Tuesday, September 28, 2010

M&C Smack-Down

You may have a hunch that things are amiss in the hood tonight. It's true, the Big Adoption Series typically doesn't open with a photo of garden produce. But rules are meant to be broken and for everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and these times, they are a'changin' and most of all... It's not my fault.

But more on that in a moment.

For now, I have something to get off my chest.

Calvin's last words to me tonight, after bedtime prayers, were, "Mommy, but why do girls have those bumps on their chest with a crack in the middle?"

Have mercy.

You send your child off to kindergarten and they come home talking about chest cracks?

I have never had to try so hard not to laugh. I gave my typical, "That's just the way God made ladies" response, to which he replied, "Well, maybe that's where babies come out. Out of those bumps."

Help me.

I thank my lucky stars that we have real-life people in our lives who have had C-sections. It's a perfect, age-appropriate go-to answer, and I don't even have to fib when I say "Sometimes doctors make a cut in the tummy and just pull the baby out." That blasted clock is ticking so ferociously in my ear - it's only a matter of time before he notices my "sometimes" caveat.

So, back to my day. Er, days.

Have you ever had a meeting with a realtor where photos would be taken for the official listing of your house? And in getting ready for that meeting, did you ever commence the mad dash stash? It seems like such a good idea, at the time. Such a time-saver.

Until you hike the heat box up to 450 a few hours later and very nearly burn your house down via Betty Crocker and Tupperware.

Willy and Nilly could hardly stand the excitement and Pilly? Well, he was like a moth to a flame. He couldn't tear himself away from the melted plastic smoke. It kept luring him back. Not good. Not good at all.

Cory got on his maintenancey groove and the crisis was averted in no time flat.

Good thing, because I had thighs to roast for Clear-the-Fridge casserole.

I started this tradition back in our tiny apartment, with a box of Rice-A-Roni and a pair of ice-glazed breasts. Maybe a tomato or two. A sprinkle of pre-shredded cheese. Who can say, really? It was a hot seller, though. It inspired Cory's very first "This could be served in a restaurant", which should be an indication of just how smitten he was.

Since then, I've noticed that one helping of Rice-A-Roni contains half a day's worth of sodium and I know myself well enough to know that I'll take my salt on a Santita, thankyouverymuch. So, brown rice it is. Hot from the cooker. I've also taken to shredding my own cheese (it actually melts!).

I roasted the gams with a slice of lemon and some fresh thyme and rosemary under the skin. They cooked for 25 or 30 minutes while I chopped up the other goodies: zuchinni, grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, more herbs. (A fresh grate of parm over the top would have been heaven, but I took a late turn for the lazy and opted out.)

Out of the oven, the chicken skin was removed and the meat was shredded. I cooked up the veggies in 1 T butter and a drizzle of oil, then mixed the rice and chicken in just when it started crying out for company.

Voila!

An unphotogenic meal shot in poor, energy-efficient lighting, that was darn, danged tasty.

Everyone liked it.

If you don't believe me, ask my rice-crusted floor.

But now, the real reason I'm slacking on my BAS. It seems there's a Macaroni and Cheese Smack-Down burning up the town. It seems Jayme, Jen, Teresa and myself all had a different version on the menu. That's what we call serendipity, folks. Kismet.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I ponied up. I wasn't called "The Shark" at a prior job for naught. I'm in it to win it.

At least that's what I was thinking until I looked a little closer at what they brought to the table. Crumb topping, they brought. Gooey goodness atop a jadeite saucer atop something that Cath Kidston may or may not have had a hand in creating. Velveeta, for the love of Pete! Who can possibly compete with Velveeta? It has magical powers, after all. It doesn't even need refrigeration!

All these elbows and all this special cheese has me feeling akin to the cheerleader with the bad perm. The sympathy vote on the homecoming court.

My M&C insecurities have climbed to a brand new height.

Nevertheless, I give you - Stovetop Brocc Mac & Cheese.*

The dreamy, creamy sauce is spooned over the cooked pasta and broccoli. It was a crowd pleaser.

So, do I have your vote?

Please say yes. My inner, geeky 15 year old begs you.

If nothing else, vote for me out of spite. It is, after all, their fault that the Big Adoption Series was unceremoniously booted to Wednesday.


*I substituted sour cream for the high-falutin' creme fraiche.

Unwrapping Imagination

There's nothing like a clean sheet of white to chase away those cooped up, crumbs-on-the-couch days.

