Things That I Miss

It's The Holidays. There's pretty much nothing about The Holidays that I don't love, unless you count little squabbles with a "somewhat petty" husband about the cost of Christmas Gifts and Holiday Feasts, or not having enough leftover stuffing to really feel quenched. But overall, I just adore this time of year. This year is nice, because for whatever variety of unjustified reasons, and a healthy dose of prozac, I am overall, as happy as I can remember being. Maybe it's the ridiculous puppy that wakes me up in the morning chewing on my arm - or was that my husband doing a zombie impression? Or maybe it's the smell of Peppermint Dreams, which may be my newest Scentsy favorite (call me shallow). Or maybe it's sorting out 17 boxes of glorious Pendleton Blankets and being able to tell the story behind each one because I am totally geeking out and reading the blanket books in lieu of Wisdom Searches every day. Sorry Dad, but Proverbs got worn out. Anyway, I am content, but not in a things-are-ok way, more content in a things-are-warm-and-fuzzy-and-even-if-you-are-a-little-bit-of-a-jerk-it's-nothing-a-gingersnap-latte-won't-fix kind of way. The one pang of sadness I have is for the friends, and the family that I haven't or won't see this season. I miss my besties from back home, even though back home is really here, now, I miss lunch (and breakfast) at the Mustang Grill, Karaoke and crispy chicken salad at the Whitebird. I miss sledding with 20 people and hot chocolate and snowplowing down sheep creek road in a pickup. I miss dark nights on friends couches with cheesy movies and doing dishes in hot sudsy water with my best friend. I miss BBQed turkey and Backwoods Cigars. I miss hockey practices, hockey games, expensive Canadian Lattes that have some magical ingredient I still haven't found anywhere else. I miss my kids still thinking everything was cool, instead of nothing is cool. I miss making chai lattes every morning to be picked up en route to work by only the most privileged of friends, who probably didn't even like chai but liked the excuse to stop by. I miss so many things, but look forward to recreating some memories with new friends, like smashing together Gingerbread Hovels and stacks of hundreds of puffy sugar cookies in indeterminate shapes. I can't wait to cruise Bend looking for the BEST Christmas Lights and fight with my teenagers over who gets to wear the cool snow pants. I am excited to go snow shoeing at night, in the dark, seeking out a bonfire with the aid of a warm thermos full of hot cocoa and schnapps. And I am excited to go home and visit at least some of my old friends. Some places you can never really go back to, and that's ok, I've still got the smells and sounds and warm fuzzies in my head. But dropping in at Christmas for a hug and a frantic download of community gossip is enough for now. I can say that my Auld Acquaintances haven't been forgot - but I'll still raise a cup of kindness for Auld Lang Syne.

Things That Make The Holidays

At the risk of offending my family and some of my very best friends, I have to tell you about my Thanksgiving. I hope that by offering an early disclaimer, in which I protest that I have nothing but the best of intentions in entertainment and humor, it is my deepest desire that the caricatures I paint with my words will be taken as lightly as possible, and with the understanding that I enjoyed this holiday immensely, and EVERYONE that came to my house. I have hurt very dear friends with my careless words before, and sincerely try to not repeat that offense, having learned my lesson, but understand that not everyone enjoys being lampooned. I, conversely, will take attention in any form. Anyway, in an effort to avoid offense, I think I will just avoid naming names in my story. Y'all know who you are anyway.

Somebody, several weeks back, had the great idea that since there was a possibility of work conflicts, we should stay home and invite the Entire Universe to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. Honestly it started out more innocently than that, when the hope was that an incredibly awesome job offer would compel a certain fire fighter to start academy the day after thanksgiving, precluding us from leaving town, but what really went down was that a somewhat underpaid retail employee had to work all Thanksgiving night and into Black Friday morning, even against her ethical opposition to the shopping frenzy. And initially it wasn't the Entire World that was invited, but a few very dear friends and a limited assortment of family. Of course some of these invitations were issued in the confidence that some of the friends and relations would not travel so far to visit Bend and our messy little house, but what happened was they did, and they brought their cousins and uncles and sisters and definitely their dogs. It was a happy little group that we projected, and even as it gradually evolved to somewhere around 27 people, 5 canines and a rabbit that somehow kept sneaking back into the house to fool the puppy and the three year olds into thinking his turds were coco puffs, it was still going to be fun. How can a group NOT be fun when you are mixing four generations of Jews, Evangelicals, Nazarenes (or whatever it is my parents are), Heathens and Cult Members (sorry Em), in a 12x24 room? Oh yeah, and the unaffiliated that showed up from Mexico at the last second. I will leave it to you to assign religious preferences to the remaining groups.

As people started trickling in, it was all crazy and fun and chaotic. The number 10 can of olives was barely enough, even though 4 of my siblings were unaccounted for, I guess between my dad and my own offspring they compensated. Long before dinner was served we were all stuffed from the beef stick and potato chip potluck that perfectly complemented the perpetual football game that was provided by a Brand New set of Rabbit Ears. Turns out that inviting the Single and Lonely dude from Ace Hardware to your Thanksgiving has it's perks. God bless employee discounts. I even got to watch some of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which makes the holiday more or less complete for me, even if Justin Beiber didn't show this year. I really can't give enough credit to a certain set of parents who basically did everything, including buying most of the groceries at Costco, stuffing the turkey, peeling the apples, tasting the stuffing and expertly sprinkling the Apple Salad with red and green sparkles which mark the official kick off of the Christmas Season. Taking one's parents shopping at Costco is ever so much more fun than taking one's husband, especially when he likes to argue about how many pieces of bread and bowls of cereal each visiting cousin would be allowed to have, and whether Tangerines should be split between children or each really needed his own Cutie. Seriously. We were somewhat lucky to have a big enough turkey when aforementioned husband was nigh unto insistent that 11 lbs was more than enough for 27 people since one of them was a vegan. Again I think part of the ultimate break down here, other than this husband fiercely clinging to his honorary Jew status, is his basic disdain for gravy and the misconception that Everyone Else in the World can also live without seconds.

