Saturday, December 3, 2016

A story I tell my little family

Once upon a time there were two grown-up people who loved each other so, so very much.  They were so happy with so much love.

 One day those grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."
So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him Z.  And all three people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the Z.  The Z loved the mommy.  AND the Z loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the Z grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and lots of words.  And he still had blue eyes!  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  She had no hair, and no teeth, and brown eyes, and they named her V.  And all four people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  AAAAND the V loved the Z.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the V grew and grew.  Soon she had hair, and teeth, and too many words, and she still had brown eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him L.  And all five people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The mommy loved the L.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The daddy loved the L.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The Z loved the L.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  The V loved the Z.  The V loved the L.  The L loved the V.  The L loved the Z.  The L loved the mommy.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAND the L loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the L grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and very loud words, and he still had blue eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people called DCFS and said, "If there's a person who needs some love, our family has a lot, and we'd like to share it."

Since every time we share our love, the love just grows and grows, let's see who we can grow more love with next.

Friday, November 25, 2016

NOT Liking Things

I talked a while ago about liking things, and made it quite clear that I fully endorse liking all manner of stuff, and liking it in whatever way feels appealing to you.

Today I want to talk about disliking things.  I can't really say exactly that I endorse disliking, but I also have no strong objections to disliking.  Basically, your feelings belong to you, and you're entitled to have whatever feelings you have.

Let me be 100% clear about this, though: if you do not like something, your dislike belongs to you.  All of your feelings belong to you.  The good feelings, the bad ones, and the in-between feelings are all yours, and yours alone.  The rest of the world exists as it is, and events occur as they do, but your feelings about all of that do not belong to those external things.

If you do not like sushi, your dislike is yours, and it is not sushi's problem.  If you do not like Justin Beiber's music, that's yours, too, and he can go on making formulaic, over-produced songs with total impunity.

Even if your dislike is based on qualities possessed of the things you don't like, while the qualities belong to the things, your dislike does not.  If you think beef tendon is gross because it's super chewy or the beach is awful because it's covered in sand, your preference against beef tendon and the beach are yours.

Even if the things you dislike are objectively harmful, dangerous, or destructive, your feelings about them are yours.  You are perfectly welcome to talk about the objective harmful qualities of a thing, and you are also allowed to talk about your feelings towards a thing.  Both may be valid points in a conversation.  But nothing makes your feelings become an objective quality of the thing you have feelings about.

You own your dislike.

This topic feels particularly pertinent to me today because 1) we just had a super ugly election here in the US, which left just about everyone feeling miserable at least some of the time, and many people feeling long-term miserable and 2) it's Thanksgiving week, which is the first in what often seems like a long line of seasonal obligatory-family-togetherness type holidays.  It's really easy, in the face of tense circumstances, to act like our feelings about Presidential candidates or our in-laws are the same thing as facts about those people.  They just aren't, though.  The only thing our feelings prove is our feelings.

My husband tells me I'm bad at writing the ends of blog posts.  My husband is a pastor, and he likes to give a couple of nice clear application points at the end of every message.  He says my posts so often feel like they're leading up to something, like at the end I'm going to tell people what to do, and then I just don't.

I don't know what to say to that critique.  I'm not going to tell you what to do, in large part because I don't know what you should do.  Clearly I'm not saying, "Don't feel your feelings."  I'm also not saying, "Don't talk about your negative feelings."  Bad feelings are just as valid as good ones.  Feel them, talk about them, even act on them.

I am simply requesting that each of us own our feelings.  Own them, and don't pretend they belong to someone else.  Your feelings: your decisions.  They belong to you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bad Santa

Today during lunch, V told me all about "Bad Santa."  Apparently he comes at Christmas time to wreck havoc on the good children.  A few choice details that V shared about Bad Santa:

"While you're sleeping he smacks you in the head."

"On Christmas, when the kids are supposed to be having fun, he stabs out their eyes."

"He takes all the good kids away, and he leaves the bad kids behind to destroy the world."

"While everyone is asleep, he crashes the reindeer into their houses."

"If you take a nap, he chops off your ears."

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Activities for Advent (the Master List)

I love doing an activity Advent calendar.  Ours isn't super fancy, but it makes me so happy to have one special treat for every day of December leading up to Christmas.  The trouble is coming up with a special treat for every day during the crunch of the holidays.

First things first: I assume that everyone's got some holiday traditions they love.  I assume everyone's got a Christmas party or two to enjoy.  And I assume everyone's got a list of holiday foods they're already going to indulge in eating.  However, I'm guessing that most people don't have 24 special Christmas traditions to fill up all of the days in an activity Advent calendar, and most people also have probably got a few busy weeknights, where fitting in one-more-fun-thing between dinner, homework, and bedtime sounds overwhelming.  With those assumptions and understandings, I have created a list of ideas to fill in those days of December which still need an activity.  The following activities all fit 5 arbitrary guidelines:
  1. They do not involve sugar treats.
  2. They only require 10 extra minutes on the day you do them.
  3. They can be done within a 100 foot radius of most families' homes.
  4. The advance preparation for each activity can be completed in 10 minutes or less.
  5. The cost of each activity is less than $5 (with a preference for free, although many activities assume you have certain items on hand).
Without further ado, Activities for Advent

  1. Count down from 10 and plug in Christmas lights for the first time
  2. Play with homemade peppermint playdough (or store-bought playdough with peppermint extract added)
  3. Have Christmas for animals (some possibilities: strew birdseed on the lawn, smear pine cones with peanut butter and hang them on trees with ribbons, give a new toy to a pet, etc.)
  4. Eat dinner by candle light
  5. Play "Reindeer games" by enjoying any game together (some possibilities: board game, card game, guessing game, word game)
  6. Play a new "Reindeer game" online or on your phone
  7. Use fancy dishes (or Christmas themed paper plates)
  8. Write notes for the stockings of people in your home
  9. Make a Christmas card for a friend, teacher, or neighbor
  10. Make or decorate gift tags for presents
  11. Do a tiny decorating project (some possibilities: set up a nativity set, decorate a doorway, hang a garland, hang a wreath, hang up stockings, etc.)
  12. Kiss under the mistletoe
  13. Have a Christmas lights bath (some possibilities: string lights in the bathroom, put glow-sticks in the tub, use extra bubbles or peppermint soap, dye the water green with food coloring, etc.)
  14. Dress fancy (some possibilities: put on costumes, wear antlers, paint nails, put on makeup, glitter everyone's hair, wear matching outfits, wear Christmas sweaters, wear paper crowns, etc.)
  15. Stay in pajamas all day
  16. Read a Christmas story
  17. Tell Christmas jokes
  18. Ask Christmas trivia questions
  19. Have a sing-along (some possibilities: load karaoke tracks on youtube or spotify, play instruments, sing a capella, etc.)
  20. Make snowman pancakes
  21. Have a snowball fight (some possibilities: actual snow, crumpled tissue paper, cotton balls, etc.)
  22. Have a dance party
  23. Watch Christmas videos (some possibilities: Pentatonix, Sesame Streetfamily video Christmas cards, or Christmas with a Baby.)
  24. Have a tea party (some possibilities: use real china cups, cut regular breakfast/lunch foods into tiny shapes, serve a baked good, etc.)
  25. Sing a Christmas carol for somebody else (some possibilities: go knock on the door of a neighbor you know, skype Grandma, call Uncle Bill, sing in the lobby of your apartment building, etc.)
  26. Make a Christmas themed art or craft project (some possibilities: paper snowflakes, wax resist with white crayon and watercolor paint, glitter pine cones, green construction paper wreaths with stickers, red and white paint, paint with a piece of an evergreen branch, ornament shapes with stickers or glitter and glue, paper chains for the tree, beads on pipe cleaners to make jewelry or ornaments, etc.)
  27. Color a Christmas themed coloring page
  28. Play "name that tune" with Christmas songs
  29. Play catch or keep away with jingle bells or a plastic ornament
  30. Search online for the most outrageous or ridiculous Christmas gift 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In which V gets a nasty ouch

 V crashed her bike a week ago.

  We were taking advantage of the nice weather to do a family walk in the evening.  It was starting to get dim, but we were aiming to be home before dark.  She hit a bump hard and went over.  Her mouth hit the handlebars, and her helmeted head hit the ground hard.

