Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recent, new-to-us discoveries

1. A Depression-era cake recipe

Since Strider was doing a report on the Depression this week, we decided to look up some recipes that were common then. Of course the kids lobbied to try the CRAZY CAKE recipe. Since eggs and butter were quite expensive then, this is a recipe made without them, so I was dubious... but happily surprised! It was quite delicious. And the best part was the process of making it -- very kid-friendly. Here's how it works:

Pour 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 t of salt, 2 t of baking soda and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Yep, just dump it all in. Swirl it around a little with a fork -- yes, a fork! Then, make 3 wells: In one well, pour 3/4 c. vegetable oil, in another well pour 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and in the third well, pour 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Then, pour 2 cups of cold water all over the whole thing! Then mix, again with the fork. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

It was so tasty. I didn't get any pictures of the cake.... but here's what remains...

We'll definitely be making that again.

2. The rice-and-cell-phone trick works for other electronics, too!
After Colsen and Rayna dumped our digital kitchen timer in a full sink of water, it was completely blank and headed for the trash. Then I remembered hearing about the tip of putting a wet cell phone into a bag of rice to dry it out. So we tried it... and after a couple of days of just sitting on the counter, the timer came back to life! Yay, rice!

3. Colsen's fashion finding of the week:
Green is the new "in" color for lipwear. He told us this was his "lipstick-chapstick."

So, consider these our Public Service Announcements for this week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Strider and the Arts

Between the end of the NFL season and the beginning of March Madness, we've been able to put the Olympics on mute/pause once in awhile, long enough to see that there actually IS a teeny little space of Strider's brain left to think about other things besides sports. It's been a relief to discover this.

In the last few weeks, he has been a lot of fun to talk to, as we've discussed things that I can finally relate to. (The one-sided conversations about which running back tight end has the record yards for on-side kicks after a 3-point conversion, or some other such thing, has left me numb on numerous occasions.) With his 14 non-sports-oriented brain cells, Strider has been diving into some interesting topics lately... biographies of Sam Walton and Walt Disney.... doing a presentation for his class in which he dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt, complete with pipe and hat.... learning more about some famous composers and orchestra instruments... baking a Depression-era cake.

And, he has even been learning about poetry. Yes, this was fully required, as I'm sure he would most definitively want me to state at the outset, but he has done it without the bellyaching I anticipated. He's discovered the great works of Shel Silverstein, has read some of the true masters, like Robert Louis Stevenson, and has memorized the only real poem I ever truly learned, "A Mortifying Mistake." (The legacy from my grandfather is now passed down to another generation!) AND, to my great delight, he has even composed some poems (again because he was forced to, but still). Here is a limerick he wrote:

We went to fly our kite in the sky,
We also brought a bread called rye.
A man asked, "Is it May?"
He was weird. I said, "Nay."
The bread was tasty and the kite flew high.
Tonight we branched into the performing arts, as we went to see a play, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." He was VERY excited to go, since it's his "favorite story because it's such an adventure!"

This afternoon I asked him if he was getting prepared for our big date. "Are you going to wear a suit tonight?" I asked him.
He responded, "Moooo---oooom. It's not THAT big of a deal. It's not a ball or anything!"

But then just saying the word "ball" suddenly triggered the other 90% of his brain cells and off he started running, throwing some imaginary ball into the air, giving his own color commentary as he ran.... and making up a joke about how 2 guys could get confused if they talked about "throwing a ball" and one was talking about hosting a big dance.
What a boy!

(us getting ready for our "not that big of a deal" outing)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh this child.

Once again he has taken scissors to his hair... with this stellar, non-hide-able result.
This is the same child who just answered my question, "Where is the cup of juice that I gave you awhile ago?" with "Oh I spilled it all over the ottoman and floor." (which has now long since dried, I fear)

And the same child who I found, when I walked into the dining room, using four forks to fling his dinner all over his plate (and surrounding areas), declaring, "I'm a chef and I'm making you a dinner!"

