Friday, February 29, 2008


I smell like smoke tonight. No, it's not what you might think. It's just grass fire season here on the prairie. Our little town looks like it's been covered by one of those early morning mists...until you're out in it. It feels like God forgot to lift the flue on the sky and all the smoke is pouring back into our little home.

Grass fires are so eerie at night. You can only see the line of flame and the choking smoke pouring around all the houses and cars. You lose your sense of perspective and you lay in bed and wonder how close it might be to the houses. Are the volunteer firemen still out battling, or is the smoke that's creeping through our windows and doors all that's left of the fire?

In fact, it feels almost exactly like that debilitating maternal fear I sometimes have when I'm lying awake at night and imagining my little ones out in that big, frightening, smoke-filled world. I can see it all around them; friends who will make bad decisions, adults who will try to turn them away, simple anger, pride and jealousy. I know the fires are out there, but I'm not exactly sure how to lead them, because the future is so dark.

I can only trust that God, who not only smells the smoke but sees the flames, knows how to guide my little ones over the fields. I can tell them about the fire, and I can show them examples of lives choked out by the smoke around them, but only their Savior can help them walk out into that dark future with their eyes open and their hands in His.

So why can't I sleep. Hasn't he helped me through some fires of my own? Yes. He has. I just have to remember. And sleep. And stop worrying.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #51

Names I considered for my two kids.

Back when I was first married, I had names picked out for all six of my future children. Yeah. That didn't happen. (not yet, anyway, but I do realize God has a sense of humor)

Here are a few of the names I considered for Zaya and Mim. (I do hope you all realize that those aren't actually their real names either. Sorry.)

for Zaya

1. Charles
2. Cedric
3. Alastair
4. Carson
5. Caoilfhionn - This one was my favorite and I really wanted to use it, but my family and friends forbid it. It's Welsh and pronounced Kee-Lin.
6. Aodhan - I had never heard this name before, and really liked it. Now I'm glad I didn't use it, because it ended up being the most popular name for boys the year he was born. (With variations in spelling.)

for Mim

7. Alaina
8. Ariana - I still like this one, but it didn't fit with her brothers name once she was born.
9. Alexa
10. Tabitha - Don't know if I could use it because I keep thinking of the litte girl witch in Bewitched.
11. Lydia
12. Sariah
13. Keren-Happuch - Just kidding.

Check here for more well-thought out and insightful Thursday Thirteens from other people.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rough Water(paint)

I let the kids play with their waterpaints yesterday morning. Mim painted clouds. Big dark storm clouds. The kind that takes the rainbow and squeezes it until it gets really angry and shoots out lightening bolts. At least that's what it looked like.

Zaya has done a little better at grasping "don't mix the colors" and made this lovely portrait you see here.

He told me, "Look, mommy, this is the (mystic voice) Waterfalls of Junior High."

I suppose that's as a good a way as any to describe those turbulent pre-teen years; maybe a portent of things to come. Let's all hope not!

Friday, February 22, 2008

3...2...1..We Have Lift Off!

Someday we'll have a backyard fence and a swing set. Someday my children will be old enough to go play outside without my supervision. Someday. For now, it's cold, they're young, and there isn't a whole lot to do outside.

Enter the couch.

This activity is called "doing tricks" and it keeps them busy for whole minutes on end. When we had our big sectional sofa at the dorm the whole process was much easier because two sides of the arena were surrounded by couch. However, it works with one after Mommy rounds up every cushion, pillow and blanket in the house and arranges them just right.

We put on what Mim calls "fast, dancin' music" and the little guys have a ball. I feel a bit too big for energetic jumping on our secondhand couch, so I dance like the fool that I am on the rug instead. We have fun, and my children are too young to remember how silly I looked.

I hope.

Frustrations are High

Ladies' Magazines make me want to scream. You know the type. Ladies' Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Family Circle etc. They are written for people who I assume exist, but have never actually met. Tall, beautiful and, most importantly, rich ladies who have the extra time and money to spend on designer decorating their garden shed in matching colors.

One article I was perusing in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine (March '08) this morning was about spending a day with your girlfriends at the garden center to get ready for spring. The pictures all showed the above-mentioned perfect women in their cute, little spring sun-dresses and their perfect hair and make-up.

