Thursday, December 23

Taking a cue from the Muppets

The Muppet Christmas Carol is probably my all-time favorite Christmas movie. My brother and I watched it countless times when we were growing up, and now I am thrilled that my Bees love it as much as we did.



I'm not gonna pretend. The Muppets make me cry. Every time. Little froggy Tiny Tim sings a song that has turned into a prayer from my heart. The lyrics are simple, yet so full of hope and love and Meaning. Its words are such that, had I planned it a little better, I would have read to Jeremy at our wedding.

Life is full of sweet surprises
Every day's a gift
The sun comes up and I can feel it lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into the eyes of Love and know that I belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family I hold dear
No place on earth compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where I roam

Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much, that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the Light
Let us hear the voice of Reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for You and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask You bless us all

Bless us all




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Tuesday, December 21

Sandwiches and Stitches

It all started because The Boy wanted a grilled cheese sandwich.

This past Saturday morning, my mother and my husband and I were scurrying about the house, trying to get it in order for The Baby's birthday party. My mom fed the kids breakfast, but some time later The Boy asked for a grilled cheese sandwich. I think I told him to wait, that I would get him one later. I may have just blown him off completely, deferring the situation to my mother.

I ran to Kroger to buy supplies for more Super Awesome Candy Cane Dip (and also to pick up the ingredients to the Easiest Truffles Ever, which my best friend makes, which I completely ruined, even though they're the Easiest Truffles Ever), and ran back home.

When I got here, B1 and B2 were having a dance-off in the living room. This is not a random occurrence in our house, we shake our tail-feathers on the daily. Except, on this particular day, our furniture was moved back to allow more dance floor, and our dining table chairs were moved in to provide party guests a place to sit. Again, The Boy asked for a grilled cheese sandwich, again, I told him to wait.

Clearly he had gone stark raving mad with hunger while I was out, and upon hearing that he wouldn't be immediately ingesting the gooey goodness of melted cheese on toast, The Boy proceeded to throw himself against a wooden chair. And split his head open.

this is his pitiful flesh wound face

this is his pitiful flesh wound

I don't know what it is all of a sudden with my kids and their head traumas, but they really need to cut it out. 


(Ok, so, he didn't actually throw himself onto the chair. He was dancing it out, and fell into the chair. But, fits of rage make for a much more interesting story.)

So, after a brief round of "Which parent gets to go to the ER this time?" I took my bleeding firstborn in to the clinic, where he was promptly stitched up. I watched the entire stitching without puking one bit. Make sure they spell my name correctly on my Mother of the Year statuette.



it took some work but I finally convinced him that chicks do, in fact, dig scars
When we called Jeremy on our way home to tell him about the head-sewing, he told us to stop and get something to eat for lunch.


The Boy's choice? Sonic. Where he got that grilled cheese sandwich after all.





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Thursday, December 16

Hippos Go Berserk! (a gift guide?)

crazy hippo party

I recently had a revelation: We love hippos.

In our home, we have a lot of hippo-related books and toys. I'm sure we have an equal amount of puppies and bunnies and kittens, but hippos are just so much more fun than domesticated animals. Right? Right.

Sandra Boynton is the undisputed Queen of Hippos. If hard pressed, I might even admit that Ms Boynton is the Queen of Everything, we love her so.



Hungry Hungry Hippos: because greed and instant gratification is precisely what we need to teach our children. That, and it's really fun to slam the hippos' backs and catch those balls.



The Hungry Hippo, an Animal Tales book. I had to take a picture of this book because apparently, there wasn't one on the whole internet. My brother and I read this copy over and over when we were little, and now my Bees love it too. It's a cute book with a good moral spin. Something about not stomping on your friends when you get mad. Or hungry. Maybe.

 

We don't own this book, but the old Christmas song has been on repeat. The Bees are obsessed with it. I am bordering on sheer unadulterated hatred.



Madagascar 2: featuring Gloria, the sassiest hippo around. Also, she is wooed by a hilariously smooove dude, voiced by will.i.am., which is always awesome.


 
Clare Beaton's textured graphics are gorgeous in Hidden Hippo from Barefoot Books. You can buy it right here (from me!), and if you purchase the $5 edition, it will ship directly to a school library in Africa!


 
This is, without a doubt, the best hippo book ever. Happy Hippopotami shows ridiculously rotund hippos on "a hippoholiday in the merry month of May." Lines like "Happy hippopotami, on a sunny beach do lie..." and "Happy hippopotamamas wearing pretty beach pajamas..." crack us up. Bill Martin, Jr is a genius and Betsy Everitt's illustrations are unbelievably cute.



Yes. I realize that this is a rhino, and therefore not a hippo, but The Girl has this stuffed guy (and the Rhinoceros Tap book) and loves him hugely.
See also: Sandra Boynton is the Queen.




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Monday, December 13

BFP: Candy Cane Dip

Remember: BFP is my Big Fun Project tag, of which, we've only done like, one.

My friend Sunshine has a delicious-looking cooking blog, aptly titled Make Life Delicious. Last week she wrote a post about Candy Cane Dip. (In fact, she has a whole section devoted to Christmas recipes. I think the Bees and I are going to do the Hot Chocolate Dippers next!)

I saw the link that Sunshine tweeted and thought, "Hmm that's interesting." I'm not a huge fan of candy canes, just because I'm not a huge fan of pepperminty things. (I think it's leftover trauma from my first pregnancy when I tried any and every homeopathic nausea remedy before begging my doctor for non-puke drugs. What were we talking about? Oh yeah.)
Then I saw her post at Arkansas Women Bloggers and again thought, "Hmmm." And then I thought, "The Bees and I need something to do today. Let's wreck the kitchen."

Let the BFP begin!

The ingredients are simple. The prep is minimal. The payoff is huge.
I asked Sunshine if I could post her recipe here, and like the gracious pretty lady she is, she obliged.

