I know adulting is hard, but most of us are able to raise kids AND enjoy life. Crazy. I know.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

There was a woman who gave birth to children.

And she raised them, had her own identity and her own life, and lived a very happy life with very happy kids.

Shocking. I know.

Goodness gracious, it’s like that woman never existed according to some of the headlines these days!

             “Something you’ll never need again: nice clothes. 

Because, let’s face it, you will never go out again.

-Some Parenting Blog”

Seriously?

We’re just throwing in the towel once we have kids?

Really?

Listen up ladies. I know there are some “Edgy” parenting blogs out there. I know some of them are the support we need when the day becomes 36 hours long and the laundry never ends, and you are out of peanut butter and the only thing your 2 year old will eat is peanut butter…

But these parenting blogs don’t run your life. They don’t define who you are. They aren’t you when you are wearing clothes straight out of the dryer, and they fit like crazy and you look around your clean house, your monthly meal planning calendar, your well educated children and more than satisfied husband and all you can think is,

…Awwww yissssss.

If you still kill it in your 4 inch heels, size 12 (see: size 14) Macy’s dress and you love green eyeshadow as much as I do…

then shag ’em.

Call up Care.com and get a sitter, and paint the town with yo’ man like a mo’fo in your nice clothes.

Because even though most of us are parents…

not all of us are willing to give up on life because of it.

Cheers, dahlins 😉

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Preparing For The Blizzard. On The West Coast.

 

 

The Snowpocalypse is upon our nation.

 

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Everyone is being warned to stay inside, do not leave your home, do not drive, bicycles have been outlawed and only outlaws will have bicycles.  Make sure you have food and water (and beer) stocked for a few days.  Dogs and cats living together…So many warnings…

Well, not on the West Coast, we aren’t.

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Just remember, West Coast folks: you may have the burning desire to rub it in how good we have it over here, with our Fashionably Ripped Denim in December, our Jaunty Jackets in January,  Flip Flops in February.  Who cares??

We’re West Coast, baby.

…but this blizzard isn’t going to last forever, my friends, and soon their airports will be functioning again.  They will fly en masse to find us and beat the sunshine out of our smug, organic grins.

And they will steal our flip flops in spite.

 

So, do our East Coast bretheren a favor: be prepared for their utter, soul-crushing boredom while they wait the blizzard out in their barricaded homes.

These aren’t snowmen.  These are just the East Coast folks who tried to get their mail in the morning after the blizzard.

 

1. Your Friends On The East Coast Are Stuck Inside For A Week.  They Are Bored.  Be Prepared.

These guys have nothing better to do than watch the snow fall, and the wind blow the trees onto their power lines and kill their main source for entertainment.

Do them a favor and have some stuff to talk about while they are sitting in the dark, wondering why they haven’t moved to the West Coast.

Get their minds moving:

  • Send them Facebook quizzes hourly.
          –Brainfall
          –BuzzFeed
          –Zimbio
  •  Cheer them up with funky YouTube videos.  

You can’t go wrong with cat videos.

2. Netflix Marathon Ideas

Start with:

  • StarTrek TOS
  • StarTrek TNG
  • DeepSpace 9
  • followed by Voyager

Once you are done with these, go through:

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
    Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
    Star Trek: Generations (1994)
    Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
    Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
    Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

You should be through the blizzard by the time Benedict Cumberbatch takes over the starship.

I’m sure there are other ideas for Netflix marathons…but honestly, you can’t get better than starting with Kirk, a little Picard in the middle and ending with Benedict.

You just can’t.

 

3. Their Kids Are Going Bonkers.  Help A Parent Out.  Ideas For The Kids Who Are Stuck Inside Too.

 

  • Arts and crafts. Now, before you freak out about the glitter, glue, scissors and paper cuttings that are going to destroy your kitchen…make it easy on yourself.  Make your own Play-Dough or finally make the melted crayon art thing.
  • Bake or cook.  Let Alton Brown lead the way.
  • Build a fort. You know how to do this.  Either use couch cushions, or put a blanket over the kitchen table.
  • Computer games. Breaking Orbits (mine) has a great video page for kids to play around. PBS Kids lets younger ones play with Curious George and Daniel Tiger, and Nick Games has the Power Rangers to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Disney Jr. has Sophia the First, Doc McStuffins, etc.
  • Video games. Play with them…no bogarting the controller!

