Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Lump of Clay

Last night I cut a large slab
of dark grey clay off the the block and got ready to wedge it.  I held it up and said, "Become something beautiful!", as if willing it to do so were enough.

A few minutes later as I sat down to the potter's wheel to throw, I asked Adam to carefully move the pots that I had thrown yesterday that were in my way. 

Do you see it coming?

I didn't see Adam pick up two pots at once, but about 10 seconds later I heard the dull thud and rumbly shatter of unfired greenware crashing onto the plaster slab.  I closed my eyes and gave a quiet (well, maybe not so quiet) sigh.  In the past three sessions of pottery making, I have lost one piece of pottery for every five I have thrown, either to sneeky toddler mits or to my own clumsiness. Frustration has been my pottery pal lately.  When I opened my eyes, Adam's huge, tragic, questioning eyes were settled on mine, his eyebrows nearly fused in the middle in remorse.

"It's just clay.  I can ake a new one" I mustered, an insincere warble in my voice, a hint of annoyance in my tone.  It had been the biggest and best pot I had managed to eek off the wheel in a year.  A large lump of clay is hard to center, and challenging to lift into a thin walled vessel that doesn't collapse.  But the look on his face told me that his heart was more fragile than that brittle clay pot.

The sadder he felt the less the pot mattered to me.  I shook off my pride.  "Adam, your heart means more to me than some dumb old pot" I said, this time with true conviction.  How many times have I made one of my children feel badly about something that really didn't matter at all?  Not today.  His face relaxed.  He cleaned up the mess.  I smilled at him and went back to my waiting lump of clay.

I am getting ready for my second Open Studio Sale.  I have gotten a late start on things, and as of today even decided I must postpone the sale a couple of weeks.  Broken washer.  Broken computer.  Broken pottery.

So during the day I do school with the kids, and sometimes a little laundry when the washer is cooperating.  And from 9 to midnight I work in the studio.  I hope each night that I can make something beautiful, but more important, I need to remember each day not to destroy the work of another Potter.

Heavenly Father gave me the job of tending his little vessels, his beautiful creations-in-progress.  I am a real clutz about it sometimes.  I forget how tender little feelings are.  I focus too much on the "teaching" and "disciplining" and not enough on the message being sent in my tone of voice, my expression... my sighs. 

I am a work in progress, too.

Aren't we all just lumps of clay?

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay,
and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Other works in progress...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every Square Inch

We prayed hard to get this boy here.
We didn't know what he would be like,
we just knew he was supposed to join our family.

Well, he's here.

He is soooo here.

He is felt in every minute of the day.  He is seen in every room of the house.
From the peach syrup that he dumped and slurped off of the kitchen table an hour ago, to the playdough crumbs that decorate my studio floor like a dirty cupcake.  From the hand prints on my mirrors, to the piles of books in front of my bookcases.  From the dog food floating in the dog's water bowl to the gouge marks in my eyeshadow.  

He has permeated, literally, every square inch of our lives
(and hearts).


Jonah Jabber
A warning, gentle reader.  My son's pronunciations are rated PG-13.  
I blame the parents.

YaeSH! -yes (always said emphatically)
Deay-choo - Thank you
piss - please
sh** - sit
**** - truck 
(yes, that word)
 tream - train
moon - cow
ah yah you! - I love you!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Magic Roads

 Adam has been announcing 
the countdown to his pending teen-hood at regular intervals lately.  He will be 13 in a month, or by his reckoning, one month, three days and 8 hours.  I feel like I am watching his childhood fade away behind him, like a dusty road he'll never travel again.  He is sprouting so fast.  He is certainly not my little boy anymore.

On Friday we took the hour drive to Wheatland where there is a pumpkin patch that thinks it is Disneyland.  We had gone last year and had a real ball, particularly Adam.  He jumped and ran an played, and all the way home he declared, "That was awesome!".  This year we went as part of the homeschool, so we got to do all of the extra fun stuff that I am too cheap to pay for, like train rides and hay rides.  But there was a strange difference this year.  Adam was subdued.  I asked him if he was having fun. 
He shrugged and said, "Kinda."

