny baby that brought hope to our world.


This is what connects us. Each day, some of us will experience happiness and some, sadness. Others of us will be somewhere in the middle. But whatever spot we are within that, we all have hope. The hope that Christ's birth brought to the world. The message his birth gave to us all. A light unto our paths. The gift of love, the gift of hope.

Carl Sandberg said, “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.” It started with the greatest gift of all, our Savior, Jesus Christ. He lives in us. That hope lives in us.

So on this last post of Thanksgiving and on the first day of Advent, I am grateful for hope. In all its glory and innocence, its enthusiasm and kindness. And for the One who brought it into our world to us so that in our finest moments, we have gratitude and in our darkest moments, we have light.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude for Dad

Life is Good: my dad knows how to use a wrench!

Month of Gratitude, Day 29

Well, the big kid has a loose tooth. It was bound to happen. As much as I am trying to get him to stop growing up, he just keeps doing it. I told him he should stop eating such nutritious foods. He told me that I am the one who serves them and that it is his job to keep growing. It's hard to argue with that.

But in all seriousness, it is an exciting time in life. Oh, okay, when is it NOT an exciting time for us? We are blessed. Every day, we have a ritual where I try to pull out his tooth. It is getting there, but it may take a while because just when I start to make some progress and hear that "crunch" (you know, the tooth pulling away from the gums), the big kid tells me to stop and we should just "let the tooth come out on its own".

We have the tooth pillow ready. I bought these two adorable ones from a shop on Etsy last year. (I wanted to make sure I was ready when it happened!)

And so now, we wait...

This daily ritual of (kind of) teeth pulling has reminded me of my own tooth loss memories. I remember the excitement and the amazement at the magic of the Tooth Fairy. What an innocent, precious time childhood is. I never could understand how the tooth fairy got into my bed, grabbed my tooth in an envelope out from under my pillow, and left a dollar for me without my waking up! She is very quiet, that Tooth Fairy!

All of this tooth business has also reminded me of my dad. You see, when I was about eight, I lost one of my front teeth early in the day. I remember it was a Sunday and so we were home all day. No school to distract me. All I could think about was that tooth and the Tooth Fairy. I kept going into the bathroom and smiling, admiring my new look. Then I got the idea to compare what my smile looked like with and without my tooth.


I sneaked into my parents' bedroom and got my newly lost tooth. The tooth that my mom had expressly told me to leave alone until it was time to put it under my pillow that night. The tooth that had been put into an envelope and sealed.

Well, now the tooth was unsealed and in my hand. I stood on my tip toes over the bathroom sink to look at my smile in front of the mirror. With the tooth and without. With the tooth and without. And then. Clunk.


That "clunk" was the sound of my tooth falling into the sink and right down the drain. And then another sound...my crying. No. Wailing.

I ran to my mom and through my whining and wailing and drama, told her what had happened. And also pointed out that the Tooth Fairy would not come if that tooth wasn't under my pillow! She was not pleased. but I recall her remaining calm.

The good news was that I hadn't run the water in the sink, so the tooth was most likely at the bottom of the U-shape of the pipe. So she told my dad what had happened. And then she asked him to crawl under the sink, open the drain pipe up, and get my tooth back. I recall him being a little less calm about it. (He is the lively balance to her quiet, for sure!) I think he questioned her sanity or an equivalent of that. I am pretty sure he asked her a few times if she was serious. And then he went and got a wrench and climbed under that sink and...voila! got my tooth back.

The tooth quickly went back to an envelope where it remained sealed.

This story isn't really about a lost tooth. It's not about a silly kid and smile comparisons. It's not about an understanding mother. This story is about a daddy. A daddy who hated to see his daughter cry. A daddy who would have done anything for his daughter.

Today, I am grateful for my dad. I am grateful that he will drop anything to fish a tooth out of a pipe or just chat on the phone. I have always been a daddy's girl. Growing up, I loved watching my dad "working the crowd" when we would go out to dinner. The term, "social butterfly" was invented for him. I would watch him bounce from table to table, leaving people smiling and laughing.

My dad is a storyteller. His delivery is so good, most people are left wondering if the story was true or not. He's always up for fun and adventure. To my dismay, this adventure often involves his motorcycle! Oh, yes. If it were someone else's dad, I would think it was great, too.

