Propaganda Friday

on 31 December 2010

Happy New Years, y'all!

Christmas in Review

on 28 December 2010

We had a GREAT weekend, how about you?

We hosted Christmas eve dinner at our house.  We had ham and green beans, sweet potatoes, an amazing potato gratin, roasted potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, and crescent rolls (clearly, it's all about the carbs in our house) and it was all SO good.  Well, I'm assuming the ham was good because I did not partake, if you follow me.  We were crowded but cozy and we sat and chatted and teased Sherry about being a sucker and had tons of fun in general.  This is a tradition we'll be keeping.  It was SO nice to be able to get up Christmas day and NOT have to cook, but to just reheat leftovers and then stuff the dishes in the dishwasher.  It was thoroughly brilliant!

Christmas eve was also the night for the Grandma Presents.  This was our tradition growing up.  And I'm sure it originated with us hounding our parents to open just one present pleeeeeeeaaaaaaase?!  So Mom and Dad always let us open our Grandma presents on Christmas eve.  This is another tradition we're keeping.  It was so fun!  The Boy had a very Thomas Christmas and his Nana and Popper gifted him with a new station, new tracks and a puzzle and some new train cars.  He was HILARIOUS.  He kept trying to hold every single thing in his hands all at the same time.  Which, his little hands just aren't big enough for!

We read the birth of the Christ child and then the Boy went to bed and everyone else went home and Chris and I set about Santa's work.  My amazing Sisters had come through for the Boy on behalf of Santa this year.  Sherry had brought him this very cool marble run from Switzerland and I put some very cool marbles in his stocking to go with it.  And Susie, Susie came unhinged in putting together this box of Santa goodness!  It was filled with Thomas stuff, and a Linus doll!  And playdoh and playmobil and bath toys and big boy pants and candy!  It all wouldn't fit in his stocking, so I made a little Santa pile for him.  We set up the Thomas sets so that they were ready to play with on Christmas morning.  And then, then we collapsed gratefully into bed.

Christmas morning came, but not too early, which was SO nice.  Chris got up to walk Hogan and when he came back we opened our stockings together while we waited for the Boy to wake up.  My people really love me, you know that?  I got 4, FOUR shea butter bars for my winter skin!  Can I tell you how excited I am about that?  They're expensive for soap, but I love them so much!  And my sweet husband filled it up with Dove chocolates.

Once the Boy woke up, I went in to his crib and I said, "Guess what?!  Santa Claus came!  And he brought you some presents!"  And the Boy rubbed his face and said, "Santa C'aus coming?"  So he came out and saw all the new Thomas stuff and CANDY and he was...he was just like every kid in a toy store, he didn't know where to look or what to play with first!  It was so funny and sweet.

We spent the next couple of hours opening presents, because the Boy was not content to open one and move on to the next, he had to open it and then take it out of the packaging and then show it to me and to Chris and then try to hold it in his arms while we tried to get him to open the next one.  After two or three presents it became, "Mama, open it!  Mama, open it, peese?!"  So I ended up opening most of his presents while he exclaimed over them and tried to drive Lightening McQueen on Thomas the Tank Engine tracks!  It was hands down the funnest Christmas morning EVER in Burnstopia.

As for Chris and I, we had a decidedly cozy Christmas.  Filled with wool socks and flannel pajamas, new books and well...this:

Chris' brother Mike, in what can only be described as a temporary leave of his senses, bought us Snuggies.  Chris and I laughed ourselves silly. 

The highlight?  Sherry and my Dad gifted us with emergency preparedness/food storage stuff!  We got a water filtration system, a whole bunch of food storage and a canner!  I can NOT wait until next summer!  I'm doing salsa again and some spaghetti sauce and then some straight tomatoes for chilis and soups, I may even try to do some peaches. 

After a failed attempt to get my child to nap, we headed over to Sherry's for dinner and a movie.  My nephew had gotten Toy Story 3 so after filling ourselves fully of warm, homey food we lounged about and looked at my niece's pictures from her recent trip to Europe (with Sherry) and then watched the movie.  The Boy finally started to crash from his crazy day and he snuggled in to me for the movie.  It was sad and sweet and made me all the more determined to enjoy every minute with my Boy.

We came home to a forecast for LOTS of snow (lots for North Carolina, y'all) and Chris went to bring Hogan over to our place so that he wouldn't have to drive in the snow.  And you know, I think Chris was hoping that it would dampen our desire for a dog, but it really hasn't.  Hogan is such a sweet dog, he's smart and mellow and it's just so fun having him around.  He's laying on my feet watching the Boy as he plays with his trains.

All in all, it was a very Merry Christmas.  We read the Christmas Carol together as a family, we did morning devotionals all month long to teach the Boy about Jesus Christ and why we celebrate Christmas.  We sang and played and baked and tried to serve our fellow man.  It wasn't a season without worry or care or even frustration or disappointment, but then...well, life isn't without it's share of those things either.

How were your holidays?

42-45 Christmas socks

on 27 December 2010

Since Christmas is the season of giving I thought I'd tell you about my crazy hairbrained scheme and how it relates to my favorite gift I gave this year.

A long while back I made some socks for the Boy.  They were a bit on the small side for his colossal feet, but overall an excellent showing for someone new to knitting.  Approximately 35 seconds after they were done, Chris asked what he would have to do to get a pair.  And I laughed hysterically.

It took me almost a month to make a child-sized pair!  I couldn't fathom making adult sized socks.  So I moved on to other things.

And then came the hat.  The beautiful but ever so slightly too small hat that I made for the Boy.  And Chris renewed his request.  It was by this time late November or early December.  And I thought to myself "Why not?"

So I pulled down a huge skein of undyed wool, I found a simple sock pattern and the went in search of a color work pattern.  (Well, if I was going to all the work to make him some cozy wool socks I wanted them to be pretty!)  Anyway, I found a lovely mitten pattern and after copying the colorwork pattern and then shifting it around I could make it work for a sock.  So I trotted myself out to find a pretty contrasting wool and then set to work.

People, let me just tell you, I worked my fingers to the BONE.  I worked furiously, I had to rip it back on 2 separate occasions, but I did NOT let that deter me from my goal.

Chris would say that here is the part where I take you on M's happy walking tour through all the stuff I watched while I worked on the knitting.  Almost exclusively, I watched Ken Burns' documentary on World War II called simply the War.  I spiced it up with some Band of Brothers and so the 42-45 socks were born.

The upper and arch of the foot is 100% wool, the contrast, heel and toe are a wool blend so as to wear a little bit better.

When I finished the first sock I asked Chris, "Maybe this should be a Christmas tradition in our house.  Everyone gets cozy Christmas socks!"  He tried on the first sock and declared that to be a marvelous idea.

Propaganda Friday

on 24 December 2010

Still Life

on 22 December 2010

I thought you'd all enjoy these vignettes of life in Burnstopia.  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

My darlin' and clementines.

What we are currently up to.  Because the holidays are not crazy enough!  But, and I hate to admit this, it's actually pretty fun.  The Boy climbs up to his only personal throne and then says, "Mama, 'eave a'one."  Because even newbies need a little privacy.


on 20 December 2010

The Boy woke up at 6:30 in the morning.

We don't get up at 6:30 in the morning in Burnstopia unless we have to travel.  So I lay there with my head under the pillow hoping that he would go back to sleep.

He did not, and he was clearly upset.

I padded silently through the cold dark living room into his bedroom.  He was standing in his crib tearfully pleading, "Cuddle Mommy.  Cuddle Mommy.  Cuddle Mommy."  So I sighed and lifted him up to cradle in my arms.

Cradling the Boy is nothing short of comical these days.  He's all arms and legs and lean muscle.  We sat in the rocking chair and his thin little legs dangled over the arm of the chair.

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the chair.

