Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little Things

Life gets rough sometimes.  And complicated.  Not like Libya rough and complicated, but sometimes enough to weigh you down quite a bit.  Especially when you lose perspective. 

But there are things -- if your head is not hanging too low to actually look around -- that...

Well, you know if you see them.

Today, life is complicated.  But I'm making sure to see.  My Ivy bent down to kiss me the other day for the first time.  I was lying on the ground, and suddenly she was there. 

And this: 

My Grandma sends us oranges from her tree in California.  The best oranges ever.

God, thank you for the little things.

Grandma, thank you for the oranges.

Ivy, thank you for my kiss.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale

Sleep is my new best friend. 

I used to be frustrated with Sleep.  We weren't on speaking terms before, and I really didn't want to need her, didn't want to spend any time with her.  But now I like her.  I hang out with her earlier and earlier these past few evenings, and it's been wonderful. 

We're buds now.

Which is probably why between that and the drama that manages to pop up in life and shock me out of my normal activities (even when I'm old enough to know better than to not expect it), I haven't spent as much time on reading and blogging.  So for all you disappointed fans out there -- all one-and-a-half of you -- I have just finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. 

Okay, well, actually I've just finished it for the second time.  And here's the puzzle pour moi:  Was I in a completely weird place the first time I read this book, or am I in a seriously funky way now?  Because this book did not hit me the same way twice.

Don't get me wrong.  I loved the book the first time and truly enjoyed it the second.  I just hadn't remembered it being so wacky. 

Umm... wacky is really the wrong word.  This book is a bit more esoteric than that.  But if you think your family is a bit off, you've got nothing on the Angelfield family.  Or maybe you do.  In that case, I'm very, very sorry.

Personally, I love reading about people who love to read, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.  The narrator, Margaret, is an wonderfully obsessive reader who is asked to write the biography of the most popular, yet mysterious writer of her day, Vida Winter.  This book centers around family or lack thereof, twinness and separation, secrets and truth. 

I do recommend this book, but it's not the feel-good story of the year.  There is a lot of wading through sadness.  Though, if you are like me, the story is beautiful and will pull you in. 

I really dislike when stories are spoilt for me, and so I'd really rather give too little than too much. 

I will, however, say this:  Diane Setterfield is good with words, and this is very important to me.  I love language and I appreciate good word craftsmanship.  You can usually tell within the first paragraph -- the first sentence if the writer is truly gifted* -- whether a writer knows what he/she is doing and merely telling a story or painting an image.

And while the first line from The Thirteenth Tale isn't a revolutionary one, she did get me with this in the first paragraph both times:

Through the glass in the door it cast a foolscap rectangle of paleness onto the wet pavement, and it was a while I was standing in that rectangle, about to turn my key in the door, that I first saw the letter.  Another white rectangle, it was on the fifth step from the bottom where I couldn't miss it.

It has a lovely sense of rhythm and symmetry and imagery that grabs me from the beginning.  And while she can get a bit gloomy and depressing (and who doesn't like a good gloomy story on the moors sometimes?) Ms. Setterfield does know how to weave a story.

You might want to start it when you're cheerful, though.  Starting it when you're already down may make you not want to get out of bed.

But then maybe I can just lend you my new friend, Sleep.

*See: George Orwell:  It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen; 
Jane Austen:  It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife;
Charles Dickens:  Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show; 
C.S. Lewis:  There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it; 
Leo Tolstoy:  Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way;
I could go on forever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This is Rose.


... she's going to help run the world.

Be ready.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Gremlins


I can feel it coming on.

The complaint gremlin is comin' to get me.  I feel his bony, gnarly, icky hands on my shoulders.  He's behind me holdin' on, and I know I'm gonna have a heck of a time shakin' him off.


My kids have been sick, but I've been praising and thanking God that I haven't been and can, therefore, take care of them.  Up to today, I've been happy and grateful that I can just hold onto my babies and try to make them feel better without having to muscle through my own gross flu bug.  I can handle anybody's grossness if I don't have to handle my own.  Give me the worst; I can take it, clean it, and hug it.

But now... NOW, I have dread.  And that leads to complaining for me.  I have to get through an unpleasant event at 4:00 this afternoon with an unpleasant person who I kinda see as my real gremlin.

And now everything stinks. Grrrr.

Where's that praise and gratitude now?

It's somewhere around here.  I promise.  In the meantime, I get to spend time all weekend with these guys:

I feel better already.

I think I'll make some muffins.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Dear Leif,
You, my only son, completely crack me up.  And it's never, ever on purpose.  Your gentle sincerity morphs into rambunctious hilarity, and adds fullness and variety to our would-be girly lives.  You are my little man with big man potential.  You make me nervous of how to do right by you in raising you.  But I know you will be destined for something wonderful, and I hope never to get in your way.  I want so much for you and from you as you become a man, but that's mercifully somewhat far off.  So for now, I just enjoy your growly laughter, your wanting to be close, and, most of all, your always-surprising and always-cherished trust in me.  I love you, Bud.

