Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You May Say I'm a Dreamer

Over pizza tonight at Brookside Park, Elvis and Lydia shared how they are going to live next door to one another when they grow up, and they will visit each other every day.  We asked where we will live, and they said that we can live next door, too. 

Brandon said, "Lydia, you can buy John's house, and Elvis, you can buy Tyler and Alicia's house (our next door neighbors)."

Elvis interrupted, "No, I'm going to buy a farm."

"Oh, yeah?" We chuckled. "That's great buddy!"

"Can I build a baseball field on it?" Brandon asked.

"Yeah. And I'm going to have a garage for my tractors," he said. "Lydia will live next to me, and you guys can live next to her," only he said "zur guys" because he's just that cute.

"What about Henry," we asked.

"He's a baby!" he said, "He'll live with you!"


Clearly, our kids have their futures all planned out. 


Eight years ago today, we had a vision for how the wedding would go.  All of our plans came to fruition-- the bouquets were held, our friends and family played music, our pastor spoke, we exchanged rings and shared communion and lit a candle, there was cake, there was dancing, the bar was open (and restocked, several times), the food was eaten-- it was by all accounts a beautiful and celebratory wedding. Our hopes for the future were there, too, but I don't think either of us ever dreamed about where the next eight years would take us.

In the last eight years, we've painted every wall in three different houses together.  We have taken new jobs and quit old jobs, left churches and joined churches.  We have made new friends and sustained old friendships.  We've bought cars, sold cars, leased cars (oops), traded in cars, and fixed cars.  We've learned the hard way that you need to replace the air filter on your furnace if you don't want your A/C unit to freeze up.  We have brought three children into the world and miscarried four.  We've attended dozens of concerts and eaten at Japanese steakhouses for many a special occasion.  We've slammed doors and cried and held back and let go.  We've forgiven each other and loved each other more deeply.  We continue to become better versions of ourselves in Christ.

I can hardly remember the girl in the wedding dress eight years ago, jumping around in a circle waiting to go down the aisle.  She's a happy, two dimensional shadow of who I am now.  I am so blessed to be yoked with my husband who has helped shape me, who supports me, and who partners with me in the great task of raising our family, running our home, and growing closer to God.  I am so proud of you, Brandon, and always grateful.  Happy anniversary to us!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

It's been a while since I made a casserole.

My default meals involve lots of dairy.  I am the queen of stuffing and cheese.  Chicken, stuffing, and cheese.  Broccoli, stuffing, and cheese.  Rice, chicken, and cheese.  Beef, sour cream, and noodles.  Chicken, sour cream, and noodles.  Bottom line: what can we mix together with sour cream and/or cheese that will bake in an hour or less?

This would be just fine if my husband wasn't lactose intolerant and if my son would eat combination foods (i.e., anything mixed with anything else... broccoli? fine. cheese? fine. broccoli and cheese and stuffing? not fine).  And, believe it or not, eating all that dairy isn't the healthiest way to go.  I have to admit boredom with these recipes, too.  Mostly, I want to be able to feed my family things that won't make them sick (husband) and things that they might eat (son).  Lydia and I, well, we'll eat anything.

I grew up meat and potatoes, all-American, spaghetti and marinara sauce, pizza on Fridays.  It isn't a bad way to eat.  I've always been intimidated by cooking outside of this box-- there's too many unknowns!  How do you cook this?  How do you saute?  How do you broil?  What's a julienned carrot?  Help! 

Allrecipes.com has changed the way I cook.  It has added variety to our evening meals.  It has lessened the amount of produce I throw out.  It has significantly decreased the number of frozen and packaged foods I buy.  Stuffing-based casseroles have fallen off the Wells menu, and in its place-- honey-glazed carrots, steamed broccoli, garlic butter pasta.  Did you know there are more ways to cook pork chops than in a frying pan?

One of the best features of the website is the ingredient search.  I grew a whole row of cilantro this summer, and I love cilantro, but there's only so much corn salsa one can make.  So I punched in "cilantro" and, wham -- cilantro lime chicken. Black beans a la Olla (mmmm).  Cilantro lime rice (mmmm).  Variety! 

Time is always of the essence.  I get off of work at 5 p.m., and we need to eat between 6 and 6:30 in order to be ready for baths by 7 and bedtime routine by 7:30, bed by 8 p.m.  There's no time for lengthy food prep.  However, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of fresh and healthy food combinations that can be prepared in an hour or less.  All it takes is a little multi-tasking, and you can have a pot of rice steaming, broccoli steaming, and salmon baking, timed out so that everything is ready almost simultaneously. 

The other thing I've learned is the value and beauty of herbs and spices.  There's so much more to life than salt and pepper!  Nothing satisfies like a fresh, healthy meal that tastes good AND didn't take forever to cook.  Yay food!

Pedal through the Bumps

My kids wanted to ride their bikes to school this morning, so we headed out at 8 a.m. on the drop-off circuit.  I put Henry in the Baby Bjorn, our new dog Jelly Beans (Beans for short) on his leash, and my travel mug of tea in my right hand, and the Parade of Wells headed down Phillips Avenue.

