Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nap Hostage

I'm in the car. In my driveway. With a car full of groceries. I dare not open the door. HeyMama is in the backseat taking a rare and much-needed nap. We did a long series of errands, and the drive home knocked her out. If she wakes up too early, she'll be a bear. And BestestHusband is on his way to Amsterdam for the week. So I need to pace myself in the parent/child conflict department.

So I've checked email. I've checked Facebook. I talked to BestestHusband while his cab was stuck in traffic. I'm now blogging. Because I'm a nap hostage. If it weren't for all of the food that's rapidly thawing, I'd just take a nap myself. But there's a lot of food back there...

Ok, BestestHusband just called to say he got through security quickly. And now he just butt-dialed me from the plane.

I'll go in soon. But the silence is quite lovely. I'm sure MeToo is awake from her nap, and as soon as I walk in to the house, my silence will be gone.

Who's watching MeToo? Grandpa. Thank God for Grandpa.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Canine Music Appreciation

So I apparently trained my dogs to like the tune to "Danny Boy".

I like to make up new lyrics to go with the tune, and croon to my Shelties. Irish, Scottish, whatever. They're both countries with lots of sheep. And my sheep dogs love the song.

Well, I discovered the other night that just hearing the tune can send my dogs running to me. I was organizing the bathroom cabinet, and had the iPod going in the bedroom. Percy Grainger's version of the tune came on, and the dogs woke up and came running to me to receive the affection that usually goes along with that song. I'm not kidding. My dogs heard the tune, and came running to me. Like Pavlov's dogs, but with less slobber. 

I guess this is unintended dog trick #2* in our household. They like it when I pee, and they like sentimental Irish ballads. 

Dogs. Go figure. 

They aren't as fond of the Muppets' version as I am though... Check it out

*Unintended trick #1 was apparently training them to come running for affection every time I sit down to pee. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The FedEx Guy

For the first time in a long time, I answered the doorbell to find the FedEx guy still at my door with a package. "There's a bit of weight in that one," he said.

I mentioned my gimpy back, and asked kindly for him to move it the 7 feet into our condo. I apologized. I don't like to ask men to do my heavy lifting. I'm a strong woman. I can take care of myself. 

Except when my back is gimpy. Then, I'm just pitiful. Like today. I'm better, but still a bit pitiful. 

I told him I was on muscle relaxers. I showed him the wearable heat pack wrapped around my waist. I apologized again for even asking.

He was very kind about it, said it wasn't a problem at all. 

I offered him a muffin. Reflexively, he declined. 

I told him it was a healthy muffin. With apples. Carrots. Flax. Walnuts.

He took a muffin. 

So I don't feel as guilty about asking a guy to lift a box for me. 

The moral of the story? Good things come to those who lift weight.

Ok, so that was a one-liner worthy of Grandpa A. Or Pastor D. 

But I got a box lifted. And he got a healthy yummy muffin.

As Pastor D would say, "Life is good."

Trying to Make Sense of it All; The Blender Comes Out Again

I knew that posting about the Affordable Care Act several weeks back would get some people all riled up. The good news is that I knew who of my friends and family would chime in on the topic! The best discussion happened in Facebook comments, of course. To preserve the public personas of these people, and your precious time, I've decided not to post it here. But I'm sure you can imagine the gist.

What continues to perplex me is the hostility that I feel from some people in our society towards "The Church". It makes me wonder if "The Church" has been going around posting "Kick Me" signs on people's backs. Maybe stealing their mail? I certainly haven't heard about churches getting caught instigating armed robberies in the news. In fact, our news more commonly reports churches as the victims, getting broken into to be vandalized or robbed.

The only thing that I can figure is that people are confused about what churches really are. This is understandable in Boston, as the sex abuse scandal of the Catholic Church rattled many of the most pious and observant Catholics, and drove away countless people from their pews. I too was outraged. How could anyone NOT be?! If I were not a regular church-attender in another denomination, it could very easily paint for me a very negative connotation onto the word "church".

Based on commentary in newspapers, Facebook posts, and other things in the media stream and blogosphere, I can only assume that there is a hulking and scary thing out there, that I will call "THE CHURCH". "THE CHURCH" apparently has some very powerful and patriarchal elements and is mean. At least that's the gist I get when I hear people talking about it.

Let me compare "THE CHURCH" as I hear about it to My Church, the place I go to every week.