Often, if you ask my dad how he's doing, he'll say, "If I were any better, I'd be twins!" Oh, dad. The world is not ready for two of you! Or rather, when God made you, he broke the mold!

My dad has a big personality and is a lot of fun to be around, but there is so much more to him. He is generous with all that he has. He is a champion of the underdog and can't help but offer help when he sees that someone needs it. He loves the Lord and everyone knows it. And he has the most sentimental, tender heart. He's also the epitome of a public servant and community leader--he's served his community in myriad ways, on committees and boards and more, over the past 50+ years.

My dad was the first person to encourage me to be a writer. He noticed something in me that no one else had when I let him read a letter to the editor of our little, local newspaper that I had written. And there is nothing that I have wanted to do that he has ever doubted.

Today, I'm grateful to be born to a dad who loved family time, whether that was on a boat or in a pool. I'm grateful for a father who passed on a love of people and a love of laughter to me. I'm thankful for my dad's twinkling blue eyes and wide grin. I am grateful for a father who is interested in anything that interests me. A dad who has never met a stranger, makes friends with people of all walks of life, and walks around with his heart wide-open.

Today, every day, dad, I am so grateful for your presence in my life and proud to be your daughter. I know people who cannot say those things about their parent and I am so glad for our relationship and the love we share for one another. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving

Life is Good: there is so much to be thankful for!


Month of Gratitude, Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving! This post is a day late, but that doesn't diminish my gratitude. It was a full day, no pun intended.

We had an easy morning...my three boys played together while I baked a turkey breast (white meat only, please!), an apple crumble pie (new fave...I will post the recipe asap!), and some appetizers for our dinner with friends (simple stuff--artichoke dip, guacamole, crudites gathered together in the shape of a turkey, of course).

Then, we were off to the ER at Children's Hospital. Wait, put on the brakes. Nothing was wrong. In fact, everything is great. We are so grateful to the staff at Minneapolis Children's Hospital. When the big kid was two, he had his first infection ever. Unfortunately, it resulted in a life-threatening bout with croup and a secondary infection. With their proactive treatment and exceptional knowledge, the staff at Children's saved his life. So when we have been in town on Thanksgiving, we have dropped off snacks & goodies and a thank you note in the ICU where he was treated.

We're very fortunate that we have only been in the ICU once and it was a short stint. Now, the big kid has a tendency towards croup and when he gets it, it is not the ordinary scary kind, but a super scary kind. So a couple of times a year, we have landed in the ER at Children's Hospital in need of help. So this year, we decided to drop off a goody bag to the ER staff who, instead of celebrating the holiday with their friends & family, were there taking care of kids, saving lives, giving families another reason to be grateful. It meant a lot to the big kid. He loved "giving stuff to people who help us. It feels so good inside."

And hearing him say that made me feel good inside. We are working hard to raise kind, loving, responsible, generous, grateful little people. Hearing that makes me think we might be on the right track...

In the car on the way home, the big kid asked about the kids who were in the hospital on Thanksgiving. He asked if we could pray for them. So we did. But not without tears (mine). Not without tears for those kids and their families. Those kids who may or may not leave the hospital healthy. And tears for the ones who do leave the hospital to resume their lives, like our big kid. And tears for the memory. Tears for that little two-year old of ours and the faint voice and the limp body, for the mama I was, arms wrapped tight around him in constant prayer. Tears for how long ago it feels in some ways and how recent it feels, too. Tears for all we have done and seen and accomplished and lived since then.

We got to watch the Jayhawks play basketball for a bit (Rock Chalk!) and then it was time to go over to our goddaughter's house for dinner with her family. We are so blessed to have friends to share the holiday with. A special shoutout to their families for sharing their holiday with us, too!

Check out the bird!

And the chef!

Our darling goddaughter and her lil sis provided the entertainment. Sorry for the blurry pic...there was a lot of dancing involved!

The award for having the most fun might have gone to our little one. He did a great job of keeping up with the big kids. The kiddos played and played and played. How can I harness some of that energy?!

 My friend, Laura, and I wrestled for the wishbone. (Not really.)