By the time we all circled up to say grace, we had more food laid out than we had room for, and as an interesting side note, I would like to point out that a certain Jewish family is the one that brought the ham. Irony, anyone? I was a bit curious as to how the traditional Christian grace would come off in such mixed company, but was pleasantly surprised that everyone joined in heartily except for the vegan (I think that is his religion as well as his dietary preference) who refused to hold hands. The heathens (that were not me) were especially moved by a certain patriarch who issued his obligatory thankfulness speech, and even the non-messianic Jews chimed into the Amen that was in the name of a Jesus they don't particularly care for. It was remarkable for me to see the tolerance, even fascination of several sets of people for the other religion, without the ugliness of judgement, except for when one mother mentioned that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday and not a biblical celebration and another mother took offense that Baby Jesus was being mocked... But I think the gist of it all was that The Holidays are all about family and friends, and like a certain dad said, if family is the foundation of life, and friends are the siding and roofing and all that jazz, and if you follow the analogy out, I think he's pretty darn right, considering a house wouldn't be much good without one or the other, and even if one of the walls is a little crooked, or you have a crumbly spot in your foundation, it's way easier to fix it than to start all over. Somebody get that vegan some cement patch! What was so beautiful to me was watching people make choices all day to respond with grace to things that would normally make them uncomfortable, like a certain mom not staring at giant ear gauges, and a certain husband eating gravy in spite of himself. Not that there weren't moments of shock and horror, like the atrocity of cold mashed potatoes when dinner got bumped back, reactions and overreactions and little unspoken trifles that maybe went home and bloomed into full blown family discord, but for the sake of the holiday, we all pulled it together. It was crazy. It was crowded. It was beyond chaotic, but for this one year, I wouldn't do it differently. I might not do it the same ever again either, but that's only because I am ready for the next Holiday Adventure. Hopefully by then we will have a bigger house.

Also, I have to mention: The girls killed the boys in a neck-and-neck game of Trivial Pursuit.

Things That Make Us Different

Because I am a woman full of good ideas and intentions that rarely come to fruition since I generally forget my ideas before I get out of bed in the morning, I posed my family a semi-challenge to come up with something each day this month that they were thankful for. Really it wasn't my good idea at all but something I stole from someone much more awesome than me on Facebook, and it was only a semi challenge because I forgot to interrogate my offspring daily to find out what thing had truly blessed them that day. Probably my forgetting was somewhat intentional, since I didn't want to hear Kizzie say how she would be thankful if she was allowed to see her friends, or have Aspen give me an I-don't-know-what-you-are-asking-me-can-I-have-a-snack look, or have Halle use the opportunity of my undivided attention to describe the plot of a movie that she is thankful that she really really wants to see in graphic detail. To be fair, Halle did post thankful things on her Facebook, and once even mentioned her sisters, which I have a sneaking suspicion was a hack job by her younger sibling.

In spite of losing track of this project on the family side, I have been trying to keep up with daily mentions of things I am thankful for, and generally speaking, they are frivolous and superficial, like peppermint lattes and Dagny's whiskers. When I really consider what I am thankful for, it seems so general and overarching to dwell on four healthy children, all the bills paid, and a warm house to sleep in, although I am overwhelmingly grateful for those things. I guess I have been trying to focus on the small, specific things from day to day that make me happy. Puppy cheeks and festive coffees definitely do this for me, as much as the peace of mind that being taken care of does. While I haven't kept up with the kids about their thankfulness, I have brought this issue up repeatedly in discussions with Josh, when it seems valid to point out my newly acquired grateful perfection that he clearly isn't equaling. These discussions have opened my eyes to a couple of things: namely, that I might be a kind of frivolous and superficial person, and also, that different things make different people happy. When I ask Josh what (and throw in a meaningful "if anything" jab) he is thankful for, his responses are precisely the ones that I feel go without saying. A healthy family, no major financial concerns, blah blah blah. When I accuse him of being vague and non-specific, he points out that his gratefulness is quite specific in that he is thankful for OUR healthy kids and not the general population of healthy kids, and it's definitely more meaningful than a peppermint latte. Touche. While my basic instinct (which of course I follow up on) is to berate him for "not valuing the little things" and letting life pass him by, which is CLEARLY happening, it begins to dawn on me that for a caretaker personality like Josh, nothing makes him happier than the security of being able to provide for his family and know that we are all ok, even if that means providing puppy kiss experiences and peppermint lattes. As I realize this about him, it also occurs to me that the recent defeat of job rejections for him is a showcase of his potential failure to provide, even though we have no worries for financial survival and he always finds a way to take care of us. For me, I am happy, I am grateful. I am not worried because I know that Josh is not capable of failing us, whether he gets his dream job or not. But for him, it is a dark and looming possibility. The amazing thing about this is that I realize, suddenly, that I have faith in him, and THAT makes me happy. If you had asked me two years ago to have faith in anything, or anyone, I would have scoffed at you. But here I am, trusting, happy, believing. If you had asked Josh two years ago if he wanted a family of 5 girls, 3 dogs and a rabbit to be responsible for, he would have probably scoffed at you and then beat you up. But here he is, struggling, stressing, surviving. How easy it is for me to sit on my couch-like throne and cast judgement on him for not appreciating the "simple joys" of hot coffee and sweatpants and sunshine in the windows, while he is out in the not-so-warm sunshine shoveling thousands of pounds of rocks to make sure the phone bill is paid, the cars aren't repossessed, and I can have my darn lattes. Shame on me. That Josh, in spite of all he has gone through with his quest for a job, and the disrespect of snotty teenagers that he supports with no credit given, and the opposition of 5 women to his sense of manly organization and functionality, is still thankful for our health and security and survival, is somewhat remarkable. It isn't that Josh doesn't have things to be thankful for, it's that his view of life right now is so different than mine that we are made happy by very different things, and while we both have valid points, I am somewhat ashamed for demanding his thankfulness for the silly things that make me happy. In short, I guess I have come to the realization that his thankfulness is something to be thankful for, and him in general, beyond his strong arms and even stronger opinions, the man behind my happiness is pretty amazing. But don't tell him I said that.

Things That Flatter Me

Really this title is somewhat inappropriate, since I have only one "thing" to write about that can be in any way considered flattering. I have several unflattering things I would like to comment on, including intelligent husbands who are still as dense as rocks, sewing and menstruation. Let's begin with the flattery though.

 Back when I was a tiny young mother and still gleaning a sense of fashion, which by now is as well rounded as my seamstress skills, I bought very few items of clothing in which I would be caught dead today. This is partially due to the fact that I couldn't squeeze one calf into a size two now, and also because they are just not that cool. Maybe for 1997, but not 2012. I did buy one thing, back in the olden days, that I still have. One of the reasons I have kept it is because my little sister has hounded me for years to give it to her, which equals cool status regardless of current trends. This stand alone item is also still cool because Robin Wright wore it in Unbreakable with Bruce Willis, and as we all know, there is nothing in an M Knight Shyamalan movie, or that the Princess Bride would wear, that goes out of style. Ever. Anyway, this specific article of clothing is a tan leather jacket from the Gap, and just yesterday, I received this picture from my sister, of the identical jacket that she bought off of eBay. 

Buttercup, er, Robin Wright in my jacket
And I was flattered. Slightly deflated since I no longer have that One Thing that she wants, as I already gave her the smaller size (loathe) of my favorite belt, and she adopted her own collection of (also smaller, also loathe) Liv Jeans and we even have the same Frye boots (ok, these I copied from her, but I still feel like I should get credit for her over all sense of style). We could be twins on pretty much any given day, as these items are pretty much the only things we both wear constantly, except I would be the ginormous twin and she would be the little cute one that makes all my favorite clothes look good. (super loathe). How did I turn the ONE flattering thing into a non-flattery. The heck. Maybe the unflattering things will also reverse on me. Let's try:

About super-smart husbands that say really dumb things: I have an amazing husband. Like, bring me coffee at work, take the puppy potty in the middle of the night, rub one foot while we watch zombie shows, awesome husband that every girl should be jealous of. One of his rare flaws is his aptitude for saying EXACTLY the worst thing ever to a girl. Like this for instance: "Don't give that jacket to your sister. It will fit you again eventually." What the poor man doesn't understand is that the jacket still DOES fit me, and I can even squeeze a hoodie under it if I don't want to bend my arms at all. Which I frequently don't. Just because I can't button it doesn't mean it doesn't fit. It's a jacket after all. Meant to be left open all carelessly with a scarf and sleeveless shirt that allows at least some movement. Doesn't this man realize that I have lost 13 pounds this year? Collectively of course, over the last 12 months or so. And I may or may not have gained a few back, but that doesn't take away the loosing part. Really.

Another unflattering thing is sewing. At least for me. I can work with words. I kind of like to mess with them and bend them around to say something that at least somewhat resembles the abstract mess that is my head. But fabric? Especially dollar-a-yard, laugh-in-your-face, deny-your-dreams fabric. That's the thing about dollar-a-yard fabric that I found out. It's soul purpose in existing is to make an utter fool out of you when you try to translate some totally awesome thing in your head into a totally awesome thing out of your head. Today I was mocked repeatedly by some pretty vintagey fabric that worked well as table cloths for my wedding party, largely because my sister was the one handling it. But I put one finger to the stuff and it's like it wanted to punish me for thinking I could sew. So today, since my bean soup turned out ok and I am still feeling domesticish, I tackled this vision of a bed skirt I have had in my head for the last several nights as I lie awake missing my Tylenol PM. It only took me 6 hours to find out that I have not the slightest idea how to make a bed skirt, but by then I had resorted to using safety pins to FORCE the stupid cloth, in assorted pieces, to do what I wanted. I ended up with this:

It is still mocking me. But to make sure it didn't think it had won the battle, I also made a cover for an ugly couch pillow and patched a queen size fitted sheet. Which is no small feat, especially when the hole is dead center and you have to feed like 100,000 feet of flannel under the pressure foot on the sewing machine to find the spot. I won the battle, and if mom and dad complain about a ferocious amount of thick stitches that I used to attach the patch, I will  probably just pull the bed apart and point out the safety pins in the bed skirt. Sewing is definitely not my most flattering skill.

Perhaps all of these things are particularly unflattering today because it's That Time of The Month, and pretty much everything in the world is ungracious right now. Except sweatpants. It's that glorious moment in time when sweatpants become the Sexiest Thing Ever. And if you say they aren't, you know that you have taken a huge gamble with your life and will probably find yourself categorized with the smart but dumber-than-poop husband. Today was probably not the best day to decide to sew away all of my hopes and dreams. It was probably a terrible day to try on the new skinny slacks I bought at Old Navy yesterday. I found myself chuckling sardonically that I had actually been concerned that a 10 would be too big as I forced my enormous rear end into them. Refusing to admit defeat, I got them on. And since I had worked up a sweat to get into them I decided to wear them for awhile, until I lost feeling in both of my legs and nearly passed out trying to get them off. I'm thinking they run small. After I had escaped the skinny pants, I was so exhausted that I just put on the pair of jeans on top of the pile, which turned out to be another bad idea since they were the smaller size that fit me for like 5 minutes last week, before I re found some of that 13 pounds. I guess it was a really good time to sit down in my super hott sweatpants for a good cry. Another thing to NOT do at this time of the month is clean the kids bathroom, or even consider it, for that matter. All I did was think about it, and I got so irritated that I actually looked up reform schools on the internet.

