Saturday, December 22, 2012

She loves them...

...and they love her.

Before I had Clara, I knew it was going to be great for the boys to have a sister.  But I could not have guessed how it was going fill my heart to bursting.  How gloriously joyous I would feel watching them with her. 

Every day when Matthew gets home from school, he asks me what Clara and I did that day so he can talk to her about it.  "Oh!  You went to Target, baby?!  Was that fun?"  And when Jack is here with her in the afternoons, I put her in her Bumbo on the table, where he sits and colors or does crafts.  And he talks to her the whole time. "Do you like this color, Clay-a?" and he'll sing to her and talk to her and hold his art projects up for her approval.  And she just sits and watches, content.  I've come to refer to them as "your Matthew" and "your Jack." 

And she never lets them out of her sight.  If they're in the room, she's checking them out.  Sometimes I have to stop Jack and say, "Clara is looking at you; say hi to her."  She looks at them with such adoration, I almost can't take the fullness in my heart.

And her papa.  Good grief, she loves that guy.  Same thing. She adores him.  And he adores her.  Sometimes I will go on search for them, and find them laying on the bed in our room, talking.  Or I'll find her on his lap when he's watching TV or playing video games. 

How lucky is my little girl?  How lucky am I?

When I think back to all the apprehension I felt a year ago when I was first expecting her, I am sorry I wasted a minute worrying.  It reminds me to be patient, and to trust.  Because everything happens for a reason, at exactly the right time.  The love for this baby is absolute proof.  My cup runneth over. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sharing the Love: Butter Croissant Rolls

Cory says I'm the only one he knows who bakes their own dinner rolls.  Truth be told, I'm a bit of a bread snob.  I love homemade bread.  I got spoiled by my mom growing up.  And in the day of the breadmaker, it's just so easy!

This is my sister Amy's recipe.  I can never get them consistent in size, but that's part of their charm, I think.  The thing about homemade bread is because there are no kind of preservatives, it's really best the same day.  But if you wait until they reach room temperature and then freeze them, they'll taste fresh whenever you pull them out of your freezer!  Make these for your holiday dinner; you won't regret it.

7 oz warm milk
1 egg, room temperature
4 T room-temperature butter
2 3/4 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 T sugar
2 tsp yeast.

Put ingredients in your breadmaker according to its directions.  Run on dough cycle. When it's finished, roll into a 12 inch circle on a floured surface.  Cut with pizza cutter into triangles.  Amy does 12; I do 20.  (I cut it into quarters and then cut five slices out of each section).  Roll up wide edge to point.  Place point-down on a greased cookie sheet (I just line with parchment instead).  For Amy's size, bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  I've found that my size is perfect at 325 for 20 minutes.  Brush with melted butter.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sharing the Love: Focaccia Breadsticks

A couple people have asked for this recipe.  Perfect weather for soup and warm breadsticks!

Foccacia Breadsticks
9 oz warm water
3 T olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
3 c flour
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
Garlic salt
Parmesan cheese

Add all ingredients according to your breadmaker instructions. Run on dough cycle. Lay flat on greased cookie sheet. Top with a little olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt (and rosemary and/or parmesan cheese if you have it!). Cut into narrow strips with a cookie cutter. Bake at 400 for 20 - 25 minutes. Break apart and enjoy with soup!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Cookies

I'm gearing up for my holiday baking!  I'm one of those people who only makes her favorites.  I almost never try anything new because there is something comforting about tradition.  Plus, why waste the calories on anything you aren't absolutely certain you're going to love?!

I make:

Peanut Butter Temptations
Peanut Butter Bark
Chocolate-dipped pretzels
Nut Goody Bars
Ginger Crinkles

What do you make every year?  Your go-to?  Share the recipe...and happy baking!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful 2012

I'm hosting my family, so the next few days are going to be a little crazy.  But lest you think me ungrateful, I will post this now.  Here are the things I am most grateful for this year.

the captain.
the rugrats.
a respectful teenager.
knee-high boots.
my health.
my childrens' health.
jax teller.
winning bets.  (you know who you are.)
this side of pregnancy.
yoga pants.
dr. brown.
a recovering real estate market.
progressive talk radio.
daily manna.
my mom.

