30 August 2007

IOU (Kindra)

It was the kind of day where rivulets of sweat course from your scalp down to your shoes, making each step malodorous and slightly squishy.

July.

Todd and I had ventured out for ice cream, because apparently that is what newlyweds do. They go for romantic walks in 100 degree weather. We squished and malodored our way up the two blocks to the corner pizza/ice cream shop, trying not to glare at people who eased by in their cars and waved cheerily from the frosty interiors. And didn't pick us up.

Somehow we outlived the dangers of thermal combustion and shlepped into the restaurant. A couple of paper Coke cups of ice water later, our grey matter flickered back to life and we stepped out in the sweltering air to trek home with the remains of our ice cream cones.

Now, I don't remember what time of day it was, exactly. And I don't remember what I was wearing, because who actually remembers stuff like that. And I don't even recall what kind of ice cream I held, although I'd bet any amount of money it had something to do with chocolate.

But I do remember this: hubby's youngest sister, Kindra, was at that corner shop. She was about fourteen or so, I'd guess. And she was with a friend, and made the polite rounds of introduction.

When she got to me, this is what she said:

"This is Nicki, my sister."

Just like that.

She could have, maybe even should have, said sister-in-law. It was accurate, expected. But while there's nothing at all wrong with that term, something about it connotes distance. Part of the family by technicality.

But she said sister. As in, close to my heart. One who belongs.

And I've loved her ever since.

currently reading



(Left to right)

1. Speaking My Mind (Tony Campolo)


2. Real Simple Family


3. To Own a Dragon (Donald Miller)


4. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Alexander McCall Smith)


Yes, all at once. I think I may be developing literary ADD.

28 August 2007

impermeability and whatnot

Yesterday I made an unpleasant discovery: McDonald's napkins are dreadfully nonabsorbent. So nonabsorbent, in fact, that I've decided they don't qualify as napkins. Loose-leaf paper, perhaps, or disposable coasters, but napkins? I think not.

Here's the skinny: We started out on a shopping trip that went splendidly, especially considering that the kids I brought along were mine. That went so well, I thought, why not stop off for lunch?

Truth be told, lunch was rather uneventful too, right up to the point where my daughter spilled her chocolate milk. Well, it's not so much that she spilled it as it is that she just stopped holding it. In mid-air. So the plastic carton plummeted at a rate of 9.8 m/s squared (don't say I never learned anything in physics), and exploded across the floor, the vinyl seats, and our unsuspecting legs. It was quite impressive.

I did what all good mothers do and Dealt With It Myself. First step: toss a chunk of napkins loose-leaf paper/disposable coasters on the puddle. Now, if we were to recreate this experiment in my house with my napkins, at this point the puddle would visibly shrink as it got sucked up into the napkin pile.

But at McDonald's, this is what happened: nothing. By the time I came back with the second heap of faux napkins, the puddle had not only failed to contract, it was actually expanding its chocolate tentacles across the floor. Upon inspection of the first "napkin" pile, I found that only the bottom napkin was wet, and half-wet at that. This was Not Good.

So what could've been a 30 second wipe-up morphed into ten minutes of me squatting under the table as I coaxed up one milliliter of milk at a time with individual napkins until (hallelujah) a trusty McD's employee happened along with a mop. I really liked that guy.

All of this to issue my napkin report: the Great Golden Arches does not have any bonafide napkins, so if you're headed that way with a toddler (or the spill-prone friend that we all have), bring your own.

That, or make friends with the guy with the mop.

27 August 2007

last crumbs of August



As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away


(Emily Dickinson)

25 August 2007

diet shmiet

This recipe has revolutionized my cookie standards.

SOFT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(from Martha Stewart Living)
Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream, and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until centers are set and cookies are pale golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.




Seriously the best cookie I've experienced, and I do not exaggerate. (Alright, so I do exaggerate on a regular basis, but I meant right now. In this particular instance, I don't even need to exaggerate, because the truth is that impressive.)

I never thought it possible, but this recipe has engendered a personal fondness of Martha. If I start slipcovering all my furniture and potting moss in bronze Asian vessels, please come take me away.

24 August 2007

daily news

1. Mail!! Grandma Owens sent a Goliath-sized box of goodies for the younguns. She even threw in a package of post-it notes for me so I can make more lists to forget to bring to the library. Merci!




