Thursday, February 28, 2013


I fell asleep last night at my normal time (too late) and when I woke this morning, the elves had done their work on this here blog. Hallelujah! Cat is a saint, and she also happens to be incredibly intuitive and savvy. Thanks, Friend!

I wanted to write a quick post welcoming all of you to my new home and thought I'd use a picture of moi so you could tell right away that it's still your long-limbed FPFG at the keys. Incidentally, this is the most recent photo of myself and it was taken on Saturday as Cory and I headed out on the ill-fated double date. That's a bag of homemade caramel popcorn in my hand. (Naturally!)

There are still a few small things we'll be tweaking, but the big work is finished and I'm reveling in the fresh and clean of my new digs. It almost makes me want to clean my real digs!

Today's agenda includes:
Pajama day at Siley's pre-school (you can't imagine the cuteness)
A top-secret project for me while he's gone
Brown sugar pork chops for dinner
Gymnastics for Ruby after dinner
And maybe cleaning the toy room. Though I'm reluctant to ruin the fun with that one.

What are you up to today?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We'll Show You A Good Time

We pulled into my Mom and Dad's drive on Friday night and as usual, I had the weekend planned. And as usual, the "plans" included a whole lot of doing almost nothing.

In OH for the weekend. Packed pajamas, one change of clothes, and 6 books. #priorities - FPFG via Twitter

I would read, loll, and only look presentable when it was mandatory. I would get some important work done and sleep my brains out.

Now it's Sunday night, we're back home, and  I have to tell you, the weekend got away from me.

I finished one book and started another. Lame.

Then there was our double date.

It's been in the works for months. And, it was our first date with this brave couple. They're newish friends and they're also old, old friends. It's complicated.

But we were all looking forward to it. My beloved La Fiesta was on the docket.

We walked in only to realize that we, uh, couldn't walk in. We couldn't even squeeze past the crowd to put our name in. And what that means is this: My secret love is getting too popular to love me back right. Makes me so mad.

We tried Logan's. Same luck.

We ended up at a pizza place. Pizza! (It was fantastic.) We had so much to talk about including but not limited to: Cory's past as a serial dater (he still denies this), garden variety adoption stuff, really difficult and gritty adoption stuff, parenting pre-schoolers with God complexes, parenting teenagers with teenager complexes, parenting teenagers when they have a girlfriend on Valentine's get the point.

Somewhere around God complexes I noticed that Cory wasn't...engaging. He was completely silent. Teetering on the very fringes of rudeness.

Meanwhile, the other three of us were just warming up.

Cory rallied and muttered something like, "Coffee..." only it sounded like "Kfly" and that's when I remembered that my mom gave him something for a queasy stomach before we left for our Hot Double Date.

The good news? No quease.

The bad news? It was 8:30 and he could barefly keep his eyes open.

The worst news yet? I had zero sympathy. Well, maybe 5. But no more.

We took him to the Tim Horton's and threw a cup of coffee and a Boston Cream at him and situated ourselves right by the fireplace.

I thought he was mostly fixed.

Until I noticed that far-away look in his eye again.

And then...he was gone, folks.

Think this, with about 1,000% less neck support.

So we ignored him and kept on talking. For three more hours.

Every once in a while his lids snapped open and he would say something important about the 5 points of Calvinism or Cher's song "If I Could Turn Back Time" in a near whisper. Dude truly does love that song. But I'll be honest, I had hoped for more.

Short story long, the weekend wasn't what I had planned.

But it may have been better, in its own strange way, if for no other reason than the fact that my mom did a 23-second wheeze from laughing so hard when I replayed the ill-fated double date.

This right here is the story of my life, and probably yours, only yours hopefully enjoys fewer awkward Cher moments.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fatherless Generation

On my first flight of The Trip That Almost Wasn't, I opened Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story by John Sowers and within exactly 1.5 paragraphs, I was crying.

It was only the forward.
And we hadn't even lifted off yet.

 "Fatherless men need friends who are proud of them." (forward by Donald Miller) I was done. Two paragraphs in. That's all it took.

I flew through the rest of the book, curled up in a vinyl seat in O'Hare F-11. It's fairly short and an easy read, but it yanked my heart so hard. Of course I could only think about our Robert. It helped me make sense of so much more of him. It gave words to all of my sinking suspicions.

"Fatherlessness creates an appetite in the soul that demands fulfillment." - John Sowers, Fatherless Generation

"Debilitated by their inadequacy, they live in a continual state of apathy. 'Everyone has given up on me,' they think, 'so why should I care about anything? Why should I even try?'"  - John Sowers, Fatherless Generation

What surprised me the most was not how closely Robert aligned with the traits of fatherlessness. What surprised me was realizing how easy it was to love this boy, and how quickly our love began to change things.

