I’d like to thank the Olympics

Hey hey!  A moment to celebrate making it through Wednesday evening.  Wednesday evenings, the night of Children’s Choir then rush home to make a quick meal that has become The NeverEnding Meal and then they get wilder and wilder until I’m wild-eyed and I fling them into their beds.

I’m sitting here feeling happy and peaceful, rather than strung out and exasperated (which is the usual Wednesday evening modus operandi).  Of course, I felt strung out and exasperated for an hour or so around 6pm, so maybe I just got it out of the way earlier.

I’d like to thank the Olympics for sponsoring this unusually calm evening.  In particular, I’d like to thank the women snowboarding half pipers and the pairs figure skaters.  I’d like to commiserate with the snowboarders who didn’t do well, and give a moment of thanks for the face-hiding goggles in their moments of international scrutiny.  I could use a pair of those goggles.

I’d also like to thank the figure skaters for inspiring extended conversations about the itchiness of skating costumes.  Also for inspiring Levi to try to roller skate while lifting a foot.  No small feat when the foot + skate probably weighs half as much as he does.

bedtime drawings

Once the smallest ones are tucked into bed (although not necessarily quiet), it’s time for me and my girls to have a little time together, just the big girls.  Some nights we read.  (Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books are huge favorites these days.)   Or play games.  Or do something fun.

Drawings of ladies with beautiful clothes abound here, being littered around like large snowflakes, pinned or taped onto walls, slid under doorways, stuffed into the recycling bin, carefully preserved by the mama.  So last night inspiration struck and we got out three pieces of paper and each of us drew an item of clothing.  Then all the papers were handed around the circle and another item (or body part) was added.  Collaborative art.  Behold, our creations: ActFond, Rae, and Colette.  Please note the hatpins on ActFond’s page, awaiting the pinning.

night drawings

We’ve decided we’re going to use three little blank books that we will save just for our nighttime drawing.  We’ll put them on the shelf next to the notebook of the plays we’ve written.



Chemistry for kids

We’ve been loving our science curriculum — Chemistry by REAL Science Odyssey.  I never took chemistry in high school (though it’s on my transcript, go figure), so it’s eye opening to all of us.  Amelie, especially has taken a shine to the elements.  Her birthday gift to me earlier this week was a collection of elements that she had written out and illustrated, it’s pretty darling.

We got this book from the library.  Highly recommend.  I think we need one for our library.

But back to the curriculum.  Frankly, it doesn’t look like much.  The layout is kind of plain.  But the contents are fantastic.  A bit of read aloud (or read to yourself), and then the labs.  I am not much of a project girl – I lose enthusiasm for messes or things that take too long.  But these labs are interesting and just the right size so that none of us (Mommy included) loses interest.  There is a consistent emphasis on observation and data recording.  Scientific method for six (and nine) (and 33) year olds.

Today the girls made muffins for our lab.  Well, the half that we put baking powder in were muffins.  The other half (minus baking powder) were more like hockey pucks.  Carbon dioxide, it’s good for the plants, it’s good for the muffins.  Lucky for us, the hockey pucks still taste good thanks to the (very) liberal sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

I’m thinking now that we need a gigantic periodic table on our living room wall.

Some Thoughts

I’d really really like to get back to blogging more than 5.3 times per year, but sheesh making that first step forward just seems way bigger than it actually is.  So here we are with Some Thoughts.

Thought #1.  I am out of dark chocolate.  A nibble a day really does keep the grumpies at bay and unfortunately I’ve nibbled until all of my dark chocolate almond clusters are gone.  Woe is me.

Thought #2.  Is almost 7 years old really big or really little?  Amelie is approaching her 7th birthday and she just seems SO BIG.  I’m looking for long view here.  Seven isn’t really a year from 18 and off on her own.  Is it?

Thought #3.  Per my New Year’s Resolution, I have finally succeeded in going to bed earlier.  It has not turned me into Super Mom, up at 5:30 or 4:30AM.  Nope.  I’m just sleeping longer.  And I like it.

Thought #4.  My other New Year’s Resolution — to read whatever Lia is reading — just got harder.  Lia puts the books she has finished on my nightstand and I’ve been mostly keeping the stack down to 5 – 10 books at any given time.  Turns out she thought that I was only going to read the books that we own — she hasn’t been submitting the library books to the nightstand pile.  So the bad news is that I will never ever catch up and the good news is that I get to read the library book she read four or five times through today – The Penderwicks.  She gave it a great review and I’m stoked.  I love children’s lit.