You, the article suggests, are supposed to have packed a garden tote (a new, clean, designer garden tote, of course, that matches your outfit) with "tasty snacks, refreshing drinks, and thoughtful friendship gifts to keep spirits high." It goes on to say,
"A great girls-day-out always ends too soon. Turn the adventure into a treasured memory with a few simple keepsakes. Use festive ribbons to tie around seed packets to give as gifts. The interesting jars you served drinks in become fun take-aways. (Write down your special recipe on tags.)[The tags say, Girl Thyme, by the way. Let's all roll our eyes together.] Express a heartfelt sentiment with the help of a cute card holder you've bought or made. Take a group picture that you'll share at the next outing."

Give me a break! What is wrong with these people. Do they really have nothing better than this to do? Sure, take a friend to the garden center with you, get ideas from them or hang out or whatever. That's fine. But a cute little snack bag? A special drink and meal afterwards for which you've spent hours of preparation and tons of money!? Do these people really exist? If I suggested doing this with any girl friend of my acquaintance she'd look at me like I'd lost my mind, and politely decline.

After having already browsed through page after page of designer this and organic that, I was so annoyed that a got up and threw the magazine into the trash. My kids were a little confused. Sorry guys, even Mommy has her tantrums.

And here it is:

I don't want my daughter to grow up with that "you're not good enough" complex that every woman in this country is being force-fed. She'll get the message from enough places anyway. How can I protect her? Can I protect her? Will she, too, be told by our society that she isn't stylish enough, pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough...for the rest of her life?

My own mother is a Godly woman; down to earth and intelligent, and I know she kept my sister and I grounded, yet we still feel that sudden, if temporary, rush of shame when we see what we are "supposed" to be.

I guess my job is to help her balance self-confidence and humility, and leave her tender, little soul in the hands of God.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #50

My Favorite Thirteen Forms of Chocolate (Woo Hoo #50!)

I can't handle plain chocolate. It's too rich, sweet, or something, but I love chocolate when it is a part of a greater thing. An ingredient, if you will, instead of the whole.

1. Chocolate Almond Ice Cream - This is probably my favorite flavor of ice cream. I'm a big fan of almonds, and what's the best thing to do with any nut? Put it in chocolate, of course!

2. Snickers Candy Bar - There aren't a lot of candy bars I really like, but Snickers is my favorite. It's got chocolate, but lots of other things too, so it's just pure goodness. Mmmmmm. I also love the next two candy bars.

3. Kit Kat - I have to eat this one in layers. It's a moral imperative. I don't know why.

3. Reeses Peanut Butter Cup - This is almost too rich, but I can handle one little cup.

4. Brownies - I can always eat a brownie. I might be stuffed to the gills, but give me a few minutes, and I will somehow be able to fit in a brownie.

5. German Chocolate Cake - This is the only kind of cake that I can eat the icing as well as the cake. Absolutely delicious.

6. Chocolate Chip Cookies - Another little obsession of mine. I don't like it chock full of chocolate (so to speak) but just enough, and especially if it's chewy.

7. Oreo Cookies - Who doesn't love an Oreo every now and then? I'm not crazy about the filling, I just like the chocolate part. I give the center to my kids, because that's the only part they want. We don't buy them very often, because it wouldn't be good for any of us.

8. Magic Shell - I don't know that the flavor is necessarily the best, but you gotta love how that melted chocolate suddenly becomes a crunchy chocolate shell. Think Dairy Queen.

9. Hot Chocolate - This should've been closer to the top, I guess. It's cousin, chocolate milk, is also always acceptable.

10. Ice Cream Sandwiches - Especially the Mississippi Mud variety. I absolutely can't get enough of these. I only buy them once a year or so, because I know I can't control myself once they're in the house.

11. Texas Pie - I've heard others (those from Texas) call it Ice-Box Pie or Refrigerator Pie. This is a crust of crumblies and nuts and so forth with chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding and cool whip layered on top.

12. Chocolate Mint Cookies - Delivered by the Girl Scouts or the Keebler Elves. Either way they're great with a big glass of milk.

13. Chocolate covered pretzels - Not almond bark, although that's OK in a pinch. Just melted chocolate.

Check here for more Thursday Thirteen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Messy Me

I recently re-read a book called The Messies Manual. The author, Sandra Felton, writes specifically to those of us who are mystified and completely frustrated by the housekeeping tasks that seem intuitive to others. She calls these two types of people Messies and Cleanies.

