Saturday, October 24, 2009

Enrich your Chocolate Word Power

The Power of Chocolate
Boo has officially reached the age of chocolate awareness.

Early on, we were able to raid her Halloween collection for all the good stuff, leaving her with Laffy Taffy and Tootsie Rolls, and she was perfectly happy. It worked out well for all involved parties.

These days, I have to be much more stealthy about raiding that candy collection. In fact, I may not be able to get away with it this year.

I suddenly realized that Boo has turned into a chocolate hound, on a recent afternoon as she followed me around my kitchen. Just me and my shadow...

I opened the freezer door looking for something to make for dinner. Over my shoulder I heard her exclaim, "Hey, there's chocolate in there!" She had spotted my secret Butterfinger stash, hidden on the top shelf.

I slammed the freezer and moved to the pantry, still restlessly searching for dinner items. Without missing a beat, she shouted, "Hey, there's more chocolate!" A rare find, she pointed to a package of chocolate cookies I had bought at the grocery that afternoon. Boy she's quick!

Next I opened the baking cupboard, gathering salt and baking soda to make bread. Hopping up and craning her neck, the excitement reaching a fever pitch, Boo yelled, "Mom! There's MORE chocolate!" Yes, she had honed right in on the open bag of chocolate chips, my last resort emergency stash. Like a pointer dog or something.

How did she do that? My days of anonymous chocolate consumption have ended. There will be only sharing or hiding from now on.

I promised you a new word in this post. Are you ready?

The Power of a Word
This afternoon I received a belated birthday gift in the mail. Thank you beloved Christina, of the yellow cab and the red springs, sharer of LOST lore, surrogate aunt of my children, knower of my soul!

As I opened the box in front of my young audience, a ziplock bag of mini peanut butter cups (my favorite) fell out. The children ignored the tissue wrapped remainder of the gift, but gasped in wonder that chocolate should come in a box.

Feeling generous, I offered to share a peanut butter cup with each of them. After all, there were at least 20 in the bag. They jubilantly chose one each and scampered to the kitchen, celebrating as they went:


"That's beyond awesome!"

"No, that's BE-AWESOME!"

They tell me they learned it from Bolt. I was so impressed at appropriate use of a brand-new word, I gave them each two more.

Long live word power.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lessons Learned from Mary Poppins

Have I mentioned that we have a new family tradition?

Every Friday night we have a special dinner, followed by movie night all together. Since I turned off the TV back in June, movies have become much more special. We try to choose movies the kids haven't seen, to broaden their movie repertoire.

So far we have watched Bolt, The Secret of NIMH, Mary Poppins and Bedtime Stories.

I was startled at the profound life lessons that just dripped from every scene of Mary Poppins. Especially in light of my recent week of feeling stuck in a funk, I found encouragement and challenge for kids and parents alike.

Make the Work Fun
Mary breezes into the children's nursery and straightens it up in a snap, while singing A Spoonful of Sugar. Although I can't snap my fingers and get the books, toys and clothes to put themselves away (oh how I wish!), I do have the power to set the perspective for the kids and myself.

This week I turned kitchen cleanup into a game by offering cookies as a reward for beating the casserole timer. Amazingly, they loved it! The Captain and I also got bathrooms clean last weekend by each taking a child and walking them through printed out steps. When we were finished, we sat down and had reading time together.

Enjoy the Moment
Not too long after Mary joins the household, she receives an emergency message via a neighborhood dog. With the kids in tow, she visits Uncle Albert's house to find him in a dreadful state: he's laughing so hysterically that he is floating up by the ceiling! My kids loved this scene, how could you not laugh along while the whole gang sings I Love to Laugh while taking tea in the air!

I was reminded of the medicinal value of a light heart. Seems a long time since I have had a light heart; simple responsibility seems to weigh a lot these days, and I wouldn't even call my life complicated. But as we all laughed together, I felt a little of that weight lift. I need to laugh like that more often. Maybe one of these days you'll even find me floating by the ceiling!

Reach Out
In a more somber chapter of the story, Mary tells the children of a little old lady who sits on the steps of the cathedral, selling crumbs to Feed the Birds for tuppence a bag. The children tell their father, who had never noticed the old lady before. Through his own set of events, the father eventually realizes that such a small amount of money as two pennies can make a difference to this lady and her birds.

I tend to struggle to keep to my family budget every month. There are always more places to spend money than we have money to spend. But the truth is, we have so much. Surely gifts of even five or ten dollars, found by saving money elsewhere, could make a difference in someone's life greater than the sacrifice I would have in giving it.

Do Things Together as a Family
The movie ends on a high note, with Mary stealing away as the children and their parents Go Fly A Kite together. The mother has left her activist circle, the father has quit his job, and the children have learned to make their own fun. The credits roll and the curtain drops on a scene of familial restoration.

How can one help but leave this movie resolving to be a more involved parent, to be aware of the world beyond one's everyday bubble, and to approach every aspect of life with humor and a good attitude? These lessons validate our attempt to build a family tradition, as well as challenge me to be looking for more meaningful activities we can do together as a family.

I would love to know about your family traditions, and whether you already work together to reach out and make a difference.

Also, we are about due for our next family movie night. Do you have any favorites to suggest for us?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Funk Phase

I got some precious alone time this evening as the kids are finally all to bed and the Captain is out to the movies for a bit longer. I hear the sound of a soaking rain dripping down the gutters and splashing on to the concrete surfaces outside my house; and I listen to some nice classical music indoors, thanks to my new friend Pandora. At the moment we have a rendition of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.