My Church
Is very wealthy, with significant and valuable property holdings around the world.
Struggles to balance a budget and afford repairs to our little church building. (the only one we own)
Has a hierarchy of power that is cloaked in secrecy. And is all-male.
Is led by a President that is elected by the members. Council meetings are open to the entire congregation. Voters’ meetings are held multiple times a year for members to weigh in on issues and guide the President towards church priorities. Women can serve on council and be President.
Has grim and domineering clergy that tell everyone what to do. Uses guilt persuasively.
Has a Pastor that we hired. He helps us understand what the Bible teaches us to do. He hasn’t guilted me into anything, thusfar…
Has significant wealth.
Has money donated by church members. When the economy declines, donations decline. (see above mention of budget and repair bills.)
Forbids the use of birth control.
Encourages families to view children as gifts from God. Encourages families to plan these children wisely, considering many factors, including available family finances. Considers birth control to be part of this big picture. 
Has politicians under their influence to force church theology onto all Americans.
Has no one in politics, as far as I know, and I know a lot of people at our church…
Is comprised of millions of people, who are dogmatic and want to impose their religious views on everyone around them.
Is comprised of a few hundred people, of which about 150 attend church any given week. Some members of our congregation believe that American society should look more like our church society, and vote accordingly. Some members of our congregation believe in a differentiation between secular society and religious society: In a perfect world, everyone would believe in a loving God and behave accordingly, but in the real world, people have different beliefs, and we vote according to what we think works best for our secular society, while struggling to maintain the integrity of our religious society with our religious organization.
Clergy are all men, who are hostile to the affairs of women, especially reproductive rights.
Clergy are all men, who have wives and daughters. They don’t want them to be burdened by unintended pregnancies. Some of these clergy adopted daughters. They give thanks daily that these daughters weren’t aborted because they were unintended pregnancies.

Given what I understand to be "THE CHURCH", I understand why people think they should pay for the birth control and abortifaicients of all women. Hey, they've got the money, and if they don't really care about women, let's sock it to 'em!

But when I think about My Church, I think about the people who teach music to my children. I think about people who brought us meals after the birth of both of my children. I think about people who have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. And encourage and support me constantly.

I think about people in My Church that willingly give away 10% of their income every year to the church and charities that they believe in. Yes, 10%. That's a significant chunk of change. We're not talking Bill and Melinda Gates here. We're talking normal people. Single-income families. Dual income families paying daycare costs for multiple kids. Your next door neighbors. Calculate 10% of your income. (You can calculate pre-tax or after-tax, people do it both ways.) Imagine giving it away every year. Now imagine having the government tell you that the money you freely donate from your own household budget (man, you could really do fun stuff with that money!!!) to an organization, based on religious beliefs and your ethics and morals derived from such beliefs, must help fund something you believe is morally wrong. A sin, even. Do the words "Hell no!" come to mind? You wouldn't be alone.

I've been told that my church is technically safe under the narrow exemption. Churches don't have to cover abortifaicients for their own employees. It's the schools and social service organizations supported by those churches and serving people outside of the church that are affected. The preschool funded by a church? A food pantry funded by a church? They're likely to be affected. Again, our Lutheran schools and auxiliary organizations are ok for now. Lutheran churches and supported organizations banded together long ago for a group insurance plan that will be grandfathered in. We won't be forced to pay for abortion-causing medications unless we make changes to the plan.

Hmmm... the insurance coverage at BestestHusband's company seems to change every year.... So eventually our church's plan will probably have to change, and then the exemption will no longer apply?

So again, I'm trying to make sense of it all. Churches similar to My Church aren't protesting the idea of women having access to birth control. They aren't protesting access to preventative medicine. They are protesting being forced to help pay for abortions.

And there's that little thing about beliefs, including the idea that God has a purpose for our lives from the moment we're conceived. Actually, that's not such a little thing... 

And He also wants us to help protect the innocent and vulnerable. At the very least, refuse to participate in killing them. So really, the money thing is just the extra kick to the ribs.

If, like me, you despise your tax dollars funding water-boarding, perhaps you can sympathize with the outrage and horror felt about this mandate that we're expected to fund.

If you can't, well, are your money and your mouth in the same place? 

I'm sure Planned Parenthood would love to have 10% of your income. So would Ruth House. Poor young mothers need the option to raise their children as much as they need the option to abort them. There are other options for helping young women break the cycles of poverty...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Geriatric Sympathies

So my gimpy back has spread to a spastic shoulder. I'm a mess. I'm cranky. I'm grumbly. I'm a complainer. And I'm spaced out on muscle relaxers.

This is why I'm not blogging much lately. And the posts that do make it up are a bit whiny in nature. Sitting at the computer is really uncomfortable. If I'm not up and doing, I'm lying on the couch on a heating pad.

I do have a new appreciation for my geriatric patients who deal with arthritis, GERD, spinal stenosis, etc etc on a daily basis. And I'm now even more impressed with those that are pleasant and sunny despite it all. I have hope that some PT and maybe a bit of acupuncture will give me back my pain-free life. This is not necessarily true for my 89 year old ladies at work.  

So I'm telling myself that this will make me a better therapist. I may have to keep repeating it for a while before I truly believe it, though...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stewardship Sunday/Monday

I've been despairing at my lack of productivity as I lie about moaning with a gimpy back. But once again, my ToDo list tells me the week was not all lost.

I worked a Saturday. Slowly, stretching frequently. And then I was useless for the rest of the evening. I went to church on Sunday. Then went to the urgent care clinic for some drugs. Then ran a few errands with HeyMama. Then made breakfast for dinner. And was useless for the rest if the day. Too useless even to watch GCB. That's pretty pitiful.

But the beginning of the week was much better. We played outside quite a bit this week. The weather was fantastic, and Boston is always happy to enjoy an early summer preview. Trees burst into bloom. Playgrounds came to life. The tulips popped up in the front yard. So did the hyacinth. The bushes and trees are sprouting leaves. People in Boston are sprouting good moods. It's a good time of year to be here.