  She was bleeding profusely from her mouth and lip, and it was pretty clear a couple of her teeth were pretty mangled.  Hubby handed her his handkerchief, which is somewhat nostalgically charming in retrospect, and we hustled her home in the stroller.

  My go-to medical adviser, was out of the country, so I spent ten minutes on the internet to find the phone number for our insurance's nurse hotline.  Then I spent ten minutes on the phone explaining to three separate people what had happened.  The third person advised us that yes, she should go to the emergency room, and no, we did not need any kind of pre-authorization for the insurance to cover that ER visit.  Good to know.

  Four and a half hours later, she was back with two stitches in her lip and a visit to the oral surgeon scheduled for the next morning.

  The oral surgeon gave us the good news that she hadn't damaged anything permanent, but she did need two teeth pulled.  She did not cope well with the needle for numbing her mouth, or with the extraction itself, despite the nitrous oxide.  I don't do well with medical procedures, so I was trying to manage curious three-year-old L and comfort screaming, crying V all while feeling progressively more light-headed.  My poor daughter was freaking out, and all three staff people in the room were looking at me, because of how white I had become.

  V couldn't pronounce half of her words for three days, because her lip was so swollen, so she was embarrassed to talk at all.  She couldn't look at herself in the mirror, either.  Anytime she went to a mirror intentionally, she'd hold her hand over her eyes so she couldn't see her face, and when she walked past and glanced at one accidentally, she'd jump and turn away.

  There were bright sides, though.

  Beyond the obvious fact that her injury was only a couple of stitches and two baby teeth, and not something worse, I was keenly aware of how blessed we are to have access to modern medical care.  We have an ER and an oral surgeon to go to, insurance to help us pay for them, and money to cover what insurance won't.

  She's recovered so nicely, with no additional complications, and is now quite happy with her gap-toothed grin.

  I also loved having the opportunity to see Z demonstrate compassion.  The morning after her accident, while V was still sleeping, Z and I were chatting over breakfast.  He was mulling over some ideas about to help her feel better, and came up with giving her a note from the tooth fairy.  He wondered if he could give her money, too, and I told him that the ER nurse had told V to eat popsicles to help her swelling.  So Z wrote a note and gave V one of his hard-earned dollars.

V caught him sneaking in to put the envelope under her pillow.  When she came downstairs she reported, "Z was trying to look at the note the tooth fairy gave me, but I saw him, so he said 'shoot' and put the note back under my pillow."

 Also, today she got back on her bike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lovie Dovie all the time

There are very few times I've joined in on the trend of bragging about how much I love my spouse on social media.  There are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all, it seems kind of fake to put on such an ostentatiously public display of affection.  Surely our spouses know we love them.  Surely we show and tell them in many ways in real life.  Also, how many of the spouses lauded in these posts are themselves regular users of the platforms?  An e-mail would accomplish the same communication to your love, without dragging in hundreds of bystanders.  And those bystanders are going to, what?  "Like" your declaration of undying affection?  That's a little weird.

Second, so much of what makes my relationship with my husband beautiful doesn't translate well to public formats.  I recognize that the richness of our history together gives context and meaning to things that sound unremarkable.  I've been entangled with Hubby for longer than I was alive before I met him, so there are layers and layers of stories wrapping everything that happens between the two of us.

It's almost as if every interaction we have is based on an inside joke.  You know how it goes when you're laughing with someone, and you turn to another friend in the circle and say, "You had to have been there."  You could explain what just happened or describe the context of the original event, but it still wouldn't be funny.

I keep wanting to talk about things Hubby does or says that make my heart swell because of the joy they bring me.  I often don't, though, because after I re-read them, I know nobody will understand.  The one time I did publish a story, I cringed about it sounding all wrong.

I love my husband so very much.  He knows me, and he understands me in the deep way that only long history and hard work can bring about.  I'm exceptionally grateful that our life experiences have brought us closer together, rather than driving us apart.  I'm humbled and thankful that the ways we've both changed have made us more compatible, rather than less.

None of that, however, distills very well into a Facebook post, an Instagram photo, or a tweet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In which I brag about V's musical abilities

Now I may be totally biased, but I think V is quite the budding musician. After hearing a song only once, she can often sing multiple verses days or even weeks later. She also loves to improvise songs, and her improvisations not only make sense melodically, but generally include recurring musical themes and rhyming lyrics, and often have a repeating chorus as well.

Today, V was swinging in the yard and singing about how much she loves the members of her family and why each of them is special. I only wrote down one verse of her song, so I can't tell you exactly what she said in each verse, but they were all followed an ABCB rhyme scheme and scanned to the tune she had created. There were at least six verses. The one I wrote down includes the two syllable diminutive of Z's name, so you'll have to fill that in for yourself:
Z-e causes climbing.
Z-e causes fun.
Z-e causes wrestling,
But Mommy shines the sun.

How can I not eat that up? It's a rhyming, scanning, musically adept compliment to me, that includes praise for another one of my delightful children. Seriously awesome.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On cultural appreciation

Hey, white people!  It's not OK to just cherry-pick individual elements of other people's cultures and use them to your own ends.  That kind of behavior is called cultural appropriation, and it's totally unacceptable.  Even if their stuff is really cool, even if it's just for fun, and even if you're only using it during a holiday which is all about playing dress-up, it is unacceptable to take elements of another person's culture, denude them of their cultural context, and use them for your own entertainment.  Those things don't belong to you.  Appropriating them is wrong.

"Hey, Tricia," I hear you saying, "I'm really interested in a specific kind of food/dance/art/clothing/etc. from another culture.  I, however, acknowledge that I am a white person.  I want to be sensitive to the people of that other culture, but I would also really like to dive deeper into learning about and enjoying their culturally specific food/dance/art/clothing/etc.!  How can I do that without being an obnoxious white person and appropriating from the people of that culture?"

Well, my white friend, I've got a resource for you!  

Remember, it is totally fine to appreciate other cultures!  You should absolutely feel free to learn about and enjoy culturally specific elements of cultures different from your own.  The key thing to remember, though, is that they are elements of other cultures, and your appreciation should include respect for and understanding of the cultures which originated those elements, and the context in which those elements developed.  Let's work together on this one.  Happy appreciation!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kids in the Neighborhood

Have you noticed how in the past 10 years the entire US has adopted a "no child left alone" policy?  The law in my state says that at age 14 a child is old enough to babysit, but the laws about appropriate supervision for children younger than 14 are intentionally vague.  More and more parents seem to be interpreting that vagueness to mean that children under 14 should be directly supervised at all times.

Clearly, a newborn baby needs a responsible person within sight or hearing distance every moment.  Anyone who thinks about it, though, will reach the conclusion that there should be some steps between the level of supervision appropriate for a newborn and the level of supervision appropriate for a teen one day shy of being legally capable of supervising a newborn.  What those steps might be, and when they might be implemented, however, are a point of great contention.

The New York Post recently published an article discussing research that demonstrated the greatest danger to children playing alone is "nosy neighbors."  People who think children should never be left alone because it's "too dangerous" are those who cause danger to children by initiating spurious child protection services investigations and police encounters.

Yesterday, Z, who is a second grader, went to a friend's house after school.  After the boys had spent some time there, the friend's mother texted me that the boys were going to walk the two blocks from his home to ours to play here.  After 20 minutes, they hadn't arrived, so I went looking for them, assuming they had gotten distracted collecting crab apples or throwing pine cones.

Instead, I found my son running home alone, and he told me the story of their 2 block walk.

First, a neighbor walking to the park had stopped them and asked if they were allowed to be by themselves.  My son's friend felt upset at her question, so Z walked him back to his mom, and the neighbor accompanied them.

The friend's mother calmed him down and sent the boys back on their way.  On their second attempt to get here, a car stopped at the intersection they needed to cross, and the driver looked at the boys critically, so the friend gave up and went back home.

I've told Z drivers aren't always looking for pedestrians, even at a stop sign, so he usually waits for any visible cross-traffic to pass, even if he has the right of way.  Because of this, Z was standing alone at the 4 way stop a block from our house, waving traffic on, when another person felt concerned.

A driver pulled up at the stop sign, rolled down their window, and proceeded to give Z the third degree.  Their questions included at least the following: How old are you?  Where are you going?  Where is your house?  Where is your mom?  Does your mom know where you are?

