Tuesday, September 30, 2008

super Q tableau

Super Q is (in his words) "all the way 6 now!" He was so tired of that 5 1/2 gig. As I was washing dishes, I realized a little Super Q tableau had formed on the windowsill including a pot decorated for mother's day at preschool, a jarful of those spongy monsters that come in little capsules and grow in warm water, and a mad scientist test tube with a dried up worm in it. Isn' t that one of the best things about kids? They leave the most random items around. A bag half-full of Cheetos has taken up residence next to the toothbrush holder in my bathroom. I keep forgetting to throw it away. I think Q was eating them in the bath and then forgot about them.

And here is his cake. You can just barely see his tiny smile up top there. While I'm at it, I'll share my no-fail birthday cake recipe that feeds 25 people or so. The yogurt makes it more dense than the typical box cake so it's easier to frost and tastes moist and delicious.

2 boxes Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® cake mix
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
6 egg whites
2 containers (6 oz each) yogurt, any flavor

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Generously grease and lightly flour bottoms and sides of two 13 x 9 x 2" pans, or spray with baking spray with flour. Or better yet, line with parchment paper or waxed paper and spray with pam.

2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, egg whites and yogurt with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds; beat on medium speed 2 minutes (batter will be lumpy). Pour into two 13 x 9 x 2" pans.

3. Bake both pans at the same time for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

4. If you have time, put the cakes in the freezer for 1-2 hours before icing them.

5. Assemble the cake as you would a regular layer cake, one cake on top of the other with about 1 cup of icing in between. You will need about 8 cups of icing total to ice the cake and add colorful decorations or words.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Increase water to 2 cup and decrease oil to 4 tablespoons when making batter.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

an answer

So while reading this post by the blogger mentioned below, Stephanie Nielson*, I came upon a wonderful quote from Julie Beck:

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.

After making 3 trips to Target in as many days (not out of greed but disorganization), I am ready to do less shopping. Super Q's birthday is today and I'm ready for less drama and fewer meltdowns (please let 6 be the magic age for evening-out emotions). I'm ready for less stress, now that everyone's recovering from the hurricane, and I'm ready for less time inside and more time outside as fall makes its feeble-at-first entry into Houston.

*BTW, Stephanie Nielson is a blogger/mom who was severely injured in a plane crash last month. You can follow her story at: http://blog.cjanerun.com/.
There is also an etsy shop hosting a benefit sale for the Nielsons' recovery here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

enjoy the journey, live in the moment, carpe diem, etc.

Our friend Hannah's birthday is tomorrow; she would be turning 6. Thursday marks 1 year that she's been gone. The boys painted some rocks with very bright and sparkly paint; we plan to take them to Hannah's gravesite tomorrow. She was a big fan of colorful, sparkly makeup and "click-clack shoes" with gems and feathers on them. I think she'll like these rocks.

Hannah's been on my mind lately, along with Stephanie Nielson a person I have not met but who is included in my prayers. The delicate, inevitable mutability of life weighs heavy on my mind. I've been thinking about how to connect with my kids more meaningfully and more often. It sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes it's difficult to choose between finishing the dishes and sitting down to play Legos. Not that I love doing dishes (quite the opposite), it's just that I know that playing Legos will only mean more dirty dishes later and a more tired Mommy to do them. So many religious and philosophical traditions emphasize living in the moment, soaking up everything happening right now. How do you do it and still keep your house clean? How do you do it when your kids are literally punching the wind out of each other instead of helping you make a homemade apple pie? How do you appreciate the magic of the 5-year-old mind when that same 5-year-old routinely melts down in the angriest, most irritatingly dramatic way possible? These are not rhetorical questions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

youtube epiphany

I'm not a huge YouTube person (lots of garbage to be found there) but it has its uses, such as my favorite hymn of all time sung by Sufjan Stevens. I need to just go ahead and buy or download every religious song this man sings because I could use more beautiful epiphanies in my life. I'm nervous about embedding the video (I'm pretty sure it will end up in my profile or somewhere) so here is the link:


Oh, and the hymn is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." The words are lovely and wonderful so I will share them here.

1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine *Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

* For an eloquent explanation of what Ebenezer means, click here. My church's hymnal omits
verse 2, which is a shame because
the phrase about Jesus's blood rescuing us from danger
(of all sorts) is striking and true.

Friday, September 19, 2008

emptiest Target ever

This is what a hurricane can do to your neighborhood Target. Empty the refrigerator shelves of everything but the VELVEETA (shown on the bottom shelf of the middle cabinet). You'd better pray such a fate never befalls you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

hurricane vacation

Today Super Q was asking if summer is over, a question that is always tricky to answer in Houston, because although summer vacation is over, the weather stays summery until after Halloween. And now we have a whole week off of school and unseasonably cool weather. I told him, "Well, summer vacation is over but it's still kind of hot. So we had school for awhile, and now we have hurricane vacation." That seemed to satisfy him. The weather has been amazing; truly a blessing for those still without power. 60 degrees at night! Unheard of in September, but literally a lifesaver for many people here.

