Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Funeral

I huddled under the large umbrella, wishing for a lull in the endless, gray rain. Goosebumps covered my bare arms, and I found my thoughts drifting to the jacket that I knew I should have brought along. Hannah's tiny hand clasps mine, and the Husband shifts his weight from one leg to another restlessly. I watch as dirt is shoveled solemnly onto the tiny coffin. Nearby, the forlorn sound of Taps signals that the time has come for us to do what we came here to do. I reach my arms out and hold him as he cries. With each wracking sob, my heart aches for my little boy and this loss. I hate for any of my children to face mortality.

Yes. Even the mortality of pet hermit crabs.

As I stood barefoot in the rain yesterday at the funeral of Chase's hermit crab, I grumbled at the absurdity of it all. I winced as McKay played Taps on the trumpet, hitting a particularly painful high note, one that pierced my eardrums to the core. I fought the urge to snap hatefully as Hannah hung on me and whined for dinner. I glanced around shamefully, hoping none of the neighbors were watching.

And then it occurred to me: Is this really my life?

I flashed back to my 15-year-old self and remembered wistfully some of the dreams I had for myself. I wanted to travel ALL. THE. TIME. I was going to be thin and rich. I would never have bad hair and would certainly not be scrubbing my own toilets. I may or may not have thought I was going to marry Johnny Depp.

No one ever told me about these kinds of days.

The days where you feel pulled like a rubber band - stretched in so many directions that you fear the sheer pressure of it all will cause something in you to snap. Wondering just how many more seconds you can take before you lose it and scream at them all.

But then, almost all at once, it changes.

It softens somehow, my heart.

I look at the tear-stained face of my sweet son, see that his heart is breaking, and I know that I would move heaven and earth to ease his pain for just a moment. I look over and smile at the thoughtfulness of my oldest child, paying respects in the only way he knows how. Not because he loved or cared for the stupid little crab himself, but because he knows it was important to his brother.

My eyes suddenly fill with tears at the realization of just how strong the bond between them is. That for all my failings as a mother, I know that these boys love each other fiercely, and maybe, just maybe, a small part of that is because of me.

I bend down and scoop up that hungry, scrawny, seven-year-old girl, getting an eyeful of her jack o-lantern teeth on the way, and remember what it was like to be her age. I briefly wonder if I drove my own mother crazy with my nonstop chatter, and feel pretty sure that I whined and complained while having to wait for dinner myself.

And all at once, I realize something wonderful. At age seven, waiting for dinner is pretty much her biggest problem in life. I silently pray in gratitude at the sheer providence in my life because of that.

Then my eyes meet the Husband's on the way inside the house, and we share a smile of understanding, of solidarity for these little creatures that have become our life. And I think, surely, he knows just how desperately I still love him after 15 years together. I vow that I will show and tell him more often, just in case he has forgotten it.

Maybe this wasn't the life I pictured as a love-sick teenager, mooning and dreaming over what would be. But do you know what?

It's so much freaking better.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The one in which I post gratuitous grandparent photos

The last several months, I have unintentionally turned this blog into a showcase of sorts for photo shoots involving a lot of beautiful people. I have taken great pleasure in sharing these photos with you, but have neglected posting any of the shots I take for myself. The ones of my own babies, who I love best of all.

I figured it was high time I did so.

Feel free to skip these if you are:

a) not related to me
b) not the least bit interested in ANY photos, words, or drivel I ever put up here
c) clicking off as we speak to search for free p0rn
d) drank too much diet coke and are running for the bathroom, legs crossed, doing the potty dance

Wait, sorry. That last one was me. I'm back now. (Phew, that was a close one!)

And all four of you who are left (hi, grandparents!) can enjoy these gorgeous photos of my gorgeous children, who seem to be growing up entirely too fast. I will try to stop humming "Sunrise, Sunset" while you scroll down.

But I'm not making any promises.

Happy Wednesday.

"Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don't remember growing older. When did they? When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall..."

Sorry. Stopping now.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am three days sober. Pass me a celebratory donut, will you?

Hi. My name is Christie, and I am a food-a-holic.

Hi, Christie.

(That was your line, by the way)

I have spent the better part of the last six months indulging my inner she-devil. You know the one. The one that convinces you it will be okay to make just one more batch of cookies. Or brownies. Or an 8,000-calorie coconut cake, for that matter.

I have also given her full reign over the restaurant menus and ordered things that were decidedly not green. Things that were chock-full of delicious carbs and fat. Things that were served with a side order of french fries. Buried under a mound of cheese. Topped with a half-gallon of sauce. Smothered in sugar and ice cream. Deep fried and wrapped in a chocolate burrito.

You get the point.

She has been my long-time companion, sitting idly on my shoulder, shouting out her temptations. And, true to form, that devilish fiend was nowhere to be found one morning when I questioned her judgement after not being able to button up my favorite jeans. She's such a fair weather companion, that one. Always ready to help me pile on the pounds; not around to take any of the blame.