At that time, another car pulled up behind the first.  The driver rolled down their window and started shouting at Z: "Do you know this person?  Why are you talking to them?  You shouldn't talk to strangers!"

Finally, both helpers left, and my son was able to make it home.

We had a conversation.  Most people aren't used to seeing kids playing outside anymore, so they feel concerned when they do see kids.  Because you are just fine, I know where you are, and you are responsible enough to walk from one house to another or play in the front yard unsupervised, the appropriate response to a concerned stranger is, "I'm fine.  Thank you."  Say it sweetly the first time they ask you a question.  The second time, say it with a slight edge.  After the third question, you can make the words drip ice.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: Like Family

I recently finished Like Family: Growing Up In Other People's Houses, by Paula McLain. This memoir tells the story of McLain and her two biological sisters who were abandoned by their mother at age 8. They spent time living with their paternal grandmother, who didn't want to raise them herself; their father, who was repeatedly incarcerated; an aunt; and a series of foster families.  The final foster placement- with Hilde and Bub Lindbergh and their biological daughter, Tina- lasted for over a decade.  However, given the foster care climate at the time, it's unsurprising that that girls were never adopted.

I would have enjoyed Like Family a lot less if I didn't have the experience and knowledge I've been blessed to acquire through my education and time as a foster parent. Something that brings both the content and the tone of this work into focus is this: quite often, children with difficult circumstances in their early childhoods will develop attachment styles other than a secure, warm, close attachment to their primary caregiver. Some children will have a full-blown attachment disorder, but more often, children will develop either an ambivalent or avoidant attachment style.

There are a myriad of resources out there about attachment theory, but for the purposes of understanding McLain's narrative, ambivalent attachment usually develops in response to a primary caregiver who is sometimes emotionally available and caring, and other times is unwilling or unable to respond to their child with emotional connection. An ambivalent attachment style developed in infancy or early childhood carries on into later relationships, which often demonstrate characteristic push-pull behaviors. The child wants love and affection, but is unable to accept them when they are offered. As babies, they will cry, but refuse to be comforted. As they get older, they will reject or misinterpret demonstrations of affection.

McLain writes Hilde as a block of concrete, unyielding and unloving. Hilde was German, so she probably wasn't demonstratively affectionate, but she opened her home to three girls who needed help and kept them safe there for a decade. She may not have rocked them to sleep at night, but she cared for those girls. To my reading McLain is an unreliable narrator. Her attachment style deeply colors her experience of her foster families, so that she can't see Hilde as anything other than cold.

McLain herself admits being unable to ascribe motives to her foster parents. She can imagine some of them taking her and her sisters in for the money, and one foster father for worse reasons, but she can't imagine motivations beyond the purely selfish. Most of the foster families I know are involved with foster care because they want to help children from hard places. But McLain's attachment style is so deeply ambivalent that she can't admit warmth, love, or care as motivators for the people who raised her.

Later in their lives, adults with ambivalent attachment stay emotionally enmeshed with their attachment figures. They feel preoccupied with those relationships, experience ongoing senses of anger and ambivalence, and tell vivid stories to reinforce their perspectives.

I found Like Family to be a fascinating look at McLain's thought processes. I would hope that she develops more insight going forward, but reading her current perspective gave me a clear look at how ambivalent attachment can shape the outlook of a young person in care.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Extended nursing

If one, hypothetically, were to nurse their child beyond the American culturally normative 12 months, one might possibly find herself breastfeeding a verbal child.  She might, then, experience hearing some unique sentences.

For example, an 18-month old child might call from the top of the stairs late in the evening: "Tricia!  Tricia!  Milkie!"

Or, theoretically, a 24-month old child might complain: "All done this side.  This side slimy."

Possibly, one might even find oneself nursing a 30-month old, who despite hating cow's milk, might point to the fridge one day and say: "Want milk in here."  Which could reasonably cause one to question: "You want milk from the fridge in a cup?  Or you want mommy milk inside the fridge?"  And in response, a mischievous child might joke: "Want nursing inside the fridge!"

Hypothetically, of course.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ridiculous Sexist Nonsense

One of the strange things about ridiculous sexist nonsense is that, because there's so much of it around and there always has been, it so often escapes our notice.  We're used to things just being the way they are, until somebody brings it to our attention, and we recognize the nonsense for what it is.

Case in point: why do healthcare companies treat "women's healthcare" like it's some kind of add-on to "regular" healthcare?  Half of the people in the world are women, and healthcare that is necessary for half of the people in the world is just "healthcare."  It's not a specialty product: it's a basic human right.  Even if it involves our woman parts.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lunchbox Mix and Match

If you troll pinterest for school lunchbox ideas, you will find lots of uber-cute suggestions, most of which require a ton of advance planning and/or preparation.  If you want a lunchbox full of "fruit sushi" or homemade fried chicken, you need to start cooking the night before.  Some people love to do that, and more power to them.  I hope they enjoy their successful blogs and book deals!  Some people (me) wish Jamie Oliver would parachute in and take over our school lunch program so we don't have to think about lunchboxes anymore.  Until that happens, however, our family does lunchbox mix-and-match.

Here's the basic idea: pick one protein, one starch, and two fruits or veggies.  When I've been strategic about pre-made foods (aka leftovers), it works instead for kids to have an entree that covers multiple categories, like soup or pasta with sauce, and to round that out with a side dish picked from the list.

In a pinterest-perfect world, the kids would spend 30 minutes helping you prep, bake, cut up veggies, and portion bulk items on Sunday afternoon, so that they can easily grab a tub of carrot sticks and a muffin all week long.  An alternative excellent plan would be to make lunchbox selections the night before so kids can help with any prep or portioning that can be done in advance at that time.  Even with the best planning, certain things will still need to be done in the morning, though.  For example, if they prefer their apples sliced, and you're a sucker for getting them to eat cheap and abundant produce.

A note on my organization: Things that require no prep beyond putting in a container are at the top of the list.  Things that require more extensive prep are at the bottom.  Many of the items that require more prep can be made ahead and frozen in individual portions.  I've got a few fresh fruits and veggies that I almost always have on hand listed individually, but I also have spaces on the list to write in whatever fresh or prepared fruits and veg are handy this week.  Also, it is clearly just fine to combine items from the list to make an "entree," should one desire.  For example, peanut butter can be combined with bread to make a sandwich.  Or, you know, this thing, if you prefer.

Lunchbox Mix and Match

Yogurt cup
Cheese slices or sticks
Cream cheese
Ricotta cheese
Cottage cheese
Lunch meat
Peanut butter, nut butter, or sunflower butter
Nuts: Cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts
Sunflower seeds
Ricotta- or yogurt-based dip
Beans (baked, refried, plain, or seasoned)
Bean dip
Hard boiled egg
Energy balls
Tuna salad
Egg salad
Chicken salad
Mini quiches
Pre-prepared meat (pulled pork, steak strips, diced chicken, etc)

Corn tortilla
Wheat tortilla
English muffin
Chips or tortilla chips
Frozen corn
Muffin or quick bread
Corn bread
Sushi rice
Cooked grain: couscous, quinoa, wild rice, etc.
Grain-based salad
Pasta salad

Fruits and Veggies
Frozen peas
Pickled vegetables
Tomato sauce
Frozen blueberries
Apple sauce
Canned fruit
Dried apriots
Bell peppers
Cooked vegetable


Fresh fruit


Fresh vegetable


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Liking Things

I was familiar with "basic" as an insult for both people and items before I really understood what it meant.  Uggs, scarves, and pumpkin spice lattes all get called out as basic, as do people, particularly women, who enjoy them.  For all intents and purposes, "basic" applied to an item means a lot of people like that thing, and applied to a person, it means they like things a lot of other people like.

That's correct: "basic" is an insult that means, "You like things that are popular."

Hipster is another word generally used as an insult.  Here's a joke by way of illustration: How did the hipster burn his mouth?  He drank his soup before it was cool.

Hipsters like things that few other people like; they like things that aren't popular.

Take away from this that regardless of what you like, lots of people out there are happy to judge you for liking it.  Popular things?  Obscure things?  If you like anything, there's an insult waiting for you.

There's more!  There are also ways to like things that are less acceptable to the world in general than other ways of liking things.  Take, for example, teenage girls enjoying music.  They're derided for just liking how cute the boys in the band are and not understanding "good" music.  They're mocked for screaming, making posters, and decorating their bedrooms as shrines.

