I'm turning into my mother!

I never thought it would happen.

There are so many things I grew up with that I've always said "When I grow up, I'm not going to...." and then I'd fill in the blank with something or other that my mom did that bugged me.

One of those things was breakfast. For as long as I can remember, even when my mom worked full time, she got up every morning and fixed a hot breakfast for us. French toast, pancakes (from scratch), bacon and eggs...all the basics you'd find on the menu at your favorite breakfast joint.

At some point there started to be a little pattern to it--every Monday we had some version of hot cereal; wheat hearts, cornmeal mush, oatmeal, cream of wheat...see? You could go a month of Mondays without repeating a mush.

Tuesday almost redeemed Monday because it became Toast and Hot Chocolate day (there was fruit, but to me that was incidental). For years I cursed Monday morning (and most of the others) and tolerated Tuesdays while vowing that when I grew up, I wouldn't fix a hot breakfast--I likely wouldn't eat breakfast at all (in the morning, I'd far rather eat than sleep!). And if I did eat breakfast, it would always be toast and hot chocolate and mandarin oranges.

For the most part, I've lived up to my vows. I'm still not a big breakfast eater. Most mornings it's much closer to lunchtime when I break my fast. And when you let my kids choose breakfast, they usually pick toast or cold cereal, which is often prepared by Dad since he's already up fixing his own breakfast anyway.

But this week, things are different. This week we joined the ranks of the families "getting ready for school." The first day I made cinnamon streusel swirl "train muffins" as a special treat for my train loving kindergartener. I accompanied them with some scrambled eggs because a muffin alone is like sending him off with cake for breakfast. And while I welcome cake as a perfectly good breakfast for me, my mom-sense knows my kiddos need better.

Morning two was blueberry pancakes. Morning three was a repeat of morning one (at Bug's request; he actually likes scrambled eggs). Not one bowl of cereal or piece of toast in sight. (Just so happens we're out of bread, but that's beside the point!)

So here I am, repeating my moms patterns, despite my years of protestations (except for the mush. Anyone in the family who actually likes the stuff is welcome to make their own).

And I'm realizing that maybe, even though I didn't appreciate it at the time, she did that not because she was a big old meany who made me get up half an hour earlier than I really needed to, to eat a meal I didn't even want. Maybe she did it because she knew we needed to get off to a good start; nourished in body and soul, connected to one another.

I can't guarantee that the next 15 years of sending little ones off to school will still find me at the stove fixing a warm meal every morning, but for right now it seems like the right thing to do.

And since I'm sure I never said it at the time, "Thanks for breakfast Mom."

"She rises while it is still night and provides portions for her household." Proverbs 31:15
Have you seen yourself channeling your mother in unexpected ways? What are some of your back-to-school traditions? Tell us about it!

Athletic Wear is Not My Look

"Mommy!" my son greeted me with his usual enthusiasm. "Why are you wearing those clothes?" He eyed the lime green mesh shirt and the white with lime sleeveless hoodie as I joined the other sporty-moms in the school pick-up line.

He asked again when we were at the pool and once more when I was tucking him in. While I got him to admit that he liked my clothes and they looked alright on me, I don’t think he was ever quite convinced that they look right on me.

I’ve been meaning to go back to Curves (since the “baby” is nearly three and I still weigh more than when I got pregnant with him!) and we joined the local racquet club, so when I found some name-brand workout clothes at incredible bargain prices, I couldn’t resist. And I figured I might feel a little less out of place if I dressed the part even if I never touch any of the equipment! The other school moms and the other “club” moms look like that all the time, but my son obviously knows that’s not my usual style.

When I was about 10, I stayed overnight with a friend who admitted that she had only pretended to have a crush on Donny Osmond (does that date me, or what?) because I said I liked him. Someone else on the cover of Tiger Beat made her heart go pitter-pat. I remember even at that young age thinking how pitiful it was that she felt like she had to pretend something that wasn’t true to be liked.

I think we do that with our faith sometimes too. We put it on or off (or at least the evidence of it) depending on who we’re around.

Does any of this sound familiar? At work you crack—or crack up at—off color jokes that you wouldn’t tell in your church circle. On “Girls Night Out” it’s not uncommon for a friend to get more than a little “buzzed,” but at Bible study she acts like she never drinks anything more than communion wine. At the ladies retreat we speak of great spiritual goals or insights even though we’ve missed church six of the last eight Sundays and spent 3 days hunting down a Bible to bring along on the trip.

I’ve always said that I want to be the same person wherever I am. I wouldn’t want my church friends to see me out with work associates and think “I didn’t know she was like that.” (Or perhaps worse, the other way around!)