 

4. Karaoke…For You And The Kids

You know you want to.

 

5. And Finally…Help The Baby Boom That’s Coming In 9 Months

Listen.

I know what happens when the power goes out.

Help your good friends out with some classy, tasteful baby names!

 

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Brought to you by Oxford Dictionary Baby Name Generator 

The Year of Yes! …I Mean No!! I Meant No First!

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Hey now….

…we have seen these results before.

We have seen them 5 times before.

So, I can say, with a straight face, that although we weren’t terribly surprised to see them again, I can’t really say I was expecting it.

No, let me put it another way: my face fell on the floor and I was unable to form a coherent sentence for a good 10 minutes as Ben and I stared at this very positive, very clear word:

YES.

It comes as a surprise to us because Ben had things taken care of over 4 years ago, and we should be in the clear for the rest of our days…

Yes, yes, yes… I know there is some small fraction of a chance that things don’t always work out, and trust me, we, of all people, are acutely aware of that small fraction of a percentage. We have been tested, and been given the medical clear. So, according to medical data, and the past 4 years of no pregnancies, we kinda figured we were done.

And yet…there is a big fat YES on that pregnancy test.

What gives??

As my sister so eloquently put it: “Oh man. Tammy. You are literally the most fertile person on the planet.”

And I really can’t disagree with her.

Not with these results.

I’m not sure what you did on your Thursday evening, but here’s what happened in our house:

If you couldn’t have guessed, I have an intense reproductive system. It is reliable, durable, you can bend it, beat it, kick it, roll it, stretch it and stuff it. During pregnancy.

You can only imagine how it behaves the rest of the time.

This being euphemistically said, sometimes it is a little more intense than others.  Such as this month.

I have been having really serious PMS symptoms that have lasted for…most of the month. I have been on the brink of throwing up for a while, paralyzing back pain that feels like rows of glass needles ripping into my spine, headaches, food cravings…just normal period/ovulating stuff. Nothing I haven’t seen before, and all of which have been cleared as “normal and healthy” by many doctors.

So, I wasn’t phased by any of it.

Nevertheless, Ben comes home from work yesterday, and he said he “swung by Safeway on the way home to pick up a few things.”

He pulls out some ice cream, some fire starters for the fireplace…

and then he hands me a pregnancy test…

and he says, “…you’ve thought it too, right?”

WHAT?? NOO!! What on earth are you talking about, crazy man??

I laugh at the mere idea that I am pregnant and grab the box out of his hands and march triumphantly to the bathroom.

“Wait, you’re taking it now??”

“You’re darn right I’m taking it now. This is the silliest thing I’ve heard of.”

Little did I know that the long wait for the result, and that little blinking clock, was only the beginning of a more interesting night ahead for us: a big, fat, positive Yes.

What.

What does this mean. How is this even possible.

How could this be Yes??

After staring at the impending stick for perhaps an eternity, we started to softly form words.

“Well.”

“I guess we’re…”

“Yeah, it looks like it.”

We called the kids in because we wanted them to be part of this conversation. It is a surprise to us just as much as to them, and it would be best to be surprised together. We also wanted to make sure that they were okay with this news…

What has been the most encouraging is how positive all the kids were about this. Conrad is the MOST on board. He and Glenn want another brother pretty badly (most likely for Lego-engineering purposes), and they have already named their new brother Jonah. Nova wants another baby in the house, and Eve and Alice didn’t really understand what was going on. Eve spent most of the discussion crawling on Ben’s back, convinced that she might be a mother, too. (“We’ll talk about that part later, sweetie.”)

We talked about logistics, like having to buy a crib again. Baby clothes. Car seats. Strollers. Plus, we can fit all of us in the car right now, but if we had one more we couldn’t. Which means we would have to get a van…which is not happening we got a Mazda CX-9 for a reason because it does not have sliding doors and it is not a van. So there is the vehicle situation.

There were other things to consider, as well, such as age differences.  Nova would be a whopping 13 years older, so when she was in her mid-20s our youngest would just be entering Middle School. That’s quite a gap. Or when our youngest graduates high school, Ben and I would be grandparents already. Or when our youngest finally reaches adulthood and moves out, we will be in our mid-50s.

