Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have Oven Will Bake for Love

Neighbor gifts...clearly there are people on both sides of the fence here. And while it is one more thing to do in a very busy time of year, I'm weighing in on the pro side because, for me, it's about recognizing and loving the people who make up my daily community. Those people whose lives intersect mine on a daily basis mean a lot to me, and while I can't afford to buy them all a gift that monetarily reflects their value to me, I can cook. And it's not really the thing anyway; it's just saying, "I am grateful for you. You mean a lot to me, and I am thinking of you specifically at this time of year." Although, I had to draw the line at the cement donuts. Those I could not bring myself to give despite the kind thoughts that would accompany them.

I like getting the neighbor gifts, too. It just feels so...well...neighborly. I like having my doorbell ring and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Frankly they could hand me a brick, and I would still delight in their kindness, but I have to admit that I really look forward to Melissa's cookies, the Miner's Martinelli, and Becky's bread. And if I have a vote, I would use it to encourage Shilo to make the "Stupid Popcorn" again next year. It's yummy.

So, for my beloved friends and neighbors, today I baked. Like this:

(The messy counter behind me is an idication of serious work at hand. Please ignore it.)

And like this:

And ended up with something like this:

Which I hope is understood as an expression of a very full and happy heart. Merry Christmas!

Donut Update

It was horrible! It took a huge portion of the day; I was tripling a new recipe that was supposed to be a Krispy Kreme copycat, which it certainly WASN'T! I was so disappointed in them I threw all the ones my kids didn't eat away. That means I'm making batches of cookies today. Another day in the kitchen...arghhh!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Time to Make the Donuts

I'd love to write an inventive, meaningful, or even funny post today, but I can not because, instead, I have decided to make doughnuts for our neighbors and friends.

I'm not sure why, but I've been wanting to make doughnuts for some time now. Admittedly it's an odd compulsion, but it's there nonetheless. However, when I made my list this morning of everyone I wanted to give a little something to, it occurred to me that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. That is the curse of the optimistic, isn't it?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Bells Aren't the Only Things that Jingle

Folks, the wheels have come off the wagon again. Last night Mr. Wicke and I attended a fun and festive Christmas party with many other couples from our church. We've lived here for three years now, but you know, it takes about that long to get to know people and let them get to know you. Last night was going great. I mingled, had some great conversations, visited with a couple of girls that I don't know that well, and didn't say anything too embarrassing. Overall, I was handling myself pretty well.

And then the games started.

This is always a dangerous area for me. I love games, and I'm competitive, and I don't have a self-edit button, and that combination doesn't always work in my favor, if you know what I mean.

The game in question goes like this: The group is divided into two teams. Someone picks a word out of a hat and you have to come up with a song containing that word and be able to sing at least 6 words. The teams go back and forth until one team can not think of a song in the allotted time.

Now, I'm a singer and known to be somewhat musical, so comments were flying like, "Well, we've got Laurel on our team," and "Okay, as long as Laurel can be our singer," and I'm saying, "You guys I'm really bad at this game." And I really am. I can sing, but I'm terrible at retrieving ANY information when there is a time limit, let alone lyrics mid-song. My brain literally quits functioning. But they didn't believe me.

We did okay on the first two words which were Santa and bells, and I even pulled through with "this is Santa's big scene." Our team was ahead 2-0, and I began to feel pretty good. The next word was jingle. We gave them the old "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..." They retorted with "Jingle bell, jingle bell jingle bell rock..." Back and forth it went. At some point we even pulled out the big guns with "I've got a little change in my pocket going jing-aling-aling..." But they proved a tough oppenent here, and when they quickly returned, we drew a blank.

Jeff Lee began the obnoxious count-down, "10, 9, 8, 7..."

And somewhere in the dusty files of my brain I recalled something with a jinle-ling...if I could only...something from around 1983...what was it?


"I've got it! Wait!" And I began to sing, loudly, "My jingle-ling, my jingle-ling, I want" And as the dust was being blown off that old file, I began to realize that something was not right...

Unfortunately so did a lot of other guests, mostly men who also attended Jr. High apparently. "It's not jingle-ling. It's dingle-ling."

In .01 seconds the pages of that old neglected folder were suddenly clear and readable to my mind's eye, and I had total recall:

When I was an itty bitty boy,
My grandmother gave me a cute little toy.
Silver bells hanging on a string
She told me it was my ding-a-ling-aling

My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling
I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.
My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling
I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.

I can now recall other verses, but I will spare you the sordid details.

"Laurel, that's a dirty song!"

I couldn't respond because I was hunched over in uncontrollable fits of laughter accompanied by deep blushing.

That was pretty much the end of the game for me. Oh, we stumbled along, but I never did recover my confidence. Once again I had fallen victim to my own exuberence. So much for my good impression.

Oh, well, there's always next year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

Well, he did it! Yesterday around 4:30, his committee chair called and said, "I just wanted to formally introduce you to Dr. Wicke." And then I started to cry. I've been doing that a lot lately. I think I may have a problem. But it was just such a relief.

Thanks for all of your well wishes. Now I'm going to go snuggle Mr. Wicke who arrived home tired but pleased. We have some catching up to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Tomorrow is a big day in Mr. Wicke's life. After almost a decade he is defending his Ph.D. thesis. I pray for resounding success. And before he heads into a room to face a panel of would-be critics/peers, this is what I would like to say:

Dear Mr. Wicke,

There are not enough nouns, or any other part of speech, to express how proud I am of you. I could not have walked the long road you have persistently plodded these last many years. Literally one foot in front of the other every day. Who has that kind of persistence? You utterly amaze me with your work ethic and loyalty to your goals, and all the while you have financially supported this family, allowing me to stay home with our children without complaint. I know that earning a Ph.D. is not a part-time pursuit, yet somehow you have maintained a full-time career and been a spectacular father and husband besides. That is not only impressive but inspiring.

What I would have you know is that I see you. I understand your sacrifice. You would never complain, you are a man after all, but I know, at least to some degree, the difficulty and work that you have endured. When I think of the qualities that make a man a true success, you possess them all. I see you, darling.

And I love you.

Break a leg tomorrow.

p.s. After you come home, and after this 345 page paper is finally turned in and there are no more rewrites late into the night, and after we have a huge blow-out party...well, you know there is a honey-do list coming, right? xoxo

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advent Update

We have fallen behind in our adventing activities, or oh-so-many-reasons. Reasons that I will explain in another post. Suffice it to say that Christmas is a full-time job!

But, back to the adventing. As most of you know, my goal was to do an activity a day. While that hasn't happened exactly, I have to say that I am loving the whole thing. It gives us something to shoot for, to help us remember and enjoy the little things about the holiday that sometimes get overlooked in the mad rush of just getting the to do list done.

Yesterday we bought candy-canes and ate them by the Christmas tree. The t.v. was off and Christmas music was playing, and we just enjoyed each other, laughing and talking for those few minutes before the kids' bedtime, and I found myself feeling so grateful for the important things that are so right in my life: The gift of my family and the joy we share together. And isn't that what Christmas is about? So I give adventing activities a big thumbs up! Yes, it is one more thing, but for me, it is the right thing for the season. Thanks to the many of you who gave me that nudge to go for it.

I'll be thinking of you tomorrow as we make our Christmas angels.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Must See Pick of the Year

Why hasn't this movie found its audience? It's a slam dunk for me. Steve Carell is brilliant: vulnerable and sweet and still a little funny. But the whole movie deserves a standing ovation as far as I'm concerned. Have you seen it? What did you think?

And if not, well, get going if you can still find it. It's worth the $9.50, I swear!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cleaning the Shower Gone Wrong...Terribly Wrong

First you've got to understand that the most embarrassing moments in my life don't happen because I'm not thinking. I mean the general observer might conclude that I'm simply addle-brained, but such is not the case. The truth is that I am often so focused on the task at hand that I miss the larger picture. That's when things can go seriously wrong for me.

Case in point: A few years ago, back in the childless years, Thomas and I were relishing a quiet Saturday. I had slept late and enjoyed a good breakfast. By late morning I was ready to jump in the shower and get started on my day. Being a working gal, Saturday was generally my cleaning day, and there was much to do.

After disrobing and stepping foot in the shower, I decided my first task should begin immediately with a good bathtub scrubbing because, as everyone knows, the best way to clean the shower is while you are in it. That way you don't have to worry about leaning way over, dragging your shirt through the cleanser, or getting your clothes wet. The only problem was that the cleanser was down the hall in the laundry closet and I was naked, but a little thing like that doesn't stop me.

After all, we lived in a two story walk up. No one walking by would see me, and we rarely got unexpected visitors. Besides, it was literally three steps away; the only other person around was Thomas, and he's seen me naked plenty. Moreover, now I was in a hurry. The day was wasting, and I had a lot to do. I was focused.

