Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

For the first time in my life, I will be observing Lent. I have chosen to fast for the next 46 days—I'm not cutting out a specific food or drink, but instead will be eliminating the Internet from my daily diet.

Prior to starting my blog last spring, I hardly ever sat down at the computer. I didn't spend any time on the Internet, other than occasionally to Google a topic or check e-mail once or twice a month. If you would have suggested to me one year ago that I would now be signing on almost every day and spending hours posting, responding to comments, visiting new blogs, and checking favorite sites, I would have told you to go take a nap, you're delirious.

Blogging is a fun, creative outlet for me. It also takes up a lot of my time and mental energy. Activities like scrapping, reading, and praying have decreased in direct proportion to the increase in my time on the computer. I feel the need to re-focus and re-prioritize. So I'll be missing in action for the next month and a half, as I prepare my heart for Easter and seek answers to life's burning questions. 

Did you hear that? A chorus of Meh!s and Whatever!s just rang throughout the blogosphere, as you all simultaneously shrugged your shoulders and poised your fingers over the delete button. My proud nature prevents me from begging, but I do hope you'll leave me on your reading list.

See you after Easter.

Dinner last night: big green salad with shrimp

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unfortunately, Kim

I am breaking my longstanding policy of reading other blog's memes, laughing, and then refusing to participate, by stealing the following game off Hugs, Melinda. Google "Unfortunately, [your name]" and see what comes up.

The following sentences are repeated verbatim from my first page of 2,510 results (that's a LOT of unfortunate-ness associated with my name!) All I can say is, "Out of the mouth of Google . . ."

"Unfortunately, Kim is something we seem to have to tolerate on this site."

"Unfortunately, Kim is a talented person but sleeping around in this industry is only going to defame her reputation." [ . . . true dat]

"Unfortunately, Kim's official site only had a brief shelf life, and Kim did not leave us a place for sending our fanmail."

"Unfortunately, Kim was eliminated after two weeks while judges described her dancing skills as COLD!" [ . . . is that supposed to be funny because I live in Alaska?]

"Unfortunately, Kim will not be attending the ceremony, due to her time in federal prison." 

And, my personal favorite . . .

"Unfortunately, Kim wore an ugly dress."

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nature vs. Nurture

My daughter turns eleven this week, so I've been feeling all sentimental and weepy. Looking through the one or two photographs I've taken of her over the years, I've started to see patterns emerging. Call me crazy, but I think maybe it's not her fault that she's so quirky.

When given the choice of Fair Hair or face makeup,
she opts for the coiffure.

Turns out she's not the only one in the family who likes crazy hair.

And her penchant for making silly faces?

She's learned from the best.

I'm not saying her fearlessness is the direct result of an authority figure modeling high-risk behavior, but . . .

after a few times of getting swung out over the river by her uncle,
a kid can get used to the adrenaline rush.

Happy Birthday to my sweet, funny, tough Alaskan girl!

Dinner last night: chili, rice, and cheese

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday's Five: Twinmama

Welcome to Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask a fabulous blogger five questions.

Today, I'm visiting with Twinmama from Bringing Up Twins. I was first drawn to her blog because she has twin daughters who are a little younger than mine, but I've become a faithful follower due to the quality of her writing. With the new year, she's started a weekly lifestyle challenge that encourages her readers to drop bad habits and establish healthy routines. She's thoughtful and inspirational, and I enjoy reading her perspective on life and motherhood. 

1. What are your children's ages, and do they have any favorite outfits or articles of clothing that they love to wear?

I have twin girls—Peanut and Jelly Bean—and they turned two years old on February 18th. Where has the time gone?

They are truly little girls—both of my daughters love shoes, hats, and purses. I definitely didn't teach them about accessorizing, but they have learned to embrace the fact that shoes, purses, and hats make or break an outfit. You have to respect that, you know?

They also appreciate any article of clothing that has something on it they recognize like a butterfly, Dora the Explorer, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, hearts, snowflakes, penguins, etc.

2. What are your thoughts on dressing twins alike?

I have dressed my girls alike twice and both of those times were for professional pictures. I think it makes a nice picture when everyone matches at least in color.