I also would spend all this year being pregnant, which has always been very painful and very large for me. I have never had life-threatening pregnancies, but I have had notoriously difficult pregnancies. From hives that last for 5-6 months, to nosebleeds, to migraines, to swollen ankles to the excruciating sciatica to  not being able to keep up with the kids while hobbling on my cane…it is an arduous journey I was quite finished with.

Plus the fact that I just changed this blog over to Five in the Forest, and now I’d have to come up with something that rhymes with six…!

So that’s what’s going on.  We are now ready for another baby in the house, and everyone is on board. We have discussed the emotional aspects and the logistical aspects, and …we are all pretty okay with this news.

…except I took the second test and it was negative.

WTH.

This could mean a few things:

a) The first test was positive, and the second test was too diluted to get a good reading. And I’m pregnant.

or b) The first test was a fluke and I peed on it too hard or something, and I’m not pregnant.

or c) I take another test in the morning with a fresh sample, and call it a day with the results from those.

Long story short, I took 2 different tests first thing this morning and they were both negative.

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So, in the end, life goes on as normal.

Well, as normal as we know it.

What we have learned from this brief experience is that our family loves to love, and the more the better. Our kids were extremely enthusiastic about having another baby, and Ben and I were, while a little hesitant, very supportive of the initial news.  Plus, the rampant loving zeal and warm support we heard from all our friends and family (after the shock wore off), I have to say with vigorous joy that I am so happy to have all these beautiful people in my life.

And you can’t really beat that.

But Ben is taking me out to cocktails after this.

Cheers 😉

I Spoke And Said, “Let There Be Cheese.” And There Was.

#NationalCheeseLoversDay

Get the bread! Get the mustard! Get the turkey! Who has the apples…Get the apples! GoGoGo!

 

 

January 20th is National Cheese Lovers’ Day…which only means one thing:

You are going to need more crackers. A lot more.

When I was a child, I loved cheese as a child. I understood that there was white cheese and yellow cheese, when I was a child. But when I grew up and became an adult, I discovered that I loved cheeses that also had names.  I discovered that I could browse the cheese section with money in my pocket, and unlock a whole culinary universe which I had previously been unaware of.

It all began…with roasted brie.

Good heavens, do I love brie.

I love brie on crackers, on apple slices, with prosciutto, as a grilled cheese sandwich or baked with garlic.

Or gorgonzola! For those of us who are not huge fans of the huge taste that is wielded in the veins of bleu cheese, we have its slightly meeker cousin: gorgonzola. Baked on steak, crumbled in a salad or paired with fresh dark cherries…it is a taste to behold.

Or goat cheese! Its pungent flavor is not for the meek of heart, but for the bold souls who marvel at the tang as it sits atop balsamic marinated beets, or crushed into cinnamon laced blueberries.

And, I am happy to say, that everyone in this house loves cheese with the voracity of an F1 pit crew. 

The delicate world of cheeses is a cornucopia of delight for us all, and verily:

But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that eats amazing cheese with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen and women in this world now a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

Delighting in the feasting of cheeses whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon #NationalCheeseLoversDay day.

-Henry V’s, lost monologue

So, how can we truly appreciate this day besides snacking off of the cheese platter?

1. 15 Unusual Cheese Facts

I truly believe that the best way to begin to thoroughly enjoy cheese, you must understand how complex cheese is. Like, did you know America produces the most cheese in the world? This sounds great, until you realize they are producing American cheese…

2. Straight Outta Wisconsin: Seasonal Cheese Pairings

The best thing about cheese is how many different ways it can be eaten. However, you cannot traverse this path without a guide! Let the cheesy experts show you which amazing pairings can be made with seasonal cheeses. For example: just imagine mascarpone mixed with pear, or cheese curds mixed with pickled jalapeño. I’m all over this one.

3. The Essentials: 50 Grilled Cheese Recipes

One of my favorite meals is hands down, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. You really can’t bet that combination…unless you have 50 recipes for grilled cheese sandwiches! Is this a challenge? Shall I explore one different sandwich each week of the year?? Maybe. Probably.

4. The Top 10 Worst Cheese List

I almost did not include this, for the sole reason that they included most of the cheeses I love on this list. So, I can only conclude that they are magnificently wrong. However, in the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, I felt it was important to show that not everyone is right. And they are all very wrong.