2. The "Indelible" launch is up and running. Here's my cozy contribution:




I'm drooling over these listings: Eva's schoolgirl mini-wardrobe, Jade's elegant Demoiselle collection, and this funky hostess apron by OliveJuice&Co.


3. Last, but most definitely not least, is this cyber greeting card I've made for a certain anonymous someone (but trust me, he knows who he is):




Just think, we could open a whole new division of hallmark with these kinds of cards. Look for the "insect" section right between "birthday" and "sympathy."

22 August 2007

future attorneys at law

I've discovered that to my kids, a shopping trip is just one big loophole. Because I didn't say they couldn't "shine" the floor with their hands. I didn't say they couldn't lick the faux pumpkins ("they smell like cake, Mom!") (okay, I admit, they did smell pretty lickable). I didn't say they couldn't wriggle across the tiled floor of the checkout aisle like an earthworm ("Not a worm, Mom. A purple fish!"). Oh, well in that case, go ahead.

I don't even bother with the attempt to think up everything my children might do so I can add it to the verboten list before they fly into action. Completely futile. They have exponentially greater proportions of imagination than I do. Instead, I focus on what they are allowed to do: "You may walk beside me and tell me about Rescue Heroes in a quiet voice."

This works fairly well for my younger two, but not so much for the older pair.

A long bout of silence and puffed cheeks, followed by an explosion of air. "Hurry up and say we can breathe, Mom!"

"You may breathe."

"And can we blink, Mom? What about blinking? Can our blood move through our veins? And what about the spit that gets to be at the back of my throat? Can I swallow it? You didn't say I could swallow."







!






So if you find yourself in need of legal counsel in about twenty years, you'll know who to call.

21 August 2007

favorite things (August 21)

this bracelet

this shop

this blog

this new group

this auction

this memory



{added note: The funny part of this memory is what's not in the picture. Grandpa Owens is lighting novelty-firework-type snakes, which we thought would be colorful and impressive, but turned out to be one long self-perpetuating black turd coiling up for a few disgusting seconds. Wish you were there, eh?}

19 August 2007

thwarted addiction

Scattered about my house are scraps of notebook paper and pink post-its with lists of book titles. Namely, books I intend to read sometime this century, preferably the while-I'm-still-alive part of this century.

Here's a sampling of titles from the first two lists I dug up:

The Trouble with Normal (Cherise Mericle Harper)
Bird by Bird
Speak
Writer's Workshop in a Book
Sacred Games (Vikram Chandra)
Falling Man (Don DeLillo)
The God of Animals (Aryn Kyle)
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (Dinaw Mengestu)
Lolita

Rarely do I cross anything off these lists, however, since I never manage the foresight to bring any of the post-its with me to the library. So the books I borrow after a prodigious amount of hemming and hawing comprise an entirely different list themselves. A good list, mostly, but unintentional.

Yesterday was an exception.

It started off as not-an-exception, as I found myself at the library with four kids and no lists. But not only did I remember to look for Lolita, I actually found it on the shelves, in spite of not knowing the author's name (Vladimir Nabokov) and an apparent inability to ask for help.

So here I am, happily at home with three promising novels: Hattie Big Sky (finished it, pretty good), So B. It, and the aforementioned Lolita.

One book down, 274 to go.

18 August 2007

repletion

Today means

rummage sales and

sewing (something old and something new)

a stop at the library

rattlesnake pasta

and having my son home.

Everything's right in my small corner of the world.

17 August 2007

tip of the day

Do not allow your two-year-old (no matter how cute she may be) to take a Kleenex tissue to bed unless you enjoy picking up three hundred Kleenex shreds the next morning.

You'd think that by the fourth child I would've caught on to these things.

16 August 2007

I tell you what, this kid is only two and she already knows how to work the system.



"Mommy," she croons, wrapping her baby-soft arms around my neck. "Mommy, I still love you. Can I have some chocolate milk now?"


Great.


On other matters, my nine-year-old has just been admitted to the hospital with low oxygen levels and signs of pneumonia. If any of you are willing to pray for him, I'd be so appreciative. Not only is he miserable, he's also missing his first week of school.


And then there's this. Really puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

World Vision is habitually one of the first relief organizations to respond to large-scale disasters, and Peru's quake is no exception. Would you consider joining me in donating to their emergency aid/disaster response fund?

Thanks, dear friends.