And that was just in the last half-hour...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pics from the weekend

For a lot of the weekend, Pete was on a retreat with the rest of the church leadership (during which he apparently fell head-over-heels into some sort of hole while attempting to catch a long football pass.... hmmmm.....) while the rest of us were home fending for ourselves.

Thankfully, we had an invitation to go celebrate Graham's 29th birthday, so I traipsed our little circus over there to add to the celebration/noise. Katie and Graham cooked us all a huge, delicious, gourmet brunch!! It was fantastic, and a great way to spend a lovely Saturday morning. Even without some of the key members of the Wray family (we were down 5 adults), we still proved that it is impossible for there to ever be fewer simultaneous table conversations than there are people at the table. Seriously, I think we ALL talk at once for most of the time. Much more efficient that way.

Little Mini-Graham enjoyed the festivities...
The kids' table was fun as always... and not as loud as the adult table...
Karin brought her very cool camera and lens, and her recently-gained photography knowledge, and started snapping shots of the various characters outside. She got some fun ones I think:
Some very kind friends of ours had offered to babysit for us Saturday night so we could go out on a date. I am happy to say that Pete made it home in time for us to go out, because I was going anyway, with or without him. Of course it was much better to go with him, the man who continues to be my best friend. Best friend with benefits!

My neck looks fat here and I don't like how I'm standing, etc.,... but I wanted picture proof that we did actually go out! :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Colsen's characters

A few of the things Colsen's been lately...

"Here's the Bug Man" he proclaims proudly. "Do you have any bug problems for me?"
(Spraying for ants.)

Don't know why this picture is so blurry... it gives the impression he was moving quickly... but in actuality he announced he was a TURTLE:

Today he was a worker man, loading his broken lawnmower onto the trailer on his truck, to take it away to fix it...

Sometimes he's a "goat-monkey" whose father was a polar bear, or some other random combination. There's always a long back-story for whatever animal he is.

And yesterday he told me, "Know what I am? I can't tell you. It's a secret. But it's REALLY cool."

And sometimes he tries to parlay the imaginary play into something useful.... such as the other day at lunch. He asked for "Coke Zero" to drink. When he saw my incredulous look of askance, he quickly clarified, "It's cuz I'm a different boy! I'm not Colsen!" Nice try, little guy.

Even though it does not provide him benefits in the soft drink consumption realm, his imagination is certainly keeping him entertained for hours and hours... and us, too!

Friday, February 19, 2010


So we are now a few days into the season of Lent -- a time I have been looking forward to for weeks. Considering that Lent a.) begins in February, my least favorite month, and b.) is partially about giving up stuff that I like, which I'm not good at, I thought it was odd that I was eager to enter this season.

But there are things I've come to really love about Lent, not the least of which is the opportunity to continue orienting our home life around the Church calendar. Our kids look forward each year to our big pancake dinner (this year featured apple-walnut pancakes) on Shrove Tuesday, and making the paper prayer chain that hangs by the dining room throughout the season. We love being able to "bookend" this season with celebrations, culminating on Easter, that High Holy Day of the year.

And I also like the idea of having a season set apart for living differently. I like seeing how God ordained various recurring feasts, fasts, and other special weeks and days in the Old Testament, with the apparent purpose of having the Israelites remember, reset or refresh. Those types of times are becoming more and more important to me. The idea of keeping a New Year's Resolution from now until forever is way too daunting. But the idea of adjusting my behavior temporarily, for a specific time, is much more do-able for me.

This year as Pete and I talked about what we wanted to do for Lent, he suggested that we think of it not just as a time to "give up" something, but also a time to "put on" things. It's been good for me to think this way. As we give up certain foods or behaviors that have becoming too over-consuming for us, it gives us a chance to turn our Hunger to the One who can actually satisfy.

