Friday, October 30, 2009

We Can Still Play Outside?

My boys spend hours the summer. Since fall has taken hold, it seems like they've forgotten that they can go outside, put on their coats, wear shoes, and enjoy nature. And actually, fall in Oregon can be mild and warm. We've only had a handful of rainy days, so they should be relishing in the gray skies and crunchy leaves.

Sometimes I bundle them up and remind them of their play fort, and since it really isn't cold, they often kick off their shoes, pull off their coats, and dive into the sandbox.

So, I'm putting something to the test. If I put a few new items on their play fort, will it renew a sense of outdoor wonder in them? I'm going to be trying out a new steering wheel and telescope on the swing set. Yes, it is true, I'm doing a product review. You can check out swing sets to see more about the products that this company has.

I will let you know if it is worth it. As a mom, I'm always wishing my kids would play outside more. Sometimes they get stuck in a rut of imaginary play in the house. Wouldn't it be great if they were pirates outside? There is something in me that believes kids need a bit of fresh air each day.

I'll let you know how it goes once these items arrive! I will be honest.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

You Asked For It

Randomly selecting recipes from cookbooks can be scary, exhilarating, fruitful, and devastating. It is one of the biggest risks a home cook makes. Hence the popularity of on-line sites with ratings, and of course, recommendations from friends.

So, here are the two recipes that you all requested:

Baked Lentils With Cheese:

Preheat oven to 375
Combine in shallow 9X13 baking dish:

1 3/4 C lentils, rinsed
2 C. water
1 whole bay leaf
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/8 t. each marjoram, sage, thyme
2 Large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. canned tomatoes

Cover tightly and bake 30 mins.
Uncover and stir in:
2 large carrots, sliced
1/2 C thinly sliced celery

Baked covered 40 mins. until veggies are tender. Stir in:

1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
2 T. finely chopped parsley

Sprinkle on top:

3 C shredded cheddar cheese

Bake uncovered, 5 mins. until cheese melts

This dish comes from the Less is More cookbook. Many of the foods and meals in here are vegetarian. Here is the subtitle: Recipes and suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources.

Another book put out by the same publishing company is Simply in Season.

(Stay away from Apple Lentil Salad. It is as nasty as it sounds.)

But, I do have some favorites from this book. Here is one for this season:

Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos

3 Cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, chopped

Saute' in large frypan in 1 T oil just until tender. Add water or apple juice as needed to prevent sticking.

2 C black beans
1 t. ground cumin
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt

Add and cook until heated through.

8 flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Divide bean mixture and cheese among the tortillas and roll up.
Place in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Lightly spray with olive oil if desired. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for 20-25 mins. Garnish with sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro.

OK, my last request recipe was Cheesy Chicken Artichoke Bake:

I got it off of

4-5 C of cooked, diced chicken
1 C mayo
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 t. curry powder
2 (14 oz) cans artichoke hearts
Garlic powder to taste
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 C shredded sharp cheese
1/4 C seasoned croutons
2-4 T butter
9 X 12 inch greased casserole dish

Drain and slice artichoke hearts. Preheat over to 350. Season artichoke hearts with garlic. Arrange in 9 X 12 greased dish. Put chicken on top-mix in separate bowl-soup, mayo, lemon juice, and curry-spread over chicken. Sprinkle with shredded sharp cheese and top with croutons. Bake 30 mins. or until hot.

Serves 8 or 9.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cupboards Are Bare in this Shoe.....

The bummer about shopping once a month is that as we near the 25th, 26th, 27th.....I have to get very creative in my cooking. I was making Chicken Noodles Soup last night, and realized I was all out of noodles. What to do? Ramon Noodles....perfect! Some months I do better with my planning: we seem to have plenty of yummy meals all the way to the end, but this month I miscalculated the leftovers and home cooked meals we'd need.

I am one of those moms who does pretty much cook 365 days a year, three times a day. We eat all of those meals together at the kitchen table. ("Eating Out" is often a frozen pizza.) I do love eating in. I don't really love cooking, but I do love eating as a family and connecting. (I find with the ages of our kids, eating at a restaurant isn't very relaxing, plus as I calculate the cost vs. eating at home I always feel like I wasted my husband's monthly check.)

I think eating at home is important. I think it produces good, healthy eaters. My kids aren't picky, and neither is my husband....that is a huge help. He rarely gives me that look, "Wow, this is really not good Love." And when he does he finds a way to eat it anyway. Later I find him making his own 4th meal around 10 pm, usually a PB&J.

All this said, this is the time of month I begin dreaming. I keep a notepad next to my bed at night and jot down meal ideas and shopping lists for next month. Last night I must have been feeling especially hungry because I completed my meals for next month very quickly. I'm ready to say goodbye to October and hello to November, hello to new food!

Here are my November meals in no particular order. I plan four to five meals a week, and with leftovers and nights of cheese toast and soup, we usually have enough.

You're more than welcome to get a little inspiration from me. Warning: I am not a gourmet chef, I am a get-it-done cook.

(I only plan the main course as I can quickly throw together sides from my canning cupboard and freezer. Also, my meals are less this month with Thanksgiving and a planned trip to the beach where we will either cook and fix at the hotel or use our Entertainment Book to find cheap eats as we travel.)

Ham and Cheese Croissants
Cheesy Artichoke Chicken Bake
Spaghetti and Bread
Fondue Night
Crock Pot Lasagna
Turkey Pot Pie
Funky Homemade Pizza, gluten free
French Toast
Tuna Melts and Soup
Roast and Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Turkey and Gravy on Toast
Sausage Meal with Noodles
Frozen Pizza Night
Lentil Casserole
Hamburger Helper Meal, a night-off option...easy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Victim of the Swine Flu?

This might be a bit premature. What if I eat my words? What if it turns out to be really bad? This is a bit how I felt when I doubted the horror of Y2K. My husband and I were the only ones not storing water, rice, and gold. In fact, I was hoping that the computers would crash and erase our student loans. (No such luck.)

My husband got sick on Tuesday. (10 plus days ago now.) Normally I might have typed something on my FB status about him not feeling well, but with all the fear around Swine Flu I decided not to. I did warn my college girlfriends, since we had a beach trip planned. He seemed so sick that I thought I might need to stay home to take care of him. Little did I know I would be voted off the beach-weekend-island. Oh they had every right. One of them was pregnant. Most have young kids at home. It was assumed I was a carrier and was shedding the virus. But was it even Swine Flu?

After some e-mail correspondence and a couple of phone calls, I decided to vote myself out. Besides, I do like my boys, and I do like my husband. We'd have our own fun. By Thursday night he was feeling better, all symptoms of flu were gone. I figured that we were good to live life if all was still well by Saturday, a full 48 hours of good health.

So we did. Our chickens came. We enjoyed them. We went shopping. We enjoyed a birthday party. The boys (dad included) played soccer in our yard amongst the fallen oak leaves. Church. Pizza. It was a good weekend.

Still, when my girlfriends called me to say they missed me, I felt a little cheated. My annual trip had been ripped from me. They asked how I was. "Fine. We are all fine. We've been fine since Thursday." What I wanted to say was, "I totally could have come! Boohoo! I now know what my ancestor Rebecca Nurse felt like when she was hung as a witch in the Salem Witch Trials." (Hyperbole.)

Oh well. There will be another one. I'll look forward to Girls Weekend 2010. I'll insist we gather before the beginning of October to make sure no one misses out due to sickness.

I'm also hoping this is the only disappointment I experience surrounding the Swine Flu. I do read the statistics in the paper, that @80 have died in the last two months; that last year total flu related deaths were @40. I think the Swine Flu is more real than Y2K.

What do you think?

Update: My husband actually relapsed and was super weak. I was single mom for too many days in a row. He was no longer showing flu symptoms, but was just super weak. He finally went in and the doctor confirmed that it was most likely Swine Flu, and that he was experiencing a secondary infection. It was not fun. I'm not sure how none of us got it. Does this mean we are safe? Vaccinated by our daddy? I'm sort of glad to have gotten it over with in October. But maybe we could still get it? I really hope not. It is a bad one. He was wiped out! I can't imagine my 9 month old getting that sad.