5. The Top 10 Cheeses You Must Know and Love

On the other hand, there are some cheeses that are loved universally!  This is definitely a weekend project. So much more fun than reorganizing the garage.

6. Cheesecake Recipe

If all else fails, bake a cheesecake and enjoy with wine.

Cheers!

 

Attention Apartment 221B: You Are Never Getting This Back.

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My friends, the world is awash with golden light and the hopes and dreams of cherubim cascade upon the dewy fields with great delight.

For, verily, my husband has found, and bought, the jacket from Sherlock.

It is crazy how similar this jacket is, because it is the jacket! Did you know the jacket was available anywhere else, besides the sitting room of apartment 221B?? Because I didn’t know this. I was not even aware there was a seamstress out there who found the thick, coarse, dark gray fabric to construct this creation. Nor had it come to my attention that this skilled seamstress would recover the valiant buttons that each weigh 1 oz a piece, or the lapel-aptitude to manufacture lapels with as much character and integrity as to compliment the striking cuffs which adorn my husband’s wrists.

And this wife…the wife of this amazingly gorgeous man…is the luckiest wife on earth.

Because there is Sherlock’s. Jacket.

On my husband.

/brb. swooning.

5 Things To Do On Your Day Off, Without Calling It A “Day Off”

The nice thing about homeschooling is that I make the schedule.

Are we working until 5 because people have been messing around all day? Could be. Fortunately, this isn’t common…but it has been known to happen.

Do the kids know the traditional Summer Vacation is 3 months? Nope. 2 weeks of Summer Vacation, and then we go into a light Summer School quarter.

Do we find interesting and creative subjects to learn every day? Yes!

So, what do we do on a traditional Day Off? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Lots of Catch Up.

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Catch up on reading. This book needs to be finished by Tuesday for a literature class, and we have 4 chapters left.

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Catch up on some math with the kids.

 

 

IMG_7708.jpgA little raking outside…

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And have some comfort food for the day…like homemade bread!  There really is nothing like homemade bread.  Have you ever tried it? You should totally try it. There is something very home-y about bread. The smells, the texture, the flavors…I personally believe it helps us focus on what we are doing during the day. Homemade bread is just a very special thing to bake for your family.

Even if you have Celiac, and can’t eat any of it…

Here is the recipe!
  • 5 1/2 c bread flour
  • 1 cup of powdered milk
  • 2 cups of lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp Crisco Baking Stick
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 eggs

Steps to breadmaking:

First:  You want to get a bowl out and put the yeast in there with the sugar and 1 cup of lukewarm water.  The yeast actually eats the sugar and activates it a lot quicker, and that is awesome.  Trust me.  Let this sit for 5 minutes.

Second: Combine the flour, crisco, salt, olive oil and powdered milk in a bowl (preferably a Kitchen Aid) and start mixing slowly.  When the yeast is fully activated, slowly pour that in with the rest of the warm water (so 2 cups total) and keep mixing.  Mix until you get a nice ball of bread dough.  Feel free to add a tablespoon more of water if you think it’s too dry, but don’t go overboard.  You don’t want it to get too wet.

Third: Cover with a damp paper towel and let rise for 45 minutes….in the winter it might be too cold to get the bread to rise.  I put it in the oven at 125F and that does the trick.

Fourth: Punch the dough down and knead the bubbles out of it.    Either cover these or put them in the 125F oven for another 40 minutes.

Fifth:  (I don’t know if this is a kosher move, but I’m just being straight with you: this is what I do) Turn the oven up to 350F without opening the oven or touching the bread.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

You now have homemade bread.

Enjoy your day off, my friends!

 

I Am Just Like My 17 Year Old Self. And I have a witness.

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There are many reasons why marrying your high school sweetheart is awesome.

On one hand, every time someone asks, “So, how long have you guys been together?” I watch them crunch numbers in their head when I say, “21 years? 22 years? Something like that.”

I honestly don’t think about it very much, because it is just the norm over here. But I can totally see how it throws the bell curve of the conversation off a little bit. And, really, it changes the direction of conversation from, “Oh, you met at work!” to “omg that is adorable.” And I’m not really sure how to respond to that yet, other than, “Yep!”

Other things pop up in life that make me appreciate how finely woven Ben and I have become.