In fact, the behaviors associated with teenage girls liking things are so universally disdained that anyone liking anything exuberantly is mocked as "being a fangirl."  In case it's not clear that fangirl is also an insult, go ahead and do a quick google search.  I'll wait.

The safest way to like things is ironically: people pretend to like things, or they pretend that they're pretending, or they pretend that they're pretending that they're pretending until even they aren't sure what they legitimately like anymore.

Here's the thing, though, if there's nothing that's safe to actually like, and liking anything too much isn't safe either, all that's left is cynicism and boredom.  I reject cynicism and boredom as a cultural aspirations.  I challenge the narrative that liking things is bad.  In fact, I choose to embrace Liking Things as inherently positive.

I am all for liking Uggs, scarves, and pumpkin spice lattes.  I commend liking DIY Frankenstein bicycles and indie rock bands.  If you like a book, I am glad you like it, be it Twilight, Moby Dick, or Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations.  If you like a movie or movies in general; if you like making art or looking at it; if you like birding or fishing; if you like tatting, online video games, archery, or all three; if you like anything or things at all, good for you.  Liking things is wonderful, and I think we should all do more of it.

Enough irony.  Go out and enjoy some things.

Hey, what do you like right now?

Friday, August 12, 2016

In which I recieve a phone call

We're in the process of working with insurance to re-roof and re-side our house, so when someone left me a message this morning saying they were Tim from the underwriting department, I called back right away.  Then we had the following conversation:

Guy: This is Steve in underwriting.

Me: This is Tricia L, and I'm returning Tim's call.

Guy: Tim is my assistant, so I'd be happy to help you.  We're making capital improvement loans to small businesses.  Are you the business owner?

Me: Wait?  What?  No!  Go away.  I don't...

Guy: No, you go away!!

Guy hangs up the phone.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On being constant

Gretchen Schmelzer writes over at Emotional Geographic.  Her recent blog post on the Sacredness of Constancy struck me, and I wanted to share it with you.

The little things we do day in and day out aren't glamorous, but they provide the stable foundation on which our children will stand for the rest of their lives.  It's not pinterest worthy, but it's beautiful.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In which I am pranked by a 5 year-old

I was making lunch the other day, and looking through the fridge, I spotted two full cartons of eggs and one carton with three remaining hard boiled eggs from a previous meal.  I decided to make egg salad and cracked the first egg.  Splat.  Raw.

V looked up from the table where she was sitting eating grapes and laughed: "I pranked you!  I switched one of your hard boiled eggs for a raw egg!"

Ok.  It's funny.  Good joke.  But still, there's the task of finding the swapped egg.  I took both full cartons out of the fridge and started spinning the eggs on the counter.  Did you know that hard boiled eggs spin faster and longer than raw eggs?  Useful tip.

I, however, was having no luck.  All of the eggs seemed to be behaving the same way.  I finally chose one that seemed like maybe it was spinning longer than the others.  Splat.  Nope.

I had the other two eggs in the first carton, though.  Those I knew were hard boiled.  I gave them a spin just to confirm, and cracked the first open.  Splat.

I was confused and possibly a bit irritated, standing in the kitchen with a bowl full of surprisingly raw eggs, looking at the last egg in the carton.  I had been sure those three eggs were hard boiled.  V looked up from the table again: "I actually didn't do anything.  I didn't touch your eggs."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

In which I presume the police were called

We went biking with family friends Saturday morning and wound up at a fantastic farmers market here in the suburbs of Chicago.  The five kids and four parents present enjoyed doughnuts, pretzel bread, squeaky fresh cheese sticks, and peaches.

Just before it was time for us to get back on our bikes and head home, I walked V and L down to a booth selling pickles.  I said, "There are three kinds of pickles, you can pick two to sample."  Both kids happily ate their two samples, and then V tried to reach her hand into the bowl and grab the third kind of pickle.

I don't really like my kids to serve themselves.  There's just too much of an ick factor to germy little people putting their fingers in the serving dishes.  Also, while I'm totally fine with negotiation, I don't allow my kids to just defiantly do the opposite of what they've been instructed.  So I stopped V from grabbing pickles.

V proceeded to yell and thrash her arms.  I led her and L away from the booth, and instructed them to walk towards their dad.  L complied, and V launched into a full-out meltdown.  We were still in a pretty crowded place, and I didn't want V to hit or kick me or anyone else while she flailed, so I held on to her.  The whole time, I was saying, "When you're in control we can go back to the bikes" and "I can't let you throw your body around in this crowded place."  She, on the other hand, was screaming "Don't touch me!" and "Let me go!"

In a few minutes she demanded that I carry her away from the crowd so that she could have a tantrum without me holding her, so I picked my screaming daughter up and carried her just across the street.  At that point, a cop car came jetting down the street and parked directly in front of me.

The officer got out of the car and immediately came over to where V and I were starting to sit down.  He asked me, and I gave him the brief version of the events.  The officer then looked at V: "Would you rather come with me than stay with her?"

V stopped screaming and spun around to cling to my neck.  He asked V again: "Would you like to come for a ride in my car?  Or do you want to stay with her?"  V stared at him with owl eyes and then hid her face against my shoulder.

"How about you stop screaming, then?"

Later V related that she knows police officers don't arrest kids, so she wasn't sure why he was threatening to bring her in the police car.  I explained that he wasn't threatening; he was just offering, in case I really was abducting her or something.

And there is no moral to the story.  Thanks, strangers, for looking out for kids.  Mine was fine, though.  Really.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Old Sayings

For a little while, Z was really interested in what he styled as "old sayings:" colloquialisms, idioms, folk wisdom, and the like.  Since that time, I'm extra attuned to circumstances in which an old saying might be relevant.  I find myself fairly often beginning sentences with, "There's an old saying that goes..."

With that awareness, I started noticing how many horribly sexist and body shaming bits of folk wisdom are floating around.  They're pretty inescapable.  I cope through humor, friends, so my newest strategy is just to edit them.  Every time I hear an old saying that's sexist or body shaming, I just edit the second half to "smash the patriarchy."  I accomplish nothing by this minor act of sedition, but it sure makes me feel better.

If you can't tone it, smash the patriarchy.

Nothing tastes as good as smash the patriarchy.

A moment on the lips, forever smash the patriarchy.

Barefoot, pregnant, and smash the patriarchy.

Men are from Mars; women smash the patriarchy.

Boys will smash the patriarchy.

Would you like to play along?  Suggest your edits in the comments.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Encouraging Kids to Eat Their Veggies

You want your kids to eat their vegetables.  I get it.  Most parents feel the same way.  Apparently, however, most kids don't eat a lot of vegetables.  (If you read nothing else from the link, you should click through for the charts of "most frequent vegetables eaten by toddlers" and check out 21-23 months old.  I'll wait.)  My kids eat a lot of veggies, though.  Even G was beginning to eat a few before she left.  Below are my tried and tested tips for upping your children's veggie consumption.

Play the long game.    It doesn't really matter if your child eats that carrot today or not.  What matters are your child's life-long eating habits.  You are in for the long game here.  Focus on the long term outcome of raising an adult who can nourish herself with a wide variety of plant-based foods.  Playing the long game means you don't have to sweat the details of what crosses your toddler's lips today, which frees you up to...

Put aside pressure tactics.  While bribery, praise, coercion, bargaining, "forcing," and other pressure tactics might work in the short-term, they are counter productive in the long-term, because they send the wrong messages and teach the wrong habits.  (For more on the bad habits that pressure fosters, check out It's Not About Nutrition.)  If nothing else, pressure makes mealtimes unpleasant by turning meals into a battle ground where food and eating become matters of control.  Allow your child to eat or not eat; put your focus on offering a variety of good foods for him to choose.  What kind of variety?

Serve a wide selection of veggies.  Even if your child loves carrots and seems to hate everything else, put a rotating selection of different vegetables on the table.  If you're serving different kinds of veggies, you can model eating a variety of veggies.  Keep in mind, too, that tastes change, so what a child rejected a year ago may appeal to her now.  In addition...

Prepare vegetables in multiple ways.  My kids all love to eat frozen peas still frozen, but only one enjoys them hot.  Raw bell peppers get gobbled up, while sauteed bell peppers get snubbed.  Vegetables vary considerably in taste and texture depending on how they are prepared, so give kids the opportunity to see the many sides of broccoli.  Serving a variety of vegetables prepared in a variety of ways will sort of force you to...