Thought #5.  Per Thought #1, I’m on Day 2 of taking 10 minutes to be calm.  Using the Calm.com app.  Pretty nifty.  Also trying out some of the Saagara pranayama (breathing exercises) apps.  More oxygen to us all!


it’s a new year

It turns out that my word for 2013 didn’t go all the way.  Notice was a good word, and I do feel as though I am more practiced in the art of slowing to notice, but it didn’t have staying power.

Life through a number of curve balls, hard thwacks and deep up endings I’d entitle “Loss”, “Grief”, or “Crap”.

Maybe a good word for 2013 would have been Grieve or, better yet, Courage.  Courage for journeying into the dark places of pain.  Or maybe the word should have been Compassion.  This post about the necessity of emotion says that “compassion is the ability to hold pain and love in your heart simultaneously”.  I know what this means now, about a hundredfold more than I knew last year.  For sure it has been a year of strenuous inner work.  Grappling, gritty, dirty, determined.

I have learned that darkness and pain that doesn’t often show on the surface.  I have learned to look more carefully at others and assume that there is a lot going on that I don’t know about.

I have learned that when something elicits a very strong response, these large feelings can feel like terrifying monsters let out of a dungeon seeking to devour.  Instead of shoving them back in, I have learned to let them stay out.  Monsters shrink in the light.

I have learned that, at my core, I am not a beloved little girl, I am a worthwhile woman who was loved when she was a little girl.

It’s been quite a year.  I am grateful that the psyche gives times of rest in between times of work.  I am grateful that I have been able to meet what has come my way with courage and honesty.  And I am grateful that I have a counselor to help me out when things pile on too fast and thick.  I am grateful for clean grief.  I am also grateful for messy grief.  I am grateful for hope.  I am grateful for how I have changed.

I don’t really have a word for this year (gun shy after last year?).  I did come up with two true blue resolutions, though.

#1 Early to bed, early to rise, makes one … have enough time to practice yoga in the morning.  This whole going to bed thing has been my Achilles’ heel this last year.  I’m cutting out all stimulants in the evening; namely sewing, watching movies, reading new books (I have to find out what happens next), or writing.  Which basically means there’s nothing to do but go to bed. I’m also getting ready for bed as soon as I finish putting the kids to bed.  Pajamas go a long way towards sleepiness.  Wish me luck on this one.  I resolve to go to bed early and wake up early.  And practice yoga.

#2 I resolve to read all the books that Lia reads.  So far I’ve read Matilda.  And a few books I checked out at the library for her, but she hasn’t read them yet.  (Does that count?)

I may not have a word for the year, but I do have an idea of where I’d like to go.  This post by Justine Musk elicited a deep yes from me.

To know joy is to know the loss of joy; to know the deep carved-out pain of loss. You can’t have one without the other.

Joy, then, is a straight-up act of courage.

She had a capacity for deep joy means, to me, she could feel her feelings and not get run over by them. She could open herself to the world without being destroyed by it. She knew that when life sent her underground, she would find what she needed to rise, and her capacity for joy would get that much deeper and able to hold that much more. She was committed to a life of courage. In order to feel fully alive, she was prepared to allow herself to feel.

a bed for grandma

bed for grandma

My grandma is flying in tomorrow for a month long visit.  A cozy bed awaits her, and a houseful of people who can’t wait for her to get here.  I either lived with my grandparents or near my grandparents for most of my childhood.  Suffice it to say, our visit to Virginia this summer just wasn’t enough time with my grandma.  I’ve pared down our Christmas schedule of extraneous busy-ness and filled it up with Grandma Plans.  Snuggling, reading, playing games, crocheting and knitting.  It’s just the beginning of the list.

There was a grand bed switcharoo a few months ago when the girls moved into a bunk bed.  Their double bed moved into the guest room and the extra twin bed moved into Levi and Kiri’s room.  Levi is now like the Princess and the Pea, sleeping on multiple mattresses.  He’s sleeping on two mattresses and two box springs while we enjoy the last few months of the crib rails keeping Kiri confined.  When she graduates to her big girl bed, Levi will have to come down out of the rafters.

The double bed needed all new bedding.  The hand me down sheet that the girls had been using had degenerated into a ripped, threadbare, paint spill dotted, silly putty spotted, piece of sadness.  I chucked it.

I have been stepping (mostly) boldly out into a brand new world of buying things that I love, when we need them.  I am loving, loving it.  For the first time since becoming an adult, I love my home.  It feels so good.  Confession: I take pictures of my house, just for the joy of it.