Sunshine's Candy Cane Dip:
(Sunshine's instructions in bold, my notations in italics)

Ingredients
1/2 Cup crushed peppermint candy canes I didn't know what a half-cup would be, so we obliterated three candy canes in the food processor. It was loud. And fun.
12 oz. Cool Whip, thawed I assume 12 oz is one delicious tub, but we made a small batch for our trial run, so we used about a third of the tub. (I just asked The Boy what one-third of twelve is and he told me it was four. One more confirmation that I'm actually teaching him things. Hooray, homeschool! What were we talking about? Oh yeah.) So, 4 ounces. Sorta.
Wafer Cookies I know Sun was trying to be generic, but really, there are NO wafer cookies other than 'Nilla Wafers. None. So, use the 'Nillas. (No one at 'Nilla headquarters paid me to do that, but if they wanted to, I'd say it again. 'Nilla.)

Directions
Fold crushed peppermint into whipped topping (the easiest and fastest way to crush is by using a food processor…Warning-it is rather loud!) (See!? I said it was loud!). Cover and refrigerate overnight. Oh, shoot. I totally read over that "refrigerate overnight" part. We dug in the very moment we got done folding. Whooops! Before serving, stir dip to distribute the peppermint bits. Serve with wafers. 'Nillas.


Do you SEE how easy that is? The Bees and I broke the candy canes, tossed them into the food processor, donned our science lab goggles (no, we didn't. note to self: buy science lab goggles), then took turns mixing the candy cane crumbs in with the Cool Whip.
Big. Fun. Project. (That You Can Eat.)

And truly, so delicious. It's not very minty at all, just sweet (without being tooo sweet) with a hint of pepperminty-ness.

Most importantly, the judges' reactions:
yes, The Baby's mostly naked.
yes, The Boy is wearing mismatched jammies.
yes, The Girl picked out her own clothes this morning.
but, THE CANDY CANE DIP IS DELICIOUS


They loved it. They gobbled it, in fact.









Easy + Yummy = Win.
Thank you, Sunshine!

Sunday, December 12

a little help here?

So. Blogging. It's awesome. We love it.

But then sometimes we don't. I caught the dreaded Blog Flu a week or so ago. Turns out I shared the germies with my friend Audreya, who then came down with it. And wrote about it (see: above link. Seriously, see it. It's good.)


It's a blog gang sign. How awesome is that?
I found it via google images from www.dailynugget.com

I am planning on might be making some changes around this hive. For the better. Hopefully.

In the meantime, I'd like to ask all both of you who read this blog for some help on a couple issues:

1) Tell me some of your favorite blogs (and their links). Why you like 'em. What makes them work for your tastes.
2) Tell me why you do or don't comment on those lovely blogs.
3) Tell me why you blog.
4) Wire some money into my Nigerian bank account.

Ok, no, you don't have to do number four. My bank account is here in Arkansas. No wiring necessary.


Really though, I want to fully kick the Blog Flu's bottom and get on over it. I want to build a digital idea board of what I'd like my blog to be. I need new inspiration. A new palette of words, more pleasing to myself and my both of you readers.



And then I'll be back and ready to become the Next Top Blogger, or the next American Blogidol, or the next Real HouseBlogger, or possibly just your next favorite blog.






I like the last possibility the best.

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Wednesday, December 8

BEES!

And the winner... of her very own buzzing bees... is... BECCA! She left a sweet comment on my Thanksgiving post and I have a feeling her brother will so SUPER PLEASED if he gets a stocking full of stingers. :)



So.
The Baby's got jokes.
We're all about the jokes around the hive these days. Puns, riddles, fancy wordplay, we love it all. The Boy is killer at knock-knock jokes. He's got great timing. The Bunny Baby's timing is not so great. I mean, she's a natural ham, but at 23.5 months of age, she's not so awesome at her delivery.

Her favorite joke is the one that's all "Knock-knock" "Who's there?" "Orange" "Orange who?" "Knock-knock." You know the rest. Except, The Bunny never gets to the rest. There is never. any. banana. She orange/knock-knocks her way into oblivion. At some point her daddy and I will finally double over in laughter and then she just beams with pride.

The Boy has two Best Ever jokes. One of them involves a fish running into a concrete wall. The other one was especially funny when I was still nursing. Both of the jokes come directly from his daddy... and that should tell you plenty.
"What kind of bees produce milk?" "I don't know, Guy Smiley, what kind?" "BOO! Ha! Get it? BOO-BEES?!" It's funnier coming from a 6 year-old boy than from a 32 year-old man, trust me.

(Guy Smiley)
So the Bunny has her jokes mixed up. And also she talks to herself sometimes. Today when I heard her talking to herself (or possibly to one of her stuffed animals), I snuck up to the doorframe and peeked into her room.
This is what I heard:
Knock-knock!
Who's there?
Ha, ha! BOOOOOBEEEEEES!
Knock-knock!
BOOOBEEES!
Who's knock?
Booooooooooobeees!
Ha, ha! Knock-knock!
Whose boobies?

She went on for a solid three minutes.

My baby. She's like George Carlin, only less drunk and dirty.








#sofar
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Thursday, December 2

Small, Medium, or Large? How do you take your Theology?

My sweet Ladybug says funny things sometimes often constantly. She is a source of laughter and light in my life. Sometimes she makes things up, sometimes she pulls them from the back of her memory.

Today at the homeschool co-op, seemingly out of nowhere, she said, "God will protect us when we are inside a fire."
Obviously she was remembering the Bible story when three of Daniel's buddies (teenagers, at the time) were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the king's false idol. (It's entirely possible she was recalling the time, 3 years ago, when Jeremy's grandmother's hundred-year-old house burned down, and Jeremy's aunt and grandmother escaped safely. But Ima go with the Daniel bit for now.)
The thing that always blows me away about the story of Rack, Shack and Benny is that they never once wavered on the question of the Lord's Sovereignty and provision. They were confident that God would keep them safe in the midst of inescapable danger. HOWEVER. They told the king that even if God chose not to save them from the fire, they would still not bow down, and would die for their firm belief in the Lord.

When my Ladybug made the statement that God would keep us safe in the middle of a fire, I was hesitant to answer her. I finally came up with, "Yes, baby. God can keep us safe in a fire. But let's not play with matches anyway."


Small Theology:
There is a difference between what God can do, and what He will do.
Yes. I tweeted.

Medium Theology:
We as Christians take that as it stands. We accept that God, in His omnipotence, can do anything. We also accept that God, in His sovereignty, will not always do what we think/hope/pray He will do. It can certainly be a hard pill to swallow. We are told over and over throughout the Bible that we will be taken care of. That God supplies for our needs. That He protects us. That everything good comes from the Lord, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him.

Large Theology:
So, why is that so hard to understand? The Sovereignty of God is one of the most difficult aspects of Christianity. I don't even pretend to fully grasp the doctrine. But. I know the difference in God Can, and God Will, and I trust that God will be gracious and that God is filled with mercy and that His will will be done, even when we flat out don't get it.

Exhibit A:
My husband's sister died in her sleep, completely unexpectedly, on April 21st, 2007. She was 36. She had been married for seven years, and had three children, ages 4, 3, and 13 months. She was a very strong Christian, she was not without fault, but overall she was a really great gal. How is it that her death is for the good?
We don't know. Now. It may be that her children grow up with an acute sensitivity to loss, and go into the ministry to counsel those experiencing grief. It may be that her faith walk affected one of her coworkers and they gave their life to Christ. We. don't. know. But we believe. Yes, it was awful and heartbreaking  and, in an earthly mindset, unfair.
I heard once that this life is like a great tapestry, with God as the Supreme Weaver, and we can only see the underside. The bottom view is full of twisted thread. It is knotted in places. It has strings that have been clipped. But the top of the tapestry is perfectly formed and more breathtakingly beautiful that we can even imagine. Moral of the story: to us, here, things look crappy sometimes. But on the other side, in God's realm, things are always as they should be. And they are good.

Exhibit B:
My husband's father died, after a very short battle with cancer, on August 8th, 2008. He was a healthy man- never smoked, hadn't had a drop of alcohol in decades, never ate junk, hiked the Grand Canyon just months before his death. By all standards, he was in perfect health, except for the cancer. He was also one of the most educated, most God-filled, most humble, most spiritual people I've ever had the blessing of knowing.
The good in his death was crystal clear.
Yes, the loss of his life was mourned by hundreds. He left behind a wife of 37 years who still needed him. His time with his children and grandchildren was cut woefully short. But.
When he knew that the cancer was gaining on him, he stepped up his personal ministry. He spoke about the Lord to everyone he encountered. Everyone. He spoke at our church on Easter Sunday about the blessings he'd received in his life- and about the death of his daughter and the death of his mother and his walk with cancer. In the hospital, days before he died, he witnessed to one of his pulmonology technicians. I know with absolute certainty that his death, and life, brought people closer to the Lord. And that was the only thing he ever hoped for.
The good in his death was the furthering of God's kingdom, the spreading of God's Word.


Do You Want Fries with That?:
The side item of this (way super extra long) post is this:
There are three ways God can when it comes to the fire.
1) God can spare you from it completely. God could have struck ol' Nebuchadnezzer down where he stood, saving Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego from the fire altogether.
2) God can bring you through the furnace and come out unharmed.
He let the three faithful servants stand in the fire, and brought them out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes. Their lives were a testament to what God can do.
3) God can let you walk through the flames, and bring you out on the other side.
God can, and often does, bring the ones we love to the greatest good there is- Home. While it doesn't ever really serve our earthly purposes or desires, when a fellow believer reaches Heaven, it is right for us to rejoice that they are in the presence of the Lord.


What God will do, is not for us to know. It is for us to trust.
And that can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be astoundingly freeing. When we learn to trust the Lord, every fear falls to the wayside. Yes, there will be sadness. Yes, there will be pain. But yes, it is for. our. good.



Now. Let's finish this meal with a milkshake. My head hurts, how 'bout yours?


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Wednesday, December 1

Indescribably Undomestic: A Bathtub Tale

(Not our actual tub. Actual tub found here.)


Early on in our marriage, my husband made a grave mistake. He asked me to clean the bathtub. Eager to please my man, I dove under the kitchen sink (isn't that where everybody keeps their cleaning supplies?) and retrieved several spray bottles, a squeegee and a scrub brush. After I spent quite some time in a fume-filled bathroom, my husband came to check on me.
He found me sitting on the toilet seat lid, reading a magazine.

"Uh, honey, what are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm cleaning the bathtub." I answered, using my "duh" voice.
"How is reading Glamour the same as cleaning the bathtub?" he implored.
"Baby! I used Scrubbing Bubbles! The tub is cleaning itself!" I replied, very pleased with myself and my cleaning skills. "Look! They're cleaning the tub right now! All I'll have to do is rinse it off when they're done."

Then he did a very strange thing. He burst out in laughter. I figured the chemicals had gone to his head. He could. not. breathe.

As it turned out, the Scrubbing Bubbles' slogan was a bit misleading. They do not, in fact, do all the work so you don't have to.





On the bright side, he never asked me to scrub the tub again.




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Thursday, November 25

A Very Buzzy Thanksgiving

It is late on this Thanksgiving Day. Our turkey has been devoured, our naps have been taken.

There are so many things I'm thankful for, but nothing more than my husband and children! (ed note: exclamation mark added at the request of Bee #1, who is snuggled in beside me, reading as I type.)

We as a family have been blessed in innumerable ways this (and every) year. So many people have poured out love on us, and for that we are thankful. Jeremy and I try to focus some of our parenting energy on teaching our children to be a blessing in other people's lives (and also not to poop on the carpet).

