December 10, 2010

Gourmet Friday

This is our current favorite recipe. I got it out of the magazine Real Simple and tried it mainly because it said it was a meal for people who don't like to clean up. All you need is a roasting pan, a couple of utensils and a cutting board. It tastes absolutely amazing!

I'm going to be lazy today and just put the link to it on Real Simple's site.

Chicken with tomatoes and olives

Life Lesson

Lots of people say things they will do when they reach a new stage in life without really knowing what they are talking about. I am no exception. I always said that I wouldn't be one of those overbearing moms who was a slave to her children's nap and sleep schedule, wouldn't overburden other people with rules for dealing with my kids, wouldn't get too worried about every little problem or hurt that my kids encountered. In most ways, I have followed my own "wouldn'ts". However, I've found that to be my problem.

Flexibility in parenting my kids, especially in some of the ways I've been flexible, isn't working. I've ended up being overwhelmed, undermined and submarined in ways I thought I was avoiding by not burdening myself or my kids with unnecessary rules. Live and learn.

So, I'm on a tightening up mission. Making (and enforcing) some new rules, and trying to decide how to communicate these rules to other people who take care of my kids. It is going very well with K. I've found that he craves more rules. Without them, he feels like he should be in charge of everything, then is overwhelmed by the power he thinks he has. It is very curious to watch.

Last week we changed the duties on his "Responsibility Chart" (a magnetic board with cool magnets that we got at Target) and he helped me choose which responsibilities he will have. Then he did a wonderful job of trying to do all of them. He seems so much happier with this arrangement! I hope that we can keep it up and that this change will make a long term difference.

There's nothing like confronting your shortcomings to make you feel like a failure, though. Between this rule thing and the making and sticking to routines that I've been attempting with the sleep training, it sure shows me that these things don't come naturally to me. I'm fine with ordering my own life, but I struggle when I have to do it for other people, even my own children to a degree. Maybe once we've repeated the new rules and stuff enough, it will get a bit easier!

December 3, 2010

Short Story

Her Body

She stood in front of the mirror in her little outfit, making those slight and not so slight turns to and fro that allow for what seems like a total picture of yourself. The skirt was shorter than she could (or should?) probably pull off at her age. The top was low, but not scandalously so. There wasn’t much fabric overall. That was the point, of course.
Looking at herself so attired lent itself to reflection. Having children had taken a toll on her body, but actually not in a horrid way. No stretch marks, expanded hips or rolls of fat. But there was the general squishiness of her skin, particularly in the stomach, that came from all the changes the body endured. Add that to the aging process and she could definitely see the difference the last few years were making in her skin in particular. The hips and waist had the turned out and thickened appearance that few (no?) mothers can escape. But again, not too bad in the scheme of things. 
Not too bad does not make her feel comfortable, though. 
How other women could go out in public like this, she could never understand. How anyone could feel empowered by being so exposed made no sense. Like most carelessly adopted beliefs, it probably had very little basis in reality for any of the women who so vigorously expounded it. Insecurity is often masked by an over-the-top show of bravado. The fact that bravado is supposed to be paraded about clothed like a woman of the night is obviously a falsity perpetrated by men.
Our particular woman is not one who pretends to be either fully self-possessed and secure, nor so insecure as to put on a mask of confidence when there isn’t any underneath. The outfit is not to be worn. At least not in public. On a particularly saucy day, maybe she would wear it for her husband. These outfits are for the benefit of men anyway. Her husband already knows her imperfections, and loves her for them, and in spite of them. Not nearly as scary a prospect as the dreaded public.
With her twenties far behind her, a redefinition of self is taking place. How can she be beautiful and desirable (goals that have been sewn into her understanding of herself for as long as she can remember) when she no longer fits the typical definition of either of those traits? At least in her own mind. Age changed her understanding of herself. Life feels so different that she can’t help wondering if anything is the same.

November 20, 2010

Write it down

I've been having a bit of a creative explosion lately. I have no idea how or why it is happening now, considering I don't get much sleep and feel like I can't even get done what NEEDS to be done, let alone anything extra. Nevertheless, I am currently reading three different books and have finished a few others in the last couple of weeks, and I have a few story ideas that are pretty fully formed in my head already. Now to write them out!