The salvation of this unflattering day came in the unexpected form of a text from my little brother, asking for my fashion input on a pair of golf shorts. Obviously my first advice was just don't. Golf shorts are rarely a good idea, unless you're putting together a geek costume for Halloween, or you need a gift for an effeminate cousin that you hate. But if he MUST wear golf shorts, I helped him select between the lesser of two evil plaids. Gabe is lucky that he's cute enough to pull off golf shorts and a psycho-stalker mustache. If he stays in his room. But it was flattering that he reached out to ME for my opinion, unless he was inferring that I was the only one un-cool enough to speak golf short etiquette. That concerns me greatly.

Things That Are Warm

Ok, so, some days I am overwhelmed with this fantastical desire to be a grassroots domestic goddess, cooking everything from scratch and blowing my family's collective mind with my awesomeness. I have discovered that such mind blowing is usually better achieved with a Papa Murphy's Pizza and Root Beer. In spite of this well earned knowledge, sometimes I still endeavor to appease my down-home urges, and in the instance of this frosty morning, once I found out I was out of canned beans all together, I decided to make this awesome soup recipe with dry beans, which are cheaper, but ultimately, maybe just as unhealthy since they are not organic, blah blah blah. Anyway, I didn't soak the beans over night, and since I am still recovering from the two failed pots of pinto beans, I decided to try something new and actually read the directions on the package. Weird. Apparently there is a quick soak method that involves boiling the beans for a few minutes and letting them stand for an hour, after which I will crock pot the heck out of all of them until dinner time. I will let you know how it goes, and even if it tastes crappy, I will probably dress a bowl up and tell you how awesome it was because I have already experienced more than my share of humility this week. 

I am sharing this recipe with you, cut and paste from a Facebook Chat with my cousin (the one who likes low quality Thai Food), because it's much quicker than transcribing, and y'all know how I like to cut corners. I have made the recipe (as it follows) before and it is darn good. Especially with corn bread (because obviously, I am cool) on a frosty night when the leaves smell sweet and are crunchy under your feet. I am pretty excited about eating it tonight because I remembered that I bought a bag of Fritos in a weak moment the other day, which will be fabulous all crunched up in it. If the dry beans work out good, I will be pretty happy. If not, well, there's always Papa Murphy's. 

Taco Soup

This is totally Aunt Anna's recipe.
In a crock pot, combine:
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 sm onion, diced
2 cans Mexican Style stewed tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can corn
1 can olives
1 packet taco seasoning
Simmer all day on low. Or, just cook in a pot if your crock-less.
Serve with corn chips, sour cream, and grated cheese. And corn bread, if you're cool.

My Very Industrious Morning, which consisted of pouring unmeasured amounts of various beans into a pot and adding water, is fueled by a very large, very awesome cup (newly acquired from my workplace) of coffee that I was forced to embellish with Irish Cream since I forgot to buy regular cream last night. There is something almost naughty about drinking this early in the morning, but since it was forced upon me, I guess I won't wallow in the guilt for too long. Besides, it was supposed to be my day off, but I talked my boss into working me in for a few hours so I can afford the Super Adorable snow globe we're selling at the store. At this point Josh keeps asking how many hours he needs to put in to pay for my job, which is kind of silly, since he really only has to work like a half a day to keep me in business there. I mean really, it's a small price to pay for all the cool stuff I am getting.

Tomorrow I am closing at work again, and since I came home to such rousing appreciation (read: no leftovers for mom) for the delicious enchiladas I made them last night for dinner, I will probably make something equally as sumptuous tomorrow. Or I might make my sister's Tortilla Soup, which is a recipe that everyone should have. I have had it several times, and lost it repeatedly, so this morning when I asked her for it again, she just texted me photos of the recipe card. She's getting smart. But now I have to look harder at the little pictures. Maybe I will do her soup next week. Is one soup night a week enough? Maybe tomorrow is a roast night. Or maybe it's a kids-eat-chicken-nuggets and I maneuver my way into another $9.95 prime rib dinner at Timbers, which, second to their happy hour finger steaks, might be the best deal in town. The last time I engineered that set up, Josh got creative and fed the kids one of the frozen "manicotti" that he bought at Costco, which they will only eat if we call it lasagna, since it in no way resembles "real" manicotti, which is a long held Stecker family tradition and I am sure I will share with you at some point. In the mean time, I need to go finish this Irish Cream and check my pot of beans. 

Things That Make Me Feel Old

This post is loaded with TMI. I am just letting you know up front. But I have to get it out. Now that it's been two weeks and the shame has subsided. I have to come clean.

I wet the bed. I did. The horror of it took several days to wear off, but when I finally admitted it to my sister, she reassured me that everybody does, so I came here, to find affirmation that I am not the only one. Tell me, please, even if you have to lie.