A few minutes ago, I bought the Bees their first Christmas present of the year. It was not the latest hundred-dollar electronic doodad. It was not Princess Bad Body Image Barbie. It wasn't anything they'll ever lay their hands on. It was a bunch of honeybees.

The Buzz About Bees
From Uganda to El Salvador, bees from Heifer International help struggling families earn income through the sale of honey, beeswax and pollen.

Beehives require almost no space and, once established, are inexpensive to maintain.

As bees search for nectar, they pollinate plants. Placed strategically, beehives can as much as double some fruit and vegetable yields. In this way, a beehive can be a boost to a whole village.

Although most Heifer partners keep bees as a supplement to family income, beekeeping can be a family's livelihood. Your gift can help Heifer provide a family with a package of bees, the box and hive, plus training in beekeeping - and this unique gift will be passed on to another family in need.


................

I'm in love with Heifer International, and have been for a very long time. My mother has been known to gift me with a share of an animal, or a flock of fowl each year. I once spent the night in a replicated barrio in the Global Village at Heifer Ranch. The work that Heifer does to end world hunger is nothing short of incredible.

 
 
 
My Bees and I want to share the love.
We're giving away another bunch of bees!
 
Leave me a comment and tell me one thing you're thankful for this year. Or, even better, leave me your favorite idea for something we can do as a family to enrich the lives of others.
 
Just one comment and you are entered to win a whole hive. I will donate to Heifer on your behalf, and send you an Honor Card with your name, or the name of someone you'd like to honor, on it.
 
 
There is so much to be thankful for, I am glad to be passing along the gift.
 
 
 




 
**Note** You can use this link to direct folks back to this giveaway: http://bit.ly/fNZpZB
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Wednesday, November 17

My Lightning Rod

A few months ago, my family visited the Arkansas Museum of Discovery. One of the (many many) things we loved was the Energy! show. I was intrigued. In particular, I was captivated by how energy jumps so easily from object to conducive object. There were Tesla coils, a Van de Graaff generator, and lightning rods.


 Wikipedia describes a lightning rod as such:
A lightning rod is a metal rod or conductor mounted on top of a building and electrically connected to the ground through a wire, to protect the building in the event of lightning. If lightning strikes the building it will preferentially strike the rod, and be conducted harmlessly to ground through the wire, instead of passing through the building, where it could start a fire or cause electrocution.

Several nights ago I woke up with a jolt in the middle of the night. I had a terrifying dream, the details of which faded with every continuing moment of consciousness. When the sleep paralysis wore off after a few panic-stricken seconds, my hand shot out across the bed to find my husband. As soon as I felt the warmth of his skin on my fingertips, I was comforted. Sedated. Satisfied. In the same no-time it took the receptor nerves in my fingers to relay the message of touch to my brain, my brain sent a message to my heart: safe.

He is my lightning rod.

General Electric Lab, creating artificial lightning to study its behavior,
with man-made lightning striking rod atop miniature courthouse.
June 1949 Google LIFE archives

He is what protects me in the event of lightning. If lightning strikes near me, he stands in the way and it is conducted harmlessly to the ground through him, instead of passing through me, where it could cause permanent damage.

Since that night a few weeks ago, I have been hyper-aware of my night time habits. Like an involuntary muscle movement, or probably more accurately, muscle memory, my arm stretches out to find him. Every time it connects, the same words flash on the peripheries of my mind: He is my lightning rod.


So many times in our short life together, lightning has struck dangerously close to me. In each instance he has taken the blow for me, leaned into the wind and absorbed or diffused a bazillion volts so that I didn't have to. He stands taller and straighter than I do- he does not waver, he does not falter, he keeps me out harm's way. He is imperfect, yes, because he has been hit enough times that he now bears deep scars. But still he stands. He points heavenward and is prepared to help me do the same.
Should the hairs on my arms ever stand at attention, readying for the impending strike, he will be there. Should the smell of sulfer ever fill the air, he will be the one who provides me oxygen. Should a clap of thunder ever scare the pee-waddlin' out of me, he will brace me for what comes after.

He is my lightning rod.









ps- Happy birthday, boo. Thank you for being who you are.


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Wednesday, November 10

Cheap and Easy*

*That title reflects the craft, not the crafter

The hubs informed me last week that this will be our Craftiest Christmas Yet. In our mutual Christmases past, we've relied heavily on credit cards and we've gone all out to buy happies for the people we love. Well. This year we don't have a credit card. Not a one. But we still have people we love. And we still want to make them happy.

So... Craftiest Christmas Yet.

(Oh, um, if you think you might be on our gift list this year, stop reading now. Don't want to spoil the possible presentry.)


Long ago, my BFF crafted me a really great present. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (right? right.), I decided to try to replicate her gift. But not for her, for someone else. Giving it to her would just be tacky.


Supplies:
clear glass dinner plate (though any color would do): $1.50 at the Wal-Mart store
clear glass small bowl that matches clear glass dinner plate: $1.00 at the Wal-Mart store
colored glass beads/rocks that have been sitting around my house for ages waiting to be a part of a craft: Free. (but I think they were once $3.00 at the Wal-Mart store)
hot glue gun
glue sticks
gumption


Step one:
Glue a bunch of the glass rocks around the edge of the dinner plate. Make some attempt at a pattern. Sorta fail. Or not, whatever.

(also in step one: find your nice DSLR camera.
don't use the crappy BlackBerry camera)


Step two:
Turn plate upside down, glue also-upside down bowl onto center of upside down plate.
(also in step two: take a picture. and maybe: write better directions)


Step three:
Glue some rocks in haphazard-but-darlin' way about the glued on bowl.



Step four:
Um. That's kinda it.

It took all of $2.50 (or $5.50 if you're buying the rocks), and all of 6 minutes to complete. Voila! A lovely and hand-crafted pie plate for someone you love. Or, for someone you tolerate.


