Monday, February 28, 2011


I pulled on my boots, heaved the stack of diapers onto my shoulder, and stepped outside.

I inhaled sharply while the cold air burned in my lungs. My breath floated out and swirled up around my eyes as I tried to adjust to the brightness. It wasn't even 10 degrees, but I'd gone out with only a sweatshirt on. My husband likes to say that's how he knows I've acclimated. By the time I was three steps from the door, though, I was wishing I was wrapped in a big, fluffy, down comforter with just my nose sticking out.

The wind nipped at my ears as I carefully picked my steps from the back porch to the clothesline. Every other day I made the same trail through 18 inches of snow, and every other day my trail was drifted over by the wind blowing away all evidence of my efforts. If I followed my exact steps, the packed snow at the bottom of my old tracks would keep my feet up high enough that snow wouldn't seep down into my boots. One misstep and I was up to my knee.

I rubbed my hands together and wrestled the stiffness from my fingers as I started pinning the diapers, inserts, and cloth wipes to the frozen line. By the time I'd started on the second line and was down to my last few items, the thinner of the cloth wipes had become stiff and I had to bend them over the line to pinch the pin over them.

I stole a quick glance at the sun before I carefully followed my steps back to the house. Despite the cold, the wind, the desolation of leafless trees barren of birds and yard without grass or barefooted children, the sun lit up the world around me, reflecting off the snow in blinding glory.

In a few short hours, my baby-poop stained diapers would be fresh and white, without a mark on them. Sure, I'd have to tromp back out there through the snow and pry them off the line to finish drying, but they'd be clean. White, like the snow.

The heat of the woodstove felt wonderful but after a few minutes I wandered back over to the window and watched the bits of cloth waving in the cold, clear wind. They even seemed to be joyful as they danced before the sun.

I thought of how I could have kept them inside, with me, in the warm house and dumped a bunch of bleach on them. After that I could have tossed them in the dryer and continued on using them, calling it "good enough". Would they have been clean? Yes. Would they be functional? Absolutely. Would they have been white as the snow all around them? Nope. Would they have lasted as long? Definitely not.

How simple it seems sometimes to force ourselves to be "washed" or to expect others to "wash" themselves of impurites and stains on their souls. "If you know you're doing something wrong, why don't you just STOP?", we hear them say.

Bleach Yourself. The unspoken motto of the Christian world, it seems.

Pour all kinds of synthetic chemicals into your body and soul and rid yourself of the stains that are readily apparent to us. You won't be accepted until you can at least look like you've been washed white as snow.

Only one thing can get those dirty diapers that clean: being set before the sun.

And only One can wash a soul from its uncleanness: being set before the Son.

Turn to Him, set your face towards His countenance, and His alone, and just watch what happens to your soul!

For He has promised: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Ps 51:7

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is My Dough...Sour?

A few weeks ago I decided to try making sourdough starter. I tried it once before but didn't recall ever actually making sourdough bread with it. Can't remember why, either! So, I looked up a recipe for starter and went to work. I put it all in the appropriately glass container and stirred it with an appropriately wooden spoon, stuck some saran wrap over the top and put it in a place I knew was going to be warm: the mantel. You see, we live in a drafty old farmhouse and unless I'm actively COOKING in the kitchen, it's not what one would consider "warm" as it is around the corner from the lovely heat of the woodstove.

So, on top of the mantel it sat and I went back to the kitchen to clean up. About ten minutes later I went in to check on it and the sight of dripping doughy goo reminded me of exactly why I'd never made bread with the first starter I made several years ago! Ah, well, the mantel needed a good cleaning anyway, and the mess all dripped conveniently onto the woodpile below.

Back to square one! I got out my biggest glass jar, dumped the rest of my goo in it, added a few more ingredients, and... left it in the kitchen. Near the sink. And stuck a rubber band over the saran wrap. Like that was really going to help! But hey, it made me feel better!