Wishing all of you a happy holiday and blessings as you celebrate your own gratitude.  God be with you!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The other night, I laid my head on my pillow with my gorgeous and loving husband next to me.  I thought of my teenager sleeping downstairs, rapidly outgrowing the twin bed he's always slept on.  I imagined my two rugrats sounds asleep on their bunks.  And my sweet baby girl, across the hall, taking sweet little baby breaths all swaddled up and warm.  And I thought that if I had no other possessions in all my world, but these -- this roof over our heads, and this safe place to be together, it would be enough.  Lord, let me always determine my value by these gifts alone.

Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Discussing the Discussion

This weekend, a couple of my sisters and I had a short conversation about the Voter ID Amendment on the ballot in Minnesota.  Instantly, we were silenced by my brothers.  "I make a motion to not discuss politics!"  And someone seconded it, so I shut up.  But I'm not going to lie, I didn't do so happily.  I stewed about it for awhile, and I'm still kind of mad.

It's often said that we shouldn't discuss politics and religion.  I often say that those two subjects might be the most important subjects of all (in addition, I think a world without them is boring.  It's when I've been most deeply challenged that I've learned the most.).  And I'm sure there are situations where it's not appropriate, but among a couple sisters, who want to discuss it, five days before a national election?  Yeah.  That's appropriate.

I admit that I took their muzzling personally.  How can I not?  Out of this family of eleven, I am the only one who is political.  I am most certainly the only Democrat.  And frankly, it's not easy. One brother actually said he didn't want to stand by "the Democrat" in our family picture.  A joke?  Not funny.  Sometimes I wonder how it could be, that I'm the only one among 20 adults with these worldviews.  I genuinely think that I'm respectful when I talk about the things I care about.  Are you really so offended if I share my perspective?  Or do you just find it boring?  What do you think is going to happen if we spend half an hour talking about politics?  I think we might just have an interesting conversation.

In my house, we will discuss politics.  We might not agree, and we might have passionate debates.  But we're going to be informed, and we're going to be involved.  We're going to talk -- nothing will be offlimits.  I want my kids to not only understand the issues, but understand how to make their point, and how to discuss the merits of their argument.  Intelligent people can disagree. And they can have a conversation that includes current events, and politics, and religion.  Because at the end of the day, those are the things that matter most -- our convictions and our beliefs.  In my house, I will not be silenced, nor will anyone who wants to talk.  Come on over.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis

In this election season, and in all the turmoil of this world, this prayer has been coming to me over and over.  So over and over I repeat it and remind myself what things are most important.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Separation of Church and State

In an online conversation a few months ago, when she felt like she had me against the wall she laid a trap: "Don't you want a Christian president?!"

I've been mulling that over.  And I can't decide if you will attack me for this position or not.  Maybe you know me well enough by now.  The good thing?  I know myself well enough.  I feel really comfortable with the hard questions, and after a lot of deliberation, this one is no different. 

Do I want a Christian president?

Meh.  Not important, really.  Look.  The past 44 presidents have been Christians (I think?).  In our history, we've had plenty of presidential scandal, right?  Wars that were based on greed.  Marital infidelity.  Stealing land and natural resources from people just because we could.  Because they had something -- land, resources, that we wanted.  Authorization to occupy countries to protect "our" investment in oil, and diamonds, and other valuable resources.  We've had presidents who were married, and single, and divorced.

Here's the thing -- while I am a very proud follower of Jesus' teachings, I don't think that Christians have a monopoly on morality.  The longer I live and the more people I meet, the more I realize that we're all basically the same.  We're mostly inherently good.  My friend Beth, an atheist, is one of the most generous and accepting people I know.  I have friends who are Jewish, and Muslim, and Buddhist.  I have friends of many sects of Christianity.  And mostly, they're good.  And the ones that aren't as kind, well, some of those folks are Christians too.

I want the president to be honest.  And kind.  And care more for The People than him or herself.  I want the president to place value in hard work and education and caring for the less fortunate.  I want him or her to place less importance on a dollar, and more importance on humanity.  I want the president to love peace, and reject evil.  And choose diplomacy first. 

And wherever they draw their sense of right and wrong from, I pray that they are wise and good.  That's what's important to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


She'll be two months tomorrow, the little-girl-I-always-wanted.  Be still, my heart.

What Matters Most

I used to be single.  I used to be bored, and wonder if I was going to have a family of my own.  And then, suddenly, I woke up and I have all these crazy little loves in my life.  And luck and good fortune and blessings hardly begin to describe it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Political Party

It's a Political Party up in here.  Hang out, or don't.  I have a lot to say in the next few weeks.  Not to change your vote, necessarily, but to share with you some of my thoughts/feelings/concerns, and to record what's going on in political history so I can look back and see how things changed throughout my lifetime.  My blog, my geeky rules.  My football season.  God bless America.