After 15 minutes I was now cold and the Boy was still pleading sadly, "Cuddle Mommy."  So I cradled him in my arms and we went back to the warm comfort of Bed Sweet Bed. 

The Boy gratefully snuggled under the pile of covers against my chest.  He was still and quiet and so we dozed for another half an hour until the increasing light around the windows prompted the Boy that it was now time to play.

It was a day ordinary, and yet not.  There were diapers to wash and groceries to buy.  There was frustration and discipline.  There were books to be read and a nap for the Boy.  Eventually, Chris made a pot of soup for dinner and I composed some grilled cheese sandwiches to accompany it.

There was a bath for the Boy and lotion and pajamas and scriptures and prayers.  And then there was one last cuddle in the rocking chair.

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the chair.

As I sat in the dark room, rocking my Boy, I realized that I had been in the exact same situation first thing that morning.  And sometimes it's hard to tell morning from evening, coming or going.  And I was forcefully reminded of another back and forth moment.

When we lived in a podunk little town in western Washington state, I used to run from our house the two and half miles downhill to the sound.  I would sit on a big rock and watch the small waves lapping at the rocky shoreline.  I never could tell if the tide was coming in or going out. 

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the water.

Sometimes I think the days are almost indistinguishable from one another.  They blend into a cycle of meals and naps and bedtime routines.  They  become these round robins of tasks to perform and errands to run.  And yet.  They are so liberally sweetened by moments like these.  If we just sit still long enough to taste them.

Propaganda Friday

on 17 December 2010

Birthday Meditation

on 16 December 2010

I would like to wish Jane Austen a very happy 235th birthday today.

If I could, I would thank her for 6 classic novels of sheer brilliance.  I would thank her for inspiring countless other writers to create more works of brilliance.  I would thank her for inspiring some pretty decent film makers as well.

And then I would ask her what the heck is up with all the spin-off writers who think they need to complete the 6 novels that she ALREADY completed.  Also, what the heck is up with all the writers writing horror/monster spin-offs of her books?  Yeah, I don't get that.

As for today, I shall spend it listening to some of my favorite film adaptations of her novels and work work working away on a Christmas present for Chris and also some hemming I need to do for me.  It's cold and wet here (sleet, anyone?) so it's the perfect activity for this the 235th birthday of Jane Austen.

Also, I've been thinking about genius a lot lately.  And how it seems that great Gifts require great Sacrifices (think Beethoven being deaf and all...), in and around my work, I might just do some meditating on that.

3 out of 3 in Burnstopia approve!

on 15 December 2010

Once upon a morning, Christopher woke up and declared,

"I want sweet.  I neeeeeeeeeeeeeed SWEET.  NOW."

So, like any good wife, M asked him,

"Well.  What kind of sweet do you want?  Cookies?"








"I'm out of ideas, man, what kind of sweet do you want?" M, bless her, she was still trying to be a good wife.

After a thoughtful pause, Christopher burst out with, "Rice Krispie TREATS!  Or s'mores bars!"

After laughing at him for this bizarre little whim, we trotted off to ScmalMart for the requisite ingredients.  (We don't keep marshmallows in our pantry.)  And while we were there we had the brilliant idea of having a week long celebration of the cereal bar and trying different kinds of cereal out to determine which is our favorite and thus the BEST cereal bar the world can offer.

So we bought 3 bags of marshmallows, Rice Krispies, Chocolate Cheerios and a box of (NEW!) Cinnamon Chex.  I've been curious about a cinnamon cereal bar for a long time.

Chris made the Rice Krispie treats first.  And they were ok, but not as good as I remember them being back in the days when I was decidedly addicted to the things.  (Those are OTHER stories that require their own posts.)

Next we made the Chocolate Cheerio bars.  Now, Chris wanted me to tell all of you that he is otherwise disgusted by the idea of a chocolate cheerio.  And this is the SECOND time we have made these (I made them once for a family night treat). 

Christopher is too SCARED to try  a cinnamon cereal bar so those didn't happen--besides we had made up our minds after the cheerios.

It's OFFICIAL.  The cereal bar of choice in Burnstopia is the Chocolate Cheerio bar.  The texture is infinitely better than the Rice Krispies, and dude--CHOCOLATE.  They taste like S'MORES.  They are all things wonderful and delicious.  They are just enough to transport you back to your childhood and satiate your craving for SWEET.

We ate them while watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  Which the Boy calls, "Cha-cha Bwown!"  It's hilarious.  Go and make them today. 

In Rememberance of Ms past...

on 13 December 2010

Every once in a while I get this morbid craving for tacos. 

Not the good kind of tacos that you get in authentic Mexican food establishments, the kind that are just meat (or FISH!) and red onion, cilantro and lime.  Those are REAL tacos.   My morbid craving is always for Disgusting Tacos.

Like Taco Bell tacos.

As in a soft taco shell with beans and faux meat and grated cheddar cheese and nasty shredded lettuce and tasteless tomatoes and hot sauce.  Look.  We're ordinarily very healthy.  Every once in a while we get these morbidly bad cravings and they simply MUST be obeyed.

Such a craving came upon me last week.  So off to SchmalMart I schlepped to get the requisite shredded iceberg lettuce.

I came home and heated the faux meat and taco seasoning and beans and grated some cheese and made up the tacos and proceeded to dive in head first.

Chris asked me if they were as good as I was expecting.  And I had to admit that, no, they weren't.  And he asked what was wrong and I gave a think.

And as I thought it over I realized something.  That what I really wanted was a moment in time...not really the tacos.  The tacos were a part of that moment, but what I was really craving was the moment.  I wanted to be 16 again.  Sitting in a Taco Bell in a small, podunk town in western Washington.  Surrounded by my friends, thinking we were the coolest things since sliced bread.  I wanted that moment of feeling supremely confident in my ability to be witty and intelligent and even a little bit cruel.  (They laughed.  It was mean, but it was funny and as a kid I assumed that made it ok.  I know better as an adult.)

In chatting with Chris later, that's what I realized.  But how are we to satiate that kind of craving?  You couldn't pay me enough money to ever repeat the whole year--but that one moment of being admired and lauded--that feeling of captivating.  That's what I wanted back.

It's not in our cards to get moments back.  I suppose that's why we should be enjoying the ones we get.  In the end, I had some really good tacos.  

Propaganda Friday

on 10 December 2010

I'm so glad.  I really was worried there for a minute.

Happy Families

on 08 December 2010

Tolstoy is famous for having said that "All happy families are the same, all unhappy families are uniquely unhappy."  Thus arguing that the only interesting family is an UNhappy family.

I beg to differ.

(Incidentally, I'm not the only one to beg to differ.  There's a whole book out there called Tolstoy Lied--it's quite good, and funny and happy and sad and all the things you want a decent book to be.  But we're not talking about that, we're talking about my odd little happy family.)

I have these moments on a fairly regular basis where I'm doing something totally normal and banal and something happens, some cosmic shift in perspective and I can see my own little family with out-side-my-own-little-family eyes.  And when that I happens, I find myself thinking..."What an odd little family."

For example.

The other day I was making some macaroni and cheese for my Boy. 

(Yes.  I know.  It's not the healthiest thing he could be eating, but he LOVES it and I love him.  And so once a month or every other month I indulge him with a batch of homemade macaroni and cheese.)

So I was making some macaroni and cheese for my Boy and I was stirring the plain white pasta in the boiling water and it was just another quiet evening making a quiet dinner for my quiet little family.  When the cosmic shift happened and I saw myself cutting up velveeta cheese and pouring in ORGANIC milk into the pot of cooked pasta and I thought to myself.

"We really are an odd little family.  Velveeta cheese?  It's not even REAL cheese!  And organic milk?  Was ever such a combination imagined?"

And then I remembered what Tolstoy said.  And I started to examine my little family for signs of unhappiness to equal our signs of individuality.

