Friday, March 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes- Haiku edition

I'm waxing poetic today. Why use a bunch of words when a few will do? Here's our week in a nutshell:

--- 1 ---

Silence is golden,
unless you've been waiting
for your phone to ring.

--- 2 ---
Feast of St. Patrick

Forget the parade.
Let's go run thirteen-point-one
and then drink Guinness.

--- 3 ---

Pope Francis

Habemus Papam!
"I think he seems pretty sweet,"
SuperSam declares.

--- 4 ---
Sewing Crisis

Grinding sounds should not
be heard when stitching hemlines.
Rest in peace, Singer.

--- 5 ---

Cause for concern?

Sewing shop lady,
older sister to twin girls,
calls them "little shits."

--- 6 ---

Sewing Crisis, Averted

Shiny new stitcher
Your gentle whirring's welcome.
Easter dresses saved.

--- 7 ---

85th Birthday Party

Mom's going early,
warning Cracker Barrel staff
that Gramp is grouchy.

Happy Friday, all. For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Five-Minute Friday: Rest

A Eulogy, of sorts

"The gears are broken," the repairman said,
"It's not worth fixing. It's from 1982, after all...they don't make them like this any more."
Like so many things, it's worn out.
A newer, shinier machine can do the same job more efficiently.

It's just stuff, I know. It's a piece of metal. It's not a person.
Still, the news of what feels like its untimely death makes me weep.
I need it...two tiny Easter dresses, some bright-as-spring pillow covers for the sofa, a yet-uncovered back window...what will I do without it?
I want to hug it, hold onto it tightly.

This is more than a sewing machine.

Bought for my mother by my father when I was not yet three, it has sewn the stitches of my life.
Curtains for the houses where we lived together.
The dresses my sister and I wore to our father's memorial service.
My first doll clothes, stitched clumsily from scrap fabric.
The quilt I took to college, pieced by my mother and my sisters and me, side by side.
Curtains for the first house where I lived without them (because you can take the sewing machine, but you have to leave your family behind).
The quilt that covered my first child in his crib.

It has done its job well

(so well that "good and faithful servant" does not seem like hyperbole).

Click here for more Five-Minute Friday!
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Theme Thursday: Green

All week, I have been so happy envisioning the lovely, lively, vibrant photos I was going to take of real, live outdoor plants.

Alas, we have no such plants. We don't even have grass yet. Even the weeds are brown, and there are still clumps of snow in our yard, too. 

Ever-prepared, I had a backup plan to go lie in my friend Megan's side yard under her bushes and take a photo of her crocuses.

Who was I kidding? Packing all of us up to go out of town (and the laundry that accompanies this task) took priority over the planned crocus-stalking.  We have clean (not green) underwear in our suitcases, but I didn't get to go hunting for the plants.

Instead of waiting until this Sunday to take pictures (when I'll be celebrating St. Patrick's Day all decked out in green for the half-marathon!), I'm sharing what I've got now. Life is often about doing what you can with what you have...and this week, my pictures fit that theme as well as any other.

For more (better focused, better edited, more plant-centric) takes on Green, visit Clan Donaldson and check out the other photos.

Green onions in the window a la Pinterest, spider plant with brown tips because my thumbs are not green, SuperSam's little grass-head guy who has no grass coming out of his head yet, kitchen sink which (hopefully) has nothing green in it.
Green barn, green roof, green, grass, bad reflection in the car window as we pass at 55mph. Why am I even sharing this one?
SuperSam, George and Lucy take the rest area by storm...there's more and more green all the way down I-64 (and plenty of daffodils in the median, too...should I have made him stop the car so I could leap out with my camera?)

Monday, March 11, 2013

My inner Mary is dehydrated.

Holy Water Font, St. John's Abbey (photo by Nancy M. Raabe)
My parish used to take the water out of the holy water font during Lent.

Although they stopped doing that a number of years ago, I still remember the feeling of oddly-dry fingers on the way in to Mass that accompanied the stripped-down altar and the absent Alleluia.