Money in Politics

If you ask me what the biggest problem in our political system is (and there are many, of course), I would tell you that there is too much money.  Too much money in the election process and too much money in the legislative process.  Special interest groups spend a ridiculous amount of money to lobby Congress to get their bills passed, or our bills shut down.  Corporations spend money on politicians' campaigns and then, in turn, those politicians pass the kind of legislation promoted by said corporation or special interest group.  And then, in another kind turn, that company hires the politician after their time in office and gives them a great salary and wonderful benefits package.  Win/win/win.  For everyone but you and me.

There is a lot of focus on voter suppression (voter ID) this election season.  I've yet to see a report where election fraud is an actual problem.  Someone told me that there was a gentleman who got caught voting four times.  Let me say this:  1.  He got caught.  2.  Four misvotes does not a national crisis make.  We have actual issues to solve; this is a complete waste of our energy.

Do you know that our electronic voting machines are corporately-owned?  Right. They're not even owned by us, the taxpaying citizen.  Tonight, I saw a story that alleges Tagg Romney (Mitt's son) is part investor in a company that owns a block of voting machines in swing states.  Fishy?  You tell me. 

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm not making this up (and don't automatically assume I'm wrong because I'm a liberal.  I have many conservative/libertarian friends who understand this issue well and who absolutely agree with me).  We don't even own our own voting machines.  Because that wouldn't turn a profit...heaven forbid. 

This past year, the United States Supreme Court basically said that the government cannot limit the spending by special interest groups in the election process (Citizens United).  Brilliant.  Money buys advertising, and advertising works.  We're very gullible people, programmed to believe what we see and hear at face value, partly because we're lazy, partly because we're fearful of the truth, and frankly, partly because we have access to so much's simply too hard to wade through.

I believe in a democracy as it was intended.  I want my voice to be equal to the voice of each and every American citizen.  I want to discuss the merits of a particular piece of legislation without worrying that it's being purchased and paid for by someone who has no interest in the welfare of America, but in the welfare of the almighty profit.  Once again, it's my humble and very resolute opinion that the bottom line is not the only way to measure success.

If you are even the slightest bit intrigued by my position on this (even if you think I'm blowing smoke), I suggest you look into it.  At the risk of being an alarmist, I'll say this:  The only way we're going to change what's happening here is by getting involved. And we need to do it now, before it's too late.  Let not our democracy be for sale.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Social Services

Among the discussions I have with my other political friends (and those who aren't), frequently the conversation steers to social services.  And recently, I think I actually lost a friend who disagrees with me (man, I hope that's not true).  But there are some things that don't have a "right" or "wrong" answer, just different philosophies.  Allow me to share mine.

I realize that our experiences largely shape our political opinions.  So it's no surprise that my friend, whose mom has repeatedly "abused" the system by taking everything the government was willing to give her, has the opinion that "welfare" is a system we cannot afford, and should do away with.

My experiences are with people who, by almost no fault of their own, do not have access to healthcare or income, or have served their country and are dealing with some kind of disability.  Do I know people who take advantage of "the system?"  Sure.  But they are less in number than those I know who legitimately need the help of the government.  Some examples:

A man who worked his whole life by the rules, paid income, property, and sales tax.  Now is sick and cannot work.

A woman whose husband works three part-time jobs, none of which offers health insurance to their employees.  One of her children has chronic illness and needs care.

A man who has lost his job because of outsourcing, and his children are hungry more often than they're not.

My philosophy is this:  A government should have a vested interest in the welfare of its citizens.  A nation of educated and healthy children will be stronger and more prosperous. 

The argument is that we can't afford it.  My question:  Can we afford not to?

The argument is that we won't help people by giving handouts.  My argument is that its hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you haven't boots to begin with.

The argument is that its not the government's job to take care of people.  My question: Then whose?  (Please do not say The Church.  Or The Community.  If those were effective, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.)

I learned recently that Michigan has a great program for kids who are uninsured or underinsured.  You can purchase a plan through the State for a nominal fee that covers treatments that your normal plan might not.  People can take advantage of this plan so that their kids get the medications and treatments they need to be well, and takes so much stress of families who are dealing the stress of having a sick kid.  Brilliant.  This, my friends, is what is basically a public option, and something I have long supported as a federal solution to a very serious health insurance industry issue.  How great would it be if my little friend Kendall's parents didn't have to struggle and fight with their insurance company for a medication that Kendall needed to be healthy.  See that story here.  How wonderful it would be if families didn't have to go bankrupt just because they were given a child with chronic illness?  I wish we all had that option.

