Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Perfect And Beautiful Have A Conversation

I like pretty things, and someone once said that "mama can't have pretty things."  They were wrong.  This mama has pretty things and loves pretty things.  But, I'm learning that this mama can't have sacred things.  I know that my walls will get drawn on, furniture will break, stains will happen, and the dishes might never get done.  It's never going to be perfect.  Especially when it comes to decorating.  Instead of perfect, I make due with what I have:

I paint chairs that I get for free.  Even when Fern wakes up early and I'm so close to finishing the first coat.  Perfect would say "buy something that is exactly what you want." Beautiful says, "no thanks.  These chairs will look great painted white."

Perfect says, "buy that desk and filing system from Pottery Barn.  They're very expensive, but worth it." Beautiful says, "Don't waste the money on something that can be easily damaged by toddlers.  Make the one like you saw at your friend's house.  It will cost less than $30."

Perfect says, "hire a decorator to pick something out that is perfect for Fern's room." Beautiful says, "but that's not fun!  Make something for her walls-like something from pallets!"

Perfect says, "wait for the perfect shelves that are the perfect height and looks so pretty." Beautiful says, "go ahead.  Let John saw down the ones already here.  They'll work well and don't cost a thing!"

Perfect says, "a china cabinet is the proper storage for china and dishes." Beautiful says, "oh no you didn't, perfect!  A massive TV cabinet will do the job just fine!"

Perfect says, "Floral arrangements are worth the money, even if they last for only a week." Beautiful says, "Girl, just take some scissors to those bushes outside and stuff 'em in a pretty container."

When I have elements that aren't expensive and easy to do/make/create, then it takes the pressure off of myself to strive for perfect.  Taking simple things and letting them "make due" frees me up from worrying about the state of things.  If things don't start perfectly, then I don't have to keep them perfect and I get to enjoy my life and not worry.  That is a beautiful thing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts from Saturday

Saturday was errands day.  I ran one with the family, then I got to go out by myself.  John told me, "Go.  Have fun. Take your time.  I've got it." Which I did and I'll get to that in a minute.  That day of errands really got me thinking about some things that I need to share on my little blog.

First, I would like to talk about returning things.  The family errand wasn't intended to be a family errand, but John asked that I go because he needed my "return mojo."  We were returning our second faucet and going for a third.  Our original one broke, so we went to buy another one.  We got it home and I didn't like it, it was too low.  Since I spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink, I wanted it to be perfect, or close to it.  I called Home Depot told them that I bought a faucet, installed it and didn't like it.  I asked if I could return it and get another one.  They allowed this.  They even honored the coupon that I used on the first transaction to buy the second faucet.  I didn't like the second faucet, and neither did John (low quality), so we got a third one.  Third one's a charm.  We're keeping it.  

On the way to return it, John kept asking me how I was going to return it.  He was afraid that they weren't going to honor it.  I've been in retail for over 13 years and I've learned a few things.
Here they are:

1. Be polite and nice.  That will get you a long way.  In many situations we would be more willing to help customers who were nice and friendly than people who acted like we owed them something.
2. Be honest.  Don't try to lie or be sneaky.  Just come out and say what you need to: "I used this faucet and I didn't like it.  Can I return it?"  My brother just bought the wrong size climbing shoes, went to the store, told them that he made a mistake when picking the size and they returned it without any problems.  Honest wins over sneaky every time.
3. Respect the rules.  Many times the policies that a store has is not written by the people who are working in the store.  The policies are written by someone far above them and they can't change them.  It's ok to ask if they will make an exception this one time, or even to ask to speak to a manager because managers can sometimes bend the rules.  However, be willing to stop and respect the rules.  Even if they are ridiculous.
4.  Know that people make mistakes.  Sometimes a sign is left out, sometimes things are labeled wrong, and that's ok.  If it was really misleading, then it's ok to ask them to honor their mistake. However, it's also ok to let them make a mistake and let it slide.