I came to the Catholic Church incrementally, but part of what drew me in was the quiet, prayerful holiness of the Mass and the diversity of prayer practice in the tradition. My introverted soul craves quiet contemplation, longs to rest in silence and drink it all in. I remember the days when I used to arrive early to Mass just to kneel and soak it up, letting my soul stretch and reach upward as everyone was arriving. I felt I connected with God at every turn then, and when I left Mass each week, I carried the fiercely burning light of Christ at the very center of my being, so hot that I could physically feel it behind my breastbone.

In the Gospel story of Mary and Martha, I was Mary all the way...sitting at Jesus' feet and hanging on his every word. 

Fast forward to now, and I feel like it's all passing me by. I'm exhausted. I'm surrounded by clamor and chaos, and it's my job to restore order. I'm in full-Martha survival mode.

Smiling on Mother's Day...after Mass, of course.
Getting us all to church each week feels like an epic challenge, managed only by my most careful planning and hard work. I try to streamline Sunday morning as much as possible, but by breakfast, we're often running late. We are never early (partly because we run late almost everywhere these days, and partly because getting to church early just means our little people have to stay put in the pews longer), but I wish we were on time more often.

When we arrive, we park and unload everyone, lugging them into church from the parking garage with the huge diaper bag stocked with distractions and extra clothes and diapers, praying that we will make it through the Mass without at least one child needing to be removed for tears or tantrums. We spend our time not sitting in quiet prayer, but bouncing, walking, whispering, shushing, swaying, pointing at words in books, turning pages, rescuing runaway crayons, preventing people from rolling on the floor, and trying not to be distracting. There are weeks when we spend the entire Mass out in the foyer with toddlers who are driven to walk, to climb, to talk about everything they see. 

I know that's how God created them. That's how they experience the world - it's what they do at this stage in their lives. They are too young to understand about sitting for that long, and we are outnumbered. We bring things to distract them, but the laws of toddler physics are inevitable: eventually, a toddler-not-in-motion will become a toddler-in-motion...and woe to the mother who tries to impede that toddler.

If we are in the foyer, I always sneak back into the church for Eucharist carrying whichever Sister is least likely to make a scene. The priest often makes comments in his lengthy post-Mass announcements about how people should stay through the final hymn, but we usually sneak out again.

When I was Mary, I always stayed through the final hymn. (Honestly, I even judged other people for leaving before the final words had been sung.)
Now Martha is in charge, and she knows that sometimes, we need to cut our losses and get out of there as quickly as possible.

By the time we reverse our arrival process, stuffing the coat-clad, frustrated children back into the car before grabbing lunch quickly in our attempt to make it home before nap time (so we can collapse when the children are sleeping), I'm often in tears, sweaty with exertion. I'm exhausted from the struggle of managing it all. Sometimes my arms are actually shaking from the physical effort of keeping it all together. Most weeks, I only know what the readings are if I managed to read them ahead of time (as the chances of my absorbing much of what is said are low).

Parenting on Sundays sometimes feels like as much work as all the other days added together.

My friends who are not churchgoers wonder why we do this every week. If it's so hard, why are we putting ourselves through it? Surely God would understand if we came back in a couple of years when everyone was better able to handle it?

God would understand, yes. But it's not God I'm worried about.

It's me.

I've written before about how I think it benefits our little ones to be in church with us, but when it comes down to it, I'm the one who really needs to be there. I need to dip my fingers in the font. (There's plenty of water there now; it's my soul that is parched.) I need to sing, even if I don't remember all the words and can't manage holding a hymnal (or am caught in the foyer without one). I need to lock eyes with the child that is challenging me most and say, "Peace be with you." I need to encounter Christ. And in that one small moment after receiving Eucharist, I need to take a deep breath, look into the face of Jesus on the cross and say, "Yes." Or maybe, "Lord, have mercy." Or maybe nothing at all.

I need to be Mary again, just for a second.

Even if I'm struggling the entire time, in that one moment, there is strength to sustain me. I can do this for the rest of this day, for another day, for another week. I am not alone in my work of mothering these children. My work is God's work. My children are God's children. God loves them infinitely more than I do, and God loves them through me and in spite of me...and as long as I remember that, I cannot fail them entirely.

