Archive | December 2012

50 Simple Party Appetizers: (Mostly) Kid Friendly and Real Food

image by Alice Carrier

image by Alice Carrier

I’ve been working on this list for a while and I’m super-excited about it! I was actually working on it last night when a squirrel jumped out of our fireplace on our Christmas tree. So I put a hold on publishing this post because, hello, a squirrel jumped out of our fireplace onto our tree!

But back the appetizers.

If I were having my last meal, I’d have appetizers. Which would be sort of like cheating, because you would get to have so many meals at once! Appetizers are pretty much my favorite thing about parties these days. That, and getting to wear real shoes, as opposed to slippers, which I normally wear.

And ’tis the season for these tasty little bites! We’ve already had them for Christmas Eve, we’ll have them again for New Year’s Eve, and then again for the Super Bowl!

*Disclaimer. Appetizer parties are the one basic exception to The Diet Everyone Should Be On. I try greatly to avoid processed foods, but appetizers are my every-once-in-a-while occasion. So don’t judge me by a stray hydrogenated oil today. The one thing I do avoid consuming at all costs is MSG (because it gives me a horrible headache), and food dyes (because they make my kids crazy).

**Another disclaimer. Some of these are pretty basic. So don’t judge me. Actually, go ahead…I know I’m not Giada! (Although…one time someone told me I looked like her. Which I treasured up in my heart forever.)

Anyways, without further ado, The Appetizers! Except for a few exceptions, if I haven’t made it, I’ve tasted it (or something similar). Which is kind of embarrassing, now that I think about it. That’s a lot of appetizers for a 31-year-old.

Allergy-Friendly  (no egg, dairy, wheat, and nuts)

What A Man Wants

Kid-at-Heart

Simple

Restaurant-quality

A Christmas Surprise (or, what Todd hunted in the house)

When I was in college, these two guys did a funny skit making fun of all the squirrels around campus. At the time I thought it was kind of mean. Squirrels aren’t that awful, I thought. It’s not their fault there is 250 of them for every eligible tree in North America. They’re just misunderstood, I thought.

Until today.

Certain events have transpired in the Smartt household that, were I not to witness them myself, I would surely never, ever believe.

It started like this. Yesterday our heat went out. Of course, the boys and I escaped our frigid 54-degree house to my parents. That afternoon, I got the following message from my husband:

“Waiting on guy to fix the furnace. I am currently trying to kill a squirrel that is in our chimney. With a broadhead arrow. This can only end one way. Dead squirrel.”

I guess I should be alarmed or fazed or surprised to receive texts like these, but I know my husband. I know that he hasn’t done anything resembling hunting in about ten years, and I know the crazy glimmer that gets in his eyes when he hears a mousetrap click and runs to check his prey. So I sort of expect this kind of thing every once in a while.

We arrived home that night to a working heater, but an empty-handed husband.

“He’s still in there. I opened up the fireplace to see if it was working, and he was staring in my face. I tried to get some weapons to try to attack him. But a bow was the only thing that would fit. I did ask Dan (our brother-in-law) if he had a BB gun. But I realized I couldn’t get to him. So I guess he’s still in there.”

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For an hour or so, our family enjoyed our new (to us) cozy, warm fire. It was a really special time. Sam and Ty were cozied up right next to the mantle, laughing, hugging, and singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” (more or less).

A little while later, I was relaxing on the big red chair next to the fire, when I heard some rustling noises coming from the chimney. I started to say, “Todd, I think he’s still up the–”

When All Of A Sudden.

Folks. I kid you not. I heard a loud, clanging crash like someone was smashing all the windows with baseball bats, and then saw, out the corner of my eye (but dangerously, horribly, terrifyingly close to my chair) I saw A HUGE FAT GRAY SQUIRREL LEAP FROM THE FIREPLACE INTO OUR CHRISTMAS TREE.

“Todd!!! Todd!! AHH! AHH!! HE’S IN THE HOUSE!!!” I leaped from the chair and the living room, like I was sprinting over burning coals.

Not that I needed to make that much commotion, because it was clear to both Todd, and Sam (who unfortunately had not yet retired to bed and was receiving the most interesting wildlife lesson he’d ever seen), that there was, indeed, a squirrel frantically jumping from branch to decorated branch of our brightly lit Christmas tree. The same Christmas tree, mind you, that has already fallen over twice, and is currently secured by lines of fishing wire.

