Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hooray for handmade! (For now...)

Earlier this month I wrote about the CPSC's new law that was threatening to put small toymakers out of business.  While some important elements of the law are still going into effect (such as ensuring that crib paint is lead-free), much of the enforcement of the law has been delayed for one year so that much-needed clarifications can be made.  Hooray!  Read more here.

Thank you to everyone who took action on this!

By the way, be sure to read my post from earlier today--it's got a great recipe for muffins (guaranteed to be lead-free!)


Milled flax seed is just one of those really awesome foods I didn't know anything about until relatively recently.  It's chock full of OMEGA-3 oils and fiber.  We are adding it to Zoodle's baby food and seem to have successfully conquered some pretty bad constipation this way--hooray! 

Today I noticed a muffin recipe ("Whole Wheat Flax'n Apple Muffins") on the back of my Hodgson Mill brand Milled Flax Seed.  I decided to try it, but I made some changes to make it even healthier.  

And these muffins turned out delicious.  One of the changes I made was using 100% whole wheat flour instead of half whole wheat/half white.  The muffins were light and fluffy, without the density I often expect from whole wheat breads.  Their sweetness comes from maple syrup and apples, without any white sugar.  In fact, they were quite sweet, and if you prefer to use less maple syrup they'd still be delicious.

So here it is, the new and improved recipe....

Beth's Bodacious Apple Nut Muffins
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup maple syrup (for less sugar, use 1/4 cup)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples with peels left on (approximately 2 smallish apples)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and either grease 12 muffin cups well, or put paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

2.  Mix first five dry ingredients in a bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg.  Mix with maple syrup, vegetable oil, and milk.

4.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just blended.

5.  Fold in apples and nuts.

6.  Pour batter into 12 muffin cups (about 2/3 to 3/4 full.)

7.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until tops of muffins have started to brown, and knife inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Toot toot!

Kids are fascinated with passing gas. As kids grow into toddlerhood, each household must have its own word for this inevitable occurance--we've gone with the ever-popular "toot." Chickie has known for a long time about the feelings and sounds associated with tooting. Recently she started understanding the humor of this bodily function. And even more recently, she discovered something extra-fascinating.

Toots stink.

That means even if a toot isn't audible, Chickie can tell when someone has tooted, and she wants to know who it was. She's even learned the fine art of blaming others for one's own gas infractions--one day recently she blamed Grammy and Sampa, and when they both denied it, it became clear she was probably the tooter. Up next will be blaming the dog, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, kids' fascination with toots develops many months before they learn to be ashamed of such socially unacceptable behavior. And that can put mommies in some awkward situations.

Last weekend, Sampa took Chickie and me for a donut date. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store. My dad started chatting with the pharmacy tech, who was a girl I'd gone to high school with but didn't know well. I stood there, listening.

Okay, I admit, I was doing more than listening. But I swear, my toot was totally silent and small enough it shouldn't have been smelled by anyone.

Anyone, that is, except someone whose nose just happens to be level with my derriere.

"Mommy," Chickie suddenly piped up, "did Zoodle tooted?"

With a smile I hoped was casual, I said, "No, honey, Zoodle isn't here."

The wheels in Chickie's little head quickly turned, and she asked the next logical question. "Did you tooted?"

I glanced at my dad and my old classmate, still in conversation, hoping neither of them was listening. Not wanting to lie to my little girl, and certainly not wanting to admit anything, I listened to my dad talk and ignored my daughter.

She was insistent. "Did you tooted, Mommy?"

Clearly she didn't want to drop the topic, and I still didn't now how to respond without drawing attention to myself. Thankfully the conversation at the pharmacy counter wrapped up, and I was able to say goodbye to my old classmate, pretty sure the one-sided, all-too-telling conversation hadn't been overheard and that the secret was still safe between me and Chickie.  This time, anyway.

When Chickie gets old enough to complain about me embarrassing her, I will assure her she deserves every bit of it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life Skills

We are home, and we had a great visit with my parents ("Grammy and Sampa.")  One thing I love about my parents is that I can count on them to teach my children important life skills. And Grammy definitely came through on this trip.

I'm pretty sure Chickie's newest Grammy-taught skill will be useful when she's applying for jobs in a couple of decades.  


I gotta say, olive that girl.  (Insert groan.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Peaches

This post, titled "Memo to self," was originally published on August 22, 2008.  I hope you've enjoyed this "Oldies But Goodies" series!  The kids and I will be home today, and tomorrow I'll have a brand new post.


Memo to self:

  • ...the dish is pretty.
  • ...the peaches are pretty.
But Chickie...
  • ...loves peaches.
  • ...can climb.
For heaven's sake, just put the peaches in the refrigerator next time.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Anniversary

This post, titled "23,400 days," was originally published on August 14, 2008.


23,400 days. That's the number of days in 60 years. And that's the number of days my grandparents have been married, as of today.

I talked to Mamma and Papa this morning. I asked them both how she has put up with him this long. Mamma graciously said he's put up with her too! She also said that Papa learned really early on he wouldn't be able to change her even though there are a lot of things he'd probably want to change...hmm, that might be a good one for me to learn too.

They have 3 kids, 10 grandkids, and a slew of great-grandkids. (I've lost count.) The oldest great-grandchild is 20, so in the next few years they may be able to add great-great grandparents to their impressive list of titles.

Papa served in the Navy after World War II. He worked for the US Post Office until his retirement. He has incredible skills as a woodworker and I'm thrilled to have some of his pieces, such as Chickie's little rocking chair.