It turns out that he has rounded that bend in the road.  The one that made mining for marbles on Coyote Mountain something for the little kids to do.  The bend that means the giant slide was too small and the corn maze was, "Kinda lame."  The boy is still losing teeth, and yet there is that other part of him that has left childhood behind.

I remember the heartache I felt when I realized that I really didn't want my stuffed animals anymore.  That maybe this would be my last trick-or-treat.  That I was growing up, like it or lump it.  It felt sad.

I think that a new magic eventually replaced the old, outgrown one.  I now love witnessing the wonder of childhood, knowing what discoveries are waiting for my little ones just around the next bend.  I look so forward to trick-or-treating this year.  Jonah won't remember last year, so this year when that first door opens and that first piece of sugary bliss lands in his sack, I will delight in the baffled look on his face. 
"Is this for me?  Is that lady crazy?"

He will look into his bag, get the candy out, and want to eat it immediately.  Then we will tell him he can go get more candy.  The look will be priceless;

 "So you are telling me if I go up to all these doors here, 
I'm gonna get candy and I don't have to ask you if it's okay???"

Then the light will come on. 

He will declare, and he will waddle down that driveway into a world 
that has forever been changed in his eyes.

I love this part of being a mom.  I love witnessing them as they discover the world.  I guess being with little ones is so familiar to me after all these years, I will have to learn as they move into their teens how to enjoy a whole new kind of magic.

And there is still magic out there for Adam to discover, too.
It's called

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

93 and a Chance of Autumn

 Today was in the mid 80's.
Tomorrow is forecast to be 93 degrees.

Happy Autumn.

If you are needing to get in the Autumn mood, try this:
Make a yummy spice cake batter (recipe below)
Fill cupcake cups half way.

 1 pkg room temp cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar and a tsp of vanilla 
till smooth.
Now using an icing bag and a pointy tip with a fat hole, 
poke the hole into the surface of the batter 
and squeeze until the cup is filled about 3/4 of the way.

Bake as usual.

You now have Cheesecake-filled Spice Cupcakes.

Joanna's Mandarin Cake 
(this is what I used for the cupcakes, plus 1 tsp of cinnamon.  Double for 24 cupcakes)

1 c flour
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 c oil
1 can drained mandarins
(opt 1 tsp cinnamon)

Blend in mixing bowl 2-3 min.  Bake in greased 8x10 for about 30 min at 350.
Double the recipe for a 9x13 and bake an hour.
The color will be a gorgeous dark brown and it will fall in the middle after it comes out.  Totally ok!  No worries.  Now, if you are making the cake, while it is still hot, top it with this:

3/4 c brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp heavy cream or evap. milk

Bring to a boil and then pour over baked cake right out of the oven.

Or for cupcakes...

Cupcake Icing
 2 cubes butter
1&1/2 cup + powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
a drizzle of orange flavoring
1-2 tsp milk

Beat butter until smooth, and then add brown sugar.  Allow to beat until sugar melts.  Gradually add powdered sugar and milk.  Allow to beat in mixer until it is so fluffy you could sleep on it.  
Add orange flavor and color if desired.

Since I kinda never measure when I make this stuff, here is a troubleshooter:
If it's a little too buttery, add more powdered sugar.  
If it is too thick, add a TINY bit more milk till it's smooth.
The longer you mix it the warmer it may get, so if the sugar isn't melted yet or it isn't
 fluffy enough, put it into the fridge for 10 minutes then whip it some more.

NOW it's Autumn!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Let Down Your Hair

Some of you may remember a few years ago when Tessa found a pair of scissors I was devastated as I came home to the bag full of gorgeous curls that Guy had cleaned up, and a hack-job of a mullet on my toddler.  Her hair.  Her beautiful hair...

