Saturday, August 27, 2011

Baking Day!

I love to cook and bake. I especially like to cook something and watch people close their eyes and say mmmmmm as they take bite after bite of what I've made. It's a good feeling and it makes me feel like there is some small way I can bless people with my hands even in the midst of toddlers and busy-ness. That's the pretty part of my soul.
However, part of that feel-good-ness is a selfish desire to be accepted and liked and appreciated. Just sayin. It's nasty but true. We all like to know that people think we are good or cool or smart etc etc... So sometimes it is difficult for me to share certain recipes b/c I know if every woman I know makes my cookies or my bread... then it won't be special and then I won't be special... or so goes the lie.
So a few years ago I challenged myself on this here blog to start sharing. I think I shared my favorite cookie recipe and maybe a few others and then forgot all about it. Lately I've been making TONS of bread and people have been oohing and aaahing and I hate to tell them... it's SO easy! So, several women had asked me this and that about bread but were too timid and afraid of yeast to try.
I've wanted to start having baking days with friends, where we bake a lot of goodies for our families to eat and freeze (for later eating) but also get to enjoy each other's company and let our kiddos play. So, I got the idea that I could do a bread tutorial to introduce every one to bread making. I was a little afraid to jump out there and fail but since I was going to be baking any way I figured it wouldn't hurt to branch out.
Six women came and there were four two-ish year olds, a five month old, a two month old and a baby still cookin' with his mama. So we brought down the play kitchen and the little ones played their hearts out cooking and playing with baby dolls and the mamas all learned to bake bread and traded recipes. It was a blast!

I made a double batch of bread an hour before every one came, so they could see what it looked like after the first rise and get it started on the second rise while we started another double batch so they could see the first process too. Every one touched and looked and went home with a loaf of bread. I also made healthy zucchini/banana muffins and printed the recipe for every one to take. I made little recipe cards in different color card stock and a few of the women brought their own baked-good recipes to share.
We talked and laughed and ate a lot of carbs. I think I am going to start hosting a bake day every other Friday and we will try old favorites and new feats! I know granola bars and pasta are coming soon!
If you want in, just send me a facebook message, email or comment here on the blog!

(before and after)


(Just for fun... our big helper)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speaking of Elementary School...

Memories... oh memories.
Some of the most vivid memories I have from childhood involve the books that I read... and reread.
I don't like to read books twice or see movies twice or watch rerun on TV. I have a pretty good memory (or I did before giving birth) and thus there is little joy in redoing what is already permanently done in my brain.
There are however, a few exceptions.
A few such exceptions have stuck with me all of these many (almost two decades) years later.
I'm not sure which came first but I am pretty sure it was
Sarah, Plain and Tall.

I thought her name was Sarahplainandtall... that's what happens when you are young and very literal. ha! This is the story of a poor family in the country and their mama dies. The dad knows that he cannot take care of the farm and all the work while also providing stability and education for his children (a boy and a girl I think) and so he puts an add in the newspaper for a woman to come and live with them to take care of the kids.
Sarah, from Maine, responds and comes all the way down to a completely different culture to help with the children.
The children instantly love her and I did too. She was patient and kind and knew how to soothe their pain. She sacrificed and brought joy and nourishment to their bodies and souls. In the end the Dad realizes that he too loves Sara.
I read and reread this book through out elementary school and I specifically remember the night my mom let me stay up WAY past my bedtime to watch, I think, Glenn Close (though I was told by my all-wise older sister that she was not a very good lady and was in some really bad movies that I would never be allowed to watch) play Sarah in a made for TV movie based on the book. I was enthralled.
When I think of this book I still feel the hot dry wind blowing through the dust and whizzing around my long, prairie skirt... it was all too real to me then.

The second book was Turn Homeward Hannalee.
I have only met one other person who has even heard of this book! This was the most traumatizing and suspenseful book I had ever read to that point in my life and I think it was also the first book I ever cried in or at least wanted to cry for.
Hannalee is a poor Southern girl working in a mill during the civil war and she gets kidnapped by Yankee soldiers and take north, away from her mother and eventually separated from her brother and made a servant for the Union and eventually a northern family.
She knows from the beginning that she MUST return to her mama and when she is finally overcome in her circustances as a servant, she runs away and tries to find her way home. She comes across war and the aftermath of war. She meets with hunger and fear but in the end... she is embraced in her mother's arms again.
I specifically remember sitting in the back seat of our maroon suburban, driving on a fall day from the library to the playground with the windows down. Every one was happy and getting along and I was reading my book. I read in the car and at the park and the air was crisp and cool (rare for Texas) and it smelled like leaves and burning fires.
Back then the world was simple and yet I was slowly coming to know that it was also complex. I was/am so serious, so interested and intense about everything and I labored with Hannalee through every step of her arduous journey!

Finally, a book I only read once (maybe twice) but soaked in to my very heart was On the Banks of Plum Creek. I actually remember very little about this book because I read the whole series in a row (I think I did at least). However, I remember the feeling I had through out the whole book.

It's the same feeling you might get when you are walking on a slightly warm and yet cool spring day with out any shoes on and the grass is cool (not yet itchy from summer sun and bugs) and you stick your feet into a perfectly clear stream of water. The rocks are smooth and cool and the water bubbles around you ankles and toes and it is too cold to want to immerse yourself in but just perfect for your feet. The whole world smells fresh and clean and the sun is bright and friendly (not sleepy like fall and winter or angry like summer). There is nothing weighing on your mind or your heart and you know that God is good, you are loved and good things lie ahead.
I remember finishing this book with a sigh and simply closing the book and flipping it over to just gaze at the cover and that cool spring rushing along the banks of Plum Creek. I wanted to be Laura and live there in that simplicity. I wanted to breathe it in.
Of all these books this is the one I remember the least and reread the least and yet look forward to reading aloud to Stella the most. I can't wait to crawl up together on the couch before bed time and read her a chapter or two and see her dissolve into the world of wagons and candy stores and long dresses and braids.
The other two, I hope she will read on her own as she discovers herself and a little about the world around her. But this is one of the only books I intensely hope she will let me read with her.
We'll see. Mamas can't hold those dreams too tight or they will break...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Third Grade...

I was just reading an article about writing and being a writer. It talked about making a sweetheart in your mind to counteract the critic. The sweetheart is sweet and simple. When the critic says you are dumb and your writing stinks, your sweetheart just says, keep trying. At the end of the article there were several prompts given to promote writing. The first one said, "tell me everything you remember about the third grade". This made me smirk to myself because I remember EVERYTHING about third grade. Here are the highlights:

Before I entered the third grade I knew who I wanted my teacher to be. She was young and pretty with pouffy curly hair and red nails. Her name was Mrs. C--. I also knew exactly who I didn't want and that was Mrs. Smith. My sister had her and they didn't get along and I didn't want to get caught up in that mess. So I waited and begged my mom to put in a word with the principle and waited some more. Then I got a letter with a picture of all the third grade teachers and I got Mrs. Wyatt and the first thing I noticed was that she had a lot of frown lines. Some one had just taught me about frown lines on the brow and so I was sure this lady must be terrible to have frown lines (I didn't know anything about natural age lines). It gave me nightmares.
So I went into third grade with much trepidation.
In third grade I was growing out my hair and bangs and so it was always in a half pony-tail sticking straight up in the air (pebbles style). I also had a mouth appliance that expanded my top teeth and connected down to a retainer that completely encased all my lower teeth. The connector was metal and got stuck if you opened your mouth too wide... and it squeaked.
We were a class of misfits.
The boy next to me walked on his tip toes and couldn't tie his shoes. The girl a few desks over had an absurd amount of weird animals living in her house and her head was always in a fantasy world that involved lots of cats. I am very allergic to cats.
There was also a girl twice as tall as any one in the class and she bullied every one and was really mean. One day her mom came to class and made her recite the "brownie pledge" and bought the whole class bluebell ice cream in the little containers with wooden scooper things as an apology.
Another boy kept a mini air force base under his chair and worked on it at every possible free moment.
This was my class. (I actually even remember most of their names)
I remember knowing it was a little strange at the time and the room was a little dim but there was one shining light in the room and it was Mrs. Wyatt. It turns out those frown lines were completely misleading. She had a way of connecting to her students and loving them despite their strangeness or intelligence. She never gave demerits or marks of any kind but if you misbehaved you got ZAPPED! She would be talking and all the sudden say ZAP and point to the offender. It worked.
She brought in an extra teacher's desk and set it at the front/middle of the room and each student got to sit in the desk for a week at a time and be the star student of the week. I loved organizing all those drawers in that desk during my week.
She also had us write a biography and I did Princes Diana and came all dressed up and presented my biography to the class.
Midway through the year a handicapped (mentally and physically) girl was put in our class and I was assigned to be her guide and helper. I loved this girl. I gave her my school supplies and even brought her a backpack from home. It was my favorite pack but I had still gotten a new one for a new year. So I colored in any faded spots with marker and brought it to her. I cried when her sister stole it and tore it up. One day she was gone and I have never forgotten her. I worried about her a lot... especially b/c she had such a mean big sister. I still wonder what happened to her.
During the second half of my third grade year the unimaginable happened... we lost our principle (who was a family friend of sorts and had been principle for my older sister and me). If that wasn't enough... he wanted to take my precious teacher with him. I had a special bond with my teacher and loved to stay after school and talk to her and help out around the class. I thought she was amazing. Well, so did my principle. She was to be the new librarian at the new middle school they had just built that he would be principle at. She decided to take the job and thus we got a new teacher with only a little bit left in the school year. I was devastated.
Mrs. Reynolds.
I recognize now that she was probably a nice person and that I probably wouldn't have liked any teacher that took Mrs. W's place... but then... I felt the injustice of it all so acutely.
Mrs. Reynolds had black hair with a grey streak and only wore black, white and red and she raised her voice... a lot. She couldn't handle our misfit class and had a completely different style than what we were used to. The more she yelled and lost her patience the more out of control the class got. She made so many rules, we could barely breath. There were two offenses though that really stood out and drew a line in the sand between us. First, field day is supposed to be a fun day for every one... basically a holiday at school. She made us all stay together as a class and we could only leave to participate in our sport. And when my mom came to see me, she wouldn't even let my mom take me to get a snow cone (they had sno cones on campus FOR field day). I think my mom eventually convinced her but I couldn't believe it... we always got to go with our parents, no matter what they were doing if they came up to the school. Secondly, Mrs. W had promised on the first day of school that all the students who never got zapped and had all Es for the year would get a pizza party. When I asked Mrs. R about it at the end of the year she basically scoffed at me and said there was no way she was going to do that. I have always had a heart for "justice" and to my third grade mind this was an injustice to the highest degree.
I never said anything to any one about all of this... I knew my place. I knew I was to obey and respect my teachers and elders and so I made it through the year with good grades and all Es and never a bad word from the teacher.
But like a good western, high noon was fast approaching... the shoot out.
At the end of the year Mrs. R asked us to write a letter to the upcoming third graders (current 2nd graders). It would be a letter that they would read at their desk on the first day of school in order to give them some encouragement and motivation to do well in third grade. She emphasized being HONEST and giving them a REALISTIC perspective on the challenges of third grade. So I did... I obeyed. In my heart I remember having a completely clear conscience that I was doing the right thing... being honest.
I wrote... I wrote that Mrs. R was very mean and yelled a lot and that they should ask their mom to call the office and ask for a different teacher if at all possible. If that wasn't possible I suggested keeping your head down and just getting through. I don't remember anything else but basically it never occurred to my third grade brain that the teacher would read these before she gave them to the new students.
I went to brownies that night and when I got home my parents did not have smiles on their faces. There was a conversation that involved "you know what you did" and I really DIDNT KNOW! I had no clue what I was in trouble for. Then they told me how my teacher had called CRYING and was so hurt and completely confused about why I would write such terrible things. So then I bluntly explained that it was all true. My parents strongly "encouraged" me to write a new letter to turn in the next day. I remember sitting on the floor with my paper on the seat of a chair and just staring... not knowing how to be nice to my teacher and honest at the same time. That's when I learned to write fluff.
I turned it in the next day and apologized and was so thankful the year was almost over so I wouldn't have to sit and feel the guilt of having hurt her feelings. I truly felt terrible for hurting her, it had just never crossed my mind that she could be hurt b/c I thought she knew how mean she was. That day she sent me on an errand in the school and when I came back she was waiting outside the room to talk to me (wah wah). I remember her asking me what she had ever done to me to deserve those comments (I remember thinking that the letter wasn't even written to her). So I tried to nicely tell her how she yelled at us all the time and how Mrs. W NEVER yelled. I'm sure I said more but at the end I looked right at her and told her that the worst thing was that I had worked so hard for that pizza party and now she wasn't going to do it.
Oh the simplicity of a third grader.
I could never look at her in the face even when I graduated elementary school... I avoided her like the plague. I really really hope that one day she realized not to take everything a third grader says so personally and also not to yell so much. Like I said, I'm sure she was actually a really nice person.
And to this day I struggle with the balance between honest and loving and might tend to still make "honest" blunders from time to time.