I was also horrified when, as I was reaching on tip toe to grab the cleanser, I heard a knock on the door. With a quick turn of the head I saw through our large picture window two dark-suited men standing at our door. I'm fairly certain I made eye contact with one of them, but the details are fuzzy at best. Nonetheless, if they had not yet seen me, it didn't take long after my blood-curdling scream.

I hit the deck and broke all world records in the army crawl screaming incoherently all the way. "Thomas! Thomas! I think the missionaries are at the door--and they saw me NAKED!" I made it to the study and crawled onto the futon where I assumed the fetal position and covered myself with the throw pillows yelling the entire time, "They saw me NAKED! I know it--I was getting the cleanser, and I heard the knock, and I was NAKED!--And they're still there! I can't face them! Naked?! Arghh!"


"But I was NAKED!"

He waved his hand at me, dismissing my crazy tirade, and walked down the hall toward the door.

Now, talking only to myself, I said, "We'll have to move. I can not face the missionaries at church after they've seen my NAKED! Why does this happen? NAKED?? In front of the missionaries?!..."

Thomas reentered with one of those knowing smirks. "Well, the good news is it wasn't the missionaries, but I think you gave the Jehovah's' Witnesses quite a show." In his hand he held The Watchtower.

For whatever reason they never came back.

As for me, I've stopped walking around the house in my birthday suit for any reason at all, but I still believe the best way to clean the shower is while you are in it. I simply keep cleanser in every bathroom now. Just a little tip to keep you focused.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Our home has become a favorite with the Jehovah's Witnesses. They are loving us here, and come see us at least once a month. Now I belong to a proselyting church, so I get it. I mean it takes some courage to get out there and knock on doors, so we are always kind and welcoming. I even find their literature rather interesting to read. Oh yes, the Watch Tower and I have become familiar. But this month they've doubled their efforts, and I'm thinking I may have to use my tried and true method of turning them away.

Tune in tomorrow for another installment of "How Things Go Very Wrong in the Life of Laurel Wicke."

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Ugly Side of the Christmas Photo

Taking The Family Christmas Picture may be the part about Christmas that I dread. It's always stressful. This year was no different. Everything that could go wrong did. We were tired; Griffin refused to smile as usual; I had the great idea of wrapping Mr. Wicke and I up in Christmas lights so it looked like the kids were holding us hostage. I wanted them holding the end of the string; they wouldn't do it. Then when Griffin would finally smile, the lights quit functioning. Isn't that just typical? We did get one that will work. It's not my favorite. The kids are cute, the parents are a little less, the background still less, but I don't care. It's done. Check it off the Christmas to do list! That is enough for me.

Last year I avoided the whole mess with a brilliant idea: We went to the mall and took our pictures in a photo booth. All four of us crammed in there and had a wonderful time. Then we just used the photo sheet on our Christmas card. I was tempted to do it again, but I thought it might be a bit repetitive. Now I'm considering making it our standard. Who cares about repetitive when I can keep my sanity?

Two years ago we tried to snap a picture after Church one Sunday. Let's face it, getting all four of us in picture condition is not an easy task, so Sunday seemed perfect, but Griffin wasn't having it. We tried cajoling, tickling, and teasing. Finally Grandma Wicke, trying to entice a smile out of him, brought an Oreo from the kitchen. " and then you can have this cookie." But it only brought wails, tears, and "I want the cookie" demands.

Irritated and tired, I said, "Oh, just give him the damn cookie!" Have I mentioned before that I am a bit short in the patience department?

Anyway, when the kids were just about done and I had recovered some of my good humor I said, "Okay! Let's go! Let's get this picture taken!"

"Just a minute," my sweet little 4 year old Logan responded. "I have to finish my damn cookie."

Yeah. Humble pie is a little tough on the way down. I'm still blaming The Christmas Picture, though. It just brings out the ugly in me.

Griffin not smiling in 2005.

Griffin not smiling in 2007. And mom looks as crazy as she feels.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Votes are In

Everyone's in favor of the advent idea, huh? Well, okay! The committee has spoken. I will be hanging up the calendar today, stuffed full of good Christmas cheer. Now if I could just get started on those Christmas cards...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is It Crazy in the Making?

I have come up with a new idea, and I can't tell if it is brilliant or insane. Give me your opinion because I've still got a couple of days to back out. Here's the thing:

A couple of years ago my clever sister-in-law Erin made me this great advent calendar. It has little pockets, like 1 inch by 1.5 inches, along the bottom where little treats can be stored, I presume. Well this year, instead of the regular treats, I am going to put in activity prompts, so that everyday we do something together as a family that will help us celebrate the season.

Here are some examples:
1. Sing Christmas carols around the piano.
2. Make snowflakes.
3. Learn about Christmas in another country.
4. Go iceblocking.
5. Send Grandma's and Grandpa homemade Christmas cards.
6. Take treats to our neighbors.
7. Make doughnuts.
8. Drink hot cocoa out of our Santa mugs.
9. Make red and green paper chains.
10. Read a Christmas story.
11. Watch the movie The Nativity.
12. Watch the movie Elf.
13. Buy candy canes and eat them.
14. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
15. Play a game together.
16. Do something nice for somebody else.
17. Look at the temple lights.
18. Gather around the tree and read the scriptural account of Jesus' birth.
19. Write an entry for our Christmas journal.
20. Make Christmas angels.

So you can see, some of them are simple and some a little more elaborate, but here's the thing: Is it going to make us happy or overwhelmed? I can't tell.

The problem with me is that I am an eternal optimist. In my mind this adventure is going to be amazingly warm and memorable, something that will turn into a tradition to be repeated for years to come, but I've become familiar enough with real life to know nothing works out in reality the way I picture it in my head. Two words spring to mind: Miniature golfing.

What do you think? December 1 is eminent. To advent or not to advent, that is the question.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How I Know I'm Getting Older

Warning: Grossly honest material ahead. Not intended for the faint of heart.

1. I've grown a small but disturbing cyst on my nose. If you know me, please don't look at it. Or don't let me catch you looking at it.

2. I've grown a not so small and more disturbing mole on my left forearm. I know it is noticeable because a 3 year old who does not belong to me was rubbing it the other day.

3. Parts of my body just "go out" for no reason at all and refuse to take me with them. Particularly my neck and hip.

4. I now have to trim my eyebrows and my nose hairs religiously.

5. And if I did not remove the blond but thick hair on my upper lip, I am sure I could grow a fu-man-shu...but apparently I can not spell it.

6. But here's how I really know I'm getting old:

Logan: (looking in the mirror while I am getting ready in the morning.) I'm lucky. I have pretty youngish skin. (Then looking up at me and pausing for just for a moment before saying...) Yours is kind of oldish.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's All Good!

I have turkey hangover. But yesterday was oh, so good! All the way around. The people--good! The food--good. The conversation--good. The kids--good. The pie, and more pie--gooooood. At one point in the day, while I was cooking, and the children were playing, and the holiday music was on, and family and friends were mingling, I was so contentedly happy that I could have burst. Really. I experienced one of those brilliantly bright moments of absolute joy that confirm the goodness of life. So good!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gratitude Continued...Again

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”--William Arthur Ward

12. The last 8 years we spent in Irvine, CA. I grew a lot there and came away with profound relationships that continue to bless and shape me. Truly, I felt we were guided to that good place, and it was a great gift.

13. All good food. Some may eat to live, but I've never understood it.

14. Modern technology that makes life so convenient. I can't comprehend the sheer difficulty of my grandmother's existence.

15. Education. I love learning! If there is a fountain of youth, life-long learning is probably it.

16. My creative nature. I love all things that spark the imagination.

17. That said, I appreciate more than ever those people who possess a totally different skill set because they can do all the stuff I'd be miserable at. Here here to all the accountants, mathematicians, and scientists of the world. I need you!

Love at First Sight According to a 4 Year Old

As the children and I were leaving McDonald's today (Hey! We're on Thanksgiving vacation!) a car with two teenage girls pulled up. I wouldn't have even noticed them except they swerved in there pretty fast, and I was tempted to say, "Slow down!" like the old person that I have turned into all of a sudden. I practiced some self control, however, and was quickly occupied by trying to get my kids in the car and breaking up the "He's copying me!" argument that is currently a staple in our home when suddenly this takes place:

Griffin: I'm going to marry her when I get older. (All said with lisping S's and incorrect R's.)
Me: Huh? What?
Griffin: I'm going to marry her when I get older.
Me: What? Who?
Griffin: That girl right there.
Me: Which one?
Griffin: That girl, right there, in the, the, the... white shirt. I'm going to marry her when I get older.
Me: Her? Why?
Griffin: How old do I have to be?
Me: At least 23. Why her?
Griffin: Because I love her.
Me: What?
Griffin: I love her.
Me: No, I heard that. Why her?
Griffin: How old is she?
Me: A lot older than you.
Griffin: Well, I'm going to marry her.
Me: Yeah, but why do you love her?
Griffin: Because.

