Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Actually Read in January

I only planned on reading four books, but January offered more good reads than I could resist.  Plus, everything on my library holds' list came in at once.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist:  This book was on my list for January, but I finished it at the end of December.  It was too good to put down.  Niequist pretty much nailed everything from food to community to loss to hope.  The recipes she included were either gluten-free or could be made that way easily.  This book made me gain five pounds, but it was worth it.

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb:  This novel about an autistic adult longing for home took me through every possible emotion.  Hopeful, funny, heartbreaking.  The topic is relevant and the tone was perfect.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King:  As D promised, this book did not give me nightmares.  King offered suspense and possibly supernatural happenings, and it was enjoyable.  It wasn't It, thank God for small favors.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola:  Hepola takes readers through her many years of heavy drinking that led to blackouts, hours of her life she cannot remember.  Despite the subject matter, there are moments of absolute hilarity.  They are needed because many things that were done by Hepola and to her are breathtakingly awful.  As our society stumbles through what it means to exist within rape culture, while toying with the idea that empowerment equals the right to give up all control, Hepola's book is a thought provoking read about the hefty costs of our choices, as well as an ode to all the good people out there who try to save us from ourselves.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg:  Oh, Garth Risk Hallberg.  I will say it is not a good idea if you are attempting to finish writing your first novel to pick up Hallberg's first book.  The urge to set all my words on fire and then eat tubs of ice cream was strong as I read Hallberg's novel about New York around the blackout of 1977.  It's a robust 900 pages, but worth the time.

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker:  Actress Mary-Louise Parker is one of those rare talents who is up to almost any artistic task, including writing.  This memoir written as letters was beautiful.  Her words are lyrical, her stories memorable, and her voice unique.  I hugged this book before returning it to the library.  Warning:  if you are weirded out reading about sex or nudist hippies who wear loin cloths, get ready to clutch your pearls.  It's worth it to get to the meat, excuse the pun, if I made one.  I'm not sure.  I've never really come up with witty sex jokes.  Moving on.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh:  For sure a book I would have never picked up if it hadn't been on my BookPage list.  The author did a great job of offering a first person fictitious account of a young woman with some issues.  It was freaky.  I can't say I don't recommend it and I can't say I do.  Great writing, not particularly my preferred subject matter.  About halfway in I was actually scared to leave my house so sure was I that every person I would meet would be a sociopath.  So there's that to help make your decision easier.

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo:  This is the follow up to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it could not have come at a more perfect time.  I'm in the middle of the purging part of my tidying process, and it's intense and easy to burn out.  This book reminded me about choosing joy and gives some great tips on how to organize and store when the time comes for that.

I planned on reading The Twelve, the sequel to the popular vampire novel, The Passage, but I decided not to.  The last book in the trilogy comes out in May, so I am going to read The Twelve closer to then so I will be fresh on all my details.

February is a short month, but I already have at least five books on the list.  Plus, I have started a board on Pinterest simply titled books.  I think this is what's called obsession.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not My Jam

When Wren was an infant, I would sometimes stumble across essays written by moms who were finding the demands of raising a baby overwhelming.  These pieces were honest and raw, and I did not understand them at all.  I was one of those rare creatures who, despite being used as a 24/7 jersey cow and never sleeping, really enjoyed the baby phase.  Babies make me swoon.  I kind of want to eat them.

Of course I can look back and see all the sacrifice the infant stage requires, and I am so totally out of that phase so it doesn't look as bad through the fog my brain has created to make the unbearable parts fuzzy.  But I liked my Moby wrap and milk drunk faces.  I liked feet so small they didn't seem real and gummy mouths.  I didn't love not writing for years, but I expected that to happen so I was mentally prepared.

I am also finding I like school aged kids.  Wren and Sam are maybe the funniest people in the world. Before bed every night we sing a song called "Shiny Heiny" and we spent a large portion of time at the library this week picking out books about farts.  We are doing activities on probability and we read everything we can get our hands on.  I have an entire unit planned on time travel when they are a bit older that has us reading A Wrinkle in Time and Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, and I think about the joy the idea of this unit gives me a lot.