For the most part, sidewalks in this city are level and smooth, but I think it is up to the homeowner to maintain them, so there are a few sections that are less-than-perfect.  Tree roots and frost have driven the concrete up in sharp angles, and driveways worn down past their gravel cause detours and slow-downs in our commute.  Over and over again, I tell the kids to pedal through the bumps.  Lydia understands better than Elvis, for the most part, and she's able to buckle down. When adversity comes, she stands up and pedals harder. 

I think I'm a lot like Lydia.  Out on my morning jog, I like when I make the turn from Budd to Katherine Avenue. I like the slight incline, the tangible strain in my calves and thighs, the sense that I am working hard, and when I turn again from Katherine to Mifflin, I can see the crest of the hill and push for it even as sweat starts to drip down the side of my face, because I know after the uphill is a steady slope downward, a chance to breathe, an opportunity to let my legs coast without a whole lot of effort.  There is a reward for battling through the trial.

But if Elvis's tire hits the crack, he stops, looks up at me with a perfect pout on his face and waits for me to nudge him out of it.  He might sit there all day waiting for someone to give him a shove.  For Elvis, this walk is one he'll claim was uphill both ways.

You can't stop on an incline and expect to keep rolling forward.  When you see a slant in the sidewalk ahead, do not slow down.  Do not panic.  Push harder, hang on tight, and pedal through the bumps.  Pedal through the bumps! Elvis seems to get stuck at every one of these cracks.  On the bike and off, he needs a push to get through.  At lunch today it took all of the coaxing, threatening, and encouraging I could muster to get him through half a ham and cheese sandwich before rest time. 

Sometimes he's lazy and just doesn't want to try harder.  But sometimes, he's just plain tired, and the effort to chew seems too much because he's struggling to keep his eyelids from falling down.  And so sometimes I'm like Elvis.  Sometimes I hit my limit, and it just isn't possible for me to pedal through the bumps.  Sometimes, I need a good shove from a friend, my husband, my pastor, my parents, my family, my God.

The beauty of our walk is that it just might be uphill both ways, but that means it is also downhill both ways.  There's a climb, a struggle, a challenge, a strain, but there's also a chance to coast, to catch your breath, to appreciate the crisp fall air on your face.  Sometimes this walk feels more like uphill all the way, and every struggle stops you in your tracks. And then someone with a little more strength comes along to give you a push over the bump, and that someone will be there again at the next bump, and the next bump, and the next bump.

Yes, persevere through the trials.  And yes, ask for help when the trials seem like too much.  One way or the other, you can get beyond the cracks in the sidewalk.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kindergarten and Everything After

Lydia just wrapped up her second full week of school, and of course she loves it and seems like an old pro at this going to school thing.  It is hard to tell exactly how well things are going though.  I can't be on the playground to see if she is making friends.  Are the kids nice to her?  Does she talk to the teacher?  Who does she sit with at lunch? 

On the mornings when I drop her off, she walks up the sidewalk, the gigantic lilac colored Disney fairy backpack bouncing.  She pins her hair back with barrettes bought by her granny, and she doesn't want me to adjust it at all because she likes it that way, and it is perfect that way - her curls loose in ringlets pulled back from her face and layered past her shoulders.  She wears pink leggings under the blue-jean jumper she picked out for her first-day outfit and Hello Kitty ballerina slippers.  She doesn't just dress herself, she accessorizes herself, prepares herself, gives me a hug and I say I love her, and she strides toward the door without looking back. 

I have nothing to worry about, except that her beautiful little soul might be damaged by some mean-spirited kid. Isn't that what we all fear when we send our courageous children out into the world? 

What I do know is that Lydia came home the other day and said that she got a Tootsie Roll for helping Ella.  She said that Ella is made different than we are and that she crawls instead of walks, and then she showed me how she crawls.  She said she sat with Ella at lunch along with another girl who comes to visit her class sometimes. 

Lord, wrap her beautiful little soul in bubble wrap for me.  Keep her heart soft, even while mine cracks open.

The Ninth Psalm as Rendered by Laurance Wieder

I stumbled upon this tonight in a book called The Poets' Book of Psalms, and I really liked it, so I thought I'd share it.  That's all :)

The Ninth Psalm

If I could tell it all,
I would say thank you
for the toppled statues,
for the dusk of gods sung
only in dead languages,
for wild grape vines tangled
in the timbers of a century
that frame our little picture
of eternity. And I remember
there was justice, maybe, since
I hope the dead might be
remembered, though their names,
outnumbered by the sontes
once used to mark the exit spot,
are worn down, in an alphabet
that can't be read aloud.

Not always and not ever, maybe
masters will stick in the mud
of what they most admired,
boasting how their acts
engraved in stone erased
accounts of people sacrificed
to feed the maw, the pointless
grim machinery of nations:
If there is something other
than our selves, they will not win
forever, will some time remember
they are human, and may even
know themselves, and feel afraid.