Mamma stayed at home with her kids, crafting gorgeous clothes for them without patterns, and working as an Avon Representative. (She's been doing that over 45 years now--yep, still going strong.)

On their wedding day they went to a drive-in (the food kind, not the movie kind), and while it's changed names, the place still exists. So they'll head out there today, sixty years later, to celebrate. A burger and fries never sounded so romantic.

Congratulations, Mamma and Papa!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Crying

This post, titled "I laugh when my child cries," was originally published June 30, 2008. I think I need to read it daily, as I haven't mastered the principles in it!


I laugh when my child cries.

Before you call the Mommy Police, let me explain.

I really hate to hear my baby crying. Thankfully this time I'm blessed with a little guy who is pretty darn content and very easy to soothe. But when he's tired and we're driving somewhere, he often just loses it in the car. This is very frustrating to me, because I certainly can't hold him while I'm driving. I find myself getting so tense and stressed listening to this poor little boy crying his heart out in the seat behind me.

As he was wailing on the way to the library Friday, I thought, "He's crying like he's dying!" And then it hit me how silly that is. I'm not killing the poor kid; I'm just driving, and he's not happy about being stuck in his car seat. The ridiculous nature of the crying hit me, and I was able to see even a little humor in it.

That got me to thinking about all the silly things my kids will cry or otherwise protest about as they grow. Not getting the toy they want, having to go to bed, not being allowed to wear whatever inappropriate fashion is in style when Chickie hits middle school, having to turn off the TV and find something creative to do.

And when they grow up, will they be resentful of me for forcing them to ride in carseats, refusing toys, enforcing bedtime, helping with clothing choices, and turning off the TV? I doubt it. I mean, let's be realistic--I'm a normal, imperfect mom, and I'm sure I'll find plenty of genuine ways to make my kids resentful of me!

As I drove along, I found myself able to smile at all the silly things kids get upset about. And smiling about it was a lot more fun than stressing (and probably had a better effect on my driving.)

So...I do hate to hear my kiddos cry. But whether it's an infant who wants to be in Mommy's arms instead of the car seat, or a teenager who is learning that the world doesn't revolve around them, kids will cry about ridiculous things. That's part of growing up. And maybe learning to laugh at it is part of me growing up, too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Recipe

This post, titled "Chickie's favorite healthy, easy lunch," was originally published July 9, 2008.


I'd like to share with you what Chickie and I had for lunch today. This is something I make frequently. It's healthy, easy, cheap, lasts for several meals, and, best of all, my somewhat picky 2-year-old likes it pretty consistently. You can alter the "recipe" however you'd like; it's hard to mess it up!

Chickie's Rice and Beans
4 servings instant brown rice*
2 cans of beans (whatever variety you like except refried), one drained and one not
1 can of diced tomatoes (again, whatever variety you like, even Ro-Tel if you like spice), not drained
1-2 can(s) veggies of your choice, drained
Salsa, to taste

1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
2. Stir in the other ingredients.
3. Heat further (stovetop or microwave) if desired. (It's just the right "hot-ness" for Chickie if I stir in the canned ingredients as soon as the rice is fully cooked. I like to heat my own a little more.)
4. Season with salsa if desired.

*Instant brown rice is just as healthy as the slow-cook stuff; it's simply pre-cooked. The texture may not be quite as good, so if you are better at planning ahead than I am, go ahead and make the slow-cook variety. Either way, keep in mind that brown rice is very healthy and white rice is not nearly as good for you.

Isn't it pretty? Today I made it with black beans, garbanzo beans, and carrots.

I leave the salsa out and put it only in my serving so that it's not too spicy for Chickie. And while we're on the subject of salsa, here are my two current favorites:

1. Cookwell & Company Tomatillo Salsa. This is gourmet stuff. They had samples at the grocery store along with a buy one, get one free coupon. My jaw dropped when I saw the $6 price tag but I figured with the coupon it would be $3 a jar, which isn't bad. Of course, I've fallen head over heels for this awesome green salsa and will probably fork over the $6 when our two jars are gone...which shouldn't take long. This is a regional brand, so you may need to find a different type of tomatillo salsa. My sister says Trader Joe's makes a great one, and it's cheap.

2. Valentina Salsa Picante. We buy the big jars of this stuff because I eat so much of it. It's smooth (similar to Taco Bell's sauce) and oh-so-yummy. And it's dirt cheap, about $2 for this huge, 34 oz. (1 L) bottle. Looks like it's time to add it to the shopping list, huh?

Enjoy your rice and beans!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Binky

This post, titled "The Binky Files," was originally published June 20, 2008.


Chickie is born.

We give her a binky (pacifier). I sing its praises because she likes to overeat and then projectile vomit (lovely, I know), and the binky helps satisfy her sucking needs without giving her an overly-full tummy.

Chickie, at 19 months old, says bye bye to her binkies and is rewarded with an Elmo DVD. I am immensely relieved as by this time I feel the binky has been running my life. From months of having to replace it in her mouth while sleeping (before she could put it in herself), to emergency "binky runs" to Target when we couldn't find any, to stretching my arm to twice its normal length trying to replace it in her mouth with her sitting behind me in the car, to having a permanent binky-shaped indentation in the pocket of my jeans, to just being sick of seeing a toddler's mouth constantly invisible behind a plastic device...I was sick of the things and SO glad to be rid of them.

Zoodle is born.

Zoodle is crying. The Engineer asks, "When do we give him a binky?" I reply that I'm not sure if I ever want to use one--"We'll see." (Mommy code for "Hopefully never.")