With that said, I don't dress my girls alike regularly. I personally don't have a problem with anyone doing it, but I also think that it is important for each child to be seen as an individual. All too often I have noticed people will lump them together when they talk about them. Meaning, instead of saying, "Look at Peanut reading that book" (while Jelly Bean is playing with a ball), someone will say, "Oh, look, they are reading." Dressing them alike just seems to water down their personal identity and gives outsiders yet another reason to think you had a two-headed kid instead of two special kids.

3. It's clear to me that you take your writing seriously, and I'm curious about how your creative process works. Where do your ideas come from and how do you develop them?

This is an interesting question because I have been thinking a lot lately about my writing style. My process usually begins with me thinking about what significant things happened over the past few days and whether there is some sort of lesson, helpful information, or entertainment factor that I can focus a blog post around. I think about two things when I am deciding on what to write about: what my audience would find beneficial and what would my girls like to read about one day when they see this blog. Both are very important to me.

Next, I spend time writing it out in my head. Since I spend most of my time washing dishes, changing diapers, and folding laundry, I usually use these moments to consider what is the most important points and the overall message for my post. I like to have the first and last sentences nailed down before I start writing.

I like to consider that I have different types of posts—narrative: my descriptive posts that usually teach a lesson, entertaining: usually consists of my lists, conversations, or rants, or informational: posts about other sites, Twinmama's Lifestyle Challenge posts, products, and administrative-type stuff.

I have learned that when I write a post, more posts will usually follow more easily. It is literally like tapping into a spring of water—once those first drops come, the flow of inspiration just comes. But also like running, once I stop writing for awhile, I almost always have to start all over again because I have lost my momentum.

4. You've mentioned on your blog that you have purchased your own domain and will be launching a new site. Can you give us a little glimpse into your future plans for

My future site is still very important to me and I hope to have it up and running sooner than later. My webmaster and tech support, (twindada), was laid off from his job in January and has been focusing his time on starting his own business, so my project was sidelined. However, I can tell you a few of my plans for the site.

The appearance of my site will look completely different. I am going for a professional site (not pink!) and I do want to have more pictures. My blog posts will still be the focus of my work, but I also want to write some articles for twin parents about various topics so they have access to information that I wish that I would have had when I was expecting and just getting started. Lastly, I would like to create a forum for twin parents to come and share their stories, advice, and post questions for other parents.

5. What did you have for dinner last night?

Homemade fried chicken strips, cheesy penne pasta, and green beans.

Thank you, Twinmama! My girls are crazy about purses right now, too. They think they're hot stuff opening their little handbags and taking out their chapstick. Regarding writing, I had never thought about sitting down with my first and last sentence already in mind—what a great tip. And I wish you all the best as you move forward with the web site! 

Join me again next week when I snatch someone out of the blogosphere and sit 'em down for a session of Friday's Five.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February Funk

Yet another moose in my yard.

Do you think you're hidden behind that tree?
Because I CAN SEE YOU.

Dinner last night: oven-baked chicken, stuffing, corn

Monday, February 16, 2009

Permanent Record

There. Their. They're.

Please don't judge my intelligence based on my improper usage of Satan's favorite words. I know what each one means and I know full well its correct spelling; in fact, for a small fee, I will come to your home and deliver a PowerPoint presentation on the etymology of there, their, and the hateful they're.

Whenever I jot down my thoughts quickly, like, oh I don't know, in the comment section on someone else's blog, I tend to write the wrong form of there/their/they're—a misspelling malady I've suffered since childhood. I almost always catch it upon re-reading my writing when it's on paper, but seem neurologically unable to notice the mistake on the computer screen until AFTER I've pressed the publish button.

So then I'm faced with the dilemma of giving in to my anal-retentive self and deleting the entire comment or letting it stay there in all its shameful glory. What's worse? Leaving the telltale message COMMENT DELETED BY CONTROL FREAK WHO CAN'T STAND FOR PEOPLE TO THINK SHE'S STUPID AUTHOR or leaving the misspelled word there forever, haunting me for the rest of my life with the knowledge that the eyes of linguistic purists have rolled, are rolling, and will continue to roll at the sight of my sad little sentence.

If you've ever left a comment in which you noticed too late that you typed its when you meant to write it's, I want you to know something.

Your my kind of peeps.