There is no right or wrong here, just philosophical differences.  And watching people suffer brings me so much sadness, that I feel compelled to share mine with you.  We can care for our people.  We must.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ill Equipped

Okay, so know what?  I realized recently that I do not have the necessary requirements to parent a teenager.  Seriously.  Who decided I am qualified to do this?

Last week, one day after school, Cole called to see if he could go to Caribou with some friends.  My first reaction was, "I don't know!  Why are you asking me?"  After brief internal deliberation, I told him he could go, but be home in an hour.  Then I called my mom and said, "Can my teenager go to Caribou after school?"  And she said, "Oh, I suppose.  For a little bit."  And then I was super relieved that I said the right thing.

I mean seriously.  When you're parenting a teenager, you need to think about things like:

Who are his friends?  Are they nice?  Do they drink coffee drinks nicely and study together or do they run around the coffee shop like idiots?  Is it okay to drop in and check on them?

Who are their friends parents?  Do they let their kids go to Caribou after school?

What happens if he goes out after school?  Will he get his homework done?  Is he with who he says he is?  Is he where he says he is?  Is it okay to buy spy gear to ensure I have necessary intelligence to make good decisions?  Do I trust him?  How will I know if I can't trust him? 

Truthfully, I do trust him.  I think he's an incredibly grounded young man.  I think he will make good decisions.  I think he will choose good friends.  I think he will be a Democrat.  (What??)  I think he will be a really good human being and we will survive these years.

But I also think that for good measure, I'll make sure to have a pair of night vision goggles and maybe a lie detector kit on hand.  And my mom on speed dial.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adding a Fourth

Yesterday, when I was talking to a couple different friends, I realized something.  One of them said I'm making parenting four children look easy.  And I don't know if I've portrayed this experience well.  The challenge isn't in parenting each child, but in bringing each component into the whole picture.  The challenge is how differently I have to parent each child.

The rugrats are easy.  They need basic logistical care, but not constant detail.  Homework, feeding, cleaning, clothing, laundry.  Stuff I mostly understand.  And their needs are pretty simple, and the complications easy to solve.

Then I have a teenager.  And he's a good kid, but I'm done with logistics, mostly.  If I never cooked for him again, he wouldn't starve.  He does most of his own laundry.  I have no idea if his room is clean because I've stopped going in there.  Heh.  But I'm not done parenting him yet!  This period is Life Skills. And it's not easy, but it's WAY important.  Does he know how to treat a girl?  Does he know how to use a checkcard?  Can he apply for and maintain a job? Can he safely drive a car?  Is he ready to be on his own in two short years??  It's easy to give him the least attention right now because he can survive without me.  But I am constantly reminding myself how important these next couple years are in skills he'll desperately need when he leaves our nest.

Now throw a newborn in the mix, I double dog dare you.  Everyone knows the attention and time a newborn eats up. 

So am I busy?  YEP.  Am I tired?  Absolutely.  But I'm so doggone happy and feel so fulfilled.  Some days I'm going to chase my tail all day and hope I don't make anything worse.  But most days, I'm going to make a difference.  I'm going to continue to give these kids the tools they need to be successful adults.  And, I hope, I'm going to squeeze in a nap. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Maternity Leave

I've had myself a few crying jags today.

We've had the captain home for 17 days.  17 great days.  Tomorrow, he starts back at work after "maternity leave."  I'm going to miss him so much.

This guy, he never misses a beat.  Not only does he just step in and do what is necessary around here, but he does it without complaining.  He never makes me feel bad or guilty for all the extra stuff he has to do -- the laundry, cooking, the cleaning, the boys' baths/bedtime/general entertainment.

I feel a little panicky to be without him.  Am I ready to take care of four kids alone?  Will I get to Mass on time and keep everyone together?  Will the lack of sleep make me crazy?  Will I maintain enough patience for the rugrats? 

I know.  Suck it up. Other moms do it.  But I've been spoiled.  And I'm reminded to be thankful for the other (better) half of my team. I love you, Cory.  Couldn't do this without you.  Hurry home.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Clara Beff

Upon meeting her for the first time, I said, "Jack, say "hi" to Clara!" 

Jack:  I'm not going to call her that.

Me:  No?  What are you going to call her?
Jack:  Clara Beff.

Well, of course he is.  His brother is "Maffew" after all.