Last week I was giving Jonah a well needed trim,  using candy as an incentive for sitting still, when Tess walked in.  "If I let you cut my hair, will I get candy too?"

I had been dying to trim the scraggly ends of her hair.  "Sure."  I said.

Guy had actually been suggesting we cut her hair short to eliminate the hair-brushing battle we go through every morning.  While her long tresses were stunning when properly curried, about 10 minutes later they looked disheveled again.    The thought was not so welcome to me.  I still have a thing for that kid's hair.

When she stood in front of me with the scissors, I realized that her hair might actually be long enough to fullfull the requirements for a Locks of Love donation, but that if I trimmed it now, it would be too short to donate for a long time.  We got a ruler, and sure enough, by taking off 10 inches she would be left with about a shoulder-length bob.  Though she had scoffed at the Locks of Love idea before, suddenly she was totally okay with it.  Candy will do that for you.

So, following the instructions on the website I put her hair into a ponytail and began to cut at the 10 inch mark.  It was going great at first, and the hair from around her face was first to seek it's new place.  It tumbled sweetly to her shoulder and looked really cute.  But as the scissors continued to chew at the bound knot of hair at the nape of her neck, I got freaked out.  It was much shorter in the back, given the lower hairline there, and soon I was cutting hair whose origins were about an inch from the scissor blade.  I stopped far too late to do anything but continue, and gave Guy that "eek" look. 

Wincing, I finished the job.  Tessa bounded away from me to go catch a gander in the mirror, her hair bouncing in the air.  I sat with a pony-tail in my hand of gorgeous, tumbling waves. "Waaa", I said to Guy.

But Locks of Love is such a worthy cause.  I never knew that many children who undergo chemo-therapy for brain cancer never grow their hair back again.  And there are several other disorders that Locks of Love mentions on their website that cause permanent hair loss.  It takes between 6 and 10 donated pony-tails to create one hair piece for a child.  That is a lot of hair.  I also learned that even color treated and grey hair can be donated, as any hair that cannot be used directly for the hair pieces for children is sold to wig makers and the funds used to offset to costs of production.

We will mail Tessa's pony in the morning. 
For her, the hair will grow back.  Others are not so lucky.
It took all the sting away, thinking of another mother's child bouncing around in Tessa's lovely hair.  I can only imagine what it means to a mother to have her child feel beautiful again.

Not a bad trade for a few pieces of candy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Candy Corn Soup and Special

Kathy and I see each other no less than six days a week, barring illness.  With five days to exercise and a day of church, the only break the poor woman gets from me is Saturday, and with baby showers and ward parties, sometimes not even then.

So it was funny to me when I got a thank you card from her in the mail.  I teased her this morning about waisting the price of a stamp when she could have easily handed the card to me herself.

"It's just more special that way," was her simple reply.

She got me thinking.

A few years ago, I made a recipe I found in a magazine for Candy Corn Soup.  It was pretty mediocre soup at best, but the idea of it really made a hit.  For the past two years I have tried other, much better recipes, always topping each bowl off with 3 candy corns and calling it Candy Corn Soup.  The kids joyfully stir in the candy corns and then plunge in for a hunt like pre-schoolers excavating for plastic dinosaurs in a sandbox.  Last night after dinner Ethan gave me a hug (yes, another!) and said, 
"You sure are getting good at that soup."

I have a secret.  It ain't really the soup.  
It's the candy.

Sometimes special is in the tiniest details.  The little extra efforts. 
 Like stamps and candy corns, or whatever it is in your particular bowl of mediocre soup.

This Year's Candy Corn Soup

2 boxes Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup
1 box Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Bisque
1/4 lg onion diced
2-3 tsp. fresh minced garlic
2-3 Tbs. butter
3 sausages or 1/2 lb bacon
1-2 tsp. mustard
2-3 cups cubed frozen potatos
salt to taste

Saute onions, garlic and crumbled sausage or bacon in butter until very gorgeously golden.  Dump that gorgeous concoction into a pot with everything else and simmer about 30-45 minutes till the flavors blend and you start saying "Mmmmmm!" when you taste it.

