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  • Living In A Model Home

    November 30, 2010

    Whenever I go into a model home, I always imagine that I could live in a clean, pristine and perfectly accessorized house if I just tried hard enough, if I could just get these other people who live in my house to buy into my dream.   But the fact of the matter is, no one lives in a model home.  And that’s why the cabinets aren’t beat up.

    The cabinets in our house are beat up.  There are stains on the carpet.  The wallpaper in the bathroom is starting to peel in one place.  The baseboards look like we host a roller derby in our home. There is place along the stairs where the paint is chipped.  A tile in the bathroom is cracked. The list is endless.

    When we had this house built ten years ago, we had some very specific things in mind that we wanted.  AD wanted a place for our exercise equipment and I wanted a place to do my art and we both wanted a workspace in the garage.   So we built a house to suit our desires and moved in. For a year or so, we lived in a constant state of intoxication fueled by new carpet vapors and nick-free cabinetry.

    So the other day as I was cleaning and lamenting the toll that life that has taken on our cabinets and baseboards, I started thinking about how our life in this house has changed; how my art studio is now an exercise room and the exercise room is now a nursery little boy’s room.  The workspace in the garage is now an overflow toy/sports equipment storage space.  And my den is now a playroom and my breakfast room is now a perpetual school room.

    I used to live in house with an art studio, pristine carpets and perfect cabinets.  And now I don’t.

    I used to have a big empty spot in my heart. And now I don’t.

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    Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies

    November 24, 2010

    This morning I am making Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies to bring to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving.  They never allow me to bring anything — either because they are the kind of people who like to do all the cooking themselves (which I understand) or they don’t like my cooking.  Either way, as a naturalized southerner, it is not possible for me to show up at someone’s home empty-handed, so I am making cookies.

    Mexican wedding cookies are easy to make, not overly sweet, bite-sized and scrumptious. And great to bring to a gathering because they don’t require refrigeration, heating or a fork and plate – all of which are prime real estate at any get-together.  Just be sure to bring them on a pretty plate, ready for the hostess to unwrap and set out.

    Here’s the recipe:

    Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies

    1 cup (two sticks) of butter, softened

    ½ cup of powdered sugar

    2 cups of flour

    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

    1 teaspoon of Mapeline (or maple extract)

    1 cup of chopped walnuts

    Sift the flour and powdered sugar together.  (This makes for a lighter flakier cookie, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, add the powdered sugar to the butter, cream it and then add the flour a bit at a time.)  Add the sifted ingredients to the softened butter and cream together with an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and Mapeline.  Fold in the chopped nuts.  You can use a bit more or less of the extracts, depending on how much you like maple flavor.

    Drop by scant teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet.  You can also roll them into teeny tiny balls if you are so inclined.   Resist the temptation to make them too big – if you do it will take more than 40 minutes to bake.  Bake at 275 for 40-45 minutes. They should be firm to the touch when they are done but not necessarily brown.

    After the cookies cool just a bit (but are still slightly warm) toss lightly in powdered sugar.

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    Since Sean is allergic to nuts, I divide my batter in half before adding the nuts and maple flavoring.  Both versions are yummy!  And if you don’t add the nuts, you can pipe the dough onto the cookie sheet for a more uniform cookie.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Clean Up In The Center Aisle

    November 22, 2010

    I will share this story with you now so that I might dispel any notion you may have that I am perfect, so that you might feel better about your own short comings. Or maybe I just need to confess.

    If there is a single struggle that defines my life (and oh if only it were just ONE) it is the constant inner-battle between wanting and not wanting stuff.  Within the space of two seconds I can swing between feeling sickened and burdened by the sheer volume of my stuff to wanting more of it.

    So then, the other day I was at Wal-Mart and I was not in a fine mood.  I was just sort of feeling mad at everything for no particular reason.  My cart was all wobbly and really annoying and that was making me mad.  I didn’t like the way my jacket fit and that made me mad.  People were in my way and that was making me mad.  They didn’t have the two things I specifically went to the store to get and that made me mad.  Like Little Critter, I was just so mad. I probably had those two little squiggly vertical lines above my head that you see in cartoons.