My sister also guessed the weird thing about this particular bed-wetting. "were you dreaming about peeing?" "um, actually, yes." "yeah, I've totally done that." "Thank God." Really, my dream was a bizarrely real visitation of my triumphant return to stage in a reprise of The Music Man, except this time I was playing the lead, and I really did dream that I was in that tiny ladies restroom in The Woodland Theater that we painted periwinkle blue in 1993. I told my sister that since the heinous event, I have decided to never take Tylenol PM again, which I had tried in lieu of a half of a hydrocodone to keep the pain at bay long enough to fall asleep. Turns out it also keeps bladder urges at bay, and then you go and dream about actually sitting on a toilet, and you wet the bed. Yes, I will forgo the sleep aids so that I can lie awake in paranoia of my newly acquired bed-wetting skill. In my own defense, I will tell you that I was so completely shocked, that I actually woke up mid stream and caught myself. I know, TMI, but I warned you! The trick was hiding the evidence from my husband, who of course woke up to me changing clothes (THE SHAME!!!) and wanted to cuddle. Gross. Who cuddles with bed wetters? Seriously. I had to endure at least 5 days of self-flagellation, which also involved investing in $50 in cranberry juice and capsules so I could blame an imaginary bladder infection on the incident if anyone (namely Josh) found out about it, even though I washed my wet pants First Thing the next morning. It seems like after being married for almost two years, a little bed wetting wouldn't be a big deal. Kind of like the time you threw up on his shoes, or when you had a really unfortunate case of diarrhea after a trip to Mexico (also a closely guarded secret)... just one of those things, right? The problem is, I married Mr. Clean. To my knowledge, in the two years since I have known Josh, he has never taken a crap. On the toilet or otherwise. God bless my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Diarrhea, my pooping habits have become a mystery long discovered. I blew any fantasies he had of a crapless wife right out of the (toilet) water. I feel bad about this, but have to live with the shame. Having a husband who doesn't even break wind is a very far cry from the boyfriends of old who could win a county wide farting contest with a single bowl of chili. The last man I lived with taught my girls to compliment each other on the tone of their passing gas, and the push behind manly belches. Fast forward to the immaculate Mr. Weston, and nary a toilet seat is left up. In fact, Josh puts the lid down, on every toilet in the house, compulsively. This has become a marital issue between us (interesting switch up on the toilet seat debate, no?) due to an incident when I was about 7 years old and in a Very Big Hurry to use the toilet and somebody had put the lid down. All I remember is my Great Grandmother on her hands and knees mopping it up. There is a good chance my Great Grandmother had actually passed away long before that, and all I can assume is that her ghost returned to shame me from the grave. So toilet lids remain UP in my house. Now and For All of Time. Considering he doesn't even use toilets, I don't know why he has to go around closing them all for the rest of us.

While I am making confession, I would feel bereft to leave out the culmination of All Embarrassments (at least up until two weeks ago), when our family was staying at a Pastor's house and I got to sleep in the bedroom of the slightly older and reverently idolized daughter, just so I could wake up with a frantic need to pee in the wee hours and wet my pants all. over. the. floor. with my hand on the door knob of her room, standing parallel to her once slumbering head. She moaned and rolled over. I have hated her ever since. Interestingly enough, this same girl became my arch nemesis later on when I lived in the cult. But that's another story.

Now that I have gotten all of that off of my chest and on to your victimized mind, I almost feel better. I hope the rest of you get the chance to wet the bed and feel as human as I did. And as old. And as ashamed. I spent the entire next morning texting friends about bladder incontinence and whether I should rush to the ER or buy stock in Depends first. I even checked into reserving a grave plot, now that the inevitable is rushing up at me and I'd like to spare my kids that worry. Alas, now you know my deepest, darkest shame. If you keep reading, I hope to never trouble you with my bladder troubles again. (But you can bet if Josh ever cuts the cheese you're gonna hear about it!)

Things That Don't Get Enough Attention

Recently, through the grapevine, I heard the jealous murmur of a child who was bemoaning the lack of mention in her mother's blog. While I am sure that Natalee was elated to have her anger issues showcased on a public forum, and Aspen never gets tired of having her cuteness promoted, and Halle is just weird enough to be mentioned at least monthly, poor MacKenzie, the upper middle child, is all but lost and forgotten. So Kizzie, this is for you:

Dear MacKenzie:

I was 15 once. When I was 15, I was aware of two things: boys, and how painfully unfashionable I was. At 15, I began an evolution of personality. Before I discovered the important things in life like The Avett Brothers and Frye Boots, I decided that I liked daisies and sunflowers and hippies that didn't smoke pot (because I didn't really know what pot was then). I liked poems, Shakespeare, beautiful language. I loved the stage, mostly because for a few brief minutes, the whole world was looking at me (including boys), and I was beautiful (or at least OK). I liked iced mochas with lots of whipped cream and rope licorice. I liked shopping at Goodwill for brand names I gleaned from my stylish cousin (BTW, Katey - I don't think The Limited was ever cool for 15 year olds). I liked my one brand new pair of Gap Jeans that Grandma Schiffman bought me for my birthday. I liked my big dog Frankie who looked like a black and tan Truck and was my best friend. I liked Jessa and Aimee and Muriel and Andy and Misti and Melissa, and pretty much every boy I knew. When I was 15, I thought I was fat. What I would give to be that fat now. When I was 15, my parents didn't understand the first thing about being 15, being in love, or being cool. How can a sophisticated 15 year old ever listen to parents who clearly had no clue, and no interest in getting a clue. At 15, I was grounded pretty much every other week. I was grounded for bad attitudes, for being unkind (hateful, mom always said) to my sister. I was grounded for writing notes to boys, for wearing clothes that were outside of the rules my parents had set (and for the record, their rules were IMMEASURABLY more strict that mine are for you, ask them). I was grounded for not taking care of my chores at home (which again, where IMMEASURABLY more than yours, but don't ask my parents about that one.), and for mouthing off, sort of like a certain 15 year old I know now does to her parents. When I was 15, I was in love with at least 4 different boys. There was Jake, there was Peter, there was Jim Miller, and oh my gosh - Forrest Greenough. All of these passionate love affairs occurred after I had experienced the wisening of love gone wrong with Jason Dotson, and Nate, and probably a few others that I can't remember now. None of these passionate love affairs included kissing. My first kiss was a few days after I turned 17. Lack of opportunity? I guess so. I guess I didn't have the opportunistic setting of an unsupervised school hallway, and truthfully, I am very thankful for that. I wish I could tell you that if I had the same opportunities that you have, I would have made only the best and wisest choices, but to be perfectly honest, I am not sure what I would have done in some of those settings. 