When we needed sheets and blankets, I didn’t want to go the threadbare hand me down route again.  This bed is settled in its space and purpose now.  So I did some shopping.  Namely, Ikea.

Classic white sheets.  A duvet comforter that can be three different levels of warmth, depending on which pieces you use (the layers snap together).  Lace edged pillowcases I picked up years ago at Ross.  And the Alvine Kvist duvet cover.  I’m really, really trying to not go wild with my current love of gray.  But a bit of gray with flowers?  On white?  Can’t resist.  It looks cozy for winter and light for summer.

The girls and I made the bed this evening, a little ceremony of expectation.  Levi carefully wrote “Ruby” on Grandma’s glass.  The “y” gave him a lot of trouble, but he persevered.

consistently inconsistent

First, about the peas, a small clarification.  When heating them without water, don’t use butter, just pour them into the pan and put on a lid.  They steam using their own condensation.  It was the fancy bag of peas from Trader Joe’s that already had butter on them.  Sorry about the confusion.  I hope you haven’t all been putting on weight from cooking your peas in butter over the last two months.

Yes, it’s been two months since I last posted.  My cousin emailed me earlier this week to inform me that it had been exactly two months and two days since I posted.  A gentle suggestion to get back to my regular schedule.  Ahem.

Regular schedule, you query?  And we all laugh.

I know, I know, my posting is intermittent at best.  I’m consistently inconsistent.  Long stretches of silence.  In the spirit of openness and disclosure, and possibly some vulnerability, let me tell you why.

First, this has been a very difficult year emotionally.  Lots of stuff going on.  Most of it is shared story – other people share it with me – and I can’t in good faith speak publicly about someone else’s private business.  Interestingly enough, I have made a shift this year from being happy to keep my private stuff private, to really really wanting to talk about it.  To be seen and heard and vulnerable.

I generally write here about what I am thinking about at the time I sit down to write.  So as I’ve been working through all of this stuff (which has been huge and consuming), I sit down to write and think, “Can’t write about that, can’t write about that, or that.  Or that.”  Which leaves us with a lot of silence.

(I’ve also wondered how much other people like to read an ongoing account of a person’s inner life.  The process of working through grief, for example.  I think that generally we as readers don’t mind a post here and there about something heavy like grief, but if it was to go on and on in blog form as it does in real life – would we tune out?  Click away?)

Second, scheduling.  Writing in the evening is generally not a good idea.  I get all wound up and have a hard time going to bed at a decent time.  And it takes me half of forever to write a post.  I’ve tried to whittle it down to half an hour to make frequent blogging more sustainable, but it seems I average at about an hour a post.   That’s a lot of time to invest in something.  Especially when it has to be an hour without children.  Those hours are very few and very precious and have a lot of things clamoring to be chosen.

Third, existential queries.  What is my purpose here as a blogger?  What is my writing voice?  What is the theme that is coming through my writing?  How do I want to interact with the world in this space?

Devo has been telling me for months, maybe even years, that he thinks I should change the title of my blog.  He doesn’t think spinning in my teacup reflects me accurately or adequately.  He’s right, of course.  I’ve long outgrown spinning in my teacup.  But how to find a name that I won’t outgrow?  Or, if that’s too lofty a goal, at least a name that captures the essence of right now?

At which point we circle back to the above questions.  In summation, what on earth am I doing here?


I’ll tell you what I do know.

I do know that I cannot give up the title of blogger.  And by that, I actually mean writer.  Whenever I think of throwing in the towel or letting bygones be bygones, I can’t let go of this.  This and singing and yoga.  And maybe my doula dream.

I do know that people read what I write and, at least occasionally, it brings help or light or laughter.  Or something.  I know that people read and appreciate because so many have taken the time and made the effort to tell me so.  (Thank you.)

I do know that I have reached a place where I am ready to move outward again.  The baby years are reaching their end.  It is time to forge a place for myself in the world outside of home.  I want to engage with the world in the way that only I can.  I want to work creatively.  I want to make a difference in people’s lives.

I’m just not sure what this all is going to look like.  Right now it looks like me posting this before I can talk myself out of it.




31 days, frozen vegetables, and math

smashball{from a trip to the beach a week ago, because I didn’t think a photo of frozen vegetables would be nearly as endearing}

:: 31 Days

I’ve thought really really hard about joining the 31 Days project – blogging about a topic of choice for the 31 days of October.  As you can tell, I’m either a day late or decided not to.

Option B ruled the day.  Hello, practicality.

There just isn’t enough protected time to commit to something like that.  And by that I mean – unnecessary with a deadline.  Especially the deadline bit.  Try to avoid those whenever possible.

