Doing (almost) everything wrong: instant motherhood.

William Shakespeare once wrote:

be-not-afraid-of-greatness-some-are-born-great-some-achieve-greatness-and-some-have-greatness-thrust-upon-them

Substitute greatness with “motherhood” and I fall into that third category. I wasn’t born a mom (because…that would be weird) and I didn’t achieve motherhood. Instead, I had motherhood thrust upon me. Not with an infant (or two) that I could bond with, nurture, and mold, my kids are fully grown little people with opinions and personalities and eternal souls that I’ve been given the amazing privilege of helping to raise.

And I’ve discovered the secret of motherhood. Seriously, I cracked the code.

None of us have any clue what we’re doing. 

Oh sure, there are books and blogs and recommendation. I’ve done research on blended families, on step-parenting. I’ve adjusted my expectations and made several (dozen) lists. I’ve learned so much along the way. An absurd and ridiculous amount. So much that I often forget the things I learned before and make the same mistakes 6 or 8 dozen times.

For example: did you know that you don’t actually have to engage with your child when they are being ridiculous? So when you send them to straighten up their room and they insist that nerf guns spread out across the entire floor is”good enough” because they need an arsenal, even though we’ve been over and over what counts as a clean room all summer. Apparently you don’t have to get into an unending “No it isn’t,” “Yes, it is!” battle of wills with an 8-year-old. You can just say, “you know the expectations,” and WALK AWAY. Magic!

Anyway, there are days when I feel like the absolute worst person, like I shouldn’t even be allowed around children. When they are mad at me, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and when they are hurting, you better step back.

But then there are these moments, beautiful and glorious. The moment when Little One didn’t throw a fit when he sat next to me instead of J at dinner, when Flipflops asks me for help with his summer reading. A random, unprovoked hug or a thank you or an I love you.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing almost everything wrong. Maybe, just maybe, though, I’m doing something right.

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My “perfect relationship” is ruining my life.

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I am not a morning person. Seriously.

I’m under the impression that morning people are a bizarre race of quasi-human and shouldn’t be trusted.

I have a certain lifestyle to which I have become accustomed and it involves frantic mornings of oversleeping, hasty work preparations and speedy drives to school, while putting on mascara with one hand and trying not to spill my life-giving coffee. It might not be graceful, but it works for me.

And then came this guy.

J is staying at my house this week since the gremlins boys are with their mom for a month (!) and I’m still in school for a couple more days. It’s been a treat to have him around in the evenings, enjoying our snapshot of domesticity: making dinner, playing cards over coffee, etc. Since he’s sleeping in the guest room, I don’t notice when he wakes up until he comes into my room with a cup of coffee in hand and gently pulls me from slumber. Before I realize it, I’m caffeinated, dressed, and out the door to school on time. ON TIME!

How dare he?

I am not a morning person. I don’t do on time. I revel in the adrenaline rush of the last-minute. Nevermind the calm serenity of leaving on time! Where’s the excitement? Where’s the drama?!

Meh, I guess I could get used to this…

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The Beautiful Life…

This weekend I achieved a relationship goal of cinematic significance. Every sappy love story has one great kiss in the rain. Allie and Noah from The Notebook, Paul and Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Charles and Carrie from Four Weddings and a Funeral have filled our heads with the romance and emotional significance of the watery embrace.

tumblr_m3o3ln6nzd1qks92eo1_500Turns out,  much like everything else in my life these days, my kiss in the rain was nothing like I’d expected. Instead of a semi-frantic meeting of impassioned lovers, J and I giggled through our rainy kiss with the sounds of a neighborhood block party going on in the background.

Saturday night, J’s neighbor, SuperMom, and I decided to put together a little Memorial Day grill out for Sunday afternoon. We recruited a handful of neighbor families who pitched in a brought side dishes, and piled what turned into a couple dozen kids into SuperMom’s garage once it started raining. After a traditional grill out menu, the adults gathered around to chat while the older kids made up some kind of dodgeball alternative and the little ones ran laps around the cul-de-sac, jumping in every available puddle.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier.

Take a moment to enjoy your beautiful life: the silly moments, the perfectly imperfect moments, the moments you’ll never forget.

