Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bad Photo, Good Subject

This horse's name is Deuce, but Beep says it "Juice."  When she tries to say juice (as in apple), it comes out "Deuce."

Ask her what horses eat, and she'll tell you "Hay."
Ask her what deer eat, and she'll tell you "Corn."
Ask her what cows eat, and she'll tell you "Cows."

Deuce is juice, juice is deuce, and cows are cannibals.

Life is a mystery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

These Little Bruises

I learned a phrase in high school French class that means "these little bruises."  I remember it as les onges petits.  Except it turns out that may not mean what I think it means (or anything at all) because I can't verify it online.

And anything not verifiable online is definitely not true.

The phrase came to mind a few weeks ago while I held my crying baby. I had just firmly told her no to something little- a small misbehavior, a whiny demand, or some such little thing.  It was the kind of misdemeanor I can't even remember anymore just a short time later.  I won't soon forget, though, the way her eyes cast down, her lip turned out, and those small, almond-shaped eyes filled with tears.

One look told me she wasn't playing the situation, she was genuinely hurt.  My baby is an old soul, and a kind one, and she is gentle to those around her and sensitive to small things.  I love that about her.

I'm relatively new to motherhood, but not to discipline or judgment calls.  Consistency comes easily to me and Cabbage, and our child and our animals live with clear behavioral boundaries and expectations they are taught to understand.  With my child, as with the many horses in my life, I've learned that sometimes I need to hold the line, force the issue, and harden my heart.  Winning the small battles means there may not be a war.  Other times, though, there is no battle; there is just another soul to understand, another method that should be tried, another path that would be better to take.

These judgment calls are never-ending with my baby, and they're the most important ones I've ever made.  I want to be her parent, her guide, and eventually her friend.  I need to be her disciplinarian, her rule-setter, and her enforcer.  I don't want her to someday face an addiction, a bad relationship, or a dangerous situation without knowing what she can do and to whom she can turn.  And yes, I think all these little daily interactions absolutely lay the foundation for those larger life decisions.

I weigh all those things every time I make a decision affecting her, and I do my best to make them mindfully.  That's why I looked down at Beep, her tears spilling over, and my breath caught in my throat.  I picked her up, held her close, and soothed her.  I didn't need to make my point that time, I needed to love her sensitive, generous, big, wide-open heart. 

"Les onges petits?" I asked her.  These little bruises?

"Yeah," she sniffed in her little voice.

"I love you, Baby.  Hold Mama." 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Driving Under the Influence (of babies)

While I am buried up to my eyeballs in work, this is a guest post courtesy of my friend, Kirsten, who gave birth to twin girls last year, and has two teenagers as well.  Thanks, Kirsten!

As I write this, my 16 year old son is taking his driving test. Be afraid, be very afraid.

With two teenage sons, I applaud the changes in the driving laws that have come into effect since I got my driver’s license back in 19diggity2, such as, for the first year you are not permitted to drive with any other people in the car unless there is someone over 20 among them. However, in the interest of keeping our roads safe for everyone, there is another change in the law that I would like to propose: Screw drinking and driving or texting and driving! No parent with a child at home (or in my case twins) under the age of one should be allowed to operate a motor vehicle. Let me explain.

Like many of us, I consider myself to be a responsible, considerate person and an upstanding, law-abiding citizen. When I was pregnant, I hired a safety expert to help install my car seats and make my already ultra-safe Volvo, even safer for my family. Even so, the fact remains that I am perpetually exhausted from the lack of sleep and other demands of caring for 9 month old twin babies so, unfortunately, nothing she did to make my car safe could have prevented me from ALMOST KILLING A DUDE while I was driving.

Last Thursday as I’m driving out of the parking lot of Our Lady of Perpetual DoGoodery church where I attend my weekly sanity-saving mommy group, I was thinking about how long I would need to drive around to keep my babies napping (desperate measures people!).  I watched the oncoming traffic while waiting to make a left turn and as soon as there was an opening I zoomed through the intersection. Suddenly, I saw a man in the crosswalk  - having appeared from nowhere I swear! - and I slammed on my brakes, nearly hitting him. Wearing a long black trench, sunglasses and smoking a cigarette, the rather severe looking man stopped walking, and slowly, menacingly, he turned and raised in arms up in the universal “What the F**k?!” position and just stood there staring at me while I held up traffic. Then with one hand he flipped me the bird and with the other - an even greater insult - he flicked his cigarette ashes toward me and walked on. 

Not being in a position to even try to pretend I wasn’t at fault, I yelled pathetically out my window “I’M SOOOO SORRY SIR!” and drove on withering in shame. Seeing as this incident occurred right in front of the city’s police department and court house I was doubly mortified and mentally flogging myself. My thoughts were racing with visions of myself in a very unflattering prison jumpsuit doing hard time for killing Trench-Coat Guy as my twins grew up without a mother.

So the moral of the story is...oh hell I don’t know. I’m too tired to write any more.

This is the view out of my kitchen window. I can only assume I would not have nearly as nice a view from Cell Block A."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dreaming Big

You guys... I am absolutely buried in work.  I'm talking at work by 5am, working till 9pm or later, every day of the week.  That is why as you may have noticed (hi, Mom!) I'm posting less often.  Please bear with me.  I'll be back full-speed soon.

Here's a thought for you in the meantime.  It's the only, singular thought I have left in my very tired, wrung-out brain.

While driving around work last night, I looked around and realized I made my childhood dreams come true. 

Once, I was a horse-crazy little girl and after many years and working hard every day, now I have a fine job in the horse industry working for an outstanding company.  That singular moment of clarity, of having done something great for myself and with my dreams, was a good moment.  It was like an out-of-body experience to see where I came from and where I am now. 

Wow, I thought.  I did it.

And then I realized my feet ached beyond belief, I was dog-tired, and I'd barely seen my family in a month. 

But it was still a good moment.

What were your childhood dreams?  What do you dream about today?  Do you ever have those out-of-body experiences giving you a perspective on where you've come from?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Zipper Pouches

I put together a little present for a good friend, and was lucky enough to stumble across this great little zipper pouch in the gift store.  Use it as gift wrap, and that means no paper, tape, or ribbons are needed.  Plus, you'll have the cutest-looking present on any gift table.

Fully reusable, this little "Par Avion" (airmail) bag is made out of 95% post-consumer recycled material.  I bought it at a local store, but also found it online here.  They're under $6, which makes them about the same price as a disposable gift bag and other wrappings... but this one is more eco-friendly from start to finish.

It was also just the right size to hold a little necklace, a journal, and a set of pretty note cards.


[this post wasn't sponsored, I just really liked these little bags...]

Monday, February 6, 2012

Date-Filled Oatmeal Cookies

Let's make cookies.  Whaddya say?

These are old-school cookies.  They were my grandmother's recipe, and to this day they're my dad's favorite.  They require rolling out, and making filling, so compared to drop cookies they take a little more time... but the end result is so worth it.

That's something my grandma was good at: waiting for things to unfold.  From my memories, limited to the first 9 years of my life before she died, she was good, and kind, and loving, and incredibly patient. 

When she smiled, the world lit up.  When she hugged me, and said "There's my girl," I knew I was the most special, most loved, most cherished child in the world.

When I asked her how much she weighed, and she gently said "You don't ask a lady her weight," I inferred there was a difference between a woman and a lady, and categorized Grandma as a lady of the highest order.  I never asked her again.

My mother was just 30, and I was only a baby, when her own parents were killed by a drunk driver.  Mom loved her mother-in-law so much that she allowed her to help fill the void left by their sudden passing.  And Grandma helped my mother, and even "adopted" my mom's sister and called her "my other daughter-in-law."  I wonder how Grandma knew what to do to give them comfort in that dark time.  She did, though.  That's the kind of person Grandma was. 

She was Midwestern to her core; she loved well, worked hard, laughed often, put her family first, lived simply.  As my dad says of his mother "She was so smart.  God, she was smart."  She raised four outstanding children who proved capable of great successes.

My mom sometimes tells the story of confiding in my grandma that she was concerned about my quiet ways, which was an oddity in a family as boisterous as ours.  As Mom tells the story, Grandma just smiled and said "Still waters run deep."

I still send thanks to her for that.  My mom was able to give me the space to become myself, and I have to think she did so gracefully in some small measure because she was reassured by Grandma's simple phrase, revealing an insight as broad and high as the sky.

And just in case you were wondering how that turned out, now I am as loud and outspoken as everyone else in my family.  Almost.  Nobody beats my sister. (Love you, Bhan!) 

For all those reasons, and a million more, Cabbage and I named our beautiful daughter after my grandmother.  

I'm not asking you to name your firstborn after her, but I do think you should make her cookies.  You'll definitely enjoy their flaky pastry crust and the sweet, soft fruit filling.  They're made of simple ingredients, take a little time and care, and come from the files of one of the best people to ever grace this green earth.  

Listen.  Just make 'em next time you want something akin to an oatmeal cookie. 

They're Date-Filled Oatmeal Cookies.

Start your filling on the stove, then measure some dry ingredients, mix, and cut in butter.

Roll out and cut the dough...

Spoon on the filling and cover with more dough.

Bake and eat.

Hmmm... that wasn't so hard after all. And they're so, so good.  They'd have to be, or they wouldn't have been Grandma's.
Date-Filled Oatmeal Cookies
1 c sugar
1 pkg pitted dates, chopped
1 c water
1/2 t vanilla

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c quick-cook oatmeal
1 c brown sugar
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
4 T milk
3/4 c shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, dates and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and dates are very soft.  Cool and add vanilla. 

Meanwhile, make cookie dough by mixing dry ingredients, then add milk.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in shortening.  Add more milk 1 T at a time to get a workable dough.  On a heavily floured board, roll dough flat.  Flour the rim of a cookie cutter or drinking glass and cut dough into circles.  Using a floured spatula, carefully move dough to an ungreased cookie sheet.  Place 1 t of filling on each circle of dough, fold over (for a round cookie, place another circle of dough on top).  Using your fingers or a fork, press the sides to seal.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool several minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!