So, I boldly stared at my chubby face in the mirror, and said ENOUGH.

And that was three days ago.

With three days under my belt, I can now remember that it feels good to eat well. I find myself much more able to crawl out of bed in the morning to face life (and the scale) when I'm eating healthy. I have more energy. I feel prettier. And let's face it: I'm a nicer wife and mom.

I know that I am a food addict. I crave the bad food. I dream about it. I experience a rush of pleasure every time I indulge myself in it. And, sadly, when the rush ends and all that remains is a belly ache, I feel the guilt. I feel sick. I hate myself. I have battled this demon most of my life and know how the cycle plays itself out. And still, knowing that never seems to make it any easier. It's just hard.

When your penchant runs to food, you can't eliminate the addiction from your life. You have to manage it, reason with it, and keep it in bounds. It's hard to abstain when you have to eat a little of your drug of choice every day to survive. When you have to prepare it for others.

So I'm taking it one day at a time (and sometimes, one hour at a time). I'm determined to do this. I'm going to get this beast back in her cage before the real demon rears its ugly head: HALLOWEEN CANDY BARS.

Lord give me strength.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Helping you poor, sad souls

I am a weird person.

I know, right? You had absolutely NO IDEA.

Shut up.

I think the quirk that is most annoying to the Husband is my unflinching, urgent need to have our family Christmas card done before Halloween.

Yes. You read that right.

I seriously start to panic and will sit bolt-upright in bed in a cold sweat if it's not done and in my hot little hands. I am not sure why, but it is something I have accepted and made peace with after years of struggling in vain to wait.

The Husband is now trying to work through the issue in therapy, however.

But since it is, after all, ALMOST HALLOWEEN, I thought I would offer my services to the rest of you (as my own cards have been done since before Labor Day). I have been designing some Christmas cards and am now offering them as part of my photography packages (click over for the full line). I've been very busy doing family fall portraits and figured this was the perfect compliment to that.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few samples that I have put together:
(Yes, this is what I do with my free time. Judge not. My kids have been home sick for two weeks.)

If you're interested in working with any of these designs or have ideas of your own, email me at stiesthoughts at gmail dot com and I will be more than happy to help you out.

Because, really, if you don't at least have the picture for your card yet? You had better get crackin. Halloween is in, like, two weeks, people!

[Insert the sound of me breathing in and out slowly into a paper bag for you here]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

He gets a bad rap, but underneath is a real peach

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while are familiar with my brother, Dan. Some of you have probably laughed at the comments he leaves. Some of you have no doubt left feeling slightly offended. And a handful of you have even emailed out of concern for me and the less-than-friendly comments left by this person named Dan.

I can assure you that it is his love language. And mine to him.

We have had the privilege this week of having Dan and his cute family visit. They have braved our germ-infested walls and dared to spend time with us in spite of the swine flu. I am fervently praying that they do not come down with it themselves in a few days, however. [Although, given the fact that his daughter was a conjoined twin of my daughter until the fevers began, it will be a miracle if they escape unscathed. Oy.]

Anyway, since Dan has been so disgusted by the many appearances made by my feet on this blog, I thought it only fitting that he be the one to draw the winner of the Traveling Shoes. We put all the names in a pretty little bowl, seen here:

Then Dan was forced to cheerfully picked the next recipient of the gorgeous pink shoes:

And the winner is Thelma! Email me your address at stiesthoughts at gmail dot com and the shoes are on their way to your house. I cannot wait to see where you take them.

For those that didn't win, I offer you instead some pictures of Dan's cute family. Because coming to my house and escaping without a photo shoot is more miraculous than escaping without the swine flu.

Both of which are probably a little painful.

Dang, I sure like these guys.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A bright spot on a gloomy Monday

Hello, Monday. How I wish you were still Saturday or Sunday. Or really any day in June or July.

As I sit here typing this, there is a feverish little girl on my lap who has come down with the swine flu.


That last sentence did not deserve a capital letter, proper sizing, or punctuation, such is the annoyance I feel for it in my heart.

But instead of dwelling on the millions of invisible germs that I imagine are marching up my arms as we speak, I will share with you some shots from a very fun photoshoot I had a few months ago.

As I've mentioned before, I never had sisters. I grew up with four brothers and lamented my single-girl status until I went to college and lived with five other girls. Then suddenly, I was a little bit glad that I never had sisters. All the bickering, cycle-time-synchronizing, clothes stealing, and drama - you have none of that with boys.

But while shooting these gorgeous girls, I caught a glimpse of some of the good things with having sisters. Like sisters? They're the only people in the world who can tell you that you don't look good while making a certain face. They will critique your make up or clothes and give you honest feedback. The dreaded, "Do I look fat in this?" will be answered with brutal truth by a sister.