I see myself in so much of what she describes that it's scary. Messies are easily distractable and see their home and the tasks at hand in a different way. Art calls this book my biography because of the sections I've read to him. For instance, the following piece about a typical Messie problem with boundaries:

"[Messies] fail to consider lack of space, i.e., that space has boundaries. They keep buying books without considering there is no place to put them. They don't notice where their responsibility leaves off in relation to other people. They keep trying to inappropriately take care of everybody else's needs.
They mingle themselves with their possessions in such a way that when they get rid of their belongings they feel as though they are losing a part of themselves. They also feel that the possessions of other people have a little of those people in the possessions.
They blur time boundaries in that they try to live in the past, present, and future all at the same time."

She says that her Cleanie friends approached everything about housework and cleaning in a different way from her and other Messies that she met and has helped. For example, a Cleanie will see a piece of lint on the floor and immediately pick it up and throw it away. Problem solved. A Messie will see the same piece of lint, groan and think, "Oh no. Now I have to vacuum," and keep on walking.

This is so, so true.

I'm working on it, and hope to improve as time goes on. After reading this book, and Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley, I've begun to notice where my problem areas are, and begun to find solutions for those areas.

All that to say, I guess, that if you're struggling with these same issues, or are curious about how the other half lives, I'd recommend these books.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday, Monday

I'm having a little trouble with motivation today. Maybe I'll blame it on Monday. Poor Monday gets all our troubles, doesn't he? It's not his fault he's the first day of the workweek. I imagine him standing in line with all the other days when a call for volunteers is made. Everyone else takes the famous "smart step to the rear" and slow little Monday remains standing alone.

He gulps and accepts his assignment, knowing he will receive no recognition for his work, except the kind that comes with censure.

It's not his fault that there are so many, many things I ought to be doing. The house always suffers through the weekend. There are too many places to be, and too little desire for cleaning. Everything gets piled into the living room or the kitchen table, and it takes Monday to get them cleaned and put away.

Sad, overworked Monday. Suffering for the hedonism of the lazy weekend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #49

Yes, this is ruthlessly pirated from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. (The Twentieth Anniversary Edition, if you're interested.)

Upskill Your Lingo

Every year Merriam-Webster's and The Oxford English Dictionary add new words. If they weren't already commonly used, they couldn't make it into the dictionary, but it's kind of funny to think of these words as "official."

1. Ginormous - Extremely large (from gigantic + enormous)

2. Mouse potato - Like a "couch potato," only someone who sits at the computer all day, not a TV (Ouch. This one hits close to home.)

3. Upskill - To learn more skills

4. Hardscape - Manmade features in a landscape, such as gazebos and fountains

5. Sandwich generation - People who are "sandwiched" between the parents they're taking care of and the kids they're raising

6. Soul patch - Small growth of hair below a man's lower lip (And sorry if any of you men out there have one of these, but I think it's just skanky if not attached to a beard or goatee. Skanky should also be added.)

7. Smackdown - A decisive defeat of an opponent

8. Viewshed - Everything visible from one or more points (from "watershed")

9. Supersize - To increase in size (from a former McDonald's menu feature)

10. Big-box - relating to large chain stores (like Wal-Mart or Home Depot)

11. Hoody - A hooded sweatshirt or other hooded top

12. Drama queen - A person given to excessive emotional displays

13. Unibrow - When a person's eyebrows meet in the middle to form one long eyebrow

Check here for more Thursday Thirteen

Fun Times

Yesterday Art and I went to the City for my rescheduled GE appointment and had a great time shopping without toddlers. We visited that little shopping paradise I recently discovered and went to Target, Toys-r-us and Lowe's and then ate at Pei Wei. Bliss.

The feeling of hearing a child throwing a fit in the toy aisle of SuperTarget and knowing that it cannot possibly be your child, and is, thus, not your problem, is truly exhilirating!

I would like to announce to all that I did not even walk into the children's clothing sections at Target, and did not enter Old Navy either. I may have cast longing glances, of course, and I realize it's what's in your heart that counts, but I think it was progress, nonetheless.

Mim and Zaya had a great time with Grandma T in the morning (the picture above is Zaya showing her how to play Super Paper Mario) and Grandma Lilibeth in the afternoon. The latter was quizzing Mim about her opposites, and the following conversation ensued:

"Mim, what's the opposite of up?"