Second, I would like to talk about gay people.  I know just reading that sentence might get hearts beating faster and blood pumping, but please hear me out.  On my way out my neighborhood to run some errands alone, I passed two boys who looked like they were in middle school.  They were holding hands.  When they saw my van, they let go, and as I drove past them, I looked in my mirror and they started holding hands again.  It made me very sad and I called John and started crying for those little boys.  I know that there are a lot of strong opinions out there in this matter, and I would like to ask for one thing: be kind.  Society (and I think Christians mainly) have treated gay people very poorly, to say the least.  My tears for those boys were for the shame and secrecy that has been placed on them.  Can we please start being kinder to people who say they are gay?  Jesus loves them, this I know.

Third, those errands I ran?  They were amazing. Saturday at 3 is about the craziest time to go to the mall, but I did it.  By myself.  I experienced some crazy people and I experienced some kind people.  Mainly, I got stuff done.  I ran into someone that I knew in college and they asked me what I was doing?  I explained that I was having a great day and enjoying time by myself to exchange a nursing pump, get Burl a birthday present, and go to the fabric store to browse.  And I have to say I was beaming when I said it because I was having a blast!  If College Meg could hear Mama Meg, she might just laugh just like that person did as I was saying all this...but deep down College Meg would get it.  This is good stuff. 

Fourth, yep, there's a fourth.  It's warming up.  I hope it is for you as well.  It's about that time when winter is starting to feel like it will never let up.  Soon we'll be trading our boots for flips.  I promise.

Thanks for reading the crazy thoughts of Meg.  I appreciate any insight or thoughts on any of these things.  Feel free to openly leave a comment.

This Week's Menu

Breaking news.  This just in: I'm getting all my groceries at Publix now.  I've been a huge fan and follower of Walmart for a while.  I would buy most groceries at Walmart, get meat at Publix or Fresh Market, and even hit up local stands for fresh produce.  It was turning into quite the production, so I'm stopping that for now.  I'm getting everything at Publix (but I'm sure to hit local stands when the spring hits).  All it took was for me to have two children to realize the joy of one-stop shop.  

Walmart is great and everything, but it always took me a while to come down from the frenzy it sent me into.  Their big buggies to push, the crowds and someone always blocking me in the isles.  I hate to be judgmental, but the people in there are just a bit too much.  Today I happened to be in Walmart for some non-grocery items, and saw a man a few feet from me back into a fixture to scratch his back, grizzly bear style.  I deliberately held my gaze until we made eye contact, hoping that he would realize he was in public and he needed to keep those moves for his own house, or forest, as the case may be.  Nope.  He was fine with it.  We made eye contact, and he kept on scratchin'.  That hasn't happened in Publix yet.  

Guess what has?  I can easily find someone to help me.  Everything is clean.  The buggies are so easy to push.  They don't treat me like a crazy person when I hand them my own shopping bags to use.  And someone loads my groceries in my van and returns the cart for me.  It's great.  And, I haven't noticed a difference in price yet.  I feel like such a princess.

Here's what I'm making with my food from Publix:

Cream of chicken and wild rice
Turkey wraps and cheetos
Pesto pasta with shrimp
Broccoli cheddar soup and bread
Steak and lettuce wedge

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parenthood, Peaks & Valleys

"I love this parenthood gig right now.  It is such a joy to have two sparkling little children in our house, getting to play with them and take care of them together, " wrote John in an email he sent to me earlier this week.  

I agree with him.  Like everything else in life, parenting has it's ups and downs.  Peaks and valleys.  Right now, we're up, way up!  I'm trying to come up with an analogy of a partnership and all that I can think of is ice skating.  Here goes nothing: if we were skating partners, we would be scoring 10's across the board.  For sure.  

We're sticking to our guns, we're staying strong, we're a unit.  Team Day is doing it.  Last night, John gave into Burl when he fussed about something (which is something that both of us do, but we're trying to change that).  I reminded him of our pact: we don't give into fussing, a reminder that I need as well.  He took it with grace, "you're right, Meg." Got it.  Later, he put Burl in time out and I gave John a high-5 and told him he was doing the harder, better thing.  Sometimes we find ourselves giving warning after warning without following through, which is like scoring for the other team.  Those times when we follow through is a point for us that we celebrate.  Instead of butt slaps and touchdown dances, we just give each other a look and head nod that says, "that's right, we doin' it."

After meeting John for lunch today, I brought the kids home and put them down for naps.  Later, John texted me, "how did the kids go down?"  I explained to him that I had to take Burl's hammer away twice.  (I think Burl was trying to get me to spank him as his punishment so he could have his hammer back, but I'm like the US.  I don't negotiate.)  John's reply: "thanks for disciplining him."  