I hope to have some creatively written things to post soon. I'm really hoping to begin a new era of writing things down as soon as I have the smallest chance to do so, instead of waiting for a block of time and then never doing it. And then I hope to usher myself into a new era of having many completed writing projects under my belt, thus getting past some of my doubts and honing my skills at the same time. One step at time.

November 18, 2010

Gourmet Thursday

Italian Meatball Soup
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
1 small onion
2T tomato paste
4 garlic cloves (pressed)
1T Italian Seasoning (this calls for Pampered Chef mix, but I just used the spices I had on hand)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes in puree
2 C beef broth
1 1/2 C water
16 frozen cooked meatballs
salt and pepper
Croutons (optional)

-Peel carrots, chop carrots, onion and celery (with food chopper if you have one).
-Lightly spray 4quart casserole with oil. Add carrots, onion and celery. Cook over medium heat 4-5 minutes, or until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
-Push vegetables to one side of pan. Add tomato paste; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until paste begins to caramelize.
-Add pressed garlic and seasoning mix; mix well. Stir in tomatoes, broth and water; bring to a simmer.
-Cut meatballs in half and add to soup. Simmer 10-12 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with croutons, if desired.

I've made this twice, and it turned out a little different each time. This time I added too much tomato paste, so it was REALLY tomatoey. It's pretty tomatoey anyway, so if you don't like the taste, you probably won't like this. But it is nice and hot, and a sneaky way to get more vegetables into your meal!

November 12, 2010

In this corner...and in this corner

My kids are fighters. Not physically speaking (at least not yet, and hopefully never in a mean, angry way). But they know what they want and don't want and are very happy/eager/capable/willing to fight for it (or against it).

Some may say it is because they are boys. That may be part of it. I do find that on average girls seem a little more compliant, especially in the early years. But is certainly not an absolute truth. And, of course, there are boys who are very good listeners and very obedient.

Others may say they fight for things because they are very smart. As a mom who can't help but hope for children who are above average, I like to think this is true. My boys have both been a bit ahead developmentally and do seem particularly aware of the world and everything in it. They watch and notice everything, they don't like to sleep and miss out on any fun, they learn fast. S is still a baby, so there is a lot yet to discover with his personality and skills, but I have been surprised by how much he is like his brother.

My husband and I are not fighters. At least not in the same way most people are. We'll stand up for ourselves, others and our convictions. But we can't bring ourselves to hurt other people; we're very compassionate and able to see other points of view. Sometimes we second guess ourselves in an effort not to offend or hurt others.

That said, I do have a competitive and stubborn streak that comes in handy when needed. It came in handy when K went through a phase of fighting potty training, after doing really well for months. I kept at it and when I was finally about to give up and go back to pull-ups, my grandma said, "Sometimes you just have to let them win." That was the end of my giving up, the battle continued and I won! Children should have choices and be able to participate in their lives, but when it comes to some things they can't be allowed to bring you down and get their own way. There can be just too many repercussions when parents lose certain battles.

Sleep training is a battle. S is showing fighting skills I didn't know he had. K has always amazed us with his sleep evasion tactics.

Routines are a battle. I know this is because we have had a lot of changes in our lives and have not done well keeping up with certain rules and expectations. K has to know this and takes advantage of it. He will not pass up an opportunity to test and see if he can do something in a new way. We let him snack in the living room while playing or watching TV, then he wants all his meals there, then he wants to eat in his room, or outside. We let him nap in our bed to avoid a fight, then he decides all naps should be there, or he should be able to sleep on the floor, or the couch.

Strategy has to be formed here, and I'm working on it. I have to channel the good fighting instincts I have and suppress the bad. I want certain things for my family and myself, peace of mind and children who will be good people being two of the bigger ones.

The truth is that the hard way in life really is the better way. Good change can only come when you fight and struggle. Gold is refined by fire. God is constantly refining us, and as parents we have to constantly refine our children. Like it or not, it is the job we have been given. And I do want so much to see my little boys grow into strong, agreeable, thoughtful, polite, successful, godly men. So...

Let's get ready to rumble!

November 6, 2010

Sleep training

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over S's crib with my hand on his back while he cried, hoping to get him back to sleep quickly and hoping he didn't wake up his brother in the next room, when I had a horrifying flashback.