We cue up our favorites (This song for Ruby, this for Calvin, and this for Mommy) and gather where the light is best.

Late afternoon rays illuminate our makeshift studio.

We take up our brushes - some frazzled and in disrepair, bristles splayed, weak and wobbly-kneed, others tapered smooth and fine, the silky end of a cat's tail.

The magic spreads as color on the page. A circle loses its way and becomes a zucchini, or maybe an eggplant - bright green. Accidental vegetation inspires a super-sized snow pea, the errant liquid drop of black landing just where it should.

I don't know much about technique and form. I don't know anything, really.

But when I take the time to notice beauty around a humble table marked with faint reminders of yesterday's color, and today's; when we learn together that there are some moments which carry no rule book; when I teach my kids that recording life is one way of honoring it, I am an artist.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Silo Turns Two

Exactly one year ago we spent our evening doing this:

We were celebrating Silas's first birthday - without the birthday boy. It seemed fittin' to throw him a party in our hearts, and I figured it was as good a time as any to introduce him to our party style- cupcakes with sprinkles on paper plates.

Make no mistake, Pie Pot, we will love you every way we know how, but not with a fancy, store-bought cake or party hats.

I remember the kids and I talking about what we wished for Silas and darn it if their answers weren't the cutest things since miniature donkeys, but I didn't write them down.

What I wished was that Silas was being treated like a Prince on his Big Day. And that he would join us under our roof in a hurry.

Fast forward a year.

Silas turns two.

As sure as I'm sitting here in my sweatpants, he woke up promptly at the stroke of birthday midnight and started whooping it up. At first I thought it was a fluke. Then, I thought he was talking in his sleep. At 2:00, I heard him laughing at his own jokes. At 4:00, I thought I heard him spinning some tunes. At 4:30, Cory found him sitting upright, wide awake, in silence. He looked a little sheepish, having had the cops called on him and all.

Homeboy threw himself back to Korean time and lived it up, transcontinental-toddler-style. I've never heard a happier dark-of-the-night baby.

It made me laugh to myself, up in my bed.

As for today? Ain't no one laughing.

FYI, here's what a 2-year-old birthday boy looks like after partying 'til the break of dawn the night before.

He screamed for 90% of gift-opening.

It was his story. He was sticking to it.

I thought Betty Crocker might have a cheering effect on him, but tweren't so.

Or maybe he was just afraid of the looming claw hand....

In one particularly bright spot, Calvin took it entirely upon himself to make Siley a birthday card.

Before long, he caught on to the fact that if he wasn't going to play with his new things, there were six other small peeps who would be happy to share the load.

He marched around for the rest of the evening, pushing the buttons on a trove of new, button-pushing toys.

Silo, we love you so much, even on your grumpiest of days.

But please, pack up that disco ball and sleep tonight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My LBD

Happy Anniversary to the first-string love-of-my-fashion-life.

If it were up to me, I would don you daily.

And often, I do.

You layer up right nicely.

You accessorize well with Santitas.

With a strategically (mis)placed cardigan, you become wearable Boggle.

You are the perfect grey.

I still haven't figured out which STATE you hail from, but when I do, I'm totally moving.

I love you more than the day you arrived in the post.

You are soft and thickish, mysterious and long-enough.

You are, quite possibly, the best $10 I've ever spent.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

About Last Week...

I am still recovering from the unbridled, overflowing, achy-jaws treasure that was last week. I sit in full knowledge that I cannot possibly do justice to our time together, but it's a pretty big deal, so I'll give it my best shot.

Remember the days when we secretly felt like girls were just too much trouble to cultivate close friendships with? Sure, we had a trusty fistful, but by and large, it seemed too risky. Too dangerous. Not worth the effort.

I look back on those years, where I stayed somewhat out of the fray, and I wish I could whisper in my ear the honest truth - Girlfriends are necessary. Not just one or two or five, but all different kinds, from all different corners.

Last week I spent time with three of the most beautiful hearts. I learned from each of them.

The four of us did all of the things a passel of girls does best.

We ate, we shopped, we gabbed, repeat. When all was said and done, I knew they were mine forever.

There was mutual concern that our friendship could not survive the Springfield Extravaganza, but in the end, there was enough chippiness and blue to satisfy everyone.

We are all different. We are all the same.

(Well, except for the guy in the yellow shirt.)

We are at different stages in life, we've all learned different lessons, and we're ready to talk.

