Monday, March 31, 2014

Plain Old Me

I simply adore the down-to-earth practicality of Marjorie Pay Hinckley.
I love this story one of her daughters shares:

"When we were young, it was very uncommon to have mothers in the classroom--or anywhere at school. I remember only one day. We were having a program in the lunchroom. Chairs lined the room, and the children sat in them as we waited for the mothers to arrive. I noticed with curious interest as each mother came in and then made her way to sit with her child. The mother who came through the door just before mine was wearing spiked heels and a darling dress and had all of this foofy hair. Yes, she was young and, I thought, beautiful. In fact, she looked like a teenager. As she made her way over to her tap-dancer daughter (of course, I thought), I looked up to see my mother come through the same door. With that instant juxtaposition, I will never forget the flood of security and happiness I felt when I saw her--no foofy hair or spiked heels, not very young or very beautiful, dressed in her typically tidy housedress. There was a warm, comfortable feeling and the thought clear as neon: 'Oh, I'm so glad that my mother looks like a real mother! Whatever would a person do if her only mother wore darling dresses and had painted fingernails?'"

Not to say that there is anything wrong with cute clothes and painted fingernails,
but my take-away is that our families love us for who we are.
They love us in spite of our quirks and sometimes even because of them.
My husband and children know that I look awful in the morning
and I make lame jokes
and I have a bump on my nose
and I make funny faces when I concentrate
and I fall asleep while trying to read stories
and I detest cleaning bathrooms
and I sing off-key.

But, somehow, as unfathomable as it may be, they love me for me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Playing Ball at 3am

Last night at about 2:30 Wesley came staggering/crying into our room
holding about 5 balls,
then lay on the floor surrounded by them
and went back to sleep.
It's rare to see this boy without a ball nearby.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crazy Ants Are Coming!!!!

I read this news article today:


"This is one horror film plot that may be all too real: Billions of voracious ants are about to descend on the Houston area, destroying entire homes and anything else that gets in their way."

I guess it's a good thing the boys love ants!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fifteen Forever

Someday I will look older than fifteen.
But today is not that day.
I do notice that the bags under my eyes get more pronounced with each child,
so exhaustion will age me if nothing else, right?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cracker

I think it's safe to say this little guy enjoyed his first cracker!

P.S. Those cheeks...(!)
Can you blame me for pinching them all day long?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Law of Undulation

I hear a lot of complaints about the phrase "this too shall pass,"
but I love it.
I guess it may be lacking in empathy,
but I say it to myself all the time in moments of discouragement.
It's really helpful to know that whatever difficulty we are experiencing is temporary--
especially when we maintain an eternal perspective.

It reminds me of the "law of Undulation."
C.S. Lewis wrote about this principle so beautifully in The Screwtape Letters.

To set some background, the devil Screwtape is giving some advice to his devil nephew Wormwood
on how to overcome a human and successfully bring him to hell.

Screwtape says:
"Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?...This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation--the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks."

I think about this principle often in raising our children.
I have realized over the past 4 1/2 years
that their behavior follows the law of Undulation as well.
They tend to go through really difficult phases and really great phases
of a few months at a time.
And for me, it is remarkably helpful to recognize during the difficult phases that "this too shall pass"--that they will improve with time.

(If you couldn't tell, we're feeling like we're in a bit of a parenting trough right now in many ways.)

Screwtape continues with some very profound insights that have changed my life:
"He (God) will set them (humans) off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.

"It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best...He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.

"Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Shouted Conversation

Talmage sees the world as a sea of people waiting to become his friends.
I love that about him.
But his total comfort and obsession with talking to everyone
sometimes puts me in interesting situations.

Like the time we went to Office Depot and saw a man with long hair working there
(Talmage hasn't often seen men with long hair)
and as we approached the counter he squealed with awe and delight,
"HEY!! He looks like a girl!"
The man scowled at me and I pretended I didn't notice what had just been said.

Or the time in the waiting room at the OB/GYN
when he started asking a women about her "owies" (age spots and bruises)
and then proceeded to tell her in great detail about the scrape he had gotten a long time ago.
"One day, I was walking with my mom, when SUDDENLY I fell and got a scrape!! It was bleeding and bleeding, and it looked like a strawberry."

These kinds of scenarios occur just about everywhere we go.
If you look at Talmage, it is almost certain that he will start a conversation with you.
He simply LOVES people.

Today's interesting event came about as he was out playing on the balcony.
Mr. Social detected some movement at the small business next door and, spotting a person down below, shouted excitedly,
"My name is Talmage!!! What's your name?"
"Emily," wafted up the response.
I stood in the house listening to the exchange.
"Emily? Cool! Some people are giving us their trampoline, and we're going to pick it up and bring it to our house!"
He continued on sharing details of our lives and then said,
"I drew a picture of when Jesus died for our sins! The black is the nails in His hands, the red is the blood, and the blue is when He came alive again."

I was touched by his pure, innocent testimony
and the way he shared it so freely.