It is true that different settings bring out different sides of my personality (some people might find it hard to believe, but put me around a bunch of writers and I am actually funny!), but I really try, online and off, at home or at church or at the neighborhood park to just be me. As the saying goes “Nothing to lose, nothing to prove.” I've come a long way from that sleepover, but it's still important to me not to be fake.

As for my activewear wardrobe….well, maybe if I hit the gym a couple times a week my son won’t think I’m an imposter!

What's your "Mommidentity?"

I stopped by My Cup 2 Yours today and saw pics of the fun projects Genny has done with her kids in these last days before school starts.

At first I was a little envious and and a tad guilty-feeling because I had grand plans for fun projects with my kids this summer too. Somehow though, the finger paints, little wooden models of trucks and airplanes, the garden stepping stones and all those things never made it out of spare room where I stash all kinds of fun stuff I'm not ready to break out yet.

But when I started to comment about what we hope to accomplish in the 4 remaining days before Bug starts Kindergarten (a car show nearby, a visit to the fun park with the water stuff to play in, a trip to the train museum), it dawned on me that I'm not "Arts and Crafts Mom" I'm "Field Trip Mom!"

That was a happy revelation. No, my kids won't have memories of us spending the summer doing lots of messy stuff around the kitchen table, but they will have memories of riding the cable cars from the wharf to Union Square and back again, the San Francisco Zoo, an afternoon wandering Pacific Garden mall looking for the perfect lunch spot (which turned out to be the first real restaurant we walked past)...and it's ok if there was no paint or glue or scissors involved.

Yeah, I still want to break out of my comfort zone and throw caution to the wind by allowing glitter to gather in the seams of our Tigerwood floors, but my kids aren't totally deprived. In fact, given the choice of an outing and a project, I can bet my two would pretty much always choose the outing.
So what's your "Mommidentity?" Find the one you're most familiar with and capitalize on it. And when you're in a rut, choose something new to explore. I'm hoping that as you find your mom-style, it will be one more thing to give you confidence and one less reason to compare yourself to anyone else you know!

Arts and Crafts Mom--You have a closet full of art supplies and aren't afraid to use them.
Field Trip Mom--You have an arsenal of maps and almanacs and an idea for where to spend every random day off.
Kitchen Fun Mom--You always have a recipe for cooking up some fun.

Sporty Mom--You don't just sign your kids up for sports, you're ready to throw a ball, ride a bike or jump in the pool without planning ahead to make sure your hair, make-up and clothes are suited to the task (because they pretty much always are).
Serving Mom--Christmas at the Rescue Mission, Valentine's Day at the convalescent home, random summer days spent picking up litter or weeding at the community garden...you're the mom who knows there's a need and brings your kids along to meet it.
Nature Mom--You fully appreciate God's creation and are instilling that into your children by going for hikes, camping at the lake (or in the backyard), planting a garden...
Teacher Mom--whether you homeschool your children or not, you see "teachable moments" everywhere you go and in everything you do. You visit the library weekly (and actually read the whole stack of books before you return) and your kids definitely don't lose 2.5 months of their educational level over the summer break!
Fine Arts Mom--You’re the mom who can get an 8 year old boy to don khaki’s and a polo shirt on a Saturday afternoon for a trip to the symphony. Art exhibits at the museum, professional performances of the Nutcracker, all find their way onto your calendar.
Media Mom—You’re the one in line at midnight to get tickets for the latest Star Wars release. You had a Wii stashed in the gifts closet before most of the country knew to pronounce it “wee” and you’re as likely to have “joystick wrist” as you are carpal tunnel syndrome.
Silly Mom--Funny faces, food fights, harmless pranks, your home is full of laughter and you're at the center of it.

hmmm...I'm sure there are more--those are just a few of the kinds of moms I know. What kind of mom are you? How did you live up to that over this summer? Tell us about it!

A Small "Hearterial Flow" Problem...

If you were a fan of "Designing Women," you might remember Bernice Clifton and her "small arterial flow problem above the neck." I've been feeling lately like I have a bit of a disconnect myself. There's no official diagnosis of dementia or anything (at least not yet; and I don't think the pregnancy brain that morphs into "mommy brain" has received recognition by the AMA yet).

I think my problem is more of a "hearterial" flow problem."

Recent months have been more trying and stressful than I care to admit even to myself. I've discovered that I can tell when I'm overwhelmed by life and circumstances by how freely the words flow. It's not that I don't want to share what I'm feeling, but there really does seem to be a blockage that prevents me from putting the emotions and thoughts into words.

