Thursday, April 26, 2012


Most of the time, nighttime is my favorite part of the day.

There's something about knowing I've made it through.  I've made it through split lips (THREE times today, seriously,) and an art project gone awry.  I've read books and played outside.  I've made breakfast and cleaned the dishes, made lunch and cleaned the dishes, made dinner and cleaned the dishes.  I've danced to The Fresh Beat Band, singing along with my children like real live groupies.  I've squeezed in a workout.  I've gone to Target to ONLY BUY AUDREY'S BIRTHDAY GIFT, and left with the gift, a book for Evie, curl spray, hairspray, bobby pins, gum for Ethan, and mints.  Woo hoo, I've taken a shower!  I've laughed, given time outs, comforted hurt feelings.  I've cleaned bedrooms and given baths.

I can sink into the night, relax.

But I really love nighttime because it's the best snuggle time with my children.  First, Ethan says goodnight out the window.  His little voice says "Night night, firetrucks.  Night night firetruck men.  Night night Carter.  Night night 'Brina.  Night night wind."  Then we lay together in his bed, while Ethan squirms, pulls the covers on and off.  He gets his lovey just so, places his owl in the perfect place, points out the stars shining on his ceiling.  The kid can't sit still.  He fights sleep until the end.  I ask Ethan what the best part of his day was.  He gives one word answers - cake, Carter, digging, Gaga.  I rub his back, stroke his sweet face, tell him I love him.  And he says, "No you!"  He loves me.

I always leave him with regret.  It's so sweet in there.  But I kiss him, listen for his "Night night, Mommy," shut the door.

And then there's Evie.  We sprinkle Sweet Dreams Dust on her pillow, to ward off any bad dreams that may be lurking around.  We say a prayer and wind up her lamb.  We always, always listen to the lamb twice.  The first time through, we talk.  She tells me about playing Hunger Games Tag with the neighbor kids.  If someone pokes you with their finger, you have to lay on the ground.  She thinks I would be good at that game.  She talks about what she will wear to school, what she will wear when she gets home from school, what she wants to wear to Audrey's party.  She tells me how excited she is to go to Myrtle Beach.  She is going to build a sand castle with Gaga.  I ask Evie what the best part of her day was.  She answers "This."  My heart swells.  And then the first lamb ends.  We aren't allowed to talk during the second lamb.  She turns her back to me, I spoon into her, my arm over her waist.  We listen to the lamb play Jesus Loves Me and I feel Evie give in to sleep.  When the lamb ends, I stay and soak up the warm, beautiful peace.

Because someday, someone will ask me about the best part of my life.  And I'll answer "This."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Skin Deep?

I've lived in this house for over nine years. And I seriously believe I can count on both hands the times I've stepped outside without makeup. I don't mean full on beauty-pageant stuff. I'm just talking a swipe of mascara and lip gloss. Still neurotic, though, right? Not walking to the mailbox until I've taken a quick look in the mirror? Dabbing on "a little something" before I go to the gym or the pool?

But this is important, now, because I'm raising a daughter.

A daughter who watches my every move and imitates my every action. One who often asks if her hair looks pretty "Like Sleeping Beauty's hair?" and begs to wear my lipstick and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE could I curl her hair, just once?

However, here she is with a mother who isn't confident in my own beauty. A mother who sometimes counts my own worth in a number on the scale or how my hair behaves, instead of the paintings I made with Evie at the kitchen table yesterday or the books I read to Ethan very early in the morning or the times my heart throbs with love for my children.

My first instinct, when Evie asks "Do I look like Gabby from Desperate Housewives?" is to tell her just how beautiful she is. That her eyes are radiant and her hair is so pretty when it curls in the back and her little bow lips are the most perfect thing I've ever seen. I want her to know just how beautiful she is.

But I also want her to know how much more there is than looking beautiful. In this culture, we are so bombarded with images of beauty and sex and youth. And the sad thing is, it has soaked into my brain. Being pretty can feel better than being nice.

So how do I teach her that yes, she's beautiful. How do I teach her that, yet teach her not to care? I want her to be confident, but to know other things count more. I want Evie to think it's more important to love like Jesus, to be kind, to share things we have with others who don't have as much, to forgive. I want her to think it's more attractive to be smart and to dream big than to have shiny hair. When she's 20, I want her to be happy to have a healthy body and not just a body that looks good in a bikini.

I want her to BE beautiful, and not just look beautiful.

My own reality is warped, though. I know all the things on the inside count more. I know it. But I also feel so judged by my appearance. How do I teach her to be different?