I think my friends had every right to be nervous around me, but I was a bit afraid to post this...afraid that I would be treated like a leper. So, for anyone who is going to see me, be with me, or has been with me...we are totally not contagious. It has been nearly 2 plus weeks since the flu symptoms occurred. Please be our friends. Please play with us.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Ok readers, it is your chance to vote.

I was recently approached by a company to do product reviews for them. Hmmmm, am I selling out? It is tempting as I'd get free stuff. I do love free things, but we hardly need free things. We have plenty of things. The world doesn't need more things. It sort of goes against my inner desire to be simplistic. Yet, some of the stuff would be cool. Like, I could actually get some cool things for my kids' play fort. I could get a new fry pan, and if you saw my current one, you'd never eat another egg at my place.

Oh, what to do. I really write for you, so what do you think? It would be another blog post in the mix of what I already write about. I would be honest. If I didn't think it was worth your money, I wouldn't say it was great.

But, it is no loss if I don't do it. Life is pretty good as is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lightning Favorite Squeak

The chickens came. All 25 survived the flight from Indiana. They arrived via US Mail in a little box with wholes. They are so cute. The boys are in love. We visit them several times a day. Oscar, our dog, is also in love... in love with the idea of chicken pot pie. He peeks his head in the windows by propping his front paws against the window frame. Don't worry the windows are glass, not just mere wire. We plan on keeping him and the chickens separate. (He carved our pumpkins the other day, so I know he's in the mood to use this teeth and be creative.)

We got one rare breed; he's the odd, brown one. The rest are yellow, soon to be white since they are White Rocks. No idea what our rare one is. The boys love him though, and he's the only one with a name: Lightning Favorite Squeak.

I got some books on chickens from the library. If you have chickens or are thinking about getting chickens you may want to check them out:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Hazelnut Winner.....Sally!

Ok, so Tanya Patterson never claimed her hazelnuts. Oh well. Her loss! And Sally's gain! Yep, that would be Sally of:

I love Sally's blog. Maybe that is because I also really like Sally! When we moved a year ago, she was a friend I was sorry to leave.

So, Sally! Claim your hazelnuts. E-mail me your mailing address, and I'll send you some yummy goodness from the farm!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trivia, Travels, and Trials.

I've been on the hunt! I really have. We've been reading. We've been going to the library. I haven't been wowed. However, on this last trip I did find some winners.

Here they are:

Brain Quests! OK, so they aren't books, but they involved sitting, reading, listening, discussing, and analyzing. There is even a main character, Molly Mouse. Brains Quest has developed these trivia challenges for each age group, starting with ages 3-4.

The boys love them. I'm tempted to grab the 5-6 level next week to see how much they already know. I discovered that they do not know what a hair dryer is. Could it be because I never use one? All questions are generated from a picture. There might be four cups, and they want to know which two are the same. There might be circles, and the child is to identify which one is the smallest. One had a picture of two fish tanks, and then questioned which tank had fewer fish. I think you get the general idea.

Anyway, our local library has a set for checking out. Yours may too!

My second book pick from our last visit is The Faraway Island by Dianne Hofmeyr. My husband took one glance at the title and refused to read it, but I tried it out this morning and loved it. So did our oldest. (My 3-year-old did somersaults and dive-bombed us the whole time we were reading. Oh, and my baby started to cry and get fussy on the last page, but my 4-year-old was fully engaged.) There were quite a few words on each page...that always makes me nervous, but the story was exciting to him: ships, conquistadors, nd island, cave, a queen, and a monster. Here is the best part, it is historical fiction! (My favorite adult genre.) The book is based on how the island of St Helena became. (Colonized by the Portuguese, it was uninhabited and void of thriving life.)

My last pick for this week has to do with my nephew who has severe autism. You can read more about him in my post "Of This I Have No Doubt" (

This book was excellent. I checked this book out for me. It is really more for elementary kids and really intended for those who have siblings with autism. Each page is an informative blurb about another sibling set and what the one thinks/feels about his/her brother or sister with autism. It is honest and truthful. You can tell that some children have autism worse than others just from how their siblings express their feelings toward the disorder. Over and over children reiterated that even though their brother or sister looks normal, they are not. Also, that they love them even though they sometimes are frustrated or annoyed by their sibling with autism.