The Engineer suggests the binky when Zoodle is crying. I say I don't want to use it.

04.04.08, 04.08.08, etc.
Repeat of 04.03.08

I tell The Engineer I think it would be okay to use the binky while Zoodle is swaddled, since he can't get to his hands to suck on them. But that's IT, no other times. Zoodle easily starts sucking on the binky. In future weeks I occasionally realize The Engineer has "sneaked" Zoodle a binky when I've been out of the house, but I figure if the guy is being a good enough dad to watch his son, I need to let him bend the rules a bit.

Chickie is sick, and I give Zoodle the binky in the car, not willing to deal with a sick toddler and a crying baby.

Zoodle is sick, and I tell him since he doesn't feel well he can have the binky as much as he wants, all day long. I clip it to his shirt.

I give Zoodle the binky on our four hour car ride with Little Sis, and when it keeps the in-car crying to a minimum, I consider sending flowers to the genius who invented these things.

I type a blog with a content, binky-sucking baby on my lap. Then I sign the contract to sell my soul, once again, to the binky manufacturers. Sigh....


Friday, January 23, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Diapers

This post, titled "Huh?," was originally published June 6, 2008.


I have this nifty little portable diaper changing thingamajiggy...basically something I can take with me if I won't be gone long and don't want to carry the big diaper bag.

Here it is closed:


And here it is opened up, with a changing pad and pockets for diapers, wipes, etc.


Cute, right?

Here's the thing. I just recently noticed there's a little label where you can write your child's name, address, etc. Forget for now the safety aspect of putting your child's address on something strangers might see. The part that weirds me out is the second line.


I have two in diapers, and I may feel like I'll be changing diapers forever...but if I ever have to write Chickie's or Zoodle's GRADE on a diaper bag, I might as well just check myself into a funny farm for good.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quick laugh

Check out this "Baby Blues" comic from Monday:

"When Life Attacks"

Oldies But Goodies: Ice cream

This post, titled "Summer treat," was originally published June 5, 2008.


The appetite of a nursing mom is a powerful force. It leads her to do strange and daring things. Things like letting her toddler eat a McDonald's ice cream cone in the car because Mama is so hungry she needs food NOW and she realizes she can't eat ice cream without buying some for the munchkin. Yeah, I know, I was risking total destruction of my vehicle, but it is ten years old, and besides, I like to live on the edge. This risky behavior is sort of fun; I think next week I'll take Chickie bungee jumping.

It was a risk that paid off. A lot of ice cream ended up on Chickie's face, but only one large drop fell on her car seat. I think she was happy with the situation, too....

I did learn something important. McDonald's puts these little paper sleeves on the bottom half of their ice cream cones. Well, I guess the sleeve should be removed before handing the ice cream cone to the child. When I did remove it upon our arrival home, it looked like this (the upper edge lining up perfectly with the bite marks in the cone):

So let me get this straight, sweet Chickie. You are perfectly okay with eating paper, sand, lip balm, and baby shampoo, but mashed potatoes and green beans are GROSS. I suppose in some alternate universe called "Toddlerlogic" that makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Art

This post, titled "The drawback to buying a brand new house," was originally published May 31, 2008.

I am so thankful for the beautiful house we had built eight months ago...but there is a drawback. Door-to-door salespeople like to target new neighborhoods. For the record...
  • If we want to soften our water, we'll buy our own softener and salt instead of spending a ridiculous amount each month for your equipment.
  • We have a pest control company we love, owned by a friend we trust. Even though you've been in the pest control business two years and have never heard of them, I promise they really exist. No, I don't want another one of your cards; the guy from your company who came to our house last week gave us a card. Yes, I threw it away.
  • Our cheapo Eureka vacuum was rated very highly by Consumer Reports, and we don't need a Kirby. Even if it is strong enough suck up large objects and small animals.
Then Thursday we got another knock on the door. This one was unique, selling something I've never seen sold door-to-door before. Original oil paintings. Kind of odd, right? I mean, if we need decorations for our home, we can go to a gallery or a home decor store. It seems weird to buy paintings from some guy who's carrying them from house to house.

An hour and two painting sales later, he left our house.

We sure told him!


A few months after I posted this, The Engineer stretched the canvases onto frames. Here they are:

20"x24" painting:

35"x47" painting:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Postpartum

This post, titled "Leave it to a 2-year-old...," was originally posted May 28, 2008, when Zoodle was two months old.


Leave it to a 2-year-old to tell it like it is.

I was laying on my side on the couch yesterday morning, and I guess my shirt was pulled up a bit because Chickie could see my tummy. Keep in mind I'm two months post-partum with my second child. My tummy at this point is definitely worse for the wear.

Chickie grabbed the extra tummy skin and started pulling it from one side to the other. "I'm folding your belly button!" she exclaimed.

"Folding Mommy's belly button" of the many games that's a little more fun for her than it is for me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oldies But Goodies: Shopping

I'm out of town visiting family and friends from 1/19 through 1/28.  Shamelessly stealing an idea from the wonderful Sandra, you'll be treated to some of my favorite past posts during this time.  These are all from my first four months of blogging, before many of you became readers.  Enjoy!


This post, titled "The Engineer's Shopping List," was first published on May 13, 2008.


I have finally, at the age of 30, gotten into the habit of keeping a grocery shopping list on the fridge, and I usually remember to write down the things we're running out of. I'm trying to teach The Engineer to utilize this excellent tool.

The other day we needed salsa. Perfect opportunity for The Engineer to use the list for the first time.