Your mom.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sunday Breakfast

Got up and made quinoa pancakes for the grown-ups.

Mostly because it was the only recipe I could find for which I had all the ingredients.

They turned out pretty good.  Kinda like down-home, rustic goodness.

Oh, and I like REAL bacon, but Nana and Pops have these ideas about health and... whatever.  This is turkey bacon which is good, too.

Eat up, precious family.

My Morning Verse

Okay, now I realize I'm not exactly hitting the ground running this morning.  I have yet to have taken even a sip of coffee.

Wait for it...

Sigh... two sips for good measure.  That's a start.  But I digress.

I do have a tiny headache starting at the top of my head, and I've got a lot on my mind that might make me a little, let's say, crabby.  But of all things, my Verse-a-Day Calendar is ticking me off.  Besides the annoying, touristy, cheesy picture of two hibiscuses for today, Wednesday, February 9, 2011 (usually the pictures are good -- I cheated and checked tomorrow's.  It's a good misty, tops of mountains through the fog number.  Very nice... again, I digress.)...

But here's the main thing:  I'm coming in here without my coffee with a lot on my mind, and basically I feel like my brain is the top of the mountain not yet able to peek over the fog.  I mean I can barely formulate these words.  As a matter of fact, stop reading right now.  These words are mush and blech.  I just have to say, though, that as I peeled back yesterday, Tuesday, February 8, 2011 and looked for a little bit of reason, meditation, and clarity, I read this:

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.  II Timothy 1:6 KJV

I mean, seriously, Verse-a-Day people?  I'm barely able to form a cohesive thought and this is what you give me at 7:30 a.m.?  What are you thinking?  Did King James actually put this calendar together himself while he was directing the translation of God's Word into the English language?  He said, "Oh, by the way, mine faithful scholars, couldst thou whip up a Verse-a-Day calendar for 2011 while you're at it?"  To me, that would be the only acceptable excuse for hitting the general scripture-seeking population with this translation before (and that's when we generally look at our daily calendars) we get our coffee.  Honestly, I would barely be able to decipher this one at noon when I'm rather at my best.

So for those of you, like me, who cannot let this slide unaddressed (and I'm sure there are tens of you), I've saved you the trouble of looking up more morning-friendly translations of this verse:

My personal favorite.  I happen to have a soft spot for the New Century Version, which has always been clearest to me.  My New Century Version has been with me since college and is now quite literally falling apart.  That's what I get for cheaping out and buying a paperback.

This is why I remind you to keep using the gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. Now let it grow, as a small flame grows into a fire.  II Timothy 1:6 NCV 

And okay, Mom.  Since you think American Standard Version is, like, the only real way to read it (or you used to) because it's, "directly from the Greek and Hebrew," (isn't that what we all say about our favorite?  Because it's true.) this one is for you. 

For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands.  II Timothy 1:6 ASV

And, of course, the universally loved.  Everybody loves a good New International Version.  So here y'all go.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. II Timothy 1:6 NIV

Wait, one more.  This is pretty good, too.

This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. II Timothy 1:6 NLT

The point is, there are tons of options out there.

And now that I've made my point, I would like to mention that I do see beauty in the King James Version.  It hearkens from a day when I think the educated truly appreciated their language and wanted to make something wonderful.  And without Jimmy (Sometimes I call him Jimmy or King Jimmy.  He thinks it's funny.  I really hope you've stopped reading by now.) I would be sitting here trying to decipher my morning Bible verse in LATIN. 

Great googly moogly. 

Have a wonderful and blessed day. 

Coffee's kicking in.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Basil Money Plant

Long, long ago, (okay, well maybe like 2 years or so) when I still harbored illusions of being this awesome, crafty, lovely stay-at-home mom, I bought a basil plant.  It was not my first basil plant.  As a matter of fact, I had been pretty effective -- given my thumb is definitely nowhere near a shade of green -- at growing rosemary.  Of course, rosemary is hearty and hard to kill and smells wonderful.  But it makes you feel good when it gets big and beautiful under your care.  So I felt pretty good planting my fragrant sweet basil plant. 

While digging the hole for my tiny fragile plant, who should come calling but a monster of a one-year-old bent on destruction.  Rose, in all her charming toddler curiosity, had grabbed the aformentioned basil plant and pulled it completely apart and out of its temporary, flimsy, plastic pot -- disecting, if you will. 

Aww... the budding little botanist.

I should have reminded her that botanists don't kill -- or they shouldn't.  However, I (because I am naturally such a calm and collected being) shrieked and snatched it back and lectured her for who knows how long on the propriety of touching other people's things.  I'm sure she retained every word. 

I gathered up the massacred plant as my daughter sat playing with rocks.  (She doesn't truamatize easily.  Good thing.)  Since there were a few roots holding desperately to a stem and one-and-a-half leaves, I planted the poor thing anyway and said a little prayer.  And then, of course, I lectured her again while she stared up at me incomprehensively -- or wise beyond her years.  Who knows?