As it bubbled and settled and began to sour over the next twenty-four hours, the smell pricking my nose brought to the surface some old, old memories of breadmaking in my childhood.

When I was a little girl, my mom would make whole wheat bread the old-fashioned way. She'd get out her two biggest bowls, a large silver one and a gigantic green Tupperware one. She'd mix a couple of warm quarts of water with salt, sugar, oil and yeast in each, then start adding in the many, many cups of flour. We had an old hand-crank mill that we made our whole wheat flour from and I'm sure we all had our turns with cranking that long handle around and around and around and around! I have a vita-mix now that I do all of my grinding in, but I wish I had that old mill sometimes!

A few hours of rising and kneading later, and we'd have several lovely loaves of freshly baked bread. Those were happy times. I loved to watch my mother and help and smell the warm, yeasty smells filling up the kitchen.

I learned how to make bread on my own like this when I was seven. These days I never make bread by hand, it's all done with my two bread machines and unless I'm making dinner rolls I do nothing more than dump in the ingredients and push a couple of buttons.

It's a far cry from that little girl who so proudly showed off her baking skills:

But it sure takes a lot less time with a bread machine!

Anyway, the year I was in fourth grade I had advanced enough to be making my own cinnamon rolls. I took a couple of batches to school to share on special occasions. My teacher could hardly believe I made them all by myself. I had to reassure myself many times that I did, indeed, make them myself, his disbelief was so strong! I couldn't understand it - I clearly excelled at EVERYthing else in his classroom, why should he doubt my ability to do something as simple as bake my own cinnamon rolls? I'd often overheard him bragging to the other teachers of how bright and intelligent I was and how advanced in certain subjects I'd become under his teaching. Surely the trek I made each week from one end of the school to the other to procure more difficult classwork from the sixth grade classroom had proven to everyone in the school that I was, indeed, one of the most promising students in the whole district, right? So what was the difficulty in believing I also had the ability to bake some cinnamon rolls, anyway?


Where was I? Oh, yes, telling how how fully I had grown accustomed to my role as "Teacher's Pet". I often fit into that role in grade school but never so much as that year. In theory, teachers never play favorites. In reality, it happens. That was, in some ways, a terrifying year, for as much as that particular teacher gave praise to those whom he felt deserving of it, he punished the ones that did not please him. I shudder to think of what it felt like to be on the other side of his good graces, and of how it must have impacted those little souls.

Even though I often felt as if I were basking in the sunlight when he'd approve of my work, I never felt secure there. Which is probably why this story turned out like it did.

At the end of the school year I wanted to do something extra special for my teacher so I baked him a loaf of bread. It was a lovely, freshly baked, golden-crusted loaf of whole-wheat goodness. I presented it to him grandly, after all of the other children had gone with the remnants of their cleaned-out desks. He looked pleased as he examined it, then he took a deep breath, holding the loaf up to his nose.

"Is this sourdough?", he asked.

My eyes smarted as I tried to decipher the words. Was that a smile? Or a smirk? Aaah! I couldn't tell!

I carefully tried to explain that it wasn't sour, it was fresh and that it was whole wheat bread that I'd made the day before! I reached out carefully to take it back, thinking he didn't want it, but he didn't hand it back, and I didn't snatch. Snatching was NOT something you did in that classroom.

"No way!", he exclaimed, "It's smells like sourdough! Are you sure it's not sourdough?!"

I bit the insides of my cheeks. Hard. There were no words left to say. I had to get out of there before the floodgates opened. I slowly started backing away, turned and fled with my backpack as soon as I was out of reach and never looked back.

I hadn't exactly gone home and demanded answers to why my teacher thought I was feeding him rotten bread. I was much too quiet about these kinds of things. It was many years later that someone finally explained to me what sourdough bread was.

And even more years before I finally found joy in bread making again.

Once again, I'm never looking back. I have a lot of years to make up for and there is a LOT of fun in breadmaking, especially when I have such adorable little helpers!