And when you look this gorgeous and your sister tells you so, you can believe it, baby.

Where do these beautiful girls get it, you ask? From their mama (who looks young and hot enough to be the fifth sister). My secret goal in life has been to fatten her up, but it hasn't happened yet, dammit. Curse her willpower of iron! Maybe I should actually just strive to live like she does: Less cookie dough and more exercise.

And let's not forget one with the Daddy, too. He's a pretty important one in this house, I'd wager.

Thanks, guys. You are so amazing and it was very fun to spend some time in your sista world for a bit. Do you think if I adopted myself in that I'd automatically be gorgeous and thin like you are?

Yeah. Didn't think so.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Tap. Tap. Is this thing on? Anybody out there?

Well, I am back from my unplanned and very annoying hiatus. You will be happy to know that Mack is back in school and fully recovered. (Although I did hear today that one of the schools in our district has 18 percent of the student body out due to the swine flu. Makes me wonder how all the rest of us escaped unscathed?)

ANYhoo, I have decided to share with you one of my absolute favorite treats. I helped throw a baby shower this week and thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my cake on.

The sweetness of the cake, however, was momentarily ruined when the husband glanced at the recipe on the counter and commented out loud on the number of calories in the cake.

I know, right?

That was quickly remedied by me:

I found this recipe about a year ago, and it actually belongs to the fabulous Paula Deen, but I borrowed it, tweaked it a little bit, and can safely assume it is the reason I cannot button my jeans today.

First you need three cake pans. I use the classy, no-washing-needed version seen here. Generously grease and flour these babies and set them aside.

Then you take 1 cup butter, which is supposed to be at room temperature - a step I somehow always forget to do ahead of time. The microwave does a great job, and if you accidentally forget to pull the butter out in time, it works just fine if it's a little melted, too.

Cream the melted room temperature butter and 2 cups of sugar for six to eight minutes. Then add four eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition.

There is a little person in our house that has a sixth sense for when the kitchen aid is on. She is like one of Pavlov's little dogs - she hears that humming and she comes a running. Once in a while I'm nice and let her crack the eggs.

Add one teaspoon of vanilla and mix just until combined. Then you're going to take one cup of coconut milk:

And 3 cups flour. Add them alternately to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.

Lots of times when I'm baking, things look like this, which is always hard for my OCD brain to ignore:

When you're done, the batter will be very, very thick. Almost cookie dough like. But don't worry, you've definitely done it right if it looks like this. If it's thin and cake-batter like? I don't know how to help you. You might want to consider professional help and get your baked goods on the outside.

Next, pour the batter into your three greased pans (ignoring, of course, the disgusting Crunch Berries cereal on the counter. In my defense, it was only a little after seven a.m. when I made this and breakfast was not fully put away yet. See the clock on the wall for proof.)

Once the batter is spread around each pan, lift them up off the counter and slam them back down to pop any air bubbles. Yes, people, this is going to be a dense cake. Lovely, dense, and incredibly moist.

Slam the cake pans, at least four or five times each, until all the air bubbles are released. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

Cool five minutes or so in the pan, and dump the cakes onto a cooling rack to cool while you prepare the frosting. When I'm not feeling lazy, I like to use the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe. But I have to confess, I have just made this with frosting in a can, and it by no means impacts the deliciousness.

Next, spread some frosting over your first layer like this:

Top that layer with the middle child, I mean, middle layer, and slather that bad boy with some frosting of his own.

Repeat again for the third layer. Do not be alarmed by the imperfect appearance or unevenness of the layers. All will be made right by the coconut. You must trust the little Stie. Has she ever steered you wrong before?

When you have finished frosting all layers and the edges, it will look like this:

Sprinkle coconut over the top, covering any and all mistakes.

Pat coconut up the sides of the cake next, and be prepared for a coconut explosion in your kitchen. That stuff gets EVERYWHERE during this phase of the process. It would be annoying if the end result weren't so darn delicious.

Pipe a little frosting around the bottom of the cake and voila! An absolutely gorgeous specimen, if I do say so myself.

So pretty that I think we need a close-up. Why hello there, lover. What's that? You want Christie to eat a big, thick slice of you? All right. If you insist.

For the baby shower, I also made some of these. Chase came in and asked me why I was making diaper cookies. What say you, internets? Diapers or onesies? I'm sticking with onesies.

The buffet of gluttony, just waiting to be devoured:

And the gorgeous mom-to-be in a pre-shower photo shoot by yours truly:

It's almost wrong how cute she is pregnant, isn't it? I can't wait until the baby is born so I can get myself some newborn lovin'. Yum.

That's what I've been up to this week. Stay tuned for the long-awaited Traveling Shoes winner, a little visit from my brother Dan, and gorgeous photos of gorgeous people.

I think it's shaping up to be a good week after all.