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over K's crib (the same one we use for S) with my hand on his back. I had been in that position for maybe an hour, leaning over the crib with my back aching, body totally exhausted from sleep deprivation, praying and praying that he would finally sleep. As he calmed, I slowly tried to remove my hand from his back, he stirred and started crying again immediately. I put my hand back and tried again in a few minutes, this time just letting up on the pressure at first, then slowly removing one finger at a time from his back. After performing this delicate act, I then had to navigate to the door and try to escape to my own room. Any creak of floor or door, trip over a forgotten toy, or other misstep could end all my hard work. I knew, because it had happened on many other occasions and would happen many more times.

With a jolt, I yanked my hand away from S and moved away from the crib. I WOULD NOT be repeating that life of insanity, a perpetual war of the wills to get my second child to sleep. Spending all night and day hoping for sleep, trying to deal with the crying and the crankiness and the neediness. I couldn't do it. I'm still suffering the effects of K's bad sleep habits and issues. At four, he still regularly wakes up at night, sometimes for hours at a time. I don't want two bad sleepers on my hands for the years to come.

Things seemed OK with S's sleeping habits at first. He napped pretty well, definitely for longer periods than his older brother ever did. Within a month or two, we were able to lay him down partially awake and he would fall asleep. He regularly slept for a 5 or 6 hour stretch at night, which was heavenly. But it all fell apart, for various reasons. It has continually gotten worse so that now at 6 months old, he sleeps worse than he did as a newborn and sometimes worse than K did.

When in doubt, get help. I found a book on sleep at the library: The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. The author states in the beginning how we often make it seem like bad sleepers are bad kids, that there is something wrong with them. Yet, as parents we aren't doing much to actually teach them how to sleep. We assume (I definitely did) that they should just begin to sleep well, that they are either good at it or not. But, as is true with so many things with life and parenting, it isn't that easy. We have to help our children to do what they don't yet know how to do.

So, I have begun the sleep coaching process outlined in the book, with S. I'll work on him first, since he is younger and currently a worse sleeper, then I'll move on to K. The biggest changes to make are to set up a routine and stick to it like glue in the beginning (while they learn). Routines don't come easy to me because I like to be flexible with my time. However, I've seen how well that works and how little actual freedom I have when my kids and I don't sleep and have to deal with regular meltdowns. So, the routine must become a priority. Helping him to wind down before bed, helping him to find comfort in things other than me (like his pacifier, blanket or a toy) and staying nearby while he goes to sleep for a few weeks (without holding him, or letting him hold on to me, etc) are other parts of the process.

As of today, napping is going much better with S, as is going to sleep at night. Middle of the night waking has gotten exponentially worse, but at least I'm not feeding him every time he wakes up anymore (because we need to break that "sleep crutch"). And I have to give this time to work. Often things get worse before better. I'm trying not to give up and revert to old ways that only sort of worked, just because it is familiar. Familiar means no sleep, and I don't want that!

November 2, 2010

Gourmet Tuesday

Today's meal is brought to you by the letters U and K.

("Gourmet" is a bit relative for this meal. It is different than the usual, but nothing exotic.)

I decided to try a new meal. I bought the ingredients a week ago and haven't had the gumption to start it because it required making a dough. But today I finally did. It was a bit of work and I wasn't sure how good it would be because the ingredients are pretty basic: ground beef, onion, potato, salt and pepper. But it is cooking now and smells amazing!!!!

Meat and Potato Pasties (I just learned that pasty rhymes with nasty, hmm)
1 lb ground beef chuck (80-85% lean)
2 med russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 med onions, finely chopped
4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

~Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine beef, potatoes, onions, 1t salt and 1/4 t pepper.
~Put flour, butter and 1t salt in large bowl. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea sized lumps remaining. Add 2/3C ice water; mix with fork and work with hands until dough forms. If still crumbly, add more ice water, 1T at a time (up to 4 more T). Do not overwork. Shape dough into 4 small disks and let rest for 10 minutes.
~On lightly floured surface, roll each disk into 10-inch circle.
~Divide beef mixture among circles of dough, shaping meat into a small loaf. Gather and pull up the sides of the dough around the filling, pressing edges together to form a seam on top. Using fingers, crimp the seam. Transfer pasties to parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

I've heard of pasties before, but never had one. The picture looked really good, and it is originally a British meal and I love all things from across the pond. It looked like something Jim would enjoy, too, so we tried it.