The cool thing about Lent, too, is that it's 46 days long. I've heard that it takes a full month of adopting a new behavior before it becomes a full-fledged habit in your life. So, maybe, hopefully?, by shifting our focus for this temporary season, some of the growth/change will stick around even after the season is over. I'm getting a kick out of that: If I had said I wanted to adopt a new habit forevermore, I would have quit by the 3rd day. But if I say I'm only going to do it for 46 days, there is a much greater chance that it could be a habit forevermore!

Anyway, it's a temporary season, full of hope, repentance, and, ideally, hunger for our Savior. So that's why I like it.

But speaking of temporary, here is a great quote I read yesterday in a book by one of my favorite authors, Calvin Miller:

"Ash Wednesday prefaces the Easter season with the suggestion that we are temporary. Easter concludes the season with the reminder that "temporary" is a word missing from God's vocabulary." --From "The Christ of Easter: Readings for the Season of Resurrection"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Missing our girl

It seems rare that Rayna is off having an adventure on her own... but tonight is one of those occasions. She is spending the night with Ava at Nonna and Poppa's house, and we're missing her!

For the last few weeks, she has been VERY attached to me.... she follows me everywhere I go, every time I go upstairs, every time I go back down. When I try to close a door between us, she stands right outside, questioning me incessantly about when I'm going to open it. So it's been weird this evening to not have my shadow with me.

When she's not here, there's no one to say to me, "We're the girls!" like she often does. And there's no one to make sure all the placemats are lined up straight, and the laundry folded properly. There's no one to keep us all on track with our daily schedule, or remind us of our plans. Colsen misses his straight man, and Strider his pawn. Miles might not miss being hauled in and out of rooms he doesn't want to go in, but I'm sure he does miss having her laugh and play with him.

And, most significantly, there's no one here running up to me for a giant, strong hug every couple of hours. The boys are just not as good at that.

Her smiling face is very missed tonight, but I'm sure she's having a ball at the grandparents'!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hornbill Days

While reading a science book with Strider, I found a description that sounded strikingly familiar...

"With their curved bills and black, white and gray feathers, the hornbills
in Africa would never be considered beautiful. However, these plain-looking
birds with long, strange bills have the unusual habit of locking themselves into
their nests. During mating season, the hornbill couple finds a hole in a tree
that is large for the mother's 17-inch-long body and for her chicks that will
soon come. When they find a suitable place to next, the hornbills fly to the
river bank to scoop up mud with their beaks. They then return to build a wall
that will cover the hole of their nest. When the new wall is almost finished,
the mother hornbill squeezes in as the father flies off for more mud. The two
work together to plaster the hole until there is only a narrow crack left.

When the wall is completed, the mother lays her eggs and sits and waits.
The father keeps himself busy hunting for food, which he gives to the mother by
inserting it through the crack with his beak. The mother hornbill will not leave
the walled-up nest until the babies hatch and grow so large that they need more
food than the father can provide alone. Only then will she break open the wall
and let herself out."

On days like this chilly February Tuesday, I feel like that hornbill, plastered into her nest with her young. There have been many days, even weeks, during the last 9 years when I never leave the house, and my mate is the only adult I see for long spans of time. Other than brisk jaunts around the neighborhood block, my only occasional outings are quick runs to Wal-Mart or the post office. Since our babies are growing large enough to need "more food," I do sometimes break open the wall to go out to work... but then straight back to the hole in the tree I come.

So here I am in my cozy nest, amidst my loud squawking chicks, taking occasional peeks at the world through this computer monitor, and awaiting my hornbill mate to come home tonight with whatever worms he's collected throughout the day.

The book continues a couple paragraphs later with what I assume will be a scene in my future...

"As the young birds fly from the nest, the parents encourage them from a branch
nearby with loud squawks. Before the family leaves the nest completely, the
mother checks to see that it is empty."