A neighborhood tree in bloom.
A magnolia budding out.
Close-up of magnolia buds.

I discovered an angel in my neighborhood this week. Her name is Jackie, and she had heat packs for my back when I didn't (but really needed them!) I'm extremely grateful that I have good friends in my neighborhood.

But on to my accounting of resources.

Patience: I blew it on Friday. Big time. I was cranky. Really cranky. Let's just hope that's not one of the random memories the girls have when they're older...

Food waste: this wasn't a great week for food waste. The muscle relaxer I took a few hours ago is making it difficult to recall everything I tossed, but I think it was around a meal's worth. It definitely included 2 cucumbers. One grew hair and died before its time. The other languished sadly for too long before joining the compost party. I tried today to explain to HeyMama why we try not to waste food. I started in on the "there are starving children in Africa" line. But the blank look from HeyMama told me to save my breath. I'll have to work on that. She gets the concept of sending nets to Africa to keep the little boys and girls from getting malaria. So I'll have to work on making it concrete for her. 

Yes, that used to be a cucumber. Eewww...

M&Ms:  We still have plain M&Ms. So not a problem for me. But the sea salt brownies that Anne brought over on Friday were a problem. I really am a sucker for chocolate...

So this week is still off to a rocky start. I'm mobile with my drugs, but still gimping along and cranky. The Easter candy is calling to me. Loudly. My patience was gone by 2pm today. This might be a long week.

Hope your week is off to a better start!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I went to the urgent care clinic for my back today. They gave a prescription for a muscle relaxer. It makes my back feel much much better. It also makes me want to sleep for the next 24 hours. Goodnight.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Winners, Losers, and a Corset

So we lost the lottery. Big time. I'm not talking about Powerball, I'm talking about the lottery to get into Boston Public Schools. There were 2 schools in the West Zone with K0 seats, and I applied to both. We didn't get into either of them. Our wait list numbers? #289 for the first school, #168 for the second school. We REALLY didn't get in. Hey, I knew my chances of getting HeyMama into a K0 seat were about equivalent to winning the state lottery. And I entered it anyway. Unlike Powerball or Mass Millions, it didn't cost me anything to play. Hey, it was a good learning experience. I'll know more about the system next year when we apply for K1 (4 yr old kindergarten for you non-Bostonians). 

But I was a winner today. I saved over 50 dollars today because I have a friend named Anne. She's a great friend. She bought me almond butter today and saved me over 50 dollars. Because she prevented me from making a trip to Trader Joe's. I'm incapable of walking out of Trader Joe's spending less than $50. Even if I only go in for one thing (like creamy almond butter with sea salt), I come out with a cart full of yummy and well-priced provisions. Good cheese. Artisianal bread. High-fiber-and-still-yummy granola bars. Cheap-but-good cereal. Italian blood orange soda. Yum. But Anne sacrificed herself today. She had a Joe's shopping spree instead of me. Thank you Anne.

How does a corset play into all of this? Well, I forgot to pick up those thermacare wearable heat wraps when I went to CVS today. I was wearing my last one today to soothe my gimpy lower back. Between the excessive ibuprofen and that heat pack, I was mostly mobile today. But now I'm out of them. And I'm working tomorrow. And BestestHusband will have the car to shuttle the girls to a 4 yr old birthday tea party (lucky guy!) and I'll be taking the work shuttle from the T station. The work shuttle doesn't stop at CVS on the way to work. No heat packs for me. So I'll be wearing a corset. The physical therapists at work on Thursday told me to try an abdominal binder. I told them I had a support belt from my last pregnancy. They said that would work perfectly. Then I came home and realized that I'd lent it to someone else. But I have a corset. I think it will  do about the same thing... So tomorrow I will dose myself with high levels of ibuprofen and wear a corset to work. Wish me luck.

Happy Friday, hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How I Make Yogurt

After yesterday's post about why I make yogurt, I got multiple requests to tell how I make yogurt.

I'm going to start with a little disclaimer: mine is not the only, or best way to make yogurt. It's just the system that works the best for me. I read multiple recipes online before settling on my technique. So please feel free to poke around online and try a few different recipes. You might like the others better. Ok, that said, here's my recipe.

I start with a gallon of milk. I pour it into a big pot. I place the pot on the stove over a medium flame. I walk away for a while. I come back occasionally to take its temperature. I want it to get to 180 to kill off any bad stuff. When I get there, I turn off the heat.
[Some people let it boil to improve thickening. I haven't experimented with this. You can also use a smaller amount of milk than a whole gallon. I just like to cook in bulk. Why dirty up the kitchen if you don't have a lot to show for it?]