"What's the opposite of big?"


"What's the opposite of north?"


OK, so we're all little confused here in the Babystepper household, but that just adds a little zest to life, right?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sleeping in Splendor

Mim got her first real Big Girl Bed this weekend. We shuffled things around in her little room and sort of crammed it in the corner. I had been saving some special blankets, sheets and pillows from around her first birthday (when she was too young to know we were getting her linens for her birthday, poor deprived child) and we pulled it all out and put it on her bed. She just loves it.

I'm not a bright, gaudy colors kind of person myself, and I always said my little girl's bedroom would not be pink and purple.


That's a whole lot of pink and purple shininess in one little place. The fuzzy blanket there is a very silky shag, and its back is deep, shiny purple. A bit overwhelming, but it was on clearance. I couldn't resist. And what can I say? She loves pink and purple. As I pulled out each new item from the box to put on her bed her eyes got wider and wider and she kept saying, "It matches!" OK, yeah, so I don't usually bother with little things like matching. This might be the last time, in fact, so I hope she doesn't get used to the idea.

I was telling Art, as we pulled this bed out and started putting it together, that it was my bed from childhood. Then I started trying to remember when I actually used it, and it turns out it wasn't half as sentimental as I thought it was. I only used this bed my freshman and sophomore years of college, and for the second of those I was living in the dorm across the state. Oh well. It did come from my Grandpa, and Mama Lilibeth and I sanded and refinished it, so that can be why it's sentimental instead.

Before we put a mattress on it, we had to make some kind of slats to lay across the frame. As with most everything, Art took it as a personal challenge, and came up with a substructure that could probably be used as an alternate saferoom for the family in the event of a tornado. There are eight 2X4s going across the massive three foot, four inch span of the bed and those 2X4s are screwed to a sheet of plywood. He then sanded the plywood smooth and rounded off all the edges with his router. I love my little overachiever.

Anyway, all that to say that the new bed and it's coverings are a big hit for all concerned, including the plush members of our family. Yesterday Mim was running around the house telling us to be quiet, because Bunny was asleep. This is what I found in her room. Hey, even a stuffed bunny needs his quiet time.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Zaya wanted to play video games, and when I hesitated in my response to his question, he said,
"Mommy, when you tell me to turn off Super Paper Mario, well then, I will just turn it off. I promise you that."

Has this kid figured me out or what? I still made him wait a while, but he was so cute, it was hard.

Right now Zaya is reading with Daddy and Sister. His new favorite book is Rosie and the Rustlers. He's never had much interest in the cowboy world before, but he's obsessed with this book. Of course, the words aren't typical Western fare:
"The boys thought this was fantastic and they waxed enthusiastic."
Every couple of pages we hear something like,
"Wait, wait, what does 'enraptured' mean?"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #48

13 Games for Children

This last year was "the year of the board games". Zaya and Mim now have 12 board games, and the thirteenth is one they've played, but I can't find to purchase.

1. Hi, Ho Cherry-O - Mim calls this Ho, Hi Cherry-O, but the idea is the same. The kids love picking the "fruit" off of the little trees and filling up their baskets.

2. Candyland - The old classic. They want to play it, a lot, but are young enough that Mommy has to play too. Yeah.

3. Twister - They're both too young to play this the real way, so I just tell them what color they should find. They think it's pretty exciting.

4. Color Dominoes - These are some dominoes with simple pictures instead of dots. The kids get the idea of how to play dominoes without having to count or multiply by five.

5. Busy Bugs - This is a Discovery Toys game that both Zaya and Mim love to play with. It comes with several cards with pattern and matching challanges, but the kids use the little rubber bugs for imaginative play. For instance, last night Mim made Aaron some gravy covered bugs with blueberries and chocolate.

6. Operation - This is similar to the traditional Operation, but with a few different games and a special timer. It's all incorporated in a white plastic "medical" case. The dexterity required is a little much for my kids, but they like to try anyway.

7. Let's Go Fishin' - Another classic. Mim especially loves this one, and does pretty well at it, really. I remember a friend who had this game when I was little, and it seemed magical at the time.