Such as last night at the pool.

We have a KILLER indoor pool nearby, and while I am one of the last people on earth to thoroughly enjoy slipping into a bathing suit outside of the confines of my house… I actually enjoy swimming here.

Because there are family nights at the pool.  So, while I am swimming with my kids and a hoard of pool noodles, I am amongst other parents with their kids and their beaver dam of pool noodles. It’s laid back, it’s at the end of the day so we’re all pretty chill, and everyone is looking for a lost shoe or trying to convince the kids to get out of the pool because family swim time is over.

We’re all in there together, and it’s nice 🙂

The awesome thing about this pool is that there are a bunch of fun features available. There is a frog slide for toddlers, which is always a huge hit. There is a little wading pool to the side for small kids to splash around in, and not get clobbered by bigger kids. There is a rope swing and a water slide that courses through the walls and down 2 stories, and was so much fun. And there is a high dive.

Which I just ignored, because…why wouldn’t I?

But, being the adventurers that we are, Ben got up on the high dive and jumped off. And a few of our older kids jumped off the high dive. And then they expected me to jump off the high dive.

Anyone remember that time I freaked out on a zipline? Anyone? Well I remember. Like it was yesterday.

I will say, I actually climbed up there…and as soon as I took one hand off the rail, and stared down into the water, and simply thought about jumping off the platform in the sky…my entire body said OH NO, YOU ARE NOT GOING, how about a nice spinning room, instead??

I have to admit that even after my entire family cheered me to jump, and even the elderly lifeguard was laughing and shouting helpful tips like, “Don’t look down! Look at the wall!” I still climbed back down the ladder. Because I really, really, don’t like jumping off things that are higher than my bed.

The thing is, after laughing at me for a few minutes, Ben kissed my forehead and said, “Not much has changed since you were 17.”

It is nice being loved by a person who knows everything about you. There are things in life that you will never have to explain to them. Like, you never have to explain why you hate cauliflower. Ever. They just understand from the get-go that you have texture issues with it, and it is as obvious to them as it is to you.  I don’t have to explain why I hate heights, or why I think planning an Arts & Crafts corner at a tech conference is a wickedly great idea (I’ll explain later), or why I desperately want a Pomeranian even though I am not a dog person.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to go home to the person who knows me better than anyone.

And that is so much more fun than jumping off a high dive.

 

5 Things That Might Comfort Me After Not Winning A Billion Dollars.

photo-1450101215322-bf5cd27642fc        A trip to Scotland might help. Maybe.

 

A billion dollars can go a long way, these days.

It might buy you the Presidency, for starters. It could buy you a pretty swank oceanside house in SanFrancisco. You could buy a Caribbean island, or buy a roundtrip ticket to the moon, or purchase and AirBus, or even buy the entire Chicago Cubs team.

Assuming you are a Chicago Cubs fan.

A billion dollars is a pretty crazy amount of money, and while you could fritter it away on real estate, investments, stock or sports teams, you could also do some real good with it!

You might start a charity for homeless families, or for getting fresh water to third world countries, or even getting literacy into the far reaches of the Congo.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to accomplish any of these things.

Because I did not win the Powerball lottery last night.

Now, granted, I didn’t buy a ticket either. So that reduced my chances of winning by a significant margin.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that as of this morning, I am officially not a billionaire.

And this is just the reality that I need to come to terms with.

So, what are some things I can do to comfort myself during these dark times?