Dinner last night: stuffed green peppers

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday's Five: Michele

Welcome to Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask a fabulous blogger five questions.

I'm talking today with the delightful Michele from The Stefo Crew. She's the mother of eight children, including identical twin daughters. She homeschools her middle four kids, dabbles in portrait photography, and bakes extraordinary birthday cakes. Michele writes her blog with wisdom, candor, and humility; her posts range from heartfelt prayers to funny videos to insightful pieces on such topics as seeing teenagers through the difficult period of adolescence.

1. What are your children's ages and what kind of extracurricular activities do they enjoy?

Sarah, 17, on the cusp of high school graduation and a concert aficionada, likes discovering new music and hanging out with friends.

Scott, 15, a runner, is currently rehearsing a leading role in Funny Girl, the upcoming school musical.

Brian, 12, is a First Class Boy Scout, football fanatic, swims competitively, and generally enjoys anything that involves climbing, jumping, or shooting.

Conor, 10, also swims and plays football.

Clare, 7, swims. (I love swimming and football, because that means multiple children at the same place/same time!)

Theresa, 5, and Noelle and Natalie, 2, don't have any formal activities, though we drop in at Kindermusik now and then. All four youngest girls also think dress-up is an Olympic sport for which they have to train extensively. Seriously, we don't encourage activities too young because our family is already going in so many different directions. Any given night there are at least two empty places at the dinner table.

2. Speaking of the dinner table . . . so many of us deal with picky eaters in our families. How do you approach mealtime at your house?

As hard as it may be to believe, I don't have a solution to this one. My husband's approach is: This is dinner. Eat it. I'm not as comfortable with that, but it does simplify things. We have a few kids who will try anything, a few with clearly defined dislikes, and a couple who don't eat at all. I try to be sensitive to their dislikes, but within reason. Some nights you're a winner, and some nights you're not. I do try to have at least a side dish and vegetable that they like, even if they can't stomach the entrèe.
          I also insist that they at least eat a small portion of whatever is served. Somewhere along the way I read that you have to introduce a food seven times before you can definitely say you like it or don't. True or not, our tastes do change along the way, so I keep forcing them to reevaluate their position. I wouldn't eat onions or pepper until I was in my late 30s!

3. Because you are in the midst of raising both boys and girls, I'd love to hear your opinion on the commonly-held belief that raising boys is a lot different than raising girls.

In high school we had a biology teacher who told us that boys and girls are wired differently—if you give a group of children a block of wood, the girls will cuddle it, and the boys will go vroom-vroom and crash it into something. I scoffed at the time (think early 80s, "equality for women in the workplace" in full swing), but now I believe there is some truth to it. I have yet to see one of my sons cuddle and diaper dolls and stuffed animals, and the girls don't share the same obsession with explosions and all things military.
          I have observed that so far, my girls have learned to read (and enjoy reading) earlier, but the potty training has been about equal. Both sexes like to cook, and nobody likes to clean. They all break things. They all cry, some more easily than others. The boys all like to have smack-downs and wrestling matches with their dad and each other. The girls tend to hang back, but that might be more a function of the age grouping. They can't hold their own against the bigger boys.
          Are they different because they're different, or because we've made them that way? I wish I could tell . . . Do I think either sex is easier? (It's too early to cast my vote, but shhh—I'm leaning toward the boys.) And when I asked my husband this question, he snorted and said, "Infants." You have to remember that we're also raising teens, who have shattered many of our illusions about parenting.
          My favorite piece about the difference between girls and boys comes from Erma Bombeck, which I posted on my blog to share. She really nails it!

4. What have you learned about yourself through the process of blogging?

The most surprising thing I've learned is that I'm a latent attention hound. Sadly, I am a lot more concerned with how my writings are received than I'd anticipated. The blog's original intent was for the grandparents, and to start keeping at least a sporadic journal again. Then I started finding blogs I really liked to read (like Kim's), and I discovered blog rings. I also discovered that some blogs have followers. (Followers?!? I want some!!!) My first comment was a delightful experience, and I eagerly looked for new ones every time I signed in, feeling disappointed if there weren't any. I even installed a live traffic feed to show me where the visitors were coming from. I didn't expect to care so much and I'm ashamed to say it, but there's a virtual Michele jumping up and down, waving her arms, shouting, "Look at me! Look at what I've written!" which is totally unlike me in person. Why does it matter so much to me what other people, whom I will probably never know in person, think about my blog?
          I've also noticed how many of my sentences begin with the pronoun "I." Bor-ring. Sometimes it's necessary, but now I frequently restructure many sentences to avoid this.