It's actually pretty cute, and can be customized in all sorts of ways.

So. There. I got a head start on Christmas, and I crafted. Just don't anybody tell the Psycho Crafter, ok?





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Sunday, November 7

This is how my God works

For the last few months I have been writing Conway's Community Page for the outstanding (and award winning!) Little Rock Family magazine. I have tried to convince the editor that I have no idea what I'm doing, but she won't listen.

In November's issue, I wrote about the Soul Food Cafe Mission, which is a mission unique to Conway. The folks who run the mission, Rick and Traci Harvey, go to my church. I approached them several months ago with the hopes they'd let me highlight Soul Food Cafe, and to my great joy, they obliged.
Every Tuesday, volunteers and guests gather behind Four Winds Church at 2005 Dave Ward Drive to participate in the mission. Soul Food Cafe provides a meal to eat, a bag full of food to take home, and a message of God's love and forgiveness. Guests can also find small household items and clothes- all of it is free. Local churches and companies and people donate money and food to the mission. Eventually, Soul Food Cafe will have its own facilities, but for now, they are housed in the gym at Four Winds.


food bags waiting to be picked up
This morning I asked Traci Harvey if she had seen a copy of the magazine with the Soul Food article in it. She said that she had, and that she loved it. Then she made me cry.
Apparently there is a new priest at a Catholic church in Conway.
Apparently he read the article while having breakfast at a local coffee house.
Apparently he called Rick and Traci and said his church would like to donate $1,000 to buy hens and turkeys for Thanksgiving. Traci asked if he wanted to buy the meal for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and he replied that no, he wanted to buy birds to put in the food boxes for families to take home to feed their families.
Apparently Wal-Mart is adding 10% of the money, and Soul Food Cafe will be able to spend $1,100 to buy Thanksgiving turkeys for families who might not otherwise be able to buy the main dish themselves.
Apparently, my God is a mighty God.

boxes of food at the mission
Traci thanked me for writing the article as tears leaked out of both of our eyes. I said the article had nothing to do with me, that it was all on our merciful and faithful Lord.

We are called to be faithful, not to fret about provision. To paraphrase Matthew: Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ .... For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." (6:31-32 NKJV)


 
 
 
 
If you want to help, or want more information about Soul Food Cafe, call 501-514-5325.
 
 

Monday, November 1

The Devolution of a Bookshelf, or, Why My Husband Hates Me {Indescribably Undomestic, Again}

*ed note: I know that "devolution" is not the right word here, but so what?
*ed note #2: my husband does not actually hate me.


A year or so before my father-in-law passed away, he hired a friend to make several bookcases for his house. There was lumber left over from the project, so my father-in-law commissioned the carpenter to make one custom shelf each for my family and my sister-in-law's family. We now have this beautiful low and long bookshelf that I am absolutely in love with.

I'm a little crazy about my books. And by "my books" I mean, any book that enters this house that doesn't require returning to the library. I like for my books to be ordered properly (said order cannot be explained at all, and the blueprints for that order reside solely in my head). I like for them to look nice. I like for the books to be inviting and accessible.

I am the teensiest bit OCD when it comes to my books.

And yet, at some point last week, this happened:

Top Shelf- a beautiful row of hopeful books, just waiting to be read aloud to my Bees


And Then- the middle shelf, a mish-mash of tossed books and magazines


And Then- a banana peel. I'm not sure how long it had been sitting there when I spotted it



At one point, those shelves were brimming with a bounty of books. Now they're just a place to put a peel.

I hate to admit it, but that spent banana bottom shelf is a visual metaphor for my housekeeping skills. I start out all gallant and noble and with only the best of intentions. Then, life happens around The Bee Hive and my intentions fall to the side like a month-old Highlights magazine. Finally, I just give up, eat some chocolate, throw the potassium-filled plátano on the ground and wait for my husband to come talk me down off the "I'M SO CRAPPY!" ledge.


And then I start at the Top Shelf of life again.



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Thursday, October 21

Indescribably Undomestic (elucidated)



Those two words, indescribably undomestic, came to me late one night in the same way all potentially brilliant thoughts come to me: through a haze of half-sleep, and threatening to run away like bad little kids at the WalMart store if I didn't write them down immediately.

So I wrote them down.

I figured they, at the very least, would give my husband a chuckle. My husband, who was brought up in a spotless, warm and inviting home. My husband, who was a natural marine when it came time to swab the bunks or flush the heads or whatever it is they called cleaning their rooms and toilets. My husband, who, poor thing, for five years has been begging me to GET IT TOGETHER ALREADY, DEAR when it comes to the house cleaning.

Cleaning the house is part and parcel of my stay-at-home mom gig. Now, don't you ultrafeminists (and you know who you are, dear) get all bra burn-y on me.... my husband does 60% (ok, FINE, 75%) of the cleaning around here. And he cooks 5 nights a week. And he mends his own ripped pants. And he darns his own socks. Or, at least, he'd darn them if he wasn't already damning them for having a hole in the first place- a hole that he totally blames on me because I refuse to buy a pair of socks of my own since his are so comfortable and they fit me just right and why would I bother to wear shoes when his socks are perfect and lovely and run-on sentences make me crazy so I have to stop.

So when my I'd-call-him-helpful-but-we-have-an-equal-marriage husband asks me to clean, I try, I really, honestly try to oblige.


Except.

I'm not good at it.


There are probably at least seven good reasons why I'm no good at cleaning. Number one is probably, "Because I don't like it, and ew, sink drains really bother me." But sitting firmly in the second slot is, "Because I don't know how."

That is no exaggeration and, sadly, no joke. Might I have have previously mentioned that my mother was is a lousy housekeeper? I love her almost more than anyone else on the planet, and she loves me too, so I am confident in saying it again: she is a lousy housekeeper.