  1. Carpe Diem, my friend.                                                                                                          You just gotta, like, live in the moment, man. I am drinking my black Costco Folgers coffee like this is the last cup of coffee I might ever have in my life. Even though my feet are cold (because it is like, 40 degrees up here, for months), I know I can find some socks that will give me the impression that I am not totally cold all the time. Today, I will enjoy and appreciate every little thing I can buy without a billion dollars.
  2. Like Family.                                                                                                                     There is nothing like family to remind you of what really matters in life. When your 12 year old can tell you the utopia/dystopia analysis of “The Giver,” and off-handedly recite how literature has man vs. nature motifs while you are driving to school, you know you have made it in life.  Or when your 4 year old steals your phone and thinks she is secretly videotaping herself singing Frozen songs in the other room…those are moments money could never buy.
  3. Small Pleasures.                                                                                                                  I have to admit that I am a little on the frugal side with my lifestyle. If you have a box, some rope and duct tape, I can build you a functioning pantry in no time. So, this being said, I really can’t justify buying a $5 cup of coffee. I remember when I was 18 and I had just moved out on my own and my goal was to live on $5 worth of food a day. It’s not easy, and you’re not eating good food (by any stretch), but it can be done! I always have that in the back of my mind when I see a $7 venti caramel macchiato. However…I am no longer 18 and struggling to survive. So, once in a while, a small latte is okay. Especially on days when I find out I’m not a billionaire.
  4. Bootstrapping Joy                                                                                                             Sometimes, these big hits in life hit you a little harder than others. Yesterday, I woke up to the reality that I am behind on my laundry. This morning, I wake up to the reality that I can’t buy my way into the White House.  But I refuse to let this morning get me down! I am still my own person, filled with overreaching optimism of somewhat realistic dreams! Like, I am totally getting on the rowing machine and finally getting started on my exercise regime today! Yes! Go me!!
  5. Wine.                                                                                                                                      If all else fails, I still have half a bottle of wine in the cupboard.

The Bamboo and Glass Toaster

I haven’t owned a toaster for a year. We have also been kosher for a year.

The toaster was harder to deal with.

IMG_2279 (1)mein Haus.

 

Last year my family moved out of state, into a beautiful house in the middle of a forest.

For some, it might feel isolated. “Home” might be too disconnected from the world, out here in the woods, for many. The nearest store is a 15 minute drive away, there are two gas stations within the nearest 10 miles, and we have 2 Thai restaurants and a couple locally-owned restaurants. School is a 20 minute drive through the evergreen woodland, and our commute into the city involves a 40 minute boat ride.

For some, living on an island might be too much. Target is a long drive two cities away, and Costco is down the road from Target. If you are interested in nightlife, social events or stores that stay open past 9 (really, 8), you are sorely out of luck around these parts.

Needless to say, for me, this is heaven.

My antediluvian drive to homestead my own home, plow my own field and cook my food over a flame in handmade clothes beside my trusty clan…might be a dream out of the ordinary.

But we are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams.

This all being said, our transition out of suburbia last year was quick and a little painful; exactly like ripping off a band-aid you had placed on the middle of your forearm, right smack in the middle of the hair.

You see, while we had everything planned, organized and set to move into our dream in the forest, every dream has that weird moment when you trip and jump in your sleep. The covers are thrown off you, and you wake up mostly annoyed at the inconvenience of the situation.

The Big Trip in our dream was not events that took place in our forest, but what took place in our previous home: within a week of leaving our home, it was plundered.

The side door, as well as the deep red front door, which had been locked, were smashed in and destroyed.  The last truckload of items we left in the garage were all stolen. Laundry baskets of dirty jeans, the mop, the vacuum, lamps, sewing boxes, my sewing machine, my daughter’s sewing machine, the cream and cherrywood rocking chair I bought when I first embarked upon motherhood and in which I rocked all of my children, were all stolen.

They were all gone.

The cabinet doors in all of the bathrooms were taken. The closet doors were taken. The refrigerator was taken, the microwave was taken, the shower heads were taken; and the upstairs toilet was unplugged, which flooded the entire upstairs for a few days, which caused the ceiling of the kitchen to collapse and also flood downstairs.

That was the home in which we had raised our children, and held Christmases and birthdays, and sat in the backyard during the summer waiting for some breeze to cool us off. As if the world was not as bad as people might think.

Some things we replaced with insurance money, and some things we didn’t.

We replaced the mop, the vacuum, the laundry baskets and a few other odds and ends right off the bat.

Other things, like our toaster, we didn’t.

At a certain point, I just couldn’t buy any more stuff. I hated the idea of searching for another domestic item that had held sentimental meaning, and replacing it with an unfeeling object I could find for a good price on Amazon. Replacing the iron and ironing board was okay, since I used them both for a paper making project in our new home, and they had an immediate purpose. But anything else that came up, I said, “Maybe not.”

It was too much.

So, we have lived a year without a toaster.

After all this time, I have never even thought about getting a new toaster.

Not until the other day when I found a glass and bamboo toaster that caught my eye.

StumpfToaster1-1024x851said toaster.

I…am okay with this toaster.