It survived.  I don't know if it's still there today, but it lived!  I watered and tended it and took care of the wee patient until it resembled a healthy member of the garden.  I felt pretty good about it.

What does this have to do with anything?

Well, I was reminded of this story and how I now am that monster one-year-old with the basil plant.  Only the basil plant is my bank balance.  Grrr...  How do I do this to me? 

As a single mom (Oh yeah, I say that a lot.  Get used to it.  I'm still adjusting. I say with love.) with sporadic child support, the four kids and I, along with wonderful helpful parents who depend on my financial contribution as well, live pretty paycheck to paycheck.  Okay, there's no pretty about it.  I am Ms. Squeaking By. 

By God's great and wonderful grace, He provides us with what we need. (Can I get an Amen?)  We are sooooooooo blessed.  Just want to emphasize that.  WAY BLESSED.  Did you get that?  However, it's obviously through no financial wizardry on my part. 

Not even a little.

So I should have been more than a little suspicious when I felt like I could breathe. 

Caution To Self:  If you feel like you can breathe, double check.  Something is wrong. 

But I didn't.  I rejoiced and bought a couple things (not like Caribbean vacation or new handbag, okay?  Like stuff kids needed, blah, blah, blah) and threw caution to the wind.  Yay!  So when I reconciled my checking and found it wanting, I hyperventilated.  Then I called my mommy.

She's awesome.  She listened calmly.  She said stuff like, "I know you don't want us to bail you out."  She's right.  I hate being bailed out.  I just wanted somebody to freak out to in a major, major way.  (See: tears, yelling, whining, et cetera.)  It turns out I put in a small deposit twice.  Seriously? 

Yes, seriously.

So I am at once the monster one-year-old devastating the already fragile plant.  But I am also the amateur plant doctor watching, waiting, tending to make sure the old bank balance plant survives, and maybe one day, thrives.

Thanks, Mom.  I love you guys.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This is Ivy.
It's hard to get Ivy's picture.
She's not camera shy.
She's too cool to pose for one. 
Look at that cool do.
Look at that cool sweater.
Look at that cool chair.
That's Ivy.
Too cool.

Gluten-Free Success

I made these delicious pumpkin muffins.  They are yummy.  This is a big deal, because my first gf muffin experience was kind of not yummy.  They were dry and... well, dry.  As someone who used to pride herself on her muffin-making prowess before the days of switching off gluten, this was a big dent in my pride.

These are good, though.  Really, really.  I had to make a couple adjustments because I didn't have everything.  But still, really good.  Anyway, they look like this: 

I really piled on the batter because it made more than 12 muffins worth.  But I think they were better that way.  I like big, fat muffins -- but not the store kind.  These kind.


Best Intentions

I'll admit it.  My evenings get away from me sometimes.

I watched this Jamie Oliver give the most amazing talk on my computer at work.  I was waiting for an assignment and my daughter happened to be with me (snow day) eating her breakfast of eggs from the cafeteria.  I watched it and was inspired.   In my mind's eye, I see fresh veggies, protein, homemade healthy food.

"Rose," I said, "You guys need to eat healthier food."  I was ready.  "And you're going to help me make veggies and get your brother and sisters to eat them, right?"  Because where she goes, they follow.  At least where it comes to suspicious greens.

"Yeah!" she says.

So we find this recipe by one of my favorite bloggers, and we have a plan to go home and dig out the acorn squash that's been sitting in my pantry for six months.

Don't worry.  Squash last forever it seems.  Can't even throw it out.

It haunts me.

So we get home eight hours later and all the kids are up and refreshed from their naps... and I'm tired.

 "Anybody want to watch Shawn the Sheep?" I ask.

"Mommy, I don't think I want to help with the vegetable then."

That's okay.  We don't have anything to have the darned squash with anyway.  What we do have is a mountain of (leftover) oven fries.  Oven fries it is, with eggs, (leftover) bacon, toast -- breakfast for dinner. How many eggs can a four-year-old eat in one day and not keel over?

And it took Rose two hours to eat three tiny wedges of oven fries.  They are, after all, practically a vegetable.  A lot of help she's gonna be.

Oh, well.  We'll try again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When reading doesn't happen...

Okay, yes.  I admit it.  Sometimes this bibliophile does not read

You may be thinking, "I only just met you via the blogosphere.  Is this news?"  Or you may be someone who know me thinking, "What???  How can this be?"

Well, it's true.  It is a little odd, but it happens.  I usually read anywhere I can fit in a sentence or two -- at the metro stop, between assignments at work, at lunch, before passing out from complete single-mom exhaustion, and so forth.  But sometimes, sometimes I'm just too FRIED.  My brain feels like the egg on that commericial in the '80s (anybody in their 30's or older know what I'm talking about?) only there are no drugs involved.

I promise.

Wait.  Is caffeine a drug?

Anyway, I was just about to reintroduce my feeble brain putty to a easy candy book of some kind, but all I had on me at the metro today was the slightly long (not really) fantastical tome Red Earth and Pouring Rain.

I read a page and a half before my train got there.  It was great.  So I'm back. 


Wake up, brain.