8. Roll and Play - Also by Discovery Toys, this game involves a large cushy dice and some colored cards. You roll the dice and take a card of the color shown. Each card has an activity to pretend. Some examples are: brush your teeth, hug your mommy, eat a sandwich, read a book etc.

9. Memory - I make this game easy enough for Mim by using only 4 to 6 pairs. She loves it, and so does Zaya.

10. Hanging Monkeys - Our youth pastor's wife brought this for Zaya after he had his tonsils out. It's a very cute little game, and it helps develop fine motor skills. This picture is actually a slightly different game than the one we have, but very similar.

11. Wild Woods - This Discovery Toys game teaches kids to use a dice and move around a board with very little other difficult ideas. It uses bright colors and the kids like to play... for about half the game. Then they get a little bored.

12. Trouble - Mostly my kids just like to pop the bubble in the middle to make the dice move. They aren't quite ready for the "moving the pegs" part, but close.

13. - Flags of the World - I used to play this game at Grandma P's house when I was little, and it was possibly my all time favorite. My kids played it this last Christmas when we went to visit them. I would love to own a copy of it. Grandma offered me hers, but I feel so bad taking it because then all the other grandkids wouldn't get to play it. Anyone out there know where I could find it?

Check here for more Thursday Thirteen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Call Now!

Introducing the new Feline Weather Vane system! No longer do you need to drag yourself to the computer or television to look up the wind direction, and no longer must you walk outside to feel that cold blast of air or look up at some ridiculous metal rooster on your roof!

With the new FWV , you just watch which of your windows this cat chooses as his seat. Is there a cold wind blowing in from the north? Kitty will be snoozing on top of the air conditioner. Is there a strong, dusty southern wind? Kitty will be hiding in the dining room window. This system is fail-proof and guaranteed!

But wait, there's more! If you order now your FWV will come with snuggling and purring capabilities for those warm afternoons on the front porch, and your kiddos will love feeding your FWV each morning.

And that's not all! Your FWV can also transform into the Feline Alarm System. No pesky stray dogs or cats will come around your front porch without a screeching howl from your FAS, alerting you to the danger of the neighbor's pets who may be preparing to mark your screen door, or add extra fertilizer to your front flower beds.

Best of all, the FWV and FAS can be yours for low monthly installments of $6. (Price of Food.) The machine itself is free! Yes, your heard me right, FREE! Just head down to your local humane society, animal pound, or watch your local ads. If you plan ahead and select a female FWV/FAS you can be assured quality service for years to come.

Don't wait, order now!

(Babystepper LTD is not responsible for the actions of your FWV/FAS. Babystepper LTD holds no liability in the event of a runaway or FWV/FAS that has not been equipped with snuggling capabilities. Babystepper LTD holds no responsibility for veterinarian bills should you choose to fix up your old model instead of upgrading in the event of a problem.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Checking in to Life (I hope)

I know we're not supposed to wish our lives away, but I would just like to announce to the world at large that I'm glad this week is over and I'm hoping next week is oodles better. While the vomiting part of the stomach flu only lasted about 6-8 hours per kid, the diarrhea just started today. I can deal with that a little better, though, because the kids aren't quite as miserable.

Art has been great this week, even though he wasn't able to take any time off. Yesterday evening he brought me a dozen roses and a box of Sweetheart candy (one of my favorites) because he said he knew I'd had a lousy week. (True)

He just now walked into the living room saying, "I'm going to go see if the Super Bowl pre-game show has started." It's still Saturday night. That guy cracks me up.

(No, he doesn't like football. Neither do I. What I like about the Super Bowl is getting together with family and friends, eating lots of snack food, and making fun of the half time show and the overpriced commercials.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hey, y'all! I'm Famous!

Big Mama is a great Mommy blogger from Texas, who is always good for a laugh. On Friday she gives some basic down-home fashion advice. Today's edition is for kids, and she accepted my question about Zaya's pants. (I have issues finding them long enough and skinny enough.)

I don't know if I'm up for spending a lot of money on jeans for my son, but it would be nice if the little guy had at least a couple pair that didn't fall off of him. Seriously, the poor kid doesn't own a single pair of pants that have to be unbuttoned or unsnapped before he can take them off. He just slides them right down. It definitely makes potty time easier, but he's going to be an easy target for all those pants-pulling bullies in Kindergarten.

As you can tell, fashion is not our strong suit. (Thanks for the glasses, Aunt and Uncle B!)