Well, the squirrel kept making frantic laps around the tree, obviously a bit confused by this glittery domestic version of his habitat.

Todd jumped into action. “Quick! Get Sam upstairs!”

My hunter/husband and I made eye contact for the briefest of seconds, and I saw in his eyes, not fear, or alarm, or even surprise, but joy. Sheer, exhilarating joy.

He was a man. A hunter. He would catch this squirrel.

Sam and I escaped to the upstairs hallway to view the action from the banister. I sort of felt bad that Sam couldn’t see, so I pulled him over a chair.032

In the meantime Todd had acquired, in lightning speed, a few tools for the hunt: some rubber-lined gloves, a rake, and a fishing net. I was a little surprised by this combination, but what do I know about catching squirrels. Then he started eying up the tree.

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Todd prepares to lasso a squirrel by its tail.

“WHAT THE HECK are you going to do??” I shrieked. “HOW IN THE WORLD ARE WE GOING TO CATCH HIM???” (I am extremely good in crisis situations.)

At this point our worst fears came true.

The squirrel leaped out of the tree and started running all around the house.

Yes, there was a squirrel (rabid, poisonous, or vicious, for all I know) making laps past our TV, jumping on our sofa, parading around on top of my children’s blocks and toy cars. And my husband, chasing him with a rake and net.

It was chaos.

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I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, but a few minutes later, there was silence.

Scary, deafening silence, like after a tornado ravages the landscape.

“Todd? Are you telling me…we don’t know where he is?”

“Um. I think he ran out the door.”

“You think??? Are you sure??”

It did seem that the squirrel had escaped, but if he did, he would remember us forever. Todd had proof. He walked over to me, a gloating smirk on his face, holding…something. What is that? Oh…the tail.

The squirrel’s tail, guys. My husband ripped a tail off of a squirrel, in our own home.

As if I needed more proof, we surveyed the wreckage, and found a bunch of tree bristles, a broken ornament (sniff, sniff), AND, BLOOD STAINS!!! From a squirrel! In my house!

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I know, right?!?!

Chaos mostly ended, Todd and I retired to our independent tasks. Todd, to wipe up blood stains; me, to put Sam to bed, answering nothing short of 57 questions about who the squirrel was, where he lived, why he was in the chimney, where he was now, etc. etc. Fortunately Sam has not discovered that this creature is running around without a tail.

Yet, that is. When I came downstairs, Todd was holding the tail, proudly, like a rack of deer antlers, and asked me for a plastic bag. No, a clear one, he demands. So I can show people.

I’m not sure where the tail is right now. I think Todd has sequestered it in his truck to take to show off to all his friends at work. As he should, really. Now, if he wants to mount it, I might draw a line. (Even if it was a highly memorable night.)

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Why Everyone Needs a Planning Day (and suggestions of how to spend it)

My friend Brandi does not share my enthusiasm for planning. Last year when I told her that I was having a “planning day” for the new year, she said, “Ugh!! Yuck! I’d hate that!!” in about the same tone as if I told her I’d served lizard for breakfast.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. I heard of it here at Keeper of the Home from Erin at the Humbled Homemaker. She calls hers a “New Year’s Planning Retreat,” which sounds a little more mountain cabin-y and cozy, and less teacher-work-day than my “planning day.” But whatever floats your boat. 🙂

Having tried it, and now, a year later, I still think it’s a brilliant idea. Here’s why:

  • You get to get out of the house, and to cuddle a nice, warm drink. Not a cold drink, not a re-heated drink, but a real, live, first-time around-hot drink. ahhhh… And maybe even a muffin! Or a ciabatta!
  • If you have children, your husband gets to experience what it’s like to be mom for three hours. (He’ll kiss your feet when you’re home, your children will kiss your feet, and all members will have a new appreciation for their individual daily routines.)
  • You can complete a list, a book, heck, even a thought, without being interrupted by nagging household chores or someone’s bowel movements. (Unless they’re yours. Just being real yo.)
  • You can think, and pray, and plan. Which is something everyone needs to do!
 What person wouldn’t benefit from an hour or two to think about the upcoming year, with time to make a few goals or wishes?