We are so very blessed. Wishing on a wishbone (does anybody have a tradition of doing that?) seems greedy. I am so grateful for the simple things and the extraordinary, too. We have them all. I am grateful for the relationships that keep me happy, peaceful, and everything in between--our little family of four, my parents, some wonderful extended family, a wide group of friends near and far. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, despite my missing being with my parents. Our friends loved us up and filled our bellies.

Every Thanksgiving, I remember a card that I sent to my grandparents. I wrote in it, "Happy Thanksgiving to two of my favorite turkeys!" They called me as soon as they got the card. I was living in Atlanta and I can still picture where I was standing as I spoke to them on the phone. My Grandma cackled and giggled with delight and my Granddad, attempting to sound stern and serious, said, "Now you listen here. Who's the turkey?" and then we all laughed and laughed. I miss them dearly. On holidays and every day. If you have a special turkey in your life, tell them. Okay, maybe don't call them a turkey, if they wouldn't find that funny. ; ) But today, if you have someone you love dearly or a friend that makes you feel special, tell them. You'll be thankful that you did!

Friends Who Fly

Life is Good: we have friendly skies


Month of Gratitude, Day Twenty-seven


Remember my post about friendships on Day 26? I received some lovely emails, facebook messages, texts, and even a phone call about that one. Thank you! I am so grateful when you take the time to read this little blog. And even more appreciative when you take time to write me about it.

My Day 27 gratitude is for another long-lasting friendship. It happens to be a long distance friendship, too. Today, I am grateful for friends who fly all the way from Brazil to see you.

About a month ago, my friend, Hobbes, came to visit us. We met in grad school in Atlanta. I went to a lovely school that welcomed a lot of foreign students. I was fortunate to meet and form friendships with people from Brazil, Lebanon, Denmark, Thailand, Portugal, and many other places. I loved hearing about their homes and what life was like for them there. And I just loved hearing them talk...the accents were divine!

My friend, Hobbes (we had lots of nicknames for her, but this was the one that sounded most like her Brazilian nickname, Robis) finished up with school and left to go back to Brazil, but through the magic of the internet, we have remained close. When she emailed to say that she was making a trip to the US, I was so excited. She planned to pop into Atlanta and then on to Chicago, where many of our friends have settled. That night, I told Grant that I would need to figure out a way to make a little trip to Chicago. ("A way" most likely meant asking my mom to come up to visit and help out with the little boys while I was gone for a couple of days.)

And then I got another email from Robis. She asked if it would be easier for her to come up to Minneapolis to see me since I have two little ones. Gosh, I have the most thoughtful friends. I told her that I would gladly fly to Chicago to see her, but that we would love to host her here, too. Later that day, she emailed me with her itinerary. She wouldn't be able to be here long, but we would make the most of our time.

And we did!

I picked her up bright and early from the airport and we drove to Patisserie 46 for some yummy pain de chocolat and espresso. While we were there, I ran through a list of things we could do that day and asked her what sounded best. Then she told me to, "Stop being so Susie!" and that she just wanted to hang out with me and meet my little boys. When someone tells me to "Stop being so 'Susie'" , I know that they really know me. Do you have friends like that? Friends that you haven't seen in a long time, friends who you only email and facebook with and yet, they are friends who know your personality so well? We had a good laugh about "being so Susie".

We dropped off her bags and drove over to our lake, Lake Harriet. I showed her the bandshell and boats bobbing in the water. We stopped to take a little walk and some pictures.

Our next stop was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden across from the Walker Art Museum. A photo at the Spoonbridge & Cherry is a MN must!


Then, we took a tour of downtown Minneapolis. It is pretty small for a major city. It is a series of one-way streets and on one, Robis was surprised to see the restaurant, Fogo de Chao ( a Brazilian steakhouse). And even more surprised when she heard the way I pronounce it! (I guess we Americans have it all wrong.)

I gave Hobbes a few choices for lunch (again, "Stop being so 'Susie'!") and we decided to be very American and go for hamburgers! I had heard about this place downtown that was supposed to have great burgers, so away we went.

Band Box Diner was a hit. A hole-in-the-wall? Yes. Tiiiiiiiiny? Yes. Delish burgers? Yes. 