If I'm in a hurry, I stick the pot in a sink full of ice water. I'm usually in a hurry. The goal is to get the milk down to somewhere between 100 and 120 degrees. Yogurt cultures like their milk to be warm. Too hot kills them. Too cool doesn't promote culturing. The cooling seems to happen quickly, so I check the temp often. Once it's in the temperature range, I whisk together a ladlefull of warm milk with a 6 oz container of yogurt. I pour in the mixture to the giant pot of milk, whisk it again, then put the lid on. Somewhere in there I heated my oven to 250 and turned off the heat once it got there. I wrap my pot of cultured milk in a giant bath towel and place it in the cozy warm oven to sit for 6ish hours. [Note: the oven is off when the yogurt sits in there. If the house is cold and I'm concerned the temp has dropped, I'll turn on the oven for a few minutes to bump up the ambient temperature. Just a few. I have no proof that this is necessary. I think it's just superstition for me at this point.]

I open the pot 6 - 10 hours later, and I have a gallon of yogurt.

It's magic.

Ok, so my food scientist cousin-by-marriage Denise would have a coherent and detailed description other than "magic". But I prefer my version.

There are endless variations on the theme. You can add vanilla to the milk before culturing it. You can use whole milk for creamier texture. You can use lowfat milk and add powdered milk to boost the thickness. You can add sugar after it sets. You can stir in frozen fruit. You can even make it in a crockpot. [But I didn't have great luck with that technique, as I had to pay more attention to it. And failed to do so.]

You can strain the yogurt in cheesecloth and get greek-style yogurt. Strain it overnight and get something with the consistency of cream cheese. It's heavenly. Blend yogurt into a smoothie. Make frozen yogurt. Mix it with frozen OJ concentrate for homemade creamsicle pops. It's easier for me to go yo-crazy when the yogurt is $1/quart instead of $4.

It really isn't difficult to do. It just seems a bit daunting the first time. Give it a try and tell me how it went!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Do I Make Yogurt?

My blog bio reports that making yogurt is one of my forms of procrastination. This is partly true. But that's not the only reason I make yogurt. I mostly make yogurt because I'm cheap and picky. I have a favorite yogurt:  Stonyfield Farms. It's tasty, has lots of great yogurt cultures, and is low in sugar. Now if you know me well, or even just a little, you know that I like sugar. A lot. It's just that I try to segregate it. Sugar is wonderful in sugary foods:  chocolate, ice cream, cookies. I'm not a hug fan of it in foods that are supposed to be healthy:  yogurt, cereal, bread, etc. So I can control the amount of sugar the girls eat if I make my own yogurt. Because we can go through a quart of yogurt in a few days. If BestestHusband and I also eat it, we can polish off a quart in one sitting. Seriously.

Now, the problem with high-quality yogurt is that it's expensive. The yogurt is definitely worth $4 a quart. But that's a price point that makes me want to ration it. Which isn't ideal either, because yogurt is good, good for you, and one of those foods I WANT the girls to ask for. 

So let's do a little math. 
One quart of Stonyfield Farms yogurt = $3.99 at Stop and Shop. This seems to be a standard price.

The way I make yogurt, I use one gallon of milk, and sometimes a small container of yogurt to get my fresh cultures (I can use some leftover yogurt from a previous batch, but frequently it's all gone, and I have best luck with new stuff.)
One gallon of milk = $2.99
One 6oz. container of yogurt (for starter cultures) is usually $0.99, but can be on sale for less.
So milk + small container of yogurt = $3.98 for 4 quarts of yogurt.

So 4 quarts of store-bought yogurt = $15.96.
And 4 quarts of home-made yogurt = $3.98. 
That's about a $12 savings. For 15 minutes of active hands-on time. I don't count the 6 hours of culturing time, as I don't have to be home, or awake, or even thinking about the yogurt. Ok, so maybe I think about it and make sure it stays warm enough. But now that I have a system, I don't think about it too much. 

And I didn't bother buying a yogurt maker, I just use a big pot. I'm cheap like that. 

Big pot of culturing milk.
My tools:  whisk, thermometer, ladle, containers to put the finished product in.

And so now, I can feed my family healthy yogurt with wild abandon. We swirl honey into it (yes, I know that's sugar, but I can control it myself), stir chopped strawberries or blueberries into it, and use it for baking.

And yes, I make yogurt instead of cleaning. I like to have something to show for my efforts. So sue me. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


We say a lot of things in duplicate in our household. We call our dog Cammy-Cam. HeyMama's name gets duplicated. MeToo calls us Mommymommy and Daddydaddy. So today is Tuesdaytuesday. Why not?

Let's see what it will bring. I'm open to options, but praying it's not poopy fingerprints.

Addendum:  What Tuesdaytuesday brought...

Tuesdaytuesday brought:

  • A oddly ravenous appetite.
  • A hirsute middle-aged man wearing running shorts and tank on the bus. He really shouldn't have.
  • Lunch on a sunny bench at the bus station while transitioning between work sites.
  • A trip to the Lebanese grocer, with a fun surprise meeting with a co-worker outside. 
  • A good excuse to change into capris and flip-flops before picking up the girls. I think I had MRSA on my pants, anyway. 
  • The following recounting of morning events from HeyMama:  "This morning, I caught 2 bad guys before I went to work. Then I went to work at the police station. One of the bad guys tried to get out. But I caught him and made him stay inside. Then they went to sleep. I went next door to the castle. When I was coming back, I heard giggling. I told the bad guys, 'NO MORE GIGGLING!' and they stopped."
  • More rice salad at dinner.
  • A two hour nap face-down on the girls' rug after bedtime. I now have rug-fiber indentations on my face, but a great burst of energy right before midnight!

