Archive - January 2008

Where oh Where
Showing Her Quality
Humvees and Angels
Reflections on the Day
Projects Started and Completed
A Special Day
Albondigas Soup
Feeling Better

Where oh Where

Where oh where have I been?

I’ve been purging again.  Junk that is, not um, you know, otherwise.

I was doing pretty well working on little corners of my home and it was making a difference.  I organized, tossed and redistributed all my messy spots.  The only problem was that little word – redistribute.  When I don’t know where something goes, I toss it into a bin or basket.  I have the greatest of intentions with those bins, but alas, they just stayed there, stacked upon each other, mocking me with their faux organization.  I glared at them, threatened them and hid them, but still they remained.

Last week I had enough.  I contacted a sort of real life-mostly internet friend who used to be a professional organizer.  I hired her and she drove 3 hours with her children to come help us and our mess.

All the children were wonderfully well behaved, even the two year olds who went without a nap and their mothers’ attentions all day.  Philip took the afternoon off to wrangle the children and make food runs.

We worked hard all day, dumping out our bins of shame, tossing out most of it and finding a place for the rest.  At the end of the day, both Philip and I had a pile of “homework” to finish and – get this- I can see the carpet in the entrance hallway!  And all of the bins downstairs are gone.  Gone, I tell you!  Some of them were re-purposed, one is temporarily holding things that I ‘m giving away or selling and 3 are sitting completely empty.  AND we have a system for dealing with mail. Amazing.

So over the last few days I’ve been away from the computer, finishing my homework.  Besides schooling the children, doing laundry, and changing diapers, I’ve been putting away all the things we identified that went into other rooms.  The upside to all of this, besides all the new found space, is that I am so motivated to keep up the rest of the house.

I love internet-turned-real-life friends! Jen (yes, another one!) did a really great job.  She even made me tackle a closet that I thought looked pretty darn good.  We found Bip’s social security card, a pair of long-long and much missed Becca shoes, a Thomas Kinkade print that I forgot we had and an embarrassing amount of cash.  Oh, and Mom, I found those Longaberger checks.

So that’s where I’ve been.  I have some emails that I need to reply so if you’re waiting to hear from me, I’ll be getting to you by tomorrow.  But only after I do another little dance in my empty hallway.

Showing Her Quality

Pumpkin Girl was excited to participate in the Powder Puff Derby. She told all of her friends about it and had a great time designing and decorating her car. She could hardly wait for the day to arrive.

Her Brownie Troop was the first to race and hers was one of the first cars. Two of her best friends’ cars were racing against hers. We loaded the cars on to the track and away they went. Two of the cars finished a close one-two and Pumpkin Girl’s car was a distant third. The disappointment in her face was clear, but I gave her an encouraging smile and she smiled back. The cars were set to race again, with similar results. Pumpkin’s car raced in the next few races and each time it seemed to get slower. In fact, it looked like it was barely going to make it to the finish line.

As parents, we do our best to coach our children through the disappointments and hurts of life. Sometimes we can head them off ahead of time by stressing a positive attitude before a big game or competition. We make sure that their dances or music pieces are well rehearsed before a recital. We talk about what to expect and how to react. Many times we can be right there as their hearts begin to hurt, guiding them through the complicated and fickle world of best friends and second best friends, friends that move away and friends that never come around anymore. And then there are the times that either by circumstance or design that we must stand back and let them suffer through a heartache alone.

The Powder Puff Derby was one of those times for Pumpkin Girl. As she sat in the racer’s area, her back was to most of the spectators, but those of us helping with the race could see her face plainly. She loved her little Becky Angel car so much but to watch it race so poorly was too much for her 7 year old heart. My Brownie co-leader said that she looked so serious and I said, no, she’s struggling not to cry. Even the Cub Master who was MC’ing at the time commented to Philip that Pumpkin looked shy. He gave the same answer – she’s about to cry. In between races, the Cub Master (also named Phil) volunteered to take a look at Pumpkin’s car to try to help it. As soon as her car cycled out of the line up, he whisked it away to work on it.

Nothing much could be done. Her wheel axles were bent and no spare ones were to be had. Cub Master Phil did his best, but it was clear that she wasn’t going to be winning any races.

The next time her car raced, it did better. It finished last, but this time it was much closer to the #2 car. I continued to help out with the race, all the time watching her struggle to maintain control. How she did it, I will never know, but she dug down deep and found a strength inside her I didn’t know she had. She maintained her composure the whole time and even smiled a little when both her best friends made it to the troop finals.

When I was finally able to go to her, she was still upset, but no longer on the verge of tears. I told her how proud I was of her. It is so hard when we expect one thing to happen and something else happens instead. It’s even worse when it happens in front of a lot of people. The easy thing to do is to run and hide. The hard thing to do is to stick to it and try to smile. It is easy to give up, but hard to say “I want to try again next time.”

courage.jpgAnd that’s just what Pumpkin Girl did. By the time the whole derby was over, she was smiling and laughing again. She said that next year she wants to build a rocket ship car!