I know what I wanted. I remember fantasies of being swept off my feet and having my heart stolen by a dark haired class clown... I wanted to be the girl that every boy wanted but only one boy had. In many ways, I still do. Doesn't every girl want to be wanted like that? I guess what I am trying to tell you is that I understand. I  know you think I don't, that I am just a frumpy mom who doesn't Even Know How It Feels, but I do. I remember wishing with EVERY OUNCE OF WISH in me that a certain boy would happen to be downtown when I rode my bike there. We didn't have cell phones and Facebook then; just wishful telepathy and parents who liked to hang out at Goodwill. I know it feels hard to deal with sisters and parents and all of the pressures at school - I can only imagine the school part, except that I remember how it feels to be so very different and wish desperately to be The Same. Now I value being different. Being different is the only thing that makes me the girl that every boy wants (they totally do) but only Josh has. Being different is what makes it possible for me to say I have never been fired from a job and every boss I have had would still love to take me back. Being different means that I can CHOOSE what I do with my life, whom I share it with, and how I want it to look. Being different means that I can listen to The Avett Brothers and Eminem and Frank Sinatra all on the same playlist and Halle's friends think I am cool (ok, that's a little risky). I know right now the most important thing for you seems to be survival, but what survival means to you now will be vastly different from survival when you are 22, or 32, and beyond that, I can only imagine (since I am not that old yet). It wasn't until after Natalee was born that I truly gained an appreciation for my parents, and the fact that they did their absolute best to raise me the right way. There are no perfect parents, but I will give mine an A for effort, even if I choose to do some things differently. I trust, and hope, and pray that someday you will look at me with the same eyes. If you feel about me someday the way that I feel about my mom and dad, then I will feel like I did ok. I don't expect you to like me now. I don't expect to be your buddy, even when you steal my clothes and make me cookies. I expect to be your mom, imperfectly, and often very badly. I am an awkward mom. I don't hug well. If you need a hug, you might have to steal it from me. If you need a pat on the back, you might have to remind me. But if you need a kick in the butt bottom, I will probably remind you. It's ok if you hate me now. It's ok if you keep throwing fits for a few more years, or decades. I have faith that you will be just fine. You are beautiful, and talented and intelligent. You are different, and it will serve you well. I hope you will learn to place a high value on your heart and your love, because there are many unworthy people out there, and Josh and I can't stand to see you wasted, so you can plan on a fight until YOU see your worth. I remember 15, Kizzie. Like it was yesterday. I remember the clothes and the smells, the music and the hair and the boys. I remember looking for my space, my self, my soul. I remember how strong the feelings are, how intense the problems seem, and how alone you can feel. But there is another side to 15, and I know that you will arrive there beautiful and ready for 16. Because you are my girl. 

I love you.


Things That Make Me Thankful

Today I am not feeling very thankful. So in an exercise of self-discipline and mild reprimand, I feel the need to make a list of all of the things I have to be excited about in life right now. The overshadowing disappointment of yet another rejection for my Adorable Husband after making it THISCLOSE to being hired, seems to be consuming a day full of sunshine and hope and possibility. This can not be. Josh will get a job offer when the job is right, and until then, knowing he has done absolutely everything within his power is more than enough for me. I can not help but stand in admiration of his tenacity and perseverance in spite of the boot-in-the-gut-rejections he has received countless times. He is a strong man - even if he whines a little. I love him. 

So Josh tops my list of things to be Thankful for. That I found a man who can endure not only my insanity and that of my four hormone-laden daughters, but has jumped feet-first into selflessly supporting and directing our collective life, is immeasurable. For myself, personally, I think the man is truly crazy, but I am endlessly grateful for his brand of insanity. Finally, I am not alone. I am not unloved. I belong. I know, and I am known by someone of my own choosing that is a good man. I have my best friend by my side at all times, except when he leaves me for work, which I usually give him no end of trouble about. I am thankful that he takes my trouble, and at least pretends to love me anyway. 

I am also thankful for small, precious, warm and fuzzy things. Like the newest Weston, Dagny, who has already claimed her perch on the back of our couch as if she was there from the very first. Also she gives very good daschund kisses. In addition to the puppy, Punch Brother's rendition of O Come O Come Immanuel on Holidays Rule is another warm and fuzzy thing I am thankful for. 

I am NOT thankful for the relatively immense amount of pain I have been in for the last few days, except that it gives me a much greater appreciation for this day that I have to spend puttering around the house, a few hours of not sucking it up and brave-facing at work or in public, when all I really want is what I have right now. Jammies and a couch with a fuzzy wiener dog. Oh yeah, and coffee. 

I am SO thankful for this big, slightly dated house that we live in. I have never been a fan of split level houses, because I believe in walking right into the beating heart of a living room, and not a tiny entry way that forces the immediate decision between up (social) or down (privacy) without granting a glimpse into either option first. Also, it is difficult to cram all six members of any given visiting family into the entry way, so they are shuffled, single file, up the stairs, like the greeting line at a stoic wedding. I don't love that. But I love the space we have. The big windows. The Emmy stained carpet. Ok, not the carpet. But I like that I have a hideaway cave downstairs that I have no qualms about banishing children from, and a big deck where one could smoke a lazy clove cigarette if one had the inclination. I love the orangy-golden leaves in the yard, and the silly rabbit calling out from his hutch to be set free to run and flip somersaults in the corners. 