    But mostly what was making me mad was that everything just seemed really expensive and that was energizing the Want Team.  The Want Team are a bunch of bullies really. They taunt me and poke their bony fingers into my tender self-esteem.  And they are a pack of liars too.  Meanwhile the Not Want Team was off snoozing somewhere.  Like some sort of bulimic shopper, I put stuff in my cart only to talk myself out of it and take it out two aisles later.   Which then made me feel resentful and sorry for myself, and you guessed it, mad.  (Sorry Wal-Mart employees for the Rubber Maid containers, lemon zester and Christmas placemats you found in with the women’s socks.)

    Weary of the battle, I gave up and decided to head towards the checkout with my coffee and few other things and head home. As I headed down the big center aisle toward the front, I looked up from my dark cloud to see a young woman pushing a cart towards me.  In the seat of the cart was a little girl.  An older woman walked alongside her, perhaps her mother.  The woman pushing the cart was radiantly happy.  She was enjoying her little girl and chatting happily with her mother.  She was not taking stuff in and out of her cart like a crazy lady, stuff that would ultimately rot away or be eaten by moths.  She was not mad.  She was not mad at all.  She was a picture of  joy.

    As I passed her I tried not to stare at her Prednisone-puffed face or the tell-tale dew rag she wore on her bald head.

    I wanted to cry.  Not so much for her, but for me, for my sorry state of being.

    I offered up a prayer for her as she passed, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing that she was to me, for being the slap in the face that I needed in just that moment.  I prayed that God would look upon her with favor and restore her completely.

    I went to the store for groceries, but left with what I really needed — a cleansed perspective.

    Chalk one up for the Not Want Team who rallied from behind — thanks to the lady in the dew rag.

    The Morning Routine

    November 18, 2010

    I am by nature a morning person.  By 5:30 am, I am itching to get out of bed and get going.  But by 8:30 pm, I’m spent; ready for bath, bed, and beyond.  AD, on the other hand, is a night owl.  Consequently I have always assumed the morning parenting duties while he takes the bedtime shift.  And it has worked well for our family.

    The other morning Sean got up earlier than usual and stumbled into the kitchen where I was sitting at my desk.  He wrapped his arms around my neck and then lodged himself into my lap.  He squirmed and shifted as he tried to find a comfortable place to stash his long legs.  He twisted his head this way and that as he tried to nestle into my neck.  He doesn’t quite fit me the way he used to.

    As we sat there quietly and uncomfortably like two mismatched puzzle pieces, I reflected on how our morning routine has changed over the past seven years.

    When he was a brand new preemie newborn, we were instructed to feed him every two hours.  So I would wake him from his sleep at 4am to feed him.  After his bottle I would lay with him on the floor under the glow of the lights of the Christmas tree and stare at this weird little four-pound alien creature who had rocked my world.   While the dog snuggled into the curve of my back and Sean snuggled into the pillowy softness that was my post-postpartum front,  I would study his face and count his eyelashes as I watched him drift back to sleep.

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    The next year, I would tip toe into his room early in the morning hoping to find him sleeping so I could check my email or enjoy a cup of coffee in peace before the day started.  But being a morning person like me, I would most often find him standing in his crib waiting for me. He would bounce with excitement when he saw me and squeal with joy.  Then he would stretch out his arms for me clenching his chubby little hands in and out in the universal and dual-purpose sign for Get me! and Milk!

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    I would lift him out of his crib and inhale the morning essence wafting off his neck.  Then I’d wrap him up in a blanket and carry him away to the den where we would sit on the couch in silence save the slurping symphony that is the sweet sound of a congested baby sucking on a bottle.

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    The next few years, I would often wake up to the sound of someone breathing in my face.  I would force open one eye to see him standing next to my bed, two hopeful little eyeballs staring back at me, willing me into consciousness.  I would pull on my robe as a footsie-pajama clad policeman led me away by the hand to the den.  We would get our respective beverages, snuggle in an afghan on the couch and then build with Legos until the sun came up.

    The days of snuggling together in a blanket with a bottle and playing all morning are no more.  Now we have to get up and get going; we’ve got to meet the world.

    But before we get to lunch packing, paper signing, breakfast making, backpack packing and world meeting he sits on my lap for a minute or two and tries to figure out where to put his legs while I inhale his morning essence.

    He still rocks my world.  And he still fits.