post-script: Mrs. Wyatt later became my middle school and high school librarian and I loved her from afar the whole time and finally told her my senior year in high school how much she had meant to me back in third grade.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

22 Months

People are always asking me, "how old is she?". Before this month I was fairly confident in simply saying, "one and a half" or "a little over one and a half". Now however, that seems so long ago, so young, so baby. I stopped counting months though and thus it now takes me an inappropriate amount of time to answer that simple question. I've settled on, "she'll be two in the fall" and that seems easy enough for every one involved. When I got inspired to write on this here blog again I decided I might as well use a little brain power to figure out the months... my baby is 22 months. Seeing the number makes it all too real that she is really more of a two year old and anything with a one involved. October seems so far away and yet that 22 tells me that really, it is so close, it's practically already here!

A few of my favorite SJ-isms:

When she lifts big things or awkward things she says "mommy, heby!" I would be perfectly fine if she said "heby" instead of heavy for her whole life.

"blankie" some how became "baby" and so when I get her up in the mornings or after nap she has her blankie all wadded up and cradled in her arm taking a "nap" or "cryin"... both of which prompt her to then sing "G,G,G,G" which is her rendition of "Jesus Loves Me".
this morning when I went to get her up she had her blankie all cradled in her arms and said, "Mommy...BABY JESUS!!". I laughed out loud... every baby is "baby Jesus" these days. It's hard to know if you should encourage that or be realistic with a two year old so I always simply say,"we love baby Jesus".

she regularly finds a bag and some keys and her fake/real phone and the stroller and says "bye bye" and when I say bye back she comes and says "kiss....hug....yuv you". She is the cutest mimic.

I frequently say, "GUESS WHAT?" and she makes a big surprised face and then I say, "I LOVE YOU!". This week, every time I say "Guess what?" she says YUV YOU!

She LOVES to sing songs and dance and she can do all the motions to Wheels on the Bus and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. She also loves "He's got the whole world in His hands" (especially in the car). When we do other verses we put people we know in the "whole world" part and she always wants to do KK and Pete and then Wis and Ellieli, CC and Cal (moo), Shell, Gigi and Papa and Susie and Zinnia!

Zinnia is her BFF and is often the first and most frequent thought and request during the day.

(can you believe they are only 2 months apart? so sweet together)

She loves airplanes in the sky and always says "fast, fly, MORE". She also mimics the airplane by running in circles with one elbow up in the air... I have no idea how she equates that with airplane but it is hilarious.

She loves to run "fast" and will run and then say "FAST" or "CRASH"

She love to "jump" which is squatting and flailing her arms in circles or up and down at the same time

She knows most of the mommies of her friends and when we see people at church she will point to a woman and say "JUDE, SILAS...etc etc." I have no idea how she learned that.

Randomly at the dinner table the other night she said "one, two, three, four five!" ok then smarty pants. She also says ABC followed by her letters of choice, which are usually "I, D, O, B (again) and ending on A".

Signs of the toddler:

(toes and tan lines like mommy)

sudden dislike of most fruits and vegetables. She will eat most fruit if it is cooked into something or made into something like applesauce but nothing raw suites her most days.
when it comes to veggies it's about the same. If it is in something with a saucy consistency, she will eat it but if she can pick out a lump or a shade of green or red...she's out and will take whatever punishment (if you are new to this blog... no, we do not harm our child for not eating her veggies)... she will not eat it.

when she gets something she knows she shouldn't have and knows you have caught her she still grabs it but then throws it to the ground and runs. apparently just touching the forbidden fruit is a thrill worth the risk

the look... even if I am offering her a treat or a trip to the park or something really really fun and her usual favorite... if she's in the mood to be defiant, she has that look and we are going to throw down no matter how fun of a day I had planned. We've been late to a lot of fun activities because some one didn't want to get her shoes on or grab her water bottle or walk to the car etc etc. we've also ended a lot of dinners that were made especially with her taste in mind with both mom and dad a little more bald and a little more grey and SJ fully touting the look.

All in all, she is such a blessing and I am so thankful for every day the Lord has given us with her. I love seeing life through her eyes and with her fire.