15 August 2007

because it's wednesday and all

So in spite of my firmly articulated aversion to tag, the gorgeous Morgan has tagged me to play her freaky self-portrait game (which I have to admit is rather addicting). I thought I might weasel out of it on the technicality of owning PSP instead of Photoshop, but as I didn't want to risk the wrath of Morgan, here ya go:


(me in a washing machine)



(the poltergeist version of me)



(how I'd look if you infrared-thermal-scanned me)



(touched-by-an-angel)



(impersonating jimmy neutron)


So I ended up with weird more than freaky, but I've frittered away too much time to go back and redo the assignment. Weird it is.

And now I shall go against every fiber of my non-tagging morality and tag Emily, because everything she touches is hilarious. Let's see it, Em!

14 August 2007

12 August 2007

IOU (Noel)

So I have this little brother whom I call Poley, or Poles* for short.





Somehow, in spite of growing up with me, he still sees the wonderful in me while categorically dismissing my failures. Like the flaws don't count because they're not really me, see? I love him for that.

He's also about the funniest person alive, and I'm convinced he's totally brilliant mostly because we share the same off-beat humor and he gets my jokes. I start to smile out of habit just at the sound of his voice, fully anticipating he'll whip out something beautifully gut-busting in his nonchalant way.


Plus, how can you not admire someone with such a freakishly gifted tongue?



You must admit, that's impressive. :)


I also love that he's introspective. I take curious comfort in knowing I'm not the only person who analyzes life into grains of madness. He's deep in the best of ways, and the fact that he's trusted me with knowing him is huge. And precious. Because what more can you give someone, really, than the secret of who you are?

My sunniest days are those where I've caught a glimpse of the girl I am in his eyes. I stand a little taller, hope a little higher, and think maybe, maybe someday. Maybe I really can be her.

Thanks, Poley.



{*The evolution went like this:
Noel
Noely
Noely Poley
Poley
Poles}

11 August 2007

when in doubt, pick C

We interrupt your perfectly normal Saturday afternoon to bring you this fun pop quiz (gleaned from the lovely Megan's blog).

I love the concept here, but I don't own any lipstick. Not one to be stopped by such a small snag, however, I decided to play this game MY way. So. I clicked through each lipstick shape (how do people end up with some of those shapes? I really think you'd have to work at it) and picked the attributes that sound like me on most days.

Honestly, I overanalyze everything, so almost every answer applies to me under specific conditions, but here are the ones most likely to pop up.

-Abides by the rules
-Somewhat reserved (in public)
-Stubborn over little things
-Needs approval
-Loves challenges
-Opinionated
-Opinionated
-Opinionated (heheh)
-High-spirited
-Selective of friends
-Argumentative (not so much in public)
-Inquisitive
-Adventurous
-A prober
-Complex (although everyone likes to think they're complex, so who knows)

So I guess that's what happens when you don't have lipstick. You are doomed to be a mish-mash of every personality.

Anyhoo, take the quiz and report back w/your results!

PS For my MIL, who loves these temperament things (and is actually spot-on in her most of her assessments), I'm curious: which lipstick shape would you say is most me?

IOU (prologue)

I've been kickin' around this idea for a few weeks now, and finally decided to give it a whirl. I'm engineering a sporadic series called IOU (yeah, I suppose having it up there in the title does mess with the element of surprise--hmmmn).

Anyway, the plan is to feature, from time to time, someone who's been good to me. Someone who has poured their life into me, helped shape who I am today.

Hopefully this doesn't go the way of most of my grand ideas, launching with great fanfare only to gradually fizzle out into oblivion. I'm not sure if this tendency speaks to my short attention span or to my poor memory, but neither is especially flattering, eh?

(Like remember the whole God-complex era, when I used to give everyone points? I suppose some things are better left unresurrected.)

So be on the lookout for IOU's. Or not. We'll see how it goes.

09 August 2007

horsin' around

Meet Chester, the stick-horse:




And Hi-Ho-Silver-Away (she thinks it's one long name):




This equestrian duo tends to get on my grouchy side when they engage in illegal hallway races.




For purposes of front-yard galloping, however, they are truly hard to beat.



Happy trails!

07 August 2007

good things (just call me Martha)

1. My mom is officially my favorite mom ever because she sent me this:



(Well, the whole lack-of-competition thing also works out in her favor, but you know.)