That's hard to imagine at this point... But I will try to enjoy my little, loud nest for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekend fun, replayed

As I was following my little family crew out of church this morning, I thought about how quickly time is going. They won't stay The Family Circus ages much longer.... Miles will eventually get hair (I hope?) and no longer be like PJ, and my Billy, Dolly and Jeffy won't be little and innocent forever.

Most of the time I want to try and perserve these moments as much as I can -- and I realized that's why I love keeping this blog/record so much. By writing about what is happening I get to live the events a second time, making the memorable moments twice as long. It's my feeble attempt to preserve these fun times!

So.... in light of that, here's what we did this weekend.

Since Miles had an ear infection on his actual birthday, last Tuesday, we didn't party much. So when we got together with some friends on Friday night, we thought it would be a good time to make up for it. We celebrated Miles' first birthday, as well as our friends Donna's and Amanda's birthdays this week.
While we were there, our world was transformed into a winter wonderland of snow, and the next morning we woke up to some unusual (for here) beauty. This is what I saw from my bedroom window:

We also awoke to a very long to-do list of projects/chores that needed to be done around the house. So we decided to go out for the day.

While Strider frolicked with the neighbor kids, Pete took Rayna and Colsen to Lowe's for their kids' building time. They brought home some kits to make jewelry holders, and the construction process was fun for them as they banged away. It also helped to contribute to the "distressed" look of our dining room table. We're saving all kinds of money by doing this ourselves instead of buying a fancy antique. :)

Then in the afternoon we headed up to Nonna and Poppa's house where they greeted up with open arms, and Valentine cupcakes. What more could we ask for!

Today, Valentine's Day, has been a fun, festive day full of little surprises and joys. One of the best parts was waking up to a little handmade valentine card made by Strider, with a little chocolate attached.
And tonight, before heading out to youth group, Pete made us a special dinner. With one child yelling constantly in his high chair, another one constantly humming, another shredding up his napkin, and another calling out the bad manners of his siblings, the meal was not exactly romantic. But it was made with love, and we had wine (the adults I mean), so it was good.

I feel loved and blessed... twice over now.

Celebrating love

For a few months now the kids have collectively been working towards a goal: putting rocks in a bowl. I wrote about the start of this challenge here, and ever since then they have been doing loving things for each other, sometimes in a genuine way and sometimes rather contrived, and have been steadily filling the bowl. It seemed appropriate that we got to celebrate the completion of the challenge on this weekend we celebrate love!

As their reward, after much deliberation, they chose to go to Kabuto -- a "real" restaurant with a server and everything. It is conveniently located around the corner from my parents', and they graciously watched Miles for us so we could have a yeller-free evening. It ended up being a lot of fun! The server and Rayna enthusiastically interacted with each other, Strider thought our chef was exciting, and Colsen was in awe of the whole thing. He keeps repeating, "They cooked on our table!!' It was fun watching how amazed they all were.

We're thankful for these kids, who are gradually learning what love means! Tonight the bowl gets emptied out again, and we'll start all over....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Our unexpected (ancestral) lunch-time visitor

Colsen just walked into the kitchen and announced in a deep voice, "Hi guys! Know who I am? I'm Nonna and Poppa's dad!" He went on to inform us that he was "bery" old but can still walk, and lucky us, he would be staying at our house for lunch. He continued to converse in character...

Me: Well, then, welcome to our house. What is your name, by the way?
C: Richie.
Me: Well, nice to meet you Richie.
C: Oh, and you can be happy because I'm going to be staying here at your house overnight.
Me: Ok, that will work. We'll have an extra bed in Strider's room, since Colsen isn't here.
C: Where is Colsen?
Me: Oh, he went to visit his friend Benjamin.
C: Benjamin? Who's Benjamin? I do not know this boy.

A few minutes after this, he slipped out of the room, and a moment later came back in, triumphantly...