Serve veggies often.  The fact is, kids can't choose to eat what isn't available.  Simply serving vegetables more often gives your children more chances to eat them.  There are two benefits here.  First, more chances to eat veggies means eating more veggies.  Even if they only eat one bite, if there's a vegetable at every meal every day, that's a fair amount of vegetables over the course of the week.  Second, having veggies on the table at every meal normalizes vegetables.  Soon your kids will be looking for the vegetable on the table at home, and when they're choosing their own items from fast food menus in the not-to-distant future, they'll feel strange that there's no vegetable options to make their McNuggets into a meal.  A considerable help in increasing your frequency of serving veggies is to...

Pre-prepare veggies.  When you're hungry, and they're hungry, you're going to choose the easiest option for getting something on a plate.  When the carrots are already pealed and cut up, they're literally as easy to serve as crackers, so you're much more likely to serve them.  The simplicity of getting pre-prepared vegetables on the table will allow you to serve vegetables more often.  Pre-preparing also helps you to...

Serve veggies when everyone is hungry.  There's an old saying: "Hunger is the best seasoning."  If your kids are starving 20 minutes before dinner and the thing presented to them is a platter of fresh or roasted veg, they're pretty likely to at least give it a shot.  When you put that platter out, make sure to...

Talk about taste.  Nobody is convinced by, "Mmmmm, it's yummy.  Try it!"  Nobody.  Talk about the vegetables that you serve using vividly descriptive words.  Eggplant Parmesan is crunchy, salad dressing is tangy, roasted carrots are soft and caramelized.  When you talk about taste, make sure to...

Emphasize enjoyment.  It is more important for kids to hear about how good (i.e. tasty) vegetables are  than for them to hear about how "good" (i.e. nutritious) vegetables are.  Regardless of what people know about nutrition, they are more likely to eat for pleasure than for nutritional benefit.  I don't make roasted beets because they're high in folate; I make them because they're sweet and chewy.  I don't crave cucumber because it's got a balance of electrolytes; I crave it because it's juicy and refreshing.  Help children to learn that vegetables are tasty food choices, and they'll want to eat them. As far as habits are concerned, it's a better deal for your child to eat one happy bite of tomato than to choke down a whole plate full in misery, because the happy bite sets her up for a lifetime of voluntarily choosing to eat tomatoes.  It's also easier to enjoy vegetables if you...

Make vegetables delicious.  Somehow we've got this idea that "guilty pleasures" should be laden with fat, salt, and sugar, but virtuous foods should be devoid of the trifecta of deliciousness.  I would rather skip the goldfish crackers and put their extra fat directly onto my cauliflower in the form of mayo and cheese.  I don't care that steaming is the most nutritious, it's also flavorless!  Boil your veg in chicken stock, saute it in butter, dress it with sesame oil and lime, salt early and often.  In short, spend the time and effort to make your virtuous veggies as succulent and satisfying as dessert.  If you're making dessert, though, you could make those spinach brownies and...

Add extra veggies to foods kids already enjoy.  If they like potato salad, throw in 2 more ribs of celery. Try smothering their pork chops in caramelized onions.  Mix butternut squash puree into tomato based spaghetti sauce.  Order peppers or olives on your next pizza.  As you add more veg, however, be sure to...

Serve veggies openly.  I do not advocate "hiding" extra vegetables in your kids' food.  They'll learn not to trust you and to be afraid of negative surprises in the food you prepare.  On the contrary, when you make the spinach brownies or add broccoli to their omelette, let your kids know.  Remember the goal is the long-term outcome of eating vegetables voluntarily, and if they don't know there was eggplant in that dip they loved, they'll never know to search out delicious eggplant.

There it is: my top twelve ideas for encouraging kids to become life-long vegetable eaters.  Do you have any to add?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Food from St. Louis

Let's talk meals!  I said yesterday that I didn't really cook on our trip, but I'll admit that my "not cooking" is the same as many people's "cooking."  I prepped as much as possible before leaving (cutting up carrots and celery, premixing the vinaigrette, etc.)  I also designated Monday night as my big night in the kitchen, although I only spent about half an hour throwing together the crisp and boiling the pasta for Tuesday and the eggs for Wednesday while I scrambled the eggs for dinner that night.  However, your mileage may vary.

Sunday- Father's day
Breakfast at home: waffles, strawberries, whipped cream.
Lunch picnic: Cherries, carrots, celery, crackers, peanut butter.
Dinner at a restaurant: We were supposed to go to a brewery.  Turns out breweries in MO are closed on Sunday.  Lesson learned.

Breakfast at the Airbnb: Oatmeal with walnuts and raisins.
Lunch picnic: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes.
Dinner at the Airbnb: Scrambled eggs with cheese, corn, carrots, cantaloupe.  (This is the most unintentionally orange meal ever.  Also, so many C's.)

Breakfast at the Airbnb: Rhubarb crisp (baked the night before while we ate dinner), peaches.
Lunch picnic: Pasta salad (made the night before: penne pasta, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, cucumber, and a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.) celery, granola bars.
Dinner at the Airbnb: Quesadillas, refried beans from a can, salsa from a jar, bell peppers.

Breakfast at the Airbnb: Cereal, trail mix, milk
Lunch picnic: Hard boiled eggs, leftover pasta salad with lots of extra tomatoes, grapes.
4 PM picnic: Cherries, crackers.
7:30 PM at home: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cucumbers, peppers.

Packing list
Cherry tomatoes (3 meals)
Celery (2 meals)
Carrots (3 meals)
Cherries (2 meals)
Grapes (2 meals)
Bell peppers (2 meals)
Corn (frozen is fine)

Prepared Foods
Trail mix
Oatmeal (mixed with raisins and walnuts)
Peanut butter
Refried beans
Rhubarb crisp topping
Granola Bars

Quesadilla cheese
Feta cheese
Eggs (2 meals)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Home from St. Louis

We just took a vacation.  The first of two planned for this summer!  Wild, I know.  We spent four days down in St. Louis, MO, and it was a wonderful time.

Sunday we traveled.  Packing up the kids to get out of the house for something like this always takes twice as long as I think it will.  It didn't help that the kids had made no fewer than 30 Father's Day cards for their dad, all of which had to be opened before we could load the car.

It's a 5 hour drive, so we stopped at a playground for a picnic lunch at about the half way point, and rolled into St. Louis around dinner time.  We walked around the famous Gateway Arch, although it's a major construction zone right now, and then went out for mediocre pizza and excellent beer.

We stayed at an Airbnb.  It was our first experience doing so, and we were delighted.  It was so nice to have a kitchen.  I didn't really cook, but I prefer to slap together quick and easy meals than to take three kids out to eat twice a day.  Also, it was awesome to have multiple rooms.  One night L went to bed in the big bedroom, V went to bed in the little bedroom, Z set up a nest in the kitchen, and Husband and I stayed up late chatting in the living room.  All for 2/3 the price of a single hotel room.  I'm hooked.

On Monday we went to the St. Louis Zoo.  It's consistently rated as one of the top five in the country, and it was easy to see why.  They do a tremendous job balancing the need for animals to live in somewhat natural environments, the need to keep people and animals safe from each other, and the desire of zoo visitors to actually see the animals in the zoo.  There were quite a number of "talk to the keeper" types of experiences all throughout the day.  Also, the garden plantings were gorgeous.  I know nobody goes to the zoo to see the flowers, but these were truly exceptional.  To top it all off, the zoo has free admission!

We tried to cram it all into one long day.  In retrospect, it would have worked better for our family to plan an extra day in town and spend two long mornings at the zoo, followed by lunch, naps, and playground time.  We missed quite a few animals, and everyone was exhausted and cranky by the time we got back to the Airbnb for dinner.

Tuesday we went to the City Museum.  It's like nothing you've ever seen.  I keep calling it a recycled junkyard art installation playground.  There are enormous slides, a three story rebar climbing maze jungle gym, ball pits 15 feet square, a rabbits' warren of caves constructed from concrete, an indoor skate park with no skateboards, a tiny circus, a Ferris wheel on the roof, and more.  The whole place is eye-popping, weird, and exciting.  Z, V, Husband, and I loved it.  L is two, so his experience was more mixed.