"The Engineer," I began, "would you please add salsa to the grocery list?"

"Where is it?"

"It's the Curious George pad on the fridge." (Yes, I have a 2-year-old and I stole the magnetic Curious George pad I bought her.)

He graciously complied. It wasn't until the next day that I actually saw his list.

It gave me a smile and an appreciation for a husband with a sense of humor. (Though I guess not enough of an appreciation to actually fulfill his wishes, since, as you see, salsa is the only item I marked off on my shopping trip.)

For now, our upstairs game room will have to suffer without a 42" television, receiver, and surround speakers. Yes, we are indeed deprived of life's necessities.

(By the way, what exactly is a receiver?)


14. Light bulbs
15. Liquid soap
16. Baby swing
17. WALL-E party stuff
18. Cane

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Amateur cake decoration: It takes forever.

Chickie's birthday party is over! It went really well, and we all had a great time, but, boy, am I tired. I'm glad birthdays only come around once a year, and I'm glad I only have two kids.

The cake took on a life of its own. Chickie has been talking about getting a WALL-E cake for months. I love to take on creative tasks I'm totally unqualified for, so I decided to make it. (And if Cake Wrecks has taught me anything, it's that however bad my amateur efforts are, I could definitely find a professional whose results would be worse.)

I found a few things online:
I made the cake a couple of days in advance and froze it. My mom gave me this hint: You can ice a frozen cake (as long as you leave plenty of time for it to thaw before serving, of course!) The hard, frozen cake is so much easier to work with than a room-temperature cake.

Friday I layered the cake, made chocolate cream cheese frosting, and iced it. I used a scraper to make it nice and smooth. It took forever.


I then realized WALL-E, who has lots of gray, wouldn't show up well on the brown frosting. So I made my buttercream icing and put a smooth rectangle on the cake. took forever.


I used a toothpick to draw the design.


I left with The Engineer, dropped the kids off with some friends, and my man and I ate greasy Mexican food for dinner to celebrate our anniversary. Then we went to Starbucks. When we got home and got the kids to bed, I got back to work.

Did I say that smoothing the icing took forever? I should have saved that superlative to describe the amount of time it took me to do the WALL-E design.


All in all, icing and decorating the cake took about five hours. But I loved how it turned out. And Chickie was enthusiastic.


It might be forever before I do another cake. And by "forever" I mean a couple of months.... Zoodle's birthday is at the end of March.

Friday, January 16, 2009

If you pray...

...could you please pray for Clark?  He is the brother of a friend of ours.  He is only 16 or 17 and has cancer for the second time.  He got a bone marrow transplant a number of months ago.  His body is rejecting the marrow, and his organs are suffering.  At this point the doctors can't do anything more for him.

We are pleading with God to heal his body completely.  We need a miracle.  Please join us in praying, if you believe--or if you sorta maybe believe--in a God of prayer.

Thank you!

Toddler explanation

Chickie is learning a lot about cause and effect these days.  That means she's been in the incredibly annoying...uh, I mean delightfully educational...phase of asking, "Why?"  It's easy to answer the question, "What's that, Mommy?" but much harder to know what to say when the follow-up question is, "Why is it a candle?"

The "why" questions seem to be tapering off, and she is now developing the truly endearing habit of explaining things to her brother.  She can be as creative as she wants; he's not going to argue with her logic.

Yesterday I heard her patiently explaining, "I can't give you mommy milk, Zoodle.  I can't give you mommy milk because I'm a racecar."

Well, as long as she's not trying to nurse him or give him gasoline, I'll be happy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo Extra: The Engineer done good!



A Wedding Story and A Baby Story

Take a minute with me while I remember two very important events we're celebrating this week. I won't share every detail of those days, but instead just a few meaningful moments.

A Wedding Story

Moment 1:
"Her mother and I do," my dad said to the pastor, as Dad officially "gave me away." Then Pastor Brian sat down and my dad, Pastor Sam, stood in front of the church to perform the rest of the wedding. "I used to walk in the fields behind our neighborhood, praying for Beth's future husband," Dad told us. "And [looking at The Engineer] I was praying for you." I wasn't the only one with tear-filled eyes and a joyful smile.

Moment 2:
He took his guitar and stood before a microphone. I picked up a mic too. And we began to sing. Throughout the wedding up to that point I'd been nervous, happy, and weepy, all at once. But when we sang to each other, most of my nerves fled, and the wedding became even more distinctly ours. I looked at The Engineer, playing the music he'd composed, as we sang the words that I had written, and I believed we'd be making music together "'til death do us part."

Thank you for nine beautiful years, my Engineer!

Then & Now:


A Baby Story:
I had shown up for my scheduled induction, progressed nicely, gotten an epidural, and pushed out my first baby, after less than five hours of labor. Everything had gone smoothly and according to plan.

What I didn't expect was my reaction when my just-born baby girl was handed to me, warm and slippery and perfect. I was filled with an intense joy I'd never felt in what was unquestionably the most awe-filled, wonderful moment of my life up to that point.

In that instant I was stunned to learn that birth is more than a means to an end. Giving birth is a pivotal, defining moment for a woman, a truly miraculous experience that leaves the mother forever changed. This truth altered my whole attitude about birth, leading to an entirely different labor experience with my second--but that's a story for another day.

Happy third birthday, my beautiful Chickie!

Then & Now:


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho,

It's off to work I go.