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Zen and the Art of Painting

I come from a family of people who are, by nature, procrastinators. It always starts so well, usually with some sort of list. We outline the very logical and manageable steps to meet our goal with plenty of time to spare. Then, life. Suddenly, the absolute deadline is upon us and it’s all hands on deck to pull through at the last minute.

c700x420Which is how I found myself painting the baseboards in my guest room Tuesday night. I had to get them done so that the carpet guys could come Wednesday morning. As they installed the new floor coverings, I made the three-hour round trip to pick up my grandmother who was coming to spend Thanksgiving in that room. No minute like the last minute, you know?

Far from my first foray into baseboard painting, I’m a regular seasoned pro at edges and trim. There is something calming about moving a paintbrush along in patient, measured strokes. It isn’t a task that can be rushed, despite the looming pressure of carpet installation. It demands to be taken seriously. This is the kind of work I like to do alone. No distractions, no conversation, just a girl and her paintbrush. In the background, music plays to protect me from delving too far into my thoughts.

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Raj remarks that there is something lovely about washing the dishes.

“You know, I read that washing dishes can be an excellent form of meditation? The key is that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes…it’s about be present in the moment.”

It is at once frightening and grounding to be so present in a simple endeavor. I’m struck with the thought that I rarely do only one thing at a time. Even in the most mundane aspects of my day I’m often mulling over some other, more complicated problem or replaying a conversation to parse for subtext.

We’ve now launched head first into the Christmas season. Soon, the pressure of gifts, holiday parties, and financial strain will be upon us. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the merriment, I pray you will find time to be still and just wash the dishes.

Or paint the baseboards. Just don’t wait until the last minute.

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A Little Less Lost | Nine Months

It took nine months for me to miss my dad.

There were flashes; I remember the first time I saw something funny happen and knew that he would be the only person as amused as I was. I actually picked up the phone and started to dial before remembering that there was no one on the other end of that call. Sitting at lunch with a friend, I told a funny story about my childhood and the pang of loss rippled through me like the lingering aftershocks of a notable seismic event.  But the moments were always short-lived and often poisoned by the anger and confusion that his death caused.

DaddyFinally, though, I miss my dad. I miss his laugh. I miss the funny faces he would make when you tried to take a picture of him, and the ridiculous pose he’d strike as he facetiously challenged an aggressor with the interogative, “You wanna fight?” I miss the smell of waking up on Saturday morning to waffles and gravy and the exasperation of finding that he’d used every dish in the kitchen. I miss the sound of his heartbeat as I laid my head on his chest while watching a movie. I’d convince my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime, though I think they knew that I’d fall asleep halfway through and bedtime would be preserved.

I miss baby-fives, the only thing that was truly ours. He had big, strong hands that dwarfed my own even as I entered adulthood. When I was a child, he would gather his fingers together, the small grouping just the right size to match my tiny fingers. It became our symbol, something sacred for just us.

I miss the way he smelled. He wore the same cologne for years (except for that horrible Old Spice phase, but we try to forget about that). Brut, in the green bottle. It doesn’t smell the same when it’s not mixed with his body chemistry, but I’ll recognize that scent for the rest of my life.

It’s good, this pain of missing him. There is a homesickness for an earlier, simpler time. A time before I understood just how strong I could be. A time before I bore the weight of my dad’s actions. The pain is similar to the exhaustion of a hard day’s work; it hurts, but it means that progress has been made. I’ve been living in a haze of numbness for months, unable to feel much of anything.

So I guess this is a start…

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day 2 – We need a list, and other shenanigans

Tell me what is more satisfying than the kind of exhaustion that comes after a day of accomplishment. I dare you. On a recent Saturday, just before my mom headed out of town on a business trip, we had one such day. In an effort to encourage each other to complete all of the small tasks that get shuffled from list to list, we tackled them together, discovering that indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