As I'm reading what I just wrote it makes us sound like we're running a very tight ship around here and it's parents vs. kids.  That's not how it is.  With the focus on following through with discipline, I'm also smiling big at the fun times.  I'm loving the times that the four of us play on the floor.  I'm loving being at one changing table with a dirty diaper, John being at the other changing table with a dirty diaper, and yelling back and forth, 

"Hey John, we're changing our children's diapers."
"I know.  We have children.  And we change their diapers."
"It hurts doesn't it?"
"Yeah.  I love them."
"I love them too."

The encouragement that John gives me in the midst of disciplining is so great.  I need it.  I feel appreciated and noticed when he does that.  The time we just play with toys and read books and laugh with our kids fills me to the brim.  And I'm right there with him, loving this parenthood gig with him.

Right now, we're on a mountain top of parenting.  The view is great.  We can look behind us and see that we've been through some valleys.  That's ok, because like everything, parenting has it's ups and downs.  The key is knowing where we are along the way, and knowing if we need to change anything.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Raw Footage

I remember the first time that I read the Nester's motto: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."  I thought to myself, "well, duh, of course it doesn't."  If things had to be perfect to be beautiful, then nothing in my life would be considered beautiful.  Nothing is perfect, specifically my home isn't perfect.  Well, it's not perfect in the sense that my home could be photographed for a magazine.  It's perfect in the sense that it provides us with a safe place to sleep, live, and enjoy life and I get to have fun making it beautiful.  

When the Nester asked us to show something in our homes that isn't perfect but is beautiful, I knew that I had plenty in my home that qualified.  I even asked John what he thought fit the motto, which he asked me back, "well what do you think, Meg?"  I immediately replied, "well everything!'' I'm right.  Nothing in my house is perfect, but I think it's beautiful.  I love my home.  I love what my home does.  So I thought and thought and I got the courage to do it.   I took pictures of our house right then in the current state of things:

On Saturday there were several people that came through this house.  Besides the five who live here, Daniel and his friend came over and hung out for most of the morning and afternoon.  Two of their friends came over while I was running.  Then, I had six people over that night for a party.  That's a total of fifteen people in one day.  That can be pretty typical for our house.  Our house works hard.  It sees a lot of people.  

A lot of people can mean a lot of mess, but that's not what I'm focused on.  I'm focused on the people, or at least I'm trying to be that way.  (My brother who lives here might disagree because when I asked him to put the dishes that he washed on the drying towel instead of back in the sink with the other dirty dishes he told me I run a Nazi regime.  Whatever.) Coffee cups and current craft projects on the kitchen counter are ok with me.  A little pile of stuff on the printer doesn't bother me.  We LIVE here and it shows.  (I first wrote shoes instead of shows.)

When someone walks through our front door, the picture above is what they see-our hallway and Burl's room.  Most likely, there are toys in the doorway.  And in the hallway.  And other places.  Because we live here.  We play here.

Sure, I have my messes.  That table right there is my craft table that is suppose to be cleared off but has a lot of stuff piled on it most of the time.  I don't mind it too much because it's in the little room off the living room, hidden by a half-wall.

I've been known to hide things too.  Am I the only one that does this?  That's a little pile of laundry on the side of the bed that no one sees from the hallway.  I knew no one would see it, so I *hid* it there.  It's not perfect, but it was worth it to leave a pile of unfolded clothes and play Just Dance with my brothers.

Eventually, I kicked everyone out of the house so I could prepare for a belated Valentine's Day dessert party for some of the girls in the youth group.  Candles were lit, food prepared (well that was done ahead of time), and things got a little bit closer to perfect.  Getting close to perfect is ok for parties in my book.  Some people say that it's fun to get dressed up for parties, well I say it's fun to dress up my house every once in a while.

Even my dressed up my house isn't perfect and that's great.  Whether someone is coming over for a party or just dropping in or hanging out all day, then I want them to feel comfortable.  Sometimes perfect can kill comfortable.  I just want my home to be an inviting place for everyone who comes in.  Spending a little QT with people is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This Week's Menu

Our menu looks like it's winter.  Lots of warm mixtures of foods to keep us warm.
This is what I'm making this week:

French Bread

Black Beans & Rice, Creole Style

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Creamy Casserole

Earlier, I mentioned that I got the recipe for a yummy, creamy, chicken and rice casserole.  Well, I'm going to share the recipe.  It's been evolved several times from a recipe in an old Chattanooga Junior League cookbook.  

