Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still On Holiday

Here at the Tea Party Place, we are determined to eek the Christmas spirit out of the entire month. I know some people are busy taking down Christmas and organizing, preparing for the new year. Not us. We are still playing Christmas music, lighting the tree, and drinking hot cocoa out of our Santa mugs. You know how I feel about New Year's resolutions. So I am quite determined that we are on holiday until we ring in the new year. That's just the way we roll.

Today our plans include a trip to the zoo and the movie Bolt. We are livin' it up!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This morning, as I stumbled bloggy and bleary-eyed out of the bathroom, I beheld the familiar sight of little Griffin in his makeshift bed on the floor next to ours. He smiled.

"Good morning, sweetheart."

"Do I go to school today?" he asked.

"No. Today is Christmas Eve. That means tomorrow is Christmas!" I watched as his eyes lit up the way they can only in children. His face glowed from the inside out.

"That means Santa is coming tonight. And I get to ride in his sleigh."

"Wow! You think so, huh?"

"I don't think. I AM!"

May the magic of Christmas give us all such faith, and the birth of Christ all such hope. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joy to Your World

We are seeking the joy of the season around the Tea Party Place. Seeking. Sometimes finding. Sometimes not. You might remember last year when I came up with our Advent Calendar Activities? Well, we are going strong again this year, despite the fact that most of the time what I imagine in my head is not how it plays out in reality. A couple of examples:

1) We made homemade Christmas cards for the Children's friends. In my mind it was going to be a happy craft time spent together. How it played out? Glitter everywhere. Griffin mistakenly drinking his painting rinse water. Copious amounts of glue that didn't always stay on the paper. Mommy saying things like, "Okay, already! That's enough." That sort of the thing.

2) We delivered treats to our friends. Keep in mind that it took me three days to finish because the baby is sucking the life force out of me. By the time we delivered I was pretty tired of cookies, frosting and mess. But we at least had some to deliver! In my mind I saw the four of us happily riding in the car listening to Christmas carols on the radio, the children excitedly running to the door, wishing neighbors and friends a "Merry Christmas!" Those things happened, all right. I just didn't also imagine the crushed boxes of treats due to the Christmas-crack induced hyperactivity of the children. Nor did I foresee the almost constant bickering: "It's my turn! You did the last one! Let me ring the doorbell! I'll carry it!..." There was a moment when Mr. Wicke and I locked eyes and questioned our sanity during that very long evening.

Sometimes I wonder if these Christmas events are even worth it. Oh, I think the kids have a good time; I can tell because their joy bubbles over into crazed mania at times, and I just wonder if I do a good enough job hiding the level of frustration I sometimes feel boiling under my skin and the relief I secretly find in saying, "Okay! Time for bed!"

But then there are the magical moments that surprise me. Comments like, "This is the best night ever!" or finding this in Logan's backpack:

"What is the Bob Board?" I asked.

"I forgot what it's called, but it's this," she said pointing the snowman advent calendar hanging in the family room.

And while reading her reasons for loving it, "It's a [great] way to spend the holidays...[because] we get to spend more time with [our] family," I felt it. A happy moment of joy and grace.

I find as a mother that those moments are not constant. No, motherhood is more like a symphony of chaos and low notes punctuated with highlights of brightness. I try to sit in those moments, to remember them, because they say to me, "It is worth it. Keep going. Love beyond your current capacity. I'll carry you. Joy to your world, after all."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I think Girls are Born with It

While doing Logan's hair today (a lot of interesting conversations happen while doing hair) I said, "What the heck are we going to do with two whole weeks out of school?!"

Her reply came way too easily. "We could go shopping for Griffin's present," she said.

"Yeah, we need to do that."

"...Or we could just go shopping for fun. Or we could go shopping for clothes 'cause I need some new clothes."

"Okay there, Big Spender! So you're saying you might want to go shopping?"

And I know what you're thinking, but I swear, I'm not really a big shopper. I think she was born with the girl gene, that's all. It's a well known anthropoligical fact: Men, hunter-gatherers; women, shoppers. She can't help it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Girl by Any Other Name

A few days ago, as I was doing Logan's hair in the morning, she said, "Mom? Yesterday Emily and I tried to make a new friend..."

"That's terrific!" I encouraged.

"But she didn't want to be our friend."

"What? I can't imagine anyone not wanting to be friends with you!"

"I think it might have been the outfit I was wearing."

"Oh, I doubt that. You looked so cute yesterday. What happened exactly?"

"Well, we went up to her her at recess and asked if she wanted to be our friend, and she said, 'No way, Jose!"

"Well...that was kind of rude."

"Yeah! And you'd think she would be a lot nicer. I mean her name is Mary!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

How a Crazy Woman Knows She's Loved

Most of the time I love being pregnant. I'm over the moon about it. After all, it's not like this happened accidentally for us. We chased after it, and we got it! And usually I'm super grateful. But today I cried. I mean an ugly, hyperventilating kind of cry.