I'm so grateful for the gifts of their lives. I tuck them in every single night with a blessing and the words, "I'm so thankful to be your mama." I'm working hard, and I'm learning to manage, and I'm a Martha-among-Marthas most days: capable, organized, and on top of my game.

But today, the Mary in my soul would really, really like to just rest quietly at Jesus' feet and drink her fill.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Home

It was always supposed to be green. I fully intended to repaint it (once we were moved in, unpacked, settled...maybe after the babies were born)...but as I lay in bed for twelve whole weeks, working at the hardest kind of doing nothing, engaged in a primal mama struggle to protect and nurture life, the odd, unexpected blue soothed me, held me safe and close, cradled my anxious soul in perfect, embracing calm. It was the color of the ocean, maybe, or the sky I couldn't see...the color of peace or of heaven itself. Beams of light moved across the walls from morning until evening in those long, empty days, filling my heart with hope, gently shifting shapes as shadows shortened, then lengthened...smooth, soft motions, like mothering God stroking my hair.

And sometimes now, when my sleepy eyes pull themselves reluctantly open in response to a cry, a song, a "Mama!", the now-familiar blue washes over me, sunlight dancing in the corners as it did all those long, long days when my body was still their home and I was learning to love this new home of mine.

Five-minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes, just to see what happens. Here's the invitation from our host, Lisa-Jo Baker- "why not take 5 minutes and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing." Click the link below for more writers' words on "home."

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Theme Thursday: Piles.

Although the word "piles" mostly made me think of all the laundry I haven't done yet this week, here is my photo for Cari's linkup at Clan Donaldson:

(FYI: Those only look like snowballs, and that only looks like SuperSam. This is actually a rare shot of an apatosaurus in its natural winter habitat, about to feast on some "insect snack balls." I am told that the red ones have beetles in them and the blue ones have dragonfly wings, or they would fly away when you try to eat them.)

Never mind that all the snow is white. Until someone invents a SuperSam Imagination filter, we will have to take his word for it.

Taken with my iPhone, edited with Afterglow (which is awesome if you haven't tried it!), Glacier filter

Wednesday = TwinsDay...death by shoe shopping?

It has been brought to my attention that SuperSam gets way more play around here (in pictures and in stories) than the Sisters. Though I can't help feeling that this is somewhat justified (given that he probably loses out somewhat in real life as the older sibling of little twin girls), I want to try to even things up a bit. From now on, Wednesday is occasionally going to be TwinsDay...a gratuitously cute photo or story about the Sisters or something otherwise twin-related will appear.

For today, please be amazed by how cute these wee tiny feet are in their new sandals:

My little girls and I had the experience of shopping for new shoes with my mom yesterday at Saxon Shoes, a time-honored, revered tradition in Richmond. Richmonders are particularly in love with their old traditions (Miller and Rhoads Santa, anyone?), and nearly everyone I know who grew up in the area has some memory of going to Saxon as a kid. Its status is nearly the stuff of legend, like the icing from Dots bakery at Ukrops grocery store. In the mind of Richmond natives, no one makes a cake like Ukrops...and no one does children's shoes better than Saxon.

This particular Saxon has an amazing kids' shoe area. Children and their parents take an elevator ride down to their own floor, separate from the grownups' shoes, where they are measured and fitted by professionals. After making their selections and checking out, all the well-heeled little clients leave by way of their own special child-sized door (with balloons, of course).

The Sisters love shoes. They are frequently seen parading around the house in shoes belonging to various members of our family. Any unoccupied sneaker, flat or slipper is fair game for them. Nora is especially partial to boots. Because of their intense fascination with footwear, I expected the shoe shopping trip to be (mostly) fun.

Very rarely have I made such a serious miscalculation.