We all would! Working women, moms-to-be, full-time businessmen (hint, hint, Dad and Todd!), overwhelmed and nursing new moms, grandmas, pastors, whoever! That verse about not having a vision and failing…it’s right!

Why I Need It

Sometimes I just feel like a gerbil, on a wheel, racing and about to die of a heart attack like my sister’s hamster, Chip. Maybe not quite that bad.

But it’s like life just keeps going, and going, and I’d love a chance to stop and catch my breath. To think about what’s working in my life (that might be brief) and what isn’t. To ask God what he wants for us. To make a schedule and adopt a routine.

I do realize, though, that not all of you get giddy and have heart palpitations when you hear the word “goal-setting.” If you’re not like me, I have taken the liberty of given you the briefest of outlines (because I know you types aren’t excited about outlines, either…freaks! jk.) for what you can do on this planning day:

coffee shop

photo by Carlos Paes

If you’re not a planner…

  • Go somewhere different and pleasant for you. A friend’s warm sun room (I’m thinking an older friend, without kids, ya know?), Panera, a coffee shop, a mountain cabin, whatever!
  • When you sit down, ask God to be with you in your time. Thank Him for one thing about this year. Then tell him something else that disappointed or worries you.
  • Next, spend at least ten minutes thinking about what you’d love to do in the next year. Bonus points if you write them down. When the ten minutes are up, buy yourself a strudel as a treat for being so orderly.
  • Choose one item from the next list that SORT OF interests you, and think about that one, too.

The Thinks You Can Think

Now, if you are a “planning-type,” you have a kindred spirit here! Since I know you will be counting down the days to your planning day (and, dare I say, planning for your planning day) here are some options for your to consider for how you could use this time:

  • Roles and goals. We did this when I was a Young Life leader in college, and I still remember, because it was  so helpful. You list out your various roles in life (for me: household, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, church member, neighbor, blogger, organizer of finances, etc. etc.) Then you jot down two or three things you’d like to do or change for the next year.
  • Year verse/mission statement. Spend some time locating and meditating on a passage that’s *yours* for the next year. If you’re artsy, make a cute little card to place on the fridge.
  • Write down the names of the people closest to you. Think about each person. How can you serve him? What does she need? How could you pray for that person this year?
  • Create a schedule! (another fun, fun word for us nerds!) Perhaps your life needs a cleaning schedule, or a meal plan, or routine for your kids! You could use this time to “catch up” on things like this you’ve been needing in your life.
  • Spend some time reading a book. Not just any book, but a motivating and helpful one. For me, I’d read this new one by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae, or this one about homeschooling, or this one about childbirth. Not that I’m pregnant. Future reference. 🙂
  • Let your mind be blank, and wander a bit, and listen to the Lord. This one is a little scary-sounding. Weird, even. But I know at least in my life stage, I don’t often spend time listening to the Lord. Maybe he has something he’d like to tell you!

the one where Sam throws up on me

You won’t even believe me when I tell you what time the boys woke up this morning. Eight. Fif. Teen. (!!!) 8:15, people!!

Todd and I both enjoyed a late wake-up, because of a long, ongoing discussion we’ve been having. The argument concerns whether we’d prefer to wake up gradually (like, say, over a span of one and a half hours, with smoke detector-like beeps every nine minutes or so to keep us from really settling into deep slumber), or – brace yourself for this crazy idea – at the actual time one of us needs to get up. This particular morning, I’m pretty sure I threatened Todd with his life if he continued these shenanigans of snoozing again and again. So he just turned the alarm off at 5:30, and both of us gloriously overslept like we were livin’ it up on a luxury vacation.

Which we are, basically.

Anyway, when I got the boys up, the three of us climbed onto our cozy green rocking chair together and started to rock. We do this everyday, for at least fifteen wonderful seconds, and then Sam starts giggling (not in a cute way, but like a seventh-grade-boy-being-naughty-in-church-way) and Ty asks repeatedly for a stuffed animal jammed between the crib rails and starts squirming down, and Sam bonks his head against Ty’s on “accident,” and I sort of begin gritting my teeth as I’m singing Jesus Loves Me. That’s how it usually goes.