I'm pretty sure losing my mind has to do with being hormonal, but it also has to do with the fact that my underwear suddenly don't fit. That put me in a bad mood this morning to begin with. And the fact that after coming home from our weekend getaway all of my maternity pants are dirty. So I pretty much had nothing to wear. Standing in my closet in my ill-fitting underwear and trying to determine what I could possibly clothe myself in, I started feeling the low rumblings of angry discord somewhere in the pit of my soul, but I plowed forward. Maybe that green dress of mine would work. It's comfortable and casual enough for every day. But footwear...that was a problem.

Currently I have three pairs of shoes that fit. Lace up tennies (Thank the Lord for laces!), ankle boots (that I can get into most days), and knee high dress boots that I bought two sizes bigger than usual to hide the cankles pregnancy has blessed me with. None of these options were inspired.

Then I spied them in the dark corner of my closet: My tan leather and suede cowboy boots I've had since college. I could probably make them work with the dress in an artsy sort of way. So I put on the green dress. I quickly realized, however, that what worked in month three looks rather ridiculous in month 6. That angry discord began to rise as I yanked it off.

Okay...What about my new heather grey maternity dress? That could work, and probably would look better with the boots anyway. Who cares if I wear it every week? It's a no failer. At least for now...Taking a look in the mirror I concluded that it would do.

Finally it was time for the boots. Except as I pushed my giant troll feet into them, it began to be apparent that they might not--NO WAY! This was not happening. I stood up, looped my swollen fingers through the leather pull straps and yanked, and yanked, and stomped, and yanked again. Of course I had to be careful of my right wrist which has developed carple-tunnel-like symptoms because of the MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF WATER THAT I AM RETAINING!!! However, despite the obstacles, and thanks to the stomping and yanking, I finally forced my way into them... only to find the pinching and constriction unbearable.

That's when I lost my mind. I yelled and stomped, trying desperately to get the thing off, and began blubbering. That's what Mr. Wicke found when he ran up the stairs thinking I had possibly fallen down. I threw myself into the rocking chair, weeping and cursing my enormous troll feet, and then, thanks to my current limited lung capacity I found myself unable to catch my breath.

It's all too humiliating to recall. I am fully aware that I was ridiculous. I was aware as it was happening that I was ridiculous. And it's even more humiliating to think that someone other than God witnessed it. What was poor Mr. Wicke supposed to do with all that crazed, hormonal, emotion?

You know what he did? He petted my head, and then gently tried to remove the offending boots...eventually he had to muscle them off, but I appreciated the initial gentle effort. Then he told me to lie down and get some rest. He even offered to pick me up some new underwear today. And you know what else? I'll bet he'll never mention it again. Now that is love.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Out of Town

We have a friend getting married tomorrow, so Mr. Wicke and I are spending the weekend with many friends in California. And we're leaving the kids here. (Well-supervised by awesome brother and sister in law, of course.) So we have three days in the midst of December to be together. Just the two of us. Ahhh...that's even better than snow on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Compliments to the Chef

The other day, as Griffin ate the lunch I had prepared him, he said, "Mom, you should be a cooker when you grow up."

"Really?" I responded.

"Yeah. You're a really good cooker."

"Why, thank you! What a nice thing to say."

"You're welcome. I really like the things you cook."

"What's your favorite thing I make."

"Hmm..." After giving it long, serious thought he concluded, "I like the pot pies and pizza."

It sounds good, except for the fact that, of all the things I DO make, both of these come frozen. Yes, I can see my culinary career expand before my eyes. McDonald's here I come.

Monday, December 8, 2008

You Know the Problem with Grace Under Pressure? You Get No Credit.

I think every mom--shoot, make that woman!--can relate to the following senario in some way:

Consider that in the last two weeks, in addition to the normal running of the household, I have:

-cleaned the house top to bottom--including underbeds and washing windows inside and out. (I won't mention that it rained the day before company arrived anyway.)

-finally decorated and painted the woodwork in the guest bathroom that has been sadly ignored for the last 3 years.

-housed and fed 12 of my favorite people in the world over the Thanksgiving weekend.

-cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 19 adults and 5 children and enjoyed every minute we spent together. (I also won't mention the unbelievable size of my swollen elephant ankles and troll feet.)

-created, printed, and addressed all the Christmas cards.

-decorated the house for Christmas. (I won't mention that Mr. Wicke had a meeting that night and that our kids were wired on Christmas spirit. I mean WIRED!)

-did a lot of Christmas shopping. (I won't mention that Logan changed her mind--AGAIN!)

-planned a progressive dinner for our women's group at church.

-and still managed to keep the children alive, fed, dressed, and clean.

Then consider three nights ago when Logan casually mentioned this over dinner:

"Mom, I've noticed something...since you've been pregnant you haven't worked that hard."

Obviously I'm making this gig look too easy. (I won't mention how tired I feel.)

Monday, November 24, 2008


Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy -- because we will always want to have something else or something more.
--Brother David Steindl-Rast

Here's a start on my gratitude list this year:

I am thankful for...

...the many souls who nurtured in me a curious and thinking mind. A father who was full of wisdom and wit; a mother who is gifted with natural curiosity and a quick mind; siblings with strong opinions who are always game for a good debate; dinner table conversations; good teachers; a spouse who shares a love of learning and deep conversations; my children who always make me search for right answers and seek truth.