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09:17 – Mom says, “We need a list.” I smile in idiot-like glee.
09:18 – Armed with multi-colored pens, a protractor, and graph paper , we develop 3 lists: Out and About, Outside, and Inside. Each list has three items, satisfying my need for parallelism.
09:58 – Mom adds a 10th item. I fear the imbalance may cause a rift in spacetime.
10:04 – After deciding to do the out of the house errands first, we prepare to leave. But first: we’re going to need a picture-hanging kit later in the day, and are unsure if we’ll need to pick one up. A brief search commences.
10:10 – Picture-hanging materials secured.
10:13 – Actual departure time. We congratulate ourselves on our alacrity.
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10:17 – We realize we failed to bring the schematic of our garden, which we’ll need to purchase seeds. We double back.
SUV10:20 – We depart, more humbly.
10:43 – Arrive at the bank. I need to close my checking account and am told to sit in a waiting area and wait for a personal banker. There are two customers ahead of me. Mom (an accountant) wanders off to find things to look at. I
81c+oaASK6L._SY355_contemplate the wisdom of letting a numbers person loose in a bank. She returns with pamphlets on investing and seems pleased with herself.
10:53 – My turn! A nice woman named “Teri” tries to convince me to keep my account. I am resolute!
10:57 – Success!
11:06 – Arrive at the pharmacy. I need to pick up a prescription and change my insurance information. I’m convinced that there will be some kind of interrogation or alien probe. Mom is there for backup.
11:22 – The irony that it takes longer to change insurance than close a bank account strikes me. I feel this is societally indicative.
11:26 – Arrive at the seed store. (Mostly) resist the urge to look at baby chickens. We need 17 varieties. Seeds, not chickens. Unable to reach/see the seeds near the ground, I sit down on the floor while Mom rolls her eyes at me.
11:45 – We decide Rosemary may, in fact, be a tree and head for the register.
11:50 – Coffee stop. Obviously.
12:12 – We congratulate ourselves on a productive outing, and our ability to go door to door in under two hours. Apparently, the humility was short-lived. Heat up Smart Ones for lunch and revel in smug sense of healthy.
12:48 – Wardrobe change, time for outside. Tackle fall leaves from last 10 years. Smugness wears off.
13:07 – Decide a leaf blower is the best way to handle this situation.
13:10 – Fend off attacks from homicidal extension cord.
14:15 – Leaves wrangled and ready for burning, it’s time to plant our garden. This is the first year we’ve planted a eatable garden. I’d like a word with whoever decided that carrot seed should be microscopic.
veggies14:53 – Open burning doesn’t start until after 4, so we head inside. Hang the aforementioned picture in the dining room in manner of experienced handymen. Smugness returns.
15:10 – Finally put away the last of the Christmas decorations. Whatever.
15:31 – Instigate non-list project of toilet paper roll corral. Mom will be relieved when Vacation Bible School is over and I stop collecting supplies. Until then, we’re the world’s weirdest hoarders. Time to work on deck building permit.
15:35 – Clean kitchen.
15:40 – Mom whines about permit. I insist we actually do it.
15:41 – Mild whining.
15:43 – Slightly more vigorous whining.
15:46 – Begin work on permit. Not as bad as she thought.
16:41 – Head outside to take measurements. Stuart decides to put on a show and rolls around in dirt in adorable fashion.
17:04 – Burn leaves. Pile the size of Buick becomes small pile of ash. Smugness is overwrought by exhaustion.
18:30 – Abandon Mom with small amount of remaining leaves to make dinner and treat sunburn. Everyone sleeps well tonight.

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Banner Photo Credit: JD Hancock

No Soup For You!

I hate soup.

This is a mostly true story.

I don’t hate all soups, but I don’t like many of them.  Something about things that are cooked together for that long and they all start to taste the same and…icky.  It makes me shiver a little just thinking about it.

That being said, today I made soup.  AND IT WAS AWESOME.

One soup that I do really enjoy is baked potato soup.  You can find it at most restaurants (though the best I ever had was at O’Charley’s) and it’s always super decadent and rich and you can feel your thighs expanding as you eat it.  So there is that.

I got to thinking, I cut my mashed potatoes with cauliflower to main them healthier, so why wouldn’t the same principle work for potato soup?

Turns out, it does.