Okay, Who Turned Up The Heat?

Right about the time I realized I'd paid for my food, took my cups of water, and drove away without my burritos, it also occurred to me that someone must have thrown a hot coal down my shirt when I wasn't looking.

I thought at first it must have been all the banging on the steering wheel and growling through clenched teeth as I realized there were no burritos to be had seeing as how I'd left them back at the Taco Bell drive-thru. Or maybe the stress of being on hold, transferred to a dead connection, redialing to be put on hold again all while my phone is beeping at me that I have a low battery. Oh yes, and all on a tight deadline.

But it didn't go away even when I took a few deep, cleansing, in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth breaths.

It just kept getting... worse.

Good heavens!!! What's wrong with me?!, I thought as I frantically fanned my face with one hand. I mean, sure I'm still shedding hair like a cat in spring, but I haven't had hormonal hot flashes in a few months, at least!

Okay, this was NOT going to do it. HOT!!! FLASH!!!!

I grabbed the hem of my sweatshirt and reefed it up over my head, flinging my arms out of the sleeves one and a time and reveling in the relief of the short-sleeved t-shirt underneath.


Much better. But I still considered rolling all the windows down, too, except for that part about the wind on the baby's face. Poor kid would have been holding her breath so hard she wouldn't even be able to cry. She'd be all telepathically screaming at me to turn off the horrid wind tunnel already.

I was...drenched... with sweat. There's no other way to put it.

And not like that lovely, glistening, dewy kind of sweat that pretty girls do when they've hit the gym for the third time today.

No, no. Mine was more like those unfortunate people in front of an audience with enormous dark circles under their arms and a soaking wet hankie they keep mopping their brow with.

I didn't even dare look around at the other drivers when we reached the stop light. I'm pretty sure they were all stopped several car lengths back with fingers poised to call the state patrol after watching me with my arms flailing wildly in my big ole' suburban.

Instead I rolled down the window closest to me and hung my bare arm over the side. Whew! The warm air and sunshine felt so good! That whole February thaw was so incredibly WONDERFUL! And RARE! We usually don't see 40 degrees through both January AND February and we're lucky to have an early March thaw like this, let alone the week of Valentine's!

Ahh, feel the breeze! Ahhh! OH! Ooops, time to go, green light!

I reluctantly rolled up the window as I turned.

And finally it occurred to me that the background noise, the sound that got absolutely NO attention whatsoever from me because it was an ever-present white-noise kind of sound, one that I'd gotten used to the absolute constancy of for the past 8 weeks thanks to the frigid temperatures...

... was the heater fan going full blast.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hey, Where's My Burrito?

Mothers should be immune to two things:

1. Being sick while pregnant/breastfeeding/with any persons living in the house under the age of 18.

2. Murphy's Law.

Surely there should be some sort of credit given for the amount of patience one must endure simply to be the mother of small children. Right?

Surely we should be given an energy bonus for the bodies that have been put through the ringer for the past several months or years. Don't you agree?

I, for one, would trade in my mansion in heaven for a cave if I could just have a little immunity down here below.

But no, Murphy's Law and illness afflict us mothers like warts do a toad. An ever-present, unappealing reality.

Like getting up extra early in order to take as long a shower as you could possibly want, completely uninterrupted, only to have your three year old knock on the bathroom door at 4:57 am saying, "I gotta go potty!!", followed by an immediate burst of tears and a yellow puddle edging its way under the door. While your hair is still full of shampoo.

Or getting everything for a meal cooked, prepped, chopped, baked, and stirred together only to realize you just poured sour milk into the pot and ruined it all. 10 minutes before dinner time.

Or when you are having a particularly difficult day and NEED a little bit of chocolate and discover that the little box of truffles you've been hoarding in the freezer for the past year are, indeed, so completely freezer-burned by now that they taste more like frozen dirt clods than frozen chocolate.