...the opportunity to experience life grow inside of me and for a healthy body that is putting up with it rather well.

...the miracle of adoption. My life's greatest journey and teacher.

...a tremendously hardworking husband who always finds a way.

...little answers to prayer that let me know He is aware and listening.

...my two children--the delight of my eyes.

...Costco pizza. (I could eat it every day right now. I know. Weird. I'm blaming pregnancy cravings.)

...the comfort of dear friends who take me as I am and still see the person I can be.

...faith, my guiding star and refuge.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Giving Up the Driver's Seat: Where Feminists Got it Wrong (Continued)

What I'm suggesting is that in giving up the notions of female virtue, chastity, and modesty, we have, in fact, given up our inherent power. Despite the injustices that women have faced throughout history, God ensured that we wielded a weapon for balance: our power of attraction. By giving men an abundance of testosterone and an overwhelming sex drive, He made it possible for women to tame the conduct of men.

There was a day when men had to earn a woman's affection. Without gentlemanly conduct, no decent woman would have him. He would actually have to prove himself through effort and commitment. Now we have thrown those "old-fashioned" and "sexist" notions out the window; we've convinced ourselves that it is a sign of weakness to expect anything of men at all and they owe us nothing.

There are a few women who see things differently, but the overarching attitude of our society puts them in a real pickle. If they aren't willing to bed a man with no strings attached, there are a thousand other women who will. Is it a wonder our young girls (and not so young girls) fall victim to a sense of desperation? And so it leads us to where we began, with a lost and confused child saying: “A lot of the guys, if I didn’t have unprotected sex with them, they would get mad at me and I still wanted that closeness with them...I was afraid if I didn’t do what they wanted, they wouldn’t be my friend.”

I do think our we need to educate our kids, specifically our girls, but we need to talk about a lot more than sex. We need to restore the virtues that are their inherent feminine strengths. "We said it was sexist to suggest womanhood meant something more than just breasts and lipstick, and now we are left wondering why we are stuck with just breasts and lipstick. The temporal feminine has replaced the eternal feminine. The expectation that we be good is gone, but filling the void is the pressure to be good in bed" (Shalit, 143).

Mothers, women, this is a cry to battle. We must undo the damage that has been done.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving Up the Driver's Seat: Where Feminists Got it Wrong

May I begin by saying that I believe the women's movement was originally inspired. Anyone who knows me (and my mouth) would have no trouble envisioning me at the head of the suffragette movement.

I believe women are equal to men. I just don't believe we are the same as men, nor should we be; but sadly, somewhere along the line, our movement was hijacked by those who do. More ironic is the fact that these same women seem to despise men, blaming them for the ills and subordination of our sex; however, when it comes to asserting our rights they seem to think that requires giving up our feminine nature and playing the "men's game."

They insist that we are not only equal to the opposite sex, but, in fact, we are the same. Just look at a 1996 issue of Elle magazine that "urges us to 'deconstruct the stereotypes of gender,' reminding us that ''femininity is a social construct' and that 'men have defined femininity since its inception.' Since men have defined femininity since its inception, there is only one thing left for the liberated woman to do: become masculine, of course" (Shalit, 107).

This outrageous lie was made worse when combined with the sexual revolution. Now women are "free" from sexual mores of the past. Not only can we jump in and out of bed with whomever we choose, keeping score with notches on our own bedposts, but we are expected to. There must be "something wrong" with the "prudes" who insist on saving themselves for something special. As early as the late 1800's, early feminist Madame Celine Renooz called "sexual modesty 'an outrage to [the female] sex,' really just 'masculine shame attributed to woman'" (Shalit, 111).

Lucky for us we have shaken off those hideous shackels of sexual modesty! See, to be feminine and powerful in the culture of today means that we are instructed by Cosmo on the "203 Ways to Drive a Man Wild in Bed." We are taught how to "accept and love" our bodies by shortening our skirts and showing more skin ala Jennifer Lopez and even given guides on oral-sex how-tos at student health offices on college campuses. Oh, yes. We can be just as casual as men about sex. So casual, in fact that we require nothing of them and give them exactly what they want. We hook-up, split the check, and have sex with no strings attached. Tell me: Who's in the driver's seat now?

*Works Cited: Shalit, Wendy. A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. Touchstone, 1999.

(Nope. Not done yet. Oh, what I wouldn't give for uninterrupted thinking time. But it's Griffin's turn on the computer apparently.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Are We Telling Our Girls?

Yesterday I read this article on msnbc. I know I'm supposed to find the results shocking. Sadly, I really do not. But I am shocked at the disconnect I see in the adult "professional" perspective on it. Can you see what I mean in the following excerpt?

By Laura T. Coffey
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 7:04 a.m. MT, Fri., Nov. 14, 2008

On “The Tyra Banks Show” airing Friday, eight girls ranging in age from 14 to 17 discuss the survey findings and share their own personal experiences. Seven of the eight say they are sexually active; of those seven, just one says she uses protection when having sex.