{I just discovered that if I hold two fingers down and click a word, I can have immediate access to a definition and synonyms! My writing life as I know it has just been revolutionized.  <GASP> it works in Pages, too.  Coooool.}

But I am really jazzed about my topic of choice, so I’m actually writing out my series anyways and having a grand old time.  At a pace my life can manage.

I’m writing about “31 Days of Becoming”.  Devo even made me a button in case I decided to venture forth into Deep Commitment.  Truthfully, another reason I decided not to publish it is because it contains a lot of personal stories that I still feel vulnerable about.  There is vulnerable on purpose and there is vulnerable please-don’t-hit-me.  The internet is probably not the wisest place for sallying forth with the latter.

But I may change my mind.  Because I can.


:: Frozen Vegetables

Speaking of revolutionary discoveries, let’s talk frozen vegetables.  I grew up putting the frozen vegetables in a pan, covering with water, and heating on the stove.  It took long enough that generally I would either find that there was a frozen mass that had formed when I added the water or they would boil and I’d end up with overcooked color-leached mushiness.  Then we would fish our vegetables out of the water with a slotted spoon.

About a year ago (or maybe two?), I watched my friend Andrea break out her bag of Trader Joe’s peas with some buttery goodness and all she did was put them in the pan, cover it with a lid, and stir occasionally.  Whaaaaaa?  You can do that?

You can.

I don’t know what sparked that memory (maybe I had finally worked through the incredulous, paradigm shifting jolt of the new method), but a month or so ago I tried it for myself.  It’s awesome.  It has revolutionized my life as pertains to frozen vegetables.

I realize that everyone else in the western world has probably been cooking their frozen vegetables this way since the Dark Ages, but in case there is someone else out there like me with an iceberg in their pan, I’d just like to put it out there.  Try it.


:: Life of Fred

On the recommendation of a friend, I ordered a new math curriculum for Lia.  She had been ho-humming through Math-U-See, not protesting but not particularly engaged either.  Just putting in her time.

I ordered Life of Fred on the premise that the program is story based.  Maybe a good fit for my voracious reader.  I read that each book should take about a month to work on, so I ordered the first three.  We’ll try it until Christmas, I thought.

She finished the first book within 24 hours, and the first three books within a week.  She can’t wait to get to calculus (I think because there is the promise of learning Fred’s entire history).  She sits every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon) with her little notebook, reading and working her problems.  There are only about five problems to work per chapter.  Just the right amount to feel competent and eager to get to the next chapter.

I think she’s on book five now, but I’m not really sure.  I can’t keep up.  Every couple of days we sit down together and l catch up on the story (she always wants to share the story) and we take a look at the work in her notebook.

There are definitely some holes in her understanding of the material.  That doesn’t bother me at all because (a) she’s interested and intrigued by math for the first time ever and believes herself to be competent – that in and of itself will give her everything she needs (b) who ever completely understood everything before reaching out for more? and (c) she goes back and rereads the books because they are so much fun.

Amelie can’t wait until she’s ready for Life of Fred.


IMG_1286I calculated that we are buying the girls about three swimsuits per summer at $20 a pop so I thought I’d try my hand at sewing swimsuits and see if it’s a viable option.  It’s fun to sew things that get used all the time.
IMG_1287Raglan sleeves and simple shorts with snazzy silver polka dots.  It was a cinch.   Fun and easy.  (No elastic!)


Except that my sewing machine doesn’t work.  It tries to but it’s just pretending, mocking me with its illusion of competency.  Skipped stitches, tangled bobbin threads.  Much veggie swearing.  Also, much seam ripping.  (When I said it was easy and fun, I’m kind of talking about how I envision it would be without mechanical errors).
IMG_1173I have my eye on a new machine.  A real machine.  The Bernina 1008 that a surprising number of my favorite sewing bloggers use comes well recommended.  It’s pretty pricey.  Pretty and pricey.  My birthday is not until February–it’ll take at least that long to save up.


But I just got the Cambie dress pattern in the mail and I’m dying to make it.  I’ve had a vintage sheet (white with yellow flowers, so pretty!) squirreled away for just such a dress as this.  But am I going to make it with a machine that sews a faulty seam?  Am I?


Of course, I need to buy a new bra before fitting the Cambie.  Bra shopping could very well  take me four months.  IMG_0475HA! Look at Kiri!  Diving in head first when no one’s watching!

IMG_0620She does it when people are watching, too.  Pretty much any chance she gets, she’s jumping into the water.