How was your Tuesdaytuesday?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Day of Spring and Poo

Spring is here. Maybe not officially, but today I was wearing capris and flip-flops. Today was Spring in Boston.

The crocuses are in full bloom. The daffodils are starting to bloom. The tulips will be next. I started taking Nasonex today in preparation. Living next to a ginormous tree collection when tree pollen starts to fly is not a pretty picture for my sinuses. But the rest of Spring in Boston? Very pretty. I highly recommend it.

Hello little daffodil! Welcome to my yard!
So nice of you to join the crocuses!
Crocuses, a soon-to-be daffodil, future tulips, and a few tiny blue vinca flowers. And the Arboretum in the distance...
More evidence of Spring.

What do I not recommend? Finding poopy finger prints around the house. It's gross. It makes you smell poop wherever you go. Even if there isn't poop there.

Parenting is all fun and games until you find poopy finger prints around the house. Potty training is a good idea in theory. It's just that the details can go south quickly. But I won't post pictures of that. That's already been done. I'll just stick with the flowers today.

I love Spring...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stewardship Sunday

It's Sunday night, which means it's time for GCB and a look back at the past week. 

It was a busy week. BestestHusband had another hectic work week. I worked Saturday again. The laundry is still taunting me from the spare bedroom. ("fold me... fold me..."). The fur tumbleweeds gathering in the corners are plotting to overthrow me. But I met Pioneer Woman! I got books autographed! I decided on a bathing suit! I used a crazy-long ToDo list and discovered that when I write things down, I have a witness to the fact that things do get done! (despite what the fur tumbleweeds might try to tell you...) I had a mommy play date at the playground. I had a mommy play date to see Pioneer Woman. I talked to a friend I haven't talked to in way too long. I shopped for the Easter Egg Hunt. I found an Easter Bunny for the Easter Egg Hunt. The weather has been warm with a touch of rain, and the crocuses are up. The daffodils are starting to show up, too. It was a good week. 

I didn't go to the gym. I was fighting a cold, and was trying to take it a bit easier and sleep in. So my back is whining at me. My back whines when I don't work out. Or stretch. And sometimes it just whines at me for a week-or-so once a month because it feels like it. This week was a combination of all of those elements. I don't have much of a tolerance for whining...

So time to account for my past week:

Food waste:  I ended up throwing out quite a bit of the fresh herbs I said I'd use last Sunday. They'd already gone bad. Throwing out egg yolks doesn't hurt my soul. Throwing out fresh basil and mint does. Well, I guess they weren't fresh, which is why I threw them out... Oh well. You get my point. I also threw out 3 roma tomatoes. Also sad. And foul. Remind me not to have rotten tomatoes thrown at me... Once again, BestestHusband came to the rescue and ate stuff I didn't want to. He's my food waste savior. There, I said it. We've got a lot of food in the fridge to start the week (including a large bowl of cold rice salad that I made to use up some ingredients) so this upcoming week will be a challenge. Anyone want a large bowl of Thai-themed rice salad? It would be greatly appreciated if I didn't make my family eat it again (and I can only eat so much in one sitting...)
Veggies, cilantro, coconut milk... it's good, it's just a lot.

Patience:  What's there is there purely by the grace of God. He was gracious this week. I still managed to screw things up on Friday, despite His help. Friday was not pretty. I hope getting back to the gym will help. And maybe a 2 yr old who doesn't have extremely selective hearing. Or maybe a whine volume button would help. Both would be great.

M&M intake:  We still have the plain M&Ms in the poopies jar. They're not a threat. I still have more than half a container of the chocolate-covered espresso beans. And yes, I'm proud of myself for that. Those things are insanely addictive. 

How was your week?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The ToDo List

We have a problem with ToDo lists in our household. They're never-ending.

We're incapable of looking at a list and saying, "Well, I've done everything on the list." There's always something else we can add.

Typically, that list resides in my head as I'm overwhelmed by actually writing down everything that I need and want to do. It looks scarier in print, and my life is typically simple enough that I don't need a master list. But right now, I'm helping plan an Easter Egg Hunt between two churches and a daycare. There's a lot to do. An anxiety-inducing list of details to think about.

So to reduce the anxiety, I'm writing it all down. It's helping immensely. But I'm writing down everything now, not just the Easter stuff. It's a long list. An-8.5 x 11-sheet-of-paper-in-portrait-mode-filled-with-smallish-writing-long list. But writing it down allows me to clear it from my brain. So I don't worry about forgetting something. I'm discovering that the crazy-long list brings peace. Especially when I look at most of the things crossed off. It's pretty awesome.

Yes, there are mundane things that normal people don't have to write down. But I do.  Don't laugh.

But here's the problem. As I'm running out of paper and transitioning to a new week, I took the last few things off the list and transferred them to fresh paper. I think it was maybe 5 things. But in the transfer, I added a few. My list somehow exploded again. Yikes.

This is how next week's list STARTED. Gulp.