I have had my real estate license for over six years, and for the three years prior to Chickie's birth, I was a busy, active real estate agent.  I loved it, but switched to being a full-time mom when she was born.  I did continue doing occasional work.  Being able to only work occasionally, and to say no when I want to, has been absolutely wonderful.

I haven't done any real estate transactions in over a year, since early in my pregnancy with Zoodle.  Yesterday, though, I listed the home of some friends.  It's fun to be back in the game!

Fun...and tiring.  I always tend to forget just how many hours it takes to get everything in place at the beginning of a listing.  I'm also preparing for Chickie's birthday party Saturday, and Monday the kids and I will be headed to Arizona to visit my parents.  So it's a BUSY week, and my blog posts may not be top priority!

I will, however, be sure to have a post tomorrow.  Today is Chickie's third birthday, and tomorrow is The Engineer's and my ninth anniversary!  More on both of those big events tomorrow.

Be sure to check out last night's post announcing the art giveaway winner!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Giveaway winner!

We have a winner for Michelle's gorgeous artwork!  Entrants 1-30 were on my blog, and 31-47 were on Michelle's blog.  I did a random integer generation at, for one number between 1 and 47.  Here was the result:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-01-14 03:09:00 UTC

Congratulations, SUSAN SONNEN, commenter #9 on this blog!  You'll need to e-mail me at cbethblog(at)gmail(dot) com with your mailing address by Thursday, January 15 at 8 p.m. CST.  Be sure to e-mail me on time, so that we don't have to draw another winner!

Thanks everyone for playing, and be sure to keep reading for probable future giveaways.  If you would like to partner with me on a giveaway like Michelle did, and possibly drive some extra traffic to your blog, e-mail me at cbethblog(at)gmail(dot)com with your idea.


I know not everyone understands, as I do, the profound artistic value of reality TV.  (Ahem.)  But even if you're not usually a fan, you might consider watching Survivor when the next season premieres after the Super Bowl.

One of the contestants, Ben Wade, has a fascinating history.  As a youth, he won an international trumpet competition, and he played with the New York Metropolitan Opera and two symphonies by age 17.  In 1996, he took a little kayaking trip from Mexico to Columbia...over 6,000 miles, a world record-breaking distance.

After his kayaking trip, he became a college soccer coach.  His cumulative record (at various schools) is 147-14-13.  These days Ben lives in Missouri, coaching at Southwest Baptist University.  However, he also spends a lot of time in Susanville, California.  Ben coached in Susanville before moving to Missouri.

He also started a symphony in Susanville.  The population of Susanville was under 15,000 in the 2000 census.  The symphony has incredible community support, and since moving to Missouri, Ben has continued to travel back to Susanville to conduct.  He even composed a symphony, which was debuted by the Susanville Symphony in 2005.

Since the symphony's debut in 2002, the tympani player has been retired Army General Dick Bendix.  Dick is now 81 and continues to play, in addition to serving on the symphony's board.  He and his wife Leah Faye are very close to Ben, acting somewhat as surrogate parents when he is in town.  Lucky him--they are pretty great parents.  I should know, since Leah Faye is The Engineer's mother, and Dick is his stepfather.

I've only met Ben once, but have heard my parents-in-law sing his praises for years.  I haven't watched much Survivor since the second season, but I'll be glued to the TV this year!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Micro: NPR

New series--Monday Micro.  It'll be a nice, short post.  Guaranteed to be one of the following--funny, profound, or neither.  You'd think I'd be better at writing short posts judging from the subject of my other blog.  Ah, well, I'll work on it.  Once a week, anyway.

Before I get to that, today is the last day of the art giveaway!  Be sure to enter if you haven't.

On to business...


I think this would be a fun start for a stand-up comedy bit, or a story in The Onion:

National Public Radio is making an effort to increase its listenership, by reaching out to common Americans.   So starting later this year, NPR will be sponsoring...

...a NASCAR driver. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No, thank you.

Do you feel the need to justify yourself when you say "no" to someone?

If you don't, that's fantastic.  Please hang out around me and make sure your confidence rubs off on me.

I find myself trying to convince people that I have a great reason to not want the products or services they're offering, or to not want to volunteer for them, or to not want to give money to them.

But I'm changing.  I'm a recovering justifier.

I received an e-mail a couple of days ago from someone who sells skin care.  She is a very nice lady who took something I offered on Freecycle awhile back.  She was inviting women to an event promoting their company and product, and she let me know she'd be sending these invitations monthly, and to opt-out if I prefer not to receive them.

So I clicked "Reply," and I wrote, "Hi--thank you for thinking of me, but I prefer not to be on this list."  And then I signed my name and sent it.  No explanation, no justification, no convincing.  I just politely said "No."  And boy did it feel good.

As I've been writing this, my fingers have been itching to explain to you my reasons for declining.  And once again, I'm not doing it, because it's not necessary.

"No."  Such  a simple, perfect, sufficient word, even when reworded politely.

I think I'm growing up.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photo Extra: Bearable surgery

Well, Flame, Chickie's homemade bean-filled teddy bear, had surgery today.

In fact, he's had a lot of surgery in his short life.  He was the first bear I made, so I paid the "dumb tax" on him--I learned what does and doesn't work!  I really didn't choose a good fabric.  It is a thin fabric with a loose weave, which means it isn't great for holding heavy beans.  (When I later used it for a bear for my niece, I doubled it and used a zig-zag stitch for the seams, which worked well.)

Within a day or two, some of Flame's seams were coming undone, the ones I'd trimmed too closely.  So I reinforced the edge seams.  

Later I had to hand-sew the center seam from the neck through the bottom of the belly, since it was coming undone.  