But today, this particular morning, I realized that I had gotten through a complete verse of the song with both children still nestled close and still beside me. Oh, this is nice, I thought, I just love being a mom.

They were so calm, and precious, that I was just about to begin a new hymn, when…I heard gagging beside me.

And then, well, you know.

Blech. And blech, and blech, and blech again. It was a doozy. We all sat there stunned. Ty got down and said, “What Sam doing Mommy?” in a sing-song kind of voice.

I can’t explain how I feel when someone throws up without sounding crazy. Something inside me just jumps into business mode. Like when there’s an international crisis and the President calls his cabinet in the oval office for a brainstorm.

I get this wave of adrenaline, and start wiping faces, and administering sips of water, and Lysol-ing surfaces and disinfecting clothing. It’s almost…fun. {I know, crazy.}

Anyways, this particular stomach bug was a really odd. I think I scared it with my aggression. Soon, Sam was asking for breakfast, and by 10:30 had eaten a bowl of oatmeal, two sausage links, a banana, a chicken patty, and an orange.

All of which I fought desperately to resist picturing in regurgitated form.

So the day, again, took an odd twist when at 12:15, I found myself riding a bike, pulling two kids in a wagon behind me (one with a bizarre stomach bug), in the semi-rain around the neighborhood, four days before Christmas. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

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Here we are!

Anyone driven one of these? You feel like an ox plowing the fields. No, literally. It is the physical equivalent of reaping the harvests with a yoke around your loins. I don’t know if yokes go around loins, but that just sounded right.

The boys love it. They squeal and put their hands up like they’re on a roller coaster.

And Sam does what he always does when he’s happy…he talks, and asks a million questions.

At first, it was super-cute. Mommy, are we going SO fast? Mommy, how do you go so fast? Mom, is this fun? And other things that made me feel a little more like an awesome triathlete and less like an ox.

But today, I was just tired. I was trying to be a good sport, but truly, I felt like I was the one that had had the stomach bug. (How is that??) Plus, it’s embarrassing. I’m wearing a helmet, dressed in total  “mom-wear” sweatshirt and waist-riding yoga pants. And, to top it off, I’m not strong enough to pedal the wagon all the way up the hills, so I have to walk beside my bike looking like a big giant wimp of a dweeb. Obviously I am a dweeb, because I just used that word. Dweeb. Dweeb. Who says that.

Anyways.

Here are a sampling of the questions that I received, and attempted to answer, during this humiliating and physically exerting workout:

  • Mom, was that the garbage man?
  • Mom, why are those dogs barking?
  • Mom, why are we going up this hill?
  • Mom, why do you stand up like that?
  • Mom, Ty keeps sticking his hands out. Can you make him put them back in?
  • Mom, how did you learn how to ride this bike?
  • Mom, what is it called when you stand up on the bike?
  • Mom is it called balancing? Is that what you’re doing?
  • Mom, how do you ride that bike?
  • (Sam, I’m working really hard here. I can’t answer anymore questions. Ask Ty questions.)
  • Ty, how do you ride that bike? (Silence.) Mom, he didn’t know. Mom, I’m going to have to ask you the questions.
  • Why do our heads go back and forth when you go slow?
  • Mom, why are you going slow? (x3, over and over, louder and louder, until I answer that I am working as hard as I can.)
  • Mom, why did you step off the bike mom?
  • Mom, is it hard work? What would happen if you didn’t step off the bike?

See, that is the thing about motherhood. You can call it a lot of things, but you can’t call it predictable. You never know when you wake up in the morning what the day will hold. Maybe you’ll be scraping puke off a fuzzy green cushion! Maybe you’ll be undergoing a domestic version of the Inquisition while pedaling your hiney off around the neighborhood! Maybe you’ll do both! It’s an adventure!!

In the meantime, as far as our household is concerned, Todd and I have disinfected our sheets and are giving ourselves probiotics in IV-form. Stay tuned to find out how this bug manifests itself in adult form! Be sure to subscribe to updates so you don’t miss this one!

 

 

 

 

Quick and Easy Stovetop Baked Apples (and eight ways to use them!)

Before I start on the baked apples, let’s talk about husbands.

I have learned a few things about the husband species in the last five years. I’d venture to say I’m even an expert. Don’t tell Todd, though. He gets uncomfortable when he thinks people have him figured out.

Anyways, here are some things about husbands.

  1. You will use up more bar soap, toothpaste, and hot sauce than you ever, ever thought was possible in a household when you have one.
  2. Husbands are way happier when they have “adventures.” It’s not cool to call them “adventures,” though. They masquerade as trips to “get some light bulbs,” “pick up a milkshake,” and “look at prices of ______ “(fill in the blank with any random object). Basically, husbands are roamers, and hunters. They do not like to be kept as domestic pets. They must get out, and be free, and roam around. It is best to let them.
  3. Husbands love to give compliments, but sometimes they need prompting.

Today, for instance, I called out: “Todd, come in here and see how frugal and wonderful I am. See, I didn’t want to buy berries this week for oatmeal, so I’m baking up these delicious apples to give the boys for breakfast. Aren’t I amazing? Aren’t you so glad you married me?”

Todd fervently agreed that he did, in fact, have excellent taste in selecting a spouse. Although he thought I needed to work on humility.

Whatever.

Anyway, if you’ve got a few apples lying around, you, too, can be woman of the year by whipping them into amazing-ness. Now is the perfect time, when they are so cheap!

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Here are the things you need:

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Ingredients:
  • 3-4 apples
  • cinnamon to taste
  •  T brown sugar (might not even be necessary!)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 c water
Instructions:
  • Peel, core, and slice apples very thinly. It’s okay if they have a little bit of peel remaining. I like tasting a bit of peel every now and then, and it adds fiber. 🙂
  • Add the apples and the water to a sauce pan, cover, and turn on high. When it begins to bubble, turn it down to to medium.
  • Stir every 3-4 minutes and watch for apples to reach your desired level of tenderness. I like them slightly firmer than apple pie texture.
  • When they’re done, add your cinnamon and brown sugar.

And as promised, here are eight different ways to use these apples:

  1. Mixed into oatmeal with coconut oil stirred in. This tastes like dessert.
  2. As a topping for a frozen waffle. This, with an egg on the side, is a breakfast of champions for a mom. (When I make an apple for myself, I don’t even add the sugar and I don’t miss it!)
  3. Spooned onto the top of a sizzling pancake, then flip. Yum!
  4. With a spoonful of yogurt for a snack.
  5. Topped with (coconut?) ice cream for a company-worthy dessert. For company, I’d do cherries or cranberries instead of the raisins!
  6. Inside a Pillsbury crescent roll and then baked. (Yes, I know these Pillsbury rolls are the devil. I learned recently that they are {suspiciously} dairy-free, so I reserve them for a special treat for my little Sam, once in a blue moon. We all need a special treat every once in a while, right?)
  7. As a topping for pork chops. I made a Rachel Ray recipe along these lines.
  8. As a side for any toasty fall meal! Like applesauce, but gourmet!

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Group Preschool Activities: Things To Do In a Room Full of Little Kids (Besides Leave)

You may not think you need this post, but you do. We all do. Because one day, it’s going to happen. You’ll be watching your kids, and your neighbor will run to the grocery store, and your other neighbor will have a gallbladder attack, and, BOOM.

Before you know it, there are seventeen (or maybe five, but it feels like seventeen) rambunctious, bored, destructive four-year-olds playing hopscotch with your Tupperware.

And no one’s mom is coming for a looooong time.

What do you do?

Here are a few ideas to tuck away in your mental repertoire and pull out in an emergency situation. Like how you’d use a steel flashlight to break a car window when you fell in a pond.

Kind of like that.