“A lot of the guys, if I didn’t have unprotected sex with them, they would get mad at me and I still wanted that closeness with them,” one girl says during the show. “I was afraid if I didn’t do what they wanted, they wouldn’t be my friend.”
The same girl talks about how she tested positive for chlamydia twice and also contracted genital herpes.

“I’m ashamed that I have it, but it’s something I want other people to be aware of,” she says.

Another girl, a 17-year-old mother of a 7-month-old boy, says she lost her virginity on a school lunch break and deliberately planned her pregnancy by monitoring her menstrual cycle.

“I had helped teach a sex-ed class to a class of freshmen my sophomore year,” she explains. “We taught how … there’s a week [in] the month you are more likely to get pregnant than any other time of the month. I had calculated that out and I decided on two days I was most likely to get pregnant.”

Girls on the show also talk about experimenting with the drugs salvia and Ecstasy and getting into violent fights with other girls.

‘Adolescents need help’
Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer, a teen sex education program based at Rutgers University, said the survey results sound plausible and are consistent with other research on teen sexuality.

“This so clearly points to the need for comprehensive sexual education for kids,” Schroeder said. “An adolescent … is supposed to be making poor decisions. Developmentally this is the way they’re supposed to be behaving. They need help ....

“Parents need help talking with their kids about sexuality, and schools need to be talking to kids about sexuality.”

Not surprisingly the only solution, at least as Dr. Schroder sees it, seems to be more sexual education, but wasn't it clear that at least one of these girls not only participated in but taught a course on sex? Am I the only one that gleaned that little nugget from the article?

Now, I am not against educating our kids about sexuality. Let's get that straight right now. However, from where I stand, that is not the solution to the obvious underlying problem. These girls knew about condoms. They knew about menstrual cycles. They had all the pertinent information about sex. What they seem to lack is a sense of self and a sense of moral propriety.

But it is no wonder. Those are not qualities that our society teaches. No, we would rather throw condoms at them.

The truth is much harder to parse out. First we would have to admit that our society has taken some wrong turns that has "left the balance of power markedly tilted against girls," to quote Wendy Shalit, the author of one of my favorite books, A Return to Modesty.

Isn't it amazing, in this liberated age, that a young girl, thoroughly socialized by the feminist movement, would agree to unprotected sex that she didn't want just because the boy would "get mad and me...and wouldn't be my friend?" Shouldn't the women's movement have made girls more powerful than that?

Maybe it would have if it had not only ignored the vital differences between the sexes but emphatically denied that they exist...

(Now, since I do not have time to solve all of our social maladies today--laundry does call--I will have to post more on this topic tomorrow. Until then...Let's dicuss, shall we?)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just for Giggles

Friday morning I realized that we had not practiced Logan's spelling words. In the last few minutes before she left we slugged through the list, but we didn't have a chance to get through the bonus words. She walked out the door with the instructions that she needed to go over them in the car on the way to school. I guess that didn't happen.

As it turns out when she was given the bonus word "success," she spelled it "sexsex."

Hooked on Phonics DOES NOT work for me! Mercy!

A Doggone Good Time

Here are some of the highlights from Logan's "doggy party." At first I didn't know what to make of that theme, but I think it turned out really cute, and the kids had a great time.

First we made doggy ears and noses:

Then every kiddo personalized his/her very own dog dish. (I had hoped these would dry in time to serve cake and ice cream in them, but it was not to be.)

And of course every doggie needs a collar!

I found these cute dog buttons at Michaels.

Then it was cake time. Due to my lack of preparation, I just had to buy a premade cake at the local grocery store, but I topped it with a cute little stuffed dog to make it special. Cute and super easy!

But the highlight for most of the kids when it came to the cake was that I let them eat it doggy style. No hands or forks!

I didn't have time to get any great pictures of the pinata. I was too busy trying to make sure no one got hit with the bat--myself included! But here it is on the ground. Logan insisted on a cat pinata so the dogs could fight the cat. Hello Kitty was as close as I could find. Luckily Logan thought it was fantastic!

The birthday girl's favorite part? Why, the presents, of course!

The only part of the party I didn't capture on film was the game. What I did was I printed out 20 pictures of different breeds of dogs and hid them all over the house. Then the kids played "dog catcher." After finding all the doggies they then had to match them up to the correct breed name. They had a ball with this! And Logan has been talking dog breeds for the last 2 days: Husky, Collie, Shnauzer--she thinks she knows them all!

All in all I thought it was a success, but mostly I'm just glad it's over! Birthday parties are exhausting, aren't they?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is it Possible to Have a Week Full of Mondays?

Here is why I can not write anything, witty, clever, or thoughtful today:

1. I am hosting a "dog party" for my seven year old at 4:00. I have done NOTHING to prepare yet. Don't worry. I'll be ready by 4:00. (I hope.)

2. I would have been more prepared for the birthday party if Thomas' car had not refused to start on Tuesday when he took my car to work.

3. I would also have been more prepared if Logan's school hadn't called me yesterday to tell me she threw up a little in class. (Cancel afternoon plans? Check.)