But with the 50 bazillion interruptions I get on a typical day at home, I find the list to be centering and quite helpful in completing ANY task. And it's nice to know, at the end of the week, when my house is a disaster yet again, I actually DID get some things done during the week. 

My list is my witness.

Totally Worth the Wait!

So last night, I waited in line for 3 hours to meet Pioneer Woman and have her sign two books. The first hour was spent waiting outside in a cold line that snaked around the corner. The other two hours were inside, but the line seemed to slow down a bit...

Anne was smart enough to cut her losses and go home to actually get stuff done. But HeyMama was sad about me taking our Charlie the Ranch Dog book with me, so I HAD to get it autographed and come home with a picture of me with Charlie's Mama. So I was there for the long haul.

Most everyone made some new friends in line last night. I had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie, a talented photographer and all-around delightful mom of two. She lives over an hour away, and drove in just for the occasion. (And started driving home about 10:45 pm!) She was nice enough to take some pictures of me with her fancy camera.

Ree signing my book!

I met Pioneer Woman!
Ree Drummond was extremely friendly and engaging, just like in her blog. It was totally worth the wait. Even better was this morning when the girls saw the picture of their Mama next to Charlie the Ranch Dog's Mama. They were quite excited.

Was it all a bit silly? Maybe. But I think it was totally worth it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still in Line

I'm waiting in line to see Pioneer Woman. Yes, the real Pioneer Woman. In the flesh. I promise to post pics when I get there...

I got my books signed!
I got a picture taken! But my phone was on video setting. So my new friend from the 3 hr line took a pic with her real phone. She'll send it along soon. Then I'll post it.

Pioneer Woman was delightful. I met someone famous!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I'm grateful for all forms of encouragement. It really is the maple syrup on the pancakes of life. In theory, you CAN have too much, but I haven't seen anyone reach that point yet...

I am grateful for the strangers at J.Crew this morning. I was returning one of the desperate failures in my bathing suit search and a pair of horribly-vanity-sized khakis. The girls were with me. HeyMama was a trooper. She didn't want to stay one millisecond extra, but could suck it up in anticipation of Easter Dress shopping at our next stop. MeToo was having none of it. She was whining, standing up in her stroller, and generally just being a punk. So I took her out and sat her on the floor between my legs so I could control her and finish looking through the clearance rack. Of course she tantrummed, and made a heck of a din. I was annoyed, and felt bad for the other shoppers. But they were all moms. They understood. I was holding my ground. I was not passing up a good bargain for a whiny child. The staff all smiled, one told me a funny story of a similar experience she'd had when her girls were little. One shopper smiled as she passed and said, "Been there!" The cashier commented on my patience. I had nothing but encouragement. It was amazing. Their encouragement bolstered my patience and ability to wait out my screaming 2 yr old. (Hmm, does this mean that shopping will help me be a better mama?)

The other encouragement came in the form of a few stories through Facebook (thanks Julie Bourgoin!). I'm a huge fan of Lutheran Social Services, including Ruth House and the work done with refugees in New England. In the midst of all of our grousing about the economy and rising gas prices, these stories show that the American dream is still alive and kicking. And that there are plenty of people out there who are still willing to face every challenge with a smile and rise to the occasion. 

Check out the stories here:
Nepalese refugee inducted into Honor Society
Nepalese family works for self-sufficiency

My day's problems feel absolutely manageable in comparison. Don't yours?

If you want to help support their American Dream and that of others to come, consider supporting Lutheran Social Services. We need more families like the Rais and the Darjees to succeed. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Trying To Cut It Off At The Pass

That sore swollen throat crept up on me this evening. I was feeling fine. Now I'm not. It's that niggling feeling of an impending cold. The one that will make life miserable for the next week if it gets the chance to settle in. But if I can cut it off at the pass, I could be OK...

So I'm off to bed. Optimism is a good thing. I'm clinging to it for dear life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Confessions of a Transplanted Texan

I'm a Texan.

Ok, so I may not live in Texas right now. I pray I'll live there again someday, even if it's just my ashes scattered among the bluebonnets. I was born there. My formative years were there. To quote many, "You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl." It's so true. (Just ask BestestHusband. After I've had a few margaritas, my accent makes him occasionally check his GPS to make sure he's where he thinks he is. Phone chats with Mum make the accent come back, too.)

I have a confession to make. I love the new show GCB. In case y'all didn't know, the letters are short for a phrase:  Good Christian (rhymes with witches). Yes, it's a bit scandalous. I find it hysterical.

But I'm a bit conflicted by this. Here's a little back story.

After leaving the Lone Star State at the age of 17 to attend a non-Christian Boston-area liberal arts university with the motto, "Truth unto its innermost parts", I was exposed to a lot that wasn't Texan. Girls didn't wear makeup. Girls didn't get dressed up for class. Girls didn't shave their legs (or their armpits!). OH, that was just the BEGINNING! It was a culture shock.

I was educated in everything a smart, worldly, enlightened girl of the '90's should know and think. Religion was for the weak. Churches were full of hypocrites. Women who wore makeup and spent time on their appearance were enslaved by a misogynistic and archaic ideal of femininity. Biology is not our destiny! Generations of our foremothers are counting on you to reverse gender inequality! Throw away that hairspray! Get out there and build yourself some biceps bigger than the guy living across the hall!!!