And you know what?  There really aren't any.  The things we're not crazy about (unemployment, infertility) they're temporary things.  They'll change eventually.  I guess when I think of unhappy families I think of a chronic unhappiness.

And so in closing, I bring myself back to the original point of this post, which was (other than revealing the more embarrassing parts of my pantry) to inquire--what are your happy family eccentricities?


on 06 December 2010


You know what really peeves me?  Annoys?  Irritates?  Disgruntles?

When I work away making an oh-so-adorable hat for my child and it turns out 1 inch too small.

And even when you can sort of stretch it over his adorable head, he screams and wails "OFF OFF OFF!"

And then when you're peeved, annoyed, irritated, disgruntled and yes, IRKED.  He LAUGHS at you.


on 04 December 2010

It should come as no surprise that snow is like CATNIP for me.

I told Chris this morning at 11:33 when it first began to fall from the cloudy heavens that it makes me feel like a kid again.

We took the opportunity to take our own certifiable child out in the lovely powdery snow this afternoon.  And the pictures (while I have not done my hair and have not a stitch of make-up on my face) are so full of joy that I had to post them here.


Sorry the sledding ones are so out of focus, but you know, I was laughing so hard it was a little hard to concentrate on taking the pictures.  We used an old diet coke box and tried to get him to sled down the little hill behind out apartment.  Chris and I were alternately cracking each other up and the Boy was hooting with laughter the whole was rather giddy.

Propaganda Friday

on 03 December 2010

Overheard in Burnstopia

on 01 December 2010

Chris was sorting laundry for me on Monday morning when he came in to where I was working on the computer.

Chris:  So I ordered a book from the library.  It's about being happy.
M (giving him a shocked look):  Are you thinking about trying to be HAPPY?
Chris:  Well, I'm just thinking about it.  I'm going to see what the book says.
M (stunned silence)
Chris:  Well, it's no guarantee, I just want to read the book...
M (hysterical laughter)
Chris:  Don't you want to know what the book is called?
M:  Sure.  Hit me.
Chris:  It was on NPR, it's called Thrive Something Something Something.
M:  Wow.  That's quite a title.  What did they say about it?
Chris:  I don't remember.  But it sounded interesting.
M:  Evidently.

Weekend in Review

on 29 November 2010


I don't know about y'all, but I'm exhausted.  Of course, I haven't been sleeping much lately, so that might be part of it, but the weekend was jam packed with fun and good times too.

My sister is running away to Europe this week with her only daughter.  They're going to Austria, Switzerland and Germany to tour the Christmas Marts and some museums and concerts as well.  She's been looking forward to this for so long that I'm not really jealous of her.  Not much.  Not right this minute.  Give me until next weekend and that might be different.  Anyway, we went up to her house to play on Saturday and I took a pumpkin cake because that's what I do.  It was fun and delicious all the way around.

Friday was my annual tradition of Clean Out and Haul Off.  It seems like when half the world is out shopping, I usually prefer to stay home and clear stuff out.  This time it was all stuff from the Boy's room.  It was good and sad all at the same time.

And Thursday, Thanksgiving was spent with my parents and my Grandma.  Mom and Dad did the turkey and the potatoes and dressing and Chris and I did a squash casserole and Pioneer Woman's green bean casserole and let me tell you--those beans were AWESOME.  Once the sauce was made I looked at Chris and said, "I could take a bath in this stuff!"  Mom made us pumpkin, pecan and apple pies and they were YUM.  It was nice and low key and we ended up watching Polar Express with the Boy.  He was really worried about their tickets.  It was awesome.

And the added benefit of having limited income, I'm done with my Christmas shopping.  I made my choices and sat down at the computer and ordered a couple of things for the Boy and a couple of things for Chris and we're done.  We're putting up the tree tonight for Family Night and then I'll set to work on cookies and toffee and other yummy and highly caloric things.

Oh!  And Chris has a phone interview tomorrow.  But then...some of you might already know that.  Think good things for my man, will you?

How was your weekend?

Propaganda Friday

on 26 November 2010

Since it's coming up soon...


on 24 November 2010

I have a long list of things that I'm thankful for this year.  I have a short list of things that aren't ideal, things that I might wish were different, or things I would scrap all together, but the list of things I'm grateful for is much longer.  And for that...that shift in perspective, I'm very grateful.

Most of all, it's these...these eternal, infinite blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Now, let's have pie.

What I have been doing all. morning. long.

on 22 November 2010

Making Bagels!

I used Rose's recipe, which was so great because she had her father help her.  She asked him, during a taste test, "Dad, are they like what you used to eat when you were a kid?"  And he said, "No.  They're BETTER!"  And they really were heavenly.  I used 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 2+ cups of bread flour.  It yielded this lovely soft but chewy inside and a crispy-chewy-crunchy crust.  They are SO good.


Dude.  SOOOOO much work!  I told Chris, it would be worth it if we were still living in Brunswick and there wasn't a bagel place for miles around, but here we have a Brueggers just down the road, so I don't know how much I'll actually make them.  They are really freakin' good, so maybe...but we'll see.

The Boy seemed to like them...

That was our lunch today.  I had meant them for breakfast, and started them at 7:30...but they weren't done until 11--so we had them schmeared with cream cheese or peanut butter and jam...they were every bit as good as the ones I ate in New York.

In other news:  I got up this morning at 6:30 to work out.  I haven't worked out since well before we moved down here...which would be, oh, 5 months.  Let me just say, I kind of wanted to die.  And in the middle of my near-coronary experience in the living room I thought to myself, "This is why doctors say that exercise needs to be a routine.  Because when you get out of the routine it is just so very painful going back to it."  Over all, I'm pleased with myself for getting out of bed and getting (some of) it done.  Tomorrow my goal is to make it out bed a bit sooner so that I can get it all done.  My other goal is to be back in my jeans by Christmas.  And for those of you who know me well, you know this is pretty typical of me.  I wear loose clothes all summer long so I don't really notice that the ice cream as accumulated on my bum...until winter.  Then I have to bust my bum into some shape so that I can wear my jeans.  I have a longer range goal to know...STICK WITH the exercise come next spring and summer, but we'll see.  In the meantime, I have to put some bagels in the freezer before they go stale...

Propaganda Friday

on 19 November 2010

This is a shout out to all my Russian speaking cheloveks--also any of you who read.

Literacy is the path to Communism.

You heard it here first.

I am the Master...

on 17 November 2010 starting things, getting half way through and then ripping out everything I've done in order to start over.

Remember that lovely list of projects I had?  Remember how I was part way through with most of them? 


I ripped back the sock.  I have a nicely wound ball of yarn now.  In fact I have TWO because I ripped back both socks.  I wasn't happy with how I started to work the decreases and my goal is socks that are...NICE.  Wearable.  Not...homemade and poorly executed.

I guess it's not entirely true since I haven't ripped back Chris' sweater vest.  But then, I haven't knitted on it in a while either.  I did manage to set up my sewing machine in preparation for a big sewing fest.  This is how I get stuff done.  I'm the world's WORST multi-tasker so I don't even try any more.  I focus all of my attention (or as much as I have to spare) on one thing and make a highly concentrated effort and in the end I do a better job on the one thing at a time than I would have done if I had tried to do more than one thing at once.

Incidentally, I'm home this week and it's NICE.

Except everyone's sick.  The Boy got it first and he graciously passed it on to Chris who then lovingly passed it on to me.  What can I say?  We, here at Burnstopia, believe in sharing.

Send help...also tissues

on 15 November 2010

So I managed to set up my project table on's not currently visible underneath all the crap on top of it...

And that stuff is still on top of it because we are ALL sick.

The Boy started late last week with a nose that could not breathe but did have the amazing ability to spout BUBBLES.  He had a rough night Thursday night followed by a rough day Friday but then he seemed to perk up on Saturday, which was convenient because Saturday was when Chris started coming down with it.