I am thankful that this week, we didn't forget either dance class (Monday squeaked in just barely). I am thankful that I got to work almost 40 hours, which means I made almost enough to pay for a bag of Truck's food. I am thankful that the election is behind us, and trust that the result is whatever our great nation needed. I am thankful that we have work, even if we don't have "jobs", and we've never gone without. I am thankful for the peace in knowing that our worries are as trivial as health insurance and retirement, and which jeans to wear today, and not what we will eat, where we will live, or who we must fear. I am so thankful that we do not know suffering, in it's most real sense. I am thankful that my kids are spoiled, even though their behavior is sometimes kind of shameful, and that they have almost every opportunity imaginable. While I have no delusions about the years down the road when my parenting failures will be highlighted for me even more brightly than they are now, I know that I know that my kids have had it pretty damn good, in spite of me. I am thankful that the people I love are safe, are well. I am thankful that my sister is cleaning a house full of puke, and my kids are all successfully puke-bowl trained (don't worry, Em - just a few more years). I am thankful that it is The Holidays once again, and life is better than ever. 

Things That I Am Grateful For

It is November. That means Thanksgiving and all of the rituals thereof, including that gratitude thing that somehow falls by the wayside the other 11 months out of the year. In addition to being the month of Thanksgiving, November is also the month of elections, and in the case of 2012, the all-important Presidential Election. Last night Josh asked me several times for my predictions for the elections this year. My prediction for our president was simple and jaded. Kind of like me: "I predict that the bad guy will get elected." Josh immediately wanted to contend the issue of "bad", which was a heinous mistake on his part, since he would be hard pressed to prove to me that we have anything other than "Bad Guys" running for president this year. Wisely he moved on to the subject of the Parks and Recreation issue that would mean passing a bond, but which I am ok with since A) I don't own land and B) I wouldn't have to get out of the Deschutes River and carry my floaty to the other side of the Colorado Street Spillway anymore. I also kind of like the idea of foregoing the horror stories of Entire Families Lost In the Spillway that we are relegated to reciting every year, but I have a sneaking hunch those stories will remain and grow exponentially, long after the spillway is removed. It makes the float more of a rush anyway. For a minute. So I kind of hope that that one passes, but since I don't know that I should be allowed a vote, not being a homeowner, I really shouldn't gripe either way, right? 

It occurred to me though, as I drug myself out of bed this morning (which seemed cruel and unusual since it's my day off) that today is a Very Important Day for our country. I don't feel like it is so important WHOM gets elected, as much as the fact that SOMEBODY does, and that we, as Americans, can get past the idea that the other guys are idiots and realize that we all signed up for this way of operating. And I have to say, in spite of some hiccups and scraped knees along the way, we've got a pretty great place to live. I get very angry at the conservatives in my life who refer to the "moron" Democrats, and how one would have to be completely stupid to vote for Obama. I get equally irritated with my liberal friends who insist that only a mindless imbecile could see clearly to vote for Romney. To me it is an insult to my friends and family that any one person's political beliefs would somehow grant the right of the thinker to judge the ideals of another human being. I understand believing something strongly. For instance, I will never be able to relate to the preference of milk chocolate over dark chocolate, but who am I to decide that YOUR taste buds are somehow inferior to my own? In fact, who is to say that there is any objectivity to taste any more than there is to an economic plan or a moral high ground? I know that I really rub Christian Fur the wrong way on this one, but I cannot support the idea that the same God who made so many crazy different people and cultures really only recommends one way of doing things. It just doesn't jive. I have come to the point where I can actually appreciate a spirited debate between two opposing views when the debaters have the maturity to believe that a difference of opinion is not grounds for a break in relationship. Case in point, my brother and (nearly) sister in law, who not only ascribe to opposite political views, but they are actually employed by campaigns of opposing parties. And yet, they live together, and apparently, at least once or twice a year, they get along. I love this. I really, absolutely do. It makes me want to disagree with Josh just so we can say how mature our relationship is. Unfortunately we will have to pick that up when he starts speaking to me again. 

I guess the bottom line for me is that I love our differences. I love that I know and care about just as many democrats as I do republicans and libertarians and green partiers (which sounds way more fun for some reason). It is our differences, and the liberty we have to express them, to live them, to vote on them, that makes our country great and unique and amazing. I have been to other places in the world. Even other democratic places, but I will take this one. Yes, we are young and cocky and headstrong and definitely have some maturing to do on the international stage. But we are strong, and we learn from our mistakes. We push ahead and we pull together. We have the option to do these things. We are not told how to live. Nor should we ever be. I find it amusing that so many conservative Christians with their lists of rules and violations and scriptural policies are usually the ones who denounce big government and interference. The heart of their belief is self-government, and in this I believe 100%. The liberal side creates legislation for how to legislate, and offers governmental guidance and rules to help in their effort to maintain equal rights and liberties, in which I also believe. So both parties get confused, both live in their dichotomies - but ultimately, I believe that both seek the same Best Interest for our country, and so I am grateful. And I am absolutely unworried about the outcome of this election, because no matter which "bad guy" we elect, ultimately, he isn't the one calling the shots, we are. Josh thinks that I am naive and don't understand the political process. He couldn't be more correct. But I think that I understand humanity, and the idea that no matter how bad it gets screwed up every four years, there's another four years to fix it. Or make it worse. Either way, it's up to us to make the best of it and be the best American People yet. 

My recommendation to every American is to watch two movies. First, watch Idiocracy. This is what we can be. Make the choices to not. Then watch Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. This is ALSO what we can be. Make the choices to. I also recommend popcorn and Holiday Junior Mints with these movies. If you only want to watch one movie, then by all means, go with Jimmy Stewart. I don't even feel the need to explain that one. If you need to borrow it, I have it. If you can't find Holiday Junior Mints, you can always steal the leftover halloween candy from your kids. If you don't have kids, please steal it from mine. Or just steal my kids. One day I will discuss the horrors of children who hoard candy from Halloween to Easter to Halloween, Every. Single. Year. But for now, I have a day off to be thankful for. Or most of a day off, since my boss just called me in to work this afternoon. Apparently my efforts at inefficiency are not working, as they don't seem to be able to function without me. As long as I can wear sweatpants til 9:52, I won't complain. 