Whether it be nature or nurture's fault, the fact still stands- I am full of the suck when it comes to cleaning up after myself and the Bees.
(I never have to clean up after my husband- note his aforementioned tidiness.)(Well, that's not entirely true. Every few days I have to wipe the bathroom counter because he's decided to be a little less scruffy that day and he finds it physically impossible to remove his shorn stubble from the sink.)(But I'm not complaining here.)



But I want to learn how, I want to want to do it. Most of all, I want to keep my husband around. I want to tell you gentle readers all about my dirty past and my new found Quest for Cleanliness!

So, a new chasing my Bees meme is born...



Indescribably Undomestic

a portrait of a messy mother
a sporadic series
a chance to feel better about yourownself







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Tuesday, October 19

Two Photo Tuesday

(yes, I am shamelessly butchering Wordless Wednesday, but you know what? My blog, my rules!)


















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Friday, October 15

Fewer Words Friday


Tough baby says, "Do not mess with me. I get in bar fights.* I will cut you."






*has not actually been in bar fights.
has actually been in marker fights and lost. to the marker.


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Monday, October 11

sometimes there are exactly enough rocks


Jenny and Forrest


Today would have been my father's 59th birthday. He died the month before I turned 25.
My dad and I had a... difficult relationship. Without airing too much dirty laundry, I will just say that he was not a good husband to my mother, and he was rarely a good father to me.

There were moments of happiness, probably more than my heart remembers. There were things he and I did together; we worked in his garden, he took me to Razorback games, he taught me how to fish. I think he wanted me to be a boy, or he wanted me to be better than all the boys.
But there were also moments of great pain. He hurt me repeatedly throughout my entire life. It was hard for me to respect him, and it was hard for him to see me as anything other than a junior version of my mom. In fact, it wasn't until the very last time we spoke that he admitted he treated me badly for my whole (albeit short) adult life because he was still angry with my mother.

I spent most of my time after my 15th birthday being angry with my dad and growing in distrust. It wasn't just nasty teenage rebellion, it wasn't typical "Omg I hate my parents they're so lame they like totally don't get me" angst. It was a palpable fear, an experience-based dread.
My dad was manipulative, power-trippy, irrational, and he completely refused to take responsibility for his own actions. In short, he was a textbook example of a functioning alcoholic.  For years, I mean, years, I had nightmares that centered around my dad, and it broke my heart and terrified me every time I woke up.

It took me a very long time to begin the grieving process when my dad passed away. I felt like I'd been grieving the loss of my father for years. Even after he died, the nightmares and the tight chest and the anxiety continued. As a one-time wannabe psychologist and an emotionally intelligent person, I fully recognized that I was, in fact, very screwed up in the noggin.

I spent time in daily prayer for months on end asking God to let me let go, all the while knowing I was holding on to dangerous anger.
"Please, God, c'mon, I'm tired of feeling like this."
"Ok, Lord, I'm ready to be done thinking about it all the time."
"No, really, I'd like the nightmares to stop. I want the pain to end. I want to get over it."

Yet, I was still angry. I was still hurt. I was still full of righteous indignation over all the ways I had been wronged.


In April of this year, twenty months after my dad died and exactly two years since the last time I spoke to him (he spent the last four months of his life unconscious in an ICU), I went to our church's annual Women's Ministry Retreat. One of the breakaway small group sessions focused on a single question: "Who do you need to forgive?"
There it was. It was that simple.

My dad died without ever receiving my forgiveness, and without ever asking for it.

Because he had never apologized for the injuries he inflicted upon those around him, I hadn't forgiven him. Because he never admitted he was wrong, I hadn't forgiven him. Because he never told me that I was good enough, I hadn't forgiven him (o hai daddy issues and below sea level self-worth). Because I carried around a heaviness I couldn't shake, I hadn't forgiven him.

And then, sitting on the floor of my church's sanctuary, surrounded by women in silent prayer, in the middle of a quiet moment, forgiveness found me. I did not have to plead, I didn't bargain, I didn't ask another time to be able to forgive... it was just... there. The Peace that Passes Understanding.
(I have to say right now that I am not flippant about saying "The Lord spoke to me." Neither do I take lightly claims of seeing God in a grilled cheese sandwich. I had a beautiful and brilliant friend tell me once that you know it is the Holy Spirit speaking when the words are those that you'd never say on your own. And that? What I felt? Where I was? Was a place I would have never been able to get to by my own willpower or want to.)

I forgave my father. I was at complete peace for the first time in over a decade. No, the memories of the hurtfulness didn't dissipate, but the actual pain was gone. A literal weight fell off my shoulders. I felt no leftover anger. I was a person removed from fear. I was freed.

I had thrown exactly enough rocks.







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Thursday, October 7

Life List

I've always kinda wanted to have a To-Do List for my life, but have never taken the time to sit and sort it all out. It seemed like such a daunting task... What do I want from my life?
After reading about the ladies at the Mighty Summit, I finally decided, by golly, I'm going to have a Life List. I'm a sucker for all kinds of hope, and what better embodiment than an actual list of things I hope to do in my lifetime?

This, my original list, is filled with mostly tangible things. I fully intend to write another list comprised of Big Ideas: change someone's life, make the world a better place, promote peace, be content.

I started this list in my head a few days ago. I came up with a few "ooh, yeah!" ideas. I sat down to write them today, thinking I'd come up with a dozen or so To-Do's, and ended up with almost eighty. Some of the items have been hidden in my heart for years, some occurred to me only seconds before I typed them out, all of them hold some kind of truth about myself. There is nothing here so wild as swinging on a trapeze in Thailand. There is no "step foot on all seven continents." I wanted to have a list of things that I truly want to do. Things that maybe, possibly, hopefully, I could achieve. I could easily write another eighty things that I want for my children, for my family, but I wanted this initial list to be just for me.

So. Here 'tis.