Dish up bowls and top with 3 candy corns each.  
For grown ups, I like to top it with candied almonds (below).

Melt 2 Tbsp butter and 4 Tbsp sugar in a skillet and cook until it gets bubbly and a little bit golden.  Add 1 cup of sliced or slivered almonds (or nut of your choice) and continuously stir until the nuts are coated well and sugar becomes very golden.  As soon as it turns this color, QUICKLY dump it onto a cookie sheet and spread it out evenly.  Go slow and you burn it, baby.  Allow to cool and then crumble it.  Taste it many times as it cools.  Taste it a few more times as you set the table.  End up having to make another batch because you tasted it too many times.  Have the left overs on ice cream.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Building Something that Will Last

When Guy first went to college
 he studied to be an architect.  And he was good... is good.  He created amazing spaces with unusual elements, like floors that appeared to float.  He would have made an amazing architect.

One day I heard someone ask why he changed his mind.  "Because I want to do something more significant  with my life than making pretty houses for rich people.  I want to do something that will matter in eternity."

Guy teaches Special Education.  His class is filled with students that are mostly wheelchair bound, totally non-verbal, and in most cases, medically fragile and requiring total physical care and feeding.  His mother once said, "So, you're pretty much a glorified babysitter then, aren't you?"

He is anything but.

A typical day in Guy's class, after physical needs of the students are met, might include reading from "The Call of the Wild"  or "Huck Finn", unit lessons on seasons or sciences or cultures -including regional feasts, community-based instruction (taking the students off campus to teach consumer skills), daily living skills (even the most physically limited students enjoy the independence of using a shredder or blender, which Guy has rigged with special equipment so that the kids can start the machines), art and gardening.  He is an amazing, patient and clever teacher to a group of young people who may never carve a wide path in this life, but who are certainly destined to do important things in the eternities.  I am so proud of the work he does.

Guy was awarded Tuesday evening as Sacramento County Teacher of the Month for November (Actually, Certificated Employee of the month, which included all teachers, therapists, medical staff and credentialed personnel).  He was presented to the superintendent and board of trustees, and after recieving his recognition, was asked to give a short speech.  I could never express as well as Guy did what his life's chosen path means to him.  Here is what he said:

"I am honored to stand before you this evening to be recognized as Certificated Employee of the Month.  I have been working with students who have severe disabilities for almost 18 years.  I started as a substitute para-educator, and am now in my twelfth year as a classroom teacher.  I was first introduced to the field of special education by my wife - who is here with me tonight - and who has been a constant support and strength to me these past 18 years.

I would like to share briefly with you, two guiding principles that influence my work each day.  First, I firmly believe that all people are part of a great world family, and as such, we all have a responsibility to love, respect and support one another.  I truly feel blessed to be able to serve my fellow brothers and sisters in my classroom every single day; to teach them, support them, guide them towards increased independence, and thus provide them with an improved quality of life.

The second principle is that all students, regardless of their level of ability, deserve to learn and grow--to be engaged in fun activities, and to have a school experience which resembles that of their typically-developing peers.  What this means for my students is that along with all the necessary physical care that goes on each day, they also get to learn about: the food pyramid and eating healthy foods, how their body processes work, that seeds grow into plants that then become the food we eat, and about different countries and cultures.  I'm not sure how much of this information they are truly learning, but they deserve the opportunity.

To conclude my remarks, I wish to recognize all my colleagues and coworkers for their continued support and outstanding work - for we are a team, and I truly could not accomplish anything without those with whom I work.  I love what I do, and it truly has been a wonderful 18 years!  Thank you."

I wish I were a better photographer so that you could see the huge smiles of appreciation on the faces of the board president, superintendent and all the trustees.  They nodded their heads approvingly through his acceptance, and I believe they could not help but say to themselves,
"This man is what we wish all of our teachers would be."