Women from Texas were backwards. Enlightened New Englanders were so much more advanced in intellectual and philosophical development. Good thing I had moved to Boston! I now knew the error of my ways, and could be saved.

Nobody actually said those words to me. But the subtext was there. Professors found my commentary less interesting when it was delivered with the remaining vestiges of my Texas accent. When I wiped my speech clean, I suddenly became smarter. So I was able to rationalize rejecting many of the good and bad things I remembered from home.

Now, let me explain, there are things I don't miss from my days in Texas. I don't miss the extreme cattiness of teen-aged girls (although I suspect it's universal...) I don't miss the pressure to always look flawless, even running to pick up a gallon of milk. I don't miss being judged by what you drive, or the size of your front lawn. What you look like describes who you are and how much money you have. I don't miss that about Texas. I don't miss how scripture verses are tossed around like catch phrases. I don't miss how much church attendance could play into your social image. I don't miss all of the emphasis on appearances.

Maybe that's why I love to see it all on TV. Oh, GCB puts on a show. It's the worst of it all, in all its glory. The show does a fantastic job of putting it all on display to laugh at. I love it.

I just hope the rest of the country doesn't take it too seriously and use it as fodder for scorn of my great home state. Because what I learned about Texas being all-wrong? Well, that's not right. Social graces really DO grease the wheels of society. And you know what? People DO judge you by what you look like. Even in an "enlightened" society that's moved beyond a misogynistic and archaic ideal of femininity. So put on that lipstick gals. The "natural" look is ok. The "haggard and sleep-deprived" look is not. It won't help you break through the glass ceiling, that's for sure. And yes, you can find plenty of hypocrisy in churches. But I think I've noticed more insidious and hurtful hypocrisy outside of churches. Some of the "enlightened" people I've met in college and beyond are surprisingly bigoted towards people; not on the basis of race, but on the basis of religious beliefs and political affiliation. Is that really being open-minded and advanced? Unlike in GCB, the church-goers I know don't lob scripture verses like bombs. They use them to encourage, help, and comfort.

So the "transplanted" aspect of my identity loves to laugh at GCB. The "Texan" aspect of my identity fears that people will take it too seriously and think that all Texans are like what they see in the show.

It's entertainment folks, and in my opinion, it's pretty entertaining. 

(Disclaimer:  Not everyone I grew up with was obsessed with image. Not everyone was catty. But there were some overwhelming social trends. Just like bad driving and a cold social veneer are overwhelming trends in Boston. Yes, they're overgeneralizations. But they're still true.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stewardship Sunday

It's Sunday again, time to reflect back on the last week and take inventory of how I used my resources:  my time, my talents, and my treasures.

It was another busy week with something going on pretty much every day. Music Time at daycare/preschool was on Monday, work on Tuesday, play date on Wednesday, work on Thursday, church play group on Friday, work on Saturday (plus BestestHusband babysat while I was at work) + dinner at friend's house. This might be a typical schedule for some. This is not typical for us. This is hectic. I'm always trying to balance out fun and hectic. It's a fine line to walk...

Added elements to our week:  copious boogers that needed frequent maintenance, hectic/stressful work week for BestestHusband, a truly black mood for me on Friday.

So I've done less cooking this week, which significantly increases our risk of food waste. But BestestHusband came to the rescue, eating multiple leftovers for lunch today that are old enough to skeeve me out, but smell and taste just fine to him. Thank you BestestHusband.

Food waste:  a few wedges of our "pita pizza" that were out too long at our picnic on Wednesday and started to go bad, 2 egg yolks that never made it into a custard (because I didn't have time to make custard), bit of basil and mint that went bad before we were able to use them. I'm working hard to come up with something today to do with the rest of my giant bunch of basil (I love our little Lebanese grocery store! So much fresh herbage for so cheap!)

M&M consumption:  not bad at all. The Peanut M&Ms were finished off by a here-to-be-unnamed member of the household, and Plain M&Ms were subbed in. Those are not a temptation to me. But the chocolate-covered expresso beans I got at Trader Joe's ARE. Stay tuned to see how long that container of yumminess lasts!

Patience with the girls:  pretty good, by the grace of God! Again, there were many moments that I was conscious of thinking, "On some days, this would drive me bonkers. But today, right now, I'm OK." And I just thank God for that. I can no longer claim any credit for any patience I exhibit. Friday was a black day. I was just cranky. But it could have been so much worse.

Money:  I'm still reeling from all of the orders I placed to try on bathing suits. The boxes came, I tried on suits, I tried on other stuff that came in the mail with it (hey, why not take advantage of some end-of-season sales to earn free shipping?) I know that I need some spring/summer clothes for work. I got good deals. But spending money still causes mild anxiety. I have a lot of clothes to return, so hopefully that will help.

How was your week?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Joy and Salad

My weekend is noteworthy for Joy and salad. 