The situation was complicated by Lucy's somewhat paralyzing stranger anxiety and the unlikely presence of a second set of twins in the store. The Other Twin Mom, nearing the end of the shoe fitting process, hailed us with a wave, calling out, "Look! More Twins!" Her identical two-year-old boys wore matching pajamas accessorized with matching pacifiers in their mouths. Each of them had chosen a different pair of shoes, and their mother was busily ordering a second pair of each style so that there wouldn't be any fights over which boy got to wear which shoes. (She explained this to me not-quite-frantically as her boys wailed at the top of their lungs, refusing to take off the shoes.) The three salespeople, two grandparents and one older sister surrounding the twins and their mother stared perplexedly at them and seemed rooted to their spots. No one stepped forward to help contain the chaos. The Other Twin Mom chattered at the boys over their screams, alternately calling their names and telling them they would get to keep the shoes. "Don't worry, sweetie pie, no one is going to take away your shoes, okay now? Okay? Okay?" she pleaded, trying desperately to hold one of them by the ankle and pry the shoe off his foot. He kicked her in the chin and screamed louder.

Lucy turned around to look at me and whimpered, "Mama."

Nora grabbed shoes from the low table and tried to put them on her feet over her own shoes.

I stared at The Other Twin Mom, transfixed, unable to tear my eyes away.

When a soft-spoken gentleman with neatly combed salt and pepper hair appeared at my elbow and asked if we were being helped, we hastened over to a quiet (well, relatively quiet) corner of the store so the girls could be measured. Sending my most supportive "I've-been-there" looks to The Other Twin Mom, I sat down with Lucy on my lap, guiltily trying to squelch my rising pride in my cute, well-behaved little daughters.

The gentleman leaned toward Lucy to unfasten her shoe.

In an instant, my sweet tiny girl transformed into a screeching banshee. Screaming, kicking, thrashing, yelling, "NONONONONONONO!", she flailed her arms and legs, refusing to be held or touched by anyone.

Stunned, the gentleman jerked his hand back as if she had bitten him. "I'll try this one instead, then, shall I?" he said gravely, and reached for Nora's foot.

Eyes wide, she yanked her foot away as he touched her shoe, then burst into tears (which quickly escalated into wails and sobs).

Now both Sisters were screaming so loudly that I felt certain no one was looking at the Other Twin Mom. We were center stage. My cheeks burned as I struggled to hold Lucy's foot against the shoe measuring thingy, silently begging the gentleman to hurry as he squinted at the silver lines under her toes. Size three? Size four? What did it matter? Why didn't we just get shoes at Target? My mom bounced Nora on her hip, trying to distract her by carrying her around the store. Their wails seemed to echo off the ceiling as their two very separate personal crises converged. It was a rare Twin Tantrum, a perfect storm of crying and screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and it was all so very of those occasions in which the whole is definitely louder than the sum of its parts.

Somehow, in spite of all the back-arching and kicking, we managed to get The Sisters measured. The shoes arrived, and I succeeded with some effort in getting one sandal on each girl's foot. "Close enough for government work," the salesman remarked crisply. My mom (known as the Shoe Grandma for her practical gift-giving tendencies) paid for the shoes while I tried to calm the girls enough to get them back into their stroller. Lucy hiccupped and refused to meet my eyes. Nora slumped in her seat with a shudder and seemed relieved that no one was trying to touch her.

As I wheeled the double stroller carefully into the elevator, my hands were shaking.

Upon reflection, it was altogether a mildly mortifying but not horrible experience. The girls were pacified by (if not overjoyed with) their balloons, and the 20 percent discount for twins (yay!) helped convince me that it will someday be okay to show our faces in the store again.



If we can somehow be certain that the poor gentleman we abused this time will be off work on our next visit, there's a small chance we might possibly someday return to Saxon.

Stay tuned for more twins next week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What you don't have in your yard right now (hint: it's not snow).

I'm pretty sure we are the only family with one of these out back:

When I was little, my sister and I built snowmen. My kid builds planets...and labels them.

He's proud of his design and his writing, but mostly that he managed to put the ring at an angle.
another wee planet

Earth and Luna watching the sun set over snow-covered mountains
I'm just sorry Saturn couldn't make it inside to join us for snow's clearly the perfect way to end a snowy day like this one.

Sharing our snow with y'all: Snow Cream Recipe

We finally got our snow day! Both of the Sisters have been wandering from window to window all morning, pointing and saying "Snow! Snow! Snow!" SuperSam has been running and shrieking and jumping off furniture. We were finally able to get everyone outside for a bit (as you can imagine, the process of dressing three wiggly, excited little people in snow-appropriate apparel is really something). There is a lot of snow out there, and it's still coming down.