That's all I could get out of him on the topic. He may be in love, but he still has a very short attention span.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gratitude Continued

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."--H. U. Westermayer

Following their tradition, I continue the list of all the good things in my life:

7. My two amazing, beautiful, strong-willed, and smart kids who are the biggest miracles to ever happen to me!

8. Two incredible birthmoms and birthfamilies who love those kids, too.

9. A break in the hot weather. Fall at last is coming to Arizona, and the temperatures are supposed to drop into the 70's. Thank you!

10. All things related to sleep. The more people I meet who struggle with insomnia, the more grateful I am that I can fall asleep almost on cue. The thought of tossing and turning strikes fear into my soul.

11. My six siblings who are some of my favorite people in the world. I'm glad we're related. They make me proud, and they make me laugh, really hard.

More gratitude coming tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Gratitude List

My first blogging award! Very kind of Madame Queen, don't ya' think? I'll be passing it on in the next few days. But until then...

It seems appropriate this week to jot down some of the things for which I am grateful. I will post just a few items per day until Thanksgiving in honor of the holiday, and besides I am too busy cleaning and cooking to be much more creative than that. So here goes...don't pay attention to the order. They'd all be number one if it were possible.

1. My good spouse who has hung in there with me through thick and thin and somehow found a way to love me the entire way. He is my safe harbor and gives me wings to fly. His pure intent, kindness, and curious mind inspire me.

2. A set of parents who don't know how to be anything but good, honest, and decent. They gave me a Normal Rockwell childhood and a steady diet of unconditional love. I will be forever grateful.

3. A native faith in my Savior Jesus Christ gives meaning, purpose and direction to my life. Any goodness I enjoy flows directly from Him.

4. Baths. I wish I could give whoever invented the tub and indoor plumbing a giant kiss. And I don't care if I live in Arizona. I like my baths hot, hot, hot.

5. Amazing friends who make me better, who brighten my days, and lighten my load. If laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it is, I am well-immunized.

6. A body that is healthy and responsive. I am sorry for those years where I was dissatisfied and looked only to see imperfection in this loyal companion. It has taken me where I've wanted to go and never put up a fuss.

to be continued...and I've saved some good ones for tomorrow!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Art of The Float

I accidentally happened upon The Float when I was a freshman at Ricks College. I didn't have a good year at Ricks. Nothing against it. A lot of people I know loved it. Me? I just never found my stride there. After one particularly bad week, I spontaneously packed a bag at 1:30 am and started the long 10 hour drive home.

It wasn't entirely smart, I'll admit, but I just felt drawn to spend a couple of days in the bosom of my family. The drive started out fine, but by 5:00 in the morning, I was beat. I pulled into a motel and thought I'd catch a little sleep before heading out again. Hours later I awoke a little more clear headed than when I had begun and realized my folly. Driving 20 hours to visit for one day? What had I been thinking?

I called my Dad, which was a good thing. Not knowing where I was, my roommates had phoned. I assured my parents I was fine, but Dad could tell I wasn't quite myself. Together we decided that driving the rest of the way would be a mistake, but Dad encouraged me to just stay where I was, rest and get my head together. He even let me put the room on his credit card. Boy,I miss those days.

For the next 48 hours I slept. And slept, and slept some more. During my brief alert spells I flipped through the TV channels and watched anything that caught my eye. I didn't even leave my little cocoon for food. I ran to the store once and bought my favorite treats to eat in bed. And then I slept some more. At the end of the two days, I was ready to face the world again. I was physically rested for one, but my mind was clearer, too. I returned to Ricks and dropped all my interior design classes and made the decision to transfer after the block. My dad may have initially regretted footing the bill after that, but in the end it was the best decision I ever made.

The next float day I remember was at the University of Wyoming. One Saturday I declared a "nothing day," meaning that we would do nothing important or taxing. My boyfriend at the time helped me pull my mattress out into the living room, we rented a stack of movies, made sure our favorite foods were available, and spent the day in our sweats watching TV.

Now my husband, Mr. Wicke, is horrible at doing nothing. I mean he is really bad at it. I'm working on converting him, but he is a tough nut to crack. However, he has come to understand my need for these little respites from real life. One spring after the already long haul that is the end of teaching Jr. High, I ran a week-long music camp because we needed the extra money. By the end of that week I was done, burned-out, and sick of people, kids particularly. I didn't want to hear anyone speak. If I got Mrs. Wicke-ed one more time, so help me...My fraying end may have been detectable because my sweet husband was suddenly dropping me off at a beautiful hotel, handing me a key, and saying "Have a great time." In a bag was bubble bath, a novel, peanut butter M&M's and diet Pepsi. I read, slept, took a long bath, watched a scary movie, and ordered room service. When I finally came home, I was pleasant again.

In our fourteen years together, he has done this a handful of times, just sent me out on my own to recover my sanity. The last time I am pretty certain he saved me from what was shaping up to be a nervous breakdown. We had moved, which meant that in addition to the normal upkeep of the household I was also trying to organize and conquer the disarray and upset that moving causes. Moreover his brothers lived with us for a couple of months each, back to back. Don't get me wrong, I love his brothers, but there were a couple of days at the end there where dog hair set me crying. I couldn't stop. I cried over laundry and dirty bathtubs, too. Maybe that was his cue, because it wasn't long before I was put in the car with the directions to a hotel.

Leaving isn't the only option either. The Float can be accomplished at home, though it is harder because regular life kind of gets in the way. Kids can be be problematic as well, but both can be overcome with just a little laziness. When it comes down to it, that is what The Float is: The stamp of approval for laziness for just a day or two.

Last year on the day after all of our company left following Christmas, the whole family floated. We all stayed in our pj's; we didn't worry about the house; we ate anything we wanted--kids included; we just put the rules away for the day and watched Star Wars. It was fantastic...until my aunt and uncle brought my cousin, whom I haven't seen in years, over for the visit they had scheduled weeks prior. In all the craziness I had just forgotten, and there I was in my pajamas, braless, ushering them into my messy living room, and introducing them to my children who had bedhead and Oreo rings around their mouths. Not my best and brightest moment.

You know, on second thought, the hotel is better.

Despite the last example, I am a huge fan of The Float be it at home or away. Swimming upstream can be exhausting, especially if you're like me and have no sense of balance. The Float is a way to recover my equilibrium after having depleted my reserves of spirit. The last time Mr. Wicke sent me off on my own he said, "Go do whatever you want for a while." As I started to drive down the freeway, I remember thinking, "Whatever I want? Wow...what would that even be?" I hadn't thought about what I wanted in such a long time. Then I just felt giddy; like a kid again with endless amounts of time to do nothing in particular at all. That, my friends, is the art of The Float.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Experience of Gratitude

As our national day of giving thanks approaches, I thought I would share an experience of gratitude. In 1977 a woman named Ardeth Greene Kapp wrote a book called Miracles in Pinafores and Bluejeans. In the preface Sister Kapp writes:

"I believe miracles are constantly in the making, but often they go unnoticed because they come in bits and pieces, here and there, and we fail to put them together by removing the time and space that obscures their reality."

But once in a while, Heaven gives us a glimpse of how His handiwork is all over our lives. That happened for me just recently.

I was just a seven year old girl when this book was published, but a few years later, while in my early teens, it somehow fell into my hands. I don't know who gave it to me, but I've had it ever since. One can't forget it after having seen its memorable pink cover and fantastic 70's artwork.

One story from the book especially stood out to me. Sister Kapp was never able to bear children, and she writes about this experience with honesty in one chapter entitled "You're Like a Mother." What I have always remembered is how she had a "cookie drawer" in her house, and the neighborhood children would come and go on a regular basis always free to check its contents.

Why that struck me as a girl, I do not know. But many years later, as I struggled with our own infertility for an emotionally exhausting number of years, I read it again and that image moved and inspired me. I wasn't perfect, not by any stretch, but I was happier because of her example.

Fast forward to just a week ago. I was able to attend an event where Sister Kapp gave a workshop for women. I was excited to see her, having never before been in her presence, but I didn't expect what followed. Prior to the beginning of the event, I was visiting with a group of friends when I noticed two women enter and begin to mingle with the some of the other attendees. Sure enough one of them was Sister Kapp, and she moved toward us introducing herself and saying hello. She's in her 70's I presume now but still full of life and light. I immediately stood and said, "I have a book of yours..."

"It must be Pinafores and Bluejeans."


"Well, that makes you one of my girls then." And I found myself warmly wrapped up in her arms.

As she walked away, I began to be amazed at the gift she had given me. Here was a person I had never known, but who had pioneered the roughhewn path and left markers for me to follow. She showed me a better way, and rather than wallowing in my own sorrow, I had been lifted up by her example to love and give where I could. It didn't erase the pain during that time, but it certainly made it easier to bear. I found myself wishing that I had thanked her properly.