It Ain't Just a River in Egypt, Baby

I have been exploring the vast waters of denial lately. 
 It feels good sometimes to pretend things aren't the way they really are,
just for a bit.  
It can take the sting out of reality.
(Hey, shut up, I'm not hurting anyone.)
(Yes, yes you are right.  Therapy might be a good idea.)

This month I couldn't bring myself to clutter up my lovely blank calender.  
For a whole week I left the squares empty.  On purpose.  It was kind of a pain looking in my day planner for our daily to-dos, (um, you see, in the olden days, just after the invention of organized youth sports, people began writing things down in bulky calender books that they lugged around with them everywhere.  You couldn't make a call, play a game, or browse the web with it.  Yep, I still live in 1992)
It just felt so tantalizing - the thought of having a whole month
with nothing we had to do. 

It wasn't true.
Reality has settled in.
My calender now looks like it got in a fight with a dictionary and lost.

It was nice while it lasted.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Best. Moment. Ever.

I am working in the studio.  Ethan enters.

"Hey, Mom.  I just realized 
I haven't hugged you yet today."

He bends down over my chair and wraps his arms around my neck, snuggles in and gives me a nice long hug.
"You know, it's my new goal 
to hug you every day."

I have noticed that in the past weeks I have been receiving some pretty great hugs.  The boy is bigger than me now, and he delights in slumping onto my shoulders and allowing me to bear his weight.  
Giggles usually ensue. 

But I didn't know it was his goal.  I am so thrilled that he would make hugging me a goal.  I mean, who am I in his teenage world to merit landing on a goal list?  I can count on a very few digits the number of unsolicited hugs I have received from the boy in the past few years until recently.


(Posted with permission from "The Boy I am Not Allowed to Blog About".
Love ya, son.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Showering Blessings

I'm gonna go out on a limb here
and tell ya' how I really feel.  I know I am going to offend some folks.  Sorry.  Here goes:

I hate baby showers.

They totally freak me out.  I hate the games... honestly, a crossword with the word "cesarean?"  Are we trying to scare the mom-to-be into early labor?  Must we really sniff tiny diapers filled with synthetic poo?  What an insult to perfectly good chocolate.  I get it that I am unorthodox in my birth practices.  I don't want to be shut off to my baby and body, and so the thought of an epidural does not bring to mind "Lifesavers" candy.  I get a braincramp trying to act like every present is cute.  I mean, babies in hot pink leopard print with black netting? Tiny leather mini-skirts???  I want my births to be private and sacred, and I guess I feel the same way about most things relating to the coming of a new little soul.  I don't like to see it being made fun of.  I know, so weird.  You can stop reading now.

Oh, you're still here, waiting for my point?  Well, here it is:  Sweet Kathy, exercise and gardening partner extraordinaire, is having a baby soon (and, by the way, is also STILL doing Jillian Michael's Ripped with me... modified, but still!  There goes your excuse to not exercise!).  I asked if I could host a "shower" for her, all the while knowing I had no intention of throwing a shower, not in the traditional sense, anyway.  She is so soft spoken and gentle.  I couldn't imagine her being put through a big, noisy shower.  So I hosted a blessingway.

A blessingway is created for a mother to honor her unique spirit and her divine roll as a mother.  Though gifts are shared, they are almost an afterthought to the many thoughts and tender feelings showered out upon the mama-to-be.

I recruited Krista to help, with her great color sense and her easy way with high-tech decorations.  Each woman arrived with a frozen casserole for Kathy to put away until after the birth, already a wonderful start!  Next we introduced ourselves (though the group was small and we mostly knew each other), by stating our name and the names of our mothers and grandmothers, and then sharing a quick story about one of them that honored the example they set as a mother.  Next we shared how we knew Kathy, our thoughts about what has inspired each of us just from being her friend.  We each brought a note of encouragement or an uplifting quote that was written on a butterfly that is being made into a mobile for the baby.  We told Kathy, each in turn, what we saw in her that makes her a wonderful mother.  We listened as Kathy shared the tender story of her and Bishop's decision to bring this little one into their family, and we gave her a flower foot bath and hand massages.