See how the rice and chicken shine?  That shine means it's good on the lips and bad on the hips.  

Creamy Love In A Dish:

Meat from 1 whole chicken, cooked and shredded or diced
1 box of wild rice, prepared
Sherry swiss sauce (recipe below)
1 pound mushrooms, sauteed
Club crackers, crumbled

Mix first 4 ingredients.  Throw it in a 9x13 pan.  Top with crumbled crackers. Bake 30 minutes at 350.  Serve with love and hope that these calories will be forgotten.

Sherry Swiss Sauce

1 1/2 sticks butter
1/3 cup flower
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sherry
2 cups swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Worcestershire
s & p
1 tablespoon curry powder 

Melt butter.  Add flower.  Stir to make paste.
Add the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes to thicken.

Friday, February 17, 2012

{this moment}

A single photo.  No words.  Capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. ~soulemama

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thoughts On Entertaining With Kinfolk Magazine

Last week I had some high school girls over for dinner.  John and Burl were gone, so it was just Fern, me, and four high school girls.  I made lasagna, salad, & bread.  I sat the table with candles and silverware and napkins and my grandmother's china.  The only reason that I have china is because she passed it down to me.  I've used it a few times, and always love when I do it simply because it reminds me of her.  I love my Grandma Polly.

I almost felt bad for using it with the girls.  Sometimes china and fancy stuff is not well received. It can make people feel uptight and formal and it can really swelter being ourselves.  If there is an option to be formal or casual I will always choose casual.  I feel like it's closer to the real thing and I always like real things.  I somewhat apologized to the girls for using china, "sorry girls, since the guys are gone, I took the chance to use my grandmother's china."  At first they sat down and were a bit stiff and they made comments about the cloth napkins.  Cloth napkins is not a formality in our house though, it's just how we roll.  Eventually, everything was normal and we had fun talking about normal high school things like colleges and that cute boy from The Vow, whatever his name is.  It was a great evening.  

I love entertaining and try to do it often.  The key for us is to keep things simple and easy and casual.  I recently read an article by Kinfolk Magazine that sums this up perfectly:

"Sharing food is a core element of the relationships we have with loved ones, and simplifying these meals means we’re likely to have them more often. Making time to sit down for regular meals is challenging for those of us who face busy schedules, missing ingredients, and cryptic recipes. But when we loosen the stiff idea of “entertaining” to include a variety of more casual activities, we find it’s quite easy to spend time together, and that the easiest ideas — winter walks, playing cards, reading together, meeting for coffee — are often most enjoyable!"

Does formality and expectations hinder us from sharing meals together and in turn sharing our lives together?  I think so.  I'm trying to lower my standards.  I'll let you in my house even if it's messy.  We can take my car even though it has 3 coats on the floor and an empty Starbucks cup in the holder.  I'll serve you lunch even if it's salad with only two toppings. (I'll make up for it with fresh bread.) I'll do this because it's about us spending time together.  Not about the other stuff.  

May our entertaining be as comforting and casual as slipping into yoga pants and enjoying a cup of tea.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spontaneous Organization

Sometimes I plan to be productive.  Sometimes it just happens.  Most of the time my productivity is directly linked with the spontaneity that brought it on.  My closet has been chaotic for a while, and it just got straightened out.  Shoes got trimmed down by more than half what they were.  The real change came with my shirts though.  

I'm a t-shirt junky.  If I had to choose what to wear for the rest of my life, it would be a tee, jeans (shorts if it's warm enough) and flips.  To be specific, I would wear a white tee, jeans, and flips.  {More on that later.}  It's good for me to add color, so I wear other colors sometimes too.  And, I like to layer tees with long tanks.  It's how I roll.  A while ago, I finally had to get a system down.  

I separated my tanks and tees into two piles: white and those other colors.  It's helped me get ready.  It's helped me stay organized.  It's helped me do laundry.  However, the piles became rumpled and stacked too high with crumpled shirts that I never wore.  It was overwhelming.  I finally got around to tackling that project.