When things are calm and I'm content, blog entries and book ideas find their way from heart to hard drive almost effortlessly. But when things are difficult and I'm feeling tense and troubled, my mind can't seem to access the words brewing in my core.

I've come to admire writers who can experience their trials and and distill them down into thoughts. Thoughts that can be shared as blog entries, as poetry, as song.

At the very center of my difficulties, I do always carry a sense that God is in control and it will be ok in the end (ok doesn't mean that I always get what I want or that all will be joy and happiness as time goes on). I know there's a difference between peace and happiness. Happiness is grand, but peace permeates so much more of who we are and how we feel. Happiness is kind of a place we visit, but peace can be where we live, despite our circumstances.

I want to learn to be more like the psalmist and even some of the prophets who were able to say, in essence, "Lord, this stinks. I hate how things are going. I don't see the fairness or justice or silver lining ahead. But You are God, you hold all these things in Your hands. You hold me in Your hands. I will rest in you."

It's not the Pillsbury Bake-off

(which I've failed to crack altogether)

...but I'm honored to have made it into the "recipes that were in the running throughout the narrowing-down" category at Pioneer Womans Dairy Recipe Contest.

She said, "Probably one of the best recipes entered, as yogurt is used in both the dough and the filling. I love the looks of this one." High praise in my book!

I had a feeling I'd hit on something that would appeal to her--an unusual (to me), but easy dough that only requires your flour/meal (you could substitute whole wheat flour for the corn meal I chose) and yogurt, and a yummy, savory filling that takes the best of Spinach Artichoke dip and ups the healthy quotient by using yogurt in place of cream cheese or mayo.

So if you don't want to go in search of recipe #2063 on her site, here it is:

Spinach-artichoke Pick-ups

Who knew that yogurt added to flour makes a tender, soft dough? Double-dipping isn't an issue when you wrap a cheesy, savory spinach-artichoke filling in a nearly fat-free corn pastry.

2 1/2 cups white flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) plain yogurt
dash salt

1 shallot, minced (1/4 white onion will work)
1 clove garlic, crushed (use 2 or 3 if you've done roasted garlic, see PW's instructions 5/08)
6 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed according to directions (canned would probably work too, drained)
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze extra moisture out with paper towels)
A couple shakes of Worchestershire sauce, to taste
4 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese or Colby Jack cheese
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Additional yogurt for brushing tops of pastry
Additional grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling over top.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix flour, corn meal and salt together with fork. Add yogurt, blend well. Dough should come together in loose ball. Break off small pieces of dough and roll into golf-ball sized balls. Cover with towel or waxed paper and set aside.

Into bowl of food processor, put shallot, garlic, artichoke hearts and spinach. Pulse until well mixed and finely chopped, but not pureed (there should be some small chunks of artichoke and spinach remaining).

Add mixture to small bowl containing Monterey Jack and parmesan cheeses. Stir together. Add several shakes of Worchestershire sauce to yogurt, mix well. Add yogurt mixture to spinach/artichoke/cheese mixture and stir until well blended.

Flour work surface and rolling pin. Roll pastry balls into approx. 4 inch circles. (Roll dough thin, but not so thin that there are weak spots or breaks.) Place approx 2 teaspoons of filling in center of circle. Fold over to make half moon. Seal by pressing edges with fork. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Brush tops with yogurt and sprinkle with finely grated parmesan cheese. (You can pretty up the edges of your pastry by trimming with a knife, if desired.)

Place on parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Bake 12-16 minutes, until pastry is lightly golden and edges are crisp. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a minute before removing to serving tray. Makes about 18 pick-ups.

Note: This is a really forgiving recipe; the filling can be adjusted to include mushrooms, red bell pepper, jalapenos, etc as desired. For a little more texture, pastry can be rolled on surface dusted with corn meal rather than flour. These could also be fried if you're really looking for a crisp texture for the crust.

I think I'll be experimenting a lot with this one; by changing the fillings and cutting the dough into large squares, I think I can get healthy, cheaper versions of Hot Pockets, calzones, etc. The dough is very soft and sticky, but if you flour your surface well enough it's really very easy to work with.

PS--If you roll the dough out thin, cut it into small squares, brush with yogurt and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt, you get a healthy, homemade cracker! How cool is that?! (I'm going to try that with whole wheat flour or even ground flaxseed in place of the cornmeal I used in this version.)

If you give it a try, I'd love to hear what you think!

Endless Summer?