Saturday, August 25, 2012


Our babygirl is safely here.  We are smitten.  We're just home today and there will be much to share in the coming days, but in the interest in keeping a timely announcement in this place, I wanted to post at least a couple photos.

Clara Beth
9 lb 13 oz
21 perfect inches long
(she feels tiny, by the way. don't let her birth size fool you.)

We have much to learn about her, but so far I can tell you that she's sweet and snuggly and spirited.  Thankfully, she is very easy to calm because she will not hesitate to tell you how she's feeling.  I feel calm and prepared and am insanely thankful to God above who gave her to us.  We're happy to be home and starting the rest of our lives with Clara.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Babygirl: Pre-Delivery

I am now two days away from delivering my baby girl into this world.  It's a crazy, emotional place to be after a crazy and emotional process.  I was telling Cory last night that as real as she is to me -- I can feel her limbs! -- its still all surreal somehow. 

Her life hasn't begun.  She hasn't seen me; and I haven't seen her, as well as we know each other.  She hasn't taken a single breath of air, even though she's practicing like crazy in utero.  She's squirmy and squished, but doesn't know happiness or otherwise.  But in that moment, when they hand her to us, when she breathes, or cries, or wails...that's the moment I most look forward to.  In that second, it's all worth it.  The angels hand her over with their best wishes for a lifetime of love and family.  It's all pretty spectacular.

I won't miss these numb hands.  I won't miss my swollen feet.  I won't miss the heartburn, and the fatigue, and the lack of patience.  I will love to have my body back to myself, sleep on my stomach and walk without waddling. 

I am thankful for my friend Jill, who has lovingly supplied me with this product.  I have taken almost daily baths in these soaking salts the entire pregnancy. 

I am thankful for the captain, who has lovingly massaged my tired legs and my low back.  Who is an amazing father, and an even better husband.  For all the times he cleaned up so I didn't have to and took care of the rugrats and gave me a break.  Nothing would be as good without wonderfully (and undeservedly) blessed I've been.

So now, 48 hours before her birth, I count my blessings.  And ask for your love and prayers as I take a step into the next chapter of my life's journey. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Election 2012: Paul Ryan

Is the only way to measure success the bottom line?

You will never hear me say that the budget doesn't matter.  That we don't have to be careful in our spending.  That we can keep increasing debt with no consequence.  I do not idealogically believe that.

But a nation cannot be run like a corporation.  We don't measure success only by whether or not we have debt.  What good is a balanced budget if are sick?  If our children are not properly educated?  If our streets and infrastructure is in serious disrepair?  What good is a balanced military budget if our soldiers are not cared for when they get home?  How will we continue to recruit men and women to serve us?  How will we compete globally with children who cannot get a world-class education? 

The Tea Party movement in this country is led on the idea that government spending is out of control, and I'm not going to outright disagree.  But we have to be careful where we make cuts.

This past spring, Paul Ryan proposed a dramatic budget plan which he calls the Plan to Prosperity.  It balances the 2040.  It includes very dramatic cuts to many social programs, including Medicare.  It suggests that we should eliminate or drastically reduce funding for federal programs like pell grants, the department of education, veterans benefits, the FDA, FAA, and FBI.  I wonder if people can imagine what our world without those would look like?  Or is the hesitation just me?

Additionally, the Ryan Budget proposes eliminating Medicare and giving seniors a voucher to purchase private insurance.  I cannot imagine the nightmare of this situation.  We must care for our elderly, especially since they've been contributing to this program for all of their working life.

Luckily for the wealthy, the Path to Prosperity continues to provide large tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  So that's good.  *eyeroll*

So, as we enter this election season officially, I encourage you to really get to know Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan will stand out because BELIEVES in his plan, and there is something to be said for conviction.  (Romney, on the other hand, has little.  He has had many positions on many issues over the years and will happily point you to some of them if you're interested.)

For Shannon.  Man, he's hot.

So I'll happily discuss whether or not he's handsome.  What kind of hair product he uses, or if there are shirtless photos of him somewhere on the world wide web.  But I'll also ask you understand his positions.  There is alot at stake here, and we're all smart enough to know that substance matters.  And that the bottom line really might not be the only way to measure success.

Oh.  And a gift for you:  the link to the Ryan budget.  Enjoy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Early in my pregnancy, I saw an acupuncturist.  There was a meditation CD she had me listen to and in it, the narrator was describing how this baby was coming at the exact moment she was meant to.  And reminded me to remember every woman who came before who made way for her.  She said that my ancestors past whispered her name through the ages and already knew her.  It was a really powerful moment for me, and I believe it to be true.

