The Most Powerful Tool

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This post today is for me.  I am sharing it here with you, but I wrote it this morning for me.  I woke up to a mess, to some kid fights, to a whole load of negative thoughts that spanned from feeling depressed about how little money I have to feeling annoyed with the government to wishing that my skinny jeans fit.  This post is a reminder to myself - things I know but so easily forget.  Check back tomorrow for PART TWO of yesterday's post.    

For most of us, it is easy to see what is wrong in our lives.  We all know where we fall short, what we'd like to improve, what we don't have, what we should have done differently.   We can see with great clarity  what is wrong with our mothers, our bank accounts, our employers, the government, our colleagues, and our bodies. 

Sometimes we look for what is wrong under the guise of self-improvement, or the notion that we are helping others.   I often tell myself, when I am being overly critical, that if I didn't pay attention to my faults then I wouldn't ever be able to fix them.  I sometimes think I have things figured out for other people too and that all my harsh words, all my cynicism, all my fault-finding is for their own good - how else will they learn and recognize their own weaknesses?  Even the government and the public school system and the big businesses, and especially Bank of America, could use a good dose of my negative opinions to assist them in fixing their incompetencies. 

It seems like it should work.  Pointing out all the ways my mother has let me down or failed to meet my needs should help her see how to be a better mother.  Focusing on my own weaknesses and failures should bring them to the light so I can work on them and let them go.   Looking for what's wrong seems like it should work, but it doesn't

A Perfect Failure

Monday, May 30, 2011


I don’t know what I am doing most of the time.

I didn’t know how to be a mother, but they sent me home from the hospital with my tiny pink bundle and the only reasonable option was to figure it out. I didn’t know how to be a photographer, but I had a camera and a dream and I just kept taking pictures. I didn’t know how to be a single parent, but I was alone and there were three kids that needed to be fed and clothed and loved and that seemed as good a place to start as any.
I don’t know how to blog. I don’t know how to write. And there is this voice in my head that tells me I should wait until I know more, until I’ve practiced more, until I am better and smarter, until I get it all figured out. I am exposing all my foibles and flaws in such a public forum. Anyone can see when I am trying too hard, or not hard enough. Anyone, can see that I don’t know what I am doing.

I am familiar with this voice. I’ve heard it a thousand times before. It’s that call to be perfect and that constant reminder that I am never good enough. It’s the precursor to procrastination, to giving up, to failing. I know because I’ve let it get to me one too many times, and then I procrastinated, and I gave up, and I failed. That’s what happens when you are waiting to be perfect, to be good enough.

Sometimes, however, failing isn’t an option.

Weekend Link Love

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Today's Weekend Link Love is entirely devoted to PINTEREST.  Do you know about Pinterest?  I didn't until recently.  I just got a Pinterest account this week and I can't hardly control myself.  It is so full of goodness and I am reminded of all that is beautiful in the world every time I log on.  It is inspiring in the best of ways.  Find me on Pinterest here.  

Where I am Today

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes the things I think will be hard aren't really as difficult as my mind makes them out to be.  Being the only adult around a lot of the time, I have had to test this theory quite a bit.  I manage to get the garbage out on time every week.  I can put three kids to bed at night with relative ease.  I can go to the grocery store with three kids in tow. I can make all the meals and do all the dishes.  I can even handle all the yardwork.

Sometimes I feel awesome.  Look what I can do all by myself!

But then there are the things that are actually harder than I had hoped they would be. My bank account dipped to a negative $8.00 this morning.  My divorce, after taking more than a year to even be finalized, still keeps presenting me with loose ends.  Trying to singlehandedly run a business that allows me to be a stay at home is insane. I have to sleep with my cell phone in hand at night and I jump at every noise. 

Sometimes I feel like this isn't fair.  I shouldn't have to do everything all by myself.

And then there are the things that are so black and so scary that I don't dare think about them too long for fear they will suck me into a vortex of hopeless despair. 

That Dam Man!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When you are a kid it is so awesome when your parents or teachers sanction a little naughtiness or join you in doing something that is normally against the rules.  I still remember when my parents let us kids swear a bit on a road trip. Totally awesome.

Now, I use the word swear loosely.  You see, when I was a kid we had some pretty conservative rules about swearing.  It wasn't until junior high that I even realized that outside of my house, the "S word" wasn't shutup and the "B" word wasn't butt.  Yeah, we weren't allowed to say butt - rear end was the accepted term.  So, given that I thought the "F" word was fart until I was thirteen, the time that my parents let us swear on a road trip is still a vividly cool memory for me.

We went to Lake Powell.  And Lake Powell has a dam.  A dam!  Dam it. (No, damn it).

Let Them Eat Pizza!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One of my most important goals as a parent is to strengthen family unity.  Right now my kids are all very young - under the age of 5 - so with a little bit of effort on my part, this is a pretty simple task to accomplish. We spend all day together, we spend all night together, and nearly every activity we engage in - be it coloring, playing, cleaning - is a helpful exercise in communicating, conflict resolution, and cooperation.  

However, I am very aware that my children will not always be so young, so dependent, so attached to me and their siblings.  Every now and then I get glimpses into the world of media, music, and other social forces that our family will have to face as time passes, and my heart starts beating a little too fast just thinking about that leap from Mother Goose to Justin Bieber.  (Please tell me Justin Bieber will be gone by the time my kids are ready to move on from Elizabeth Mitchell and the nursery rhymes.  Lie to me if you have to.)

They will grow up.  I know this.  And so I take my task to strengthen family unity very seriously.  Even when they are fifteen and I am hopelessly uncool, I am still hoping they'll want to hang out with me, at least sometimes.  In an effort to plant these family unity seeds early on, I initiated a new family tradition: Friday Pizza-Movie Night.

Cheap Therapy, of the British Variety

Sunday, May 22, 2011

For only $9.99 a month, Netflix is helping me to uncover my hidden self and analyze my psyche.  When I signed in the other day, Netflix had something to say to me.  Based on my viewing history and interests, Netflix told me that it had created a new category for me: Romantic British Period Pieces Featuring a Strong Female Lead.

And this isn't the end either.  I still have Wives and Daughters, then South Riding, and I am looking forward to Cranford and Our Mutual Friend.  If I try hard enough, I may even be able to add a few more titles to this list and keep it going for a while longer.

Aside from the fact that I am crazy, and perhaps watch too many shows on the internet late at night, I think Netflix has given me a bit of wisdom here: 

Time to Eat . . .

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I was hungry when I put together this weekends' links.  Can you tell?

1. Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wrap from Good Life Eats
2. Pizza Dip from My Baking Addiction (So seriously good!) 
3. First Prize Smores Pie from B. On A Whim 
4. Pretzel Rolls from Craftinomicom
5. Pistachio Tofu Pops from Rhythm of the Home
6. Sambal Ayam from Elra's Cooking

Best Books for Babies: Help Your Baby Love Books

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All three of my kids love to read, and I didn't even have to trick them into it. 

John Holt said, " We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in."

This has been my approach to educating my children thus far in their young lives and this is how I have approached the subject of reading with them - letting them lead the way.  That being said, I think that my kids have become the little bookworms they are in part because I made books accessible, I helped them explore, and I set the example.  A lot of what I did was unintentional, especially with my first child; it happened because I loved to read and I loved books.  However, I have learned, from experience, that there are some helpful things to know and do as you are introducing babies to books.

1. Children will do as you do, Not as you say
I have noticed that my baby always wants the thing that I have, the thing that I am using.  My cell phone is a hot item because she sees me using it so often.  I tried giving her an old cell phone - one with a charged battery that lights up and makes all the noises, very authentic - but it only provides a moment's distraction.  She doesn't want just any cell phone, she wants my cell phone - the one she sees me using.  Babies are like that.

If you want your baby to appreciate books, you need to appreciate books.  Babies look to the adults in their lives to learn how to be and what to do.  If they see you reading, they will want to read.  If they see that books are important to you, books will become important to them.  Giving your baby books and telling them how fun they are is futile if they don't see the adults in their lives turning pages too. 

2. Make Books Accessible
Babies are naturally curious and if there are books around, they will want to check them out (especially if they see big people doing it too).  So, have books around.  Keep them face out so your baby can see the pictures on the cover (I've found that baskets are better than shelves).  Keep them where your baby can reach them on their own.  Have a variety of books and pay attention to what sparks their interest. 

3. Say Yes!
If you want your baby to love books, don't worry too much about ripped pages or chewed corners.  If every time they get their chubby little hands on a book someone takes it away, or calls out a warning, they will begin to make negative associations.  Sure, you can show them how to properly hold a book and turn the pages, and you can let them know that books are for reading, not eating.  But then, relax.  Buy some board books.  Buy some cheap paperbacks at the thrift store.  If they get a little mangled, don't worry about it.  When Esme was a baby, I had to replace her favorite book (On Mother's Lap) three times, but that was the first book she memorized.

4. Keep it positive
It is easier to help your baby have positive experiences with books and reading if you can let go of your agenda for them.  You may think you know how it should go - maybe you want to get to the end of a book at story time, and you want to read every word on the page, and you want your baby to sit and listen.  But what if that isn't what your baby wants?  You are bigger, you are "in charge" and ultimately you are probably capable of making them do it your way, but it won't be a positive experience.  If you have to force a wiggly baby to sit until the end of a story, they will learn to despise books. Follow their lead and it will be a positive experience.  Maybe you only get through one page a day.  Maybe you start at the end of the book instead of the beginning.  Maybe you read it upside down. Maybe you just point to pictures and make funny noises.   As long as you keep it positive, you are still facilitating a love of books.

5. Go to the Library
The library is one of the best places in the world, no matter your age.  Take your baby to the library often.  Check out all the libraries in your area, if you are lucky enough to have more than one around.  Check out the programs for babies that your library offers.  All of my babies have loved Baby/Toddler storytime programs at our local libraries.  We have even participated in baby sign language programs, music and movement programs, and arts & crafts activities at the library.  Eila, at just four months old, was an active participant at our library's baby storytime - she would clap and coo and giggle for the entire 30 minute program. We go to the library every week and it is something all of my kids look forward to.

6. Read, and Read, and Read
Read a little something every day. Read out loud. Maybe your baby doesn't want to sit and listen or even look at pictures, but read anyway.  They may be scooting across the room while you read Goodnight Moon aloud to yourself, but they're probably still listening and they are definitely noticing that you are reading.  When Esme was a baby, I found that reading poetry aloud helped her fall asleep.  I'm sure she didn't understand a word of all that Longfellow I was reciting, but the rhythms and the sounds were relaxing - poetry books became a positive experience for her at a very, very young age.  Read your gardening magazine aloud, or a brief from work, or the how-to manual for your fridge. Just read, and read aloud.

7. Babies Deserve Good Books Too
Quality counts, even if you're only six months old.  There are so many bad children's books out there.  There are also so many wonderful children's books available too - pay attention.  Don't just buy any old book with a cartoon character on the front; introduce your babies to good, quality, worthwhile literature from the very beginning.  Look for books that are well written and beautifully illustrated.  I promise, your baby will respond better to a good book.  A few of our baby favorites are:
Happy Reading!

Did you have a favorite book as a baby? Do your kids have favorite books? Do share!

My Big, Brown Dilemma

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

UPDATE: Thank you friends for voting and commenting!  WHITE it is!  I'm going to be brave and paint.  You guys are awesome!  I'll show you what happens.
Good morning my internet neighbors.  I need your help this morning.  I am decorating, planning, and working in a mostly DIY kind of way to turn my house into a home.  It needs a lot of help.  Right now I am stuck.  I am lying awake in bed at night, I am day dreaming at the dinner table, I am fast becoming the most indecisive person I know. 

And here's the big dilemma: should I paint my brick fireplace white? 

Check out the photos below (And do not laugh too hard at my lame photoshop attempt. And do not pay too much attention to anything other than the fireplace, because it may, and likely will, all change.) and use my little voting poll to help me make a decision.  I am envisioning something like this or this.  Thank you friends for your help.

Don't bring your Playboy to my block party

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I got a Playboy magazine in the mail recently and it got me thinking.

No, I didn’t have busty ladies on my mind. I never made it past the magazine’s “discreet” black plastic wrapper, so my thoughts remained pure. I did, however, notice that my neighbor’s name and address were printed on the back.

Just a mailbox mix up.

Not really a big deal, but awkward all the same. Not only was it impossible for me to walk next door and simply hand over the mail to its rightful owner, but it made it awfully hard to even make eye contact with the neighbors in the yard. Now I know something personal about my neighbors. I didn’t ask, they didn’t tell. But there it is. Just because we’re neighbors.

I like the idea of neighbors and neighborhoods and communities. I like it in theory anyway. In college I lived in the dorms where I had not just neighbors, but roommates too. Sure it was a community – the kind of community where you have to shout down the hall at 2 A.M. to get some peace and quiet, and then curse your neighbors when they leave their hair in the shower the next morning. Once, my roommate even locked me out of my room and left a sign on the door that said “My roommate is a Ho” when I came back from a date later than expected. How’s that for community?

An Edible Garden

Monday, May 16, 2011

Note: Please go sign up for the giveaway - an Amazon gift card.  Spread the word - it's free money people! Entries close tomorrow (Tuesday) night.  Check out the details here.

We spent this weekend in the yard.  It was a delightful weekend, but our yard is scary.  It is big and it is a wreck. Since we moved into the house a few months ago, I've been staring out the back windows and imagining the haven that our wild backyard could become.  But it took me until this weekend to actually get moving on the Project, or rather the PROJECT. 

Since the yard is so big and my budget is so small, I decided to narrow in on a small area first.  I started with the edible-garden area.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a Before picture until it was too late, but here are some of the progress pictures.  If you want a mental picture of what I started with, imagine about 50 piles of weeds like this one here. 

I had some helpers, which wasn't actually helpful but it made the work more interesting.  They did a little weeding, a little digging, and a lot of mud pie mixing.  Pajamas, snow boots, and dress up clothes were all part of the fun.

Weekend Moment

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's the weekend, and we're just hanging out.  I hope your weekend is full of laughter and family and friends.

Weekend Links

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I've been planting my garden this week.  See a theme in my link love today? 

Blueberry Spelt Pancakes

Friday, May 13, 2011

(Note about yesterday's giveaway at the end of this post)

I am not a morning person. I would like to be a morning person, but really I don’t try very hard. I go to bed late, far too late, and my mornings normally begin with kids sitting on my head. And the little skull smashers want breakfast.


So I’m half asleep and I have to make food and I have to make it fast and I have to do it with a kid in my arms and two more wrapped around my legs. Oatmeal, the obvious answer to this early morning fiasco, is off limits per the terms of our recent breakfast treaty (Breakfast Rebellion of 2011). So this week, we’ve been eating yogurt for breakfast. Yep, yogurt.

I planned to make a big batch of homemade granola to go with the yogurt, but it didn’t happen. We’ve had an entire week now of mornings fueled by plain yogurt. No one has complained yet, but I’m thinking it would put a smile on everyone’s face to end the week with a real breakfast.

Thank You and a Giveaway!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You guys are great! I am so really and truly grateful for everyone who comes here to my little corner of the web to read, share, and support me in my blogging endeavor.  If you are here and reading this, you mean so much to me.

It's all so new and I don't have a complete vision of what I would like to do and see here in this space.  It's a work in progress, as am I.  What I am entirely certain of, however, is that I love the community that comes with a blog like this.  I love to hear from you, I love to connect, and it is both exciting and humbling to know that there are people, both friends and strangers, that care what I am doing, and seeing, and saying. 

That being said, I would like to offer you a small giveaway. I would like to give one, randomly chosen reader, a $25 Amazon giftcard.  To enter the giveaway:

1. Find a way to join my community, if you haven't already.
2. Leave a comment on this post telling me how you are following (Facebook, Email, Blogger, Twitter, Feed Reader) and also share a book that has changed your life (any type, any genre). 

Entries will close at 11:59 P.M. on Tuesday, May 17.  I will announce the winner on Wednesday morning. 

After the contest, I will compile a list of the life-changing books to be shared in the bookshop. 

Thank you for being here and for participating!!

UPDATED: Using, the winner of the Amazon Giftcard giveaway is Sue L who recommended the books: This is Graceannes's Book by P.L. Whitney and Whispers by Belva Plainof

Thanks for participating everyone!

Who's Side Are You On?

When my husband left me I lost more than just a partner. I lost half my family. I spent years getting to know all of my in-laws, building relationships and friendships, but after he left, I never heard from any of them again.

Initially I was surprised and I was hurt. I don’t know how he explained it all to them because he didn’t ever explain anything to me. Was I the villain in his story? Did I get what I deserved? Were they rallying to his side in his time of need?

I will never know.

What I do know is that I was pregnant, on bed rest, with two small children at home and I had never felt more alone in the world. One kind word would have made all the difference, but nothing came.

Eventually I realized what was happening. Everyone was taking sides. And if everyone was taking sides, well then, me too. I put up my own walls, and Facebook blocks, and email filters. Fine. So there. Good riddance.

Not quite.

It just kept festering, demanding attention. Why did it bother me so much that I was so quickly dismissed by my former in-laws? It took a lot of praying, a lot of writing, some discussion, and a lot of time before I figured it out.

Does your soul need comforting?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

...Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

—Mary Oliver, "Such Singing in the Wild Branches"
Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

Guilty Mom Moment 201

Monday, May 9, 2011

I can tell when I've been letting life get a little too disorganized, when I am on the edge of frazzled and harried.  I start to have these guilty mom moments.  With the flu last week, and now all the catching up that must be done after a week in bed, I am having a few too many guilty mom moments. 

Do you ever need (or think you need) to accomplish something so you let important standards slide, just for a minute--just this once, to make it happen? 

And then, you feel guilty. 

Sometimes I'm wearing the scarlet letter after letting the girls watch one too many episodes of Little Bear in a row, or play a few too many computer games so that I can work.  Once I let them eat an entire box of bunny grahams for breakfast so I could sleep an extra hour. Okay, that happened Saturday.

This Monday morning, I bring you one of my best guilty mom moments.

Mom 2.0

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to Mothers everywhere. Enjoy this beautiful video essay by Katharine Center.

P.S. I think we are finally (finally!) over the flu here. Looking forward to a new week. See you here tomorrow.

Keeping it Real

Friday, May 6, 2011

Having the flu stay at our house all week has been rough.  I noticed something though:  It was really just rough for me.  The kids, who were hit pretty hard by the virus, have been incredibly upbeat despite all the sickness and discomfort.  Sometimes they cried when they threw up, but when it was done, it was done.  They had to forsake not just their favorite foods, but nearly all foods, and while they did complain, it was only at meal times.  When they hurt, they whined.  When they were tired, they grumbled.  When it was over, it was over.  And just before, and just after, and all the little moments in between, they were happy. 

Have you ever noticed how kids can do that? How young kids can jump from one emotion to the next in a matter of minutes, or even seconds? 

I, on the other hand, with all my adult wisdom and experience, find myself hanging on to things, dragging things out, really getting carried away by emotions so often.  I got sick, but I didn't just sleep and vomit and get over it.  Not quite. 

What we are NOT eating

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yesterday, after days of not being able to eat or drink anything, the girls and I came up with a game of sorts.  We were all probably a little feverish, very sleep deprived, and perhaps even a bit delirious as we found ourselves lying on a plastic tablecloth (vomit protection)  on the living room floor.  I unintentionally initiated the game by thinking out loud, "I am so thirsty I could drink a huge glass of ice water."  Esme took my initiative and added on, "I am so hungry I could eat the biggest, yummiest bowl of lasagna."  Eila caught on right away and piped in, "I'm so hungry I could eat toast, meat, sugar, and oatmeal*."

While our sick tummies rumbled away, we spent the next half hour playing the flu food game.  I had the foresight to grab a piece of paper and pen partway through and document a few of our fantasy foods.  While the lists definitely reveal some very unrefined palates, they also gave me a good laugh.

Great Scott!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

We are miserably sick here.  Everyone in the house has the stomach flu now.  It is taking every ounce of strength I have this morning to type these few sentences.

So I bring you Superman by Esme.

For no other reason than, it's cute.

I hope to be back here tomorrow with a real post again.  Thank you for your patience.

Killing Time, once and for all

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do you ever hear people saying that there just isn't enough time?  Maybe you've heard yourself lamenting your own lack of time to do this or that. 

I know I have.

In fact, I never have enough time. I am a single mom with three kids under the age of 5 and I am trying to run my own business.  Time punches me in the face every single day.

But even though I join the ranks of complainers, lately I have felt bothered when I hear people using time as their excuse. 

"I wish I read more often, but I just don't have time."
"I 'd love to get more involved in the community, but I just don't have time."
"I'd like to make healthier food for my family, but I just don't have time."
"I'd like to be closer to my kids, but I just don't have time."

Feeling annoyed by other people, is always my first sign that I need to do a little soul searching.  Why has it been bothering me so much when people use time as their excuse?  As it usually happens, I looked a little deeper and realized my issue with the time excuse had nothing to do with anybody but me.

The Breakfast Rebellion of 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

I served oatmeal for breakfast this morning.  No big deal.

Except it was a big deal.  A catastrophic, world imploding, weeping and wailing big deal.

It should have been innocuous enough.  We've only had oatmeal for breakfast seven hundred thousand times and most mornings it has been greeted by happy, hungry eaters ready to fill their hollow tummies.

Recently though, I have noticed some mild grumblings about the oatmeal, some bowls not quite empty after everyone has left the table.  I tried to mix it up a little, rotating steel cut oats, old fashioned oats, quick oats.  I tried different toppings - strawberries, cinnamon and apples, pumpkin pie spice, blueberries.  But unbeknownst to me, anti-oatmeal feelings have been building.

Today, the oatmeal dissent broke out in a full fledged breakfast rebellion.

The instant the kids realized what had been served in their breakfast bowls, they started crying. The leaders of the rebellion had even recruited the baby to their side. My normally good little eaters quickly shifted momentum and waged a full scale protest and revolt.  It started with tears and refusals to eat.  It escalated to ear piercing shrieks and declarations of HATRED for the disgusting trash that oatmeal is.  I tried to appease them.  There is coconut oil in it, I cajoled.  I can add more vanilla soy milk, I promised.  Oatmeal ended up on the floor.  Oatmeal ended up on the table.  Oatmeal ended up on me.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Today I am thinking of Spring.  I am thinking of sunshine and flowers.  I am thinking of green and purple and pink.  I am thinking of days spent outdoors, the smell of grass, and baskets of fresh picked flowers. I am ignoring the cold wind and forecasts of snow.  I am comforting a sick child and rubbing my tired eyes after a night of no sleep.  And I am thinking of Spring.
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