It's a night for hot tea and a good book, or a session in blog world. Definitely not time for folding laundry or finishing the dishes or starting the coffee cake I said I would bring to Bible Study tomorrow morning. Hmm. I so wish all that stuff would do itself.

I believe I stated for the record last week that my standard of housekeeping doesn't have much room to go down. I really hate housework, it's so tedious. And I ask you, what's the point when it all has to be done again in another hour?

Manic Phase
Sometimes I get on a kick where my energy levels seem limitless; when ideas seem to spark from my brain like an electrical storm; when I have to force myself to go to bed even though my adrenaline could carry me through a week of 2 hour nights. I have come to call this my manic phase. I have learned to treasure the energy, to shepherd my body to keep from burning myself out like a candle burned too long, and to ride the wave of inspiration as far as it will take me. I take notes, organize my schedule, and set some goals to get me through the next few months.

I tend to hit manic phase every September/October, and again around April. This is when the world tends to see the most of me, because my brain produces so many plans and ideas that they just rocket around my head and explode out to whomever will listen.

But try as I might, sooner or later the manic wave always seems to drop me in a trough. For whatever reason, normal functioning is an elusive dream. My energy seems to go either high or low. I hesitate to use the term depressive because that word is so loaded. So I have come up with my personal term for the opposite of manic, which is "in a funk." Funk phase, if you will.

Funk Phase
I seem to have been stuck in funk phase since reaching the ultimate high last week of being treated to a splendid 24 hour, burn-all-the-energy, exhilarating trip to Dallas for the U2 concert.

At the moment I never want to write again. The living room is a shambles. I have a hard time caring whether I will someday be judged a good parent. I want to check every fantasy novel out of the library, lock myself in a closet with them, and ignore every responsibility with which an adult gets so weighed down.

Of course I am smart enough to know this too will pass, but I have to make sure I don't do anything destructive while I'm here in the trough. I could work on accomplishing the goals I set for myself a few weeks ago in manic phase. Or cleaning up the living room (please! it's driving me nuts!) But that would be so... responsible.

Trudging Through
The secret of getting through funk phase, I am certain, is to just keep doing all the things I should be doing. Folding the stinking laundry again, doing the dishes again, paying the bills again. But it seems so much harder to do these things when every little action requires so much more effort, as if my limbs are moving through molasses and all I want to do whenever I have the chance is crawl into my bed and escape rest.

I actually sat down to write a different, lighter and shorter post, but I guess the quiet orchestral music and the music of the raindrops got me all pensive and made me wonder about the rest of the world. All of you, whom I watch, seem to get everything done that needs to be done. Is that true, or is it all smoke and mirrors?

Is this tendency toward high and low energy cycles something common to everyone, or do some people struggle with it more than others? If this describes you, how have you learned to work through funk phase?

Especially if you have figured out a way to get the laundry to put itself away, I am all ears.

Meantime, I think I will mosey myself over to the living room and attempt to do one useful thing today before crawling under the covers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nine Months

Nine months of Pinky Lu Who

Today I celebrate the fun things that our precious baby has brought to our lives in the nine months since January 20.

All babies are precious, without exception. Some are survivors of things no parent wants for their child, and they become more precious for having survived. Some are taken earlier than any parent could be ready for, and they are precious for the brief moments they touched our lives.

We are humbled to have been blessed with a third healthy pregnancy, an easy delivery, and a good sleeper with a happy temperament. The more I've been around, the more I have realized what a precious gift each of these things really is.

Nine months of 2 kids and a Baby Doll

At nine months, Lulu has just recently moved from our closet into her crib, sharing a room with the Rooster. Easygoing gal that she is, we had zero transition pains.

She drinks about 20 ounces of her special milk a day, eats three meals totaling about 10 ounces of any food you give her, and sleeps about 17 hours between full nights and two good naps. This week she tried goldfish for the first time, and gave her full approval.

So far we have seen one tooth, watched her get more adept with rolling over, and seen her start to figure out how to scoot. She likes to clap, and sing along with the vacuum cleaner, coffee grinder and blender. We also enjoy her chirping and cooing most of the rest of the time. Occasionally she will be placed upon the piano bench, and she already knows how to make music like a lady!

Our Baby Doll enjoys being the object of everyone's attention, and actually doesn't quite know what to do with herself if she's awake but not eating or playing with someone. Must be nice having siblings to entertain you all the time!

Waking time not spent in the eating chair is spent in the playpen. This was a defensive move to help those eager siblings know what is her personal space. They tend to ascribe to the school of rough love. It's also going to be nice in a couple weeks when she becomes mobile. Her favorite thing is when someone stands her up in the play pen so she can peer over the rail and laugh at all of us.

Don't grow up too fast, Pinky!

The personality on this little tyke is amazing. As I shop with her, I am constantly startled to find other shoppers suddenly look in my direction and start smiling. I look down and see her locking eyes and grinning at everyone she meets, as if sharing the greatest joke in the world.

A few days ago as I picked her up from childcare after my Bible study, one of the workers commented, She may be tiny but her sense of self is huge! Just last night I was across the street at a girls' party, and my neighbors demanded an appearance from the little princess. So I was obliged to return home and fetch her to grant an audience!

To sum up, this pink baby is a lot of fun. She fits in with whatever we are doing, and makes it even more fun. She's a little smaller than the others were at the same age, and a little slower to hit her milestones, but I'm savoring every minute of my baby doll. She is welcome to take her time as much as she wants.

Monday, October 19, 2009

So you think you can dance?

Actually, no. No, I don't think I can dance. I know very well that I cannot.