But what I've recently learned makes my individual run-ins with Murphy seem like small peas.

There are actually some corporations out there that *gasp* support Murphy's Law!

No! Can't be!
, you say?

I assure you, my friends, it is all too true.

Some restaurants and businesses do their best to prevent such incidents as the one I am about to describe, but not all.

No, not all.

In fact, Taco Bell happens to be one of those restaurants that seemingly revels in sitting back and playing spectator to the unsuspecting customers about to be slapped with heavy Murphy's Law fines!

For instance, nowhere does one see a sign posted near their drive-thru window stating: "please turn off your cell-phones while talking to our little metal box!", or "for your own health and safety, please refrain from cell-phone use while ordering food!".

No, nothing like that.

And so, one might perhaps be running late, ridiculously hungry, on hold with cell phone company, and ordering food all at the same time.

"Multy-tasking, Opry calls it!" (50 pts. if you know what movie that's from)

Ah, yes, multi-tasking. We women like to pat ourselves on the back for being able to do something that men get all mind-boggled just contemplating.

As a mother of four, I am pretty much stuck permanently in the "multi-tasking" mode.

Turns out, "multi-tasker" is actually synonymous with "scatter-brained".

The annoying combination of flute and saxophone blaring up from my phone switched over to an operator with a heavy accent saying a hurried, "Hello!", followed by an immediate question needing a response. I answered her, paid for my food, took the two cups of water, and drove away, trying to drive away with one hand, juggle the water and my phone and wallet with the other....

It wasn't until I was attacked by gnawing hunger painstoo far away to go back that I realized just how expensive those 2 cups of water really were.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yeah, I know this is early, but I needed to share the cuteness for a few days before Valentine's is "old" news!

Took these a couple of weeks ago on a day when they all felt good and no one had the sickies. Ah, the good old days.

My four little Sweethearts!


Stack 'em up!

The Biglies

the Littlies

and the Upside-Downies

What a lovely thing to be surrounded by so much Love!

or maybe it's just a little overwhelming?

There's a SMILE!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

More Adventures with Mavis - Sort Of.

*** Warning: this post contains talk about breastfeeding. You may be offended if you're conservative or have never breastfed a baby.***

What I said: "Stay tuned for tomorrow's edition..."

What I meant: "Stay tuned for next week's" ... or "next month's"... or maybe just "next edition"...

So, yeah, life is busy around here. So far this year we've had a bit of trouble getting everyone in the household healthy at the same time. Between sickness, school, snow, a broken washing machine, and the daily cooking/cleaning/blah blah blah I have been... feeding a baby.

Little miss Babycakes is 5 months old. Five months of exclusive breastfeeding. And by exclusive I mean EXCLUSIVE. As in, she won't take a bottle. At all.

I honestly think she'd have to be half starved first.

And then she might consider it.

Under the right circumstances.

These days she would much rather be in my arms and near the food source than anywhere else on earth. She worships the ground my boobs walk on. Or... at least that's about where they'll be saggin' to when she's done with 'em! OH, the CHOMPING! Teething is going to be SO fun!

Honestly, I don't mind it. My life fully revolves around my home and my kids, it's not like I have somewhere else I have to be instead of nursing my baby. All I want to do is soak up this last bit of little babyness in my life before it's gone. I LOVE nursing my little ones.

And I'm firmly in the camp of those who say, "If you're offended by breastfeeding, put a blanket over your own head!". I've nursed babies in all sorts of public places. In the mall, in restaurants, in airplanes, at the play area. Oh sure, I put a blanket over us and stay as decent as possible, but there are still those people that find nursing in public to be... disturbing.

I just don't get it.

Although... I'm not *quite* as open about breastfeeding in public as one mother I know. I met her through the midwife who delivered my first kiddo. She was the calm, capable mother of nine that I picked up the birthing tub from. She met me at the door of her home, a baby in her arms and chaos running in circles around her legs. Several months later her family showed up at a seminar we were attending at a nearby church. I sat next to her and we chatted between services. Her baby grew hungry, so she unbuttoned the top half of her dress and without a second thought nursed her baby.