I watched her across the plaza, and then saw her break from the group and exit alone. I had my chance. I quietly got up and shot toward her.

"Sister Kapp, what I didn't say before was that for the first 10 years of my marriage I was unable to have children of my own. We've since adopted two beautiful children, but during that difficult time I remembered your story about the cookie drawer and how you..." The tears were coming and making it difficult to continue. " changed my life." The lump in my throat only allowed me to squeak the words, "Thank you."

She hugged me again and whispered in my ear, "That made it worth coming today."

Yes...Sister Kapp, it made it worth it for me.

One of my favorite quotes regarding gratitude comes from a man named John Wanamaker. He says, "Gratitude takes three forms: a feeling in the heart, an expression in words, and a giving in return."

As I've pondered this, I have come to believe that gratitude is only complete when it inspires all three, culminating in our desire to behave differently, to give back. I am still humbled by my experience with Sister Kapp. I have carried admiration and gratitude for her for many years, and to express thanks to a stranger who had such an important impact on my life is a unique and glorious opportunity. Now, I hope to find a way to help another as she has helped me. I don't know how that will happen, but I trust that as I look for opportunities they will come.

God does work in bits and pieces, here and there. That little piece of handiwork took 25 years, and who knows where the circle of good will end. What is even more miraculous than the miracles of our lives is that He allows us to participate in them, to bless and lift others in ways that are often unknown but for the rare glimpse of Heaven's work that inspires us to look closer, to see beyond the bits and pieces and gratefully acknowledge His grand design.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Price of Peace

A few days ago I read an article in the East Valley Tribune about a church's youth group who provided a service to our community by painting over graffiti. What they did was creative and positive, changing swastikas into signs of peace. I love kids who are willing to be proactive and positive, so the story caught my eye, but so did something else. Something a bit troubling that I can't get off my mind.

The story ended with this:
Church spokeswoman Sue Nee said graffiti itself is so commonplace. She said gangs have been hanging out in the area and police have been involved in curbing that.

The Rev. Julianne Lewis, senior pastor, explained that reporting it to police “wouldn’t be something we would do. That is not an action we would take for something like that because the important thing is to have peace.”

"The important thing is to have peace." Wow. That sounds really terrifically Christian on the surface. I mean who can argue with peace? Christ did say, "Blessed are the peacemakers," but in doing so did He condone lawlessness? Did He approve of criminal activity?

If "the important thing is to have peace," I have to ask: At what cost? Is our society to turn a blind eye to social depravity in the name of peace?

And there is the part that troubles me most. In this age, where religion may very well be the last bastion of moral education, please tell me that our churches are not teaching our children to accept evil, turn a blind eye, or just cover it up because "the important thing is to have peace." That would be a terrible misunderstanding of Christ's mission. The important thing is to do what is right though it may cause agitation.

Do I believe that I should be an example of peace? Absolutely. And I believe that a phone call to the authorities could have been a step in bringing a lot of peace to that neighborhood. We send His peace out into the world when we speak out for what is right, when we recognize evil for what it is and refuse to accept it.

What do you think? Should peace be all important? Or is the standard of keeping the peace no standard at all? Is it a moving line that will ultimately serve to let wickedness infringe upon our lives?

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Play By Play of My Swim Upstream

Hallelujah! I did it! I made it through one crazy, busy week. I knew going into it Sunday night that it would be a long haul, and I prayed for the ability to just hold up. Check. Prayer answered.

Here how it played out:
Monday-Work out. Clean house like a mad woman because it was the only day it was going to happen. As it turned out it was my only work out this week as well. Something's got to give.

Tuesday-Teach pre-school. Make 34 cupcakes and take to school for Logan's birthday. Take Logan to singing class while somehow cooking dinner early so we can open presents and take her to the Bee Movie. (No more miniature golfing.)

Wednesday-Plan and then teach my weekly mommy and me music class. Go to the grocery store to shop for Thursday's pie making class. Spend the rest of that evening making a plethora of pies.

Thursday-Wake up early to finish preparation for pie-making class and still get Logan out the door for school. Print and copy recipes for attendees. Go back to the store for the items I forgot the day before. Teach the class. Come home and clean up my mess. Then start planning Logan's birthday party. Run to the party store and shop wildly. Pick up the house and clean floors so I at least appear together to guest's moms.

Friday-Finish (that is just never the appropriate word for housework) cleaning, run to the store for last minute items, pick up the cake (no--I'm not baking anymore this week!) and ice cream. Come home and put together the goody bags, games, and treasure hunt. (No pirate party is complete without one.) And then let the crazy begin.

Now-I've put the kids to bed early and we are joining our friends for games and dinner. I have no plans for tomorrow, and I am thrilled. We are going to sleep late and stay in our pj's as long as we want. The race is over, and it's like my mom always says: You can't swim upstream every day. Some days you just have to float. Tomorrow we float!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fat Thursday, and I Can't Wait!

I'm loosening my belt girls, cause I'm eating today!!! Melissa and I are teaching a cooking class. She's making her yummy cinnamon rolls, and I'm making pies. My mouth is watering just thinking about all the taste testing. In preparation, I tried a couple of new recipes and this one's a winner! And I'm not even kidding when I say you should make this today. It's flat out delicious. And if not today, then for sure on Thanksgiving. You won't regret it. No, really.

Adrienne’s Fruit Pie

2 9-inch unbaked pie crust (double crust pie)
4-5 tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 can blueberry pie filling
1 C sugar
1 T flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

In a small bowl, mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Line pie tin with bottom pastry. Brush pastry with butter. Fill with half the apple slices, then 1/3 of sugar mixture, then half of the pie filling. Repeat. End with the last of the sugar mixture and top with small chunks butter. Finish with top pastry. Cover the edges with tinfoil or a pie shield. Cook at 425 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Turn down heat to 375 degrees F. Remove tinfoil or shield and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Gift of the Abundant Heart

I have certainly appreciated every one's thoughts on the topic of gossip. Clearly there are many particulars of the topic that deserve thought and reflection. My reflection on gossip these past few weeks has been surrounding this scripture in the New Testament:

Luke 6:45
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The last part, regarding the abundance of heart, is what really got me thinking.

I am not a fan of gossip, and the best lesson I learned about gossip came when I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with a couple of women with whom it is impossible to gossip. They just won't take the bait. They have an amazing way of turning the conversation to something more positive or relevant without ever calling out the offender. Wow! I so want to be them when I grow up; therefore, I have been watching them carefully.

What I have learned is that they have something else to say. Something positive and edifying. That doesn't happen accidentally. In fact just the other day I heard about a study that put men and women in rooms alone for long periods of time with nothing to occupy them. Unlike most men, most women reported having spent the time recalling and reliving conversations.

What this reaffirms to me is that a major portion of our nature is this heavy importance on relationships. That is not all bad, but it is not all good either, and I think we need to channel that tendency in a positive direction. That is the process of the abundance of the heart on which I have been reflecting.

Sometimes our lives as women becomes relatively small, and I don't mean that in sense of importance. Mothering, in my book, is the most important job in the world. I mean small in the sense that we spend a lot of time at home, doing a lot of mundane chores, surrounded by a lot of little people who, as much as we love them, aren't intellectually stimulating yet. We see the same people, do the same things; am I the only one who has experienced cabin fever? Or am I the only one to find myself living in a deep, deep rut?

Perhaps it is that routine that makes it so easy for gossip to slip into our dialogue. What else do we have to say? Where is the abundance of our heart?

If nothing else, this scripture encourages me to fill my heart with edifying and intellectually stimulating thoughts and information, and then when I converse I have something relevant and thought-provoking to share.

I have found that it can be done relatively easily. Even when our lives don't give us a lot of alone time, we can find a few moments here and there: A good magazine in the bathroom--no joke; it may be the only quiet moments I enjoy all day. A podcast to listen to as I clean. Reading the paper over breakfast. Scripture study before bed. Joining a book club. These few activities give me something to think about during my day besides "She said what?" and "Who did that?"

They help me lift my head out of the mundane and see something with a bigger purpose or higher meaning. Hopefully, it is filling my heart with a positive abundance, and I am becoming convinced that an abundant heart may be the best gift we can give our family, our friends, and our little corner of the world.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Give Me Your Thoughts

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the topic of gossip, and before I finalize my thoughts, I'd like your opinion. What constitutes gossip? I mean never having a conversation about another person seems a little naive. We humans, especially the female type, are all about relationships and connections. Certainly inquiring about a mutual friend does not constitute gossip, or does it? Or is it the intent that accompanies it?