His bottom also got a little rip, which I mended, making him look like has a little well-placed "crack".  

And recently, he got a little hole in his left leg, a hole I knew would soon be big enough to start "spilling the beans."  (And what use is a childhood teddy bear friend if he can't keep your secrets?)

So I decided poor Flame would really look adorable with a patch--probably the first of a few.  Patches add character to teddy bears!  I chose a green felt that won't unravel. Chickie agreed to take her nap without Flame, and when she was asleep, I got to work.


Flame has always been very brave for his surgeries, keeping a smile on his face before, during, and after.


When Chickie got up, she said he "got a Band-Aid!"  I'm glad she likes the result of Flame's bearable surgery as much as I do.

(If you want to know how to make your own bear, check out this post.)


Toddlers are so interesting--they talk (and talk back); have distinct personalities; and exert their independence.  So I think I've been blogging quite a bit about my interesting toddler Chickie lately.  But babies deserve bloggy love too!  I think it's high time for a Zoodle update.

At Zoodle's nine-month appointment this week he weighed in at 19 pounds 10 ounces.  He may not be big compared to the average nine-month-old, but he seems big to me, since Chickie was smaller than that at 12 months!

Zoodle sure is active.  His doctor was really surprised at his high energy--which makes life adventurous and makes doctor examinations difficult! Picture trying to hold a flopping fish out of water and you'll have an idea of how hard it can be to change his diaper.

Zoodle seems to have inherited his daddy's athleticism, if his motor skills are any indication. He's been pulling up to furniture for several weeks, and is a master "cruiser," walking along the furniture and quite easily transferring from, say, the coffee table to the couch. He spends a good part of the day like this:


And, yes, the big smile in so many of his pictures is typical.  He is a generally happy guy.  But he definitely has plenty of fussy times too.


Now, isn't that a cute sad face? Unfortunately, after just a few more minutes of crying, his face gets bright red and blotchy, which is distinctly un-cute. He inherited that unenviable trait from Yours Truly.

Zoodle has liked every food we've fed him so far, which is just plain awesome. He also still loves to participate in Mommy's post-partum diet plan (which consists of me eating a lot out of the fridge and him eating a lot out of me.)


At over nine months, Zoodle has now lived outside the womb for longer than he lived inside. And our family just wouldn't be complete without him.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Save Handmade!

You'll see on my right sidebar a new button that says, "Save Handmade!"  The Consumer Products Safety Commission has new policies, set to be enacted February 10, 2009, designed to protect kids from lead in toys.

That's awesome.  The problem is, the testing requirements are likely to put most individual toy makers and small toymaking businesses, out of business.  Click on the teddy bear button to find out more.

I am so concerned about all the entrepeneurs who lovingly make high-quality toys, concerned enough that I wrote my Senators and Represenative, asking them to support small-business-friendly changes to the new policies...changes that will still support high standards of toy safety.

If this is important to you as it is to me, click the little teddy bear button.  Contacting your lawmakers is easy; I did it all online using links in that article.  I know we can't all be passionate about every issue; there's not time!  This one just concerned me, and maybe it'll resonate with a few of you too.

"A double pleasure is waitin' for you...."

Sing with me now--

"A double pleasure is waitin' for you,
A double pleasure with Doublemint Gum
A double great feelin'
Makin' you realize
Doublemint's the one for you...."

My identical twin sister Becki and I loved those old Doublemint commercials, and we dreamed of being the Doublemint twins.  When we grew up, we realized we were both about six inches too short and two cup sizes too small to ever be asked to jaunt around in bathing suits on TV.  But it was a great dream!

Twins are asked certain questions over and over, and so I'm presenting to you....

The Beth and Becki "Twinship" FAQ

Q.  So are you two close?
A.  We are close in that we talk often, trust each other, and like to hang out.  We aren't close in the way some twins are--we do not live next door to each other with adjoining back yards or anything.  In fact, we live halfway across the country from each other.  We were extremely competitive growing up, and it was very healthy for us to go to different colleges, in different cities, where we could develop individually into adults.  Honestly, I find it sad when twins are so close they can't be apart--we both really value our individuality.

Q.  Are you a lot alike, or really different?
A.  We have similar talents though there are areas in which we each have more natural gifting, and we've pursued different interests.  Our personalities have always been different, with Becki more extroverted and me more introverted.  And many people are shocked to find out that our religious beliefs are very different--Becki does not believe in God, while I am a Christian.

Q.  Do you have a psychic connection?  (Insert The Twilight Zone music here.)
A.  No.  We used to call each other and find out we'd both had hiccups that day.  Oooh...weird.  But I think that was more tied to us both getting hiccups easily than to a psychic connection between our diaphragms.

Q.  So, do you share each other's pain?  If I hit you, would she feel it?
A.  No, but if you hit me, you might end up feeling some pain.  (Anyone who knows me well is chuckling because I'm not exactly physically intimidating....)

Q.  Do you have a "twin language"?
A.  We sort of used to.  When we were very young, we could understand each other's toddler babbling when our parents couldn't tell what we were saying.  But we outgrew that.  Also--I asked Becki to review this post, and she reminded me about something else--"hmm hmm language."  We used to talk to each other with our mouths closed--forming the words and vocalizing through our noses, but never opening our lips.  When we could get through it without dissolving in giggles, we'd then try to interpret each other.  In Becki's words, "Although that wasn't 'real' twinspeak, we definitely could understand one another's hmm-hmm language better than anyone else could understand us.  I wonder if [our husbands] would be able to understand as well now, joining our little hmm-hmm club...."