And of course, my little one won't look at the camera. He's got that whole "mind of his own" thing covered.

We raced home to meet the big kid at the bus stop. Hobbes asked if it was a "real bus... you know, yellow and everything?" Yes, a real, big, yellow school bus. She loved it. She told me how our neighborhood looked exactly like what she thought an American neighborhood should look like. The yellow school bus was the icing on the cake. We also talked about how many people were walking dogs in our neighborhood and how Americans treat pets like family members rather than animals. I find conversations about culture so fascinating.

We got the big kid a snack and then pulled out the globe to show him Hobbes' home in Brazil.

Being "so Susie", I had a whole list of places we should go next. I wanted to show her Minnehaha Falls--the pergolas, Longfellow gardens. Or go to the MN Arboretum or the Weisman Art Museum. But she wanted to stay at our house and hang out. She wanted to just be together. She wanted to play with my kids and chat and laugh and enjoy being in the same room together. And that is exactly what we did. It was relaxed and lovely. We were exactly where we needed to be--together.

But, we did have to go out for dinner! Grant stayed home with the kiddos and we did our version of a Girl's Night Out---sushi at Seven. We sat up on the roof. It was a lovely night with great weather, food, and conversation. We talked about careers and kids. We talked about our days in grad school including a potluck dinner we had where everyone brought a dish unique to their country of origin. I was talked into bringing hot dogs. I do not know how that happened! It would never happen now, I will tell you!

It was a lovely (too short) visit and I was so grateful that Hobbes took the time to come up to see us. My kids adored her. Adored! And I was reminded that years can separate our physical selves, but our hearts stay connected no matter how many miles separate us or time passes. Robis was still full of love and bursting with joy and she still understood that I have to be "so Susie!"

I am so grateful for this friendship. For this memory. For the technology to keep in touch with friends and family near and far. For friends who make the extra effort, whether that is in person or otherwise.

And for photos like this. The big kid showing off his new art of "photobombing". Quite possibly the best photo of the trip...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude for Friendship

Life is Good: Real Friendships Endure

Month of Gratitude, Day 26

For the past four years, one of my dearest friends has been sailing around the world with her husband and two boys. It sounds amazing, right? And it was. They sampled special places and met interesting people. They made memories that all four of them will carry in their hearts and minds forever. For. Ever. But she will be the first to tell you that it wasn't glamorous. It wasn't neat and tidy. It was hard.work. I mean, hard. work.

Besides the work that it takes to keep a boat working and sailing, throw in days--sometimes weeks--at a time without internet (gasp!) which meant no email (what!?!) and no...wait for it...facebook (unfathomable!). And of course, since they were away from the U.S., phone calls were an infrequent luxury. So she and I went quite some time without speaking. I mean, hearing each other's voices. We were able to keep in touch by email and facebook messaging, which often felt like a (faceless) conversation when we caught each other online at the same time---a real treat.  And I was so grateful for those short minutes of connection. Our correspondence was bite-sized. We kept things concise, with the important stuff being upfront. We never "buried the lead".

So when she announced that they had begun their way back home to the U.S., I began to wonder how many "catch up calls" it would take us to...well, catch up! I was so excited to hear her retell their trip--year by year? place by place? How had living on a boat changed her boys? How did the trip affect her marriage? Or did it? What was the single most important moment of the trip? Or was there one? And so many more questions. I had received snipits of answers to these questions already, but surely there was so much more to tell.

I looked back on my last four years and pondered how full they had been. When she left, I had a 1 1/2 year old. Now, I had a five and two-year old. Many ups, a few downs. My family, my life had changed by leaps and bounds. I had gone here and there. I had done this and that. While mine might not have felt as exciting, I, too, had many stories to share.

I was excited (and grateful) to hear that Pip, as I lovingly refer to her, and her family had arrived safely on the East Coast (and relieved--- in all honesty, was a dangerous trip!). And I was excitedly (but patiently) awaiting our first phone call. Gosh, how would we begin this first "catch up call"?

Well, as it turns out, we started in the middle.

A couple of days after their arrival, Pip called me. There was no chit chat or small talk. There was no "how are you?" or "what are you up to today?" She needed to talk about something, so she called and when I answered hello, she dove right in.