In your opinion, where does conversation end and gossip begin?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Best Snickerdoodle Cookies I've ever Eaten

Tonight for Family Home Evening we made snickerdoodles, and I mean to tell you this recipe from my friend Julia rocks! Coming from me, that is really saying a lot because, usually, as far as I'm concerned, if it is not a chocolate chip cookie, it is not a cookie worth putting in my mouth. But these...well, they make the list for sure. Yummy! Here's the recipe. I bet you can't eat just one...or is that just me?

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2-3 c. flour

Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in cream of tartar, baking soda, vanilla, and salt, then mix in flour. Start with 2 1/2 c., but I usually add about 1/4 c. more to get the dough a little stiffer. However, it should still be somewhat soft; don't get carried away. Form a teaspoonful into ball and roll in sugar and cinnamon. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not flatten cookies. They will spread out as they bake. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Uninvited Guests

In the last week I have:
found two of these (alive!)

and one of these (dead!)

in. my. house!!!

Hey, I'm all for hospitality, but this is where I draw the line. The thing is, we have lived here three years without seeing one scorpion. Now my friend down the road has had them the entire time, but not us, and I thought we were safe. Supposedly they "do not migrate," but apparently they do, because they've decided to come chill in our pad for a while!

The first one was out in our garage. We thought it was just a fluke, one that came in on the leaf blower our neighbors had borrowed. It was gross and nasty, but I was sure we wouldn't see another.

But then two nights later, Griffin announced rather gleefully, "Hey! There's a scorpion!"

Sadly, Mr. Wicke replied, "No there isn't. Now get in there and brush your teeth." (Yeah, we are all about building that high level of trust with our children. Don't worry, we are saving money for their probable counseling.) But the real point is that upon closer inspection, sure enough Griff was right: A full grown, adult, bark scorpion (those are the nasty ones), on the second floor of our house, right outside my baby boy's door! That is not a fluke! (You may still hear the reverberations of my muffled scream.)

But that's not all. Oh no. On Monday night during family home evening, I thought I saw something under one of the bookcases in the living room. What the heck is that? Reading my squinted eyes and confused expression, Thomas interrupted the important point he was making.


"Sorry...but could you see what is under there?"

He inspected but clearly didn't want to say anything out loud. Perhaps I have a wee history of over-reacting.

"What is it? Seriously. What?"

That's when he went for nonchalant. "Oh, it's just a dead mouse."

And that's when, no kidding, I started to cry. Laughing because I knew I was utterly ridiculous, but crying nonetheless. In front of our children. I am one smooth operator.

But come on!!! Isn't that just too much for one week? I don't feel safe in my own home, and don't think I'm crawling into bed without a full and complete bed check every night or walking around barefoot in this joint anymore. No way!

Some house guests just make things really uncomfortable!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hi Turtle. I'm the Hare.

One thing I am not: Consistent. Never have been. I am either at 110 with my hair on fire or at 2 MPH. Kind of drives me crazy; kind of works for me, too. I get a lot done at 110. But today was back to the gym after about 4 weeks off at 2. And I'm tired. Too tired to write. Too tired to even be mad that I've let myself get out of shape again. Too tired to contemplate going back again tomorrow. But not too tired to wonder, what the heck is wrong with me?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What? This Old Thing?

As a new kindergartner Logan is experiencing the thrill of receiving invitations to many birthday parties. The social life has begun, but she's taking it all in stride.

Last week after going through her school folder and reading the latest invite, I said excitedly, "Logan! You get to go to a birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza next Saturday!" knowing that she would be over the moon. As I have said before, my children have a fondness for Peter Piper Pizza.

But she surprised me with this: "Yeah..." A little ho hum about the whole thing if you ask me.

"What's wrong? You love Peter Piper Pizza."

"I guess I was looking for...more golf or something."

See, we've ruined her forever. After surviving Griffin's fourth birthday, everything else dulls in comparison.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Birthday Horror Story Part II

"Oh my gosh! What are we going to do?" The question isn't really directed at anyone. It is just giving voice to the incessant whirl going on in my brain as I watch the poop continue to travel out of Griffin's shorts and down his legs. We are in public, I mean very public, people walking by kind of public with no bathroom in sight. Getting him the prerequisite 75 yards from here to there seems a monstrous task. In fact merely picking him up appears undo-able.

"It's on my foot!" It feels like he is yelling.

"Shh, okay, okay," I soothe, and to avoid drawing attention to ourselves, I maneuver my body between him and the passersby, shielding him from sight as much as possible.

Thomas has quickly disappeared inside and now returns with a fistful of napkins. We've determined that we are going to have to stop the leakage before we can get him inside to the bathrooms. Those underwear are going to have to come off. While Thomas attempts that behind a bench and a pillar, I am in charge of cleaning the remaining excrement off the pavement. With some napkins. I nearly vomit. The napkins go in the garbage can, and I momentarily consider the poor minimum-wage teenager that will have to empty that. It is only briefly though; I've got bigger fish to fry.

"Hi, do you have a plastic bag I can have?" At least we can wrap the nasty underwear up before we throw them away. Thousands of diaper changes have taught me something. I head back outside with my begged-off bag to find Thomas gingerly peeling the layers off the boy. Poop is everywhere. Many napkins later, Griffin is relatively cleaner, at least when compared to where we started, but we definitely need a bathroom, and to get there we are going to have to pass many, many more people. I hate the people. This would all be so much easier without them.

"We can't very well carry him in naked. We're going to have to put the shorts back on at least," is my adamant suggestion.

"They are a mess."

"Well, what do you want to do? What are our options here?" Our discussion has taken on the seriousness of nuclear peace treaty negotiations.

The pants go back on, smearing more poop on his leg. More napkin swiping ensues. Then the boys disappear inside to find the bathroom. My job is to keep my eye on Logan.

Two seconds later, Thomas is back outside, without Griffin. His annoyance is palpable. "They are out of paper towels in the men's room. Will you go get some out of the ladies'room?" He has left our feces covered son alone in a stall of a public bathroom, but who am I to judge? Logan is deep inside the jungle gym, happy and oblivious. It will take two minutes to get the paper towels he needs.

With a quick look back I head inside with him, clean the ladies' room out of paper towels, and hustle back outside. Not being able to see her right away, I start calling her name, yelling up inside the slides and staircases. No answer. I call again. Still nothing. Are you kidding me?

In the next moment I turn to find Logan coming around the corner with another family apparently helping her find her loser set of parents. I run up to her. "Oh, honey! I was just calling for you!" She is sobbing. The good parents are obviously unimpressed with me. I offer them a lame thank you but no explanation. There is only so much humiliation one person can take in an evening.

Twenty minutes later Thomas and Griffin are back outside. And here is where we cross way over the white trash line. I know it. I am fully aware that the next sentence may alter your perception of us forever. I don't care. Here it is: We go miniature golfing anyway. Despite the fact that our son's shorts have been rinsed out in a public toilet, we put them back on him and press forward, because there is no way I am going to do this all over again next weekend! No way, no how, people. It has taken us two days to get here, and now that we have faced the jaws of hell, we are going to finish it whatever it takes!

Damn it! We came here to have good time, and we are all going to have a good time, do you hear me! Now get out there in your nasty poopy pants and start golfing! Oh, and by the way, happy birthday, honey!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Birthday Horror Story Part I

It's been quiet over here in Tea Party Land, and I apologize for my sudden disappearance. Maybe this will give you an idea of what we have been up against.

Oh my...where to begin? Well, how about the beginning? The 12th was Griffin's 4th birthday. To celebrate as a family, we decide to go to Peter Piper Pizza and a movie. Oh, if only Hollywood would have cooperated. Where is a good kid's movie when you need one? Instead it turned into miniature golfing. Curses on you, Hollywood!

The plan was to for Daddy to drop work a little early so we could golf first, then eat dinner and still make it home for regular bedtime. As per usual, nothing goes as planned around here, so we didn't get out the door until 5:30 or so. We ditch the original plan and head to Peter Pipers. The kids need to eat.

Evidently the kids also "need" to win very cheap, overpriced toys, which takes a longer than anticipated, and a few extra quarters I might add. In the end, after $7.00, Griff contentedly walks away with a 1/2 inch tall ninja guy and fake plastic Dracula teeth, and Logan is thrilled with her pink plastic straw with ribbon tied on the end that passes for a wand.

Anyway, by the time we left it was just too late to attempt the golfing, so we promise the kids that Saturday night, instead of mom and dad's date night, we would take them miniature golfing. It's a compromise they're willing to make. Me?...I'm not so sure. In hind sight, we should have gotten the babysitter.

It was a full, full day, and frankly by the end of it, the last thing I wanted to do was take the kids miniature golfing. But a promise is a promise, so the evening found us pulling into the Golfland parking lot. And that's when the fun began.

"I need to go potty," Griff announces as we jumped out of the car.