As we were leaving, I told her that Cub Master Phil, after seeing her car and trying to fix it, said that next year he’d like to have a workshop for the Girl Scouts, to help them cut their wood and teach them how to buff their axles and add graphite to their wheels. Pumpkin Girl said, “It’s good that God made my car go slow so that Mr. Phil would know he needed to help us next year. If my car hadn’t lost, it wouldn’t have helped the Girl Scouts.”

It was at that moment that my eyes started to water and I struggled to maintain my composure.

It was at that moment that Pumpkin Girl showed her quality.

Humvees and Angels

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Ah yes, it’s time for the Pinewood Derby. Nothing makes a parent groan like those two words.

We don’t have much experience with the Pinewood Derby. We’ve done a little research on the internet, but we don’t own the right tools and the last time one of us took a woodworking or metalworks class was in junior high. And it was me. (I did make a very nice metal dustpan and a whale shaped wooden cutting board.)

So we really try to focus on the fun. We encouraged Boo to come up with a clever design that he could do. We found a design online that we were able to copy and he came up with this car which he calls the “Army Fighter.”


Phil took him down to the woodshop to get his wood cut then promptly turned the rest of the carmaking over to me. Being the one in the family who has actually turned out copious amounts of folk-painted home decor items, I guess I was a natural. Though you’d think that after wearing woodland camouflage for 18 years, Phil would know how to paint it. He says not.

(Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t actually like crafting with the children. Every fiber in my being fights the urge to take over the project and do it right. Did I mention that I head up most of the crafts for our Brownie Troop? I’ve learned to smile through the pain.)

So I found myself instructing the boy how to base paint and why it’s important to listen to mama and not paint the bottom so that you have a place to set it down to dry. Then we consulted various models of camouflage, including the original inspiration for his car and I taught Boo how to sponge paint. Dab- dab, dab-dab, pounce, pounce, pounce. As you can see, he did a really great job. All the camouflage painting is all his. My inner perfectionist took over and I did the detail work. Phil donated the Army sticker.

Race day arrives and Boo is excited. We talked about how great his car looked and how now matter what happened, he had fun. His car did ok. He made it into the semi-finals for his den and that was it. But he did have a great time and he went back after lunch to see the pack finals and cheer on his buddy that won in his den. He’s already planning on a more aerodynamic design for next year. Overall a good experience in creativity and competition. Losing with dignity and aspiring to do better next year. Having fun in the process. It’s all good.

What I have intentionally left out of the story is the Powder Puff Derby.

While looking for fun patches for my Daisy troop last year, I discovered a Powder Puff Derby patch. How fun! I brought it up to my Brownie co-leader this year. Maybe any girl in our troop who has a Cub Scout brother and enters the family division could get a Powder Puff Derby patch. Oh, but what about the 3 (out of 10) who didn’t have a brother in Cub Scouts? Maybe we could ask the Cubs if we could let our whole troop race – and ooo! what if we could race our troop by itself! Oh, but what about all the other Girl Scouts on our base who have Cub Scout brothers? And the next thing you know, we’ve got a bona-fide Powder Puff Derby.

Jenn was slightly less enthused. She was an eyewitness to the pre-Derby planning and the headaches it entails. While I kept saying how easy this would be, she would patiently explain just how much work this “little” race was going to be. She was right, especially when almost as many Girl Scouts signed up as did Cub Scouts. From Brownies to Teens, we had about 25 racers.

The Girl Scouts really rose to the occasion. They glittered, beribboned and bejeweled their cars. We saw a lot of pink and purple. A great time was had by all and I just smiled and tried to be helpful and pretend like Jenn and her husband didn’t do most of the work for this. Phil MC’d for most of the Powder Puff Derby, with Bip riding on his back in the Ergo carrier, happily munching goldfish crackers.

So where was Pumpkin Girl in all of this? Well, she made the sweetest little car, painted purple and glittered, with a little angel as the driver. She named the car after her sister: the Becky Angel.


The rest of Pumpkin Girl’s story is for tomorrow.

Reflections on the Day

Don’t you hate it when you’ve passed on one of your worst traits to your children? When I was a child I had two lovely silver capped front teeth. When Boo was a toddler, I discovered that his two front teeth were rotting away. A quick visit to the dentist and it was confirmed and a few weeks later he was under general anesthesia, getting caps put on.

It was a tough day. I can’t remember exactly, but I think they gave him something to drink and he slowly went to sleep in my arms. He went completely limp and he looked…well, I’m sure you can imagine. They whisked him off, wrapped up the blanket we brought along for him. I caught a glimpse of him later, as I passed the room on the way to the bathroom. He looked so small and helpless. The procedure went well and he slept most of the rest of the day. We’ve never looked back.

Bip suffered the same genetic fate. I discovered his decaying front teeth over the summer and we sought out a pediatric dentist. The first dentist visit was a complete disaster on all counts. So we found another one. He was so much better and attempted twice to fix Bip’s teeth in a way that would not require anesthesia. Both times were a failure and so today he went off to take a nap courtesy of the Goofy Gas (as my mom called it) and get caps put on.

He and Phil left in the dark hours of the morning. I stayed at home with Boo and Pumpkin Girl. We ran a couple of toddler-free errands and commented on how quiet the house was. While we were out, we got the call that all was well and Bip and Phil were on their way home.