I am 32 weeks along now.  My baby's c-section is scheduled for 39 weeks -- August 22.  So, if you can't do the math, that's seven short weeks from now.  But you mommas know that those seven weeks aren't so short, are they?  I'm back to napping daily, and I'm reminded that you finish this journey much like you start it.  It's a lot of work growing a baby.

But I am wildly greatful for this experience. When I was pregnant with Matthew, everything was so foreign.  He was my first, and everything seemed strange and unexpected.  Then with Jack, I was so sick.  For nine months.  I couldn't wait until my delivery date from the day I got pregnant.  But this time...this time, I've just been enjoying everything.  From week 14, when I started feeling better until now, I've loved this experience.  I am carrying her well.  My back hardly hurts.  Her kicks make me laugh, or tear up.  I am anxious to hold her in my arms, but not so anxious to give up my freedoms and my summer with the boys.  She can wait until term.

But like I said, I feel things starting to change.  She's measuring a couple weeks bigger than she should be, and I'm feeling that.  Her kicks are less pleasant.  My fuse is shorter (my apologies to the captain and my kids).  I still love it, and I know this is by design.  The last stretch is horrible so that women will do anything to get that baby out.  (I think we should campaign for a 36 week gestation!)  My goal was to share with you my joy before it turns to anything else.

My mom will tell me that she won't come until her birthday.  And she's right.  Because that's the perfect time...for all of us.  And when her time in utero is a distant memory, I will hold her in my arms and be grateful for the process...the time we've had, just the two of us.  And I will watch her carve her place in our lives and in our world and again thank God for the paths that led her to me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Water

I'm so far behind! I didn't even realize we were on Water when I took this photo this morning.

Filling my kids pool on our first 80+ degree day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Texture

May Photo Challenge - Sunflare

I'm digging back into my archives for this one.  These are my favorite sunflare photos of all.  My favorites are from vacation, which is no surprise because I have all that time to photograph so many things...I should have done this challenge in June!

May Photo Challenge: Beauty

I really wanted to photograph my mom for this topic, but that wasn't possible, unfortunately.  This is my neice, and I think she's beautiful.  I love the light in this photograph.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Decade, A Lifetime

Ten years ago, on Mother's Day (which was May 12 in 2002), I met the captain for the first time.

I was waitressing at Doolittles in Plymouth; working a double shift that day and it was so busy!  Cory and his family came in for dinner.  Because his mom and I worked together at Polaris back then, I paid a little more attention to the table than I might have.  I remember that we were serving champagne and strawberries to the moms.

The very first thing my love ever said to me was, "I'll have a Captain Coke."  It was meant to be.  ;)

As I recall it, Cory left before the rest of his family.  I didn't think about it much until a couple days later when a mutual friend at work told me his mom was going to call and bug me for some info.  She did.  I remember she asked if I was single and I told her to give Cory my number; I'd do anything once.  I do not remember the date of our first date, but we went to dinner at Sunsets and then hung out at a beach near my house. 

I liked him right away, but if I'm being fair, my love life was pretty complicated then.  I was healing from a difficult long relationship I had only been out of for a couple months, and I had met a guy in New York that I planned on seeing in the beginning of June, when I went there for a motorcycle rally.  Cory told me to call him when I was in New York, but I told him not to be surprised if I didn't.  He was sure he'd never hear from me again.  He was wrong.

I went to New York, and the other guy never showed up.  Providence.  When I got home, it was a Sunday.  I called Cory's home phone and left a message.  He called me from his parents that afternoon, not knowing that I had called him first.  We must have made a decision to meet again.  Things moved pretty quickly from there:  I went with him for a fire department interview in Sioux Falls, SD in the beginning of July.  By the end of that month, we know it was a solid relationship, and were madly in love.

 We got engaged that December, and married the following May, one year from the first time we met.  We had both been in unsustainable relationships and we knew that this one was.  At the time we met, Cory was applying for full-time fire jobs all over the midwest.  He swears he knew he loved me when we were talking about the possibility of him getting a job elsewhere and I said, "I'm mobile." 

I knew I loved him early on.  He has always been so incredibly stable, and strong, and patient with me.  In the beginning, I was still healing from my past, and I had some wounds that he had to wait out.  And he never made me feel bad about it.  He was ten times the man I had always wanted, effortlessly. 