"Are you serious? Griff, you just went two times!" is my tired reply. Seriously, we had just pulled over to let him water the plants roadside.

But it's a long walk from the parking lot, and what with all the skipping and shouting, and general childish anticipation, by the time we reach the front door both of us have forgotten about the potty. On a scale of 1-10 the kids' excitement level is about 15. "Can we play that game!? Can we have ice cream?!" Two kids at level 15 is hard to take, as is the layout at Golfland. After winding our way through the arcade and snack shop, we finally find the miniature golf rental booth. Of course there's a line. The kids, completely unaware of any aggravation, spot the huge jungle gym. "Dad, Mom, Dad, Dad! Can we play on that? Pleeeeaaaaassssee?"

"Okay, but just for a minute." Thomas hands me the debit card and follows the kids to keep an eye on them.

"Do you have a picture ID?"

"Of me? No. Just a minute let me get my husband. Thomas! Come here for a second."

And in that amount of time, things start to fall apart. I explain to Thomas that he needs to show them his ID and then we trade places. Except I can't find Griffin. "Logan. Do you see Griffin in there?"


Okay, he can't be far...Thomas is walking over..."I can't see Griffin..." Wait a second, is that him? Under the bench? "Griff, what are you doing?..."

And that's when it came to me, and I said out loud to Thomas, "He's pooping!" And not only is he pooping, but it is suddenly clear that he has tried to get rid of the evidence by wiping it away with his arm.

Thomas quickly pulls him out and sets him on his feet only to find that the poop begins to drip out of his shorts and form two little piles on the cement. Both Thomas and I are frozen in some sort of horror.

To be continued....

How to contact Micky D's

Here is their website. Or you can contact them via snail mail here:

McDonald’s Corporation
2111 McDonald's Dr
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Hope you have a happy and hoochie-free day. Tee Hee.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ladies Unite!!!

It's time to do something! Did you read my post about Mudflap Girl? If you want a prime example of that subtle sexual messaging of our young girls just take a drive through McDonalds. Madame Queen did. Read her post about it here.

I couldn't agree with her more, and I think we need to send a message. It's time to write a letter or two, ladies. We need to express our disgust and our outrage. We need to lend our voice to the protection of our baby girls who do not need to feed on the overt sexual garbage that is fed to them.

Will you do it? I'll try to find the appropriate addresses and post them, and then let's write. And let's get our friends to write. What let's not do is accept it. No! Let's stand strong and shout into the wind.

My 5 year old does not need to bring sexy back. Does yours?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Logan's Glamour Shots

My Logan is a beautiful girl, but she has a history of taking really bad pictures. Her school photo last year was, quite literally, laugh out loud funny. That photographer captured a look that I have never seen before or since, and there was only one way to describe it--very special. It was if she had a sudden attack of Bell's Palsy and was only able to smile with half of her mouth; her eyes communicated a bad mix of apprehension and confusion as if she might be sick any moment, and her head was tragically heavier on the left side, causing an unusual tilt. Sadly, that was the picture that was used on everything. The yearbook, of course, my mother's day present, the class autograph page, the rememberance book...well, it just went on and on. She'll be very proud one day I am sure.

This year was better. She was determined not to repeat the "bad smile" as she called it, and according to her, this time around, she was trying to look "talented." I guess that translates to "a little stiff." But she must have been pleased because while looking at them on the way home from school she said, "Am I really that cute?"

Oh, to be five again. The world looks pretty good from that perspective.

Stirring the Pot and Bringing Peace

A couple of weekends ago I experienced a personal best. A momentous occasion, if you will. Yes, it finally happened: I made a meal my father-in-law raved about.

Now, Bob, if you read this, now or ever, you must admit that you are a bit...well...should we say...finicky? Remember now: No one can fix eggs the way you like them except your wife. I tried--only once. And then there was the time I made lunch and you ate the deli sandwich instead. C'mon. Admit it. You're finicky.

Well, now that we've gotten that straight, I can get back to the rest of you. So this is my favorite soup to make; it's super easy and so delicious, and since it has received Bob's stamp of approval, I am going to share it with the world in hopes of bringing fathers and daughters-in-law closer. Who knows? My personal best may just turn into a Nobel Peace Prize.

Tomato Artichoke Soup
4 T butter
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts (NOT marinated), coarsely chopped
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes with juices
4 C chicken broth
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 C sour cream

In a large saucepan, heat butter and saute the onion for 5 min. until soft. Add the garlic and thyme and saute another minute. Add the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Cover, simmer for 30 minutes. Add the sour cream, stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serves 8.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Deep Thoughts, by Laurel

Some random questions swimming around my brain tonight:

1. Have they done something to Jennie Garth's front teeth? On Dancing...Stars (yes, I know that I am too young to be watching this show. It's like Lawrence Welk on Speed, right? But I have fond memories of watching Lawrence Welk with my Grandmother.) Anyway, on Dancing she looks like she hasn't gotten used to her new teeth yet; have you noticed? She's always sucking on them, and they look a little big for her head. What gives? She's such a pretty girl. Why mess?

2. Will I ever get my son to wear anything but the Spiderman costume I bought for Halloween? It's been 3 days now. And why did I let him wear it so early?

3. What am I going to do for fun with the kids over fall break? Any suggestions?

4. Does my dog know she needs a good grooming (seriously--she's beginning to sport poodle dreadlocks)? And does it effect her self-esteem? I know I need a good grooming, and I'm a bit low about it.

5. Plastic surgery--not the grooming I was talking about, just in general--for or against?

If you have the answers or even an opinion, please feel free to weigh in.

Friday, October 5, 2007

You're It!

Melissa tagged me! And it's a good thing because I don't have the time to write something brilliant, witty, or obnoxiously opinionated. I'm sure you're disappointed.

So here goes my list:

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Working with and monitoring the academic progress of at risk highschool kids. Most of them were Arapahoe Indian living on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
2. Remodeling our first home which had been built in 1908. We were young and dumb.
3. Working on our young marriage.
4. Doing the occasional play/musical.
5. Trying to grow up.

5 Things on my To-Do List Today:
1. Go to lunch with girls.
2. Go on a date with Mr. Wicke.
3. Find a couch for my brother-in-law.
4. Fold my laundry that is in the dryer.
5. Till the garden.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. Peanut butter cup ice cream
2. Mint chocolate chip shakes
3. Chips and salsa and diet coke
4. Popcorn and diet coke
5. Crackers and cheese, jalepeno-stuffed green olives, and diet coke

5 Things I would Do if I were a Billionaire:
1. Pay off our house
2. Travel
3. Help the people I love
4. Start a program inner-city kids where they help work a farm during the summer
5. Hope my life didn't change that much

5 of my Bad Habits:
1. Popping my knuckles and my neck (gross I know)
2. Eating too much ice cream (I blame Mr. Wicke. He started it.)
3. Expressing my opinions too readily.
4. Staying up too late/not getting enough sleep
5. And expressing my opinions too readily.

5 Things I will Never Wear Again:
1. Big, permed hair
2. My Jr. Prom dress. A huge regret!
3. Acid-washed jeans
4. Jelly shoes
5. Neon anything

5 Favorite Toys:
2. Swimming pool
3. I-pod
4. Computer
5. Books, books, books (is that a toy?)

6 People I Tag:
1. Amber
2. Megan
3. Katie
4 Madame Queen
5. Rochelle
6. Full Hands Mom

Monday, October 1, 2007

We Gotta' Get Rid of this Chick--Forever

There are so many reasons that I hate this girl and everything for which she stands. Generally though, when I see her, she is attached to the back of some redneck/trucker's pickup or long haul trailer, and I just shake my head as I consider the source and send up a little prayer of gratitude that the men in my life are nothing like that. No, the men in my life see me as more than boobs and lipstick and have enough respect for womanhood that their idea of honor is far better than plastering our image on a mudflap, which so clearly smacks of dragging us through the mud that no woman should have anything to do with a man who insists on said behaviour. In any way. Ever.

But the other day was a new experience altogether. While waiting in line to pick up my sweet daughter from kindergarten, I pulled behind a red Malibu and quickly noticed the silver truckergirl license plate holder: two faceless women on either side, on their knees, butts and breasts jutting out, head thrown back, long hair flowing. My blood started to boil, and not because I'm against sex in general. I even consider myself a little sexy, but I am not dumb enough to think that that is all I have to offer the world. What that license plate holder and every trucker girl mudflap says to me is that women are nameless, faceless, objects without meaning beyond their physicality. And that is why I was mortified to realize that the license plate holder in question did not belong to the usual redneck guy, but rather to a woman. And not only a woman, but a mother of at least two adorable little girls whom I've seen her pick up on two occasions now. That is what made me the sickest of all.