It's true, three out of the four are prone to waking up unprompted at 6:45 in the ayem while one of the four will yawn all the live-long day only to spring to life somewhere around midnight, then pretend to be asleep in the morning until the smell of homemade French toasts wafts across the room and she just can't keep up the charade, but that's a whole 'nother story.

I am thankful for Jenn, the friend that is slightly less new to me than the others. She came into my life in a way that made me fear she had been here all along and I'd just been to willy-nilly to notice. The words she speaks are the perfect balance of genuine sugar and salty wit. If I could choose one person to read me to sleep for the rest of my life, it would be her. Her voice is a piccolo tune. Her tender heart softens mine a little through sheer proximity.

I am thankful for Jayme. She gave me an inch of cyber friendship and I took a mile, showing up on her door-step practically unannounced earlier this summer. Together, we have nearly perfected our own written dialect, seamlessly comprised of various accents and eras. This girl wrote the book on nurturing and serving. It would be impossible to escape her presence feeling unloved or uncared for. And did I mention that she's pretty dang funny? And her honey cookies should be patented?

I am thankful for Teresa. It takes a special girl to stay with my crazy, young family for three solid days and truly appear to enjoy the pandemonium. She effortlessly became a part of our routine. She wore sweatpants with me and discussed the virtues of Riggins vs. Coach T, she ate the casserole and frozen garlic bread I served in a pinch, she ignored the clutter, she echoed my very heart and regaled me with exasperating teenager tales, she snickered in the kitchen with Cory and I after Calvin unburdened his subconscious of dreams about talking cloths, and on the last night, she puttered into my kitchen, banged some cabinets around and returned bearing bowls of apple dumplings and ice cream. The amazing part is, I let her do it. It just felt right. She is kind and supportive in exactly the way I hope to be. She is funny to beat the band.

I have learned the hard way, over the years, that growing meaningful friendships can be a little scary and a lot of work. They can be a leap of faith, to be sure.

But finding one new friend who is honest and kind and encouraging and supportive and funny and smart and open and generous and quirky is a gift.

And finding three is a gift of a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Used to be Decoratey

Who doesn't love a peek into a fabulous home? I see them daily in blogville and I swoon and drool with the best of 'em.

Very rarely I stumble on one that truly speaketh my language. And stumble I did, just last week. I flipped end-over-end for my friend Lara's digs. I wanted to sneak in and sit up on her perfectly craggy bar-stools. I yearned to spin the windmill with my own claw-like hand. I pined for horse photography. I wished for a last name that started with a B.

This is the cool thing about "gussying up", whether it be one's home or one's own, personal bod. Different cloaks for different folks.

I'll confess straight up - I have worn the same t-shirt thrice in one week, and I don't care who knows it. Well, I would really prefer that Tim Gunn remain in the dark on this one, but everyone else - come and get me. I dare you to call me unimaginative or misguided.

As for my home, it's working its way out of a bit of a stale era itself, partly on account of this:



Toldja.

For the rest of the story, go here and tell Lara that she really is the cat's meow.

Then whisper a little prayer for me. My favorite t-shirt is dirty and I just don't know what I'll wear tomorrow...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Forgotten, but not Gone

I'm going to level with you - this is not a real-time post. I'm a big fan of writing in real-ish time. When I fail to do so, life keeps on moving and I lose track of things. More important things happen, I lose my zest for those things swept away like yesterday's bread crumbs.

Stale bread - that's how I feel about old news.

Unless it involves the three cutest kids on the planet, the perfect late-Summer evening, and a hike.

(Speaking of hike, could someone hike up this kid's britches?)

The way I felt on this hike is the way I feel right now - I am heart-achingly in love with my life.

It is hectic and frazzly and on nights like tonight, the troops get fed a mere three hours late.

(You'd almost think that three hours late is a big deal to small children, the way things were getting, up in the hood.)

But my son tells me things like, "I love our family", and it melts me.

And I have a church family whose heart beats in a rhythm that I really understand.

I have had fair food twice in one week. It just feels right.

I've spent the past several days with friends comfier than my blue blanket.

And much, much more attractive.

I'm near the bursting point, I fear.

Is it bad, when one bursts on account of happiness?

I could see that going either way...

All I know is this: Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God.

Thank you for making my world so vivid and full.

Thank you for slowing me down enough to notice.

Thank you for slowing me down enough to overlook the laundry piles and the smudgy floor. Thank you for giving me better things to focus on.

Thank you for bringing me babies and heart-friends and a husband who loves me right back.

Thank you for your love, stacked so tall that I strain my neck trying to see all the way to the top.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats