Monday, November 29, 2010

Life is Fragile

I have drafted a wonderful post about tradition, which I will post later this week.

On my mind tonight, however, is how fragile life is.  Two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a friend's husband.  They married in 2004 and adopted a little boy the same age as Jack, as well as are raising a 10 year old stepdaughter.  She had the life so many dream of...a husband, a young family.  Then, in a moment, at 40 years old, he died of a massive heart attack.  And her life changes forever. 

Today, we are mourning the loss of my brother's wife's dad.  He died unexpectedly this afternoon in a tragic accident.  He's 60, surely retirement was in his near future.  And while I didn't know him well, I know my brother and my sister-in-law.  And I know how close they are as a family.  And its impossible to not put myself in their situation and know the grief I would feel if I lost someone that close to me.  And my heart aches.

So, while I'm celebrating the holiday season, I'm also remembering those who have to deal with loss, now and in the past.  And in the midst of their celebrations, must feel tremendous vacancies for their loved ones.  If you are one of them, my prayers are with you.

Life is fragile, be kind.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sharing the Love: Rice Hotdish

This is a family favorite (also called chow mein casserole).  So good on a cold winter night and so super easy.  It has always been Matthew's favorite.  :)

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 can water
1/2 heaping c uncooked white rice
3/4 lb ground beef
onion and celery

Brown ground beef with onion and celery.

Mix beef with remaining ingredients.  Bake uncovered at 350 for an hour and 15 minutes.  Serve with chow mein noodles, if desired.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I am insanely grateful for so many blessings in my life.  I'll give you a Thanksgiving thankful list as they pop into my head.  :)

1.  My parents, my siblings, my inlaws.  My kids.  My co-mom.  My family.
2.  Cheese.
3.  Sleeping in.
4.  Jesus Christ.
5.  Kindergarten and preschool.  Teachers.
6.  Summer.
7.  New, renewed, and timeless relationships.
8.  Jen, and my childcare swap.
9.  My husbands' job.  The other firefighters.
10. Business.
11. Twitter and Facebook.
12. The Ellen Show.
13. Prime time television.
14. Couch to 5k.
15. Knowledgable doctors.
16. Peanut butter and chocolate.
18. Laughter.
19. The color green.
20. My good health.
21. Paying it forward.
22. Grace.
23. Omertà.
24. Solitude.
25. Love.
Edited to add an important 26. Employment.  Prayers for those of you looking for work.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  God bless you now and forever.

This and oh, that teenager...

Tonight, Cole was helping the babysitter take care of the boys so I could go to a funeral (another post for another day).

The bathroom was  a disaster (bad), but the kids were freshly bathed (good).

He let them play with the batcave in the bath (questionable), but he rinsed out the tub (good).

He didn't put the trainset back together like I requested (oy), but he did help them clean the toys in their room (yay!).

I got home at the rugrats' bedtime.  I was fighting with them to turn off Monsters Inc. and go brush their teeth.  Cole said, "Hey!  Want me to tell you guys a Thanksgiving story?"  He closed their door for about ten minutes, lest my audience distract him.  Then, when he opened the door and I heard Jack arguing that he was going to have a bad dream, and didn't want to go to bed.  I heard Cole say, "I'll give you something Poppa always used to give me so I wouldn't have bad dreams." 

He came out of the bedroom, got a bowl and re-entered their room.  He asked them both to lie still and close their eyes.  He then sprinkled fairy dust on them.  As he closed their door, he said, "Now, guys, if you dream about pumpkin pie, you'll taste it."

Oh, that teenager.  He's not perfect, but he's wonderful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elf on a Shelf

If you have small children and are looking to start a Christmas tradition, I strongly recommend this one.  This elf (named by your children, in our house his name is Fredison) comes to visit during the holiday season.  Every night, he goes back to Santa and reports the kids' behavior.  When he comes back, he assumes a new position in another room.  It's such a treat for the kids to wake up each day to see where he's landed for that day (although I've been surprised how creative I've had to be!).

I snuck him out of the box earlier today and put him in their room, and then put the box back in the Christmas bin he came in.  When Matty found it in the decorations, he was floored that Fredison had already magically positioned himself in their room.  They spend time talking to him, and heaven knows I need actual elf eyes to keep them in line!  Ha!  Take that, rugrats.

It comes with a book that we read when we take him out, so they remember the drill.  And we re-read it at the end of the Christmas season, when the elf goes back to spend the rest of the year with Santa.

It's a sweet, magical tradition that I'm so happy we discovered when our kids were still little.  I'm certain its one they'll remember all their lives!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sharing the Love: Scotcharoos

My mom made these when I was a kid.  All the time.  They're so easy and yummy.  If you've never made them, give 'em a whirl:


1 c sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1 c peanut butter
6 c rice krispies
1/2 bag chocolate chips
1/2 bag butterscotch chips

In medium saucepan, mix the corn syrup and sugar.  Over medium heat, heat to almost-boiling.  I always take it off the burner as soon as it boils around the edges and I'm sure the sugar has dissolved (if it heats to a full rolling boil, your bars will be hard as a rock.  Trust me.).  Mix in the peanut butter until smooth and creamy.

Pour the peanut butter mixture over the rice krispies (I always cut the cereal by 1/2 a cup because I like mine extra chewy).  Mix well.  Press into greased 9x13" pan. 

Melt chocolate and buttercotch chips in the microwave for 90 seconds (if they burn, it'll taste very bitter...check and stir every 30 seconds, as microwave speeds vary).  Pour over scotcharoos and allow to firm up before serving.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I have been given many gifts in my life.  None of them compares to the gift of friendship.  My life is so full of amazing relationships:

A friend willing to help me out at a moment's notice.  Without even asking for it.  Who doesn't take no for an answer, and I feel no guilt because I know she wants to.