I would read about apathy, about lashing out, about disregard for authority and it would remind me of the kid I met 2 years ago, not the one I know now. (Please do not tell him I just called him a kid.) Yes, he'll fight the fall-out for a very long time, but now he knows he has all our love. He knows he has all of us. It changes things.

So of course it makes me wonder, how many other Roberts are out there? It seems safe to assume that there's at least one on every block. What if every family found theirs and stubbornly refused to stop loving him? Or her? We're commanded to care for the orphans...What if we all really understood that even though our country has abandoned the concept of orphanages, we're clearly a nation whose fathers have chosen to stay away? The orphans are everywhere.

It seemed so improbable that the consistent love of two nerdy white people could help fulfill the appetite in the soul of a child with "Pain" "Kills" tattooed on the tops of his hands - black on black.

He shops at Max 10, we shop at the Gap. Trey Songz/Avett Brothers. McChicken/Pad Thai. For a slick second, these silly differences made me feel like we'd be foolish to even try. They made him feel like we were up to something.

But we pushed, he started pushing too, and before long, we met right here where we stand. We stopped, looked around, and saw that in choosing to step right over the ditch separating the absurd and the necessary, we had become a family.

So yes, I loved this book. I hope you'll read it and if you do, I hope you'll tell me what you think.

*Book links are Amazon Affiliate links.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cee Dub - The BIG Skinny on Craft Weekend

I don't even know where to start with Craft Weekend.
I could probably just say "It's one of the best things I've ever done" and leave it at that.

But when have I ever opted for the succinct route?

I really can't even put my finger on the one thing that made it so fantastic. I think it was lots of little things. The perfect storm of awesomeness. Something like that.

The fun technically started at the airport, and by "fun", I mean nerve-wracking and frustrating, but I also mean hours of crack-me-up texting with Meg.

The whole point in me being one of the CW Helpers was to show up a day early and,
So while I lounged around at gate F-11, they picked up my slack and promised to not eat anywhere too good for dinner without me.

They rolled out of bed to retrieve me the following morning at the hotel where I had slept for roughly four hours. In solidarity, despite the fact that I had already showered (dangit), I didn't put make-up on. This is what I looked like the first time I met them. So help me Hannah. My beady eyes terrify even me.

The split second I saw Meg at the hotel, I spontaneously teared up. Strangest thing. She's like Elvis.

It was positively surreal to walk into the Craft House. I felt like such a all looked so familiar! It was fun to see how all of the rooms flowed together.

Needless to say, every ding dang corner of that house was cheery, colorful, deliciousness.

True story: I do believe Meg has served as key inspiration in my drifting toward more colorful decor. She's the master.

Every single guest room was decked out.

I'm so glad I took a few minutes to roam around and snap a few with my trust point-and-shoot. It was pure, undisturbed lovely.

I had so much fun tooling around with these ladies on Friday before the other crafters arrived. I tried to make myself useful after shirking my duties the previous day.

Meg and I ran errands in the morning, including a thrift-stop for old t-shirts (best thrift store EVERRR), listening to a couple of old-timers kiss in line, grabbing tequila for the margaritas on the menu that night, assisting the cutest little elderly couple after she had just taken a tumble, forgetting to return a Redbox (twice), and forgetting to pick up ice (twice). I squeezed a bunch of avocados and got to help choose flowers that would later grace the tables. And yes, I did all of this with my naked, beady eyes. It bonded us for life.

Photo: Shannan & me. Boom. #whatevercraftweekend
 And now, a word on Meg:
She's just my kind of people. We might be twins in an alternate universe if "twins" is defined by a propensity to laugh at the same jokes, watch the same movies, and stay up until the same unholy hour. I want to mine her heart for a while - there's so much good in there. Of course none of this is news to you and it wasn't news to me, but there's something about sharing the same space to cement the things you already knew to be true. She's rowdy and low-key and we share a few of the same exact quirks and she's my friend for life. Ready or not.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sprucing and tidying and not cutting my fingertips off with my first go-round with the villainous rotary-cutter. I also did an impromptu reading for the three lucky ladies. Free of charge.

{Check out that swag! I died for the swag. More on that in coming days.}
{Also, I learned what swag means! Stuff We All Get. Consider my world rocked.}

Eventually we put on our faces and at 5:30, the Crafters arrived.

And now, a word on the Crafters:

I adored them.