(Incidentally, the Boy no longer says BE-GOK-COPTER for helicopter.  He says the much less endearing HEP-I-COPTER and that makes me sad.)

Anyway, we all stayed home from Church yesterday because the men folk were too sick to inflict on others, but I was still fine so I fervently prayed that I might make it out unscathed.

You know, I firmly believe that we have a God of miracles, but that doesn't mean He can protect me from my child who thinks that every cup is a common cup of water and everyone else's food is fair game.  So being sick is the price I pay for indulging my child and his constant requests for BITES!

And you know, as I was sneezing sneezing sneezing and blowing blowing blowing last night and Chris was apologizing for me being sick, I looked at him and said, "It's worth it.  If the choice is have a kid and get sick or not have a kid and still get sick, I'd rather have the kid."

I still managed to start 1 of 3 baby hats I'm making up for friends.  I love doing baby hats, so they're so tiny and fast and soft and just so adorable.  I know they won't fit the babies long (and not at all if they come out with ginormous heads like we have in our family), but for the moment, they're so tiny and sweet that I'm thoroughly enjoying the process of working on them.

And on that note, I'm taking my sinuses and going to have a long, hot steam.  Happy Monday, y'all.

Soupy Saturdays

Once the weather cooled off here, Chris and I instituted Soup on Saturdays.  We're all home together so we have some time to cook up a big pot of warmy goodness.  We make it a point to buy some crusty bread and we end up with an enormous bowl of soup in the fridge to eat on all week long.

So far we've made:

  • Pioneer Woman's Corn Chowder
  • Mushroom Barley soup (and oh my HECK this one was GOOD)
  • Russian Borscht
  • Roasted Tomato Soup (this one is a gold standard in Burnstopia)
We've got a lovely cottage-pie stew on deck, a creamy baked potato chowder and I'm starting to think about attempting a fish chowder--but I need a decent recipe...I'm not shelling out a ton of money for 3 or more different kinds of fish if it's just going to be meh.

The mushroom-barely was from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and I futzed with it until I came up with this super thick, rich lovely stew like meal.  With some toasted rosemary bread it was heaven itself.

I've never actually had borscht before so it was fun to make.  I love the technicolor beets and you know, anything with sour cream as a condiment is delicious.  I started saying numbers in Russian to my Boy just to mess with his head and he's become addicted to them.  He comes up to me and shouts, "DVA-PYAT!"  Which is "TWO-FIVE!"  and I know it's my job to recite them and he chants them after me.  I know he has no idea what they mean but it just makes me laugh to hear him speaking Russian.  I've started doing the same with French and he loves them too, but doesn't know them quite as well as the Russian ones.  If I get him started he can say all of the numbers in order from 2-10...1 is still hard for him.  Mostly, I'm just sowing seeds, hoping that in the years to come as we sit down to work on foreign languages it will come a little easier to him than it otherwise would.

I also found this recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches using pesto and fresh mozzarella (which the Boy says, "RELLA!") so one afternoon we made up some grilled cheese sandwiches with pesto and moz and finished off the soup.  It was warm and delicious.

The Corn Chowder was good, but Chris made it really spicey!  So I poured it over plain baked potatoes and topped it with a little cheese (feta or cheddar, both were good) and that mellowed the spicey quite a bit.

So tell me, how are you enjoying the cooler weather?

Propaganda Friday

on 12 November 2010

I have an ironic affection for World War 2 propaganda.  I gather it up and use them for bookmarks and postcards for certain people.  Since I'm short on stories, I thought I'd treat you all to some of my favorites over the next few weeks.


The Delicate Art of Procrastination

on 10 November 2010

So I was supposed to be taking time off from blogging to work on other projects.  Here is an incomplete list:

  • Knit washcloths to replace my ratty ones.
  • Knit socks for the Boy (a pair of wooly blue ones, and a thinner pair of stripey blue/grey ones)
  • Knit a simple, cozy sweater vest in wool for Chris.
  • Bake some bread.
  • Knit a kitty-cat hat for my Boy (I convinced him to wear a hat by putting kitty cat ears on I just have to make it!).  Why?  Why does he hate to wear a hat?  Even when it's pouring rain?  And cold?  The child adamantly refuses to wear a hat.  I'm hoping the addition of ears will make him more amenable...
  • Sew up some aprons since most of my t-shirts (and some of my pants) have bleach stains.  Apparently, I'm a messy cleaner.
  • Sew up a baby blanket for my friend Sarah R. Who's having a Boy!  Am SO excited for her!  And Sarah B. who is having another girl!  I'm excited for her too!  And now I  can rationalize buying and sewing up this super girly fabric that I've had my eye on! 
  • Go back to working out daily.
  • Go back to baking our bread.
  • I have two separate freelancing projects that need work.
  • Read.  Read.  Read.

Want to know what I've actually gotten done?
  • I'm half-way through the washcloths.
  • I'm half-way through one sock.  Not one pair.  One SOCK.  I still need to shape the toe...
  • I have the cuff done on the first of the stripey socks.
  • I'm about 1/47th done with the sweater vest.  At the rate I'm going, I might finish sometime in the next 4 years.
  • Aprons still UNCUT, needless to say, they are as yet, unsewn.
  • I haven't even BOUGHT the fabric for either Sarahs' bay-bay!
  • I'm doing some exercises but I wouldn't call it working out.
  • I haven't baked a loaf of bread since we moved.
  • I've cast on the hat for my Boy.  In fact, I've cast it on 3 times...and all 3 times I messed it up and had to pull it out.  Needless to say I've set it aside for a moment.
  • I did manage to finish Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was having a hard time settling in to anything and I finally figured out that I really needed to read something HAPPY, but sadly, my library isn't stocked with anything happy--nothing at all!  So I started and read about half of four or five different books and couldn't figure out why...then I suspected what was wrong.  I picked out Hons and Rebels because I had read a couple of books by her sister Nancy and they were hilarious.  It didn't disappoint.  It was funny with sad parts, instead of my usual sad with no funny at all.  It seems to have maybe broken the streak of not being able to settle in to anything.  
  • I haven't even touched the freelancing.  That's my big goal for Saturday.

I've been trying to think about what exactly I HAVE been doing all this time...
  • Um.  I worked part time.
  • sister comes to visit every Thursday.  We have some good conversations!
  • the Boy looks at me and says, "Mama SIT!"  and I sit and we play and wrestle and tickle and laugh.
  • Chris and I have been re-watching Battlestar Galactica...
  •  I'm doing pretty well putting dinner on the table every night...I found this great blog called Dinner: a Love Story and it's fabulous.
  • Ruby has had 2 viruses in the past 6 weeks.  TWO!  One was malicious the other one was just annoying.  Chris was my valiant techy and fixed everything up.  Part of the problem is that we both have about four different malware/protective  software on each machine and one program picks up the virus and can't delete it because the other 3 are attacking it too. 

And that's about it.  That's been my life for the past couple of weeks.  Not much going on.  The Boy keeps us cracking up.  At least once a day Chris watches him and says, "I love that kid."  Or, "He is just so awesome!"  And he really is.

The Beginnings of a Manifesto

on 08 November 2010



Not so much has changed.

Chris still doesn't have a job.  He's continuing to send in applications, emailing and calling his contacts in the hopes that someone will push him to the front.  The problem is that it's just slower than slow.  We're both discouraged and feeling impatient.

My last day is Friday.  I'm past ready to be done.  I feel like the whole thing was a huge waste--a waste in time, money, frustration and disruption for the Boy, and exhaustion for me?  And for what?  We didn't really make enough money from it to make a huge difference.  And that makes me more frustrated and irritated than I can accurately convey in words.

I have a new respect for working mothers.  I should qualify that statement.  I have a huge new respect for mothers who are forced by circumstances to work outside the home.  Their lives are incredibly difficult, none of their choices are easy, and I'd be willing to bet good money that most of them are just doing the best they can.

That said.  I have a Bachelors degree from the University of Washington.  I graduated with honors.  I speak three languages.  I have a masters degree from the University of Georgia, I used all three of those languages in my thesis.  I've taught in a university, I've done administrative work in a variety of professional settings from a major research university to the Port of Seattle.  I've traveled the length and breadth of this country and in parts of western Europe.  And what I can tell you is this:

In comparison with all of that I choose Motherhood any day of the week.

It's hard.  Some days more so than others.  It's thankless and exhausting.  It's repetitive and monotonous.  It's sticky and noisy.  And yet.  At the end of every single day, I tuck my boy in to bed and I know in my bones that I am doing the work I was sent here to do.  I know that in the course of the day, I've done something meaningful and good.  In all my years, and in the variety of work I've done, I NEVER felt that at the end of the day.

I don't feel for a moment that my education is wasted, that my potential is somehow wasted.  I feel that there can be no more demanding need for my intellect, my skills and talents than to Mother this amazing boy.

I beg to differ...

on 22 October 2010

I told Chris what I was going to blog about and he insisted that I not.  Surely, our lives have not come to the point where we have to blog about poop.

But I have to share the conversation I just overheard and since it's poop related...I have to differ from my husband--our lives have precisely come to this point.

Upon Smelling Something Foul Emanating from my Son's Diaper:

M: Pew!  You need a change!
M:  C'mon, let's go get you out of that nastiness.

Upon Removing Befouled Diaper from my Son's Nether Regions:

M:  Holy COW!  Kid!  It's half your size!
M:  Yep, it stinks.
Chris:  Oh good grief!  Son, you just gave BIRTH!  That's HUGE!

After the Boy has been newly diapered and is trotting away:

Chris:  I had no idea we would be grandparents so young.  It's a 2 pound poop baby.
M:  Chris, I changed him, you get to unclog the toilet!

30 minutes later, after picking up our freshly smelling child:

Chris:  You're five pounds lighter, son! 

And that about sums up the week that was.  For all it's exhaustion, it's also marked the return of humor to Burnstopia.  Chris and I are doing more laughing together which is nice after the gloom-fest that was Brunswick.  We were supposed to go to a church sponsored Fall Festival this evening but we're begging off and staying home.  We're having waffles for dinner and putting the Boy to bed early.  There will be Battlestar Galactica and open windows with cool crisp air.  There will be fresh cookies and cold milk.  There will be cuddling on the futon under flannel blankets. 

What are your plans for the weekend?

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

on 20 October 2010


Remember back in June or July when I said I was going back to posting on a regular basis?  That was nice, huh?


I'm bone dry on stories right now.  I'm tired.  I'm frazzled.  I'm feeling a little like Jo in Little Women when she finds out that Amy is going to Europe with Aunt March instead of her and she goes a-ranting to Marmie and among other things says, "Why wouldn't Aunt March prefer Amy?  I'm ugly and awkward, I always say the wrong thing!"

I found this great blog called Dinner a Love Story and it's inspired me...I'm trying to plan and cook and keep myself accountable for putting a decent dinner on the table 5 or 6 nights a week.  And between that and well, everything else that I'm working on, I just don't have a whole lot of energy for the blog.  And then there's trying to come up with something intelligent to say and that's a WHOLE lot of energy that doesn't always come so easily.

So I'm going to post a few pics of my favorite little boy and otherwise I might lay low for a while.  There's nothing wrong, there's just nothing going on much either.  Believe me, when something happens (like Chris getting a job) I'll let you know.  Until then, I'm going to be trying some new recipes (Pioneer Woman's corn chowder this week) and trying to work on some projects that have languished.  I might even post some pictures of the success stories.

I spent Sunday evening watching some Band of Brothers and knitting socks for my boy.  I love it.  I know, it's bloody and gory and the language is sometimes questionable, but I love it all the same.  I love their sense of duty, they had a job to do and they did it.  They were often cold, hungry, wounded, sick, scared, lonely, and totally dependent on one another.  And sometimes they complained, but mostly they just did the job they had to do.  I suppose I need that reminder, that life is life, you can't think about it too much.  You just do the work in front of you and try to help those around you.  Keep your head down and hang tough. 

Behind Every Great Boy...

on 18 October 2010 a Nana and Popper.

I love watching my boy with my parents.  Partly because I never thought I would get married and have a family.  But partly because of the mutual adoration.  He lights up like Christmas time when they come over, every knock on the door, he assumes is his Popper and he chimes "POPPER!"  But they light up too, full of whatever mysterious gift he has under his skin.

It's pretty universal.  My sister and her youngest come and spend Thursday afternoons with us and it's the same affect every time.  He walks up and smiles and Sherry's face lights up.  Joshua walks in and the Boy cheers, "-OSHUA!"  He's happy just to chase and be chased for the next hour, he runs and laughs hysterically which in turn, cracks all of us up.

I wish I could bottle his magic.  I wish I could shrink him down and put him in my pocket to keep with me where ever I go, or to loan out to those in need of magic.  For now, I'm putting this up on my fridge...

System Down

on 11 October 2010


I turned off my computer on Friday and didn't turn it back on all weekend long.

I've been in this restless funk where I feel like I never seem to have enough time to do everything that I need to do.

(And for those of you who think, "Duh, M.  That's called LIFE."  I would just like to say that I'm generally good at prioritizing and getting everything done that I need to get done...and even time to do a few things that I only want to do and don't need to do.  So this whole time-shortage thing is a little new and unsettling development.)

Anyway, so I thought about the elements of my life that seem to suck a lot of time and the computer was number one on the Friday I shut it down.

I even went so far as to turn my phone off...I didn't keep it off because then I felt guilty about being so unreachable.  But, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

Anyway, it was nice.  I had whole buckets of time.  I did some picking up and putting away and reorganizing. 

(I'm getting serious about our food storage and coming up with a Burnstopia Emergency Plan--what our family will do in case of an emergency...I know, I'm a little late coming to the party on this one, I should have come up with something before the Boy got here, but you know...better late than never.) 

And I realized something about marriage and men and women in general.

(Also, there are a whole lot of parentheses in this post.  I wonder what that says about me...)

Men and Women just see things totally different.  I'm speaking specifically about a living situation.  Chris' tolerance for clutter and mess is a lot higher than mine and the truth is, it's not that he's lazy and doesn't want to put things away, he just doesn't SEE them the way that I do.  So I spent a good part of Saturday morning just putting crap away or throwing things out or shuffling things around so that they fit better.  And I have to tell you, when Chris gets a job and I get to quit mine, I'm going to d a whole lot MORE of that because I saw all kinds of things I could FIX.

Anyway, so then I worked on some socks for the boy and I've got 2 separate pairs started and almost ready for heels.  I was able to do some odds-and-ends shopping for Chris and the Boy.  We were taking care of Hogan Dog so we went for some good family walks and played with Hogan and laughed at the Boy and the Dog and it was all lovely.  I got caught up on bills and our finances organized.  And Chris and I still had time for a little BSG fest.

All told it was a good weekend.  Which is more than I can say for this post.

Silas Marner

on 08 October 2010

Gradually the guineas, the crowns, and the half-crowns, grew to a heap and Marner drew less and less for his own wants, trying to solve the problem of keeping himself strong enough to work sixteen hours a-day on as small an outlay as possible.  Have not men, shut up in solitary imprisonment, found an interest in marking the moments by straight strokes of a certain length on the wall, until the growth of the sum of straight strokes, arranged, in triangles, has become a mastering purpose?  Do we not wile away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial movement or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit?  That will help us understand how the love of accumulating money grows an absorbing passion in men whose imaginations, even in the very beginning of their hoard, showed them no purpose beyond it.

  • George Eliot

I don't know why I am consistently and frequently surprised by the brilliance of George Eliot.  I've had enough run-ins with her formidable mind that I ought to expect it by now, but again and again, I pick up one of her books to read and find myself having to set it back down again and sit back in order to absorb what she's just taught me. I am NOT one of those people surprised to recognize so much of our own society in that of 19th century novels.  The words we choose might change, but the issues and experiences remain the same.

A mash-up

on 06 October 2010

Chris found this amazing DJ who creates these mash-ups of different songs and videos.  You'll find his work here.

It's more entertaining than this post will be!  For the record I really like the Annie Lennox Why mash-up but the U2 one is very very good as well.

Hereafter lies your Totally Random Update also known as an M Shaped Mash-Up:

  • First week of work was ok.  Not too bad.  I'm out of practice, but it's like muscle memory, it's coming back.
  • The Boy does NOT like the working.  He and Chris give me a ride in to work since I don't have a parking sticker yet.  We get close and he starts to chant, "MamaWork.  MamaWork.  MamaWork." And then they come back and pick me up 4 hours later.  He and I have lunch together and then I put him down for his nap.  Normally, we have a 15 minute cuddle in the rocking chair and then I lay him in his crib.  Basically from day one, he's cut me off from the cuddling.  He sulks and turns his back on me and asks to be put in his crib.  So I do.  And last week I spent several days in tears because of it.  I'm over it by now, but it was a hard week.
  • I realized that my problem is that I want to be loved.  Loved by my child but also loved by basically everyone I come into contact with.  Which wouldn't be a problem except that not every one is going to love me.  It's just not possible.  And it turns out, after the experiences of last weekend that I'm right.  It's not possible for everyone to love me.  I was mad for about 30 minutes but now I'm over it.
  • I made 2 loaves of bread this weekend.  A big fat loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread for my men folk and a loaf of plain cinnamon bread for me.  I ate cinnamon toast all weekend and let me just tell you, I have big plans for mind-blowing french toast by the end of this week.
  • Chris and I finally hung up pictures in our bed room.  I'm so happy it's a little pathetic.  
  • I've been working on knitting these luxurious wash cloths (for ME).  They are thick and soft and simple and 100% cotton and very pretty.  My fingers are killing me.  
  • My feet are cold.  My feet haven't been cold since last February and it's wonderful!  I know.  Am weird.  It's ok, I've accepted that fact and moved on.
  • The Boy spent the bulk of Saturday sprawled across my lap.  Just because he could.  I'm pretty sure he was laying on my lap so that I couldn't get up and go anywhere.  It was awesome.
  • Chris was offered the job from the interview last week.  He turned them down.  It's not the right offer at the right time.  I know it sounds like we're being picky, and we are because what we need right now is to prove stability.  What we DON'T need is another time-limited job on his resume.  So now we're waiting.  Well, and we're applying for more jobs.  He had a decent conversation with one of the hiring people at another organization last Friday, and hopefully that will yield an in-person interview this week.  
  • I finished the Gift of Asher Lev last week.  I cried.  Again.  But this time around it was less sad and more angry...He's a bigger man than me, is that fictional Asher Lev.  But it's still SO very good.  I heartily recommend it for anyone.
  • I started Silas Marner this week.  I've never read it before.  I love George Eliot and I defy anyone to read Middlemarch and NOT love George Elliot.  So it should be fun/interesting to experience a different work.
And with that, you have now been thoroughly updated.

Island of the Humorless

on 04 October 2010

I had the privilege of interacting this weekend with someone who apparently is a native of the Island of the Humorless.

Privilege is a bit of a stretch.  Let's just say, if it wasn't an obligation I wouldn't have ANY interaction with ANY of the natives of the Island of the Humorless.

I have to say, I'm not sure how someone grows to adulthood with absolutely NO sense of humor, and because I can't see how such a total absence of humor is possible in normal human development, I can only understand it by believing that they come from some island, isolated from all that is quirky or funny or cheeky and surrounded day in and day out with serious things.

And now that I think of it that way, I kind of feel sorry for her.

What offends me, is not her rude and self-righteous treatment of me, but rather the fact that I am surrounded by people who, by rights, shouldn't have a sense of humor right now, but DO.

The woman I work with, her daughter has leukemia, she's the chair of a department that is hemorrhaging faculty and staff, they face serious funding issues, and YET--she has a great sense of humor.  She laughs and teases and takes everything in stride.

My brother just got back from Afghanistan.  He saw and had to do things that were serious and seriously grim.  You know what?  He still has a sense of humor.  He told us the Perils of Drinking the Milk in Afghanistan and it was disgusting and hilarious.

My best friend Samwise, she has to move, she's the leader of the young women in her church, she works part time, she's re-certifying as a dietitian and she's raising the roundest little redhead that I've ever snuggled with.  Her own history is chock full of hard times and yet, YET, she's got a sense of humor you ought not to fool around with if you're drinking anything because it WILL come up your nose.


Maybe I'm approaching this the wrong way.

Maybe a sense of humor is a gift.  A talent.  A skill to be practiced and developed.  Maybe it's not something we're born with, something inherent in our DNA.  And maybe it's just not something that happens to be in this particular woman's skill set.

Which also makes me feel sorry for her.

I've just never encountered anyone quite so humorless before, someone so incapable of hearing the nuances of playful banter.  And it's this total want of humor that reduces someone like me, who relies on my wit and humor and charm to win people over, to a lump of human flesh totally devoid of desirability.  It's an alarming feeling.

And so to console myself I made a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread and have been eating toast all weekend.  Because when one is obliged to interact with the humorless, it's best to have a piece of toast first.

Welcome to Wherever you Are

on 01 October 2010

I fully confess to being a West Wing fan.  I love it.  I've been watching the series from beginning to end lately while I clean or knit or do dishes or relax in the evening after the Boy is in bed.

There's an episode in season 7 titled Welcome to Wherever you Are.  The implications are that things are so frantic the last 10 days of the campaign that they don't really KNOW where they are.

It's been such a crazy summer and it's all winding down to a sleepy fall.  It's been sort of a weird adjustment.  You get used to going 90 miles an hour with your hair on fire and keeping up with all kinds of personal, work, familial, church and fun obligations that when it all stops you feel like you've hit a wall and it takes some time to re-orient yourself to having, well, time.

Chris and I find ourselves feeling a little blue.  It was a really good summer, chock full of family time and adventures and crazy hair-brained schemes.  And now we're settling down to real life again.  It's nice too, but different. 

Normally, I would make a plan.  I would pick some new projects, new books, make new goals etc.  And then get to work.  I'm reticent to make a plan just yet since nothing is settled.  I keep telling myself.  Maybe next week.  Maybe we'll know more next week.  And in the meantime, nothing much gets done.  It is a very strange little funk I have arrived in.

Given the current fluidity of my life, you have to be a little impressed I managed to post this week, right?  Or maybe not.

200 years of Elizabeth Gaskell

on 29 September 2010

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Gaskell.  And since she's one of my all time favorite writers I thought that I would jot down some thoughts and inspire all of you to pick her up and give her a read.

I read this extraordinary biography of her last year in Brunswick, called a Habit of Stories.  It talked about how she had this life that was at once very ordinary and NOT ordinary at all.  Her mother died when she was very young and she was raised by these very loving aunts.  Because she was Unitarian, she was surrounded by very well educated, progressive thinking people.  She later married a Unitarian. 

She did all the things a good, upstanding, middle-class housewife does in the mid-nineteenth century.  She bore and cared for her children, she organized and ran her household, she supported her husband as a minister, she gave to the poor and the needy, she read and educated herself.  And when her young son died at just 10 months old, she dug herself out of her grief by writing.

One of the things I love about Gaskell is that she never really LOVED writing.  She was very good at it.  But she did it more because a story kept poking at her to be told and not because she genuinely loved the act of writing.  In some of her letters she seems almost annoyed that she has to devote so much time to writing this confounded book or another.  It's quite funny but also not.

She worried compulsively about her daughters.  She wanted them happy above all.  She didn't care if they married or not so long as they were content.  She tried to provide a variety of opportunities for them, for education, for travel and for interaction with a wide circle of people. 

She wasn't the kind of self-righteous, hypocritical "preacher's wife" that one almost comes to expect in the 19th century.  She was interested in practical Christianity, in using the way one lived one's life to define the scope of their religious belief.  Of using our choices and our actions to proclaim our faith.  She didn't let societal conventions stop her from doing something she knew to be right.

But most of all she was interested in living her life to the fullest.  The happy and the sad.  She didn't want to shrink from any of it.  She didn't gloss over or edit out the seamier, seedier, shiftier, shadier parts of life.  She seemed to create this bounty around her and you really see that in her novels.  They burst beyond the two dimensional page into a fullness of flowers and landscape, of emotions and intuitions, of fully developed and complicated people.

She's absolutely wonderful.  Now go and read one of her books today.

Help! and Hmmmm.

on 27 September 2010

I'm not sure where he got it from, but apparently there is a book that we read to the Boy where one of the characters cries for HELP and then says, "Hmmmm."  It's the Boy's favorite catchphrase lately and I find it particularly appropriate today.

I am back in the office today.  Well, this morning.

Chris will be bringing the Boy to me at noon, at which point he will trot off to an interview at the hospital and I will take the Boy home for lunch and a nap.

It promises to be a strange day.

We're excited.  Within reason.  The position is a project manager.  And it's a literal project manager which means it's temporary and also only part-time.  BUT, and this is a hefty but it means working with the hospital Chief of Staff and the heads of ALL the medical departments.  Those are all good people to know.  They are all good people to work with and for and to impress. 

Chris has another interview tentatively slated for a week from now with another organization.

So here's my question for you:  If you had two opportunities, 1) with an organization you know and love and trust, in an area you really love, but it was only part-time and temporary--would you take it with the hope and faith that something full-time and permanent would come of it? Or 2) an opportunity with an organization you know very little of, but full time and permanent, but likely requiring relocation in a year--what would you choose?

I feel like it's a choice of short-term or long-term.  I think the short-term would be benefited by taking the full-time permanent job.  It would give us an immediate reprieve, health insurance etc.  But I'm not sure it would help Chris' career in the long-term.  And I, for one, don't really want to move again in a year.  I think the part-time job has more potential to become a foot in the door in a really great organization and give us the opportunity to really settle here for a while.  But there's no guarantee.  And this is all, you know, putting the cart before the horse so to speak.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, it's a bit of a strange day.  With a good chance of strangeness all week long!  Fun for you fine folks, eh?


on 24 September 2010

It's been a while since I wrote about books.  Well, I wrote about the Boy's books...but I mean books for ME.  And it's not because I'm not reading.  I'm ALWAYS reading something.  But since we moved, things haven't quite settled down so I've been rereading.  I started rereading Wives and Daughters which is a go-to comfort novel.

And then the Boy and I started going to the library to supplement his books.  We picked up all of the Thomas and Friends books and the Henry and Mudge books and then Mr. Putter and Tabby and some more books by Judith Viorst.  And I picked up Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, who is a big favorite of mine. 

He says himself that it's not a straightforward book about vegetarianism.  He's more interested in why we eat what we eat.  And then he writes extensively (and impeccably researched) about how animals are raised in this country for food.  His stories about his grandmother's escape from the Nazis is particularly lovely.

And finally I am rereading My Name is Asher Lev.  I love the Asher Lev books more than I can say in a pitiful little blog post.  I read them for the first time when I was pregnant and every time I reread them they make me want to be a better mother, a better wife, a better human being.  To use the gifts God gives us, even when they don't feel like gifts. 

And with that introduction, I'm going to mine you all for book ideas.  What are you reading right now?  Read anything good lately?

Life with Boy

on 22 September 2010

My Friend Sarah is with child.  I don't know what she's having yet beyond a human baby.  I don't know if she knows what she's having yet.

My brother and his wife have only girls.  Four lovely little girls.

And so for all my friends and sisters out there who live their life with other girls, you may not know what life with Boy is like.  And since I've run short on blogging steam, I thought I'd show you.

They can't resist buttons.  If, for example, you leave your camera unattended on your desk, they will walk right up to it and begin by pushing buttons and end by taking a series of strange pictures of themselves.

Your bathroom will become a dinosaur breeding habitat, complete with cosmic swamp.  They will insist on calling these prehistoric newbies by people names.  For example, the chubby one up front my Boy has named "Heavy."  The one in the back on the right he calls, "Tim!"  It's every bit as funny as you might imagine.

Boys prefer to eat right out of the container.  It saves on dishes and just tastes better.  They will also insist on eating YOUR food.  It doesn't matter if the EXACT same thing is on their plate, they will reject it entirely for the same food on YOUR plate.

And one last thing.  If you ask them for a kiss, this is the face you'll see coming at you:

Sunday Morning

on 20 September 2010

We don't go to church until late in the afternoon.

It makes Sunday mornings problematic.  Some Sundays look like this:

We lounge in pajamas.  We hang out.  The Boy imports cars on to my desk.  We sip some fizzy drinks and chat.

Other Sunday mornings look like this:

We can't seem to get motivated beyond the Bed.  We attempt to get up and get going and yet, we collapse back down.  The Cats seem to have their own gravitational force and we are not quite strong enough to escape from it.

And still other Sundays look a lot like this:

A father-son jam in the bedroom floor.

As for my Sunday mornings?  I make breakfast and hang with the band.

The End of Summer

on 13 September 2010

Hey, remember my whole updating streak?  Yeah, I guess that was nice while it lasted.


A couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call.

From one of my former colleagues.

He was the one who called me in Georgia to ask if I would be interested in coming back up here to work for him full-time.

I was interested in coming back here, but not so much in going back to work full-time.

Anyway, so he called me.  Turns out the assistant to the chair of the department is leaving and he wondered if I was interested in the position.

Not so much.

But Chris is out of work and I am interested in being able to continue to, you know, live indoors and well, eat.  So I listen while he tells me all the stuff going on in the department and I suggest that I might be able to come back PART-TIME and TEMPORARY until Chris gets a full time job.  So he runs it by the business manager who calls me first thing in the morning (not really who I wanted to talk to first thing in the morning, but whatever).  Anyway, so he tries to talk me in to coming back permanently and full time and I repeatedly said no, not interested.  I LIKE staying home.  I like making our home.  And it's taken me long enough to learn to like those things, I don't want to have to unlearn it.

Anyway, suffice it to say we reached an agreement and I'll be back in the workplace from 8am to noon, Monday through Friday.  Until Chris gets a job or until they hire a full-time-permanent replacement.


I'm sort of giving myself some lee way on the whole updating frequently goal.  I'm also sort of hoping to get some good workplace stories for you all.  In the meantime I'm knitting lots of socks for my boy for the winter.  I've already stocked his drawers with long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Chris is still hunting and applying for lots of jobs.  He's making calls and trying to network and I'm trying to be a laid-back and encouraging wife. 

I should probably finish this up.  The Boy is hugging the life out of Agnes and she's starting to make some alarming noises.


Well, that was a family marathon of a weekend.

My sister Sherry--her in-laws came in to town on Wednesday, and then our sister Susie came in on Thursday and then our sister-in-law came in on Friday.  So Friday night we all gathered at the temple and it was amazing!

Then Saturday was my nephew (Sherry's youngest) Joshua's baptism which was lovely, and then we took a break and then met my sisters over at my other nephew's (Matthew) football game.  Let me tell you how hilarious the Boy was through all of this.  He's learning his cousin's names so he can just demand who he wants.  He sat on my lap in the bleachers and I would point out Bubba (much to Matthew's dismay, this nickname isn't going anywhere) and explain to the Boy that Bubba was playing football.  And the Boy would say "Bubba-Football" and then when we would yell and cheer good plays he would throw his hands in the hair and say "GOOOOOAAAAAL!"  It was 477 shades of AWESOME.

At half-time we packed up Susie and her 3rd daughter, 4th child Mae (May-ah, short for Maekalia) and drove down to my parents' house.  We gathered up the folks and went out to dinner to celebrate my mom's birthday.  We crowded 'round the table at a local Panera and ate and talked and told stories and laughed and Susie fed my child high fructose corn syrup and I let her because as I get older I'm starting to learn how to let other people love my child they way they want to.

We drove home (very late) and put the Boy to bed (very late) and went to bed ourselves (very late) and then decided to sleep very late on Sunday morning. 

Sherry doesn't go to church until 1:45 which is alarmingly late in the day, so we hung out and rested and had some down time until it was time to head over to her building.  Her oldest (William) is leaving for his mission in 2 weeks and so yesterday was the last time he was going to speak in church.  It was strange and wonderful to be all together during church.  The Boy fell asleep on top of me, turning us both into sweaty messes.

We headed back to Sherry's house to load up the food for William's farewell party (he had invited a ton of friends in addition to family to come and eat and chat and hug and say "See you later, tater.") and then say good-bye.  Susie and Mae are returning home today, I'm pretty sure my sister's in-laws are also heading home today.

I was hugging Susie and saying bye and it just made me so sad that we can't live closer all together.  It's so fun to get together and chat and tell stories and laugh.  I'm so lucky in my sisters.  They are smart and funny and wise.  They're strong and tough and resilient.  They're brave and selfless mothers.  I couldn't have asked for better.

Taking it Back

on 11 September 2010

My sister and I have a mutual displeasure with September 11th.  She was living in New Jersey at the time and could see the plumes of smoke from the towers as she picked up her son from pre-school.  Needless to say, it was a strange day in our family.

This year, she looked at me across her kitchen table and said, "We're taking it BACK.  We're reclaiming this day for happy memories."

And she's stuck to it.  Her youngest son, my nephew Joshua is being baptized today.  Her house is filled to bursting with family, our other lovely sister is in town for the festivities and we're all feeling a good deal happier this year.

I can't imagine that this day will ever pass that we don't think of the innocent lives lost or the violence that we all witnessed.  The people who have gaping couldas and shouldas and wouldas in their lives.  And those many, many service men and women who have sacrificed their time, their skills and frequently their lives to prevent such violence from happening again.  But after 9 years, it feels good to sit across from my sister and have her say, "We're taking it BACK."

Children's Lit and other pitfalls

on 10 September 2010

My friend Sarah, after long years of trying, is with child.  I'm happy to bursting.  She's a fellow comp. lit. graduate and so I wanted to take a moment to share some of my strong but otherwise superfluous opinions about children's books for her so that she can get her library in order.

Board Books

Good Stuff:

There's a lot of good stuff out there.  For board books I love Sandra Boynton, you can't go wrong with anything she writes or records (she does MUSIC people!  Kids music that doesn't make you want to bang your head against the wall!).  And Eric Carle is the other standard in our house, the Boy went through an absolute obsession with the Very Hungry Caterpiller and he's also thoroughly loved the Very First Book of...series.  There's the Very First Book of Shapes, Colors and Numbers, I think.  He likes them all.  We also deeply love Tommie de Paola here.  He does a lot of old nursery rhymes and children's poetry.

Not so Good Stuff:

The Baby Einstein stuff drives me crazy.  I don't believe in television for BABIES for crying out loud.  That's why they have PARENTS.  And even the Baby Einstein books make me crazy.  The Boy was given a box of alphabet books made by Baby Einstein and I LOATHE them.  But he loves them and so they're the one book I let him use and abuse at will.  He's bent them and built towers with them and chewed them and I cheerfully look forward to the day when I can dump the whole mess of them in recycling.

Other than Board Book--Picture Books:

Good Stuff:

The thing that makes me sad about picture books is that most authors seem to be a little inconsistent.  I found this wonderful book called Tim and the Blanket Thief by Jim Prater at the library, but when I went back and checked out more Jim Prater books they were AWFUL.  So picture books can sometimes be hit or miss.  You can't go wrong with Dr. Seuss unless it's wrong by age.  The Boy LOVES Go, Dog, Go!  And the ABC book but still doesn't have the time of day for the Cat in the Hat.  He loves the Little Red Hen and Corduroy and the Big Hungry Bear and the Wishing of Biddy Malone and there's a series of books Mr. Happy, Mr. Funny, Mr. Grumpy by Roger Hargreaves that we LOVE--they're funny and whimsical.  We also deeply love the Thomas the Tank Engine series.  They're wonderful books, and they teach the value of hard work, cleanliness, honesty, cheerfulness and obedience.  I LOVE them. 

Not so Good Stuff:

He was starting an obsession with Curious George but I've nipped that one in the bud.  I HATE Curious George and I'll tell you why--this dumb little chimp (that they PERSIST in calling a monkey) is routinely disobedient, causes chaos and wreckage and instead of being PUNISHED he's REWARDED!  HATE HATE HATE.  So I pulled all of the Curious George books that we had (some bought and some were given) and I gave them to Goodwill.  I'm sure there are other mothers out there who don't think this is a big deal.  I'm also not a huge fan of books based off of movies.  I made the mistake of buying him these two books that are basically a dumbed down and illustrated re-telling of Cars (for he LOVES the movie), but they are just dumb.  dumb. dumb.  And I'm wishing for my $10 back.  I also have a deep and serious loathing of books that require a lot of sound affects.  My sister, in a fit of HATING us, gave us an Old MacDonald had a Farm book and I REFUSE to read it to him.  The Boy loves it, so it's a daddy-book.  I have NEVER understood the love affair with Where the Wild Things Are.  I don't get it.  Thus, I don't care about it.

Other than Picture Books--young readers:

Technically, the Boy isn't a young reader yet, but he wants to read longer than picture books.  So we've started reading the Henry and Mudge books and we LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  We've also started Days with Frog and Toad which we also really like.  I've also found that the Boy loves poetry--there's something with the rhythm that he really enjoys.  My sister gave us Hail Stones and Halibut Bones which is so much a favorite that I have most of the poems memorized.  We also deeply love a Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy.  I keep trying to read Shel Silverstein to him, having loved his books much as a child myself, but so far the Boy isn't going for it.

Anyway, there's not much point to this post, but to give you a jumping off point for a library for your future tot.  I was super lucky in that my sister gave me a TON of books that her kids had out-grown.  And what she didn't give me, she told me about.

One last word on reading to your child.  All of the hoity-toity parenting books talk a lot about reading to your child from the very beginning and I agree with that.  But maybe not for the reasons they would give you.  Here's the thing.  I got home with the Boy and had NO IDEA what to do with him!  I knew that I needed to cuddle him and feed him and keep him clean, but beyond that...I was at a loss.  And when in doubt, I generally fall back to books.  So I read to him.  A LOT.  But not cheezy, hokey kids books.  I read him Dickens.  Austen.  Gaskell.  Shakespeare.  I kept a small stash of books that I really loved and found comforting at every spot in our apartment where I stopped to nurse him or comfort him and when I was tired and frustrated and at a total loss, I picked one up and read to him from it.  It calmed us both down, it was soothing and reassuring and he loved just listening to the sound of my voice.  So, when you get down to the last few weeks of your pregnancy, go through your books.  Make small piles of 2-3 books and stash them next to couch or chair, on a shelf near a rocking chair, in your bedside table and when you're so tired you think your going to melt into a puddle of goo and you just can't go on, pull one out and open at random and read aloud to your wee babe.  It will comfort you both.

I'm beyond over-the-moon happy for you two.  Your life is about to change beyond recognition, but it's also about to get sweeter and more beautiful than you knew it could be.