I was locked in my bathroom for a while and my hands were free.  I was stationary because I was pumping.  {Yep, I'm leaving that in here.} I was so antsy and bored and I thought, well, I could go through my shirts.  I thought, "I don't have time for that.  I'll just do the big stack of white tee's."  Well, I went through them, discarded the ones I didn't wear, refolded them, and they looked so beautiful.  Then, I had to fix all the folded tee's.  Then, the hanging shirts had to be sorted {tanks, soft shirts, blouses}.  Then, things didn't look right with the shoes all jumbled, so I sorted through those as well.  Next thing I knew, I had a well-organized closet and all I had to do was get antsy while I pumped a bottle during nap time, start working, and let a little progress encourage me to do more.  Bada-bing, bada-boom.  

It's all very exciting.  I even showed John when he got home from work, because that's how we are.  He organized his drawers a few weeks ago and talked about them for a couple of days.  We like cleaning out.  We like organization.  And it usually happens when we least expect it.  It's quirky and it feels so good.  If organizing and cleaning at the spur of the moment is wrong, then I don't want to be right.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

R.O.W.D.Y. & Sweet

Burl is just plain-ole-rowdy.  He play is so much fun to watch.  Here's a big post of pictures full of play.

Here Burl is at the park.  We had warm weather on a January day, so we headed to the park.  The rain we had earlier had created some muddy places-including one inviting puddle.  I threw caution to the wind, and let Burl play in it only to find that the said puddle was a toddler-size man hole.  He got pretty muddy.

It's so terrifying for me to go to the playground.  Burl still doesn't know how to take enough safety precautions, ie, he has no fear when it comes to playing.  For the most part, I'm within arms reach of him.  (except for that time he almost walked off the top part-thank you to that random dad who caught him.  Close call!)

There are certain pots & pans that Burl knows he's allowed to play with in the kitchen.  I wish I could know exactly what's going through his head when he's using them.

More playground, more rowdiness.

Uncle Joseph has been living here for about a month and Burl loves it.  In true uncle fashion, there are some things that Burl gets to do that he wouldn't normally do with John or me.  We have rules like, "no hitting, except for Uncle Joseph and Uncle Daniel."  Another rule we have is "no standing on the sofa unless you're playing the game with Uncle Joseph."

The game is this: Burl climbs on his little table, then stands on the arm rest and jumps onto a pile of pillows and blankets that Joseph has piled.  

It's hilarious to watch.

Uncle Joseph also taught Burl how to go head first down slides.

It's rare, but sometimes Burl slows down long enough to color.  I found some free Bob the Builder coloring pages online that I printed for him.  Even that got a little rowdy with lots of grunting and yelling:

Burl is very proud of himself when he gets hold of the spray water bottle.  Spraying things in general is fun for him, but the real craziness starts when he turns it towards his face and sprays himself.  Over and over.  Major laughter.  

The picture below was taken minutes after he woke up.  For the most part, Burl is a little calm when he wakes up in the mornings.  However, there are times that he is completely wild and crazy and getting him out of his room mimics the launching of a canon.

One morning, I was drinking coffee and doing stuff on the computer and Burl was all over me.  He wanted me to show him his machines-at-work-videos from John's work.  He was climbing on me.  He was pulling my hair.  He was wild.  Joseph grabbed him and started to play with him.  Rowdy-uncle style.  I couldn't ignore the fun and laughter anymore and I got my camera and started taking pictures.  I got this one and couldn't stop laughing.  Joseph was doing the classic horsey ride and went up for a rowdy "neigh," Burl grabbed hold and Joseph had his hands out like that and I lost it.  I'm laughing right now.  That shot is what the pro's call "money."

Then, there's little Fern.  She doesn't do much these days besides sleep or eat.  The longest that she can stay awake is two hours, and even that's a stretch.  

When she's awake, she just chills out.  We've noticed that she really keeps her eye on Burl and all the rowdiness that he gets into.  

The other day, it was just Fern and Mama and we played with her rattle.  It was a little calmer than the other play that we usually see in this house.

Whether it's Burl or Fern, I can promise this: we're having a grand time.
Rowdy toddler play or sweet infant play.  It's all good.