So we talked and we gasped and we laughed. And we did all of those things again. And again. And at the end of our conversation, she apologized for just jumping right into a conversation instead of "catching up" first. But there was no need for an apology. And she knew that, too. I was honored that she had thought of me to call. It seems to me that "starting in the middle" is one of the most honest signs of a true friendship that you can find. When you have a friend that you can call at all hours of the day or night, a friend that you know will drop everything for you, a friend who will try to understand when there is no way anyone could understand, a friend with whom you can "start in the middle"...you must cherish that.

I've always been naive about people. I'm idealistic. I'm an open book. And I walk around with my heart wide-open, too. So when I meet someone and have a great conversation, discover similar interests, I consider them a friend. And I assume that we'll both put something into the friendship and we will be friends for a lifetime. I know, it sounds like a four-year old's view of friendship, doesn't it? That's what I thought as I typed that. I guess it is just the result of my personality. Or the place from which I begin. I don't just want to like everyone. I want to love everyone. There are worse personality flaws, right? (And believe me, I have those, too!)

In the past few years, I have discovered firsthand that not everyone else wants to like and love everyone. I have discovered that some "friends" would rather tear you down in order to build themselves up. These women feel the need to smear a reputation in order to create one of their own. Or they are eager and willing to believe what someone else makes up rather than trust their own experience of you. It's sad. To think that there are adults out there who still have the insecurity and competitive nature that you expect of someone in middle school, someone who hasn't matured and evolved yet. Or they use your "friendship" to take, take, take. And then they move on to the next person that they can take from. Or maybe they delight in casting (even when inaccurate or unfounded) judgements over you because it makes them feel better about their own faults and inadequacies or life, in general. This is not to say that I am not a good judge of character. I think I am and I have good instincts about people. However, I have this innate need to give people "one more chance" which often turns into one more chance times fifty. And I think really good people can make really bad choices. It is a slippery slope. Words come out quickly and there is no taking them back. When you put them out into the world, you have no control over what others will do with them. So you better be sure of every syllable.

Those little tidbits have kept my mind and heart at work way more than I should have let them. But I am a questioner. And a ponderer. I have a desperate need to understand before I can accept. And to be honest, I often let my "understanding" excuse people (which I know is wrong). But I've tried to use this all to let lessons be learned. To better define my own standards. To strengthen the person who I am and want to be. I think I've finally accepted that I need to keep a safe distance from people like that. It's a difficult task for me, though. Pulling back, only sharing a piece of myself, only dipping one toe in...it's just not me. And being true to myself is really important to me. For my own happiness. And as an example to my children. But I still find hope in the fact that while we do not all come from the same starting point, if willing, we all can end up at the same end place of love. I warned you...I'm a dreamer, an idealist, a sappy, sticky, hopeful! I'm also a Christian. And my faith teaches me that we are all flawed and we all deserve forgiveness as we have all received forgiveness from God.

I've decided to take my energy away from the people who baffle me and towards the dear friends who lift me up. I am grateful for so many great girlfriends. And I am so fortunate to have several long-standing, lasting, supportive friends. They are a mixture of personalities. Some live in MN, some live in different cities and they all have lots of different interests. Some are sassy and some are sweet. Some can finish my sentences and some think I am completely nutty! But the thing they have in common is full hearts. They are "at the drop of a hat" kind of girls. They are hug and cheer and squeal kind of souls. They are laugh with you, join right in, talk when you need it and listen when you need it kind of wonders. They are treasures. Absolute treasures.

So today, I am grateful for long-lasting friendships, like the one I share with my friend, Pip. For friendships that endure--the ones that endure time, trials, bad hairstyles, miles of separation, growing pains, husbands, kids, and more. For friendships that come from the starting place of love. For friends who don't compare, but celebrate. For friends who feel like family. And for friendships that are so close, so natural, so intuitive, that you can "start in the middle".

A Month filled with Gratitude

Life is Good: even when you're playing catch up!