5. What did you have for dinner last night?

This is a fun one! I just signed up to be a Pampered Chef consultant (in all my spare time!) and so I've been field-testing lots of new recipes. Sweet & Sour & Pineapple Stir-Fry went over really well—they licked the platter clean.

Thanks, Michele! You may have just written the slogan for my next T-shirt: "DINNER. Some nights you're a winner. Some nights you're not." And I can totally relate to what you've said about blogging, especially the cracklike addiction of comments. I have to guard myself against valuing my writing based on whether or not a post receives a comment.

Meet y'all back here next Friday for a different blogger and a new set of questions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

6. "Coffee, Tea or Meme"

Francesca of Three Bay B Chicks tagged me to list things I love. You'd think that with Valentine's only two short days away, I'd have no trouble listing the heartfelt and the sentimental. You'd be thinking wrong, my friend. Here's a list of annoying words and/or phrases that I love to say . . .

1. "Tapioca."
I recently saw Renèe Zellweger's movie, New in Town, in which a character can't stop talking about her delicious and healthful tapioca pudding. I have been cracking up my mother all week by using a Minnesotan accent and working this inherently funny word into almost every conversation. Oddly enough, Mom and I are the only ones who find tapioca amusing.

2. "O' Dark-Thirty."
While not a Marine, I have adopted their lingo to describe the indecent hour at which I rise each morning.

3. "Grossosity."
I've used this gem since I was at least 13 years old. It made my parents' eyes roll then and my children's eyes roll now. Win-win.

4. Wicked Witch of the West cackle followed by "I'll get you, my pretty."
My kids think I'm scary and kind of crazypants so cool when I break out this impression.

5. "Fiddle."
When I'm feeling particularly obnoxious, I'll add a "dee–dee!" to the end of it.

I'm spreading the love by tagging Jenn at Li'l Man's World, Dianna at The Kennedy Adventures! and Kim at Here's to Good Friends. Here's hoping your lists are lovelier than mine! The rules are:
1. List things you love.
2. Choose a number that is significant to you. For example: 100, the year you were born, the day you were born (you get the picture). If you feel like writing a lot, go for it. If not, then cut back by choosing a suitable number.
3. Tag 3 people.

Dinner last night: seasoned veggies and chicken in a pouch

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just in Time for Valentine's

I'm not known for my green thumb. I've had a potted bulb of some sort that I've been watering for years, but I've long forgotten what kind of flower it's supposed to grow, since I've never actually seen a blossom. It does shoot out a couple of lovely green leaves on occasion.

When we moved to our new house a little over two years ago, I placed the mystery bulb along with a pale, spindly spider plant along the wide sill of a window in the guest bathroom. I secretly hoped that mist from the shower might make up for any forgetfulness on my part in hydrating the poor things.

Imagine my surprise today when I pulled up the blinds that had been lowered for a good month or more, and discovered this lily.

Mystery solved!

Dinner last night: sour cream enchiladas, refried beans, corn

Monday, February 9, 2009

Farewell, Old Friend

I was ambushed at the grocery story. Blindsided and beaten up.

Heading down the coffee aisle, I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye of the opposite side of the row: tiny jars of pureed apricot baby food. Wham! I was tackled by a physical pang of intense emotion that literally stopped me in my tracks.

I will never have a baby again. My child-bearing days are over.

Intellectually I know that my body would not handle another pregnancy very well—certainly, my psyche could not survive another bout of sleep deprivation. After bringing twins home, I did not sleep longer than 3 or 4 hours at a stretch for one entire year. I no longer possess the energy or the will to birth, breastfeed, potty train, and discipline another little human. I'm mother to four wonderful children who bring me joy, challenge, and exhaustion each and every day.

But my heart aches to hold a newborn baby. My husband says that's what grandchildren are for. I'm sure he's right.