Because if that woman values the anonymous sex-kitten image enough to visually promote it to the world, I worry about the subtleties of gender issues she is teaching her girls every day. Will their value be measured by the size of their breasts or the number of men willing to bed them? Will they believe they have gifts of mind and spirit that can bless mankind or will they settle for being a great lay?

Do men suffer the same messaging regarding their sexuality? I don't think so. Chippendale's may be the closest we get, thankfully. I would hate to see a mudflap of a man in profile with a giant erect penis. Gross, right? And yet, that is the only correlation I can draw to the objectification of women we see so often.

There would be many, I guess, who would say I'm blowing this out of proportion, but I think not because women are surrounded by this kind of subtle messaging on every side, and if we don't recognize it, call it out, and name it, our girls will go on absorbing it, digesting it, and allowing it to define them in some way. That definition is dangerous and in some cases an absolute destroyer. If sex is all they are worth, then they will give themselves away a piece at a time hoping to find the love they have never felt for themselves.

I'm not denying the significance of sexuality in the human experience, but it is when we are defined by it that we disregard all of the qualities that give us meaning, that make us unique and worth loving in the first place. That is something the "mudflap girl" will never get.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gettin' Happy

I went shopping a couple of nights ago. I just needed a little pick-me-up, and look at these cute shoesI got at Kohl's!

Aren't they adorable?

And they'll go great with the grey pants I bought as well as this:

I love retail therapy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Blame Game

I am sooooo tired. I can't be creative enough to write anything interesting. Sorry. I also can't clean my bathroom, and I promised myself I would. I'm blaming it all on:

1) Anne Tyler whose book The Amateur Marriage would not let me go until I finished it.
2) The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Why would a grown woman watch their tryouts instead of going to bed at a decent hour? Why?
3) Top Chef. Can't they just tell me who wins already?
4) Mr. Wicke. Because he didn't make me go to bed and only laughed at me for too many nights in a row.
5) My very comfortable, TV-watching chaise.
6) The stairs. Because they were too tall to climb when I was that tired.
7) My kids. If they weren't so loud and needy during the day, the quiet peacefulness of the night wouldn't be so enticing.
8) My dog...because...well haven't you heard of "kicking the dog?"
9) Okay, Fine!!! Me, alright? Because I'm clearly too stupid to put myself to bed at a decent hour.

I was much happier being able to blame someone else.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

After Years of Pretending to be on David Letterman...

The Madame Queen offered to play the "interview game," and I signed up. She got to pick the questions, and I tried my best to answer them honestly and entertainingly since she requested that I post the answers on my blog. So here they are, and if you are not interested in hearing any more about little ol' me, read no further.

However, if you're still here and feeling adventurous, leave a comment asking to be interviewed, and I'll pass on the love! I'll get to pick 5 questions for you to answer and post on your blog, but then you have to offer to interview someone else. If you're in, leave me a message, and be sure your email address is available either in your message or on your blog so I can send you the questions. Any takers?

Besides being a mom, what is your greatest accomplishment in life?
Whoa! The word "greatest" is just so intimidating that I had to skip this question, give it some thought and answer it last. After all day, it finally occurred to me and I dug through some old boxes to find it. I taught school for 7 years before we were finally able to adopt our first baby. Now lots of people say teenagers are really tweerpy, but I can't help myself; I just dig 'em, and upon leaving mid-year to stay at home with the baby, many of my students gave me cards and well-wishes that knocked my socks off. Here is some of the things they wrote:
"...I've learned and grown from you so much both in character and in academics...You taught me how to be a better person and how to enjoy life to the fullest, not to mention all of the wonderful writing skills you passed on to me..."

"...You have changed my life in a way no one could ever do...Your passion for English has given me the thrill for learning this subject which in years passed I have never experienced..."

"...Thank you for helping me discover how to write my best work. You inspired me to write what I feel and not just words...You brought so much joy and happiness into the room and we really appreciate it..."

"As my teacher and inspiration to love to learn, I shall remember you forever!"
Besides my kids, that's what makes me most proud. Here's a shout out to all the many great teachers out there! Keep up the good work (even though they don't pay you what you're worth!)

If money were no object and you had all the time in the world, what would you like to learn how to do? Why?
There a number of things I want to learn right now. Like how to bake artisan bread and to speak a foreign language. (Isn't it awful that I don't? Not the bread part. The language. Regret over bread would make me a little nutty!) Those I will probably try at some point, but the one thing that I will probably never do because of money and time would be to go to culinary school. I really like to cook, and I would love to be more technically educated.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Now I know the south really knows their comfort foods, but up in beef country where I was raised, nothing is better for comfort than a good steak and a baked potato. Mmm.Mmm.

If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would it be and why?
Clearly the only way to figure this out is through the process of elimination, as in which one would I miss the least, and I guess it would be the sense of smell. While I would miss some favorite scents like fresh cut grass, cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven, rain, mountain air, and Mr. Wicke's cologne (do I hear a catcall in the background?), there are a lot of nasty smells I could do without pretty easily. I won't name those because my mother tried to teach me that there are just are some things we don't talk about. It didn't always take, but she tried. For her, I will edit myself here.

Do you ever embellish stories on your blog? If yes, why? If no, do you think it’s okay for other writers? Or would you feel cheated if you knew?
Well, Mr. Wicke says that I exaggerate every time I tell a story. But I think it's pretty clear that when I say, "He asked me like 50 million times," it wasn't actually 50 million, it just felt like it. Clear exaggeration, for effect and entertainment--ala Mark Twain, for example--is completely appropriate in my book.

But do I make stuff up? Never. I think the only reason I would do that is to make myself seem more interesting than I think I am, and I think that would make me feel bad about myself ultimately.

As for everyone else...well, I was really put off when the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces copped to fictionalizing a lot of it. I mean I like a good story, but if it's told as a memoir then it should be based in truth or it's just a lie and pretty pointless to me.

That's all, folks. I don't know if you had a good time, but I sure did. Thanks Madame Queen! And be sure to let Letterman know I'm now giving interviews.

Friday, September 21, 2007

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Professionals?

The past two days have been a testament to why a woman needs her girlfriends. Here's the rundown:

10:00 am Drop Griffin off at my girlfriend's house for preschool. Four of us take turns teaching. Griffin LOVES it. It's FREE and I get 12 glorious hours to myself a month.

12:07 pm Go to Melissa's house to learn how to make THE MOST DELICIOUS whole-wheat bread from scratch.

12:28 pm She also gives us great recipes for whole-wheat pancakes that are blended in the blender. She says they are super delicious and so easy. I can't wait to try them.

12:42 pm Learn about Shar's, Mesa's best kitchen store where Bosh's, gluten, and the very best yeast are available. Who knew? Melissa, apparently. She also knows a whole lot more. Check her out here.

1:03 pm Another girlfriend in attendance gives me the address of THE BEST AND CHEAPEST fabric store in the valley. It's called Sass, and I must go there ASAP. She got enough chocolate velvet material to make 8 9ft. curtain panels for $60.00!!! Are you kidding me? Why did I not know about this store before?!

3:12 pm Pick up TWO warm, freshly baked loaves of bread from Melissa's house.

5:00 pm Make dinner for the dinner swap my girlfriend and I have been doing for over a year now. Included is one delicious homemade loaf of bread for her. It's the least I could do in return for the two delicious meals she gave me this week.

7:30pm Attend a lively and thought provoking bookclub with 11 fantastic friends. I also get to eat a lot of glorious and delicious food prepared by someone else. She even offered to teach us how to make her delicious homemade rolls that literally melted in my mouth. We're setting that up for next month.

10:00 am Project Friday Begins. This is a new idea that three of us had to take turns help one another accomplish a project on our list of to-do's. Today we purchased plywood for me to make a 4' chalkboard and 4' flannel board for my playroom, found Angie a comforter and sheet set for her son's room, looked for a spice rack for Shilo's pantry, and went to lunch together.

Whew! That is a couple of fantastically busy days! So it is no wonder that, in the quiet moments between activities, I have been pondering all the ways my life is and has been blessed by the presence of amazing and inspiring women. In addition to being amazing friends, they are the very best teachers, supporters, and cheerleaders. From them I've learned parenting tricks, organizing strategies, and great recipes. They've helped me sew curtains, refinish tables, and make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (I finally got them right, Meg.) They've given me the most useful advice about books, marriage, discipline, and gardening, just to name some of the highlights.

I thank, with my whole heart, the many women who have not only made me, undoubtedly, a better human being, but who have also saved me thousands of dollars in class tuitions, professional decorator and organizer retainers, and therapist fees. And that is why every girl needs a girlfriend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Renee Zellweger and My Laundry Room Have in Common

A month and a half ago, on the long car trip from Wyoming, I listened to a lot of Dennis Prager. If you don't know who he is check out his book Happiness is a Serious Problem. I love it, and every Friday he devotes one hour of his radio show to the "Happiness Hour," a discussion on all topics having to do with being and sustaining happiness. It's absolutely terrific. Download a podcast tonight. Seriously.