Month of Gratitude, Day 24 and 25  

I really love this month of gratitude thing. It is easy for me to list a thousand things in my head that I am grateful for. Not so easy to take the time to sit down and write them out! Well, I guess it could be easy. I could have written Day 24's gratitude if I wanted to miss out on reading books with our kids. I could have written down Day 25's gratitude if I wanted to miss out on making a Lego creation (or twenty) with our big kid. Instead, I decided to live in the moment and write about it later!

Day 24
I love coffee. There. I said it. I love the taste of coffee…be it in candy, ice cream, in a cappuccino or just with cream and sugar. I. Love. Coffee.

I love coffee so much that often I discover at 6PM that I haven’t had anything but coffee to drink all day. I know, I know! This is bad news. So about 5 or 6 months ago, I began a campaign to beat the habit. I have whittled my addiction down to either one or two cups of decaf a day. After all, I have my enthusiasm to keep me going! ; )

But decaf still has "caf", so in an effort to wean myself from my afternoon cup, I have started drinking this delightful cocoa mix from Target. 

It is totally decadent, full of calories and sugar, and has more sodium in it than I would like. BUT, it is doing the trick! I think I am fooling my brain into thinking that it is getting coffee! So, to the makers of Archer Farms cocoa and the fine folks at Target who thought, “hey, salted caramel hot cocoa mix sounds tasty!”, I am ever so grateful!

Day 25
Today, I am grateful for my chiropractor, Dr. Dani. She is theeeeee best at popping and cracking backs, for sure. But she is so much more. She has gifts and talents beyond words. She is such an inspiring, positively positive person. Joy and hope just burst out of her. She has been a great friend (and back cracker) for twelve years. She has helped ease my TMJ, rid me of migraines, reset the rib that the big kid kicked loose when he was in the womb, put me back on track many a time, and so much more. Most Minnesotans are natives and have family and friends from way back to surround them, but I am states away from my family and most of my lifelong friends are scattered across the country, so I am especially grateful for the support system we have up here. Neighbors, church friends, school friends, colleagues and a very special chiropractor lift us up, surround us with love, and fill in the spaces left open. I am so very grateful for the many special people who show us love and care in the Upper Midwest.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Girls Night Out

Life is Good: viva la cheesecake!

Month of Gratitude, Day 23

Last night, I went out for a "Girl's Night Out" with a couple of old friends and a couple of new friends. It was a nice time. We ate a yummy dinner and talked about everything from college to karaoke to earrings made from lost teeth. I know, I know...

I returned home to find what may or may not have been a level one hurricane. Or just a lot of fun. And a report that something had occurred resulting in the two-year old needing his hair washed before bed time. Don't ask. I wish I hadn't.

It was a fun night with the girls. And I was happy to come home to two sleeping cherubs and a welcoming husband.

And this morning? A half of a piece of cheesecake leftover from last night that reminds me life.is.sweet.


                                                               photo from yahoo.com

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thank Goodness for Little Boys II

Life is Good: I have sunshine on a cloudy day


Month of Gratitude, Day Twenty-two


My dearest Big Kid,
You and your brother are my sunshine. It's true. You are the brightness and warmth in my days. You ooze love and shine happiness and make any old day extraordinary. Your daddy and I are so much more fulfilled because you and your brother exist. Today, and everyday, I am grateful for how you have touched our lives.

I love how big your eyes get when you realize we are listening to a Paul McCartney or John Lennon solo on the radio and you shriek, "It's one of The Beatles!!!" I love how you crack up so easily. Your laughter is easy and infectious. And your dimple. Courtesy of my Grandma. She would have gotten a real kick out of you.

I am amazed by your imagination, your creativity, your ingenuity, your inventions, your curiosity, and the silliness that drips from everything that you do. I am awed by some of the creations you make and how you use the most everyday things to execute some exceptional ideas. Hold on to that skill and continue to hone it. Keep dreaming and doing. Never stop "playing" and daydreaming. If you can think it, you can do it. So keep thinking and keep trying. This is a real gift. I am excited to see how it will serve you as you grow.

You are so thoughtful and sensitive. And oh, so tender. You notice things that others overlook. You have a desperate need to "understand". I'm afraid you get a lot of this from me, dear one. Our strengths are often our weaknesses, too. It is my aim and goal to teach you how to use these pieces of your personality to love people and not let them hurt yourself.