My natural grace is such that as I attempted some lame activity like folding laundry this evening (yes, I occasionally do that), I stubbed my toe on the leg of the sofa. Two of my toes are throbbing as I write this. I am just thankful that this time my pedicure survived intact.

But I wish I knew how to dance. So badly.

Lately I've discovered Pandora, and the world of music has opened up for me. I love music that just demands me to get up and move. I sometimes obey, and find myself twirling like mad all around my kitchen. Keep away from the living room though, too many toe-stubbing opportunities there. But as I try to move artistically, my soul longs for a little order and direction. To know that I'm following a step. So after a few moments of twirling, I shrug, and go back to my other activities.

My kids don't have this problem, of course. If they feel like dancing, they just start spinning. And giggling. And loving it. I am jealous. Somewhere along the way, I learned how to handle myself with decorum; childish freedom got buried under layers of rules. Rules like, never vacuum the floor while barefoot; you will find a way to run over your baby toe--again.

Perhaps that explains why I find cooking so comforting. As a new wife a dozen years ago, I picked up a cookbook and began to follow a recipe. And I liked the result, so I did it again. And again. And I have never stubbed my toe while cooking, not even once.

My first cookbook

As I gained confidence in my results from following the rules, I began to experiment. These days I consider a recipe more of a guideline than a rigid set of rules. But without those rules, I wouldn't know even where to begin.

The funny thing is, I have never actually taken a cooking class other than home economics in grades 7-9. I did learn some good basics from that, but most of what I know has come from devouring cookbooks and consulting the Captain's mother.

Until now.

Next week I get to expand my horizons, and take a cooking class. I am going to learn about the tastes of India! This self-taught midwestern girl is excited to learn a few more flavor rules, to draw my boundary and experimentation lines a little more broadly.

I can't wait to meet Chef Diane!

Why not a dancing class? I have actually tried. The movements just don't make sense to me, and I end up standing around feeling a little stupid. So I have resigned myself to pursuing hobbies I do understand, like the interactions between different ingredients in a recipe.

But sometimes, my feet get a little itch, my heart feels momentarily light, and I think to myself, if I only knew what to do next! Perhaps then I could avoid the accidental kicking of the sofa. Maybe someday I will be able to translate my comprehension of food science into an understanding of the art of free movement.

A girl can always dream.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

I found a great story the other day about a pair of sisters who have developed a love for cooking as a result of hanging around in the kitchen with their parents and extended family. Isabella and Olivia have created their own cooking website just for kids, and have even published a cookbook. And by the way, they are 11 and 9 years old.

I am so inspired. I don't see that Miss Boo is necessarily on the fast track to being the next prodigy entrepreneur in any field; however, a lot of kids benefit from having the freedom to explore the world around them. Boo frequently expresses interest in all kinds of culinary practices from cracking eggs to inventing her own soup to making ice cakes.

And that's just the kitchen. She has another whole side interested in creating things out of tape, foil, paper, staples and string. No kidding. She is carefully tutoring her little brother in the art of using a roll of aluminum foil, 1000 inches of tape, 500 sheets of printer paper, a bottle and two sticks of glue, and several full cartridges of staples in a week. Oh yeah, and last week she took my entire recycling collection and repurposed it into building blocks for a castle in her room.

I always said I wanted a curious child, full of initiative.

Then I got one, and I don't know what happened to me. I find myself denying her access to the kitchen: "Not now, honey, I'm making dinner. I just finished doing the dishes. I don't feel like cleaning up any more messes today."

I am astonished at the speed with which I snap: "Clean up your room! Stop playing in the Recycle Bin! NO you can't have any more foil!"

Memo to myself when I have exactly the kid I wished for: WAKE UP AND APPRECIATE IT!!!!

One thing the article about the cooking sisters mentioned is that you have to allow grace for the kids to spill things on the floor, or burn the soup. That's part of exploration and learning the limits of cooking principles.

I can't exactly lower my standard of allowing the messes to happen. The standard is in the basement already, and it makes me crazy. But I need to be FAR more intentional about allowing structured time for Boo and Roo to explore their creative side. The Captain is really good about encouraging the kids' artistic tendencies; I need to take a breath, and take a page out of his book.

I read that as far as cooking is concerned, kids that are comfortable in the kitchen also have more self confidence and perform better academically. Yes, please!

Another important principle is to give the kids tasks they can physically handle. My kids have been cracking eggs into the batter since they were about 3. Boo and I made banana bread together a few months ago, and her 7 year old tasks included mashing bananas, measuring flour, cracking eggs, stirring the batter, and spooning it into the loaf pan. I handled setting the stage with ingredients and mixing utensils, then put it in the oven.

One really fun way to get the kids involved is to make food items that utilize toppings, such as pizza, tacos, baked potatoes or salad. Toppings can go into a muffin pan, and the kids get to build their own creation.

We recently started a tradition of having special dinner on Fridays, followed by family movie night. So far we've had breakfast for dinner four weeks in a row. But I'm thinking the next time we're going to have build-your-own pizzas. That sounds really fun!

Visit the Spatulatta Sisters for videos, recipes and tips for cooking with kids. I'd love to hear about your adventures with kids in the kitchen!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Bono Makes My Heart Flutter

Okay, you probably don't need anyone to explain Bono's sheer magnetism. The way he makes every love song sound like it was written just for you, the way your blood races to the soaring rhythm and melody. I've heard the music of U2 referred to as "anthem rock" which seems to sum it up very well for me.

The magic of Bono is that whatever Bono is selling, I want some of it. Admit it, you do, too.