My Life List

1. Capture my husband’s true smile in a photograph

2. Spend a week at Disney world with my family

3. Spend a week in NYC with my husband

4. Spend a week in Montreat, NC by myself

5. Spend a week road tripping to east Tennessee with my brother

6. Publish a novel

7. Publish a children’s book

8. Treat myself to a once-a-month professional massage

9. Own a ridiculous pair of stilettos

10. Bet on George Strait’s racehorse

11. Harmonize with Jason Mraz

12. Meet Snoop D-O-double-G

13. Talk about life, man with Ryan Adams

14. Tour a secret part of the Smithsonian

15. Own a Jaguar (the car, not the cat)

16. Read 100 books aloud to my kids

17. Read 100 classic novels

18. Watch all of AFI’s top 100 movies

19. Relearn to play the trumpet

20. Dance at a Dave Matthews concert

21. Dance on the beach to Bob Marley music

22. Watch a John Mayer concert from backstage without making a fool of myself (ok, maybe making a fool of myself)

23. Help build 50 Habitat for Humanity houses

24. Buy an Ark from Heifer International

25. Coach my best friend through labor and delivery

26. Graduate from college

27. Watch my children graduate from college

28. Tour the Holy Land

29. Convince my brother to record an album

30. Adopt a child

31. Work for CASA

32. Trace my family’s genealogy as far back as possible

33. Drink a pint in a pub. In Ireland.

34. Drink a cappuccino in a café. In Paris.

35. Drink a bottle of wine in a piazza. In Tuscany.

36. Drink a shot of tequila on a beach. In Mexico.

37. Walk across Abbey Road

38. Handwrite a long thank you note to my mother

39. Play croquet on the White House lawn

40. Finish learning to play guitar (aside from the first three chords of “Freefallin’”)

41. Attend mass in Vatican City

42. Buy my husband a just-for-fun Jeep

43. Pay a disgusting amount of money for an original piece of artwork

44. Convince a woman to rethink abortion

45. Make the preflight announcements on a flight to Hawaii

46. Fly to Hawaii

47. Make regular mission trips to Guatemala and Nicaragua

48. Build a house in the country

49. Give away a car

50. Donate a thousand books to a rural school library

51. Memorize an e.e. cummings poem

52. Renew my wedding vows on our 25th anniversary, and then again on our 50th

53. Bake a perfect batch of my grandmother’s cookies

54. Grow enough vegetables to feed my family for a summer

55. Be able to speak fluent sign language

56. Join a book club

57. Learn to fight well, without fighting dirty

58. Fight for someone who can’t fight on their own

59. Laugh inappropriately loud at the most inappropriate time

60. Watch every Friends episode in order

61. Spend one Thanksgiving in Hyannis Port

62. Karaoke “Summer Lovin’” with my husband

63. Anonymously pay for someone’s drive-thru coffee

64. Dance in the rain without an umbrella

65. Whisper a secret to my daughters right before their daddy gives them away

66. Wear a funny hat at the Kentucky Derby

67. Attend a conference on my own

68. Read every word of the Bible

69. Stand where Jimi stood at Woodstock

70. Initiate a no-holds-barred food fight

71. Write a check, buy a home for someone I love

72. Gallop a horse on the beach

73. Make dinner from scratch for my family for seven consecutive nights

74. Stumble into a really good concert in Austin

75. Wear one fabulous red dress, with confidence

76. Wear fabulous red lipstick, with confidence

77. Learn to be myself, with confidence

78. Add one to-do each time I cross one off




So, what's on your Life List?
Tell me one thing, then go post your own.
Do it.
It's good for you.




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Monday, October 4

Indescribably Undomestic: this is a true story


This is not me. Neither is it my mother. My mother was a single parent and a teacher and a Habitat for Humanity board member and a church Deacon and a hundred other things. She was interested in teaching me about different cultures, about giving to others, about what it means to be a child of God. She cultivated my love of reading, my love of music, my love of tradition, my love of family.
She did not, however, teach me to clean. Anything. At all.
Our kitchen counters overflowed with snacks. You would risk your life (or at least your unbruised forehead) when you opened any cabinet. To me, "hall closet" is synonymous with "junk repository."
You get the point.
Our house was messy.

Tale is told that my no-nonsense, mink coat-wearing, alcoholic, benevolent grandmother blew into town from Chattanooga when I was around the same age my Ladybug is now. I was always my father's mother's favorite grandchild. She terrified and thrilled me. She painted my fingernails a bright hooker red once, after my mother specifically forbade it. She let no man, woman, or child tell her what was what. She was six feet tall in flats. She did the what telling.

My Granny 'Nita loved my mother, and continued loving her daughter-in-law long after "ex" became her permanent prefix. I think my Granny terrified and thrilled my mother, too. In an attempt to impress (or, at the very least, not disgust) my grandmother, Momma began frantically cleaning her always-cluttered-yet-oddly-inviting home.
My mother made a big show of wiping down countertops and vacuuming the carpet. I'm sure I was flitting about, showing Granny 'Nita all of my very special and supremely important things
It all went downhill when my mother left the kitchen and returned with a mop and bucket in hand.
"Momma, what's that?" I asked.
"Oh honey, you know what this is, it's my mop!" she replied, surely giggling to cover her embarrassment.
"A mop? What does that do?"

And then my mother sent me off to play somewhere while she washed the tile, as my Granny 'Nita just stood there and smirked.



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Monday, September 27

hey hey, it's a GIVEAWAY!

Woohoo! Who doesn't love a giveaway?

If you couldn't tell by that cute little bookstore button to the right, I am an Ambassador (precious name meaning "independent seller") for Barefoot Books which is a fabulous indie publishing company. I love Barefoot books because they are all originally illustrated, and there are no licenced characters- meaning you'll find no screaming Dora, no icky Barney, no cute-yet-annoying Clifford the Big Red Dog. Not that there's anything wrong with Mickey Mouse and company, but sometimes having a break from everything Disney and Scholastic is nice.