His comment after riding the Ferris wheel was, "I not crying."  He rode the tiny train, but at the end of his first lap he said, "I no like it!"  He then proceeded to wail "I NO LIKE IT!" during the entire second lap.  The ride operator let him out after that, so he didn't have to do the third lap.  He told me, quite seriously, "I no like it" as soon as I picked him up.  He slipped on a slide and scraped his ear.  He was scared of the circus.  He didn't like when other kids were in the ball pit with him because they kept bumping him.  And he got lost for a few minutes in the caves.  He really did enjoy exploring the rebar maze, the tree house, and the caves, though, as long as I stayed right behind him.

Wednesday we spent a few hours at the Science Center and Planetarium.  To be honest, we were all tired, so half a day of half-hearted looking was enough.  We drove home with movies and snacks to placate the masses.

It was a wonderful vacation, all things considered.  I'd recommend St. Louis if you're interested a not-too-stressful trip with your kids.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Coloring Books and Kids

The Artful Parent, a delightful blog on parenting kids with an eye to creativity and particularly the visual arts, recently published a post called Why I Don't Buy Coloring Books For My Kids.

I totally love her suggestions for coloring book alternatives.  I am all for kids using their creativity and imagination to create their own art works.  I will admit that I've never bought a coloring book for my kids, either.  I think that there is definitely a place for coloring books, though, and I haven't gotten rid the coloring books that have been given to me.

Given the wide availability of adult coloring books, it seems that the general public has become at least somewhat aware of the benefits of coloring: stress relief, relaxation, mindfulness, and the pleasure of making something.  Yes, creating from scratch can provide all of those benefits and even many more.  However, free artistic expression also comes with potential negatives.

Facing down a blank page with only your creativity to guide you is challenging.  Even prompts like the ones The Artful Parent suggests require a certain amount of personal investment.

What if the things a child has to express from inside himself are uncomfortable: confusing or painful emotions, traumatic memories, or worries and fears about the future?  It's important for children to address those uncomfortable things, true, but that doesn't mean they have to be the focus of their energies at all times.  Mindlessly coloring a dinosaur outlined by an anonymous adult gives a child the opportunity to relax and live in the present moment.

What if a child has been working hard on creative play, social interaction, or developmental learning for a long time?  Most kids have only a few self-directed task that they have mastered to come back to as a break.  Scribbling over a picture of a princess is simple, easy, and familiar.  It offers a moment of respite from the challenges of learning.

While I think that forcing kids to sit down and complete a coloring sheet is nonsensical, offering coloring sheets as one of the options from which children are free to choose is perfectly reasonable.  I'm keeping my coloring books.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Things that Make Me Feel Virtuous

A list of ten things that make me feel virtuous, despite the fact that they probably shouldn't.

1. Fermented vegetables.  Eating them, making them, and even just observing them as they reside in the fridge.

2. Having all the laundry clean.  It doesn't have to be folded and put away, just clean.  If there's no pile of dirty laundry lurking in the basement, the laundry is "done!"

3. Reading nonfiction.  True, the book may have no literary or educational merit, but if it's nonfiction junk, it's surely better than fiction junk.

4. Letting my kids get muddy.  God made dirt and dirt don't hurt.  To be fair, no dirt doesn't hurt either, so it would be an equally valid choice to ask the kids not to ruin their clothes.  That isn't what I do, though, so I applaud myself for messy kids.
5. Wearing anything other than jeans.  Fancy!

6. Cleaning off the kitchen counter.  The presence of this item on this particular list should tell you exactly how often I complete the task.

7. Sending out my children's thank-you notes.  This is ridiculous for several reasons.  First, the notes get written, but not in a timely fashion.  People regularly get Christmas thank-yous in February, for goodness sake!  Second, because most of the people to whom the kids write either don't care or actively don't want the notes.  Third, everyone knows who's orchestrating things, and it sure isn't the 7 year-old.

8. Not having Facebook on my phone.  I'm a compulsive Facebook user, so having it on my phone would be a terrible decision.  I did not, however, make a decision not to download the Facebook app onto my phone, it's just that I don't have a smart phone, so there's no way for me to use any apps.

9. Showering without soap.  It's a hippie thing: avoiding messing with your skin's natural chemistry and oils.  Is it terrible?  It's probably terrible.

10.  Winning things that aren't really competitions.  My kids finished the library's 1000 books before kindergarten in less than 4 months!  That's faster than everyone else!  They were the first kids in the whole town to finish!  We're the winners!  Nobody else thinks this was a competition.  There is no prize for being first.  Nobody cares.  We still win.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Nicest Compliment

Husband: Thank you, babe.  Do you know how much I appreciate everything you do?

Me: I know you appreciate what I do, to the extent that you know about it.

Husband: No.  I appreciate the stuff I don't know about just as much as, or maybe even more than, the stuff I do know about.  Because the fact that I don't know about it proves that you've got it under control.  You've handled it so well that not only do I not have to worry about it, but I don't even have to think about it.  You're amazing.

And that, dear friends, is one of many reasons I love that man.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

In Which Shopping is a Traumatic Event

I finally did it, folks.  I went to Target and bought myself some real bras.  (If you're my dad or brother, you can stop reading now.  The rest of the post isn't going to get any better.)

I've been pregnant or nursing for more than 8 continuous years now, and my nursing bras are all dead.  Every last one has developed fatal flaws.  I did not, however, want to pay for nice bras, because I am actually still nursing L.  The trouble with a nursing toddler is that you never know when they're going to quit, so it doesn't make sense to me to shell out big bucks for nice bras that fit my nursing-a-toddler boobs.  There's also literally no way to know what my no-longer-nursing-anybody breast size is going to be.  Apparently it can take a whole year for one's body to arrive at the new normal after the last nursing session, too.  All of that conspired to send me shopping for a comfortable, cute, and inexpensive bra.  I left the house feeling like this was a "pick two" situation, but I was determined to try anyway.

First things first, everybody says more than 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.  I have no idea where that statistic comes from, and neither does anyone else, but my anecdotal experience is that, yeah, if you're wearing a bra, it's probably the wrong size.

To start with, you probably put it on wrong.  Now, don't tell me you've been wearing bras for years and there's no way you could possibly have been putting them on wrong this whole time.  Have you seen the shoe tying video?

This woman is happy to explain and demonstrate one technique for getting a bra on properly.  I prefer imagining my breasts are soft-serve ice cream, and my bra cups are, well, cups.  I bend at the waist, pour myself into the bra, hook it closed, stand up, and give a little jiggle to each serving, like this fancy lady.

Ok, so your bras suck.  How do you find ones that are the correct size?  You could go to a fancy bra specialty store to get fitted, and then use European sizes, which are standardized unlike US sizes, to ensure you shop for the correct size at other stores.  But even that won't guarantee every bra in the right size fits properly, because there's more to boobs than just cup-to-band ratio!  There's also fullness, projection, and overall body shape to consider.

I spent probably 6 hours researching at ABraThatFits.  They've got a beginner's guide which includes determining size, determining shape, shopping tips, and trouble shooting fit.  It's amazing stuff, and well worth perusing, especially given how much time most women spend wearing bras.

Truthfully, I don't expect anyone to wear a bra.  If you're happy hanging loose, more power to you.  If you like sports bras, shelf bras, or soft bras, wear them in joy and peace.  If you want to wear a bra, though, I want you to wear one that fits right, feels good, and makes you feel lovely.

The whole of my story is that I spent 90 minutes trying on every brand of bra in my local Target.  I gave myself numerous pep talks.  I may have cried a little.

That's 60 minutes worth of bras.  I refused to hang up one bra properly, because it was on a hanger with the wrong label, and I almost cut off circulation when I put it on.

In the end, though, I found a single bra that fit.  It is nice.  It is comfortable.  It is actually a plunge push-up, because apparently no normal bras fit my particular boob shape.  It is only available in lacy and leopard print, so I bought both.  In honor of a successful day, here's a selfie with Z.  Hooray for boobies!  (What am I doing with my arm?  Too weird.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016



In my home, there are two girls.

I have a daughter.
She is four years old.
She is interested in anatomy and astronomy.
She has a picture book filled with fantastic painted planets and poetry about each one.
She loves YouTube videos in which cartoon characters explain how the body works in simple language.
She draws hundreds of pictures of planets and people.  Bodies and stars.
She signs her name to each one in big wobbly letters.
When she grows up, she thinks she might want to be a nurse or an artist.
She knows how to pump herself on the swings,
How to ride a bicycle without training wheels,
And how to mix the batter if we have waffles for breakfast.