Less dramatically, you could also incorporate these into a Sunday school routine, or a group preschool. But I like to make it sound more emergency than that. Cause that’s what I do. Without further ado:

  1. Draw a story. Find a good, short book. Read it, with animation. Then give each child a fresh piece of paper and some art medium. Ask them which part of the story they’re going to draw. Be sure to praise them relentlessly.
  2. Tea time. The key here is the build up, because it’s actually lame (I know…shocking, with such an exciting name.) Get small cups (non-sippy). Fill them with a little water and call everyone to the table. Inform them that you are having grown-up tea time. Have them sit up straight, call everyone “Mr. So-and-so,” and take turns asking each other questions. Give them the questions. Make them go around asking one another what they eat for breakfast, what show do they like to watch, what gift would they give their dad, etc. They think it’s a hoot. Also, you probably will, too. Most recently, one of my students told us her favorite animal was a hot dog.
  3. Tell a story. Everyone wants to say, “Oh, I’m horrible at telling stories. I have no imagination.” Well, you’re in luck. It requires absolutely no talent to tell a story to a preschooler. You could literally use the least interesting thing that happened to you yesterday. Let’s say you saw someone spill their water on the floor. Or that a dog barked at you on a walk. Or you heard a loud airplane. Anything is entertaining, if you ask, “And then do you know what happened?” after every. single. detail. And if you act as thrilled as if you are telling your engagement story.
  4. Make dough. Give everyone a bowl and a spoon. Give each some flour, then some water. Let them “cook.” Now, look. I would put this in the category of “last resort.” Will it be a terrible mess? Yes. Will everyone’s mother be slightly to very annoyed? Yes. But will all children remain safe and engaged for at least 20 minutes. Definitely.
  5. Make soup. Related, but slightly cleaner. Get out a pot and large spoon for everyone. Begin to go through the house for “ingredients.” Sometimes you can get away with just a few, if they’re good. Actual real carrots and whole onions fit this category. And it doesn’t have to be real food. We’ve made golf ball and matchbox car soup for hours on end. Okay, it was probably 13 minutes. But in kid time, that’s significant.
  6. Science Experiment. This is just a home run. They will literally think you are a genius. Which you are, if you can entertain, and inform, a herd of preschoolers for over fifteen minutes. And, the good news is that almost ANYTHING counts as a “science experiment.” Here are a few things that have counted as experiments, and elicited a roomful of amazed squeals and giggles: raisins floating in a glass of soda, a fan moving different objects, how many beans float a boat, baking soda and vinegar making bubbles. Easy, cheesy. Home run.
  7. Stations. This is the most amazing one! It requires a little bit of prep work, but it pays dividends because it will occupy, and teach, a group of kids for a long time. What you need to do is scour your home for individual activities, the ones that you’ve probably been meaning to do with your child but haven’t in a while. Here are some examples:
  • block puzzles
  • alphabet matching game
  • beads on a necklace
  • stacking games
  • block-type activities
  • animal matching games
  • any other game or activity suited for your child’s age

Give each child a project, and then have them switch after a few minutes. Two things are important. One, build it up. The first time we did this, I told the kids a story about a carnival, and how you take turns doing all the different activities. I said we were going to have our little carnival. Be sure you explain all the games before they start. Two, if the stations have lots of pieces, move the kids each time and not the stations. My mother-in-law, who is a former kindergarten teacher, suggested the “stations” routine, and I was just shocked at how well it worked!

So there are a few group activities we’ve been enjoying!

Is This The Good Life? Why You Should Enjoy (But Not Too Much) Having Little Ones

045 I was really not a good new mom.

A friend of mine had her first baby in the hospital room next to me, the day after I had my first baby. It was fun. And also, a little weird…we watched her contractions intensify on the hospital monitor system as she was in labor! We experienced a lot of “firsts” together, obviously.

I remember seeing her when the boys were a few weeks old. She was so happy. I just remember her gushing and “ooo”-ing, smiling away these sleepless nights that are “just for a season.”

A season?!?!? If we survive it!!! I thought she was a) crazy and b) awesome.

Even the second time around, when Ty, my second-born, was fresh and new from the hospital, I didn’t get it. He was doing all those awful things newborns do…falling asleep eating, never eating at the right times, just wanting to be carried all day long, being completely adorable and alert ONLY at 2:30 am, etc., etc.

My mom came over one afternoon to help. I was in my haven’t-brushed-my-teeth, wearing-my-pajamas-and-it’s-almost-dinner, sleepless and incoherent new mommy stupor stage. (Please tell me someone else has that stage.)

Anyway, my mom looked really cute. Her makeup was done, she’d just had a haircut, and she was wearing a trendy new outfit. I asked what she was all dressed up for.