It was good. A bit dry and bland, but that could partially be due to some error on my part. I also put in less salt than the recipe says because I usually cut back on salt. Ended up doing something very uncharacteristic of me and salted it on my plate! I don't like beer, but this tasted good with a little bit of beer. Would have been nice with gravy and Kiah put some ketchup on his. Jim hit it on the head when he said it tasted very old world and homey. It was definitely a simple, straightforward tasting meal. And it left us very full!

Close up of the pasties.

November 1, 2010


I must confess, I have fallen into the sleep whine trap. My kids are not good sleepers, I'm up with them a few times every night, I'm sleep deprived and I find it hard not to complain about it.

But, no one needs to hear that. It really doesn't matter that I'm not sleeping-to anyone but me and my family.

I find that pretty much everyone ends up complaining about their lack of sleep. Just about every day, there is a facebook status about how little or badly someone slept. Or how tired they are. And complaining about sleep is a normal part of everyday conversation.

It is amazing to me how much trouble there is about something that is so necessary to our lives as humans. We all need to sleep every day in order to survive. It's built into our bodies to need this. We talk about the main needs in life often: food, water, shelter. But I'm not sure why sleep isn't on this list. Is there anyone who can go without sleep for more than a day or two? Even people with insomnia and stuff still have to lay down and get sleep here and there.

Pretty much everything can be cured by sleep, too. Stressed? You need more sleep. Sick or trying not to get sick? You need more sleep. Want to look and feel better? You need regular sleep. Sleep, or even just rest, seems to be the answer to most problems. Yet we often don't or can't get enough.

Is this cultural? Maybe we do worse at this in a time and culture that doesn't know how to unplug, prizes overworking, constantly overstimulates and seems to think it is a good thing to only "need" three hours of sleep a night. Or maybe it is a result of sin, like so many other problems. I bet Adam and Eve slept wonderfully.

I'm reading a new book on sleep in an attempt to improve things with K and S and their sleeping/waking. The main thing the author is saying so far is that we need to train our kids to put themselves to sleep once they are drowsy or when they wake at night. Assuming they should or could automatically know how to do this isn't right. I find myself a bit frustrated that it requires more work, and that it will probably get worse before it gets better in the process. But, like pretty much everything worthwhile in life, work is required to get where you want to go.

October 25, 2010


OK, I don't think this blog format is working for me.

I got more out of my previous blog, writing about the kids and our life, my thoughts and stuff like that. So, I'm going to go back to stories and updates on us. I want to mix in recipes I've found, books I'm reading and other interests of mine. I'm thinking of doing some semi-fictionalized accounts of life as an extra bit of creative outlet, too.

Hopefully I can get more into that than I have into this!

August 12, 2010

Real Simple

One of my favorite magazines is called Real Simple. My husband actually got me started with it years ago because he liked it. I finally got a year long subscription last year and have really enjoyed it. The magazine has decorating tips and ideas, household tips for finding the cheapest, best products, some fashion stuff, recipes, short essays on many different topics, etc. All of it presented in a simple, clean manner. None of the CATCHY HEADLINES or celebrity gossip or sex tips that other magazines aimed at women usually have.

The magazine has an essay contest every year. I started to write one for last year's contest, but never finished it. This year, I'm going to try again. The topic is "I never thought I'd..." After a few tries and two different topics, I decided to write about living back at home. I certainly never thought that I'd spend so much of my adult life (with kids, no less) living with our parents!

I'm thinking about posting the essay here for opinions but then I wondered about plagiarism. Does anyone know, if you post something online is there a way to safeguard it from being stolen by someone else? I'm assuming that the computer and blogger would both have time stamping on it that might prove my authorship, but I'm not sure. Should I post it?

July 23, 2010

The right kind of free time

Despite the craziness of life with a 3 month old, 4 year old and living with my family, I've found myself with more hobby-ish things to do. My only consistent hobby over the years has been reading. A year and a half ago I added knitting, but I haven't been able to do that for a few months because of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel in my wrists and hands and the up and down, no more than 2 minutes to concentrate nature of mothering. But as I've made more decisions to write and focus on certain things in my life, I actually have stuff waiting to be done (that aren't chores).

With my free moments lately I've been able to blog, work on different writing projects, keep up with the journals I'm making for each of the boys and, of course, read. I'm quite happy with this. I don't like being bored. And even though I'm pretty self-motivating I tend to be more lazy when I have too much free time. As I have more that is required of me, I think I get more productive. I remember that some of the happiest times in my life have been the busiest and/or craziest. When I was in my last year of college, my life was pretty insane. Full, tough schedule at school, 2 jobs working 25-30 hours a week, an apartment to take care of, church responsibilities, a husband, etc. However, because I was doing something I loved and cared about in pursuing my degree, I felt quite fulfilled much of the time.