I love your long legs--exact duplicates of your daddy's. They looked like long, frog's legs when you were a newborn. Now, they look more like stilts--ladders to that deep heart and big, always thinking brain of yours.

I am amazed that you always wake up happy. It's always been that way. Ever since you were born. I pray it will always be that way. The way you start the day has so much to do with the way you feel throughout the rest of it.

You just can't understand why kids would be mean to other kids. You are baffled by intentional unkindness. You have such a pure, loving heart. Don't let anyone change that. Never betray who you are. And remember our family rule--"Everything (done) with kindness."

You are so sweet. Truly. Your unsolicited hugs and "I love yous" mean the world to me. You are full of energy and smiles. You are a loving brother. You can tell the silliest stories! You have excellent rhythm, too---you started tapping your toe to music at five-months old! And that's fortunate, since you tell us that you and your little brother will someday have a band called, "Spider Sock".

One of my favorite joys is to hear you tell me that I am your best friend. I know that others will claim that title someday, but I hope I always remain in your inner circle. That you always feel you can talk to me. About anything. I might not always like what I hear, but I will always love you.

Am I going a little overboard? Of course not. Every mama should adore her child this much and more.

Oh, my precious one. Words cannot express deeply enough the impact you have made on our lives, the imprint you have made on my heart. You have introduced me to my purpose---motherhood. I used to live life looking forward, but now, I live in the moment because "right now"--no matter where that is-- is the best time of our lives. Nothing else is more rewarding than accompanying you and your brother on the road of life. May we have all the time we want together and may the bumps in the road be small and short-lived and the curves and swerves be full of fun.

I love you dearly.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Eat Quinoa with Gratitude

Life is Good: I've found gold!

Month of Gratitude, Day 21

Remember yesterday's post about the little things? Well, today I am grateful for a little (big) thing. I feel like I just scaled a mountain or finished a marathon (or some other great feat that I know I will never actually accomplish because I could care less about stuff like that).

Today, I am grateful that I discovered the way to get my kids to eat quinoa without whining. Ready? Got your pen and paper? Because you will want to write this down. Wait...for..it...PARMESAN CHEESE! Who knew? A little bit of parmesan cheese and that grassy taste that takes even adults a little while to get used to just goes away. Our two-year old devoured his. Eureka! Everybody eats a healthy dinner and I sigh with relief! Thank you very much!

Giving Thanks

Life is Good: even with a headache

Month of Gratitude, Day 20

I didn't post anything yesterday, so I am, once again, playing catch up! It isn't that I wasn't grateful for anything. In fact, I am so grateful for this little month of gratitude project that I invented for myself. I think I do a pretty good job of acknowledging our blessings, but this post a day thing has been good for me to stop, sit down, think, and write.

I've been trying to focus on "the little things", the simpler things, because I think it is easier to be grateful for the gargantuan stuff. But to be thoughtful, aware, and glad for the most ordinary of things is quite possibly, the truest form of gratitude. 

Yesterday was such a full day and by the time I had a break to write, it was 9:30 PM and a run of the mill headache had turned into a pressure cooker in my head. I felt like my head was a balloon just about to pop. I'm sure that rubbing my head was not Grant's first choice for closing out the evening. But he did it. He rubbed my head until the balloon lost some of its air. And while he did, we talked about the day. I told him all of the cute things the little one said and the hilarious things the big kid said. He laughed. I giggled. And I was grateful. Grateful for the slowness of the night. Grateful for children who entertain us. Grateful for a husband who will pause "Modern Family" so that he can rub my head. Grateful for the pressure cooker in my head being turned down to "low". Grateful for the most ordinary of things.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Doughnuts and Friendships: both works in progress

Life is Good: and sweet!

Month of Gratitude, Day 19

I had a couple of girlfriends over this morning and they brought their little ones along. Mamas chatted and kiddos played with, quite possibly, every toy we own! Snack time was courtesy of my latest lab experiment: eggless, baked maple-cinnamon doughnuts. The recipe is still a work in progress, but I do think I figured out what I need to adjust to make them less dense and more cake-like. So stay tuned...

Today, I am grateful for homemade doughnuts and good friends with whom to share them!