Last night, we made our predictions about how much snow we would get and put out some yardsticks to measure. SuperSam marked each stick with our initials and a line to mark each person's prediction. We put one on the deck, one by the swingset in the backyard, and one by the mailbox in the front yard. This morning, all our markings are covered up. Happily, I think we all underestimated this one.

After coming inside, we made our first batch of snow cream (though I'm sure there will be more batches in the next few days). I have been told this is a "southern" thing, which makes me laugh for two reasons:

  1. I grew up in the South, so I don't know if it's a southern thing or just seems normal.
  2. We don't really get that much snow in the South, so we only get to do this every few years. If I lived in Michigan, I'd be making this stuff all the time.
For those unfamiliar with this special wintry treat, snow cream is really simple to make. Here is our favorite recipe:
This post-it lives in the front of my recipe binder all the time, just in case.

We usually just bring in a big bowl of clean snow and scoop out of there without measuring until the texture seems right. Today, I used about 6 heaping cups of snow to 1 cup of milk. You can scale it as needed (3-4 cups of snow seemed to work well with 1/2 cup of milk).

We used whole milk today. Heavy cream is nice, too, if you have it.

Some yummy variations:
  • Try maple syrup instead of sugar. 
  • Add chocolate milk powder (like Nestle's Quik)
  • Add mashed or pureed fruit (bananas work well)
  • Add cinnamon 

Some people like to add raisins (and rum!), but I've found the raisins always just get really hard, and I don't really like them that much to start with. Some people also add raw eggs. I don't. I just can't get over the whole salmonella thing, you know?

Whatever you choose to use, assemble your ingredients, and fetch some clean snow in a large bowl. Have a second bowl ready for mixing.

Whisk together everything except the snow in the second large bowl until it is well combined.

Add the snow a cupful at a time until the texture seems right to you. (Remember that it will start melting pretty much immediately, so it will be runnier than ice cream.)

Eat it!

Do you make snow cream (or did you grow up doing it)? What do you like to put in it?
Check out SuperSam's snow creations from the afternoon here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Moon-Day.

SuperSam is fond of reminding us that the days of the week are named for the same gods from which the planets get their names, and he frequently tells us which planet is celebrating his or her special day.

Today is the moon's day. He calls her Luna. Apparently, she had some fun with our camera over the weekend. I uncovered the evidence this morning.

These pictures have an oddly familiar feel from another time in my kind of looks like Luna and Earth had a party in their dorm room. Consider the other photos on the camera:

Is that Jupiter in Luna's dorm room?

I'm not even sure who this did he get in?

Saturn looks very...relaxed...

Oh, shoot! The RA is coming!

No party is complete without Maurice Sendak.


I'm not sure what happened, but it seems like the party broke up after the dinosaur arrived.

We might not ever get the story behind the pictures, since SuperSam is denying that he borrowed the camera. This is most likely because his dad explicitly said on Sunday afternoon, "No, you can't use the camera right now, because it's nap time." The moon is waning now, so hopefully she'll stay out of trouble for the rest of the month.

Happy Monday.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Ordinary

These are days when I think I'd give almost anything for ordinary...for smooth, rolling along days that stretch one into the other without big hiccups, the way ordinary time does...all green and mostly summery and not especially remarkable. No big ups, but no big downs either. Just middle-of-the-road.

Yet here we are again, in the middle of some choose-your-own-adventure kind of life, where the next page might be the beginning of a new chapter or a dead end. There's no way to know except to stay up late and keep reading to see what happens next. I want to be up for the challenge, so I remember my friend James, who always said there's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead possums (neither of which is appealing to me tonight). I wish I wanted to be brave and venture confidently in the direction of the unfamiliar. I wish I wanted to write myself into a better place. Really, though, all I want at this moment is for things to go back to the way they were...ordinary.

Five-minute Friday is a chance to fingerpaint with words for five minutes and see what over-editing or over-analyzing or over-thinking....just writing. Click the link below to see what the other writers had to say about "ordinary."