On top of it all, I was cleaning out the minivan and found the diaper bag. It's been squished in the cargo space, under the double stroller, for so long I don't even remember the last time I used it. I stuck it back there "just in case." You never know when you might need a nasal bulb, or a tiny washcloth, or the little bottle of baby oil. Well, I haven't needed any of those things. So it's time to toss it. It's been through the wringer anyway. Torn, stained, crushed. No hope of recycling it. It was a gift at my baby shower and came with a little pad that I could unfold when I was caught somewhere without a diaper changing table. Like an airplane. Or most gas stations. Or many restaurants. 

While I'm at it, I might as well clean out the cupboard that holds all the old bottles and pacifiers. Then there's that box of baby rattles and teethers and mobiles. And the totes of infant clothing.

On second thought, maybe I should hang on to them. In case of grandchildren.

Dinner last night: Polish sausages, spinach

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday's Five: Geri

Welcome to Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask a fabulous blogger five questions.

I'm visiting today with Geri from saddlepotatoes. If my photos of snow and moose send you running far, far away from Alaska, then Geri's pictures of dogs and horses and the beautiful lake near her home will lure you back. She writes with warmth and gentle humor about raising miniature horses, showing her purebred Corgi, homeschooling her children, and leading an altogether interesting life in one of the most scenic spots on earth.

1. What are your children's ages, and do they have any favorite music CDs at the moment?

Lex is 22, Chena is 11, and Penelope is 10. Lex loves Rascal Flatts (ha ha, finally brought him over to the country side!), Chena loves Toby Mac, and Penelope likes Steven Curtis Chapman. The girls like a little bit of everything, like me.

2. Tell us a little about what your kids have learned by raising animals.

Well, I'd say they have learned to be unselfish . . . because there are many times when our ten pets need care, and it's not convenient . . . but they need us. And they come first. I always tell the girls that the animals are counting on us, and they trust us to care for them, and we will not let them down. The girls have learned responsibility, and they have also learned a LOT about vet care, nutrition for the horses, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc. Right now the girls have started teaching our Corgi how to run agility, and they do weekly classes which they really get enthused about.

3. Occasionally, I'll find myself in a discussion about elementary education with someone who insists that homeschooled children are missing out on the "socialization" that a traditional school setting provides. What's your opinion?

Well, that is somewhat a myth. (I used to teach school, and homeschooling was generally frowned upon because it takes federal dollars out of the school.) It's a rare homeschool home that is "isolated" at all. All of the homeschool homes I know are very involved in the community, field trips, etc. And to be honest, some of that "socialization" they are missing I am more than happy to miss out on! Instead of trying to "fit in" to a classroom situation, I am keeping the girls deeply rooted in their own family, so their sense of self comes from the people who love them most .  . . and that gives them the confidence to take on the rest of their world. It's definitely working in our home, but I cannot speak for every situation.

4. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who's thinking about starting a blog?

I would say don't start one unless you plan to keep it updated fairly regularly . . . because I love to visit a blog where I know it will be updated, and I can follow the plot more easily! Also, to let your blog be a reflection of who you are, be honest, and have fun with it.

5. What did you have for dinner last night?

We had spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad at a church dinner.

Thank you, Geri! I think it's wonderful that your girls are growing up around animals and are learning so much from having to care for them—what an interesting and special childhood you are providing them. And you make an excellent point about a homeschooled child's sense of self coming from those who love him or her the most. 

See everyone back here next week when we get to know another great blogger!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Late Afternoon on Turnagain Arm

I recently went down to the water. And by "water," I mean . . . 

. . . frozen mudflats.

The tide was out . . . 

. . . way out.

So I turned back toward the rocky cliffs to admire the waterfalls. And by "waterfalls," I mean . . . 

. . . frozen sheets of ice.

Watching people climb ice in zero-degree weather reminded me that I like hot chocolate. And by "hot chocolate," I mean . . .

Hot chocolate! With marshmallows. In my favorite mug.

Back home, just as the sun begins to set.

Dinner last night: broccoli shrimp alfredo

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Exercise

Clearing snow is back-breaking work . . . 

 when a 30-pound child is attached to your shovel.

Cute, but heavy.

Dinner last night: Super Bowl party food