4. I am too busy hand washing dishes because our dishwasher motor died on Monday. Do you remember how long hand washing dishes takes??? (Oh, yeah. It's been a great week.)

5. I have to take our car in to be looked at because the annoying and embarrassing whine that it used to make only when it started is now happening almost constantly. (I hate vehicle maintenance.)

6. I have to get in a good mood. (...And it might take a while.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Families: Can We Do Better?

The other night I sat down to watch Supernanny, which I secretly call "brainwashing hour." My kids love the show--Logan has described herself as a Supernanny "fan"--and I love that for an hour I get to say things like, "Wow! That is such ugly behaviour! I'm so glad you guys don't act like that. Goodness! No one in that family seems happy. See what happens when we don't have rules?" You get the idea. And my kids are right on board: "He should not be doing that! That is dangerous! He's old enough to know better!" Ahhh...Brainwashing never sounded so sweet.

But I decided I had better preview last week's episode. The premise was that Supernanny would enter a home where the parents were determining to divorce and help the children navigate those rough waters. I thought it would be pretty heavy stuff for my kids to watch. Turns out, it was pretty heavy stuff for me to watch.

Truly, it was like watching a tragedy unfold in front of my eyes. Now, I realize I have no concept of the ins and outs of that particular marriage, but it seemed strange that neither of the adults could convey any sort of concrete reason for divorcing, not to the kids and not to each other. The dad lamely said, "I've just given everything to everyone else for so long, there's nothing left for me." My thought: Does this justify throwing a bomb into your family?

Now, I am not one to say that divorce should never be an option. On the contrary I think that there are circumstances where it is the only option. In cases of abuse, physical or emotional, get yourself out of there. And a mother who stays with a man who abuses her kids is just as liable as the abuser in my opinion. However, that said, I would argue that divorce happens too often and unnecessarily at that.

Watching these two parents on tv trying to explain to their kids how their lives were going to completely change but somehow miraculously "stay the same" was so heart wrenching I had to turn it off. I hope the best for that family; I really do. But even with the best of circumstances in a divorce, it is never the best version of family, at least not for the children.

The best family situation is for kids to live with a mother and father who love them and love each other. Yes, I know that doesn't always happen. I know that situations are complex. But I still have to ask: Is that so impossible? Can't we, the adults, do better?

It reminds me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago while at a kid's birthday party. While the children played, the moms made small talk. I spent a great deal of time talking to a mother of one of Logan's schoolmates whom I don't know all that well, but we seemed to hit it off. Somewhere along the conversation she spoke of her ex-husband, her daughter's father. I don't recall all the specifics of the conversation, but this phrase will not leave me. She said, "If I knew then what I know now we probably would still be together. He's a good man."

I do not think she is alone. I've heard versions of that phrase too many times to think that. What I really think is that maybe we, as a society, have been brainwashed a little ourselves. I think maybe we expect a fairytale when the truth is, marriage is the hardest work we'll ever do--The most rewarding, but the hardest, nonetheless. I think maybe we think if we had married a "soul mate" life would be easier, happier, more romantic, when the truth is there is no "perfect" person out there; no one can "complete" us. I think maybe the grass looks greener on the other side, when the truth is the grass over there is just different and still has issues to face.

I know this is a sensitive topic, but we are fighting for our families. There is nothing more important. It's worthy of great thought and great discussion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Logan Turns 7!

Fall is party time here at the Tea Party Place. Most of our birthdays are lumped together along with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! What a whirlwind. But if we know anything around here it is how to have a good time! Last Thursday was Logan's big day. Since it was a school night we kept it low key, but she certainly enjoyed opening presents from Grandma Peterson, Grandma and Grandpa Wicke, and Griffin.

Friday night we turned up the volume a little bit. What she really wanted from Mommy and Daddy was a trip to Build-a-Bear. It was our first time going, and I think her excitement it pretty easy to read! After much consideration, she found her perfect playmate: A bunny she named Lolly (or Lucy, depending on the day.)

The perfect outfit!

After we finished up at Build-A-Bear it was off to Peter Piper Pizza, Logan's choice for dinner. We had two very happy kids, and isn't that what birthday's are all about?

Next on the birthday agenda: A "dog party" for Logan and her friends this Friday. You don't know what that means? Neither did I, but that's what she wanted, so here goes! Get creative, Mama!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Belly Shot

Introducing: My Belly!

Here is the shot Megan and Lisa Marie requested. I thought barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen just about covered all the stereotypes. :0)

As I look at that picture, I can't help but think that the belly would look bigger if the breasts were not increasing in equal proportion. But alas, that is not to be. Maybe I should stop obsessing about it, but that probably is not to be either.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wisdom from the Wise Old Owl

Grandma and Grandpa Doty with their 5 children. (My mother is the ever-so-cute blond on the right.)

Grandma and her eldest son outside their first house in the oil fields of McFadden, WY.

Grandma and Grandpa's original house in Byron, WY. They lived there for 6 years until Grandpa finished the "big" house 1938.

Grandma and friends knitting.