I have a thousand wonderful memories of this past decade.  He has supported me through three pregnancies, and my journey as a step-mom and a mother.  He supports me as a working mom.  And maybe most importantly and endearingly, he supports me as a woman.  He repects my ideals and my expression of them, and encourages me to be who I am.

So on this Mother's Day, a decade later, I want to thank the captain.  For giving me the chance to be a mom and for being my partner. I couldn't do it without him and I am forever grateful for that moment he ordered a drink from me.   Here's to many more, Cory.  I love you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Bold

You don't have to agree with his statements, but you have to agree that standing up for your convictions, even if it might cost you politically, and even if you know others are going to hate you for it, is BOLD.  

May Photo Challenge: What Makes Me Smile

Oh, boy. Everything. 

The garden centers that are open and full of flowers. 
My children. 
My job. 
The promise of a better tomorrow. 

The return of Jack's fauxhawk.

A husband who takes care of me.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Photo Challenge: All Alone

Wow.  I struggled with this one.  I don't see things in the world as alone. Almost everything is in unison and working together.  I see many trees, flowers.  I see many pinecones under a tree.  I see my kids playing together.  I thought of the people I could photograph that maybe feel all alone.  And then I said a prayer for them, that they feel less, and chose to not ask them to prepare for a photography session.

But then, at the end of my day, I enjoyed this.  And the teenager came upstairs and said, "Ooh!  Ice cream!  Can I have some?"  And I said, "Sure.  Anything you can find in the freezer," as I held my half gallon closer.  The salted caramel I am going to enjoy all alone.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Silhouette

This one is from 2009:

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Reflection

I'm reading Game of Thrones by RR Martin.  Worth every moment!

May Photo Challenge: Soft

Evening Light after Rain

A Snuggle with Papa

A Baby's Blanket

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Street

This is my favorite street to drive up in the spring.  It's near me, so I do it almost daily.  So pretty with the maples coming in purple.

And this is my street.  We didn't choose this house, we chose this lot.  A third of an acre on the back of a cul-de-sac.  We back up to a couple acres of city park.  There are things I'd change about my house, but I wouldn't change this lot.  Or my neighbors.  But I wouldn't be mad if someone moved in with a seven-year-old boy for Matthew to play with...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Movement

Not gonna lie, I thought this was a hard one. 

I tried to capture a spinning quarter:

And a globe:

But I most love these movement photos I took last year in California:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Photo Challenge: Bokeh

These photos are my interpretation of Bokeh.  And also a celebration of my very favorite day of the year...May Day.  Nothing is filled with hope like the first day of May.  May is the month of rebirth...when everything comes back to life after winter...turns green and colorful.  I chose to get married this month for that very reason.  Happy May Day, my friends.

A passerby asked me, as I was taking these: 
"How does it look up close?" as I was standing in the tree. 
I replied, "As beautiful as it does from there!"

Friday, April 27, 2012

Politics 2012

Just to get you prepared, here are some things I care about politically right now.

1.  Mitt Romney
2.  Women's health care
3.  Supreme Court's review of the Affordable Health Care Act
4.  Paul Ryan's Budget
5.  The Walker Recall
6.  Saving the United States Postal Service

Here are some things I could not care less about:

1.  Ann Romney (unless she has a specific public policy opinion)
2.  The proposed Vikings stadium (except that it's taking up too much time/energy in the legislature)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Heaven help us, May is going to be a big month around here. 

1.  I'm going to participate in a photography challenge.

2.  I'm going to start talking about the 2012 presidential race.  It's just over six months until November 6.  Also, it appears the Republicans have a nominee.  I'm going to share some of my opinions.  It's been a long four years since we did this last and I am psyched.  This is my football season, y'all.  I wish there were Presidential Picks.  I feel like gambling.  Heh.

Both of those are going to be good reasons to stick around Bits and Pieces.  Please don't leave.  And please leave your name if you comment.  Remember last time...?  Oooh.  Get ready.

Here are the photography challenge categories.  Play with me!

1.  Bokeh
2. Movement
3. Strangers
4. Street
5. Soft
6. Reflection
7. My Shadow
8. Silhouette
9. All Alone
10. What Makes Me Smile
11. Bold
12. Emotion
14. Sunflare
15. Texture
16. Rule of Thirds
17. Hands
18. Water
19. Sign
20. Inequality
21. Contrast
22. Diptych or Triptych
23. Mother Nature
24. Simplicity
25. Weathered
26. After Dark
27. Shallow Depth of Field
28. Strange
29. Vintage
30. Broken
31. Trust

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goo Sale

It took Jack about an hour and a half this afternoon to think of the idea and implement this sale.  I know it doesn't look like it, but there were a lot of experiments to make his product.  He wanted to yell for the neighbors to come to his sale, but I advised him to wait until his brothers got home to ask them if they wanted to come to his sale. Unfortunately, they weren't interested in touching his Purple Goo for $1.00.  So I did.  Matthew said, "JACK!  It's not worth a dollar.  It's probably only worth 25 cents!"