I have a foster daughter.
She is four years old.
She is interested in Frozen, the Disney movie musical.
She has a lot of little Anna and Elsa dolls.
She loves to hear Let It Go and Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?
She imagines power and magic and a real sister who lives at Mommy's house forever.
She picks out the letters of her name from street signs and the covers of books.
When she grows up, she thinks she might want to be not so afraid all the time.
She knows how to pump herself on the swings,
How to ride a bicycle without training wheels,
And how to microwave her own popcorn if nobody comes home.

In my home, there are two girls.
They are both four years old.

Monday, April 25, 2016

You can make your own (bad) decision

An open letter to my precious child:

I love you, and I want to keep you safe.  I know, though, that I can't protect you from every bad thing in the world for your entire life.  Some day you're going to fall down and get bruised.  You're going to have your heart broken, if only a little bit.  You're going to fail, get hurt, and struggle.  Everyone does.

Even if I could protect you from every hurt and pain right at this moment, I don't think it would be a loving thing to do.   There are lot of lessons in life you just have to learn the hard way.  You can't learn resilience without failure.  You can't learn to apologize without being wrong.  You can't learn to keep on keeping on to do hard things if you've always had every obstacle removed from your path.  You'll need those skills for the road ahead.

Because of this, my little one, I've decided that you can make your own bad decisions.

I try to be wise as I let you choose.  While I know getting hurt is inevitable, I don't want your body or your spirit to be damaged beyond reasonable repair.  I will ask myself if you will need first aid or the emergency room, and if it's the former, I'll let you decide.

I will use my extensive life experience to help guide you and to inform you of likely consequences.  I will say things like, "If you play there, you might get hit by the swing."  And, "If you buy that, you won't have money for the other thing you want."  And, "She's not nice to you in person, I'm worried what she'll say behind your back if you hang out with her."  Then I will let you go ahead and stand there, buy that, and hang out with her.  Later when you are crying, I will hold you and help you recover.

I will not say, "I told you so."  I will, however, hope you've learned something, and the next time a similar situation arises, you can look back on your own bad decision and make a better one.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Story I Tell Myself About Myself

We found out there was a problem with the outside wall of our downstairs bathroom in October when we had our windows replaced.  We hired Husband's cousin to come and fix the problem.  The day he came to "open up the wall and see how bad it is," he completely removed the wall, including the studs and the base plate, and took the other three walls, the floor, and the ceiling down to studs.

We started shopping for tile after he finished removing the bathroom from our house.

If you've never shopped for tile before, here's what you need to know: any given tile store has hundreds of options, and tile is expensive.  Husband and I were overwhelmed with choices, and felt immense pressure to make the "right" decision because of the money we'd be sinking into the tile job.  Every evening that husband didn't have a meeting we spent tile shopping, and two weeks in we were both feeling pretty stressed by the whole situation.

I started to tell myself this story: "This remodeling project has me feeling more stressed.  The level of stress I'm experiencing is more than what I should feel.  Clearly I'm not coping."

Sunday morning I was walking to church praying about how overwhelmed I was feeling when I had the sudden realization that the story I was telling myself wasn't helpful, and it wasn't the only story I could tell about the situation.  In psychology, they call changing your internal story cognitive reframing.  Given that reframing fixed our bathroom wall's problem, it seems only fitting that reframing my thinking would fix mine.

Here's the new story: "I feel stressed by this project, but I'm still accomplishing the things I need to accomplish.  Meals are getting cooked, laundry is getting cleaned, and children are being cared for well, despite my feelings of stress.  Clearly I am coping."

I can't tell you the number of times I've counseled someone else on ways to reframe their situation.  Somehow it's more difficult to see the stories you're telling about yourself than to recognize the stories others are telling about themselves.  Recognizing the story, though, is the first step to changing it.  Especially when you can't actually change the situation, changing your perspective can be a huge help.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

#HolyLens Week 7

Monday- March 21- Wait

Husband and I spent the evening planning his June sabbatical.  He decided during the conversation that we absolutely should not take another placement before the end of June, because he won't be able to accomplish what he needs to do for ordination if we have new foster kids while he's on sabbatical.  I feel good about that decision: it will give us a full six months to recover and regroup after the end of our first placement, and it will allow him the time he needs to both relax and get significant work done on his ordination paper.  We've made a decision to wait.

Secretly, I also really hope we don't get any calls before then.  It is always hard for me to say no, even when it's a bad fit.

Sunday- March 27- Rise

Happy Easter!  Husband and Z rose early to go to a sunrise service at Lake Michigan.  I hear it was lovely.  I celebrated by staying in bed with my littler littles.

I'm going to be straight up honest that I failed at the last week of this Holy Lens project.  I remember that there was something I was going to write about Wednesday night, but my parents were in town, so I didn't, and then I completely forgot to revisit the blog for the rest of the week.  *sad trombone noise*

It is, however, Easter, so I'm going to release myself from going back and revisiting the words for the week.   Blessings!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#HolyLens Week 6

Monday- March 14- Rest

I am enjoying a season of rest.  A season where there are just enough kids to cuddle all of them while reading together.  I know we'll get another placement, and life will disintegrate into chaos again.  And even if we didn't, not every season is as calm and lovely as this one has been.  But, my goodness, I am enjoying this.

Tuesday- March 15- Cry

This morning L and I were looking at the photo album from last spring.  I realized later that I hadn't pulled pictures off of Husband's phone since last September, so I went through his camera roll in the brief lull after dinner.  I can't post pictures of B and G here, but seeing the difference in G between the beginning and the end of her stay here was so touching.  I was in tears looking at the pictures of her laughing with V and Z after Thanksgiving dinner.

Wednesday- March 16- Free

Z slept poorly last night and begged to be allowed to stay home from school today so that he could take a nap.  That child hates naps, so if he's asking for one, you know it's serious business.  I'm so blessed that I don't have to work for a paycheck, so I was free to say Yes.  We relaxed and read books, and Z took more than a 2 hour nap.

Friday- March 18- Call

At the Church Easter egg hunt, there was a plate of "Vegan Deviled Eggs." They looked a bit like deviled eggs, but were obviously Yukon gold potatoes halved and partially scooped out. They were topped with paprika and chives, but the yellowish colored filling was a mystery. 2.5 hours into the 3 hour event, none had been eaten. I tried one and reported to the woman running the kitchen that they were actually filled with humus. She relabeled them "Humus stuffed Potatoes" and in the last 30 minutes, half of them disappeared. The moral of the story is twofold. 1) Nobody thinks "Vegan" sounds delicious. 2) If you call the food what it IS, people are more likely to eat it than if you call it what it ISN'T.

Saturday- March 19- House

Friday night we went to see the circus.  Husband was performing as a juggler, the culmination of three months of practicing both juggling and unicycle.  The big kids had a wonderful time.  L liked the first act, anyway, although he ran out of patience for the second.

Husband had two circus performances today, the last two of the four this week.  His best performance was the matinee show, where he caught all of his juggling tricks in both acts.  For the evening show, a huge crowd of people turned out in support of him.  People from church, the leadership of the Hispanic congregation that meets at our church, his sister and a coworker, and some youth group students, all there to cheer my husband on.  I stayed at the house to take care of our tired kids, who needed to recover from their late night on Friday.

I'm proud of this man's hard work.  I'm really glad he had a wonderful time.  I'm also profoundly grateful for the supportive community around us who came out to watch his thirty seconds in the spotlight.

I made his Imperial Officer costume, by the way, for the Star Wars themed juggling act.  What do you think?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

#HolyLens Week 5

Sunday- March 6- Taste

Menu for the week:
Sunday, Leftover Buffet.
Monday, Pork and broccoli stir fry, brown rice
Tuesday, Spinach Fritatta, bread, roasted cauliflower, ginger pickled carrots.
Wednesday, Quesadillas, guacamole, refried beans, salsa.
Thursday, Tuna noodle casserole from scratch with a lot of veggies.
Friday, Burgers, buns, Asian coleslaw, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Saturday, Chili, brown rice.