Things That I Waffle About

It's not that I am indecisive. Ok, maybe I am. I don't know. But voting seems to get more difficult every time I have to do it - and that doesn't include the times that I skipped because I didn't have a bunch of friends making me feel guilty for abandoning my civic duty. I would like to think that the whole voting thing works and we really have some say in the direction that our country goes, but then I look at the candidates and really wonder... But I did it. I voted. It was almost a violation of conscience to cast a vote that actually counted. But I did it. Now I can proceed with my life (relatively) guilt free. 

I guess maybe I just do better with somebody telling me what to do. I was raised to obey unquestioningly, and I am pretty good at the first part. I am also good at questioning. But I did let Josh more or less tell me who to vote for in the city council positions and stuff like that, since he knows pretty much Everything about them and I hadn't even heard their names. But I made sure he couldn't see who my presidential vote was for, just because I love keeping him in suspense. (authors note: don't think I don't know that he snuck open my envelope when he "dropped off our ballots" this morning:)) 

In spite of my resistance to voting and All Things Political, I really love watching the numbers come in on election day. I love the live news feeds. I think it's nostalgic for me and hearkens back to Lincoln Day Dinners with the young republicans of Steven's County, and taking pictures with Carolyn Sapp, who was obviously only Miss America for her GIANT hair and pro-football playing boyfriend (who impressed me WAY more than she did). I never did put any stock in that made for TV movie about him beating her up. He was way too nice. Plus he let me hold his helmet. At any rate, I might make Josh take me to a bar someplace to watch the election results. I wonder if any bars play that stuff. 

Unfortunately for all of you, I have to go to work again today, which means I don't have time to wax philosophical about the bain of sewing, or whether crock pot potato soup twice in one week is too much, or anything like that. But I will leave you with a stellar recipe, for crock pot potato soup, which I waffle back and forth between liking, and my old disdain for potato soup. But as far as cheap and easy goes, it's the bomb. It's also a great way to use up the last of that giant brick of cream cheese you got at Costco after the kids have eaten all of the bagels. 

I got this off of Pinterest via Mama Loves Food - she's got some other good stuff too. Check her out. Instead of stealing her awesome pictures though, I will add my own later. 

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup Ingredients:
  • 5 pounds russet potatoes, washed but NOT peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes
  • 1 medium/large yellow onion, diced
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced (if you use jarred, it's a 5 teaspoon equivalent)
  • 64 ounces (8 cups) chicken stock or broth
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened (I use low fat)
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt 
  • optional garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, green onions

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup Directions:

  1. Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning, and chicken stock to slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
  3. Add the softened cream cheese and puree soup with an immersion blender until the cheese is incorporated and about half the soup is blended. (Alternately you could remove half the soup and the cream cheese to an upright blender, then re-incorporate).
  4. Stir well, top with your choice of garnishes & enjoy!

Things To Make Up For That Last Thing

Things That Are Amazing

Just Saying

Things That Are Scary

Halloween, in general, is a terrifying day. Not because I am worried about ghosts or zombies or chainsaw massacres, but because it is the one day of 365 when dressing like a hooker is A-OK whether  you are 5 or 85, male or female, and everybody is supposed to say "oh, how cute". I know this because I have done it, and it wasn't super pretty. Although at the time I thought I was hot stuff. I have made a concerted effort to not let my girls follow in my scandalous footsteps, and for the most part, it hasn't been an issue. Ok, Kizzie's interpretation of Strawberry Shortcake last year was pushing the line a little, but since I vetoed the green and white striped thigh high stockings, she topped of her outfit with more wholesome tights and baldies (chuck taylors, for the uninformed) that made her less cute and more cute(!). This year, since Kizzie was grounded for Halloween, I didn't have to worry about much at all. Natalee chose the cerebral Amelia Earhart, Aspen was Minnie Mouse (the clean version) and Halle was - well, whatever Halle is when she goes to school most days, but collecting candy. Diana was thrown into the mix for good luck and pulled together something resembling a pig on LSD. Since Josh abandoned me for more interviews I was robbed of the opportunity to dress up, since nothing says "save me" to the man with the over-accelerated hero complex decked out as Captain America, like a single mom in costume with 7 kids in tow.

 I was granted the privilege of driving my kids to the church we have been attending (every once in awhile) so they could hand out popcorn at the Trunk or Treat that was happening, rain or shine. As it turned out, it was raining, so the kids were both confused and dismayed that there were only three trunks to treat out of since most of them had relocated to tables inside. After we were home the kids realized that all the free candy they had scored inside of the church was actually part of the trunking, they seemed to feel less ripped off. So I got to sit somewhat awkwardly by while the kids spilled popcorn all over the floor and ate far more than they handed out to a billion little kids dressed like street walkers. OK, there weren't THAT many hookers - and there was even one little gorilla that was really freaking funny. My awkwardness was rewarded with free coffee, and I promptly decorated my cup with the glo-bracelets that they were handing out at one of the non-trunks. I kind of wanted to leave, but the incentive of free hotdogs and not having to cook really out weighed my resistance to looking to involved in a church activity. I have to say I was kind of disappointed that Pastor Keith didn't even dress up.

I think one of the most disturbing things about last night was the young teenage boys who clearly have no parents and were using Halloween as an excuse to carry around fake machine guns, wearing nylons on their head. I wondered if they were auditioning for the next school shooting, but I realized that they were probably all homeschooled, so then I felt better. I am super proud of the fact that I rushed my kids through regular trick r treating around our neighborhood in about 35 minutes, since I had rented a crappy movie (Snow White and The Hunstman, anyone?) that I was impatient to meet up with on my couch. Josh doesn't leave me to my own tasteless devices very often so this mouse had some playing to do. I woke up this morning, hung over from my diet of 4 boxes of confiscated dots and a hot dog, but I was down another three pounds, so I am ok with it.

And now I have to go back to work and try to remember how to be inefficient. Laters.

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