A couple pencils, a stick, and a lot of tape.

Even a towel to wipe your fingers after you touch the Goo. 
Customer service at its finest.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


When the captain and I were on our second date, we were talking about things we want for our future.  He said, "I'd like more children one day."  I responded, "Me too.  I'd like six."  He gave me a surprised, "Six?" but he proposed anyway.  Ha.  Sucker.  I'm happy to say that we're well on our way, expecting our fourth in August.  And after three boys, we were really pleased to find out that this one is a girl.  Pleased?  Shocked.  Amazed.  It seems that I am the only one among my friends and family who was surprised, though.  They claim premonition, I claim they just wanted this for me as much as I did.  All of my feelings about having a daughter seem inadequate in words.  The feelings are much different than I can express, I'm sure, but I'll try.  I'm going to start at the beginning.

Pregnant Belly.  21 weeks.

Last December, when I took that pregnancy test, I started crying.  And if I'm being honest, they weren't exactly happy tears.  But they weren't sad tears either.  I think I was mostly scared.  Scared of the first trimester.  Scared of delivery.  Scared of starting over (Jack will be a kindergartener in the fall!).  And some of it was valid.  I spent six weeks in bed from the sixth week on.  It was pretty gross, as I knew it would be.  But I got through it. 

Once I was through that trimester, I could not wait to find out the gender of this baby.  The minute I told them I was expecting, my boys (all three of them) all said, "Oh!  I hope it's a sister!"  Whoa.  That's some pressure.  I assured them that is was the perfect baby for our family, and that God already chose if it was a boy or a girl.  Still, they pestered me daily with their hopes for a girl baby.  It got to the point where Jack would say, "I hope it's a girl, Mom.  I know, I know.  God already chose!" 

I was sure it was a boy.  I don't know if it was partly self-preservation or if I thought the captain could only make boys or if it was my limited knowledge of the shettles method, or a combination of the three, but I told everyone I was sure it was a boy.  I fell in love with a boy name.  I went through periods of panic about my reaction to the gender news.  And then I found peace. 

So last week when we went to the ultrasound, I was pretty prepared emotionally.  It took the sonographer about 20 minutes to confirm girl parts.  I broke into tears.  She said, "Use your towel, honey!"  To which I responded, "Oh, no, it's okay.  My husband brought Kleenex!"  And he did. And I used them. 

Can you imagine my joy?  I'm 35 years old and realizing a dream coming true that I never really believed would.  The captain is going to be the father to a daughter.  And to be honest, I'm thrilled for me.  But at least as thrilled for him.  And for my boys.  And for her.  How loved will this little girl be?  You're going to find out...stick around a few months!

When Matthew was a baby, he couldn't say his "d" sounds.  So we started calling the captain "Papa."  And it stuck.  And it's adorable.  They love their papa with all their hearts, my boys.  And so shall she.  And so do I.  Even though he thinks four is as good a number as six.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sharing the Love: Zuppa Toscana

This is a copycat version on the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden.  (If you have the Magnolia Lane cookbook, it's on page 168.) It's absolutely scrumptious!

Zuppa Toscana

1 16 oz package spicy or hot sausage, cooked and crumbled
4 strips of bacon
3/4 c onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 c chicken broth
4 sm or 2 m potatoes, skin on (I prefer red or Yukon, but Russet work fine), thinly sliced
2 c kale leaves, chopped (stems removed)
1/2 c heavy cream

Brown sausage and set aside.  In large saucepan or stockpot, cook bacon and onion over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add sausage, kale, and heavy cream.  Turn off burner and let rest for five minutes while everything incorporates and your kale wilts down.

If you want to really do it right, whip up these in your breadmaker:

Foccacia Breadsticks

9 oz warm water
3 T olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 c flour
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt

Add all ingredients according to your breadmaker instructions.  Run on dough cycle.  Lay flat on greased cookie sheet.  Top with a little olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt (and rosemary if you have it!).  Cut into narrow strips with a cookie cutter.  Bake at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes.  Break apart and enjoy with soup!