I’m pretty sure she was just trying out one of Levi’s tricks.  She can keep up with this guy.  She’s gutsy and adventurous.  All in an understated way (see above photo of unobserved dive).


King of Tricks.
IMG_0458He wants a swimsuit, too.


end of summer, photos and notes








:: Friday night supper on the back porch, blueberry cornbread and a strawberry smoothie.

:: And we’ve discovered Monopoly.  Any game with play money is of utmost interest.  Today’s school (actually, today’s dayconsisted entirely of games with money.  (Or, as we discovered with the new-to-us Bibleopoly, it’s not money, it’s offering.  Whoever made up that particular knock off certainly had a sense of humor.  At least, I hope they weren’t serious.)  Lunch and supper were not eaten at the dining table, as it was holding the ongoing Game of Life.  Fascinating to see how acing worksheets of place value exercises don’t seem to make the jump to understanding the difference between $5,000 and $50,000.  They understand now, now that it matters.  I particularly loved how they love to acquire children in Life.  Children, I am informed, are what make them rich.  Indeed.

:: We did our first one-night camping trip.  (Did you see the deer?) I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the effort packing and unpacking for just one night.  It was! It was!  I loved packing only one day’s worth of clothes and one day’s worth of food.  It took us two hours to pack up and go, and everything was clean and put away by bedtime after we got back.  Without monumental effort.  Our next trip is already reserved – Joshua Tree in October.

::  I’ve picked up a total of three pairs of roller skates for $2 a piece over the last several months.  Our church’s thrift store is a gold mine of treasures with golden-hearted people who do the pricing.  Roller skates are an excellent way to get from your bedroom to breakfast.  Most days our house resembles a roller derby.  Even Kiri can put one foot in a skate and hop along to get where she wants to go.

:: We made an awesome geoboard using this tutorial.  We eventually filled in the entire pegboard with the screws.  The geometric exercise often shifts into rubber band shooting sprees (I’m sure shooting rubber bands is teaching them scientific principles).  It’s big enough that several of us can play at the same time.

:: A “This is How We Roll” photo to add to my collection.  Home Depot has awesome new car carts.

:: A photo of a lovely, lovely moment during the school day.

:: The obligatory, traditional First Day of School photo.  We go to the same lake and take a picture on the same stump every year.  After our stint as tourists this summer, we’ve taken to trying to strike some sort of pose other than Stand and Smile.  I like to think of this one as “I’m Going Somewhere”.

:: I love the last photo of me and my True Love.  Love.  Warm.  Kind of smooshed.  Happy.

Eliminate the crazy -and- create an inheritance

It’s that time of year.  The weather hasn’t gotten the “fall” memo, but the sun has, and it’s almost dark when I leave yoga class now.

School is in full swing.  I’ve waded through curriculum choices and internet ordering, identified needs, and sketched out vision and goals for each child.   The daily routine has already undergone three big tweaks.  (Can a tweak be big?)

But really, I only have one big focus for this year.  All the rest are small details.  My big goal?

I don’t want to feel crazy this year.

I’m so over crazy.

I’ve taken a big look at what factors into the recurring feeling that things are spinning out of control.  What things contribute to thin (cough) patience.  What is happening when I feel that things are running smoothly.  What is going on when I feel rooted in the moment and available to whoever or whatever is in front of me.

And I made a list.

clean kitchen

  1. Get enough sleep.  Amen.
  2. Take time for myself first thing in the morning to find some space and a sense of equilibrium.  I had thought that rolling out of bed to do some yoga would be a good thing to do, but it turns out that I prefer to wake up my mind before I wake up my body.  I was so glad to find the idea of Morning Pages.  It’s a practice that fits me just right, clears the cobwebs, orders the day, and sometimes turns into an early morning free counseling session.
  3. Take care of My Things first.  I make my bed, shower, and clean my room before facing the world.
  4. Keep the kitchen clean.  This includes a number of tasks.  Wash the dishes, dry and put them away, clean and clear all the counters.  If my kitchen is clean, I am 89% more likely to cook.  (Hey, hey, another week has passed and I’ve cooked at least four meals that we would have eaten out for in the past.  My shoulder is getting sore from patting myself on the back.)
  5. Keep the Holy Triangle clean.  All the living spaces in our house are open to one another.  The Holy Triangle includes the kitchen, the dining room, and the breakfast nook turned desk/sewing.  If this space is free of clutter with surfaces cleared and chairs pushed in, I feel like I can conquer whatever the day throws at me.  It doesn’t matter if a typhoon has gone through the living room, as long as it all stays outside my Holy Triangle, I’m fine.
  6. Take a break in the middle of the day.  I usually take some time for myself during rest time (the kids rest every day for one hour right after lunch).  I use that time for getting things done, computer work, do errands, or to spend as I choose.  I’ve learned in the last week that working feverishly through this hour does not provide the mental break I need to enter into our afternoon activities fresh and patient.
  7. Grocery shop and meal plan.  Meal planning is, as you know, new to me (still a fan!  revamped plan going well!).  But dang if life isn’t always easier when there is ample food in the pantry.
  8. Do things that feed me.  Practice and take lessons.  Write.  Study.  Sew.  Do something creative.
  9. Clean up everything, every morning and every afternoon.  Eliminates (or, greatly reduces) meltdowns.  Parent or child.
  10. Be faithful to routines.  It’s my current mantra, befaithfulbefaithfulbefaithfull.  If I shift or neglect one thing, it creates a snowball effect and I get effectively crazy.  And we don’t want crazy.

It seems like a lot of things to do, sometimes it seems like I’m asking for the moon, being wildly irresponsible with my demands on myself, my family, and my husband.  But at this point in my life with four small children, free flowing creates unhappy people.  Every time.  It particularly creates Crazy Mama.  And I’m tired of being crazy.  Did I say that already?

School morning have been going remarkably well, everyone settling into their routines.  The first truly smooth day came and I realized that everyone was calm except me.  I’ve felt the crazies for so long that I didn’t know how to NOT be crazy.

I’m retraining my automatic reactions, and I’ve been proactive in asking for help for things I need help with.  Sometimes I tell myself that this is a good thing to do because how I feel affects so many people.  If I feel calm and centered, I am so much better at parenting.

And that’s true.

But the truth also is that even if I didn’t have other people depending on me so heavily for so many things, I would still go to such lengths to create a healthy, happy me.  I’m worth it.


I’ve sat here for awhile, wondering about keeping or deleting that last sentence.  “I’m worth it.”  Would that seem self-flaunting, self-ish to my readers?  Would it make me seem like a head-in-the-clouds tra-la-la-ing airhead?  Or worse, a full of myself braggart?

I’ve decided to not ignore that voice, but to address it full on.

How is it that to take care of our basic needs for peace and sanity is considered selfish?  Where did we, as women, inherit these ideas that we are not worthy of feeling good?

Ah, there’s the answer right inside my question.  We inherit them.  We inherit them from the women around us, from the words that are spoken and the examples that are lived.

And as with all things passed down to us, we need to decide — is this something I want to keep, or is it flawed and I choose to uproot it?

I say that this particular idea – the idea that we, as women, are not worthy of peace and happiness – is bogus.  Time to give it the boot.

A woman who has learned to care for herself with gentleness, strength, and faithfulness has a beauty that is irresistible.   I don’t want my children to receive an anemic inheritance.  I desire wholeness for them.  And I desire no less for myself.  Wholeness for all of us.

We’re all worth it.



meal planning, woot

I probably should have started a support group.  A group of people to cheer me on through the ups and downs of starting something new.

Yes, I’ve finally jumped on board the Meal Planning Train.  A summer full of millions (millions, I tell you) of minute decisions that only I could (or would) make has made me run full steam ahead back into the safe and caring arms of Routine.  <cue cozy blanket and fetal position>

Ah, Routine.  You make my heart sing.  You make everything….easier.

The first two weeks were great.  I totally get the amazonian compulsion to give five stars to something you just started using this morning.  I love it!  This is amazing!  Why didn’t I try this before! Everyone should try it!  

The next two weeks were great.  (And 21 days makes a habit, right?).  We cut our eating out expenditures into about one sixth of what it was.  Take that, Achilles.  Big pats on the back for me, by me.

I made several versions of a meal plan and decided to go with the “make one big pot of beans at the beginning of the week and then have Variations on Bean for the rest of the week”.  We had Pinto Week, Black Bean Week, and Garbanzo Week.  I did sketch in an Asian Week – but only 1/3 of the family would be satisfied at any given time.

I finally realized that paying an extra five dollars for something special at the grocery store (avocados! peaches!) is a way better deal than taking a family of six out to eat.  It sounds like a no brainer, but I ask you this – when you read about household budgeting, what is usually the first thing to take a hit?  The grocery budget.  And I bought into it.  Grocery budget is a place to cut, not a place to increase.

Apparently I am not the average grocery shopper, because if I cut my grocery budget any more, we wouldn’t have anything to eat.  I love what Renee says about grocery budgets — basically she says that it takes a lot of money to feed a family good food and it’s worth it.  My new philosophy and Devo and I are both jazzed.  Abundance.

But I digress.

After culinary success and psychological enlightenment, Weeks Five and Six weren’t so great.  And now is when I’m wishing there were people out there cheering me on because my own cheering mechanism has petered out.  <cue sound effect of mechanism petering out>

Some notes towards the long-term success of this project.

Variety is important.  I think this is where my Train began to derail.  I got sick and tired of meals that contained tortillas or chips.  Like, I’m going to hurl if you make me eat one more haystack.  (Haystacks, in case you don’t know, are a quintessential Adventist meal.  Think taco salad on a bed of chips.  Kinda.)

Grocery shop regularly and with an eye toward abundance.  And here’s where we fell off altogether.  Extra expenses this last pay period had me thinking that we could just eat out of the pantry.  Warning: This is a death knell to the Meal Plan.  You can’t cook from a Meal Plan if you don’t have the ingredients for the Planned Meal.  You can eat, but it won’t be pretty.  (Hello to the minimum of three meals my family walked away from virtually untouched this week).

30 minute meals are where it’s at.  Change my name to Rachael, I’m a 30 minute meal kinda gal.  30 minutes?  I can handle that day in and day out.  More than that?  I’ll crumble under the commitment.  Know thyself.


Any other meal planners out there?  (And if it’s not a success story, let’s wait until next week to hear it when I’m feeling more optimistic, okay?)





a cozy little spot for me


In a wild move towards wholeness via self-care, I moved a pink chair into my bedroom next to my bed.  And I put over it the Hawaiian print quilt my Grandma and I made together for a sense of warmth.  Added my favorite painting for inspiration.

Then there wasn’t room for the dresser, so I cleaned out the closet.  Think floor to ceiling storage, stuffed full — a bank of sterilite drawers for the kids seasonal clothes, diapers, linens.  Worthy items, not wanted here.  Moved the dresser in.


Rescued the photos from our wedding month that have languished for a year under our bed and put them up.

And now I clean my room first in the morning.  No more cleaning everyone else’s stuff first (whether they asked for it or not).  A cozy little spot for me.  A place to dream, a place to read.  I feel an unwinding in my chest when I walk into our room.  Sometimes I come in just to sit in my chair and look at the clear floor.  It makes me happy.

popcorn (again), etc.

:: popcorn update

I figured if I was making enough popcorn to write a post about it, maybe I was making enough popcorn to merit spending money on and allotting precious kitchen space to a machine dedicated to making popcorn with ease.  Gone are the days of my childhood where popcorn makers were larger than your stock pot – or so I hoped.

We welcomed an air popper into our household this week and immediately put it to the test.  A whole stock pot full of popcorn in two minutes, wowee.  Everybody knows how to make popcorn now, and we all stand around and watch them pop.  Very exciting.  Also very satisfying.

The popcorn still could probably use a minute in the oven to crisp up.  Because it’s an air popper, it doesn’t use any oil and I’m having wild thoughts about using butter solely for flavor.  Because I can.  But I probably won’t.

Turns out the kids love plain popcorn liberally dusted with cinnamon.  I shouldn’t have been surprised — they all love to eat applesauce with more cinnamon than you can shake a stick at.

:: lumps, bumps, and sunscreen

I went to the doctor on Friday to check out a lump on my chest that I saw in the mirror that morning.  I won’t kid that there aren’t some scary thoughts associated with the word lump.  (Lump.  Rather an ugly word in itself, but kinda satisfying to say.  Lump.  Lllluuuummmmp.  Not like the word “vulgar” – that’s just ugly all the way around.)

It turned out to be a sebaceous cyst.  (Not worrisome).

Then, since I was there, I made the doctor (made being the operative word) do a breast exam as well — I hadn’t had one since I finished breastfeeding.  Can we just talk breast exams for a moment?  I really don’t see how a brief feel-feel, and another brief feel-feel qualify as a thorough breast exam.

And then, since I was there (let’s kill all the birds with the stone), I had the doctor look at a rough spot on my temple.  Pre-cancerous sun damage.  Ouch.  He froze it with his big bottle of frozen torture and I squeezed my eyes shut and remembered holding my great-grandma’s hand while she got a spot frozen on her nose.  I am now one with the ladies in their eighties.

I’ve been a faithful sun screener.  Most of the time I try to just stay out of the sun.  After all, sunscreen and sun damage seem to be a classic case of d-d if you do and d-d if you don’t.  This summer I bought Neutrogena baby sunblock.  Hypo-allergenic this and free and clear that.  Thick, white sun block that takes hours to rub into a family of 6 but still leaves us looking like escapees from Clowns Anonymous.

A couple of years ago my mom gave me a bottle of the most delightful sunscreen.  It sprays on, light and clear.  It’s the work of a second to rub it in.  A little goes a long way.  It was quite expensive, so I guarded it carefully.  But not carefully enough, because somebody got into the cupboard and dumped it out.  I don’t remember who the somebody was in this instance.  And I was horrified at the waste and sad to say goodbye to such a delightful product.  But a little relieved as well.  Surely something so very nice was way toxic and I was poisoning my family, sacrificing them on the altar of easy application.  I was so convinced it was highly toxic that I couldn’t bring myself to look it up in the toxic database, I held tightly to my ignorance.  I currently have the same problem with my antiperspirant.

I finally looked it up this summer.  My free and clear Neutrogena Baby?  Toxicity level of 7.  My beloved I’m-sure-it’s-killing-us-and-I’m-using-it-anyways KinEsys sunscreen?  Toxicity level of 3.

Bazinga, baby.

My sister left me her bottle of KinEsys – she figured she won’t need it much in London.  Sunscreening my family is now a joy unparalleled.  Spray, rub, done + peace of mind = I’ve become an evangelist.

So let me do a little evangelizing.  If you’re of the sunscreening type, I’d like to highly recommend KinEsys.  (It’s worth the money.)  I also recommend keeping the bottle out of the hands of people who might pour it out.  Don’t want to be crying over spilt sunscreen.


popcorn (on the stove)

Thursday night is yoga night for me and movie night for the kids.  It’s morphed into a popcorn and smoothie supper night, which I like.  Easy.  Although I usually eat a heartier supper after the kids go to bed.  Because I can.

Let’s talk popcorn today, shall we?  Specifically, popcorn on the stove.

Making popcorn is supposed to be super easy, like making beans.  When you make beans, you basically put them in a pot with water and cook them until they’re done.  Super easy, right?  Well it seems so, but it’s not.  I think it took me four or five years to figure out how to cook beans well.  My trick after years of trial and error? I put them in a pot with water and cook them until they’re done.

Same thing with popcorn.

We don’t have a microwave. (I just can’t bear to allow something to take that much of my precious little counter space.  Also, I confess to paranoia that we will eventually find that microwaves are, indeed, killing us.) So no packets of popcorn, no putting plain popcorn in a paper bag and making your own packets with grand DIY style.

To make popcorn on the stove, all you do is put some oil in the bottom of a hot pan, pour in some kernels, give the pan a shake, and let them pop until there are a few seconds in between pops.  Easy peasy.

After many burnt batches, batches with more kernels unpopped than popped, and hours scrubbing off oil that had burned to the bottom of the pan, I’ve kind of figured out something that works and I thought I’d share how I make popcorn.

I put oil in a hot pan, pour in some kernels, give the pan a shake, and let them pop.  


First, the pan.  No heavy bottomed pan for me – the oil is either not hot enough to pop the kernels or it pops the kernels and burns onto the pan.  My trusty cast-iron skillet is The Bomb.  No scrubbing, good heat.  I can’t wait until I finally get the cast iron dutch oven I’ve got my eye on.  It will be The Triple Bomb.

Second, the oil.  I use canola.  I’ve tried coconut oil and grapeseed oil (both of which came highly recommended on the healthy side of the internets), but both smoke a great deal for me.

Also about the oil, no healthful oil skimping allowed.  (Oh. My. Goodness.  I just typed “aloud” instead of “allowed” and couldn’t figure out why it looked wrong).  My unscientific observation is that more of the kernels pop when there is more oil.  You need a down right oil slick across the bottom of the pan.

Third, the kernels.  Put a couple in and wait until they pop and then add enough kernels to not really cover the bottom of the pan.  Give them a stir to coat them in your generous amount of oil.  (We’re not talking Paula Deen generous here, we’re talking my kind of generous).  Put on the lid (and crack it to let out some steam) and wait for them to pop.  You’ll have to figure out your own heat — my wimpy stove and mighty cast iron do well with the heat just a bit above medium.

Fourth, the crisping.  The popcorn comes off the stove a bit…not crispy.  I dump it into a 9×13 pyrex casserole dish and then season it right away.  My theory is that the moisture from the steam will help the seasonings to stick without adding more oil or butter.  It kinda works.  I usually season with salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast.  Sometimes we add dill.  Pop the pan into a 325 degree oven for one minute (set the timer!).  It crisps right up!

Bon appétit!