But here's the truth:  toddlers are not my jam.  This has been true with every child in this household.  It's not that I stop loving them when they are toddlers.  I just don't love this stage.  It's like living with pint-sized belligerent drunks who pee in the floor daily.  They are so angry.  A plastic spork from Ikea disappeared from the silverware drawer several days ago, and I have searched to make sure the twins did not hide it under their mattress.  I fear one day when they ask for water and I bring them water, and then they decide they wanted milk and this is somehow my fault for not predicting what they would think, they are going to shank me with that spork.

It's taken me a while to come to terms with not loving every single second of parenting.  I had so much guilt about it for so long.  I didn't realize you could love your kids, value your kids, invest time in your kids and still have issues enjoying the phase.  I truly feel joy in my heart for my life, and I wouldn't trade it.  I've never regretted having kids.  But it's fair to say I do not love being yelled at by two-year-olds.  I don't love going to the library or grocery store or park and having the smallest people in the family exercise the largest amount of pull over how long we can stay.  I don't love the sporadic sleep regression or the WWF style fighting two toddlers of the same age participate in.  I'm over the biting, man.

And that's okay.  It doesn't make me a bad mom.  It just makes me what all those other moms were when they admitted to not loving the baby phase: honest.  Unflinchingly, not-afraid-to-be-judged honest.  So if you see me for the next year and a half and I look like I am both enjoying momming it while simultaneously looking as if I need a drink, it's the phase.  It's okay.  I'm a toddler mom, and a school age mom, and a boy mom, and a girl mom, and a twin mom.  Just a mom. We're all going through our phases.  

Monday, January 18, 2016


I used to dread January.  The beginning of January was okay with the resolution setting and the clean slate of a new year.  However, it was the middle, the slump, that got me.  It was where all the heroic efforts that were going to go into keeping all those resolutions puttered out and I was left with the reality that I was just me, flaws and all, even when the calendar turned to a new year.  I am the lover of BIG, MAJOR overhauls.  The tiny steps it takes to make the big major overhauls?  I haven't always been a fan.

This January's different, not because my life is so different.  I'm still a messy mom of littles who checks out 25 books from the library at a time and writes down new goals almost every single day, though no extra hours seem to be slipping in for me to accomplish them.  I still putter out.  But now I appreciate the seasons.  I see the small steps, the every-day-nobody-probably-even-notices-but-me steps for what they are: the way for the big, major overhauls to happen.  I also view setbacks not as a slap in the face but as a chance to figure out what I need to do differently.  I appreciate rest.  I eat healthfully but love my lattes.  I feel balanced.  January may be starting to agree with me.

This is a picture of one very small corner of my kitchen yesterday.

Here's some background:  We had four sick kids from last Monday until now, two with upper respiratory infections, two with ear infections.  We also scored a nebulizer when Sam's inhaler wasn't cutting it.  It was a rough, sleep deprived week with three doctors' visits and a ton of money dropped at both the pharmacy and the health food store.

I emerged from my stupor yesterday to see that my resolution of continuing to tidy was not being accomplished.  My house looked like the under 8 crowd had thrown a frat party, complete with them sleeping in the floor when they puttered out and stopped coughing.  Most days this would have killed me.  I'm always doing laundry and dishes, cooking and vacuuming.  For what?  I would have thought. But yesterday I picked one place, one small section, and I cleaned it.  It took five minutes and the rest of the house was still a wreck, but it reset me mentally and reminded me that if I took care of the little things every day, it would all add up, eventually.  Every little kiss, every time I choose to look my kids in the eyes and listen instead of snap at them, every embrace in the hallway, every prayer, every thank you, every real conversation, they add up to life.  The resolutions keep me on course, but the small daily activities, including my reactions to the off course events, are what make a life.  

I'm reading about how to plant a garden and waiting for spring, but not in the desperate way I usually do.  Winter is not suffocating me.  Despite the cold temperatures and the short days, God is making me grow.

Breathing treatments kept us out of Children's.  Thank God
for nebulizers!

Sick cuddles are nice!  Asher showing her belly.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fermenting for the New Year

I did not know how to cook much of anything that didn't come from a box, can, or bag until after Wren was diagnosed with Celiac.  I'm by no means a gourmet chef now, but I've come a long way and am prepared to tackle a new task in the kitchen:  fermenting.  At first I was afraid to attempt anything that did not have exact directions and required the ability to smell to know if it was going poorly (I haven't been able to smell anything in 23 years.).  But I got brave a couple of months ago and fermented some lemonade using this recipe.  The whole experience confirmed my worst fears.  D and I enjoyed a glass after the kids went to bed and discovered the taste was fine.  However, the alcohol content was most definitely off.  D looked at me after half a glass and said, "I can't feel my lips.  Is that what fermented drinks do?"

"I don't think they are supposed to do that, but I am having trouble gripping the handle on the fridge, so I think that's what THIS fermented drink does," I replied.

I reread the directions and confirmed the alcohol content should have been so small it was practically non-existent.  Somewhere along the way, I screwed up.  Since the point was to have the kids drink it as well, especially Wren since correctly fermented items would help her gut, the whole batch was no longer of use.  D and I aren't big drinkers, and anything than can numb half of D's face after half a cup is way too strong.  He doesn't drink much but he still has a high tolerance, so his giggles over nothing as the night went on finally pushed me to pour the whole batch down the sink.  

The reason I'm coming back to fermenting now is twofold:  there really isn't any denying the advantages of fermented food, especially for people with compromised guts.  The other reason, the one I'm most excited about, is to shift our focus from out to in.  For most of our Celiac life, we have been taking food out, sometimes getting rid of entire food groups.  It's been all about what has to go.  That attitude over a long period of time is defeating.  This year we're attempting to shift the focus from the can't haves to the can haves.  We can totally have fermented yogurt.  We can get down with some kombucha.  We can eat some slaw with prebiotics built in.  

To prepare for this adventure, I'm learning about scobies, pulling recipes from Pinterest, and googling "can fermented anything get you too wasted to change a diaper?"  I will let you know when we have success and share any secrets I discover.  I will for sure let you know when I screw it up, and I'll tell you how to avoid it if I can figure that out myself.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolving: The Abbreviated Version

My Erin Condren planner is full of stickers and dates, a multicolored book of expectations and obligations.  I have 12 different main goal categories and subcategories beneath each one.  Then I have the action plans to help me accomplish all the goals on the list.  This works for me because I am very good at the big picture idea and bad at the little detailed steps necessary for making the big ideas the reality.  I have to write down the big plan then make myself figure out how, if I want to finish a novel or make sure Sam can read by the end of the year, I'm going to prioritize with the 24 hours I have a day.

However, I want a place to keep the simplicity of what I want to accomplish in each area visible.  I want the guts, the true reason, the big pay off to be there when I get tangled up in the mess of the details, which I always do.  So here are my categories, here are my big picture goals:

"I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze."  Donald Miller from Blue Like Jazz

Remember not to just look for God when I'm doing the Jesus things.  He's everywhere.

Fall in love again every day.

Instruct less, show with my actions more.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."  William Butler Yeats
Remember this when I teach my children.
Serve God and others in every way He calls me to.

Make sure money is spent responsibly on items we need bought from companies we trust.

Keep less things to enjoy more time.

Community Involvement
Interact responsibly to help where I am.

Pursue passion.

Listen and know each loved one enough to know what their idea of a perfect gift or perfect day would be.

Love, adore, and care for the body I have.

Home Improvements
Care for what we've already been given.

When I forget, when I get caught up in the demands of the every day, I'll come back here and look at what I really want.  I'll remember the goal is to make all of this habit, the way I live regularly.  I'll remember why the details and all the little steps are there.  They're stepping stones leading me to the place I want to dwell.