Five Minute Friday

7 Quick Takes: Lenten love, beans for good and joblessness

--- 1 ---
Decorating for Lent. Not an oxymoron, exactly...just kind of tricky. I loved this idea to put purple fabric on our crosses and crucifixes, so SuperSam and I went on a hunt through the house and draped them all. We have a lot. I guess that's a side effect of having a husband who worked as a pastor for so long - people give you crosses as gifts.   

Hmm...what could we get George and Abbey for Christmas? Oh, I know! He's a pastor...they must like crosses a lot, right? Let's give them one of those.

(If any of you have ever given us a cross, we reallyreallyreally love it. Seriously.)

In addition to the cross-decorating, I made a new wreath for the front door and put a piece of burlap on the table with some votive candles, one to light each week of Lent until we get to Holy Week.

--- 2 ---
The Bean Jar: Thanks to an idea from Karen Edmisten, we have been putting beans in a big jar on the kitchen table for small acts of sacrifice. Anytime one of us does something in a loving way for another (or notices someone else doing something loving as an act of sacrifice), a bean goes in the jar.

I like being able to call attention to the ways I see SuperSam and George (and even the Sisters) being loving and helpful to each other. It's also improved my attitude to be able to see menial tasks like unloading the dishwasher, wiping a nose or rinsing out a poopy diaper as acts of loving service to my family. I get to put a lot of beans in the jar during the day. (I don't give myself any beans for doing things in a non-loving way. Grumpy cabinet slamming? No bean! Irritated eye-rolling when asked to snap SuperSam's pants for the nineteenth time? No bean!)  

At Easter, the beans will be replaced by brightly colored jelly beans (or maybe M&Ms...haven't decided yet). No matter how many beans we have accumulated by Easter, the jar will be overflowing with candy on Easter morning...because, as the aforementioned Karen Edmisten so wisely said, "God's grace is like that, no?".

I just love that woman's wise words.

--- 3 ---
Job Update: George has been tirelessly (tiredly?) going to his old job and faithfully doing his work while applying for and interviewing for new jobs all over the place. There seem to be some good possibilities...he is hopeful, which means I am hopeful. Thank you for your prayers - please keep them coming. We have every reason to believe something is going to work out soon.

In the meantime, George is going to have a little time off beginning tomorrow. SuperSam has already solicited his help with building his aqueducts (not sure where this latest project came from, but we need more empty toilet paper rolls...more on that soon). I have a little list of projects I could use some help on, too. There's also the big race coming up (George is running the marathon and I'm running the half-marathon in just three weeks). Then, there's the funk band...and the little jazz project George is doing on the side. Really, the man barely has time to have a job.

--- 4 --- 
Speaking of men recently without jobs, Pope Benedict XVI is probably comfortably settled at Castel Gandolfo by now, wearing his brown shoes from Mexico instead of his traditional red papal ones. If you have questions about the conclave or the papacy or which color smoke means what, or if you just find the whole process intriguing, I have good news for you! There is a place where you can feast on papal election trivia and information to your heart's content. You can submit questions to be answered by a panel of writers or just browse the questions that others have submitted. I'm proud to be a contributing writer for this project and am enjoying learning more about the rich traditions surrounding papal transition. Come visit!

--- 5 ---
We made sushi this week. It was pretty successful, believe it or not. We used veggies (carrots, cucumber, avocado) and some canned salmon, and I made the rice from this recipe. The first roll completely fell apart when I went to cut it, but the second and third were better. Although he was totally excited to help make the sushi and to try it, SuperSam licked his first piece and then refused to eat any. The Sisters ate four pieces...each. (SuperSam did have a really great time wrapping himself up from head to toe in blankets and pretending to be sushi...which was all fine and well until he tried to do it to a Sister.)

--- 6 ---
SuperSam's follow up visit to the pediatric neurologist is on Monday. Not that we want to totally overtake your prayer list, but if you have room to add us again, we'd love to have your support. It should be pretty routine...some additional information on the MRI they did in the fall, and hopefully some adjustments to his medication that will help with the extreme sleepiness we have been seeing.

--- 7 ---
My blog has just turned one year old, and I've just recently published my 100th post. At the risk of being self-congratulatory, I'm going to have a little party with a small giveaway. Stay tuned for more on that next week.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!