I have always admired my Grandma Doty. She knew how to do just about everything it seemed to me. But then again she had to. She raised a family of 5 during the depression, and despite a hardworking husband, they didn't have much unless they provided it themselves. She had chickens, a cow, and a garden. Most of what they ate was provided by the sweat of their own brows. Grandma made bread, butter, jams, jellies, and fruit leather. She canned and dried fruits and vegetables. She knew how to sew, and made almost all of her children's clothing. She quilted, tatted, crocheted, and knitted.

Nothing went to waste at grandma's house. She saved everything--including rainwater. I remember the big wooden barrel outside her door, waiting to capture every drop the spring storms deposited. She swore that using rainwater for a shampoo made for the softest and silkiest hair.

"Waste not, want not" was her mantra and one that she took seriously. Her grandchildren were instructed to "eat the apples off of the ground first!" but most of us snuck a few of the bright, crisp green apples from the tree anyway. And oh, how good those apples were.

One of our favorite treats was the dried apples she would make. Miraculously her stock was never low even though most of us would eat ourselves sick on nearly every visit despite her warnings of possible stomachaches. They were such a favorite that we looked forward to their addition to our Christmas stockings even into our adulthood.

As Grandma got older, her resources dwindling and her progeny growing ever greater, she began to give gifts of the heart rather than the wallet. One year she wrote us this:

"It has been suggested that I give advice...on what? And why? Because I am old and supposed to be wise about a number of things as the wise old owl?...Well, I am not that "wise old owl"...all wise, but I will give a few ideas that I have learned over the years, and I hope it will be of benefit to someone.

"I have always enjoyed teaching, whether in a class or in the home. What I have learned and the knowledge I have gained I have always wanted to share with others. Have I done that? If the student has not learned, then I, the teacher have failed. I have taught sewing, knitting, crocheting, tatting and quilting. I know some who have gained and are using these skills, but have I taught the gospel? I have tried...Let me go over the steps to gain the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1. I suggest prayer. This is the first step in learning of our Father in Heaven.

2. Read the scriptures daily. Many problems can be solved through this habit.

3. Live the commandments and you will know for yourself the truth of each principle you live."

She was and continues to be a grand example of faith, and her faithful life was part of the bedrock of my personal relationship with God. Of all that I gained from her, I consider that her greatest contribution, and I think it is the thing that would please her most as well. She wanted each of us to live well, and that meant living right. None of us had any doubt about her opinions. She was not shy about about sharing her perspective, but I must admit, some of the best advice I've ever gotten was from her. Here are some of the things she told me that I remember most:

From my teenage years: "If you find your toes being stepped on a lot, you might want to pull them in."

From my early marriage: "Make your words soft and sweet. You never know when you'll have to eat them."

Regarding parenting: "Teaching begins with the baby. Of course, the baby teaches us, too. The most important thing, I think, in training children is to stick to the things you say. Never say a no or yes unless it is followed up on. Once you make a decision follow through and hold to it. You can never go wrong by giving a youngster lots of love and kisses mixed with discipline. Child training is merely knowing which end of your child to pat...and when."

Clearly my Grandmother was not a romantic or a dreamer. No, she would best be described as pragmatic, a realist and do-er by nature and by way of life, but those qualities served her well. She did not merely survive; she triumphed. Living to the ripe age of 102, she was a source of inspiration to four generations of children. There was nothing weak about Grandma Doty, and I find it amazing that I continue to draw from her well of strength though she has been gone these last seven years.

When things get a little tough, I consider the events of her life and get to work. She was fond of saying, "You kids get married and think you have to have everything right away! What you don't realize is that it took your parents years and years to get what they've got." When my wants get ahead of my needs, I hear her voice in my head. When money is a little tight, I think of her ingenuity and find a way to make do and make it better with a little bit of elbow grease. She taught me that there is nothing I can't learn to do if I'm willing to put forth the effort.

And so last Thursday, I learned to can. Well, make that re-learn. I canned with my mother when I was a girl, but somewhere around 1981 my mom lost that Mormon mojo. (Mormons and canning is a another post altogether.) So when I found out my friend Angie (who may need professional help with her aversion to having her picture taken) was canning apples, I invited myself over, and look what we Mollies accomplished:

Final total: 48 quarts of apples

I even pulled out my dehydrator and dried apples (most of which I have eaten single handily. And for the record, I did give myself a stomachache one night.)

On Monday, I tried to finish off the 2 ginormous boxes of apples by canning apple pie filling. Final total: 11 quarts, 1 very messy house, and 1 tired mama. Can you read my eyes in that photo? I think they are saying, "When will the project ever be finished?"


Despite the mess and the exhaustion, it was a wonderful experience to be reminded of the amazing women who came before me, who blessed me with their sacrifice, experience, and knowledge. I hope I have inherited some of their magic, and I hope, one day, to be worthy of them. Thank you, Grandma, and until I see you again, I will strive to make you proud.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stitched Together

Going to Grandma Doty's house always meant I would get to do a project of some kind. She taught me to paint fabric, cross stitch, and quilt. As a tiny child I remember crawling under the quilting frame that seemed eternally to be set up in her living room and listening to the chatter of Grandma and her friends, watching the quilting needles duck in and out of the tight fabric making neat, tiny stitches.

When I was a teenager I asked Grandma to help me make a quilt of my own. From one of her overflowing back closets, Grandma pulled already pieced blocks of outrageously bright fabric scraps that became the basis of my first "crazy quilt." She taught me to place them in a pattern, sew the rows together, and then the quilting began. I have sweet memories of sitting at that quilt, my Grandmother and I. This time I was part of the chatter, and I steered the conversation to Grandma's past watching the pattern of her life story emerge.

She told me of her childhood: Her family's early settling of the Big Horn Basin, complete with flies, dirt, cabins, and lean-tos; cutting the ice from the river to cross to and from school; how Great-Grandpa hauled good from Montana to Wyoming by frieght team and about his amazing ability with horses. She recounted a long childhood trip in a Model-T to California so that she could be cured by a doctor of her severe stuttering, which she was. I learned the details of how Great Grandpa traded a team and plow for her piano on which she learned to play, and how that piano-building man from Chicago gave up his newly built homestead when his wife refused to join him in Wyoming.

She recounted her year at the state university, where she met Grandpa, the details of their early romance, and how he got on the train to see her off only to stay on through a number of stops before disembarking and buying another ticket home; how her father refused to let her return to Laramie for fear that it would look like she was "chasing" grandpa, insisting instead that the next year she attend BYU. She recalled the long exchange of letters before the eventual proposal. I discovered her passion for teaching and the details of her few years as a young elementary teacher. I heard of her worries and hardships as a mother: How her oldest child suffered from diabetes and the strict diet she monitored; how she would cut cardboard soles to put inside the children's shoes to make them wear the rest of the year; the simple Christmas gifts she would create for them.

The completed quilt would not win any awards. Many of my stitches were clumsy and its brash color scheme does not make for a showpiece, but I treasure it nonetheless. To me it is a symbol of the sweetest time she and I spent together, the time when I came to really know my grandmother. And that experience is quilted on my heart.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Call Her Jack

Over the last few days I have been trying to channel the fantastic woman on the left. When she worked with her brothers on the farm, she'd wear pants even though it horrified her father. In this get up she would call herself Jack.

On the back of this original photo she wrote, "Vida Bishoff (a girl Frank [her brother] escorted to the mts) and myself, but better named Jack. Oh, my. Don't Jack look honery."

Is it a wonder that I like her spirit? I should. She's my Grandma, Rose Ellen Griffin Doty, and I hope I've inherited some of her magic. I hope, but I'll tell you what: Trying to be like her is wearing me out!

To be continued...

Logan's Logic

This Saturday, as we left the soccor fields, Griffin was slow to get his seat belt on.

"You know, Griff, I would think you would listen the first time we asked you to put your seat belt on considering what happened this week," his daddy scolded.

"Yeah," Logan chimed in, "Mommy got a ticket because you didn't listen..." and then she launched into a long winded reprimand about obeying the law. Mr. Wicke and I stopped listening, happy enough to let someone else give the lecture on "listening and obeying" for once, but then this little phrase, said in her most serious teaching voice, caught our ear:

"...for example, if you killed somebody you would have to go to jail because nobody likes dead people."

Hmmm...On second thought maybe Mr. Wicke and I should be in charge of those lectures for a little while longer, that is if we can stop laughing long enough to speak.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bad Things are Happening

Here are some of the lowlights:

Every day: My little piggies went to the market--AND APPARENTLY ATE EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! I can not wear the majority of my shoes because my feet are so swollen. I know. I know. Pregnancy can make your feet bigger--FOREVER! But I am not ready to say goodbye to some really cute shoes. I hope they return to normal.


Two days ago: After I had dropped the kids at school and was on my way to the dog groomer's, Griffin and I pass an intersection with a lot of construction going on, which is like catnip to my 5 year old boy. He unbuckles to get a better view, and as I'm turning the corner and telling him to get his hiney back into his seat, what do I see behind me? Oh, yeah. The flashing lights.

Wanna' know what's worse? When the officer asks for my license I find that I don't have it. Then I remember it's sitting on my bathroom counter. Oops...

Wanna' know what's really embarrassing? When you say to the police officer that you were just telling your son to sit back down, and say, "Didn't I, Griff?" To which your son responds with a vehement, "No."

After further questioning between just the two of us, Griff confessed that he thought he might be going to jail. I suppose that fear could make anyone lie just a little, but still. Mama could have used a little back up, son!

Wanna' know what's really irritating? When the overly jovial policeman comes back to the car and says, "Well! I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?" Ugh. To which I respond, "I don't care." I may have to pull over, but I do not have to play ridiculous games.

Wanna' know that bad news? I got two citations. One for a minor unrestrained and another for having no license with me. Oh. And the "good news" he was so excited to share with me? It wasn't going to be a criminal offense. Because I didn't have my license he could "take me in, fingerprint me, and hold me until...blah blah blah" somewhere in there I stopped listening because all I could think was, "Oh, yeah. Take me, my five year old, my poodle, and my minivan down to the station, please. Because I'd love to see and all your cop buddies laugh their heads off."