We've been spending lots of time at the park and riding bikes "out front." I know we'll have to make up this time in the summer, but it has been so nice to be outside, burning some energy and chatting with friends. I'm also enjoying some at-home time to clean out closets and do some deep cleaning. (I don't want to drive anywhere and use gas. dh has a 20 mile commute and neither of us want to wait in line for 2 hours to fill up the tank.) I wish I could drive in and help in a meaningful way at a shelter or a distribution station, but I've got 2 kids (and 3 of the neighbor's) to take care of, so that will have to be my contribution for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

we made it through

Hi, I'm writing this from my sister's house north of Austin. We did stay in Houston for the storm and lost power at about 3 am as the hurricane force winds hit us. By some amazing stroke of luck, we did get some sleep that night. The wind was howling but I didn't hear or see any large pieces of debris flying around. We got up, deboarded the house, and after hearing that power would be restored between 3 days and 4 weeks, we packed up and went to my sister's house. At that point the freeways were pretty clear, although we drove for more than 2 hours before getting to an area where everyone had power. 30 minutes from my sister's house I got a text message that our power was back on. dh's office doesn't have power, however, and the boys don't have school until Thursday, so we're staying another night here. It sounds like there are gas stations and grocery stores open near our house so we should be ok. I have to say that many people are going through terrible trauma right now. Please remember them in your thoughts and/or prayers. I feel like it was a near-miss for us and I hope to head back and help in whatever way I can. Thanks for your supportive comments and emails. This whole thing is surreal to me. Places I know and love are not there anymore. I don't know the status of the library where I work. It is just unreal to think that such a large city is practically at a standstill. My heart aches for those who chose not to follow the mandatory evacuation order. We've had so many storms almost hit us that they must have assumed this one would change course or not inflict very much damage. This is a sad time for a city I have grown to love.

Friday, September 12, 2008

outside in

Instead of plywood, we've opted for a tarp and 2 x 4 system. Not sure if it's going to do any good, but it gives our house a special under-the-sea kind of feeling.

Part of our hurricane preparation has been to move everything that was once in the backyard inside. It's like a garden party all the time! If we lose power, it will be like a backyard BBQ all the time, even to cook oatmeal.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

to-do lists

Previous to-do list for today:

clean out closets
prime kitchen for painting

New to-do list:

buy ice, more canned food, paper plates, batteries
move all furniture and toys out of back yard
put plywood up on some windows
double check 72-hour kit
prepare mentally so I don't freak out and scare the kids

We've decided to stay here and "hunker down." This storm looks pretty scary, but I feel ok about staying. If we lose power for a long time, maybe we'll head west to my sister's house near Austin. For now, there is no evacuation order in place.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

what we did after school

Today I decided I would try to be more fun, a Fun Mommy. So after school we had cookies and milk for our snack before sitting down to do homework and then chores. Super Q was supposed to trace some words, so I got him all set up using the window as a light box and taped his homework up there (isn't that creative and fun?). He had to sit on the top of a chair to reach. He promptly had about 14 fits about being tired/bored/"frust-a-rated". Flash was up and down from the table, overflowing with energy after a long bus ride. Fun Mommy was promising bike riding and roasting hotdogs over the grill if homework and chores could just GET DONE! While Fun Mommy was looking in the garage for hotdog skewers, Fun Mommy heard a sickening sound which sounded like a large glass bowl breaking. Unfortunately, it wasn't a glass bowl but a window. Super Q had finished his homework but the chair he was sitting on was still in front of the window. It is physically impossible for Flash to walk past a chair without doing some sort of snowboarding trick on it. This particular trick caused the chair to tip back and smash the window. Luckily nobody got cut. We talked calmly about how we were each 50% responsible for the window, me for moving the chair there, Flash for getting up from his homework and doing the snowboarding trick. At this point, though, scouts started in 40 minutes, dinner wasn't made, and Fun Mommy had tons of glass to clean up and a window to cover with plastic. Needless to say, Fun Mommy departed and made no further appearances tonight. Now Incredibly Annoyed Daddy is trying to fix the window in the other room.

Monday, September 08, 2008

what do you do to remember?

Thinking about Ike took up so much of my brain space that I forgot why I was sitting down at the computer in the first place. I wanted to ask what everyone does to remember September 11. This year I'm putting up a flag out front with yellow ribbons, I think. I usually talk to the boys in general terms about what happened that day. I'm sure I'll spend some time wondering about the military actions prompted by that day. I'll give thanks that we haven't had a day like that since then.

There are numerous memorial sites to visit online. I like this one -- http://www.legacy.com/Sept11/Home.aspx -- because it shows profiles and photos of the victims. For me, that was the most difficult thing about September 2001: hearing the individual stories. Yet those stories are the impetus for my annual remembering. That day was horribly sad for our nation. The families of those who perished have had many horribly sad days since then. That's why I take the time to remember.

we don't like ike

If you look way, way down near the bottom of the page, there is a little Hurricane Ike tracking widget. If Ike stays on his current track, he will hit Houston. The track Ike takes will be directly related to how many posts I will write in the next week.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

pure illusion

Did you see this movie? (Marie Antoinette, with Kirsten Dunst). It was kind of fun to watch, albeit with about 8 more musical montages than I wanted. Beautiful costumes and sets, though. A book I'm reading, The Dirt on Clean, shines a harsh light on history and reveals Marie and her contemporaries (not to mention generations of people before her) as stinky, dirty piglets. Under the opulence there was apparently a thick layer of grime everywhere. I always chalked it up to ignorance about germs and everything, but according to the book, after the Plague everyone wanted their pores nice and clogged to keep out disease. Clear water was a health hazard. In fact, women would add powder to their bath water to keep it from cleaning their pores too well. Wearing linen undergarments took the place of bathing. The author writes of one person who wore an undergarment so long without changing that when he finally went to remove it, some of his skin came off with it. If you are putting off housework like I am right now, consider this:
"Shortly before Louis XIV died in 1716, a new ordinance decreed that feces left in the corridors of Versailles would be removed once a week." The Hot Wheels all over the house suddenly seem totally acceptable.