But my favorite thing about this band, beyond its ability to set my blood on fire with passion, desire, righteous anger, disdain, you name it, is the conviction that underpins every song, every lyric, every appearance. Since the beginning, U2 has used its position of influence as a rock band to speak up for compassionate causes.

At the concert the other night, Bono spoke to the crowd of the imprisoned leader of Burma, and dedicated the concert to her. He spoke of aid that had come from the US in recent years, allowing 3 million African to receive AIDS vaccine. And millions of African children that have been spared the threat of malaria because of widespread distribution of mosquito netting.

I totally respect that. And it just makes me love him the group more.

And it makes me ask myself, what am I doing in my own circle of influence, to actively support my own personal causes? Causes like hunger, homelessness, and clean water. My Maker, my Savior wants me to do good in his name, and these are the causes about which a food-loving mom can grow increasingly passionate.

Sure, I have my hands full with raising kids at this point in my life. But I want to raise my kids to be aware of the real (broken) world; to give them appreciation for their own life, but also to build a spirit of compassion in them. I can talk forever about the importance of sending money overseas or buying clothes for disadvantaged kids at Christmas, but the conviction is growing in my heart that I don't want my kids to leave my care having learned that giving money is the best or only way to reach out to the broken world around us.

I make no evaluation on Bono's spiritual situation. But he has spent decades reaching out and helping others, using the influence he has been given. In the same decades, I, as a professed follower of the greatest humanitarian of all (Jesus), have done a lot of talking, and not enough doing. Bono challenges me to act on the quiet prod in my heart.

My action time has come. I sense it. I don't know exactly what that action is, but it's got to happen soon, because the conviction and need to obey are starting to consume me. I just need to pick up the phone and get started. For me, the cause is to fight hunger in my community, to be a Christ-follower doing a people-loving work.

What is your cause? What can you do to begin to make a difference?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Birthday Checklist

Kids packed and off to Grammy's: Check.
Shower and pack for overnight stay: Check.
Tickets and earplugs: Check.
Gas tank full for 200 mile drive: Check.
Arrive hotel: Check.
45 minute, 3 mile drive to event vicinity: Check.
Pay for parking Spend $40 on bonus gift, leave receipt on dash: Check.
Walk six blocks to brand new Cowboy Stadium: Check.

Pass through checkpoint with camera and valid tickets: Big check.
Find food, survive sticker shock: Check.
Smile: Check.

Enjoy opening act: Check.


Experience the biggest recording artist of my generation:


Crossing "See U2 in Concert" off my lifetime to-do list: Priceless.

Best. Birthday. Surprise. Ever.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Feeling a Little Green

Oh, jealousy!

Yeah, that kind of green. Not the cool, hip "save the earth" kind. But the "compare my kids against everyone else's" kind.

Yuck. Have I not learned anything about grace, and God being Enough?

My day started innocently enough, with a trip to school for my annual conference with Boo Bear's teachers. And it went down pretty much the same as it does every year.

"Your daughter LOVES to read. She is really bright academically.

"And she has come a long way socially since the beginning of the year! But she does have a little trouble with the following:

"Talking out of turn
Keeping in her own space
Showing respect to the teacher
Following directions
Being kind to kids who aggravate her"
and so on...
(and, I mentally add, beating her lunchbag against the wall)

And just like every year, I try to remember that the teachers and I are on the same side, and that Boo and I are not in trouble. Because the truth of the matter is, I love the beautiful impulsive spirit that finds its dark side in all these behaviors.

But today was a little different, because I happened to schedule this conference on the same day, at the same time, as the first ever Golden Gator awards. In which, once every six weeks, each teacher gets to choose out two students for special recognition in front of the entire grade.

We had this at the other school Boo attended before getting reassigned to this brand new school. They gave a Fabulous Falcon award every single Friday, with the goal that by the end of the year every student in the school would have been recognized.

Guess who got the Fabulous Falcon award on the very last day of kindergarten? And on the last April Friday of first grade? Yep. That would be my precious, independent minded firstborn. I was just relieved she got an award at all. You have no idea how important that award becomes for a kid who wants so badly to be good, but her brain just keeps making her do these bad things!

Now here we are in a brand new school, and the teachers have already identified to me that they are really working hard with her, and are hopeful for where she is going, behavior wise.

Now it's Golden Gator award time.

Guess who was given a Golden Gator award today, on the first day of it ever being awarded? Not my pride and joy. But...

All three of the kindergarten students whose families I know personally. I know because I ran into them at school as I was leaving my annual "you have a special child" conference.

And I am a little, just a teeny little bit, green with envy.

Because my friends have some beautiful, oh so sweet children. I know these kids myself and I agree they are charming kids that are a pleasure to be around. I am happy for them to receive this recognition, I think it is well given.

This is the part where I remind myself that I love having such an interesting child, full of spark and with a tendency to leap before looking.

This is also the part where a sick jealous pit in my stomach (I hate that feeling) makes me go running for the comfort of my Maker, because he is Enough. He has given me the right kid for me. And he wants me to always remember that she is not really mine. She is his child. And I have nothing for which to be jealous. Ever.

The comparing game always leads to losing.

Dear Father,
Thank you for constantly putting me in situations that remind me how much I need you. Please be Enough for me today. Restore my confidence that this precious child is exactly who you created her to be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

#200: In Search of Fresh Air

Well friends, here it is. Today I give you the 200th entry of Life in Texas. In the last two years, apparently I have had at least 200 thoughts I just had to share with someone. And you were a likely audience, let me just tell you! Aww, I didn't mean that. In fact, you have been great, even inspiring.