“Oh, Dad and I are just going to grab a bite to eat tonight, that’s all.”

I remember shaking my head and saying with half smile, “Must be nice, living the good life…”

I will never forget how she looked – not at me, but around the room. At my kids. At the mess.

“No, Jessie. This is living the good life.” And she smiled, like she was remembering something wonderful.

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I get it, Mom.

I get it.

I’m so, so sorry that it has taken me 1,312 days of motherhood (and a few rounds of counseling, and multiple breakdowns, and infinite episodes of Netflix reruns to deal with my stress level)…

But I get it – I’m living the good life.

I know I have a horrible track record of making things around here sound like some sort of a domestic purgatory (here, and here, and here, and, oh you get the point.) But really, motherhood is so wonderful I can’t even put it into words without sort of choking up.

  • Ty tells me, “You’re beautiful, Mommy.” (He always tells Daddy he’s “a stud,” if that gives you any hints where he’s learned it.)
  • He asks to sing Jesus Loves Me, he gives us kisses, and his toes are so perfectly chubby. And is there anything more wonderful than rocking a cuddly little one to sleep?
  • Sam is three, and brilliant. No, really. He gets so excited about oatmeal and science experiments and throwing a football and doing it “all! by! MY! SELF!…”
  • He thanks me for making him delicious meals. He doesn’t even care that he can’t eat cheese or pizza or goldfish and all his meals are different.
  • He thinks I’m the smartest, most athletic, most creative and funny mom he could ever have.

All these things look so generic on paper, but you know that if you are the mommy, they’re wonderful.

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I get a catch in my throat thinking about days where my little ones aren’t bumbling around under my feet, when they aren’t calling for me when they’re hurt, when they make their own meals and tie their own shoes and (sob) have their own families.

This isn’t the end, though. You know me…there’s always a lesson. Lessons are my way of making me feel better about everything I don’t like or can’t understand. That’s healthy, right?

Lesson one is a story.

Once when I was a little girl (ten or so), I was trying to fall asleep, thinking about the things you think about when you’re trying to fall asleep, when I realized something. I had figured out how to make an air conditioner! Excitedly, I sprinted out of bed to tell my mom what I’d discovered.

Mom! Guess what! I know how they make an air conditioner! If you take two of those things that you cool off cookies on, and you smush up some ice cubes in between them, and then hold that in front of a little fan, then it’s like an air conditioner! Isn’t that amazing, Mom??!

I remember thinking it so odd that Mom (who was sitting there alone, reading a magazine, drinking some tea) looked…almost…tired? Could it be tired? That was weird.

But she listened. She smiled. She was impressed.

I laugh so hard at that story right now. I know exactly what she felt like, drinking her tea and putting her feet up for the first time all day, listening to someone re-invent an air conditioner. I hope she had a good, happy laugh when I went scampering back to bed.

Yesterday, Sam called me up to show me he’d made his laundry basket like a car. Today, he had turned his underwear inside out.

I hope that I was excited as my mom learning about air conditioners.

I hope that Sam knows I think these days are wonderful.

See here’s the thing about motherhood. It’s not wonderful like your wedding day, or Ruth’s Chris with your husband, or laying on a towel on the beach in June.

It’s messier than that.

It pokes its cute snotty-faced smile out when you’re not fully awake yet at 5:46 am, or trying to untangle a slinky, or scraping toothpaste off your ratty college yoga pants, or in the middle of making pizza dough, or paying your cable bill.

So the trick about it is to see those moments and enjoy when they come.

Because here’s the second lesson… It doesn’t last. I am just so, so sad here that this stage will be over so soon. Maybe for you it is almost over, or it is over. Maybe you’re not yet a mom, or won’t ever be one.

The answer is the same for us all. {And forgive me for going philosophical for a second…}

This isn’t our home. There’s more than what’s real right now.

And again, I quote C.S. Lewis, that wise old bachelor from half a world and half a century ago.

Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling…of that something which you were born desiring, and which…night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’ ” {C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain}

I am grateful that I don’t have to cling desperately to the things I love – being a mom, my wonderful family…I’m grateful that all these things I think I was made for become real and forever in heaven, and never grow old.

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines…”

~C.S. Lewis (Til We Have Faces)