Anyway, one podcast that I can't get out of my head was the hour devoted to discussing the whys behind crazily thin women. His case in point were some recent and frightening pictures of Rene Zellweger, one of Hollywood's many cases of "Never too Thin or Too Rich." His point is that most hetero men do not find bony women sexy, so what is driving this obsession?

I've been thinking about it a lot, and here's what I've come to. It's just like my laundry room. See, on any given day, you can judge me by the condition of that one little room. When I'm feeling good and am on top of my game, my laundry room is a beautiful thing to behold. Everything is in it's place, and it is just nearly perfection, if you will. But when things start falling apart, the laundry room is the first casualty. Stop by sometime; you'll notice that the door is either wide open or shut tight. Look, I'm not sharing my dirty laundry with anyone, okay?

Consequently, the laundry room has become a bit of an obsession for me. It's as if I can control that one little room, I can control my universe, and when it's a mess the guilt is a burden I can't get off my mind. "You're behind, and you'll never catch up," it seems to taunt.

My guess is that is what happens to some of these skinny obsessed women. And it is just a guess because most of my friends and I still eat. I think it's all related to gaining control, or at least appearing to have control over themselves and their lives. The problem for them is that, unlike me, they don't have a door they can shut.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Great Little Read

This month it was my turn to pick the book for our book club, and somehow that always gives me a little angst. Pleasing a lot of different women is not an easy thing to do. It is so difficult that it almost gives me a little empathy for my husband. Almost. I must be difficult to please. Anyway, after considering my options I remembered a little book that I had enjoyed a couple years back.

Now since it had been awhile since I had read Anne Tyler's book Saint Maybe, I became a littl worried last week after talking with a book club member who wasn't crazy about it. "Oh, no!" I screamed inside. "I don't want to be known as the loser-book-picker." (Very different from the loser-butt-picker you may have heard about. But I digress.) The point that I am actually trying to make is how I can happily report that, after finishing it again this weekend, I am still crazy about this book, and I must share!

I think Ms. Tyler is a genius writer when it comes to depicting family life and relationships which is her usual subject matter. Her characters are well developed, always slightly flawed and and little quirky or off-beat but very real. She has a great ear for dialogue and a keen eye for the unspoken language in all human relationships. I think her depictions communicate the nobility of average, quiet lives, and she has a great sense of humor and irony to boot. Her characters stay with me, and I find myself thinking back to them time and again.

Ms. Tyler also wrote The Accidental Tourist which was made into a film in the 80's starring William Hurt and Gena Davis. Then in 1990, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Breathing Lessons, of which I am also a fan.

If you're looking for a good read, I highly suggest her work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm Still Here...Just Trapped Under This Mess

Still chaos here, but improving. Today, since I cannot seem to be content with messing up 4 rooms, I am going to paint the laundry room. Why not, right? If the brushes and rollers are already out...

Well, here is what chaos looks like, and maybe is an explanation for why I can not be more interesting as of late:

Here's the loft all ripped up!

These cabinets used to be in the loft and were black.

Now they are red and will live in the family room.

Everything, and I mean everything, is out on the counter and waiting to be organized.

Well, they aren't before pictures. I never seem to remember to take before pics, but I'll post some pictures when I'm done...someday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What was I thinking?!

On Friday, what started out as a simple little project of rearranging the furniture in our loft, turned into a full house explosion. Now I'm painting three pieces of furniture, covering cushions, making window coverings...I'm tired even thinking about it, but since I'm in total chaos right now, I've got to get busy. I can't live like this much longer. Sanity NOW!

Friday, September 7, 2007

She's on a Roll

The one-liners from my 5 year old daughter just keep coming! Two days ago soon after my daughter left for school my friend called and said, "I had to call and tell you what Logan said this morning. She's so funny!"

That kind of beginning always worries me.

This is how it went according to Kimball (husband of said friend who carpools the kids to school):

Emily (friend's daughter) asked, 'Daddy, is it better to be pretty or nice?'"

He responded, "Well, what do you think?"

"I think it's better to be smart."

All of a sudden Logan pipes up, "No! It's better to be pretty. My mom's smart, and sometimes she's mean."

I'm not sure which part is more offensive to me: That she doesn't think I'm pretty or that she thinks I'm mean. It's a quandary.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Picking at My Picatta

Because of the impeccable timing, I must post what happened after serving the Chicken Picatta I raved about yesterday.

Last night, upon finishing her chicken and leaving most of the pasta alone, Logan said, "It's a little sour for me." And then, putting a consoling hand on my shoulder, she soothed, "Maybe you can try again next time, Mom."


Well--just for the record: What does a five year old know, anyway?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dinnerswap: A Housewife's Best Friend

Holy Labor Day, everyone! Did anybody else's house take it on the chin? Man, I have been trying to catch up all day. I guess that's what I get for really vacationing over the three-day weekend. Well, it was good while it lasted.

Today's post will be about my next favorite housekeeping trick--next to laundry-load-a-day. If you missed that one the first time round go here. Anyway, my next favorite trick is the dinner swap. My friend and I have been at it for just over a year now, and we're still going strong, despite my mother's doubts in the beginning.

Here's how it works. My friend cooks on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays for both of our families. Friday through Sunday we are on our own. I think both of us finagle a meal out over the weekend, and most of the time I have so many leftovers we have a leftover night as well. Add that all up and most of the time, I only have to cook 3-4 dinners a week.

Now, I'm a girl who even likes to cook, but let's be honest; anything you have to do everyday gets a little old. The gift of giving me two days off and still getting a terrific homemade meal...Well, it is just AWESOME! And it's really no big deal to make a little extra if I'm already cooking anyway. The other side benefit is that we are both saving grocery money because we don't have to buy so many ingredients. Maybe now you see why it has become one of my very favorite homemaking tricks. It's a win/win all the way around.

Some things that make it work:
1. Ideally the partners should be within easy walking distance. If I had to pack my kids in the car and haul her meal across town while mine got cold, it wouldn't last long. As it is, I just put her servings in those nifty disposable tupperware things, load them in our shared wicker basket and walk the two doors down. Easy.

2. The families should eat similarly. I could no way share meals with a vegetarian. I need my meat. My friend and I also agree in parenting style in this area. No special or extra meals for kids. They've got to eat what is prepared. And there is usually enough variety so there is something they like. We also don't get nuts with the gourmet ingredients. I mean it's good food, but we both have kids. Enough said.

3. Flexibility and communication are a must. Sometimes schedules need to be adjusted. Thursday soccor practice means that we eat earlier on that day. We just make it work.

4. Another great help in the beginning was signing up for recipes at Dinner Planner. Every week we'd get 7 recipes with, and--this is the best part--a color-coded shopping list. It was like dinner by numbers it was so easy. Plus it helped get us out of the "food rut" we had found ourselves in. You know--you make the same things over and over again. New ideas really help, especially when it comes right to your email in-box.

Like I said, my mother thought it would never last, but so far I can't imagine going back. Maybe someday it won't work for us, but for now it is just dreamy! If you can find a buddy, I encourage you to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. Gotta go. Tonight I'm making Chicken Picatta. Yum!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

This Might Explain Something

My character developement has one major influence: Mockery. You see, I was a girl born after 5 older brothers. Heaven did see fit to bless me with one sister, but unfortunately she was 20 years older than me and too long gone to be of much help on a daily basis. Now, I don't know how much you know about young men, but I can tell you, with authority, that the only form of affection they are capable of is constant ribbing. Now that I think about it, that goes for adult men, too. Ultimately my brothers haven't changed a bit. They can find any reason to tease me mercilessly.

A poor girl can't even make a sandwich without being subjected to their mockery.

It's a good-looking sandwich, right? Apparently that was the problem. I took it on the chin for that pretty little nibble, and if they can find fault with my sandwich artistry, imagine the torture I was put through during my dating years. It was ugly folks.

So if, once in a while, you hear a note of sarcasm, jest, or the outright jab slip into my dialogue, you'll understand that I can not help it. Those were mother's milk to me. And please consider my feelings once in a while and throw me a bone. After all, if you're not making fun of me, I can't feel the love. It's just the way I was raised.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Job Training, Anyone?

I'm afraid of offending some of my new friends, but I'll say it anyway. I am generally not a Wal-Mart fan. There I said it. My distaste stems from a number of reasons, not all of which are important to tonight's post. But I will also admit that I do shop there every now and again because it is a great one stop shop. However, once the Super Target opens across the street...well, now that place is my weakness.

Okay, for today's aggravation with Wal-Mart. I needed a few fresh veggies for the stir-fry I made tonight and some bath and haircare products. It was a quick trip, and all was going well until the checker, holding one of my items and looking confused, asked, "What do you call these?"

" beans?"

Okay, seriously.