After 200 entries, I am ready to move the furniture around a little. Throw open the windows and let in some fresh air.

Life in Texas was started in 2007 as a way to share my new life in Texas (go figure) with my friends all over the country, including photos of the growing kids. Then I got some good feedback that friends liked what I had to say, and have since begun using this place to hone my writing. In addition, my photography skills have improved along the way. Those are good purposes, but I realize they have become secondary to my ultimate goal.

My ultimate goal, thank you for asking, is to live every day in wonder, and bring my readers along for the ride. One thing I have learned is that while you may enjoy coming here and reading about ME (at least so I flatter myself), what you want to take away and what brings you back, is something for YOU! My blog then should function not as a diary, but as an honest reflection on the bits of wonder we find in our broken world and how those bits draw us to our universal purpose, to seek our Maker.

The more I think about it, I have been able to identify a couple key areas where I most experience, or most want to experience, the wonder of it all. From here forward, I will try to make each post relate to one of these topics. Of course I may add more topics as time goes on...

The Journey: Reflections on the wonder of God's work in my heart
Relationships: Insights and other things I have learned along the way
Body and Soul: Cool ideas and guides to make time in the kitchen more simple and meaningful
Original Green: Getting back to basics to live and conserve the way our Maker originally intended.

In addition, I find myself wanting to share some of the following:
Writing: Activities to get your brain moving
Meditations: Inspiring Scripture, Prayers, and Quotations
Reviews: of Books related to these areas. I might even sponsor a giveaway here and there!

Okay, this sounds ambitious. And truthfully, I think there is still some refining to be done. But it's a place to start the next chapter.

God reveals himself in everyday life, and allows us the privilege of sharing our discoveries of him with each other. As I grow and as this little corner of the blogosphere grows, I hope you find less about the mundane details of my life and more of what your soul needs.

Enjoy the fresh air.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little Soul Food

If you have found my blog via my article on the Proverbs 31 website, welcome! The rest of you know you are always welcome, too...

Getting the right start in the morning is such an important part of our day. Here is the opportunity to feed your brain, and give the kids fuel that will help them think clearly through the morning.

But what happens once that breakfast brain-food wears off? Our Maker designed us to require more fuel about every four hours, which makes lunch an important stop along the way.

I would love a little reader feedback today. Think of this as your chance to tell me you read my blog. Because I know there are many of you who never leave a comment! Just click the word "comment" below, and you will get a box to write in. Are you ready for the challenge? It's not so hard!

All I want to know is, what do you eat for lunch each day?

I promise not to judge, even if your answer is "nothing" or "a candy bar." I'll be honest, sometimes those are my answers. But sometimes I want to get really creative, and I would love some new ideas.

I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Psalm 19

9 Reverence for the Lord is pure,
lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
each one is fair.

10 They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.

Father, may I always treat you with the respect you deserve.

As I read your words, let me treat them like they are the finest gold. Open my mind to receive their sweetness.

May my children grow to find your words more precious than their greatest treasures, and sweeter than the candy they constantly crave.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight."
-Psalm 19:14

Lately I have struggled with sensing direction. Actually, let me amend that. I have plenty of ideas for the direction I would like to travel in the near future. But I struggle to know whether my direction is the same as the Lord's direction. Do you ever feel that way?

I have been obediently studying my Bible, reading current Christian authors, and filling my mind with Christian music. But it is still not enough, because I still do not feel like I am in tune with God the way I would like.

"In seeking God, in crying for His help--each time it must be with my whole heart."
-Andrew Murray

Of course, we do not live our lives on a mountaintop, having the greatest day ever every day. I have been a follower of Christ long enough to know that sometimes we are just asked to put one foot in front of the other and live in obedience to what we already know.

But I so long to feel God's presence. I did more when I was younger, back when my choices in life were clear-cut: graduate high school, attend college, get married, have kids. Now that I've got the business of living under control, where do I find God's voice in my life?

"As I pray, my attitude should be one of silent expectation."

As I spent some time this morning just waiting on God in prayer, I began to wonder, what am I waiting for? A voice? The phone to ring? Maybe a lightning bolt of inspiration?

I got none of those, but I did collect a few thoughts in my journal. I prayed over my calendar, hoping that the decisions I make with my time this month will be inspired by the Maker of Time. I had a few ideas of emails I should write, notes I should send, and I had a sense that those things might produce some good results.

"A life of prayer will make a life of love to Christ, to other Christians, and to those without Christ."

I still want more. I want to feel like the line between God and me is just humming with energy, so I know it's there.

But as I read Andrew Murray's thoughts on Talking with God, I know that prayer is not just an exercise, it is a way of life. We are called to pray without ceasing. Even when we don't know what to say.

"When I feel how imperfect my prayer is, I may bow before God in the confidence that His Holy Spirit will teach me to pray."

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's official!

I have an announcement to make: Drum roll, please. . .

As of today, I am a published writer! Today is the first day of the rest of whenever, for this is the day that the adjective "aspiring" no longer applies to me. I'm the real thing, baby!

Click the picture below, to be transported to the Proverbs 31 website to read my article. You'll have to scroll down a bit, but it's definitely there.

It will be posted there through the month of October. I hope by the end of that time that my sweet Captain will have captured a shot of that page for posterity (or prosperity, as my mouth always wants to say when I try to use that word).

It is really cool to see my name in lights. Even cooler to be affiliated with such an amazing organization. Thanks to the editorial team at Proverbs 31 Magazine for the opportunity.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Words for Wednesday

In the search to improve my writing skillz, I recently read that poetry helps one refine the clarity of a thought. I had initial doubts, given that my mental impression is of either Seussian singsong or careless words


like so




Both cute, but I don't see much meaning to this kind of poetry. Apparently my browser doesn't either, because those words were supposed to be sprinkled, not centered.

In high school I studied the iambic pentameter of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and wrote one of my own. It was even fun. But for the most part when I read poetry, my brain gets all fuzzy the same way it does when I listen to Mexican radio. Apologies to Byrde, my poet friend. Your sonnets are beautiful even if I don't get them.

Then I recently discovered that some poems are given a structure that does not include couplets or rhyme. After practicing, I learned that it wakes up my brain, too. So while I am no poet, I present you the first poetry I have written since 1994. I may possibly be addicted to writing poems as warm up exercise on writing days.

The first stanza is a Crapsey Cinquain (2-4-6-8-2), the second a haiku (5-7-5). Who knew, a haiku can actually say something. If you would like to try your own cinquain or haiku, leave it in the comments. I would love to hear it. And if you're not ready, I might make this a weekly feature and try to get a MckLinky going or something. So you will get another chance.

Ahhhhh.... sharing this is harder than I thought! I feel all sheepish!

Okay, I took a deep breath. I think I'm ready now.


White breath
tendrils caress,
numb my humming senses,
eerily tease dormant spirit

Blanket, hide world's roar
Suffocate all swirling thoughts
Reveal Creator.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Fall is in the air!!! As I recall my days living in cold-weather climates, fall means morning chill, turning on the furnace, pulling out long sleeves and jeans. My northern facebook friends are referring to these experiences this week.

In Central Texas, however, fall means something different. When daytime temperatures no longer crest in the 90's, and humidity drops below 75%, then people begin to emerge from their air-conditioned houses. Joggers and bikers escape from the gym; kids can be found playing in sandboxes and on the jungle gym. Small towns all around begin to put on their annual street festivals. We all collectively sigh with relief as we get back to mowing, weeding, and other yard work in less stroke-inducing weather.

First Jalapeno Flowers 9/10

This fall, my thoughts and efforts have turned to gardening. In August I started some tomatoes and peppers; a few weeks later I planted three blueberry bushes. The more I do, the more ideas I get for future seasons. So far, in addition to 100 square feet of vegetable garden in the spring (meaning late February), I've begun thinking about planting some fruit trees. And as I begin to consider trees, the desire grows stronger to get them now and get them growing so they can become fruitful as soon as possible. Those blueberries are already going to make me wait 18 months before seeing any fruit at all. I can hardly stand the idea of waiting so long.

First Tomato Flowers 9/26

Trees require commitment on my part. First, a commitment to stay in one place. Not just in the same town, but on the same plot of ground. This is a bit of a challenge for me, as I have moved about every 2 years since I was 14. Unfortunately, an acre of fruit trees is a little difficult to transplant every 3 to 5 years. So either my lifestyle has to change in order to grab hold of my dream, or else I'm just dreaming about these fruit trees.

Currently I compromise with container gardening. It's about time to invest in a dozen half whiskey barrels for my portable orchard. It won't be effective forever, but it will get me a couple years before needing to settle the trees permanently in the ground somewhere.

The second commitment I have to make in order to seize this dream of a fruit orchard is to nurture. I need to commit to paying attention to individual water, soil, fertilizer, pruning, and temperature needs. Our little corner of the world here is not exactly hospitable to untended greenery, as evidenced by the predominance of slow-growing deep-rooted live oaks and a whole lot of mesquite scrub. Nurture requires patience before, during and after growing seasons.

The third commitment is to be ready for the harvest. Fall always inspires me to consider canning, preserving, freezing and food gifting, and I think I can be good for this one. Except that in central Texas, harvest begins in June and carries on until Thanksgiving. And once we get going, it's going to be harvest time for five months of the year, every year!

Patience, I whisper to myself. You don't have to launch it all at once. The blueberries are a good start.

Rabbiteye Blueberries in their new pots

But if you were wondering about a good birthday or Christmas gift, I'd probably ask for a Zone 8 appropriate sweet cherry, peach or pear tree.

You can keep the partridge.

Monday, September 14, 2009

So Civilized

So there I was sitting in church Sunday morning, drinking my coffee, waving at my friend Holly in the row in front of me, about to listen to another message deftly woven by Pastor Will.

I felt so normal, so civilized.

In terms of being accurate, insightful, and challenging, Pastor Will seems to have a pretty high average of hitting the ball out of the park. This week's topic was no exception; it covered loss (dreams, relationships, chapters) in our lives, and Jesus' resurrection power, the power to redeem every situation.

Recently, we have begun to exercise a little redemption power in our yard. For a year we have lived with a blank square, full of nothing but grass and a trampoline. But the landscape is literally starting to change. I started three tomato plants and a jalapeno pepper two weeks ago. I also bought a hook to hang my hummingbird feeder, since I have no trees from which to hang one.

Last week I purchased some Esperanza bushes (bright yellow trumpet shaped flowers to attract butterflies, hum-birds and buzzy bees all summer long). I then spent several hours beginning to dig out a flower bed, but that is just going to be a horrible, wretched job. I now have a row of plants lined up along the fence, just waiting for a home. The race is on to get them planted before they go dormant for the winter.

Saturday brought the dawn of a new era, as I brought four 12' crepe myrtles home to my yard to live. The hum-birds appeared giddy with glee. They zoomed in and out, perching, flitting, testing each tree in turn. What a laugh.

And this business of working on our landscaping felt so normal, so civilized.