It’s funny how your perspective changes over time. When Boo had his teeth done, my parents joined us at the dentist’s office, just to lend support. I had to step out of the office to regain my composure as they took him away. Today, 7 years later, I was just a little worried, but I knew everything would be fine. I thought it would be best not to drag everyone out in the cold, just to sit in the waiting room for hours. Plus, I had some things I wanted to do.

So what was different? A stronger faith and an acceptance that there are certain things I have no control over? Time, age and experience? A long to-do list? Not any one thing I think, but a combination. It’s funny, though, how your perspective changes.

Bip came home, no worse for the wear, with a new squeaky frog toy and a band-aid over his hand from the IV. He cried when he saw me and said, “Mama, ow” and showed me his hand. I took off the offending bandage and we all loved on him. He was only gone a few hours but we missed the silly guy. We settled back in to finish school and he sat on the couch, still in his pajamas and sipped milk.

It’s good when a day like today turns out perfectly fine. We thank the Lord and continue on. Some days, we get to be the lucky ones.

Projects Started and Completed

My lace shawl (which I won’t show quite yet) is taking longer than I’d hoped.  I’ve  knitted (knit?) 1 skein and now have 4 to go.  I had to take a break and do something else or I’m likely to put it away and never finish it.  So I went poking around the house and wouldn’t you know it – I do indeed have a yarn stash.  And I was trying so hard not to buy yarn until I was ready to start a project.  Hmph.  At least it’s a small stash and fits mostly into one Rubbermaid bin.

I found an easy crochet pattern and whipped up this little bag in a couple of days.


I used all cotton yarn, the same stuff I used for Bip’s hat, but because it’s crocheted, it feels much stronger.   The pattern couldn’t be easier and  it’s worked from the bottom up, so the ball of yarn can sit in the bag as it grows.

When I finished the bag, I still wasn’t ready to go back to the shawl.  So I started another big 4 skein project – Clapotis.   It’s a sort of shawl-scarf thing.  Like most of my knitting projects, I started this one mulitple times before I got it right.  I think I restarted this one 5 times.  Argh.  But it’s coming along nicely now.


I’m using Lorna’s Laces Shephard Worsted in Watercolor, instead of Lion and Lamb like the pattern calls for.  This project is for me to keep and L&L is a bit too expensive to spend on myself. Now I’ve got two big projects going – I predict they’ll take me 10 months of alternating between the two to finish.

A Special Day

What does

An Electrolux mixer

A Circa mini notebook with leather cover

Craft magazines and some chocolates

and $38 all have in common?

They’re my birthday presents!  Yay me!  I won’t tell you how old I am, but I will tell you that my grandma always sends birthday money to match my age.


It doesn’t snow all that much in D.C. Just enough to keep us happy and wanting more. I let the children take an early break and we went for a walk in the snow.




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Don’t my little trees look pretty in the snow?


I like to decorate for the seasons and holiday.  But what does this Easter decoration:


have to do with the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior?

And poor St. Patrick.  What did he ever do to merit this decoration for his feast day?


Albondigas Soup

Today is the 15th, so we are halfway through the month.  In honor of that, I present my grandmother’s recipe for Albondigas (meatball) Soup, as requested by Renee.

Albondigas Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon rice
1 egg
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tsp Mrs. Dash
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup barley
3-4 carrots, sliced
4 small potatoes, cubed
lemon juice

Fill soup pan 3/4 full with water and tomato sauce.  Bring to rapid boil.

While waiting for water to boil, beat egg, add rice and mix with meat.  Form into balls.  When water has reached boiling, add meatballs, onion and Mrs. Dash.  After the meatballs have resurfaced, lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add barley and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Bring soup back to boil.  Add carrots.  Continue to cook for 10 minutes, then add potatoes.  Boil (slow) for 20 minutes.

Garnish individual servings with several drops of lemon juice to taste.  (If you add too much lemon juice, mix broth with someone else who hasn’t added lemon yet or return your broth to the pot.)

Feeling Better

I appear to be on the mend. Nobody likes being sick of course, but what I really hate is how some illnesses just linger on. If I’m going to be sick, then fine, I’ll be sick. But when I’m feeling better I want to be better. None of this various symptoms hanging on thing. Today I think I’m actually fine.

Some of the fall-out of mom being sick is that the house falls apart. It not only doesn’t get any neater or cleaner, it actually seems to get worse. So now I’ve got that to contend with, too.

On the good news, we have managed to keep up with school. I don’t get crazed about trying to keep to the schedule I’ve planned, but I try to avoid taking too many days off. We all end up too cranky and it’s frustrating to have to remind the children what we were talking about. “Last time we had school we were talking about the Roman Republic. Do you remember what a republic is?… They don’t have a king…their rulers are…elected…by…the people… Beuler? Beuler?”

Though Pumpkin Girl did manage to work the phrase “crossed the Rubicon” into her conversation the other day. I shouldn’t complain.

So life is getting back to normal, slowly. Our Christmas decorations are coming down and the house is getting back to it’s sanitary, if still cluttered state.

It’s good to be back.

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