This recipe isn’t my own, but was adapted from this one from Gina at skinnytaste.com.  I left out the bacon, and added broccoli to the available condiments, used 2% milk instead of 1% (because it’s what I happened to have) and made a double recipe.  I’m glad I did too, because this soup was definitely a crowd-pleaser.  Even the manliest man in the group couldn’t tell that there was a whole head of cauliflower in the dish and I only used about 4 smallish potatoes for a huge pot of soup!

The best thing about this soup is that you can make it in under an hour.  Seriously.  It’s thick and creamy and rich and healthy, and I’m all over this.  Yum!!!

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

Rampant Consumerism, Or Why I Love Fall

It’s that time again.

No, not fall, although it is that time too.  I’m talking about Pumpkin Spice Latte Time!

It’s absolutely criminal to pay $4 for a cup of coffee, but I fall in line and do it because I just can’t help myself.  It’s delicious!!!

As we gear up for the holidays (I know it’s October, but I’ve been a COMPLETE slacker about blogging, so I’m going to start planning now and hopefully I’ll get something done before the new year) I’ll be posting some of my favorite holiday traditions, tips, tricks, and ideas but I would LOVE to hear from you.  What is your favorite holiday tradition, trick, or organizing tip?  Do you have an amazing recipe for hot buttered rum, or a stellar trick for doing all your Christmas shopping in a single afternoon?  I want to hear them.  I’ll compile my favorites for a post later in the season.  Send your ideas to me through the Contact Me! page.

I can’t wait to hear from you!!!!

Stir. And then? Panic.

I am a baker, both by experience and by personality (if you know a lot of bakers, you understand what I mean).   So when I decided to try out a homemade caramel recipe I found on Pinterest (by the way…can we just talk about Pinterest for a minute? Ah-may-zing!  If you’re still waiting for an invite, let me know.  I’d be happy to invite you!) I thought it would be no big deal.  After all, candy is just like baking, right?

Right?!

Wrong.

I used this tutorial from AmberLee of GiversLog (www.giverslog.com).  And I mean, I used it EXACTLY AS WRITTEN.  I don’t mess with candy.  Respect.

After testing your candy thermometer, you start by melting some butter on low, then adding brown sugar.  Now if the sugar crystallizes on the side of the pan, the whole thing is ruined and you’ll cry, so you are armed with a damp pastry brush in one hand and a spoon in the other, stirring, whilst keeping watch for the crystals.

Constant vigilance.

This next part happens in kind of a blur….

The sugar starts to melt and your stirring, and your stirring and you add corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, and you’re stirring and stirring and the recipe says frequently, but you’re not sure how frequent so you decide to stir constantly and then you’re watching the thermometer because you know that if it gets too hot it will crack when it cools and you’re watching and stirring and little bits of things start coming up off the bottom of the pan and you think it is burning but then the whole thing changes color and you’re stirring and watching the temperature and trying to remember when you last felt happy and it has been like half an hour and your stirring and watching and OMG we’re almost there and you’re stirring and watching and praying and then remembering to open your eyes and then all of a sudden you hit the right temperature and you stir in the vanilla and pour it into the parchment covered pan and step back and you’re done.

Whew.

Then comes the waiting.  You have to wait for the caramel to cool down before you know if it’s right or wrong.

A couple hours later, you check it and

OMGITSPERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Truly and seriously, it is amazing.  Sticky, buttery, soft and wonderful, it’s great for Fall but was just a good in June.  I cut mine into 3″x3″ ish squares and wrapped them in parchment paper.  I found that kitchen shears were the best tool for cutting.

Happy Tuesday!

Weekend Warriors…Whatever

I have a confession.

I feel like I do that a lot, make confessions.  It’s low cost therapy, I guess.

Anyway, my confession: I haven’t been feeling very creative this week.  Really, really not.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason, I’m just not in it to win it. Kind of a bummer.

Which is why I think this week’s Weekend Warrior is so important.  Meg Duerksen from Whatever…(http://megduerksen.typepad.com) is creative enough for both of us.  She’s a wife and a mom and a crafter/photographer/camper/runner/all around inspirational type person.  The title of her blog comes from Philippians 4:8, a favorite Bible passage of mine.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

I think maybe we could all be a bit inspired to think about these things, you know?

Plus, I’m absolutely dying to try this striped floor painting technique.  In LOVE!

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Have a lovely weekend!