Wanna' know what makes me feel really proud? I didn't cry until he left.


A week ago: I had to be fitted for a new bra as my cups were running over, so to speak. After the woman measured me, I was shocked to hear her say, "Well, it looks like you are a G..."

After she revived me from my panic induced faint, triple D sounded quite reasonable. So now I am the proud owner of a brand new triple D minimizing bra, but apparently the minimizing portion is not working because just a couple of days ago a woman commented that I'm "really blossoming" while motioning to her chest. Boobs are waaaaay too big when they are conversation starters.

Somewhere in the future: By the end of this pregnancy you may want to invite me on any overseas flight you are planning to take. I think I may be used as a floatation device. Ugh.


This morning: Just to make me feel better I am going to post the happiest picture I've seen in quite a while.

There. Just looking at that face makes me smile. Maybe life isn't so bad, after all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shhh...It's a Secret

Did you know that Disneyland has a secret? It's a little private restaurant called Club 33. You wouldn't even know it was there if you weren't looking for it. The only outside marker is a small 33 sign outside its door in New Orleans Square.

It was conceived as a private club for the 33 original investors in Disneyland, but as club members have died, their memberships have been sold or given to others.

We only found out about Club 33 when Thomas worked for a company in So. Cal. whose owner had purchased one of the memberships. Through his connection we were able to get in, and believe me it is mind blowing! Really. Gorgeous interior, amazing gourmet food--a real experience, I tell ya. (Here are some pictures I tried to take as discreetly as possible.)

When we went a month ago, we were able to get in again for lunch. After thoroughly enjoying their cold salad/fruit/and seafood buffet, the kids chose steak and chicken fingers off the kid's menu, Thomas enjoyed a delicious cordon bleu, and I dined on a thick New York steak, with mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and wilted spinach. After that how could we even think about the tempting array of delights from the dessert bar? Well, we managed.

Now as to how to get in without a connection? Sorry. That's the secret I don't know.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Favorite Recipe

The other day I taught a little cooking class, and this is one of the recipes I shared. It was a big hit, and many of the women have already tried it at home. Originally it came from Real Simple magazine, and though it sounds exotic, it is "real simple." While it's not actually a "risotto" it does a good impression, and planning ahead and cooking extra rice a couple of nights before makes this a quick and simple meal prep. Don't be intimidated by the chili paste and the coconut milk. You should be able to find them in the Asian section of your supermarket. Try it. It's Yummmy!

Chili Shrimp and Coconut Risotto
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if you don't have kosher, just use regular salt.)
2 tablespoons chili paste (Careful! I cut this waaaay back or it's too spicy for the kids. Start with a couple of teaspoons and adjust to taste.)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
4 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 cup bean sprouts
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Fresh basil leaved, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, and salt and cook until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp and set aside.
Add the chili paste and coconut milk to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, bean sprouts, scallion, lime juice, and shrimp and cook until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve garnished with basil leaves.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Mother Ever Wrote "Don't Worry Be Happy"

Despite all the happiness that motherhood can bring, worry can feel like a momma's full time job. Lately I have been worrying whether both of my kids are getting as much love and attention as they need.

My Logan is one of those kids that needs lots of validation and words of affirmation. She asks questions like, "What would you do without me? What if God hadn't sent me to you? How do I make you happy..." You get the idea. And because she asks, it's easy to wrap her up in words of love and affection, which is good because she needs it. Like air. And I can feel that it's making her strong.

But my Griffin would never, in a million years, think to ask questions like that. He's more interested in snuggling for a moment and then insisting that I watch him jump on one foot from one couch to another. "Mom! Mom! Watch me! Did you see that? Oh, wait. Watch again. I messed up. Look! Did you see me do that? Mom!..." That's the kind of attention he needs, but I've worried lately that I don't tell him enough what he means to me; so the other night when he wandered out of bed and found his way into my lap, I took the opportunity.

I rocked him for a few moments and then carried him back to bed. I leaned down close and stroked his hair. "Do you know how much mommy loves you, my prince? I love you with all my heart."

"I love you, too," came his sleepy reply.

"What would I do without you? You make my heart happy," I continued to whisper.

"Okay...can you go now?"

Wow! Just like that, he made all that worry seem nonsensical. Clearly his little ego is doing just fine!

But as I stifled a surprised giggle and stood to leave, I was reminded that being fair to my kids doesn't mean giving each of them the exact same thing, but giving each of them exactly what they need. My job is to be wise enough to know what that is. See? Now there is something else to worry about. Looks like I'm clocking back in.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Griffin Turns 5

When asked what kind of party he wanted, Griffin replied, "A pirate bowling party."


Well, here's his version:

First, purchase some pirate eye patches and earrings. Next, take a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds bowling.

Then go home and blow out candles on a spider/Halloween cake.

And finally, head out back and hit a Mexican pinata.

I'll admit: It made little sense.

But he loved every minute of it!