Q.  Did you ever switch classes?
A.  Yes, for most of one day, our freshman year of high school.  Three or four of my teachers caught her (possibly because she talked more than me.)  None of her teachers caught me.  One of her teachers gave her a referral for "ditching" the next day and let her sit there, horrified, for several minutes before he told her it was fake.  He was still telling that story eight years later when I visited his classroom.

Q.  Did you ever fool your boyfriends?
A.  No, and if a guy had ever been so unobservant that he was unable to tell us apart, I don't think that relationship would have lasted long.

Q.  So, do you look alike?
A.  Well, you can check out the photo of her in yesterday's post and form your own opinion.  In "real life" we go through phases of looking more and less alike.  These days we look pretty similar, with similar weights and hair lengths.  Opinions of friends run the gamut from "You look exactly alike!" to "Well, you look like sisters, but not twins."  When people get to know us both well, they generally have no trouble telling us apart.  As small children we looked very, very similar, and I still can't tell us apart in baby and toddler photos.  But Becki has had some run-ins between her nose and various stationary objects (she's broken it a few times), so that has given us different profiles.  There are so many other environmental factors, starting in the womb, that create differences between identical twins.

Q.  Do you like being twins?
A.  Yes.  It's fun being odd, but odd in a good way.

I think that covers many of the frequently asked questions.  Feel free to ask more in the comments section, and I'll leave my answers as comments.

And, no, we don't have matching mint-green bathing suits...though we do both like to chew gum.


12.  Baby monitor
13.  Cell phone charger

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Photo Extra: One more art pen pal project!

Earlier today I posted photos of most of the art pen pal projects--be sure to check them out if you haven't yet.  I received one more photo and wanted to share it.

Handmade card & snowman

The card read, 

Dear Lisa,

I hope you don't mind, but this "snow-woman" decided to take her new years vacation out by you (kinda hokey, but the thought of making a snowperson in a swimsuit cracked me up).  Have I mentioned that I'm a stay-at-home mom to an 8-month old?  :)

Anyway, I hope you have a great holiday.

Your art pen pal,


Adorable, Jen!  I think the "snowperson in a swimsuit" is awesome.

I'm waiting on a couple more project photos....  You know who you are!  Please contact me soon.  Thanks.

Art pen pals...the projects!

We are wrapping up our second successful art pen pal project!  We had fifteen participants this time.  I don't have photos of all of the projects--if you participated and haven't taken a picture of your project, please send it to me, and I'll post it later.

Here are the photos I do have, plus some comments that artists and recipients e-mailed to me.  If you participated, feel free to write further comments about the projects you made and/or received, in the Comments section below.  (Of course, the Comments section is open to all other readers too!)

Momza to Tia:
Greeting card


Beautiful, Momza! What a great quote, and your calligraphy and drawing are both lovely.

Tia to C. Beth:
Felt ornaments

Tia, these were so cute! They looked great on our Christmas tree. I loved the hand-stitched look.

C. Beth to Faith:
Construction paper cutout collages

The second picture says, "If you think my hands are should see my heart." Faith said on her blog, "I have known Beth for awhile, but I don't know if she remembers me saying this, or if she just thought it was fitting." I didn't know it was a favorite quote of hers--but what a nice coincidence!

Faith to Caitlin:
Marble magnets

These little magnets are adorable--and Faith has a tutorial on her blog on how to make them--they look so easy, and I just may have to try making some!

Michelle to Angie:
Original painting/collage

Angie said, "The one I got was just gorgeous!" And you all know I'm a fan of Michelle too--Have you entered our giveaway yet?

Angie to Erin:
Picture frame

Erin said, "[Angie] told me that spring has already come to them down south, something I greatly look forward to up here in the frigid north woods! She instructed me to put a picture of the first sign of spring in it...that will unfortunately be a long way off! But it will remain on my inspiration wall on my studio until I can! (I have a whole wall of sheet metal that I am crazy about posting things with magnets!)" Such a cute frame, Angie!

Erin to Becki:
Handmade pendant



Modeled by the ever-gorgeous Becki (my identical twin!):

Erin explains, "They are called W.O.W. Pendants...which stands for Words of Wisdom. On the back is a random inspirational quote...sort of like a fortune cookie...but you never know what you are going to get!"

"W.O.W." seems to be appropriate! Becki gushed, "Oh, WOW!!!! She is way too nice! I want her to be my art pen pal all the time!!!! I absolutely love the necklace, and I'm quite sure I got the BEST art pen pal gift of anyone. Wow!"

Good thing Becki and I both have "B" names.... Think she'll let me borrow that gorgeous necklace?

Becki to The Archduchess:
Becki made a custom blog header for The Archduchess, and it's beautiful! Check it out at The Archduchess' blog.

The Archduchess to Bri:

This is such a cute video game-themed drawing, Archduchess!

Bri to Jen:

What a fun, personalized drawing, Bri! I think all of us moms need to be called "Super Mom" occasionally (if not DAILY!)

Scriptor Senex to EliandMe:

Scriptor Senex explains, "I am totally butterfly mad. See this blog post." EliandMe "loved" this drawing. Beautiful job, Scriptor Senex!

EliandMe to Scriptor Senex:

Scriptor Senex calls this a "wonderful piece." I agree! EliandMe, your use of language is beautiful and really fits for Scriptor Senex, who definitely has a writing addiction!