We then enjoyed Kathy's favorite - Thai food prepared sweetly by my hubby.  It was soooo yummy.  As we visited, we created a baby blanket with our hand prints on it, to remind Kathy on hard days of the wonderful community she has ready to support her.  We ended with a simple piece of string that was wrapped around each of our wrists, connecting us all as mothers and daughters of God in a circle of motherhood.  Then one by one, the link of yarn between each woman was cut and a small strand tied to each wrist to remind Kathy's friends to pray for her in the days ahead.  When they hear that Kathy has had her baby, each woman will clip off her string, offer up a little prayer of gratitude, and stay connected to Kathy so that her babymoon can be as sweet and unfettered as possible.

I am so grateful for the wonderful women that surround me on my own mothering journey, especially Kathy.

Steph and Madelaine

Joanna, Mary, Kathy & Krista

Amanda & Steph

(Of course, now I must show off the food!...)

Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Spicy Coconut, Lime, Cilantro and Chicken Soup

Citrus Coconut Salad

The Thai people are sorely lacking in pastries, so cupcakes filled with chocolate ganache and topped with citrus frosting made their appearance.  I will apologize to Thailand later.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spicing Up a Marriage

You know how in the movies
a guy pulls over to the side of the road to change a tire and while doing so, he places the lug-nuts into the hubcap for safe keeping?  It is always about this time that a well meaning child with giant clown feet clomps over and flips the hubcap into the air, distributing the lug-nuts into the 4 foot high grass on the side of the freeway.

Now, take this scene, make the lug-nuts into hundreds of tiny beads and the roadside my studio, and make the clown-footed child be Jonah.  Do you have the picture?  OK, now do this SIX TIMES.

Usually, when I am making jewelry, I am doing it as a gift and there is a time-crunch. I mean, I suppose I could plan ahead, be relaxed and take my time, but where's the adventure in that?  So on those gift-making days, when clown-footed children topple thousands of beads across the floor, I scoop them up by the handful and dump them all akimbo into a bowl so that I can keep working.

Everybody say it with me now: "I will sort it out later." (this phrase may also be used with junk mail, laundry, and closets).

I am trying to get ready for my Open Studio Sale.  Mixed beads are not conducive to my creative chi.  While I am getting pottery ready (because sorry, you can't crank out pottery the night before.  People apparently won't like squishy, wet pots), I have asked Guy to awaken the OCD within him and help me get the beads under control.


While I throw pottery (ha ha, you're so funny.  Yes, they would break if I actually threw them, but we don't. It's just the term we use) Guy has spent the past several evenings not just sorting out the bowls of beads that had been mixed like a Three Bean Salad, he is making me a "Beading Station", complete with beads grouped by size, color and type.  He is organizing everything so that I can get to it easily and it will be out of the way of clown feet and sticky fingers.

But wait, there is more...

I came home the other day from Ballet with the girls to see my counters covered with tiny glass bottles.  Guy had hunted out old spice racks from the thrift store in which to organize my beads.

 There is nothing so wonderful as being thought of, but I mean really thought of; remembered, understood, appreciated.  I felt so important to him.  He has plenty to do with his time to not be scrounging around dirty ol' thrift stores or sorting out my messes.  I smiled so hard and said to the rows of little bottles, "Oh, that cute man!"

In the movies, besides rescuing toppled hubcaps, men bring flowers.  But show me a man changing a poop-soup diaper and I'll show you a real hottie.  You can keep your movie man.  In real life - my life, my sweetie brings me old spice jars.

Congrats to my Hubby for the honor he will receive tomorrow night as 
Teacher of the Month 
for all of Sacramento County and Court Classes.

I am so proud of him.