It is little, wooden, compact and cheerful. I appreciate the transparency of the toaster, so you can watch your toast be toasted.

Unlike the other toasters, which are metal boxes full of breadcrumbs of secret memories.

Like the morning you toasted cinnamon and raisin bread for the kids before you had a lovely day at the zoo together. Or the afternoon when you toasted sourdough bread for lunch after church, and everyone enjoyed leftover lamb with fresh romano sandwiches, and then you all watched Dr. Who while piled on top of each other until bedtime. Quick mornings of throwing two slices of bread into the toaster, and grabbing them as we run out the door and I urge the kids to “just eat the toast!” while we rush off to some meeting we are late for, because we couldn’t find one shoe.

This toaster understands that some things are lovely to remember.

Yet, it clearly understands that you can never replace the toaster you shared with your family before, and it does not expect you to love it for the same reasons.

This is a new toaster for a new time.

When you have healed enough to consider buying a new toaster for your new home.

 

Brace Yourselves: Winter Is Coming…No, Wait. IT’S HERE!

Winter can be long, dark and cold.

Apparently, it gets longer, colder and darker the farther north you go…go figure.

And I gotta be honest: while it is stunning during the day…dusk falls upon us way too early. Which can be a huge psychological bummer, unless you are really prepared to call it a day at 3:30.

IMG_7605         granted, it is kind of beautiful here…which is awesome

 

Ben and I teach Sunday School, as we have for the past 10 years. Originally, we started teaching the 4 year old class because a) we wanted to help out in Children’s Ministry, since we had a few kids involved already, and b) no one wanted the 4 year old class, and we saw it as a good opportunity to take on.

4 year olds are…tricky. They are just old enough to be older than 3, so they have a bit more verbal and thought process going on. On the other hand, they are not 5, so they don’t have that much verbal and thought process going on.

Plus, there were 25 kids in the class.

So, you really had to be on your toes.

I didn’t know we had it in us, but not only do we work very well together in the classroom, but we compliment each other excellently with our natural inclinations. Ben has always taken the instructional portions of the class, and I have been doing crafts and singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” for over a decade, and making a large population of young kids extraordinarily happy when I ask, “So, we aren’t going to say head, and we aren’t going to say shoulders, and we aren’t going to say knees…so what comes next???”  

TOES!!

Life is good when you’re 4.

Unfortunately, sometimes life can be a bummer when you’re 4, as well.

I mean, you’re 4. You kind of know what’s going on a little bit, but not enough to get out of really bad moods when you can’t find your favorite shoes in the morning and even though you had half a bagel with cream cheese…it wasn’t strawberry cream cheese.  So, what’s the point. Honestly.

This Sunday, there was a little girl in our class who was having one of those mornings. Her braided pigtails were a mess, and she was wearing socks but no shoes. Rushed morning, no strawberry cream cheese, and she was pretty sure she was sick (she wasn’t).

And she was miserable.

I knew exactly what she was going through, because I have had those mornings, myself.

I wake up late. Forget my jacket. Could only find my old, ratty shoes. I don’t remember if I showered yesterday, but I know for certain I didn’t shower that day. I kind of bank on chewing some gum in the car to get the black coffee/morning breath out of my mouth, but someone, apparently, had eaten all my gum. I have morning-face, my hair isn’t cooperating, I can’t find the clothes I put out the previous night…

Plus, it’s winter…which is cold. And dark. And wet.

Ain’t nobody going to be happy under these circumstances.

The best thing I could do for this girl in my class was to say, “Ugh. You’re having a rough morning,” as I take her hand, “Come with me. Let me help you.”

These were the words that let me lead her to the rug with the Legos and blocks, and we sat down together. I asked if I could rebraid her hair, and she said yes. So I spent about 15 minutes, very gently unbraiding her pigtails that she obviously slept in (#experience…have had many mornings with daughters’ slept-in-braids, myself), and smoothed out her hair and rebraided them into neat pigtails, once again.

By the time we were done, she was back to her smiling self, and ready to get back to playing.

Listen. Winter is hard.

We all want to play outside in the sun, and run down grassy hills, and stay out until it is bedtime.

But during the dark, cold winter afternoons…it is paramount to be there for each other.

And small gestures of love will make the days sunnier for everyone 🙂