Thursday, December 27, 2012

If...... Then

If you eat a bagillion of these:
(which I have)

Then at some point you must recognize that your body is going to go into a diabetic coma if you don't make some changes - and you decide to make this:


I am actually looking forward to it.

Nowthen, I am very protective when it comes to recipes that involve my children. This does not, so I gratefully share it with you. You will be the hit of the next dinner party, New Years Eve party, or party of 1 in your basement with your pajamas. Don't worry. I don't judge. I don't like phony baloney conversation anyway.

Without further ado, the best "balls" ever.

Crown Royal Maple Balls

2 Cups Vanilla Wafers - crushed
1 Cup Pecans - finely chopped
1 Cup Powdered Sugar - plus more for rolling
1/4 Cup Crown Royal Maple Finish Whiskey
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon plus 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Corn Syrup

Dissolve Corn Syrup in Whiskey and set aside. In a separate bowl combine Wafers, Pecans, Powdered Sugar and Salt. Drizzle Whiskey mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until uniform. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. When fully chilled spoon out teaspoon sized balls and roll until round. Toss formed balls in powdered sugar until covered. Refrigerate until cold.

These are really, really good. The salt makes them addictive. The alcohol makes them addictive too, but that is another post for another day.

Enjoy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When You're Standing Over My Coffin

When it comes to baking, I have a very tenuous reputation. I have earned my baking cred recently, but I came into this marriage with lofty ambitions and terrible output. This might or might not have something to do with the fact that my amazing mother taught me to bake with the anti-wisdom, "If you need to measure a cup, just use a mug.  Most mugs are about 1 cup." (Happy Birthday, Mom.)

As the years have passed I have buckled down, purchased official measuring cups, and followed very basic recipes to a tee. The result has been very pleasing - to my husband, to my children, and to yours truly. So much so, that I have developed an increasing infatuation with the idea of developing my own delicious recipes and having my children love them so much that they will brag and swoon after them to their own grandchildren - long after I'm gone.

When they're standing over my coffin they'll be thinking, "We'll miss her smile, her warmth, but most of all we'll miss her killer pumpkin bread."

And I think I've done it, folks. Cue evil laughter.

I started with this recipe:
Allrecipes - Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
and it is really, really good.

And then I started tweaking it and after a couple of major modifications - I have refined this humble loaf into something that the kids (and husband!) lust after.

And if you think I will tell my modifications, you, my friend, are insane.

This morning, I lacked the necessary ingredients to make my version - so I had to revert to the original. Josh took one bite and said, "Mmmmmmm. This is good, but it is not yours."

I said (glowing with pride), "That's right! But it's ok?"

And he said, "It's great. But what is in yours that makes it so good?"

My answer, "Secrets."

Not quite done!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Kids Table

As I sit here and type this my house feels like one of those '90's mini-trucks. Remember the ones that would woof their woofers all the way through your neighborhood and literally rattle the house windows? Right, you remember. Welcome to my home.

Even though the kids are supposed to be homeschooling - my niece is here and our world is getting rocked. The kids are ebullient with excitement and enthusiasm - they love this girl. So, I let them have their break early to play together and the shouts of glee radiating from my basement are almost alarming. Make no mistake, however, this is pure joy.


It makes my heart so happy that these kids are thrilled to just be kids. When given a choice between hanging out with the grownups and hanging out with the kids? Pssssht! Forget about it! Kids win. Every time. They make annoying noises, they play irritating games, they shout, they wrestle and in the end? The relationships they are forging are the lifelong kind. These are forever friends - and they are so, so lucky.

So today, school can wait. I am going to let them make their memories.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Changes of Heart

Last year I wrote an article for an online Catholic magazine entitled I'm Not Wearing Pants. It was a fun article to write, but the response to it was even more fun. It garnered a lot of attention (for me!) and was even given a tip of the hat by the book author who I referenced in the essay. Here's the kicker: I take it (well, most of it) back.

It has become very obvious to me lately that one's outward appearance has almost nothing to do with the inward state of one's soul. Everyone is on his or her own journey toward God and the costume that we put on the outside is representative only of how we want others to perceive us.

These thoughts have been percolating around in my head for a few months now. They have come to a full boil recently as I have watched some of the most perfect looking people be exposed as duplicitous - while nearly simultaneously realizing that some of the most unassuming, quiet, under-dressed, plain people I knew were such deep well-springs of holiness that had I not been seeking, I would have missed out on their intrinsic wealth completely.

Deep Breath.

All of this was forming into conscious thought in my head when this came about. One of my favorite bloggers C Jane Kendrick has recently written a series of essays where she has realized that she is indeed a feminist. A practicing member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), Kendrick is on the cutting edge of Mormon bloggers who traditionally display an almost unanimously united front when it comes to motherhood: Traditional is Best. Kendrick's latest essays have underscored a level of restlessness with the availability of opportunities for women in the Mormon church, outside of young marriage and motherhood. And apparently she is not alone.


In order to demonstrate their discontent, a band of likeminded LDS feminists staged a "Pants In" of sorts. In breaking with societal norm, but not necessarily church teaching, many women came to church on Sunday wearing...
PANTS!

Feminism. Hmm. It sure took them long enough.

You see, feminism and Catholicism have a long, ugly history together and part of my Pants piece was in revolt to what feminism has done to Catholic motherhood. It takes that flame of discontent that is part of the human condition, and it fans it with, "You are better than this! You are smarter and more capable than this dirty work of raising kids" and the fires of inequality rage. But here is what I know now to be true: Life will never be equal nor fair. There is no fairness when it comes to infidelity. There is no fairness when it comes to infertility. There is no fairness when it comes to the early onset of a terminal disease, to discontent, to depression. We are all on our own road. We are all called to our own level of holiness - and nobody else's. One's decision on how to dress should be a matter of holiness rather than defiance. Because defiance will take you down a bitter and ugly road.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and it's righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. 
There is inherent beauty in being a woman, that I will never recant. I do believe that women are called to accept their femininity with grace and ownership - but there are so many ways to do that. Some of them may not look on the surface like I might expect them to look, and who am I to decide what is feminine or not? There is only one thing I do know for sure - a woman is at her worst when she is trying to be a man.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Better Off Dead

Yesterday, while I was trying on earrings and lipstick in my beautiful home surrounded by my five innocent children, an emotionally deranged young man was walking into a Kindergarten school room in Connecticut and opening fire on them. He stole them from their families, he irreparably broke the hearts of this country, and he snatched the innocence and security away from all of the other children who had to witness this mindless act of carnage.

And then he turned the gun on himself.

Adam Lanza is better off dead.

A friend of mine asserted that, on a national level, the right to gun ownership does not trump those children's right to a healthy and uninterrupted life. When faced with a problem, in this case unfiltered evil, I think that the human mind immediately seeks to fix. Taking away the right to gun ownership would fix the problem of people getting shot, right?

Here's the problem I have: The word "right" gets my hackles up. To what do we really have the right?

I posted a picture on Facebook last year of plastic medical bins being wheeled away from an abortion clinic with the label "Hazardous Medical Waste." The picture was difficult to look at, but when you got past the emotions that it evoked, you were left with the reality. Scared, poor, single young women walk into abortion clinics every day having decided that their life isn't good enough to support a child. Their own life is in shambles. How could they possibly give of themselves the necessary means to nurture new life?

The life growing inside of their womb is better off dead.

I read a Facebook post from a friend that said until we start talking about the root causes and societal problems that lead to these massacres - they will never end. Even in Japan, where guns are outlawed, a man walked into a school room and killed bystanders with a knife. Guns and knives don't kill people - people kill people.

RU486 and Vacuum Extractors don't kill fetuses - mothers kill fetuses. And until we start talking about the root causes and societal problems that lead to this genocide - it will never end.

A few months ago, somewhere in rural China, a mother walked into an orphanage and abandoned her 6 year old daughter. After a couple of weeks, it because clear that she is never coming back. Last week, my 60 year old childless, American friends got a call that they had preliminary clearance to come to China and pick up this little girl. Their daughter. 

But that is ridiculous, right? They're 60. They are going to die. But not before they give a new life, new hope, and love to this little girl.

And the three of them will be all be better off. Alive.

So next week, let us welcome the coming Christ Child to his teenaged, unwed (at conception) Mother and his aging foster Father. Let us contemplate this poor, mixed family and their status as eventual refugees from their homeland. Let these things sit in your soul as you try to heal your very own wounds - whatever they may be - and then decide if anyone, anyone is truly better off dead.






Friday, December 14, 2012

Flashback Friday

Four years ago, this very day, I wrote the following post. I loved it then and I love it now. I believe it wholeheartedly even though - tonight, 4 years later, me, Grant, Max Azria and that red lipstick YOU voted for are hitting the Ritz.

Color me fortunate.


The Last Will Be First - 
   and the First Will be Mopping Up Vomit.

After all of that vanity, all of that ridiculous self-analysis - I am not at a swanky party tonight in downtown DC. I have spent my day and night taking care of my two sick kids. We cancelled our long held plans and surrendered to parenthood. My day consisted of scrubbing toilets, wiping noses, washing sheets, applying eyedrops.... holding my children, stroking their hair, reassuring them, preparing their favorite treats, watching movies. I have not looked in the mirror once today - nor have I brushed my teeth, taken a shower, brushed my hair or put on shoes. Let me assure you, however: this is real beauty. These are the tenderest and most lovely moments of life. Today is a day that I feel beautiful - no primping required.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Country Mouse Goes to Town

When I was in college I used to play a super fun game with my roommates. It was called "First Impressions." We would go into a drugstore and I would try on sunnies without them seeing and then come around the corner to get their "First Impression." Get it? Like "If I saw some chick wearing these sunglasses, what would be my first impression of her?"

I thought we could play the same game here, because I have a FaaNCY party to go to tomorrow night and I need some lipstick advice.

Are you ready...............
I give you the first ever
As I See It
First Impressions Party!!!!!!
Red Lips

Shimmery Nude
Mauve Gloss - Hair up
Chocolate Brown - Smoking




And lest you think me joking in some way - let me assure you - this is fancy. I have a navy blue Max Azria dress that fits like it was made for me. Let me give you a mental image:

zee lounge
zee ballroom
This joint is at the Ritz! You pick the lipstick. I am trusting you, here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All-Star

It is the middle of the Advent season, right? We are preparing our home for the coming of the Savior. We are preparing and adorning and concocting delicious food to be served at the Birthday Feast of the King.

But my oven broke.
Big-time Advent Fail - Photo Courtesy of Diocese of Washington

Big time broke - no heat whatsoever. So I called my bestfriendforever I mean our uber-trustworthy appliance guy and let him work his magic. Except his magic was contingent on a special order part - and had to wait for a week.

A Week!
and like Our Lady, we had to wait in joyful hope of the part that would fix our oven.

Today was our day.
John, from All-Star Appliance Service arrived early this morning, part in hand to fix our stove. After a week(!) of cooking meals on an electric griddle (Hello smoke detector!) his smiling face was like medicine. Reallllly good medicine, perhaps the illegal kind.
Photo Courtesy All-Star Appliance Service

Let me gush on John and All-Star for a minute. I found them by accident when I called Sears on a warranty problem. He was the contractor that was dispatched to our house and WOW! He's fab. He is punctual, friendly, and efficient. And he loves his family, to boot. And there is nothing I like better than a man who is candid about his affection for his wife and child. Rockstar.
Photo Courtesy of Lucy's Wicked Sense of Humor

So tonight, in celebration of our newly hot oven, I decided to make a special feast. Thanks to some online inspiration, I opted to make Beer Can Chicken. It smells fantastic and my heart is full of thanksgiving.

Something tells me this poor violated chicken doesn't echo the sentiment.
Photo Courtesy of Some Sadist Somewhere

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Family Photo Gone O So Wrong

Tonight we went to get our
Christmas Tree.

It went just fine, thank you for asking.

But when we got home and I was looking at the picture that the kind lady took of our "family", I noticed 

2 huge problems.

First, where is Lucy? No really. Where is she? Because I swear to goodness she was standing right in front of Josh and Michael. I even smoothed her hair down for the picture.

Second, who is that guy photobombing our family picture? (The one in the red rectangle.) Somehow we traded an adorable blonde little gal for a smart A teenage boy. Not a fair trade, friends and family. Not fair at all.

Not to worry. We came home with the girl and not Mr. Smartypants. oh, yeah, and one boss of a Christmas tree. Photos I am sure will be forthcoming.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Not Me, It's You.

Dear Cheese.


Ok, it's not cheese, but I probably shouldn't be drinking Bloody Maries, either.

I have to break up with you. I know, I know. You didn't see this coming, did you? I'm sorry, darling, and trust me, my life will be a little less wonderful without you.

It seems we have let our relationship get out of control. I suppose people are right when they say that there really can be too much of a good thing, a notion I have always eschewed. You have been so good to me - so delicious and versatile. You go as well with apples as you do with french bread. I love you by yourself or out on the town. But I received a phone call today that was a little bit alarming.

Apparently, you have been camping out in my blood stream. What are you thinking? I eat my fiber, vegetables, and exercise with vigor. This should be enough to keep our relationship moderate. But elevating my cholesterol? At age 37? That is just not right, cheese, in fact it is downright creepy.

This relationship is not healthy. You aren't good for me anymore. I will be thinking about you - you know I will. But, if you see me in the store giving you a sidelong stare, let me go, ok? Just let me go.

I love you, Sharon

Friday, November 30, 2012

battling entropy



In the screenplay of life, some people would call themselves a Carrie. or a Charlotte.

Me? I want to be a Melanie.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stream of Consciousness


Health.
The Greeks toast to it. Some say it is the most important thing one can possess.
I am in superb health.
My daughter is not.
My back hurts every once in a while.
I wonder how adversely Western medication is really affecting our bodies.
Do we really need the flu shot?
I've been looking into a more holistic approach to my health.
I've started cooking with bones and garden herbs. No MSG, real sugars.
I went to a chiropractor today and he cracked my back.
He also inferred that manipulation can help with my daughters health problems.
I thought it over.
Then I was looking into some other alternative health stuff.
And I saw this:
Remineralize Your Teeth
which basically states that one can reverse a cavity without having to drill it.
My mother-in-law is a dental hygienist.
I don't think you can heal your cavities, either.
Is Western medicine borne out of the sheer reality that alternative medicines don't work?
I am going back to the chiropractor tomorrow.
Immediately following that appointment is my dentist appointment next door.





Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nothin' Left to Do But Smile, Smile, Smile



I was in line today at the Starbucks kiosk at Target. I had to mighty fortune to be immediately behind a gent I will call "Conversation Boss." You will see why.

Bewildered Barista: (In the most totally amazing vocal fry) Welcome to Starbucks. May I take your order?
Conversation Boss: Is that a begonia in your hair?
Bewildered Barista: (Fingering said flower and looking embarrassed/confused, using vocal fry again) Umm, no. It's just a flower.
Conversation Boss: Because I saw your flower and it made me think about scarlet begonias which got me thinking about the Grateful Dead. Well, but then again, lots of things get me thinking about the Grateful Dead.
Bewildered Barista: Can I take your order?
Conversation Boss: Yeah. I'll have a medium coffee.
Bewildered Barista: Would you like the Christmas Blend?
Conversation Boss: Oh, I don't give a crap. The way I always see it is that this place...

wait for it...

is the Dairy Queen of coffee.

I give Conversation Boss the As I See It High 5 of the Week for not only ordering a medium in Starbucks (what, what!) but aptly recognizing the 'Bux as the DQ of coffee.

Keep Truckin', Conversation Boss.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Got Nothin' But Love for You, Baby

From Page 639, Gone With the Wind:

I want you to do something about this horse.  He's stubborn and he's got a mouth as tough as iron. Tires you to drive him, doesn't it? Well, if he chose to bolt, you couldn't possibly stop him. And if you turned over in a ditch, it might kill your baby and you too.  You ought to get the heaviest curb bit you can, or else let me swap him for a gentle horse with a more sensitive mouth.

I love you, do you hear me, Rhett Butler?


Bowl Empty... Heart Full



In the quiet of my house this morning, I found my thankfulness. I had been looking for it all week when I was trying to finish up school, clean my house, get ready for Thanksgiving. We raced and studied, scrubbed and tidied, but my spirit felt like it was in a knot.

This morning, when my husband shuffled the kids off to piano lessons so that I could get in a quiet run, instead I sat down with a bowl of sweet potato casserole and just observed my life.

Here is what I saw:
A husband who said the words "'Til death do us part," and meant it.
My strong body that is capable of bearing and rearing children. My body that craves love, exercise and sweet potatoes.
Children who look to me for wisdom, comfort and stability - yet provide those same rewards to me, everyday.
A house that is good and solid and warm.
Food that nourishes our bodies.
Stuff... tons of stuff.... collected over a decade of birthdays, and Christmases, and bored trips to Target. Stuff that needs to be put away - and will eventually.
Pictures of our loved ones, both alive and deceased, who have prayed for us, fought for us.
Images of my Lord and Savior. The same God sends his Spirit to inform my soul.

I want to be worthy of these gifts. I want to be one who takes these gifts and makes them holy. I want to be a good custodian of this wealth.

Lord hear my prayer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Voice of Ghosts

Tonight my beautiful 6-year old daughter was sitting alone at our kitchen table doing what she loves best: drawing. She is quite an artist and sees the world with eyes that search for beauty. I admire this so much about her because she is able to find loveliness, retain it and then portray it in her drawings. She really is mesmerizing, this girl.

As she worked over her latest piece, she hummed a pretty little tune she heard on the radio this afternoon. A sweet, melodic little song that speaks of love and longing. A piece that is a stark reminder that my life existed before this girl: the song was once dubbed "Our Song" by a former love of mine in a former lifetime. To hear is come from her is like hearing the voice of a ghost.

I won't wax poetic about former love or lives. I have been incredibly fortunate in my relationships but I wish so much that I would have saved those parts of my heart for this life that I love now.

And here is what I will tell my children: stay young while you are young. Have fun, laugh, and make friendships - but guard that part of your heart that is vulnerable. Trust in Our Lord to lead you to a Holy spouse who understands the worth of your heart. Entrust it to only someone worthy of it's value. When you are old enough and have seen enough of this life that you are confident in the purity of one's intentions, then give him your heart without restriction. Love fully and confidently and love will be returned to you one-thousandfold.

My sweet daughter deserves to sing that song without my having to think of anyone but her.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wanna see Peru?

Then check this out:

http://wherearebradandkaren.blogspot.com

I love these crazy kids.

It's ON!

Here is what I've done today:

Drank 2 cups of Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Made Pumpkin Bread

Eaten 2 spoonfuls of Marshmallow Fluff

Read It's a Hunt Life

Read Design Mom

Read Hairdresser on Fire

Motivated Josh to do his Book Report

Made smoothie with hidden Vitamins and Probiotics

Let the kids watch too much Noggin

And now we are going to CRUSH this day!! It is on!!




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bomb Vegan Apple Cider Donuts

I don't bake vegan because I am a vegan. I mean, I respect you vegans out there, but I don't share your passion. No, I bake vegan because my daughter is allergic to milk and eggs - pretty much everything that makes a baked-good delicious. I am on a mission, so to speak. A mission to reinvent buttery, eggy, milky fabulous baked goods into ones which won't make my child die. A noble mission, indeed.

Today's Entry:
Bomb Vegan Apple Cider Donuts
Inspired by Joanna Goddard's Lemon Ricotta Donuts

2 cups White All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Apple Cider
Vegetable Oil for Frying
Powdered Sugar mixed with Cinnamon for Sprinkling

1. Heat Oil in fryer to 350*
2. Sift together Dry Ingredients
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in cider.
4. Whisk together until batter resembles pancake batter. (You may need to add 1/4 more flour if it appears too wet.)
5. When oil registers 350* on a candy thermometer, drop batter by offset tablespoons into oil.
6. Do not crowd fryer.
7. Donuts will flip over by themselves (watch! It is actually kinda cute!) but double check to make sure they are brown on both sides.
8. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a wire rack.
9. Once they are drained and slightly cooled, move to a plate and sprinkle with Cinnamon Powdered Sugar.

As far as allergen free/vegan baked goods go, these are pretty darn good. They taste like a appley-cinnamony version of funnel cake. Except you are not at the State Fair - you are in you cozy little home in the chilly fall.  And they aren't being served to you by a carney. And for those things? You're welcome.




Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall is Soup Season

Romance. In a Pot.


All I am saying, is if you want to woo your lover, make him this soup. Throw in some Apothic Red, breadsticks and a Caesar salad? That is a baby-making meal, right there.

Minestrone for Your Lover
2 Good Sized Tablespoons of Bacon Fat (See? I am not fooling around.)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Chopped
2-3 Cloves Minced Garlic
Tons of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
A Meager Sprinkling of Salt (Tiny, I say! You want to taste the sweetness of those veggies.) 
5 Carrots, Peeled and Chopped
5 Stalks of Celery, Chopped
1 Large Zucchini, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Basil
1 Tablespoon Fresh, Minced Rosemary
1 Can Great Northern Beans, Drained and Rinsed
1 Can Kidney Beans, Drained and Rinsed
1 Regular Sized Can (Not the miniature one) Plain Tomato Sauce
1 Cup of Dry Red Wine (The kind you'll drink with the meal. The kind that makes you feel all funny inside. I use Apothic Red.)
4 Cups Beef Broth
3 Water
1/2 Pound Medium Shell Pasta
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

1. Cook chopped onion and garlic in bacon fat. Cook until translucent.
2. Grind the pepper into the pot until it looks good and peppery. (Approx. 1 1/2 Tablespoon? Pepper tastes rustic to me. And rustic is hot.)
2. Once the onions and garlic are cooked, add carrots and celery. Cook them in the fat until they are brilliant in color.
3. Add the zucchini last. It takes the least amount of cooking.
4. Add tomato sauce.
5. Add wine.
6. Add rinsed Kidney and Northern Beans.
7. Add Basil and Rosemary and give the whole pot a nice big stir.
8. Add beef broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain simmer for an hour.
9. When it looks kinda like the picture above (all incorporated and reduced and rich) add 3 cups of water* and bring back to a boil.
*If you're anything like me and you like a hearty, stewy soup this step will hurt your heart. Don't worry. It will return to it's previous stewyness soon. 
10. Add Pasta and simmer for about 10 minutes or according to your taste. (I like well done noodles in this jam. Al Dente be damned!)

Nowthen. Ladle this soup into a bowl and sprinkle generously with parmesan. And let it melt for goodness sake! This soup should be accompanied by garlicky breadsticks and Caesar salad with croutons. The lights should be low and you should definitely have a glass of Apothic. The rest? Well, that is up to you.

Ben....... I am your Mother!



Ben: Hey Mommy?
Me: Yes?
Ben: I heard they're making Star Wars 7.
Me: I heard that too. Except it's Disney not George Lucas.
Ben: Right! I just hope they don't mess it up.
Me: You and all the rest of the dorks out there.

BOOOOOM!


Happy Monday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Walden 2.0

Kill Me - Why don't you?
We went to the woods because we wish to live deliberately. We wish to front only the essential facts of life: Our Lord, our family, our beloved friends, God's miraculous creation and all of it's splendor. We wish to impart it's lessons onto our children and make sure they know what nature has to teach. But, when we got to the woods, all we found were boardwalks and overlooks and rule signs and thousands and thousands of people. And as long as I live, I swear on my honor, that I will never go to Great Falls on the Maryland side again. So that when we die, we will know without doubt, that we have experienced real life and authentic nature and we will not discover that we have indeed not lived.
                                                      ~Sharon Kieffer Steele, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Enough

Like a train a mile down the tracks, I felt it coming. It was little things like, "Why are these floors always so dirty?" or my sudden urge to drink chamomile tea. The heralding of anxiety. My frequent companion and always foe.

Anxiety comes in waves for me. Like I mentioned, it starts small and then spirals around on itself turning into something resembling a hurricane. At first it used to frighten me and affect every part of my life.  Now I can identify it - put it in it's proper box - and stash it in the back of my psyche. Until night time.

The only way anxiety affects me now is in my sleep - or lack thereof. My nighttime internal dialogues goes a little something like this, "Ok. You're anxious. Don't worry. Take a Benadryl and read your book. You'll nod off before long." About 10 minutes into my book, my eyes get heavy and I try to sleep. Nothing. And then my mind starts thinking, "Ok. You knew this would happen. Offer it the the Lord. Pray the Rosary and surely you'll be asleep before long." I finish my rosary and then I am alone with my thoughts and my fears. Sleep rarely comes.

This is the tricky part; the part where I can't put my anxiety away and we have to just sit together in the darkness of the night. She says to me, "Tomorrow you'll be exhausted, frustrated with the kids, unmotivated. Tomorrow night will be the same as tonight and the next morning will be even worse. You are going to fail. You won't be enough."

And there they are. My deepest darkest fears. I will fail. Who I am is not enough for this life I love. And for every rational thought I can muster - anxiety wins and sleep betrays.

But here is the thing: I am not enough. I mentioned in this post that I began this blog to deal with my issues and there is one thing that I have learned throughout these years of self examination. GOD is enough. His ways give me the ladder to climb out of the mire of fear. When I know that my Motherhood is my vocation and duty to Him - I know that in the morning I can embrace my children and wrap them in His love.

And then I feel thankful. And THAT is enough.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Little Pink Houses




Today I was having a conversation with a woman with whom I share a lot of friends. I don't know her well, but she comes highly recommended. We were talking about our shared love for both the country and the city. At about the point where I was going to proclaim that the suburbs feel like slow death to me she announced, "But I am so happy to live in the suburbs. The suburbs are perfect."

Sccrrreeeeaaaach..... (that was the arm of the record player scratching across the album.) WHAT?! Why? If one is in love with the city - or the country for that matter - WHY would they consider the 'burbs "perfect?"

She said it is all about balance. For her temperament, she knows that she might follow the temptations of the city, succumb to her charms. Or, conversely, she felt that the country might allow her to be too reclusive and turn inward.

Balance.


******************************

If I could, I would spend all of our discretionary money on food. I love to eat and I love to try new food - Grant couldn't care less. That is good. Eating well is an expensive hobby.

In an effort to "meet in the middle", so to speak, I've been making some pretty good food here on the home front.  Last Friday night I made these:

Hot and Crunchy Chicken Cones

and they were beyond good. I mmmmmmm'd and ahhhhhhhh'd through the whole meal - and Grant squirted Ketchup on the chicken and ate it without fanfare. And that is ok with me.

Then on Sunday night I made my own version of:

Beef Stroganoff

except with meatballs instead of steak. It was really fabulous. Grant said it was "restaurant quality." The kids wouldn't touch it.

So then tonight, I was craving a cake that a friend made for me when I gave birth to Lucy. I researched that cake and came across what sounded like the best recipe. It turned out perfectly.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

It took 3 hours for the dough to rise but when it was baking Annie had an allergic reaction to all of the butter in the air and needed a breathing treatment. I lost my appetite mid-nebulize.

When all the dishes were put away and the counters wiped, Little Lucy toddled down and said, "I hungwy." I made her a quick butter and jelly toast and sat her in her chair. She took a bite and smiled at me and said, "Mommy, this is the best dinner ever."

(And then I paraded around like a queen for the rest of the night. Because I take my compliments where I can get them.)

Really.  It's all about balance.


Friday, November 2, 2012

A Slice of Crap Cake



Grant and I got in an argument the other night. Well, let me rephrase that... I got into an argument with Josh, then Ben, and then I got into an argument with Grant.  And like all good arguments - it was mostly my fault.

I won't give you all of the lame details, but here is the gist: The hormones in this house are making me crazy and I can't seem to keep a level head when my junior highers are acting like junior highers.  "So What?" you're saying to yourself, right? "Everyone gets irritated by junior high kids." Well, I thought I would be different.

And apparently so did Grant.

Like so many things I have been wrong about in my tenure as a parent, preteen hormones seem so obvious. Your kid is acting like an irrational spaz? Send him to his room with a book. Crying all the time? Give them a hug and a journal. Encourage them to write. Take walks. Be honest. Empathize. Encourage music. Don't talk too much. Don't lecture. Don't take things personally. Make them laugh (if you can.) Relate.

Somehow, even though I know all of these things, the fact that I know my son is mentally flipping me off makes me mad. His tirades only stoke my own fires and our interactions become bombastic. WHO IS HE? and more importantly, who am I?

Anymore, I am left pondering both of these questions and for now I don't necessarily know the answers. Contrary to who I thought I was, I am not above freaking out. I do take things personally. I do not want to do "cool" things to make my kids laugh, like preparing cakes that look like litter boxes. I want my kids to learn how to be a level headed adult, but I am not doing a very good job of it myself.

I feel misunderstood. So I guess in some ways, the kids and I are in the same boat, aren't we?


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Letter to Myself

Dear Sharon,
There is a lot of crap that you screw up on a regular basis. You are a work-in-progress with a bigger emphasis on the work rather than the progress.

However...

Today you made a cloud that looks pretty much like a real cloud.


And if you accomplish nothing else this week - just remember: You rocked that cloud.

Love, Yourself

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Now, I am going to feel like a real jerk tomorrow if something terrible has happened and here I was making light of the situation.

For now, the seven of us PLUS the terribly ill behaved dog are huddled around the XBox in the basement. I am about to lose what little of my mind is left. We are all safe, however, and nobody is blowing away.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cheers to As I See It!


Five years ago I started this blog to fight off a bout of depression.


I knew I could make my life appear prettier in pictures than I felt internally.


But time changes things, doesn't it?


I have grown up, gotten stronger, and gained some wisdom.


So join me for these next five years, ok?


Happy Birthday, As I See It.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spoooooky

So I was just sitting here, right? Minding my own business. Just perusing the internet to bide my time when all of a sudden - out of nowhere - I got the most mysterious gust of foot odor.

And my feet don't stink. Ever.

Don't you think that is spooky?


And that is all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Post - Amy Ullum Kieffer


The life of a housewife is indeed grueling.  I have renewed admiration for you.
Friday I started my cleaning frenzy - not only did I wrestle with my carpet cleaner/steamer saturated my carpet to find that it didn't suck water anymore. I turn around and find that the 17 year old dog had relieved his bowels on the carpet in back of me as I was attempting to clean.
Today was very productive.  I vacuumed all of the christmas tree needles out of the back of my SUV (It is September).  Now that was a real accomplishment.  I changed the bed and actually washed the mattress pad (why?).  Now I have made my lunch just in time to watch General Hospital and set my drink on a coaster (yes we do have them - I found them in the bottom of a cupboard that I cleaned out amidst VCR tapes and your graduation from high school paper napkins)
I am exhausted.
Editor's Note: I might be wrong about this, but the term "Housewife" might be a little - shall we say - dated? Archaic terms aside, my life is pretty gravy - glad you got a little taste of the good life. Next time you play adorable, dutiful wife tell me ahead of time and I will send all 5 of my kids plus their curriculum to you. What is a clean house when you have smart kids, right?

Friday, August 17, 2012

What I am Thinking About...

Dear Alex Clare,
I think I am too close to love you, too.  mwah.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Give me an EPIDURAL!!



Dumb chick alert: I read People magazine.

Ah.  That hurts to admit. But I do. And sometimes, when I am bored or sick (like I am today.. both) I click on the links at the bottom of the page to see what is happening on more salacious or scandalous tabloids. Today I stumbled across this bit of crap:

http://thestir.cafemom.com/pregnancy/139954/model_miranda_kerrs_judgy_comments

My dad says that 'interesting people do not talk about people.' My dad also spray painted the words "Reptilian Brain" on the wall of our garage, so what does he know?

Here's the deal folks - having been around the labor and delivery block a couple (plus 3) times I feel at liberty to comment on this story.  I have done it both ways.  I have delivered three big, healthy, alert babies without so much as a tylenol in my corner.  I felt powerful, ultimately feminine. When it came time to deliver my 5th precious child, I didn't have the stuff it took to fight that battle because here's the deal folks: 
Labor sucks.

It is stressful, it is scary (at times), and it hurts like hell.  So, knowing all the information, I chose the path of least resistance.  I opted for the epidural. Truth? The medication can pass from the spinal column and over the placenta and to the baby.  The baby can be a bit groggy. That did not make one eeensy weensy bit of difference to me at all. And so you ask, what was the experience like? Well, it was peaceful. I could listen to the doctor without the mask of mortal pain and process exactly what was happening. I loved it. Was it a selfish decision, Yes. But, Lucy's birthday was indeed one of the best days of my life. Should God decide to show his incredible sense of humor and bless us with another child, I will do it the exact same way.  Groggy baby or not.

I love Miranda Kerr.  I am proud of her for sticking by her principles and choosing the path that she felt best for her child and herself. I just wish the people on the other side of the argument would own their position, as well, risks, selfishness and all.

Friday, June 29, 2012

I've said YES.



I read this early this morning, "We have two choices: to be selfish or to be generous." (cjanekendrick)

So by darned, this week, I decided to be generous. When my kids asked, I have said Yes! "Can I have ice cream for lunch?" YES! Can I play XBox? YES! Can I run through the sprinklers in my underwear? YES! (Sorry, honey.)

There are a lot of needs to be met around here.  I know that I need not say YES all of the time, and that typically the generous answer is no, but after a tough year of being at once teacher, disciplinarian and housekeeper - it feels good to be the good guy. It feels good to just be a Mommy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Family



I have been wanting to blog for a long time.  I have been wanting to write about my life because it's a-changing.  And I want to remember these days, but I am certain that I will forget.  So here is my posterity.

We've had a bit of a rough go, here at Casa Steele.  A speed bump, so to speak. For all the ways that our life has stayed the same - same jobs, same school, same house, no babies - we are also forced to accept the realities that raising a largish family is difficult.  We have boys who are turning into Big Boys and girls who are turning into Young Ladies.  They are opinionated and interested and rambunctious.  We try our darndest and yet, they are left wanting.  Thus is the reality of raising children, right?

And it is ugly sometimes.  There is dirty hair and body odor.  There are skinned knees and ripped jeans.  Shoes are scuffed - hair is too long - and teeth aren't clean enough.  Oh the perfection I could achieve..... if only it were possible.

And through my frustration there is joy.  To my complete surprise in this adventure we call daily life, never once have I thought about "me" - for this is my family:  My heart outside of my body - my blood pumping through another network of veins.  The love, the complete and total love that I feel for my husband, has manifested itself in this incredible family that continues to reveal itself to me day after day.   For every tear there are a hundred smiles - for every frustration there are a thousand rewards.

This is my family.  Thank you Dear Lord for the privilege.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Me, Animals and PWCMoms



Here's the dilly, folks.  I am a guest poster this week on PWC Moms.  I went out and reviewed the Prince William County Animal Shelter's Children's Barnyard.  It's a quirky little place in back of the animal shelter... and well.... read it yourself!

http://www.pwcmoms.com/?id=5656873257077972356

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What I'm Thinking About...

It's been a long time since I fell in love with a song.
..... and I mean    a     really            long                       time.
So it feels good to tell you that I am obsessed (obsessed!) with this song.  I've listened to his other stuff and it's good too, but this is my current song crush.  Without further ado..

Somebody That I Used To Know
By Gotye

Friday, March 16, 2012

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