So! While I love being an Ambassador (awesome books! fun puzzles! precious puppets!), I need to unload some of my inventory.
I'm putting lots of books and book + puzzle sets up on ebay but you can get your own (free!) book right here.

All you have to do is browse my Barefoot Books Marketplace and leave a comment here telling me what book (or puzzle! or cd! or toy! or puppet!) you'd most like to check out.
For one more chance to win, you can "like" my Barefoot Books store page on Facebook, then leave another comment here saying you totally, really, for real like it.



What will you win?
Just this beautifully illustrated paperback book....

Storytime: First Tales for Sharing
and accompanying Storytime cd read by Jim Broadbent


Some of the stories included are The Gingerbread Man, The Ugly Duckling, The Three Little Pigs, and my favorite, Stone Soup.




So? What are you waiting for! Go go go!





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Thursday, September 23

broadway, baby

I grew up on showtunes. I had hymns memorized before I could spell. I cut my teeth on Broadway songs. My ears could discern a flat or sharp pitch before I could read sheet music.

Lyrics and melody and live performance are in my bloodlines- my grandfather was a Big Band leader, a trumpet player, a music man. He once played a club alongside Fats Domino. My mother was a drum major in college. My uncle played trombone in a symphony recording of Il Trovatore. I played both trumpet and french horn before I quit the high school band. (I was terrified of marching. Never even tried.) 

Musicals have always been a major part of my life; a life spent roughly 1,300 miles from The Great White Way. I always kind of wanted to be Sarah Brightman. Or Patti Lupone. Or Bernadette Peters.
When I was growing up, my mother would drive my brother and I to middle Tennessee several times a year. Instead of pop songs, or books on tape, or license plate bingo, she would play bootlegged copies of Broadway shows:

Les Miserables
Cats
Fiddler on the Roof
The Phantom of the Opera
Big River
Annie
A Chorus Line
West Side Story
Tell Me on a Sunday
Jesus Christ Superstar
My Fair Lady
A Little Night Music
Porgy and Bess
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Evita


I have loved Evita since before Madonna's turn as Eva Peron, since before "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" was a discotheque hit. (I've never even seen the film version; I never wanted to spoil the musical that played in my head.)


When The Rep (the awesome Arkansas Repertory Theatre) asked me to review their production of Evita, I could hardly get my fingers typing YES fast enough. (full disclosure: my ticket was comped)

Last Sunday I did something I never imagined I'd be able to do. I sat, all by myself, on the fifth row and witnessed Evita; not on a bumpy bootlegged tape, not on a well-worn and scratched cd, but live and in person.
From the opening scene, The Rep's rendition of Evita was thrilling. If it lacked anything in comparison to the Broadway run it was only in stage square footage. It more than made up for any grand scale in the direction, choreography and nearly pitch-perfect voices of the cast. I was surprised to learn that the orchestra was comprised of only eight members; their strength and timing were fantastic.

Maria Eberline's Evita was wonderful. She has a very strong voice, and was obviously comfortable in the spotlight. Her rendition of "What's New Buenos Aires" and her waltzing duet with Che were her most powerful performances.
I was prepared to love (and, admittedly, loathe) Eva, but I was completely, totally, entirely blown away by Che. David Villella was absolutely incredible. He has a made-for-musicals voice and his mannerisms and stage presence lent an air of brevity to an otherwise dramatic opera. In his bio, it says that Villella was last seen as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats, and I can't think of any other character better suited for his voice and on-stage personality. (Ok, so I might have sent a text message to a friend that might have read "I heart Che.")
My favorite Evita song has always been the mistress' solo, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" for its simple harmonies nestled into a rather complex score. Katie Emerson (an Arkansas native!) knocked it out of the friggin' park. She absolutely stole the spotlight with her beautiful, pure voice. There is no reason for that girl to have anything less than a lead role ever again. Ever.
I wasn't entirely impressed by Peron or Magaldi, though they were both solid performances.
The ensemble "A New Argentina" was breathtaking, and reminded me of Les Miserables' "At the Barricade," a full-cast rally cry.

The choreography, the direction, the set production... it was all incredible.


I went in very cautiously. Having loved Evita for so long but never seeing it performed live, I had placed the entire show on a very high pedestal. I could not be an objective witness. I had expectations and doubts. As it turned out, all of my doubts were unfounded and my expectations were exceeded.

This may be the most exuberantly adjective-filled post I've ever written, but it is with good reason.

Evita runs until Sunday, October 3rd at The Rep. You need to see it.





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Tuesday, September 21

seventy six trombones in the big parade

...with a hundred and ten cousins close at hand.

In 2007 we began a family tradition. Each year at the fall county fair parade, we line up the cousins (our kids, and Jeremy's two sisters' kids) on a long strong tree limb close to the parade route.


2007

My little Ladybug was there, but she was 13 months old and not yet a tree climber. Pooter is the one with the curly hair and the cheesy grin.

2008

There is my Ladybug, clinging to a branch for dear life. The Bunny was there too, um, in my belly. Also in another belly; another cousin.

2009

This was the year Pooter had mono. Or, H1N1, or bronchitis, or strep. I don't remember. He had all of those things that fall.
Also pictured: a few second cousins and one friend.


2010
And finally, the gang's all here.

Mostly. The second cousins still live in town, but parked somewhere else this year. Notably absent from all fair parade pictures is my oldest nephew. He is my sister's stepson, though we never use that word in our family. He's just another awesome cousin. We'll get him on tree limb photo day one of these years.



I'm so glad I have this series to document not only the kids' growth, but the expansion of our family. I'm sure there will be a few more babes added before they're all grown.


And yes, I'll be the crazy mom/aunt who makes them straddle a tree when they're all teenagers.

Someday they'll thank me for it.




Maybe.









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