I eventually called to him and told him I needed his help inside
in an attempt to prevent the kind woman below from feeling obligated
to continue this shouted conversation.
"But I want to talk to Emily!" he protested.
I insisted that I needed his help, so he ran back outside and called down,
"Well, I have to help my mom! Her name is Kaitlyn! Or Sister Brady! Bye!"

I smile at his openness,
and sometimes shrink a little with discomfort,
but as I see the world becoming more and more a closed place to be,
I try very hard not to discourage his spontaneous conversations with strangers.
And I learn from the way he assumes the absolute best of everyone
and shares his faith so plainly.
I hope he never loses his positive worldview
and his desire to tell people the things he holds dear to his heart.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

Most of the oatmeal muffin recipes I have tried have left me sorely disappointed. They are overly tough, flat, and often have an oily texture. These muffins are a different story entirely. With only 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter per pan, you don't even have to feel too bad about the chocolate chips. They really do taste like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie!
Original recipe from How Sweet It Is
**Note-the recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but I only get 11 out of it.
1 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk
1 c. chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Add oats to a bowl and add 1/2 c. of the milk. Let soak for 5-10 minuteswhile you prepare the first steps of the muffins. In a large bowl, combine egg and brown sugar and whisk until smooth and caramel in color. Add in vanilla and butter, whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible-there still may be some small butter chunks. Add flour, oat/milk mixture, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix. Add remaining milk and combine until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into muffin tins and bake 15-18 minutes or until cooked through. Serve warm! If you're eating a leftover muffin, I highly recommend popping it in the microwave for 15 seconds or so. Yum!
When I broke open the warm muffin and saw this, I knew we had a winner. Talmage readily agreed.

FREE Photo Book!

As a teenager, I loved scrapbooking.
I imagined that I would have so much fun scrapbooking for my children as a mother.
But alas, we live in the digital age, and I quickly realized
that I took WAY too many photos of my children to scrapbook them all
and I was having a hard time picking and choosing.
Reality also hit and I realized that I didn't exactly have hours of leisure time to spend cutting and pasting.

So when a friend shared the idea of making a photo book each year for her kids, I loved it!
Shutterfly has been the company I have primarily used because of all their great deals.
I have been able to get all of the photo books I have made free or almost free,
and I absolutely love the result.


Their options are incredible and everything is fully customizable.
My boys have loved being able to look through picture books all about them!

I'm not being paid by Shutterfly to promote their products--I genuinely love them!
And I wanted to share a deal I saw today:
up through Tuesday (March 25, 2014), enter the code STORYTIME
and receive a free 8x8 hard cover photo book
OR
take $29.99 off a larger size.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Great Minds Think Alike

 One day 2-year-old Talmage crammed a grand total of 19 toys in Wesley's carseat with him when I ran upstairs for a moment (left).
2-year-old Wesley must be on the same wavelength now as Talmage was then, because I came downstairs and found Lincoln's carseat stuffed with toy balls, cars, and binoculars, and stickers covering his cheeks and arms (right).

Older brothers certainly do make life more exciting!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nostalgia and Airplane Rides

Meet our rocking chair.
(Complete with spit-up stains down the back that need to be wiped off)
This is the rocking chair my dad gave to my mom when they got married.
It is the chair all 7 of their babies were rocked and rocked in.
(And believe me, my kids are not the first to spit-up in it, either.)
I have so many fond memories of the rocking chair from my childhood.

My sister and I used to tip the chair over and pretend we were driving to various locations.
The driver would sit on the front while the passengers would lie down under the back.

The other day a wave of nostalgia hit me and I decided to play the same game with my boys.
They quickly took ownership and turned it into an airplane.
(Baby winter hats turned sideways make great captain's gear in Wesley's eyes. Literally.)

We pretended we were flying all around the world.
We landed in China and lined up kitchen stools and climbed up and walked along the backs of the couches as we traversed the Great Wall.
We flew to England and visited Buckingham Palace and took a look at the beautiful gardens outside.
We soared our way to Utah to visit family and went sledding down the stairs in laundry baskets.
We hopped over to Idaho and inspected potatoes in the pantry.

Lunchtime and a hungry baby ended the fun,
but I'm sure our plane will be taking off again soon.
African drums are waiting to be made and played.
The Swiss Alps are waiting to be climbed and yodeled in.
Sandcastles are waiting to be constructed.
German chocolate is waiting to be enjoyed.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend Highlights

Highlights of the weekend:
-Me getting violently ill and rescheduling our Pi Day celebration
-Laying on the couch, too sick to get up, coaching Talmage on how to make his own peanut butter sandwich
-Talmage complaining of a sick stomach
-Lincoln with a cold and teething
-Wesley acting perfectly normal and then suddenly projectile vomiting a LOT...all over Lincoln (the poor baby was covered from head-to-toe!)
-Looking out the window and discovering a front-loader sitting 10 feet from our house in our backyard
-Watching our huge palm tree being removed by said front-loader (I guess the landlord decided it was getting too big?)
-The kids and I living on popsicles, apple juice, and ginger ale
-Filing taxes




Was your weekend as exciting as mine?
Here's to hoping this week is full of a different kind of excitement.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Hummus

When I came across this recipe I was excited because the pediatrician said to emphasize protein with Talmage and this is made primarily of chickpeas and peanut butter! We used it as a dip for animal crackers, but I also tried it on apples and bananas and it was good that way as well. Talmage liked it best by itself, I think! He gobbled it up!
Recipe adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie

1 can chickpeas, drained
pinch salt
pinch baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. nut butter (I used peanut butter)
1 Tbsp. milk (plus more as desired)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. quick oats
1/3 c. chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until very smooth. Then stir in chocolate chips. Serve with graham crackers, animal crackers, fruit, or whatever else you desire.