For the first time, we are entering the second year in a new house with no big change plans looming on the horizon. This yard work is for ourselves, not for resale. This must be what normal people do on the weekend (when they are not taking their kids to football games or cheer practice).

Oh, but Sunday morning brought with it some significant aches and groaning. To get ourselves up and running, we kicked off the morning with some hot coffee and a painkiller. Mellow city.

And then on the way to church, the little alarm in the back of my head started dinging. What if, in the moments I reach for something anything to ease the moment, what if in those moments I made more of a habit of reaching for God? Of inviting him to join me in those moments, to show me his power?

Oh, I do not like that thought. I reach for comfort quite often, in the form of coffee, chocolate, an apple martini, a Tylenol PM, or occasionally even a leftover pain pill from my last baby experience. To be honest, I think God even made us that way on purpose. He gave us the sense that we need to reach for something outside ourselves, to help us right the imbalance in our soul.

But in his inexplicable wisdom, he left the choice of what to reach for, up to us. So that when we do reach for him, we do so out of our own desire, not out of compulsion.

I tell you what, though, it kills me that I don't reach for him more often! I'll be honest, the comfort foods and sleep aids are really useful and, well, comforting. But I often get mired in my me-centric ways, and neglect my Maker.

And recently, I've begun to wonder if I'm getting close to my lifetime limit on fresh starts from Jesus. Can he possibly redeem my tendency to get caught up in myself, and get me to a place where he can use me to reach other people? After years of starting over, I'm starting to feel a little lost. Like, where should I be, what should I be doing to make use of the mix of skills and experience he has given me? I don't know the answers with as much clarity as I seemed to have at the age of 25.

So that's what I was thinking about on Sunday morning, when Pastor Will opened his message with the declaration that it was about loss, and Jesus' resurrection power to reclaim every situation. Bam, he hit me right between the eyes.

So how exactly can I tap into this resurrection power to reclaim my own situation? To reclaim my sense of purpose?

The first thing is to acknowledge that Jesus is the one with the power to fix. Seriously, how arrogant am I when I think my little problems are too complicated for the Maker of the Universe to fix? C'mon, I think it's time to let go of that.

The second way to claim Jesus' resurrection power is to recognize that he is God. When I believe in Jesus and his message, I move from spectator status to being a participant in God's divine plan. I am asking God for help, knowing that in his answer he is also moving me forward in his cosmic drama, putting my chess piece into play, to so speak.

I also have to believe that Jesus not only can, but will set me back on the course he has for my life. He might even use other people to encourage me along the way.

The final point I heard, the one that challenged me the most, is that to experience Jesus' power in my life fully, I have to be willing to shed the old habits and addictions, maybe I might call them my comfort moments, that help me self-adjust my situations. Maybe... those are the times I need to seek Jesus, and ask him in those moments for a little resurrection power.

It all sounds a little dangerous, scary, and not really so civilized. Perhaps the landscape of my yard is not the only one about to go through a little change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Ooh, it's still a decent hour, I've already done my task for today, and everyone's asleep! I will ignore the dishes, the laundry, and the siren call of the Blue Bell in my freezer, and make a little bloggy time! My clutter free house is a little unraveled at the moment, but I've just got to check in with the big wide world.

I had the pleasure of seeing a theater movie yesterday, and I have to admit I'm still a little giddy with thrill of it. Four unrelated women, connected by our marriages to four related men, stole away for the day's first showing of Julie and Julia.

This movie inspired me. In all my years of cooking, I have had less than zero interest in French cooking. Other than champagne and--well that's really about it. I love Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and Indian cuisine. I even tolerate Bar-B-Q (yes, I'm still working on a full conversion to Texan). But French? I don't even know what makes French food, well, French. And for someone who prides herself on her kitchen skills, that's probably blasphemous.

I am inspired to snag myself a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and try Julie's challenge of trying every recipe in the book. Maybe except the aspic part. No interest in aspics. At. All.

I am inspired to find anything and blog about it faithfully. I am inspired to keep plugging away at writing. I did take a photo of my pepper plant today. I could post daily photo updates as the teeny flowers turn into jalapenos. Call it My Little Peppers and How They Grew.

By the way, I am so pleased to report that I have finished my very first ever writing assignment and mailed it off to the editor. Woo Hoo! It's just a small, unimpressive thing, a series of short reflective essays to go with a set of Bible study lessons, but it feels like a milestone.

Now that I have that bit of closure, it's time to go looking for opportunities once again. Especially since I also finished the stuffed cheetah project from last week! I felt like such an awesome mom when that turned out actually looking like a cat.

This inspiration is a little overwhelming, I have more great ideas than I have time. But since most of the inspirations this week are food related thanks to Julia, I will be posting mostly over on my food blog. Why not post all my thoughts together on one website? I don't know either. Because that's where I keep all my recipes and cool food thoughts, I guess.

Oh, also because I have something else being published in the next couple weeks, that directs readers to that website. Because 8 months ago when I submitted that article, I was blogging about food a little more than I have been lately. And now I need to beef it up a little since I might be getting a little more traffic over there in the near future.

So I'm going to put on my chef hat now. Join me if you want, for food related fun. Just give me a day, I'm about pooped out now and need to go to sleep soon! But tomorrow, after I straighten out those dishes and clothes, and re-ravel my clutter-free house, and take Boo to the orthodontist, and stop by my local nursery's Quitting Business (sniff) sale, I hope to be right back here, food blogging away.

Click on the image to visit

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Because I didn't already have enough to do

I heart blogging. It completes me. But I don't know where to come up with the energy right now. There is just not enough of me to go around to do all the stuff I have to do, and also have time to think about what I'd like to say, and then take pictures and sit down to tell you all about it.