And so I'm at a new place in my parenting journey. Teaching Evie NOT to be like me. Here's my first venture into "Do as I say, not as I do." I'm going to give it my best shot, and we'll know in about 15 years if I got it right!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Springtime always makes me think of my grandmother. Grandma Nev had the greenest thumb you would ever meet. She had a veritable forest of potted plants surrounding her house, odd things growing up and down the driveway, and seas of flowers in the backyard. And the most angry I ever remember seeing her was when I pulled up the Clematis vines while pretending to build a fort under her pine tree.

She passed away several years ago, on a cold December day. But December wasn't her time of year - it was spring - and so I especially miss her on sunny days like today.

Since Grandma Nev has been on my mind, I invited my extended family to come over this past weekend for a day of Orahnjaca making. Orahnjaca is a recipe from Old Country, a Croatian nut roll. It's what I think of most when I remember my grandmother's cooking. (Let's just say she wasn't as good at cooking as she was at gardening.) But Orahnjaca is something that she always made well.

This recipe always takes longer than I expect. If you make it, have plenty of snacks and loved ones around to make the waiting fun. And don't stress out about following my directions exactly - my grandmother was not one to follow a recipe, so I think this is pretty fool-proof.


Dough Ingredients:
5 Tbsp. warm milk
7 Tbsp. sugar
2 packages yeast
1 c. butter, melted (2 sticks)
5 eggs
2 tsp. salt
5 c. flour

Combine milk and sugar in large bowl. Mix by hand. Add yeast and mix again. In a separate bowl, combine butter and eggs. Add to yeast/milk/sugar mixture. Add salt and mix again. Little by little, add flour. Work with your hands until the dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk. This will take about three hours.
Divide dough in half. Work a few times with your hands and roll into a 10X15 inch rectangle on a floured board. Spread with half of nut mixture and roll length-wise. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise again, for about an hour. When Orahnjaca is ready to bake, the dough will spring back when you touch it with your finger.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool, then drizzle with icing.

Nut filling:
1 lb nuts (about 2 c) (We use pecan meal, but the traditional recipe calls for walnuts.)
1 c milk
1 c dark brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Add all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat until mixture is uniform and not clumpy.

Zest from one lemon
2 sticks butter, melted
1 c. powdered sugar
milk (optional)

In a small saucepan, add lemon to melted butter. Add powdered sugar. Stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick to be able to drizzle, add a few teaspoons of milk.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Since my first day as a stay at home mom, Evie and I have had a nap routine. We cuddle together in my bed until she falls asleep. For the most part, it's always been a nice time in our day. A few quiet moments together before Evie drifts to dreamland.

But when I was pregnant with Ethan, I started to worry about this routine. First of all, Evie was almost three years old. I knew she should be falling asleep on her own. And how would I manage to keep this up with an infant in the house?

The subject came up once with my doctor. I remember explaining to Dr. Jewell that I still held Evie or snuggled with her until she fell asleep. Instead of a reproachful look, he told me it was okay, that he rocked his kids to sleep until they were well past three. Then he gave me a little pearl of wisdom: Evie is never going to be mad that I helped her fall asleep. She is never going to grow up and say "Mom, you loved me too much."

So I decided then and there to keep our routine. If I needed to change things when Ethan arrived, I would deal with it then.

But I haven't. There has not been even a single day when I couldn't find the time to lay next to Evie under the covers. Lately, though, I have been rushing her. I want her to fall asleep quickly because Ethan could wake up any minute and need me. I want her to fall asleep quickly because I use the time when both of my children are sleeping to return phone calls, to empty the dishwasher, to catch up on Desperate Housewives while I fold a load of laundry.

Because of this, our routine hasn't been very nice lately. I save minutes by refusing to sing to her. I cut corners and don't tell a story or read from the journal I kept when she was a baby. I growl at her to be still, to close her eyes, to stop talking. And as soon as she falls asleep, I sneak out.

But yesterday, the thought occurred to me that I was changing what used to be one of the best parts of our day. I thought about wanting a baby with all my heart, and not being able to have one. At that time, I would have given anything to be in bed with my daughter, whispering the story of how Daddy proposed or laughing when she randomly said "My hands look a lot like dog hands."

Yesterday, I put my face close to hers. I smelled her hair, her strawberry-shampoo-girly-scent. When she rolled over, I kissed her little back. I put my arm around her until I felt her breathing become even and slow. Still, I stayed with her. I watched her long eyelashes flutter in her sleep.

And I thanked God for her, for this time with her.