So how has your "summer vacation" been? Overall, ours was kind of a washout. In the interest of full disclosure I'll have to admit that I tend to get rather high expectations for "lasts." You know, "the last time I go out with my girlfriends before we get married," "the last time we'll eat at this restaurant before we move 800 miles away,"..."the last summer before our first child enters the world of 'real' school."

Yeah, this is that summer for us. And instead of being a footloose and fancy free, traveling the west kind of summer, it was really a nose-to-the-grindstone-stick-close-to-home kind of summer. We barely left the county, let alone the state, and I think our only overnight trip was a quick 24-hour jaunt to The City to meet some famous bloggers at BlogHer and to ride the cable cars from the beginning to the end and back again. And then we hurried home to get grinding again.

And alas and alack, (what's an 'alack' anyway?) School starts in a week. And next week there's orientation on one day and the "Back to School BBQ" on another, so in essence, our last unofficial week of summer ended today. Phoo.

So this is where you come in. Help a girl out and let me live vicariously. What was your summer vacation like? Did you take any fabulous trips? Have any memorable getaways? Tell me about it! (And feel free to link to any blog entries you might have made on the subject.)

"Are you taking notes?"

I was at the Beth Moore simulcast a week ago, and she stopped at one point in the midst of her message and asked, "Are you taking notes?" At first I thought it was a general question, intended to wake us up so we didn't miss something important.

The camera followed her off the platform to the shadows of the front row where she followed up her original question. "How old are you?" A 10 year old in the front row caught her attention. I can only hope her next words had the impact on that young girl as they did me...

"The Word of God will be on your tongue."

Can you imagine?

Would you feel that you'd been struck by lightening if a speaker (Beth Moore no less!) stopped their message to say those words to you?

And her mother! I can only imagine that mom going home and writing on her blog or in her journal about that message to her daughter. One of those instances like when Jesus told Mary "didn't you know I'd be about my Father's business?" and Mary went away and "treasured all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:41-52)

I believe that all 70,000 of us might have seen a prophecy at that moment (and that is not something I say often--maybe ever--or lightly). Beth Moore recognized the spirit of that young girl; a heart that is seeking to take in God's word so that, as we were reminded "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee." May it be so, Lord.

Beth's message was rich with so many things to take away, but it was that exchange that stuck with me as I drove home.

10 years old.

Taking notes.

God's Word.

Beth noting that a child seeking God's word at that age has the potential to accomplish great things for God.

My oldest son is 5. He's heading off to kindergarten in a couple weeks. It feels like such a deadline to me. He'll be exposed to kids that I don't know and might not approve of. He'll be taught things that we don't necessarily agree with. Sure, I could keep him home and teach him myself and monitor all his playmates, but for now, that isn't what God has called our family to do.

It does make me aware though of making the most of the time that I do have with him. I need to make our moments together count. "Impress (these things) upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deut. 6:7)

Bug knows all his letters and is beginning to recognize words, but he's not really able to "take notes" in the sense we saw that night. But he can read my life. As Paul said, "You are a letter of Christ...written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Cor. 3:2-3)

I am struck that I want to be sure to live my life in a way that when my son is 10, he is ready to listen to a new level of teaching; that he's ready to hear someone say, "The word of God will be in your heart."

Olympics '08

(Insert Olympics theme here...)

So, what are your thoughts on the Olympics? Do you have favorite events or favorite athletes competing this year? Will you be watching?

Does the Olympics supercede politics for you, or is it a politicized event?
Should President Bush have gone to the opening ceremony? Should China have been chosen as host? Any other thoughts? Speak up!

Spiritual Tattletale?


"Moooom! Bug's spitting!"

I don't know about you, but I don't have any patience for tattling. If someone is in imminent danger of physical harm, I want to know about it, but otherwise, deal with it or drop it. I've tried to empower my kids to let someone else know when they're breaking a rule or doing something they shouldn't; they don't need me to intervene for every random thing. At least, that's my theory.

I thought I'd outgrown tattling a long time ago. "Deal with it or drop it." But how often do I sit in church and think "So-and-so really needs to hear this," or fill my prayers with "Lord did you see...?"

I wonder if God gets tired of hearing me whine about my perceptions of someone else's slights and wants to respond, "I know. I see. I'll take care of her."

"But how about you concentrate on what I've asked you to do?"


Photo from "Funwithfood" iStockphoto.

Sweetest Worship Ever

On a recent Baby Dedication Sunday, I had a flashback of myself five years ago with my infant son nestled against my shoulder while we sang worship songs on Sunday morning. Until my boys were nearly a year old, naptime (and nursing time) landed smack dab in the middle of the service. When Bug was released from the hospital at not quite 3 weeks old (after his bout with RSV) we were told to make sure that he didn't get passed around a lot so he wouldn't be exposed to anything that might send him back. Since it was February and flu season, that certainly meant no dropping him off in the nursery.