First it was the last week before school started, and besides all the last minute prep to get Boo ready for 2nd grade, I successfully attacked the clutter monster threatening to consume my home.

As long as you don't count my bedroom. Because that room has been completely vandalized by the clutter monster.

Then it was the first week of school and I don't actually know what happened to that entire week because I didn't actually do a single thing. Not cleaning house. Not playdates. Well, not until Friday anyway. I think last week could be accurately called a "mental health week."

And this week I am weakly trying to get back into some kind of groove. Over the weekend I planted some new tomatoes, and installed a barrier around my flower beds to keep out the vigorous St. Augustine weed that passes for grass around here. I have not taken photos. Other than the first day of school, I fail at photos for the entire month since returning from vacation.

Tuesday I got Rooster enrolled in MDO (Mother's Day Out). I am SO EXCITED because this is the beginning of recovering my Circle of Quiet! This morning I went walking at 5:30am with a friend, hoping to clear my head enough for a meaningful 6am quiet time. Missed part two of that plan, but I did get an early shower. Which is also an accomplishment.

As of now, I have had two days in a row this week to pretend I am a professional writer. I have been working on an assignment (oh those words taste so good in my mouth). And I am pleased to say I am halfway done with it. The hard half, even.

Tomorrow is the first day of my new Bible study class. To be transparent, my soul is parched from having neglected to spend much (actually any) time reading God's message lately. And I can feel it. I'm all frayed around the edges, even some places in the middle. I am eagerly anticipating the new beginning that tomorrow will bring.

At the end of that class, I will commence my weekend. The Captain's brother and his wife arrived from PA this evening, and will be here through Tuesday next week. So we are about to party hearty for the next six days. As much as I can stand.

So this afternoon, in the middle of this busy week, what was I working on? Was it watering my tomatoes? Folding laundry? Beating down that clutter monster that wants to creep back into my living spaces? Designing my future backyard with long-handled garden tools and a hose? Maybe Facebook? Those are all good answers, and I admit I did bits of those things all day long. I also fed my baby and had a nice long coffee time with the Captain, who had a vacation day today. Nice.

But there was also a random project I threw into the mix, that has been in the queue for a couple weeks and for whatever reason finally percolated to the top of today's To-Do list.

I began to make a stuffed animal.

Oh no, you didn't.

Oh yes, I did.

Not because I am an awesome mom. While I would like to take credit for that, awesome would have been to help Boo make this animal back when she first asked about it, when she was on summer vacation. Before she gave up that once again I was not coming through for her.

More because I have a random brain that likes to do anything other than what I should be doing. Like parking my hiney in my chair and plugging away at this writing assignment. Or folding the laundry that lives on my couch so often I should start charging rent. Or tackling my horridly messy bedroom.

On a side note (this is, after all, a post about how random I can be) it's actually possible that there is a library book lost in that room. A book entitled, of all things, Have You Seen My Cat? You will not even be surprised to hear that every single time I mention this, I get the same response: Have you seen my library book? It's good. Even I am compelled to say it, if someone else doesn't beat me to it. But that is the only room in my house that has not been completely stripped down and put back together the right way, since that book disappeared. The only other option remaining is that we somehow took the book somewhere besides Grammy's house, and left it there. Which is possible, but not probable. But I will never know for sure until I get to the bottom of the cluttery mess in my bedroom.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. The level of my procrastination is such that I would rather start a whole new project, and make a whole new mess, than work on bringing any of five other projects to closure.

So I started to make a stuffed cheetah today. Lord knows when it will get finished, because he also knows how many other pots I have just stuck my fingers into. I hope soon, because I really want to be my daughter's hero for once, and not the parent who lets her down on all the fun stuff. I'll keep you posted. For now, this is how far I got today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Life According to TMBG

Here's a fun challenge posted by a FB friend: Using song names from only one artist, answer the following questions. I couldn't resist, since I define my life by this band's lyrics already.

Note: You may correctly notice a lack of thoughtful entries the last few weeks. For one thing, I came home from my vacation with a nasty cough that is still pestering me. For another, I've been lost in the throes of end-of-summer-vacation chaos. Thankfully, school resumed yesterday.

I've also had a lot on my mind that I haven't been ready to process in front of my loyal audience. Sometimes you just have to think things through before you spew them all over the internet. Remember that Circle of Quiet I've been looking for? Yep, still looking. I'll be back soon, but I've gotta get some other structure built back into my routine so I can EARN the freedom to blog.

Now for my answers to this silly quiz. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, They Might Be Giants is a fun, quirky band that has recently released several kid-targeted albums in addition to their already inner-child-centric repertoire.

They Might Be Giants

Am I a male or female? She's Actual Size

A Self-Description: (She Was A) Hotel Detective

How do I feel? Don't Let's Start

Where I currently live: In the Middle In the Middle In the Middle of the Block

If I could go anywhere, I would go to: Cowtown

My favorite form of transportation: They'll Need a Crane

My best friend is: Particle Man

My best friends and I are: Lazy Head and Sleepy Bones

Let's talk about the weather right now: Pencil Rain

My Favorite time of day: Sleeping in the Flowers

If my life was a T.V. show, it would be called: Whistling in the Dark

What is life to me? A Road Movie to Berlin

My Relationship: Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love

My Fear: Someone Keeps Moving My Chair

My best piece of Advice: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head

Thought for the day: Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?

How I would like to die: I Hope that I get Old Before I Die

My Soul's Present Condition: Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes

My Motto: Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul