Monday, April 29, 2013

A Life in Pictures

Two weeks ago, I took my youngest daughter and spent a long weekend with my parents in California. There was a moment in a little sidewalk cafe in downtown Oakland where the light was streaming through the arches of the architecture in the most perfect way. I got sort of swept away by it all and had my parents pose for what appeared to be a very candid picture.


I even had my mom put on my sunglasses so that the look would be uniform. You can't tell by their closed mouths, but they were making fun of me as this picture was taken.  I loved the resulting photo and guess what, so does everyone else who's seen it, including them.

This weekend, the children had their annual piano recital. The dress code for the event is shirts and ties, minimum for boys, and dresses for girls. With all the traveling we've done over the past several weeks, our laundry pile looks like something off of that old Niecy Nash show Clean House. When we got up that morning, Ben couldn't find a button-up shirt to go with his tie. He could find a plaid shirt and his tie but they did not go together at all. We searched and stressed and sorted until finally he remembered the old Easter shirt that he didn't like, but would have to do for the day. We curled and primped and styled and ironed and at the very last minute as we were walking out the door, I snapped the following picture:


They are indeed the very picture of loveliness, aren't they?

But here is what I have learned about taking pictures: They never tell the whole story. My life is composed of so much more than the perfect little snaps that I have taught myself how to grab over the years. My life is filled with laundry piles from clothes dirtied in our front yard without grass. My life is filled with untidy kitchens from ignoring messes to go wipe runny little noses. My life is filled with children standing in corners, writing sentences, and refusing to write book reports. My life is filled with endless projects yet to be finished and endless projects yet to be started. We lead a big, bustling, messy life. Every once in a while, though, I like to take a lovely picture with everyone smiling neat and pressed to remind me of the beauty through the mayhem.

Perfection? Perfection in this life is subjective, I suppose.  Our only goal is to reach perfection in the eyes of our Maker. If in this life they learn to love and honor God in the Blessed Trinity; to love and respect one another; and to treat others with the dignity and respect that they would want for themselves, then I will call this life a success.

Photos only tell a fraction of the story. Please judge us only by our fruit.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Enjoy


Have you seen this? I literally cheered upon it's conclusion right here in my little schoolroom.  I would classify it as a hybrid of ballet and break dancing - but whatever it really is?  I am a fan.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Video Reviews

I know I said I was going to review some of the videos from the BlogHer Bar above.  Well, there is bad news about that and there is good news. I'll let you pick which one you want to hear first....

The bad news? Ok. (I always pick that one first, too!)

The Mandarin Salad that I tried from the video selection was the pits. I am not even going to link to it. Here is my advice if you are interested in a mandarin salad: buy a bag of baby spinach, some mandarin oranges, some pre-made candied, sliced almonds, some oil and vinegar and done. Don't jump through hoops to make your own candied almonds because the first batch will burn your spoon like this:
 and the second batch will clump up into little brown clusters of sugar and you will be so pissed off. 
Better yet? Go to the farmers market and make a salad out of the seasonable veggies they have there.  Put a handful of pistachios on top with some olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper? You're welcome.

Now for the good news. This is really good news.
The video up there about the "movable dinner party" is stinking hilarious.  Go watch it. And afterward, go check out the blog Bon Appetempt. She is the genius behind the video and her blog is a food-find, to be certain.

Me watching Bon Appetempt watching Ina. 
There you have it. And in case you are have low-level-cuteness disorder, this should fix the problem:
Pippi on Day 2


Monday, April 22, 2013

Organic Science

We have been quietly incubating chicken eggs here at the Steele Family Farm for the past several weeks. I say "quietly" because last year we were showoffily incubating eggs and out of 36ish fertilized eggs we hatched N-O-N-E.

To make matters worse, when we finally gave up the ghost and decided to bury the barren eggs, one exploded with the force of a hand grenade sending foul smelling shelly-schrapnel for yards around.  Upon perceiving the explosion, I screamed and hit the dirt as if an actual bomb was going off.  I digress.

You can imagine, after that ordeal, the children have been squealing with delight for the past few days as one of our precious eggs has been bouncing around the incubator like a Mexican Jumping Bean.  This morning when we went to check on the egg, the bouncing was accompanied by the sweetest little high pitched chirp one could imagine. All of this merriment was coming from the inside of a completely intact egg.

She bounced and chirped and squealed and rolled until late this morning when we found our long hoped for pip.  It was then we decided to name our pet Pippin: a nod to both the process of hatching and our dearly beloved Hobbits. Even though we technically completed our prescribed curriculum for the day, nobody could take their minds or their eyes off the incubator where Pippi was slowly tap-tap-tapping away at her little safe haven.
First pips

At noontime, we left Ben at home to keep watch over the incubator and we set out to purchase some last minute items to make the brooder super comfy for Pippi.  About halfway through our outing, I received a call from an ecstatically nervous Ben. The chick was hatching! She had one foot out! " Oh Mommy! I can see her head and her eyes," he exclaimed half-breathless. "Her feathers are a ginger color! She's breathing so hard!" I listened quietly to a boy discover the miracles of new life. His voice cracked, "Oh! Mommy! She's out! She made it! She is looking all around, she just looked straight at me! Oh I will always love her."
Pippin
On the other end of the phone I listened to a boy on the cusp of adolescence as he embraced the rugged fragility of new life. We congratulated one another, I promised to drive fast-but not too fast-to get home, and we hung up the phone.

We then arrived at the Southern States farm supply store. The younger children and I made our way through the sliding doors determined to bring home the finest amenities for our sweet hatchling.  It was then that we stumbled upon a large aluminum brooder filled with day-old baby chicks cheeping with joy to the delight of the passers-by.  With some degree of unanimity we all decided that in addition to bedding and medicated feed - sweet Pippi at home would be getting some new sisters. We couldn't think of anything more lovely to give to our long awaited chick than a large family.
The Sisters

Epilogue: The kids went ahead and decided that I could name one of the chicks and I named her Dorothy Day.

Dorothy Day (she's the cutest!)





Friday, April 19, 2013

Observation

April 19, 2013

Dear Diary,

Photo Credit
Today in Boston two suspects have been identified in the bombings that happened earlier this week at the Boston Marathon.  The suspects, legally in the United States and Chechen citizens, happen to be brothers.

Never mind the commentary on where our world seems to be heading.  Never mind the reality of terrorism seems to have crept into the American reality like Ireland and Israel, there is one aspect of this particular crime that seems to haunt me: Their family is in utter shock.  They refuse to believe that two smart, accomplished, ambitious young men could possibly be involved with something so sinister and heinous.

The father was interviewed by a Boston radio station and stated that his children 'hated terrorism.' They hated guns and violence. He was so proud of them and believed so much in their capacity for good. They had aspirations to become physicians.  He called to check on them in the wake of the bombings to make sure they were ok and they assured him and their sister that they were safe. Dear God! How? Why?

I grieve with America for the loss of innocent life. I think of Martin Richard and his family who will never have their little boy again. I pray for the wellness of the people who were privy to the carnage and their future emotional stability. I pray that they will be able to identify with Christ crucified and his capacity for understanding of the people who called for His brutal death. This is a fallen world. A fallen, desperate world.

While we grieve with the Americans, please friends, remember that father in Chechnya. Remember that man who held his sons as babies and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. He, too, was deceived. He believed so passionately in the capacity of his sons who disgraced him so completely. He is a victim, too. I pray, as well, for all victims of deceit. The emotional wounds run deep and leave scars that will never heal.

Live in the light, my friends. Let your yeas be yeas and let your neighs be neighs.

We will stand back up. We will rise again; but now? Now is the time for grief.

Yours truly, Sharon

PS. Tomorrow I will review the Mandarin Spinach Salad. I was too sad today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Announcement + Lunch

Are you in a cooking rut? Are you sick and tired of all of the same old meals that are coming out of your same old kitchen to feed to your same old kids? Yes, you said? Well you're in luck! (Not with the kids - you'll have to keep them.  It looks like an orphanage around here already.)

Me and my blog, As I See It, have partnered with the BlogHer network to bring you a series of food-related videos so that you have some fresh, new ideas of how to get those Ooooooh's! and Ahhhhhh's! that you deserve when you bring food to the table.

That's right, sister. You deserve it.

Just check out the ideas in the top left corner of your screen. Watch them and enjoy. Tell me if you find something great.  Tomorrow I will be previewing the Spinach and Mandarin Salad with Caramelized Almonds from Show Me the Curry.  This is going to be fun.

Now for the "Lunch" part of this post because all that jazz above made me hungry.

This is where the peanut butter sandwich sort of goes to LA and gets all glam and fabulous. I give you, my own creation, the Peanut Butter Veggie Wrap.  Here is the cast of characters:


Egg Roll Wraps
Peanut Butter
Matchstick Carrots
Cilantro
Bibb Lettuce
Alfalfa Sprouts
Lime
Sriracha
Vinegar of your choice (Rice wine would probably be better, I'm out)
Salt

This one is pretty self explanatory.  You take the egg roll wrap and put a knife full of peanut butter down the middle. This works twofold: first, well, it's delicious; and second, all the veggies stick to it and don't slide around.
Because I don't like my veggies to slide out the back of my wrap!
Then start layering your veggies. I did it in this order:
cilantro
lettuce
sprouts
carrots
Then you pick your flavors. I chose salt, vinegar, and sriracha. You could do lime, soy sauce, honey, teriyaki, basil.... endless choices.
Then I rolled it up and ate it standing up while helping Josh with his book report. It was so good that I made another, took it outside and ate it sitting alone on the back deck. That second one was better. 

Enjoy, alright?

Wonder

Have you ever been so moved by a book, that the mere thought of it reduces you to tears? That is how I felt about Wonder by RJ Palacio.



Wonder move my mother's heart and it also inspires me to encourage my children to remember to look past this shell we call a body and love the soul within.  It is with a warm sense of victory that I report to you that there are several characters in this gem of a book who do just that. I will encourage it's readership as long as I know parents and young people. Read this book.

Without being too verbose, I would like to reproduce an excerpt from this book that makes me want to stand up and cheer. In the words of the wonderful Mr. Tushman:

Children, what I want to impart to you today is an understanding of the value of that simple thing called kindness.  And that's all I want to leave you with today.  I know I'm kind of infamous for my... um... verbosity... but what I want you, my students, to take away from your middle school experience is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible.  If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary- the world really would be a better place.  And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.

I want you to read the book because I want to talk about it with you.  Did you connect with the characters the way I did? Did you think it was too simple, or too sweet, or too stubbornly optimistic? In light of all of the bad in the world, Wonder reminded me about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity - and the gentle reminder to see God in everyone you meet.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Be Happy.

I hate surprises and I don't handle anticipation well.  I have learned these things throughout the course of my adulthood and self-realization is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Perhaps it is due to my tendency to get overly anxious - but planning and deadlines and pressure leave me feeling physically miserable.

Today I am miserable because tomorrow my husband and I are going on a week-long vacation - alone. We are going somewhere tropical and beautiful and sunshiney, and honest to peet, I am so excited - if it wasn't for this current of misery that has swept over me like a tidal wave. That makes absolutely no sense, does it? Welcome to life inside my head. Scary, sometimes.

This isn't a "poor me" post - because that would be deplorable. This is simply me killing time before I get back up again and attack my list. And perhaps throw up a couple of times.
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