They were all warm and funny and unique. Comfortable in their skin. Different ages, different styles.

We spent the next 2 days crafting our brains out in our pajamas. Everyone was engaging and creative and kind and special.

I knew I loved them at the time, but I knew it even more somehow when I finally made it home and realized that I missed them and our unique camaraderie. There's something about holing up with other women, eating cinnamon rolls, cramming into a 15-packer, waxing poet about the various attributes of the Sonic Jalapeno Popper.

After everyone arrived we got straight to eating. Kimberlee fed us so well.

 And now, a word on Kimberlee:
 She made me feel like I had known her since my hair was in braids, and I'm not talking about that one day two summers ago. I love her laugh. Her heart is so pure. Her pajamas were so pajama-y. She served with joy and made us all feel honored and spoiled. I wanted to steal her away and talk for hours while she fed me cheesecake and harvest chili.

You like these rainbow knives?
I don't. I almost lost my left forefinger to the green one.

All I know is, I was slicing half a lime and I thought, "I think I'll slice this on an angle and get three wedges instead of two. I'm so industrious! So the-opposite-of-wasteful!" Then the two ladies to my right made me laugh and I looked up and when I looked back down, I was hemorrhaging.

I'm such a stinking chicken. I lost all my color and they made me sit down. I kept repeating, "Do I need a stitch? Do you think I need a stitch?"

I couldn't stop. And I couldn't figure out why no one else matched my level of near-hysteria. Why were they still laughing and milling around? Why were they handing me a margarita while I was bleeding out?

I didn't need a stitch. Just a Band-Aid, as it turned out.

After dinner we got straight to our first project: The Apron.

You know I'm terrified of the bobbin, people. And the thought of measuring things gives me hives, so I pretty much refuse to do it.

I was in good company, because there were several of us who were novice seamstresses.

The only problem is, most of the novices caught on considerably faster than Taryn and I. And we were the two "helpers", mind you.

And now, a word on Taryn: 
She was the other helper and I'm sure we'll be friends for life. Our worlds are pretty similar. We were the only two without a Smart phone. In fact, we have identical slide phones. And we use the same exact ring tones. (creeeepyyy!)

We are a terrible combination in a room full of sewing machines and the only two in the group who ended up with mini-skirt aprons, because we cut each of our ruffles a full inch too short.

We cannot be trusted. Can. Not.

What can we say? We like our aprons a tad on the scandalous side.

My apron is 2nd from the right. The vertically-challenged one. The one with the naked top.
But I love it!
I could have spent hours just picking fabric.
In fact, I did.
And that might be why I was the very last one to finish mine, a full 24-hours later than the other ladies.

Meg always says she loves every single apron and now I know why.
However, I had a favorite, and you'll find it on the left. It is Kellie's and I adore her brave choices. She was worried that none of them worked together, but she picked her five favorite fabrics to stunning, show-stopping effect. (There's a lesson here...)

{Meg's shop}

Day two? We shopped.

It might be some unwritten rule that every crafter shall not leave without a quilt. So many of us bought quilts! Can you see why? I found one for $45, just perfect for Ruby's bed. I didn't have room in my suitcase, so I hauled it through O'Hare airport bed-roll style. Twice I was asked to unroll it for closer inspection and was happy to oblige.

A raging headache sent me across the street to the funniest, homiest cafe for some caffeine.

Then we hit up the famous Barn. It reminded me so much of Larry's barn.

It was crammed with goodness.

{Taryn's "chip clip" photo bombs my shot.}

Lordy, I loved Kansas and all its farmy charm.

Sometime soon I'll tell you all about the craft I taught. So fun!

This trip, while more travel-adventure than I bargained for, was just what this girl needed. I've ventured to places that have left me feeling like a misfit. This wasn't one of them.

I'd like to think each one of us felt community while we were under that roof. I know I did. We spent endless hours trimming threads and decoupaging our hands together. We ate cheesecake at midnight, argued with Pandora, and talked about important things into the wee hours.

My kind of heaven.

Also, breakfast was served at 9:30 with the disclaimer, "You can come down in your PJs if you want." Don't mind if I do.

Is anyone still with me? This is entirely too long. But it all needed to be duly memorialized. Thank you for your time, and God Bless America.

Read more about Craft Weekend here.


*Cool, Instagrammy pics courtesy of Meg. Find her on IG as Meg Duerksen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fancy Date

Saturday afternoon Cory and I landed a 24-hour stretch of kid freedom. As soon as the shorties left the building we were hit with a weird, rookie jolt of Now what?