My sons are starting to notice that their cousin is different. The other day my oldest even said, "Mom, can you please tell him to move. He's really frustrating me." And I'm OK with that. I am fine with my children feeling frustrated. I'm planning on helping them understand why they are frustrated and see the world outside of themselves. I think children who learn to live with others who have disabilities develop a greater sense of empathy and care. I know they will love him as I do.

I think I may check this book out again and use the pictures to talk to my sons about autism. They are too young to have me read the book to them, but not too young to begin a conversations about why their cousin is different.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

The sound of my children playing....that is joy to me. I was actually worried about how number three would enter into the mix. My older two play so well. The older they get, the better they play. Lately they've been into to playing camp/camping.

Last week my oldest announced that he wanted to buy something. I asked him what he had in mind. His response, "Mom, I will just know when I see it. You take me there, to the Pharmacy."

We live next to a small, rural town that has a stellar Pharmacy, notice I choose to capitalize the word Pharmacy. It is just that good.

We went to the one row of toys. He saw it, not right away, but eventually his heart connected with what he always knew he wanted...toy guns. His younger brother followed, as always. The little pacifist in me started to freak out, but then I realized this had nothing to do with future beliefs, but rather an immediate need for a little boy to buy something splendid with his piggy bank cash. Plus, three "weapons" cost a mere 99 cents. The thrifty in me won out. Each boy walked their purchase to the counter and handed the clerk their coins. They felt so grown-up. I was beaming. They were so cute. I wanted everyone in the store that day to agree with my pride.

As soon as we got home the plot of play thickened. I could hear the interactions. There were roles, conflicts, rising action, a climax, and even a satisfying resolution. On the floor of the living room were two couch cushions for sleeping mats, a plastic dog tied to a chair leg, two red pillows propped up burning their tarantula puppet, and their trusty sidearms laying next to it all.

"We shot those wild animals, and now we are going to eat them!"

I was pleased. Their great grandfather would be too. (He is lovingly known as the Great White Hunter.)

I love this new phase of imaginative play.

I'm seeing good signs of our third and final installment being included into the fun.

He really is a toddler stuck in a baby's body.

And here is the proof...The Wild Rumpus:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hazelnut Winner

Tanya Patterson you won! Hope you are excited! Hope the shipping doesn't cost me too much. E-mail me with your mailing address, and the hazelnuts are yours.

I excluded all family members (not my cousins in Texas, just those that live close enough to receive free hazelnuts), and my husband drew a name out of my green mixing bowl.

You have until Wednesday to claim your prize! Congrats!

50 Strong!

We did it! We hit 50. Tonight as I watch The Amazing Race I will be cracking nuts, and then conducting a random drawing for the winner of my delicious hazelnuts!

Hmmmm....should I do a prize for when I hit 100 followers?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Featured Blog Interview

How nice, a fellow blogger and follower wanted to interview me on her blog. If you'd like to read it go to:

Isn't that a great blog title? Any mom knows what that feels like...trying to get one more task done before the baby wakes, which is exactly what I'm doing right now. I'm hoping to get a shower in, finish reading War Dances, fold laundry, mop the kitchen, and deep clean my bathrooms. Possible? Doubt it

Please check out the interview, and please ignore my obvious errors, yicks. (The mommy blogger's name is Alex. I'm enjoying getting to know her.) Why don't I notice my typos while I'm writing? This is why as a teacher I always insisted that students have their papers edited three times by three different readers. Edit! Edit! Edit!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Q and A With Mr. Alexi (What I Would Have Asked at Wordstock)

I wanted to raise my hand. I wanted to ask something. I wanted him to know I was a fan...that I thought he was brilliant, great, inspiring, and a comic genius.

But when he opened it up for questions two other ladies beat me to it. And, instead of asking good questions they just tried to impress him with what they knew. The jabbered. I was in the back. I felt deaf. He nodded. They expounded, and then finally at the end of their intelligence vomit he dove into an interesting monologue. Maybe he was trying to avoid more questions like there's? I would have.

So, Sherman, here are my questions: (Nothing intellectual about them.)

1. What percent of War Dances is autobiographical?
2. Should I have read War Dances in order? I went through and read all the poems first and then the short stories. Did I miss something?
3. I loved your "Ode to a Small-town Sweethearts." I totally related.(The voice in the poem reminded me a ton of my husband who is from Hayden Lake.) I got it. However, sometimes I didn't get everything in all your other poems. Do you sometimes not totally know why you write what you write? Can an writer do that? Sometimes I do when I write.
4. At what age will you allow your children to read your writing? Are they at all interested?
5. Who is your favorite author? Past and current?
6. What are your sons' names? I think you mentioned having two boys. How has having children changed your writing?
7. Who is your secret group? You know, the group you share your writings to first? Your wife? No one?
8. After you write something, how long to you let it sit before you look at it again and edit it?
9. How often do you go back to your hometown(s)? I'm counting Reardan in the mix.
10. Did you go to your high school reunions? How were you received? Do your friends/enemies/associates like being featured in your books?
11. Do you consider Flight at young adult book?
12. How did you meet your wife? At Wordstock you mentioned that she's Native American too? What tribe? Did she grow up on a reservation? Was her experience similar to yours?
13. Did you always want to write? What was your very first thing ever published, even if it was just a bit in a newspaper....
14. Religion and faith seem to come up a few times in War Dances, plus you had a soapbox on it at Wordstock. You hinted that you think that faith should be kept to oneself, yet faith seems central to many of your stories in War Dances. So, where are you at personally with your thoughts on personal faith and how that interacts with our daily lives....personal, social, political.....?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to more books by you to put on my shelf.

-Rebekah D. Schneiter

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Heart Was Racing....It Was Sherman Alexi

If only it had been 1988, my outward physical appearance would have matched my giddy excitement to see Sherman Alexi this weekend at Wordstock. I'm still claiming Steinbeck as my most favorite author of all time, but Alexi is fast becoming my favorite author who is currently still alive and still creating.

I was basically entertained for two hours. It was way better than any night at the Comedy Club in Portland. (There was an era in our early married life where we kept receiving free tickets to go this place of sure laughs....for me, sure bummers. It takes a lot to get me to laugh. My husband will be laughing hysterically in a movie and finally turn and ask, "Are you finding this funny at all?" Yep, I do. Just laughing inside.)

Well, Sherman made me laugh and made me think! That's why I love his writing...laughing and thinking, great combination.

I'm reading his newest book, War Dances, and will give a report as soon as I finish it, but recently a book group I'm involved with read his YA book, The Absolutely True Story of a Half-Time Indian. Here is a review/summary of our last book discussion: (It first appeared in our MOPS chapter newsletter.)

It was a resounding success. Everyone read it, enjoyed it, and recommended that others read it. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was our last read. It is a young adult book, which was one of our major discussion points.

We all felt that this book had great value and relatability for young readers. (Some school districts have banned this book. I’ll let you ask one of us why.) This book would be a perfect read for a reluctant reader. It is fast-paced and honest. Plus, there are cartoons throughout that add layers of understanding to the story.

Even though Diana pointed out that this book is a tragedy, Sherman’s main character (who is basically him) uses enough humor to keep readers engaged and give us a little hope.

Actually the whole book is about hope and choice. Junior is a Spokane Indian living in Eastern Washington on Wellpinit. (FYI: I drive through/beside Wellpinit once a year to visit my husband’s relatives/family cabin. This last summer we drove through at three in the morning, and I made my husband wake me up for the event. This is where you should all be mocking me.) Junior is encouraged by one of his teachers to get out and break the cycle of poverty and alcoholism in his family and his tribe. To do this he must leave his people and attend the neighboring white school in Reardan.

One of my favorite lines is when Junior realizes that there are now two Indians at Reardan High, him and the mascot.

His tribe rejects him for leaving. He is very much alone, yet his parents give him the silent support he needs. “Yep, my daddy was an undependable drunk. But he’d never missed any of my organized games, concerts, plays, or picnics. He may not have loved me perfectly, but he loved me as well as he could.”

His best friend Rowdy sums up the core message of the book in a conversation with Junior:

“So anyway, he said, “I was reading this book about old-time Indians, about how we used to be nomadic.”

Yeah,” I said.

“So I looked up nomadic in the dictionary, and it means people who move around, who keep moving, in search of food and water and grazing land....Well, the thing is, I don’t think Indians are nomadic anymore. Most Indians, anyway.....hardly anybody on this rez is nomadic. Except for you. You’re the nomadic one.”


“No, I’m serious. I always knew you were going to leave. I always knew you were going to leave us behind and travel the world. I had this dream about you a few months ago. You were standing on the Great Wall of China. You looked happy. And I was happy for you.”

This book tells young people that they can choice. They have a choice. They can break the unhealthy cycles in their families and communities.

Our next book is Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. If you’ve ever been interested in Jewish faith or culture, this book will hold your interest. It takes place on the East Coast during the 20’s and 30’s. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl named Davita. Her mother grew up as a Hassidic Jew, but rejected its values and beliefs and embraced instead the ideals of Communism.

However, this story is not about communism, but a greater need in all of us for faith, community, and relationships. I’m very excited to see where our discussion takes us!

November: Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potock
December: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow
January: Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Best Blog Award....

The best blog? Really? The best one in the whole wide world of blogs? Currently the best soccer players in the world are watching a Veggies Tales movie....Fernando Torres and some guy named Ka Ka. (I'm sure I'm spelling that last one wrong.) Anyway, according to my boys they, Torres and Ka Ka, are the best soccer players in the whole world---and I also got to eat lunch with them! I think there are other fans who would agree with my sons, and so I am happy to receive this award from a reader of mine, and maybe there are others who agree with her.

Here is a link to her blog:

(It is worth a peek!)

The Best Blog Award rules are:
1. To accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you have recently discovered and think are great! Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

OK, now I have to find 15 other blogs.....ok, here I go. I will return once I have finished my no particular order.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A is for Apple

I've been doing a lot of living lately...less writing. (Although I like to think writing is living.) I've been blogging in my mind. There have been some excellent ones! Probably my best ever. Which means they will never become written word. So, here are some pictures of my living. Enjoy! We did!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prize Time...50 Strong

I read once that all writers are a bit narcissistic. We love feedback. We love compliments.

And so, I love seeing my group of followers grow. I get giddy when my number goes from 28 to 30 over night!

Then I get all sad when I notice that a friend has 169 followers. How did she do it? Is there a gimmick I'm missing?

So, I'm going to do something a bit gutsy. I'm offering a prize to all my followers...once I hit 50! I'm so close, only need 20 more.

Everyone will be entered into a drawing for a gift bag of my yummy, orchard hazelnuts. (Oh, you know you want some!) FYI: I was cracking nuts last night as I watched The Office and I now have blisters. So, this prize comes at a huge cost to me. But that is what I'm willing to sacrifice to be 50 Strong! Spread the word. Tell your friends.

(The irony will be if no one response, and I stay right at 30 right into the New Year! Ha!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Preschool for Moms

Preschool is just as much for the child as it is for the mom, and after my oldest's first week of it I’m exhausted. We had to get up and go! I haven’t needed an alarm clock over the past four years. Now I’m going to add one to my Christmas Wish List. I’m sad. These Early Years went too fast. Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital and have my world rocked? I can close my eyes and touch those first moments, those first doctor visits, those first developmental milestones, those first trips to the park, those first days of mommy wonder....

Now my son is showing signs of not needing me so much. He can dress himself, brush his own teeth, ride his scooter, buckle himself into his booster seat, color in the lines, read simple words, and is showing signs of understanding theological concepts.

When I picked him up from his second day of preschool, all the other kids raced to their mommies and gave them gigantic hugs. My little guy threw on his backpack and raced out the door and into our van. One mom remarked, “Well, he doesn’t need you, does he?”

I sighed, “He’s very independent.”

Yet, there are moments when he stops playing and gazes at me, then declares, “I love you mommy.”

Sometimes he still gets bumps and scrapes and still comes running for my comfort. Sometimes all he needs is a special mommy kiss to make-it-all-better.

Everyone warned it would go fast. Enjoy it. Don’t rush it. And I think I have. I have tried. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing, and I just watch the three of them, the three boys. Just listen. I want to never forget my oldest son’s concept of a Superhero Jesus. I want to remember all the little details of how my 3-year-old runs. His little voice. His obsession with cheetahs. My baby....I want to remember how his little body feels when it falls asleep and relaxes against my chest.

I don’t want these stages to last forever. I just want to fully live them with no regrets.

I think I am doing pretty good at this, and I hope I continue to give myself space to do so as we merge into this next stage: the school years.

(Preschool started near the end of September, so this is a current thought and experience for me.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Photo Shoot From....

Forced smiles, holding down a rebellious 4-year-old, emotionally scarred 3-year-old, fussy baby, football helmet, football, basketball, baseball, and skateboard all present in the ultimate JC Penny Photo shoot. This was the photo shoot from...

I recounted the exhausting events to my husband. His response, "You should never attempt those without me." True.

But I did. I was sure it'd go better this time. Our middle son was a whole year older. His 2-year-old shots were a disaster, but surely with his new found maturity he'd cooperate and smile for the camera. We'd been gearing up. The whole week he'd been excited and ready to smile. Cheese! I'd whip out my pretend camera; he'd whip out his great grin. My focus was him since my baby is a dream! He smiles at anyone, makes anyone feel like the Baby Whisperer. My oldest would do fine. He's getting to that "helpful" age. It would work. I could be the ultimate mom and get the ultimate commemorative shot of all three boys.

Timing was key. I needed my baby newly wakened and refreshed from a nap. This is tricky because we live about 30 minutes from Penny's. We left our house right after his morning nap. Now I needed to find a space to nurse. So I swung by a dear friend’s house for a quick pick-me-up. What could go wrong? We'd be fast. My middle son has recently been dubbed "The Messiest Boy in the World." So, I should not have been surprised when he found the tools he needed to decorate his shirt with stickers and food and rub blue Play-Doh into his gorgeous blond locks. I had brought an extra shirt, but had completely forgotten the comb. Plus, whenever I tried to remove the crusted blue from his head he screamed. I would have to let it go if I wanted to keep him happy and willing to smile. He was already pretty upset by having to change his shirt. He was starting to descend into his dark place.

My little nursing session took longer than anticipated, so we were running a bit late. I put on the mama pressure which never helps my kids cooperate but is what I resort to when I think something needs to get done quickly and done now.

In my frenzy of push-and-shove my baby arrived for his photo session without any pants. The black-clad JC Penny photographers looked at me with disgust: another disorganized, spacey mom to deal with...great.

Options? His brother's 4T shorts. Nice. Almost like capris. If we angled him just right, with a dark background, only the most perceptive would notice.

My middle was dive bombing into a spiral of rage. I should have left him in the nasty, sticker shirt. Mistake. He was down the dark path where there would be no smiles.

Our youngest must have sensed the tension because he decided that the photographer was not the Baby Whisperer and began to cry. His lower lip stuck out. We managed to get a few smiles. His photos turned out OK. He sucked in that lower lip and did some winners for us, but not as I'd imagined and hoped. I wanted the photographers to be so amazed at his cuteness that they would ask for permission to turn one of his shots into a huge 20X24 wall hanging for their studio!

We let the baby go first, hoping that my middle would cooperate after he saw how much fun it was. We finally pulled out a soccer ball. One smile. One with the ball on top of his head. We might have gotten more shots, but my oldest (a soccer fanatic) saw the ball and barreled in for the score! He raced into the photo room and kicked the ball with all his strength! Pow! Bam! He hit a camera light! There was a wrestling match. There was me. I was pulling boys off of boys and boys off of balls and boys off of me.

We tried to get some shots of all three. There was a couch...a nice, brown, leather couch. On that couch there was a wild monkey, scared mole, sleepy puppy, and one frustrated, stressed mama bear. I was in each shot. Not the plan, but the reality.