I may be brave and I may be slightly crunchy and I may be very pro-breastfeeding, but I am not THERE yet!

And I likely never will be. I'll take my curtained mothers' room during church services, thank you.

So anyway, back to Mavis.

There we were, back home with a fixed flat tire after our little incident, and Friday dawned nice and snowy - a Snow Day! Yippee! Sweet relief that I didn't even have to think about getting anyone to school that day. Colby took Mavis up to town and put 4 new tires on her.


Except for one thing.

One of the tires kept going flat. For 10 days my husband would go out every morning and night and check on the tire, then air it up if necessary so I wouldn't have a flat on the way to school again.

"It's just the valve stem," he said, "stop in at the tire place and have them replace it."


Taking four children into the tire place was JUST what I wanted to do with my afternoon.

Sure, I have fond memories of sitting for hours as a kid in the Les Schwab lobby where there was a nice big square of chairs and a coffee maker and stacks of magazines and quarter candy machines that we'd have all had a few rounds from thanks to the old folks who thought maybe we'd actually sit down and shut up if they just bribed us with candy.

But this was no Les Schwab. This place looked like it had about 4 square feet of customer lobby space and one chair. All I could picture was me standing there, jostling a grumpy baby while the other three fought over the chair and then having to pay some enormous amount that I didn't have quite enough cash for so I'd have to whip out the debit card and stand awkwardly at the counter trying to sign my name with one hand and hold the squalling baby with the other.


My phone rang one morning just after I'd dropped the kids off at school.

"Take the car in today, Honey."

"I'll try...?", I hedged.


"Oh, all right, I'll stop in on my way through and see what their hours are.", I promised.

As I turned the corner at 7:38 am I was immensely surprised to see their "open" sign lit up and flashing.

Uh.... what do I do? What do I do? I thought. Of course, I did realize that it was completely impractical of me to be hoping they'd have some ridiculous hours of operation, say, 8-12 am on Fridays only, but I was really hoping Colby would get to do the honors instead of me.

We pulled in to the parking lot. There were two guys busily stacking tires in front of the building so I rolled down my window in the predawn stillness of falling snow and talked to one of them. He said they'd get me right in as soon as they were set up in the shop for the day so I rolled up my window to wait. And right on cue, the baby started fussing. She'd been running a fever off and on for the past two days, and I had thrown out the regular schedule to nurse her on demand for the duration of her sick days. After two sleepless nights and two hectic days, I had no idea when she would want to nurse next.

But it surely did dawn on me over the next ten minutes that she was ready to nurse NOW.

"Just a few minutes, baby, just a few minutes!", I said, still hoping that she'd somehow change her mind and we'd make it back home before the whole feeding thing became critical.


The guys kept bringing out more and more stacks of tires, Evelyn kept fussing and fussing.

Of course, just as Murphy's Law would apply to this situation, the minute I had that baby out of her seat and attached to me the tire shop guys decided they finally had enough tires displayed to be optimally attractive to passers-by and the one I talked to originally turned and in two quick steps was standing just outside my door.

And then he was backing away.


"Oh! Oh, I see you have small children...something something...don't need to get out...blah blah...we'll just have you...*whisper whisper*" ...

He retreated from the car at breakneck speed into the inner confines of his office never to be seen again.

I looked down. Was I showing something completely inappropriate?

Nope. Nothing to be seen here but a purple blankie and little kicking feet sticking out at one end.


I put her down briefly and pulled the car into the garage before continuing on my blissful way of feeding the little gaffer.

In the car.

Up on jacks.

Hey, baby's got to be fed! And a Mom's got to do what a Mom's got to do!

Oh, and in case you were wondering how the thing with the brakes going out went, it was Colby who was driving THAT time!

Thank heavens!


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