C: Hey, it's me, Colsen! I'm back!
Me: Oh, you just missed meeting Richie. He's a nice man who was just here.
C: I saw him in the street on my way home.
Me: You saw him??
C: Yeah. I got in a car accident.
Me: Oh no, you did?
C: Yeah, I crashed into Richie.
Me: Really!
C: Yeah, and my head hit the steering wheel. But I don't have a bump or anything.... See? No bump.

Then later Richie reappeared, hung out with us for awhile, but then announced, "Ok, guys, I gotta go. Poppa needs me. Bye!"

He was a very nice houseguest, and we'll miss him.

p.s. I just asked Colsen if I could take a picture of Richie, but he said, "No! Richie's not here anymore!"


We sent Strider into the bathroom to teach Colsen how to wash his hands properly, and this is what we heard:
"Ok, Colsen, at the beginning you always have to shake your butt for good luck. Good. Ok, then you get some water...."

You know it was a fun craft time last night (some teenaged friends of ours coordinated it while we adults had a discussion at our small group), when Rayna said on the way home:
"We were, like, raining glitter!!"

Strider wanted to know how Uncle Deuce came up with his nickname, so he asked him. Later I heard him explaining it to Pete in a very dubious tone:
"Dad, Uncle Deuce says he's called Deuce because he has the strength of 2 men. But I don't think that's true."

Colsen jubilantly showed Rayna his new contraption -- an old camera, which he always calls his phone, now in his pocket with a rubber band around it:
"It's my clipper phone! Just like mans have! Like Mr. Soup's!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The types of things that happen when I get on the phone for 10 minutes

Oldest son ties youngest son to the piano with a measuring tape


middle son "makes rice" in a rice cooker -- which he plugged in in the office.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Look who's 1

It's very strange that THIS was just one year ago. There's been a lot of change in that year...

and Now:

Our little Milo has been a great delight to us all. He's also kept us entertained, and busy....

Now that he is primarily walking, he gets into more and more stuff. He is one-half of the "Make-sure-Mom-never-sits-down Duo" as he and Colsen keep me opening and closing bathroom doors all day long (Miles makes a bee-line to the toilet anytime a door is open, and Colsen can't open the closed doors, but has to pee about 37 times a day).

Miles and I also have a special game called, "Dishwasher War," in which I open the dishwasher to put dirty dishes in and he rushes over to put all the dirty knives in his mouth. Then I whisk him away to the farthest corner of our house, sprint back to load about 4 dishes before he returns, and then we repeat the process.

He's getting a little verbal, which is fun. He has "words" for light and all-done, and whenever he's hungry he'll go "Mmmmmmm" until we feed him. For months now, anytime he sees anyone pick up a coat, purse, or wallet, he starts saying "Bah! Bah!' and follows us around until we finally leave. Sometimes we think he's saying Mama or Dada on purpose.... but maybe not. The other day I was nursing him and he paused to start clapping! I thought it was so sweet that he was appreciating me so much... until he started saying, "Dadadada!" Oh well.

And of course our favorite thing about this little guy is how much he loves hugs. His favorite thing still is to suck his thumb while grasping my shirt (he prefers cotton). And if that is not readily available, he'll settle for my pant-leg (which restricts my mobility considerably, but I never can get frustrated when he's so cute giving me a hug), or for another family member's shirt.

Happy birthday little fellow, and may God continue to keep His hand of mercy on you as you grow as His merciful son.

p.s. And happy birthday to my Mor-Mor, too!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

One year ago today

February 8th last year was a beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday. We went up to the Drescher's neighborhood that afternoon to see the beginnings of their new house being built, and then went for a lovely, long walk. And I waddled the whole way, about 40 pounds heavier than I am today. I was veerrrry pregnant.... and as it turned out, that nice long walk was the final impetus for little Miles. Later that evening my water broke, and off we scrambled to the hospital!

So I have very fond memories of this day. Thankfully, my elephantic self did not make it into any of these pictures... although my shadow can be detected in a couple...

A new cousin would be joining this scene very soon!