We tried it all. We shouted nasty words like poopy and bottom. (I usually get good laughs this way.) I bribed with ice cream. Threatened. Were there more balls? We discovered the prop closet..... helmet, skate board, and five other athletic balls were all in our fussy couch frame.

When I viewed the results, I could either buy the one where my middle looked daft, but I looked smokin' hot, or the one where I have a cheesy grin but at least all the boys are looking in the same direction and appear to have average IQ's. Being a mother is a constant reminder to die to self. I picked the one with the mama permagrin.

Exhausted I purchased some poses and asked, "On a scale from one to ten, ten being horrible, how would you rate my kids? Be honest."

The photographer replied with a little too much cheer, "Oh a 6. I've seen worse. At least your boys didn't hit or kick you."

Nice. I'm sure she really wanted to say an 8. And, she would have if she'd witnessed my oldest kicking me in the back of my legs when I insisted we were done riding the escalator.

Will it go any better next year? My middle will be four? But then my youngest might be entering the tantrum two's. My oldest might be too cool for it all. I'm definitely not going it alone. Daddy must experience the joys of picture day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Reality Show for Writers?

Writers write. This was my line when I taught middle school English. My 7th grade students had SSW. (Sit down, shut-up, and write!) On Tuesday and Thursday mornings we started our day by writing. I'd give a prompt. Maybe a question. Maybe a story start that they had to finish. Maybe a picture. The requirement was to write and to not stop to think about what to write. This was extremely hard for some, but the point is that if you never actually sit down and write, you aren't really a writer. If you spend all your time thinking, then maybe you are a thinker. If writers write, then thinkers think.

The great thing about this belief is that it is true. The more you write...the more you want to write. Four years ago I began writing a humor column. At first I was nervous about supplying the paper with new, original columns each month. What if I froze? What if I ran out of ideas? What if I was only good for about a year's worth of writings, and then all my creative thinking was spent?

I did it. I do it. The ideas keep coming. I am finally not afraid anymore.

Then I feared the blog. Was it real? Was it really writing? I wanted to be legit. I'm not sure what the catalyst was for starting this blog, but I finally did it. And, I discovered that I like it. I'm constantly blogging: in the car, before I fall asleep at night, on walks, working in the garden, cooking, cleaning, and folding laundry. These are all great spots to begin the writing process for me. My writing always begins in my mind, but then it always makes it to the page....or just the best ones. (Of course, I am the judge of that.)

When I was eight I decided I would be the youngest, published writer ever. I sat down on the 70's rag rug and began to type my first novel. Funny, it didn't quite work out that way. But the desire was there and still is.

I was always a bit frustrated by my creative outlet. Musicians and singers always had outlets. They could always get a gig at a coffee shop. Crafty types could make their friends gifts, sell things at fairs etc. They had outlets, but writers? Unless you could break into the publishing world, your art was a silent one only read by a select few. (Like a spouse.)

Then if you shared that your hobby was writing people always asked, "Oh, are you published?"

"No. I just enjoy it."

Dead silence.

There are reality shows for actors, designers, directors, entrepreneurs, cooks, singers etc. You don't see any reality shows for writers. (I've often imagined what this would be like, and it cracks me up!)

When my oldest was starting to drink milk, we discovered that he had a milk intolerance, and so we had to buy raw goat's milk. The farmer was an editor for Simeon and Schuster. I asked him once if he was a writer.

"Yes. Not an author, but a writer. There is a huge difference. Actually, many authors aren't writers."

That gave me much to think about, and I liked it. It gave me permission to tell people that I write, and that I like it. I am a writer. (What a scary thing to utter.)

And so I write. Writer's write. That is what I do. It is my outlet. It gives my mind what it needs. My floors may be covered in toys and crumbs. My laundry may need to be folded. I probably should organize that junk drawer. And I will, but for now, for these brief moments, I am letting myself write.

(I wrote a young adult novel about four years ago. I have kept several hard copies and final drafts on my computer etc., but I decided it was time to recycle some of the rough drafts. This picture is a pile of that endeavor.)