Notes:
-I don't own a food processor. I just use a mini-chopper and it does an okay job. It's not perfectly smooth, but the oats disguise the graininess of the beans. You can add more oats as desired.

-I tried this the first time with 2/3 cup brown sugar (as suggested by the recipe) and then the second time cut it back to 1/2 cup. There wasn't a huge difference, and Talmage loved it either way.

A True Texan

Behind these signs lives one of the sweetest women I know.
(Although the threats are very real, so bad guys beware. I've helped her clean one of her many loaded guns.)
We love Texas, even though we're sometimes a bit afraid to knock on strangers' doors.
Especially out in the country.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reasons

Some of the reasons I am head-over-heels in love with this man 
are perfectly expressed in the photo below:
The fact that he won't object to me posting this picture is yet another.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Zoobies at the Houston Zoo

This morning we took a lovely jaunt to the zoo with some friends.
After we got home I asked Wesley what his favorite thing to see at the zoo was.
His response? "The animals."
We only stayed for a couple of hours,
but by the end all three boys were pretty well tuckered out.
We got a lot of stares as I pushed them out of the zoo like this.
Who needs a double stroller anyway?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Clumsy

Today I used the restroom while all of my children were awake and dinner was cooking.
I should have known I was setting myself up for disaster.

All throughout the 2-3 minutes I was behind a closed door,
one son was knocking and crying because he wanted to come in.
As I washed my hands, hypersensitive smoke detectors began blaring throughout the house.
I came out to a baby crying on the floor
and another son banging on the piano and singing at the top of his lungs.
The baby continued to wail as I held him while scraping globs of 
burning whole wheat bread dough
off the bottom of the oven, started the fan, and opened the door
to silence the screeching alarms.

I use the restroom at my own risk.

I was just glad it wasn't a repeat of Friday,
when I dropped a cup of hot chocolate pudding in the freezer,
which splattered everywhere and then froze
right as Lincoln woke up and began to cry, wanting to be fed.
Ah, the dilemma--let the pudding freeze completely all over
or let the baby cry??
I may be clumsy, but at least I can laugh about it, right?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and the Myth of Supermom

It was just a few days before my third son was born.
It had been a difficult pregnancy, and I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and essentially miserable.
I labored under the burden of guilt that I was not being the mother my older two sons needed me to be in the midst of my discomfort.

On this particular day, we had been busy running our last errands 
to get ready for Lincoln's birth.
As we walked into one store,
(let's be honest--they walked, I waddled)
Talmage asked what we were having for dinner.

There was that guilt again, welling up inside of me as I felt my inadequacies acutely.

"I don't know..." I responded. "I'll probably make you a peanut butter sandwich."
His features lit up with excitement as he exclaimed with great enthusiasm,
"Thanks!!! You're a good mom!"
And then it hit me.

Not only is it unrealistic to hold ourselves to a fabricated supermom composite
consisting of only the very best bits and pieces of all that surrounds us,
but it is, to put it simply, unwanted.

All around us we see images depicting the perfect ideal of motherhood.
The clean white towels hanging in the spotless bathrooms of diaper cream ads,
the smiling, apron-clad, lipsticked woman holding the beautifully baked pan of organic chicken,
the well-groomed soccer mom emerging from her pristine new minivan.

And then we look around at the heaps of dirty laundry,
the noses that need to be wiped,
and the bags under our eyes,
and we wonder where we are going wrong.

But in reality, our children don't even want those unrealistic ideals.

They want a home in which they can be comfortable,
where a bit of mud tracked through the kitchen is met with a forgiving smile and an outstretched cloth
instead of a reprimand pertaining to equilibrium disturbed.
They want a dinner that fills their bellies
and dinner conversation that fills their eager minds.
They want mothers who are not too consumed with maintaining perfect images
to stoop down and play
without worries of dirt under the fingernails or ironing left undone.

In short, our children want us.
Their imperfect moms with their less-than-spotless homes
and bags under their eyes because they devote their lives
to loving and caring for each runny nose.

Their moms who may not often wear lipstick
but have a ready smile,
whose appearance may not set trends
but will always render comfort.

Their moms who may feel burdened with imperfections
but love absolutely unconditionally.
And it's that love that makes a very imperfect woman
into the perfect mother for her children.
Peanut butter sandwiches and all.
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