I am going to do my best not to wish these days away. I won't wish for the day she can fall asleep on her own. I won't wish for the day when I'm not slowed down by buckling two kids into their car seats. I won't wish for the day I'm not picking up Barbies and Crayons and blocks from the floor. I won't wish for the day when Ethan can drink milk from a sippy cup or go on the potty. I won't wish for the day Evie can brush her own hair.

I will savor these days, because I already know they don't last. But I will enjoy them for as long as I can.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Disney on Ice - Let's Celebrate!

So, we see a lot of Disney shows. I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a program from Mom Central and Feld Entertainment, and my family has received many a free ticket.

This week, we went to the Let's Celebrate show here in St. Louis. And it is by far the best live Disney show I've seen.

Not only did we celebrate unbirthdays with Alice in Wonderland...
Not only did we celebrate Christmas and Valentine's day...
Not only did we see every.single.Princess, even the newest Princess Tiana...
Not only did we see Buzz and Jessie and Woody...
And Tinkerbell was there...

But we also celebrated Halloween with Jack Skellington and all the Disney villans! That one act had to be my favorite by far. The music was great, the skating was great, the action was great. And how often do you get to see all those villans together? Cruella DeVille, Jafar, the Evil Queen and witch from Snow White, Captain Hook, and plenty of goblins made for a very fun scene.

Of course, Evie's face lit up at the sight of the Princesses. That had to be the best moment of the night, just watching her face, mouth in an "O." She danced and clapped and sang along. Just perfect - BURST!

You can still purchase tickets to Let's Celebrate for this weekend's performances. Click here, and use coupon code MOM in the MC Promotion box to get four tickets for $44.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I haven't been inspired to write lately. Which is odd, since I have two of the most precious little inspirations living right under my roof.

I am a very happy person. Even in the midst of a struggle, I can look around and see the blessings in my life. I get these little bursts of joy every single day, sometimes from small ordinary things. It could be the glint of light on my wedding ring, Evie's smile, the first shoot of a crocus poking out of the earth, or a song on the radio. But my heart swells and the world feels right and I know just how lucky I am to be living this life. My wonderful life.

For several weeks in February, though, those little bursts were missing. It's not that I was unhappy. But I was just going through the motions of my life, watching it happen in front of me. I wasn't participating.

This had never happened to me before. Where was my joy? How could I get it back?

So I started working out again. It made me feel better about myself and gave me some alone time. I sometimes sit and talk with friends and have a cup of coffee afterward. But no bursts of joy. I got a new haircut. No burst. I prayed about it, asking God to make me aware of the blessings that surround me, to make me feel them in my heart. Still not a single burst. I tried to talk to Chris about it once, laying in the dark. He didn't understand what I was trying to say, and the conversation quickly became an argument. Definitely no burst there.

And just when I started thinking I should talk to my doctor about postpartum depression, the sun came out. Literally.

Early last week, a little bit of springtime crept into St. Louis. The breezes blew just a tiny bit warmer and I felt the sun on my face. I don't know if it was really the long Midwestern winter or my hormones, but I finally feel like myself again. Everywhere I look, I find inspiration and joy.

Yesterday, I was patting Ethan's back, trying to get him to fall asleep for his afternoon nap. He craned his neck over to look at my face. And he laughed. He couldn't stop - it was one of those silly, tired laughs. It made me laugh, and then Evie joined in. Burst!

Last week we went for a walk in the sun with one of our neighbors. Then Evie and the girls drew chalk pictures on the driveway. Such bright colors, such bright faces full of smiles. Burst!

When I change Ethan's poopy diapers, he laughs. It distracts me from the fact that I'm changing a poopy diaper, and makes me laugh, too. Burst!

The other day, Evie ran into the living room with a mini Sleeping Beauty doll. She asked "Is this the future?" I was baffled. She explained that she had finally put Sleeping Beauty's pink dress on by herself. And then I remembered telling her not to give up, that if she kept trying, she would be able to put the dress on all by herself, one day in the future. Burst!

I was on the computer in the kitchen yesterday, and I glanced into the living room. Ethan was sitting in a chair, and Evie had climbed up next to him. She had her arm around him and was reading him an Easter book. Burst! Burst! Burst!

Evie was making cupcakes in her play kitchen the other day, and she was so excited about adding extra shredded cheese to the cupcakes. She even made sure to add some on top. Burst!

A few nights ago, we were saying our prayers before bed. And Evie said "Jesus, please help me sleep through the night, so I don't get into trouble from Mommy." Burst!

Right now, my mom and Evie are playing with pop beads at the kitchen table. I'm listening to their conversation and their laughs. Burst!

So I'm inspired again. Inspired and loving this life. Burst! Burst! Burst!