Tuesday- March 8- Walk

The weather was glorious today, and I was watching E, the child of a good friend, so we spent a good chunk of the morning at the playground.  Walking there and back was funny, because E was only happy riding in her stroller for about 10 seconds, and then she wanted to get out and walk.  However, after 10 seconds of walking, she would decide she wanted to ride again.  We made it the 2 blocks there and the two blocks home stopping every 10 seconds to rearrange seating.

Thursday- March 10- People

My people, enjoying the weather.

Friday - March 13- Sent

Husband was supposed to leave work a little early and pick up his sister to come here for dinner on the way home.  Traffic delayed my sister-in-law by an hour, though, so I ended up grilling our burgers on my own, which I had never done before.  Z had an amazing week at school, and we had promised him a family outing to Dairy Queen as a reward.  Unfortunately, by the time I made, ate, and cleaned up dinner, I was in no mood for anything.  So I sent the family out to DQ, and I stayed home to read a book.  They came back with their ice cream, and even brought some for me.

Saturday- March 12- Rescue

"Mommy!  Mommy!!  HELP!!"  I rescued them by tickling Daddy.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

#HolyLens Week 4

Sunday- February 28- Fruit
Grocery shopping today I bought Anjou pears, mandarin oranges, mangos, Braeburn apples, parsley, cilantro, celery, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, avocados, butternut squash, cucumbers, zucchini, ginger, lemons, and mushrooms in quantities to feed my 5 person family more than generously.  What a bounty!  All for less than $35.  I am so blessed.

Tuesday- March 1- Remember
Today is Boy's 2nd birthday.  My family is remembering him today.  V has been coloring pictures for Boy and Girl since Sunday, and talking about her good memories of their time living in our home.

Wednesday- March 2- Father
I'm not sure why I so seldom photograph my parents.  Typically, they come down from Wisconsin about twice a month and stay overnight.  They bring dinner for all of us and leave before the kids take their naps the next day.

During today's visit, Grandma gave us a quilt show featuring her handcrafted quilts.  You can see my father reading to V on the couch behind her as she unloads her boxes of beautiful creations.  It is such a pleasure to have my parents so deeply involved in my children's lives.

Thursday- March 3- Hear
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Friday- March 4- Love
There are so many ways to demonstrate love to the hurting children involved in the foster care system, to their parents, and to their foster families.  If you've got a heart to help, you don't have to be a foster parent yourself.  Here's a list of 101 practical ways you can show love Christ's love to people involved in foster care.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

#HolyLens Week 3

Sunday- February 21- Light

Enjoying a cup of "coffee" before church.  Daddy had the big kids at the car wash, so I got to enjoy a few quiet minutes alone with L.

Monday- February 22- Rock

L is two.  Although he is generally a pretty easy-going kid, meltdowns and tantrums are a thing for this age, and he has his fair share.  I've learned, though, to be pretty comfortable with meltdowns.  I'll admit that I still get frazzled when there are things to be done rightthishotsecond and a kid is out of control wailing, but when there's nothing too pressing on the agenda, I've gotten good at just holding the space for the unhappy kid.

I say what's happening, and then I sit and wait.  Today it was: "You want to stay outside, and it's time to come inside.  You're very upset."  After a few minutes, L generally comes to sit on my lap, and then I continue to sit and rock him until he's had his fill of crying.  When he's all done with his cry, we go on with our day.

It took a long time for me to be ok with just rocking my little while he finishes working through his bad feelings.  It's easy to want to just end the crying, by distracting with toys or treats or insisting on quiet.  Feeling bad feelings is part of life, though, and learning to move on after you're done feeling is a good skill.  So for now, L wails, and we rock, and it's another day.

Tuesday- February 23- New

I was lamenting to a friend that Z and I have nothing we consistently enjoy doing together.  He's got things he loves, and I'll join in when I have the chance, but I'm never excited to play Legos or to watch him play Minecraft.  Last week I randomly got the idea to introduce him to the Dada game Splendid Corpse.  The basic set-up is a piece of paper folded in half for each participant.  Each person spends 6 minutes drawing the top half of a strange creature, makes sure a few lines cross the fold, and then passes their paper to the next person.  Each person then has to complete the creature that was passed to him without having any idea what the previous person drew above the fold.

Z loved it.  I had a ton of fun playing with him.  It's our new thing.  Whenever we get 15 minutes, we sit down and play a round together.

Want to see a few examples?

Wednesday- February 24- Serve

My SIL, who has a standing invitation, showed up at 10 minutes to dinner time.  The original meal was supposed to be sushi, which she can't stand, but I decided Wednesday morning that I wanted ginger pickled carrots in my sushi roll.  I prepped the carrots, put them aside to pickle, and made Thursday's meal for Wednesday's dinner instead: loaded baked potatoes with roasted cauliflower and rapini.  Everyone was delighted with the meal I served.

Friday- February 26- Sow

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry today.  We've got a membership this year, so that maybe wasn't a huge deal.  I did keep Z home from school, though, so he felt it as a special treat.  Each kid picked one exhibit.  Z picked Numbers in Nature, which included a really cool mirror maze; V picked the space exhibit, which was a disappointment to her, because it was all about NASA and space equipment, rather than being about stars and planets; L picked the farm, where V enjoyed watching the video of a calf being born over and over and over and the boys pretended to drive a combine for almost an hour.

I learned that tractors manufactured since 2010 have contained more computer technology than NASA spacecraft during the Apollo era.  As in, every spacecraft that ever went to the moon had less computer technology than the average farmer parks in his barn.  That's amazing.

Saturday- February 27- Merciful

Today was a good day.  We walked to the library in the beautiful warm sunshine.  Husband finished his first draft of the rewrite for our church constitution.  We had friends over to play Settlers of Catan after dinner, and husband won.  God is so merciful to give us this season of rest.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

#HolyLens Week 2

Sunday- February 14- Bread

Our family Valentines Day tradition is the Chicago Auto Show.  I packed along dinner, because a soda at McCormic place costs more than I want to spend on a meal for one person.  We ate sitting on the carpet on the floor behind a truck.  Sandwiches with 7 grain bread, honey ham, provolone, swiss cheese, mustard, avocado, and bean sprouts.  Mandarin oranges.  Chips.  Cookies made by my sister-in-law as a valentines day gift for all of us.  I also brought a big water bottle and my color-coded plastic cups.  An hour later, a woman walking past me in another section of the show said, "Hey!  You're the ones who were eating that picnic earlier!"  We were.  It was delicious.

Monday- February 15- Speak

My husband says that during the past few months we've been re-learning how to be married.  So much of 2015 was crisis mode, exhaustion, and just getting by, that now that we have time to breathe again, we've got some serious catching up and reconnecting to do.  We had a wonderful long conversation about some major points of friction in our marriage that resulted in both of us feeling understood and making a commitment to concrete behavior changes.

It feels so good to speak and be heard.  It feels so good to have my love speak to me with love, gentleness, and even correction.  I'm grateful for this season of rest, for the chance to build my marriage back up, and for the man beside me in the mess.

Tuesday- February 16- Pray

Wednesday- February 17- Sign

I had a babysitter this morning, so I went out to run some leisurely errands.  I was at Target buying myself a heart shaped box of discount candy (because I'm worth 50% off!) and another woman rolled up with a kid in her cart.  We chit-chatted, and in the course of things, she mentioned that she's got three daughters.  When I commented that three is a full house, she said her sisters have five and six respectively, and they tease her about having an easy life.  I quipped that after having five, having only three does seem easy, which led into an explanation of my having had foster kids.

She lit up with excitement: her husband started talking a few weeks ago about the possibility of fostering to adopt, and she hasn't been able to stop thinking about it.  She was sure that our meeting as a sign that they should move ahead with learning more.  I encouraged her to sign up for the foster parent training class, because it's great for helping you solidify your intentions, whether you decide you do want to foster or not.  We ended up talking for 45 minutes or so, me sharing some of my experience and insight, and her sharing about her family and her hopes and fears.  It was a beautiful thing.

Thursday- February 18- Help

The refrain for the morning lessons: Behold, God is my helper.  It is the Lord who sustains my life.  Psalm 54:4

L is helping put the veggies on plates to go on the table for lunch.  He's a good helper.

Friday- February 19- Brother

V enjoys "reading" books to L.  She likes to help take care of him.  When he cries, she runs to his side and tries to cheer him up.  She loves to be a big sister, and takes great pride in helping her little brother.