A friend spending hours and hours and hours talking about life.  About stuff that matters, and stuff that doesn't. 

A friend so loyal it actually makes my heart hurt.

One who accepts my gifts without question, because she has to.

One who loves my children as much as she does her own.

One woman who gets me.  Who has the same world views and spirituality.  A gift beyond measure, to be understood.

A friend who shares.  Who allows me to share back. 

A group of friends, a safehouse, a hiding spot, where I never doubt that I am loved. 

One who does not judge me, but challenges me. 

Friends who allow me to help them buy or sell a home. It's my business, but it's your life.

A friend who reaches out.  One who I thought was disinterested.  And yet, we add value to each others' lives by being there.

A friend who thinks of me.  Without strings or expectations, simply because she cares.

One who makes me laugh until I cannot catch my breath.

One who admires me, even if there is nothing admirable in my character.  Who respects me, who believes in me.

I could not make it without you.  If you found yourself in there, then I am grateful for you.  Thank you for being kind to me, my friend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Teenager and His Mom

A couple months ago, my stepson's mom (my co-mom), Kelly, told me that she and her boyfriend had put in an offer on a home 45 minutes away.  She was concerned about my reaction, and I think I surprised her when I was immediately supportive.  Cole had already mentioned it, so the surprise factor was missing for one thing.  (And when he told me, I cried.  So I had already crossed that off the list.)

Kelly is a wonderful mom and a really good friend.  She's always been so supportive of me and I would not have been able to be a successful stepmom to Cole without her kindness and support.  She always backs me up.  Always.  And we're a strong united parenting force, and for the rest of my life I will be so grateful for our relatively uncomplicated blended family.  (Disclaimer: No relationship is perfect, and ours is no exception.  But it's really good.)

When I thought about Cole moving away (except for the eight months we were in Iowa, we've never lived more than four miles apart), I was so sad.  The boys will miss him so much.  I will miss him so much.  He's such a wonderful person.  The past year of his life have been amazing.  He's grown into a person I can have regular conversations with.  He's helpful and kind, and calm.  We talk things through and he shares his life with me.  I adore him.

Kelly has spent the past ten years or so raising Cole in a small house in a nearby town.  She has worked hard to make sure his needs were always met.  Now that she's expecting her second baby with her boyfriend, they have definitely outgrown her little house.  And when I think of how supportive she's always been of our life changes (the job in Iowa, our new homes, jobs, etc.), I knew I couldn't withhold my support now. She's going to have a big house with plenty of space for all of them.  And she deserves that. 

Cole is really excited about the move.  And I'm sort of grooving the idea of him going to a smaller high school.  I never missed living in a small town until I had kids of my own.  There is something amazing about growing up knowing all of your classmates.  I will miss that for the rugrats. 

Our visition will naturally change. But when I think of his age (and the fact that he'll be a freshman in high school (high school!  how did that happen already?!), I realize that visitation will probably happen in the  next couple years anyway.  And now that he's older, and presumably well-adjusted, and understands his important role in our family, I think it'll be okay.  We'll hog him on holidays and in the summer, and whatever other time we can steal away.  He knows how much we love him and how much we need him in our lives.  The timing is better than if he were eight or nine.

At the end of the day, it's not perfect, but it's okay.  When I weighed the pros and cons, I realized that it will suit all of us better to be supportive of Kelly and her new opportunity.  I really am so happy for them.  And while I'll miss seeing The Teenager as much, I can't begrudge anyone this change.

Over and over I am grateful that my life gave me all this.  That Kelly has been so kind and loving and more than anything, so supportive of my role as Cole's stepmom.  I wish them God's blessings in their new home as they settle in later this year and wish them nothing but happiness.  I'm willing to shelve my selfish feelings and our time with Cole for their growing family.  Because many times over, she's done that for me.  I am SO blessed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Photo

The teenager, the fivester, the threester and a stick.  Oh, how I love my boys.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

These Boys

They make me smile.
They make me nuts.
Their innocence humbles me.
They ask me hard questions.
They give me easy answers.
They see things I don't see.
They trust me.
They have so much to learn.
They are good friends that fight alot.
They are my Purpose.
I love them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The President

A note from my sweet overseas friend:

"Hi Leanne

So, elections-time again - go tell your friends to be proud of the President! He had REALLY hard odds, and people might be disappointed (the media tell me the Americans are disappointed), but I am convinced that no other person in that chair would have been able to do as good a job as Obama. With any other president everything would have been much worse.

That's all, happy elections :-)"

Boy, I love her.  And the president.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reading Update

It dawns on me that I haven't shared my reading list with you recently!  These are the books I read the past two months:

Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Liked it.  I thought the first half was better than the second, but it's definitely thought-provoking and reminds us that there has been/is much suffering in the world.

Spellmans Strike Again, Lisa Lutz
Loved all four books in this series!

The Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Loved all three books in this series!

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Good, not great.  I found myself skimming it, and it was pretty sad.
Comanche Moon, Larry McMurty
I love all of his books, although nothing will ever top Lonesome Dove.
Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver
I'm having a love affair with this author.  She's amazing.
Books on reserve at the library:
Ape House, Sara Gruen
Choosing to See, Mary Beth Chapman
Dirty Sexy Politics, Meghan McCain
(this woman intrigues strong gay woman with a powerful father, both of whom are Republicans.  I'd like to get inside her head for a moment and find out why she supports a political party that )
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
The Good Daughters, Joyce Maynard
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
At home I have:
Streets of Laredo, Larry McMurty
I, Elizabeth, Rosalind Miles (love me some good historical fiction!)
How about you?  Read anything good lately?  I love recommendations!