So he spent those first few months sitting with me in the back row, the one "reserved for families with babies and young children" as the sign said. The row right in front of the cry room.

I was always careful to duck out at the first sign of a cry or coo. I missed a lot of sermons during those months, but we got to participate in the musical part of worship together.

Seeing those babies on their daddy's shoulders brought back how intensely sweet those times were. It was indescribably precious to introduce my son to voices lifted to God in praise; that the first music he heard was sacred. In those days, I never took it for granted. It was never routine, hearing it myself as though for the first time along with my baby was so meaningful to me.
I think we're a little too quick now to send children off to their own classes. Too quick to bar them from the service "that they might not be a distraction" (as one well known radio-church puts it on the signs outside their sanctuary). (Lord, let me never be such an old grump that my own distraction level is more important to me than welcoming a young soul into a service where You may get hold of their heart!)

I think we all lose out if we don't at least occasionally include them to worship with us. One church we visit when we're out of town even offers a special children's outline to help the kids follow along during the sermon.

Sometimes my five year old doesn't want to attend his class. Because I'm careful not to create circumstances that will make him resent church, I let him occasionally sit in the service with me. I believe there's value in him seeing us worship, listening to God's word, giving, etc.

I hope that as he grows he'll always be as comfortable in "big church" as he was during those first months as we sang and swayed and praised God together.

The Economy of Writing

I’ve realized that, like many Americans, shopping is a recreational activity to me. I don’t like going to the grocery store much, but give me free reign at Target and I can wander for a couple hours looking for “hidden bargains.” I know of people who have refined the process to the point that they keep detailed calendars with notes about when toys/outdoor furniture/electronics go to 75% off. (I’m not this bad, but I have to admit to following a couple websites where people share their information and list their great finds.)

It’s not all bad; I do try to stick to items I think I will actually use or give away. It’s nice to have a few things on hand for unexpected gift-giving occasions and it’s really nice not to be out with the crowds in December because I had my kids gifts finished off in July (at 75% off, even for the “big” gift).

But this year I noticed that I didn’t use a good percentage of my gift stash (I need to actually get to the Toys for Tots donation center this year) and I have more sets of Queen-sized sheets than I’ll put to good use.

I haven’t always been a recreational shopper. When Hubs was in grad school and we had no money, I actually made a sport of hitting the 4 local supermarkets to get the best possible deals on groceries. I seldom did any other shopping though because there wasn’t any money to spend; why torture myself with longing for things I wouldn’t otherwise want because I didn’t know what I was missing.

I was thinking about what I did to entertain myself during that period. I realized that that’s when I did the most writing. Any blocks of time that Hubs was busy with classes or meetings or whatever, I’d head to Barnes and Noble and read for inspiration, or get a cup of tea and take some editing to work on. It's funny to me that I wrote three books when we had the least money.

The shopping really started when the kids came along and I found myself needing to outfit a new being. I loved finding cute, new clothes for the same price I’d have to spend at a thrift store (without having to wade through racks of asthma-inducing musty old stuff to find the gems). It was also a good way to get out of the house and be among people for a bit even if I wasn’t going with anyone. My writing was already taking a back seat because I didn’t have enough brain cells left from the lack-of-sleep baby fog to form coherent sentences (I’m afraid I still suffer some residual effects of that condition!)

Recently I took a good look at our banking summary. You know, the one that tells you what percentage of your income goes to groceries, retail, eating out, bills, etc. It was not pretty. The “retail” category was as much as our monthly income our first couple years of marriage. And the “restaurant” column showed we spend more eating out than we do on groceries. That’s all really out of whack.

So, I’m newly committed to eating at home more often (which means making more effort to keep a variety of food in the house) and shopping for the fun it MUCH less. Funny that this new resolution comes at the same time that I’m newly committed to writing and was wondering where the writing time would come from. My plan is to revert to my old ways of claiming my writing time when Hubs takes the boys to play at the gym or on Sunday afternoons when they’re busy with naps and playing and sports.

So the joint benefit is that I’ll reconnect with my creative side and our budget will thank me (aside from the occasional splurge on books).

What about you? Is your budget balanced the way you want it to be? What do you think of the statement, “Is getting something you don’t need at a great price really a bargain?”

What do you do for “recreation?” Where/how do you claim those moments that refresh and recharge you?
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