As usual, Cory wanted to take to the streets. He suggested "shopping around", but I reminded him that this girl doesn't "shop around" unless she has some pocket change. And she doesn't.

He looked at me.

I looked at him.

And we did what anyone in our position would do: We poured bowls of Raisin Nut Bran and ate them on the couch at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Then we took naps. Separately.

High romance. Sky high romance, people.

(But there was time.)

So I snickered through two chapters of this book under the duvet, set my alarm, and dozed.

What seemed like three hours 15 minutes later, Cory barged into the room yelling, "Shannan! It's 5:30!" He looked positively stricken.

See, we had a big, fancy date on the docket. Dinner reservations at 6:30. At a restaurant 45 minutes away. And I hadn't even showered yet.

Long story short, I went to the symphony with towel-dried hair and fast-lane make-up.

I can't tell you how long I've wanted to go to the symphony. Cannot even do it. I loved every single minute, every last Gershwin note. I loved watching all the bows move in unison. I loved the bluesy clarinets and the Donald Duck trumpet mutes. I loved the chatty conductor. I. Loved. It. All.

The city's mayor stunned us into a collective reverie by flying through Rhapsody in Blue on the grand piano. It was moving, impressive, entirely captivating. It sounded to me more like Rhapsody in Fuchsia with Traces of Plum and Sun-bleached Sky, but that's just me.

This sort of night couldn't have come at a better time for us. Could there ever be a bad time? No. The answer is no.

We rolled home, had a drink and caramel fudge cheesecake, watched television in the dark, went to bed way too late, woke up even later and had Mexican food for brunch.

This is the life.

This is the life for me.

*Book links are Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Give The Day Her Due

I've been a Valentine's day slacker this year. It feels like symptom of a larger problem, one called My Life is Nutso.

But I sit and take stock now and then and decide all over again that I'll take my new kind of nuts. It leaves me sort of exhausted and soul-bruised sometimes, but this is the life I was meant to live - at least today, but probably not forever, because if there's one thing I know for sure it's that as soon as things start to seem normal, a shake-down happens.

I'm fine with that. It lends a certain air of adventure to life. Even if it does interfere with my seasonal decor.

Before 11 pm last night I had exactly two Valentine's decorations out - a fabric heart hanging from the pantry knob that Cory repeatedly removes because it "bugs" him, and my now-brown-at-the-edges newspaper heart wreath.

I'm a disgrace to cupids everywhere.

But I hit my stride late last night and overcame obstacles in the vein of missing tape and smooshed garlands. I strung up every existing decoration I could find from Valentines of yesteryear. It was total hodge-podge, gaudy and wonky.

It was kid perfection.

I'm so glad I remembered. I almost went to bed without it even crossing my mind.

I make plenty of Mama mis-steps, but I like to think that I do holidays some justice. They aren't magazine-worthy or even pin-worthy, but they are always Calvin/Ruby/Silas approved.

They're momentos of my love for them and though they wouldn't doubt it in the absence of crayon-wax hearts, I adore creating these moments just for them, just for us. It always feels like a privilege.

After a very short night with our youngest, he traipsed downstairs this morning and literally gasped. "Mommy! Good job!"

Just like that, all was forgiven. Funny how that happens around here.

Silas is always the one who notices these things most acutely. I love him for it.

We feasted by the light of the fading moon.
We giggled for the heck of it, and because dangling breakfast hearts will do that to a person.

There were gifts, one Mud Love bracelet on each plate, chosen with intention.

The Mud Love people don't know me and I don't know them, but I love the work they're doing. Bracelets and necklaces are made in a nearby town and sell for just $5 a pop. 20% of their profits go toward clean water in Africa. Win-Win-Win! And there are tons of words and band colors to choose from.

 (I spy Christmas decorations still hanging at the windows. What have I become??!)

Silas cried for the first time all year about going to Pre-school because he wanted to "stay home wis all the hots" (with all the hearts)

He's such a swoony love bug.  Especially when he's not thrashing around all the live-long night.

I think we'll keep them up for a while. It seems a pity to enjoy them for just one day. I'm all about keeping the love alive. And they're so dang cheery.

So, here's to the best job on the planet. Here's to tired eyes and wax hearts, circa 2010. Here's to kids who are easily blown away and the sheer, magical gift of being the dynamite.

Here's to hot dates scheduled for the weekend.

Here's to a full night's sleep. (Please, God.)

Happy Valentine's Day, Lovies. I wish I could send you all a homemade box of truffles.
Except I didn't make any this year.

So would you settle for tomato soup?