I worked today. That's not noteworthy. I didn't cook dinner. That's not noteworthy, especially considering I worked. Joy cooked a yummy dinner. I just made the salad. Huh? Yeah, I have a friend named Joy. She's real, and we happen to share the same name. She has a 2 yr old that both of my girls love to play with, and a baby on the way. And she and her husband had us over for dinner. I made the salad. I ate a lot of good food. I drank a lot of wine. Yum yum yum.

I don't have to cook dinner tomorrow. Jackie's making dinner. I'm making the salad. And bringing the pizza stone (I got your message Jackie!) Jackie has a 3 yr old that my girls love to play with, and infant twins that my 2 yr old loves to look at. Somehow I managed to get 2 dinner invites in one weekend. That is noteworthy. That is wonderful.

I love spending wonderful evenings with friends. I love salad. And with a weekend full of Joy and salad, what's not to be thankful for?

Maybe I should enforce my previously-unenforced no-blogging-after-2-glasses-of-wine policy...

Friday, March 9, 2012

If Mama Ain't Happy...

There's a common old saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't NObody happy!"
BestestHusband's corollary to this is, "A happy wife is a happy life."

It's so true. 

My emotions are no longer my own. They bleed over onto everyone around me and affect them, too. As my moods rise and fall, so do those around me. I can insulate them from each other's moods, but they can't insulate each other so well from mine. 

Nobody told me about this part of motherhood. It's still a rude shock. Before, I could spend a grumpy day carefully avoiding the innocent. My wrath seethed inside, but in my self-imposed quarantine, it was contained. Everyone else was safe, unscathed.  Now, I'm surrounded by people who seek me out. They follow me around. They work hard to provoke my wrath. But I must struggle to keep it inside. And it's hard.

I started out the day behind the eight ball. I fell asleep on the couch last night at 7:30, roused myself to put the girls to bed, fell asleep on the couch again, roused myself to send out a few emails, then went to bed. The mountains of laundry still loomed, the backlog of unanswered emails still mocked, the details of the impending Big Event still capered in my head. I needed to wake up early and get going before little people were interrupting every thought with requests for nose-blows, bum-wipes, more milk, boo-boo kisses, and crises that needed to be averted. (Note: I believe that these requests are appropriate for 2 and 3 yr olds to make. They're just not appropriate for me before my first cup of coffee.)

But I didn't. I was awoken by a little person crawling into my bed with a noisy baby toy. This is not a good way for me to start the day. The annoyances and injustices just compounded from there.  

It's noteworthy to point out that my name is "Joy", not "Temperance." (Honestly, I think this is one of the things that sucked BestestHusband in so many years ago...) I am emotional. I am emotive. It is unavoidable.  The opposite of joy is unhappiness. I fully experience both ends of the emotional spectrum. And everything in between. To the fullest. So if you're around me, you'll have a good idea of what's going on. I try to temper the temper, but it still exists. I must face the fact that I'm as incapable of keeping myself from being cranky as I am incapable of keeping myself from being happy. 

I know moms who try to keep themselves from showing any negative emotion: "I am a bottomless well of patience." Well, I am not. I've tried to overcome my emotional side for years. I've failed. And statistically speaking, at least one of my girls will inherit some of my emotional nature. Actually, I can tell you that MeToo has. So should I go forward demonstrating to my girls denial of a part of my character and pretend I only feel happy things? Well, first of all, I know that I'd fail horribly. Or require serious medication. And second of all, what is that teaching my girls? Deny what you feel and only show people what they want to see? Do my local uber-feminist bottomless-well moms realize that's what they're doing? (Note: I am a big proponent of social niceties, and teach manners like the girls' lives depend on it. We should be nice. But we can recognize when that's hard to do.)

What if, instead, I recognize that I can't turn off my crankies, and talk to the girls about how we can all manage to have a good morning anyway. I'm starting to emphasize the "teamwork" aspects of home. How we all work together in a family to have a cozy comfortable home, yummy food to eat, and fun happy days. We're starting to give the girls little chores (take their plastic dishes to the sink, make their beds, etc) that contribute to this end. Shopping today, HeyMama was motivated to help choose cereals, cheeses, etc to give us yummy meals. We've started high-fiving when we all do a part of a task. Family life is teamwork.

So why can't we frame emotional management as teamwork? I certainly try to help isolate and insulate their foul moods. We try to do nice things for each other to make each other happy. We try to comfort each other when someone's upset. Why not work together to manage cranky days, too? We know how to push each other's buttons. Certainly we can work to avoid that more on cranky days. Experiencing and discussing emotions and how they contribute to behaviors is all a part of EQ.  I think IQ + EQ is a dang good combination for the girls to have when they go out into the world. (Note:  Obviously, when the girls go out into the world, it will be clear that they are not responsible for other people's behaviors and emotions, but they will understand that they can influence others' behaviors and emotions if they pay close attention...)

So that's my new theory on managing emotions and behaviors. And managing my cranky days. They will come. And we will all have to deal with them. And the girls will have cranky days. And we will all have to deal with them. And someday they will be teenagers. And BestestHusband will need his own ManCave to escape to. 

I bought myself flowers to make myself feel better. Thank you Trader Joe for cheap flowers!

How do manage your cranky days if you can't run away?