In August I will begin a part time (20 hours a week) job at my alma mater, working for the professor I worked for as a work/study student. I'll be the Office Manager for the Honors Department. I'm am very excited about this, but also quite nervous. Having an outside, more cerebral outlet for myself is appealing, and something that I have yearned for since becoming a stay-at-home mom. It is very important for me to raise my children primarily myself, but I struggle a great deal with the lifestyle. This job will be flexible and hopefully not overly taxing. Jim will be able to do most of the baby-sitting of the kids so we won't have to spend much or any money for childcare. The extra pressure on my time will, I hope, make me more productive at home because I won't have too much undefined time. At least, that is my hope and prayer. There is a part of me that is still nervous about leaving my kids and adding another responsibility to my life. It's new territory and I hope its exploration is exciting and invigorating, rather than draining and overwhelming!

July 9, 2010

Doing it, and doing it, and doing it well

The prolificness (I looked it up and this IS a real word!) of certain creative people astounds me. Lately I've been contemplating these types of people and wondering how they do it. Mark Twain wrote dozens of books, tons of short stories and essays and wrote material for the myriad of speaking engagements he did. Jack White of the White Stripes has at least 3 bands, at roughly the same time, for which he writes music and lyrics and performs with lots of other very talented musicians. There are countless people who have amazingly brilliant collections of creative work, whether it be musical, written, performed or created with other artistic mediums.

How do they do it?

I know many of these people are not the norm. They are geniuses who live and breath their work. Sometimes they have a lot of money, resources or help to free up their time and focus heavily on the creative process. But not all. There are many stories of people writing books while working full time or taking care of young children all day. Artists who painted what we now consider epic examples of the form, but they also had day jobs or did other things. What's more amazing are the people who did things like write full time for a newspaper and simultaneously write novels in their spare time. That's A LOT of writing.

Someday I would like to get to the point where I write no matter what is in the way, with no excuses. So I have two young kids who pull a lot of my time and patience from me. So I live in a house filled with 7 other people and rarely get a moment to myself. So I don't sleep much. If something is really important, don't you make time for it?

Jim reminded me of a quote someone gave as to what makes a writer. The person simply said it is a person who writes. It isn't someone who is good at writing, or published or anything like that. Just a person who writes. I want to be a person who writes. Who doesn't worry about whether I might get published today or in the future, or whether people will like what I do or get embarrassed about how my material will be taken in light of my personality or personal life. To use another writing saying, I want to be free to write what I know, even if it gives more of my personality away.

And that is my other struggle. To be honest with what I write. As a general rule, I keep a lot to myself. I'm careful what I share and how. I try to edit my thoughts, even, before I say them, so that I don't offend or sound stupid or give away too much of myself to people who may or may not use it against me. When a direct question is asked, honesty is not a problem. When I have to admit I'm wrong and apologize to someone when I've made a bad decision or done something that has caused a problem, I usually do. But, when it comes to volunteering many of my thoughts, foibles, quirks or shortcomings, I'm not so great.

I want to overcome my shyness and my excuses and become prolific. I want to write whatever comes to mind, to reflect my own point of view maturely and freely, even if it ends up being taken wrong or is written badly. I think that is the point I need to get to in order to be a real writer.

July 8, 2010

Deep Breath, and....Jump!

I am a writer.

It has taken me a long time to accept this truth, despite the positive things people have said about my writing, good grades I've gotten in school, the joy I've had in writing, the way I think (as a writer), the joy I have in reading what other people write, all the ideas I have for stories, novels, screenplays, poems, and blogs. Despite it all, I've been reluctant to say that I AM a writer. And, probably in connection to that, I find myself avoiding writing even when I want to. This makes no sense to me and has been my greatest struggle to overcome.

I think that my previous blog was a good outlet for my writing, yet I abandoned it in the move from Myspace to Facebook. It's time to resurrect and revamp the blog now. I think having a creative outlet helps me maintain my sanity in a crazy life with two kids and all the other stuff that comes with living. I plan to chronicle the things that are going on with my family and with me, but as I get braver I also plan to include pieces of my writing. Having an audience should help me to produce and also to edit and improve my work. I hope!