Thank you so much to all the participants! This was a blast, and I think we should do it again soon.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mom's Recipe Book: Microwave Scalloped Potatoes

Mmm...another entry from Mom's Recipe Book!  To see the history of the book and other entries in the series, click here.

Microwave Scalloped Potatoes

3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 c. sliced potatoes
1 small onion, sliced thin
Grated cheese (optional)

1.  Melt butter in microwave, at full power, in medium-sized bowl.  Stir in flour.
2. In a separate container, heat milk, uncovered, at 50% power, for 2 minutes.  Stir milk into flour mixture until smooth.  Add salt and pepper.
3.  Cook, uncovered, at 50% power, for 5-6 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens.  Stir twice during cooking time.
4.  In 2-quart microwavable casserole, combine potatoes, onions, and white sauce.  Cover with waxed paper.  Cook at full power 9 minutes.  Stir.
5.  Cover and cook at full power for 9-10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Optional:  Near end of cooking time, stir grated cheese into potatoes to taste, and/or sprinkle cheese on top.

(Note this is an older recipe, and with the high wattages of many newer microwaves, you may need to reduce cook times.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We had a disco ball in our garage...

...when I was a kid.

Why?  Because we were using the garage as a roller-skating rink.

But it wasn't like any disco ball you've seen.  It was actually a flashlight, with a string of rubber bands attached to the top.  My brother (who I'm quite sure came up with the grand idea) hung it to the garage ceiling, and twisted the rubber bands tightly.  When he let go, the untwisting flashlight did its job as our disco ball.

I remember being disappointed that once the flashlight was released, it didn't spin for long at all.  It was an experiment that didn't work very well.  But now, that garage skating rink with the disco flashlight has remained one of my favorite childhood playtime memories...joining such remembered treasures as an ATM machine made out of cardboard and a queen's cape that looked remarkably like one of the blankets from our linen closet.

The other day, Chickie found a mirror of mine.  It flips up so that makeup can be put on the tray below the mirror.


She was having fun playing with it as a mirror, and then suddenly a light went on behind her beautiful eyes, and she said, "This is my computer!"  She began "typing" on the tray while she looked at the mirror "screen."

I smiled at her active imagination and thought to myself, "Maybe we should buy her a toy computer."

And then I caught myself.  What?  Do I really want to replace her imagination with a battery-operated trinket from the store that requires no creativity to use?

Chickie loves the play guitar she got for Christmas, and when she pushes the button on it, fun music comes out of it.  But I miss hearing her say, "Mommy, I want a guitar!" while she pointed at the kitchen utensils, where all sorts of "guitars" (shaped like serving spoons, spatulas, and pasta servers) were waiting.

It's fun to be able to offer my kids toys to play with, but seeing Chickie turn a mirror into a laptop reminded me that sometimes when I buy a toy, I'm actually trading in a little bit of my child's imagination.  That's a treasure I don't want her to ever give up.

So for now, Chickie can use my mirror as a "computer," and we'll leave the "real" toy computers on the store shelves.  Who knows?  Maybe in a couple of years I'll strap roller skates on her, grab a flashlight and some rubber bands, and create a disco skating rink in the garage.


If you haven't yet entered the art giveaway on Michelle's blog, you can do so by clicking here.


10.  Children's hangers
11.  Table centerpiece

Monday, January 5, 2009

Giveaway time!

This giveaway is now closed--be sure to keep reading; there will probably be another giveaway before too long!

I mentioned an exciting giveaway recently, and it's time to announce it!

In September I was blog surfing by using that nifty "Next Blog" button at the top of the screen.  I came across Michelle Brunner's blog. Michelle is an art teacher, and her blog showcases her own artwork (which she sells affordably on Etsy.)  I started following her blog and even mentioned my discovery of it in one of my blog posts.

Since then, Michelle and I have "gotten to know" each other through our blogs, and she's agreed to do an art giveaway for readers of her blog and mine! Now, I know my past giveaways have been fun, but I think you'll agree that beautiful, original artwork is easily far more exciting than, say, free lip gloss.

Ready for the virtual unveiling? Here is the beautiful piece of art that Michelle made for this giveaway.


It is made with hand-painted papers collaged onto canvas paper. It will come matted, ready to be framed in a 5x7 frame.  The title is Little Pink Bird.

Beautiful, isn't it?  You want it, don't you?  Well, here are the contest rules:

1. Leave a comment, any comment, on this post. Perhaps you'd like to say what the little bird in the art is thinking? (Entertaining the blog authors doesn't get you extra entries, but you can count it as your good deed of the day.) Or just say, "Yo, enter me." It's up to you.
2. For an extra entry, go to Michelle's blog by clicking here, and leave a comment on her contest post, too.  (If she hasn't posted yet about this contest, just keep checking!)
3. For even more entries, tell everyone you know about this and encourage them to enter, and to mention your name in their entry. You'll get an extra entry every time someone enters and uses your name as a referral.
4. The contest will close at 8 p.m., Central Standard Time, Monday, January 12, 2009.  An entry will be randomly chosen, and the winner will be announced on both blogs Tuesday, January 13.  Be sure to come back here to see if you've won.  If you don't contact Michelle or C. Beth by 8 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 14, another winner will be randomly chosen.
5.  Contest is open to anyone with a United States address.  You may also enter if you live in a country other than the U.S. as long as reasonably affordable international postage is available.

I've made a button you can use to promote this on your blog.

To add this button to your blog post, make sure you are in "Edit Html" mode, and paste the following code into your post:

When one of your readers clicks on the button it will take them back to this post, where they can enter (giving you an extra entry too!)
Good luck, and have fun!