I've been rationing my chocolates to increase the days of joy, but today I caved and had three. It's quite likely that I just reversed the entire 3.5 miles I jogged this morning, but I'm choosing not to dwell on this. Upward and onward, I say.

In case you're unfamiliar with Dove's Promises, their foil wrappers sport nifty printed messages. I usually find them moderately amusing, like the one that read: "Smile. People will wonder what you've been up to." But today's messages were just plain wonky.

"Go to your special place." Yepper.

That was the message, and I got it all three times.



So I'm really supposed to be going there, apparently. It might be a slight hitch in the plans that I don't know the location of this specialness, but wherever it is, I'm sure the temperature is cooler than it is here. Come to think of it, Antarctica is feeling pretty special right now.




2. I love tomatoes. But sometimes I forget.

I've spent so much of my life gagging at tomatoes that it takes me a prolonged second (which is probably the equivalent of two seconds, but I wanted to say "prolonged") to remember that, oh yes, I do like them.

They are delectable in sandwiches, salads, or sprinkled with olive oil and red pepper flakes.



And they are amazingly tastier straight from a friend of a friend's garden, as opposed to the sterile aisles of Meijer.




3. Need a dose of melancholy? Thumb through your high school yearbook a bit. My school buddies were witty and odd and flattering. Nothing like leaving to make people say nice things about you.

My favorite sign-off was this:

I'm running out of ink
or is it heart?
I can't tell
anymore

06 August 2007

how do I loathe thee

Don't you hate it when you step out of the shower only to realize you're still sweating? Ugh.

August.

05 August 2007

cinque

My smallest guy is five today. Five. He looks awfully little to have that many years behind him.












I asked him what he thought about being five. He said it's good because "when you are five you run faster." That does come in handy from time to time, especially when one has older brothers to keep up with.

Happy birthday, my sweet.

04 August 2007

sloth

I am procrastinating.

Right at this very moment I intended to be running, but instead I am flitting through the ever-lengthening list of blogs by brilliant beings. (Note to self: alliteration on a Saturday morning feels a bit over-the-top. Maybe on any morning.)

So if I can find five blogs by people who religiously exercise, can we call it good?

I thought not.

The irony of it all is that I *know* that once I prod my sneakers into forward motion, the rest of me likes it. I like the quiet of the morning, watching the neighborhood rub off its sleep. I crave the slapping rhythm of my feet. It's somehow steadying. Renewing. I relish the time to be alone with my thoughts and my God.

And yet here I sit.

Procrastinating.

Pro. cras. ti. na. ting.

P-r-o- oh, okay already, I'm off.

02 August 2007

toddler couture

*This* delicious bib popped up in the mail from sweet Kris of Hartwell Designs.



Soft chenille on one side, sparkly kitties on the other. Elle is enamored with the thing and has taken to wearing it about the house in place of clothing. And I'm pleased as punch to finally find a bib that covers so much of her.


On other Elle-related matters, her imagination has officially kicked into high gear. Yesterday we were window shopping on eBay (screen shopping? not sure how that works out, exactly), and I clicked on Patty's lovely dotted auction. Elle took one look at Patty's daughter and said, "That's my sister!" (FYI, Inventory: three brothers, no sisters.)

Poor kid.



Though nowhere near poor enough for me to give birth to another child, so y'all can stop scheming now.

What they never tell you

(Or maybe they did tell us and we just weren't listening)

The person who shows up on your wedding day is not actually the person who shows up each morning in your marriage.

Nothing is fixed, stagnant. Everyone changes with time.

Sometimes it's drastic, like when someone sets off for war and returns as a living corpse: a shell of who they were, trembling in their sleep, assaulted with memories too horrifying to disclose.

Mostly, though, it seems to be a gradual evolving...a little sagging and bulging and wrinkling, a deepening reclusiveness, a sharpened cynicism. Changes brought about by the trauma of daily life, with its beginnings and deaths and promotions and losses.

And one can wake up at thirty (or forty or fifty or twenty-three) and find that they don't recognize the person snoring beside them, wrapped in more than their fair share of blanket.

Which can be taxing, I think. Difficult if the current version of your spouse grates at you, difficult to honor the commitment you've made, difficult to choose to love.

Or, if you're as blessed as I am, it can be easier than ever. Because sometimes the changes are happy: a sweet mellowing of spirit, a deeper well of patience, a rooted steadfastness.

My husband is not the person I married over a decade ago.

He's even better.