Thursday, January 28, 2010

Something to make you laugh (or cringe in shame)

Thanks, Dancin Queen. Still have not stopped laughing at this one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Note to self

When deciding to re-read a certain shameful teen vampire series that rhymes with Mylight, it is wise to not start book four at nine-thirty in the evening.

For, you see, three-fifteen in the a.m. will roll around before you know it, and you will have found yourself unable to put the book down due to the freak show that rhymes with Fenesmee.

And when that six o'clock alarm starts chirping, and you have to drag your exhausted self out of bed, your eyelids unable to support their own weight, you will realize that it was most definitely not worth it.

(Except for the parts about that wild and delicious honeymoon with someone whose name rhymes with Bedward. Mmmm....)

There. That is all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Repeating history

I cut my teeth and learned to walk to the soundtrack from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Cary Grant movies.

I roller skated a lot.

But, sadly, I didn't play with dolls much.

I learned how to fight from my four brothers, though none of us was ever really good at it. I climbed a lot of trees. I became a master of hopscotch.

I learned about gardens from my grandma as I ate fresh, crisp peas on desert rose plates in her kitchen. I also learned the joy of butter.

I bathed in an ocean of familial love at noisy family parties. I played Red Rover and Easter Egg with many, many cousins.

I cried and laughed through the awkward pains of junior high. I got a lot of perms and hated my body.

I sang Air Supply songs at the top of my lungs while driving with friends in high school. I went to dances in Jessica McClintock dresses. I was very unsure of myself.

But I pretended otherwise.

I went to college and learned how to stand on my own two feet. I dated a lot of boys. None of whom were quite right.

I met a handsome man one night quite by accident and felt my heart skip a beat. My soul recognized him right away.

And so I said yes. Naturally.

We blinked and became parents of three. I got very little sleep and changed a lot of diapers. I put on Disney movies and took desperate naps on the couch. I went to the park and pushed little diapered bottoms on the swings.

I moved a lot, and made many new friends. I logged hundreds of miles behind a jogging stroller.

I made peanut butter sandwiches and wiped sticky fingerprints off the wall.

I cried when the school bus came for the first time. For about a minute and a half.

I blinked again and found them all in school. When the bus came that day, I cried for about an hour and a half.

Now I find myself pleasantly surprised that the story is repeating itself for them.

With musicals, cousins, desert rose plates, tree climbing, butter, hopscotch, and endless love.

Something tells me that this story will have a happy ending for them, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

another lesson in humility

My kids leave soggy, wet towels on the floor in their room after a shower.

My kids ignore me for hours, and choose the exact minute I pick up the phone to desperately need all of my attention.

My kids leave a trail of crumbs behind them everywhere they go.

My kids eat way too many pancakes, covered in way too much syrup.

My kids (especially that middle one) track mud obliviously through my just-mopped kitchen.

My kids climb trees and scrape their knees. And then proceed to use no less than 19 bandaids to make it all better.

My kids fight and tease each other.

My kids get their feelings hurt by other kids at school.

My kids somehow always find and consume my stash of the good (and expensive) protein bars.

My kids jump on the trampoline until they are breathless. Then they get up and do it again.

My kids ride bikes in the wintertime with red cheeks and knitted caps.

My kids sometimes make their beds.

My kids love to read.

My kids cannot fall asleep unless they hug and kiss me goodnight.

My kids run hard, play hard, and laugh hard.

My kids do a lot. Some of it gets on my nerves.

My kids have full bellies and rich lives.

Today I was reminded of this as I sat once again in the waiting room at Children's Hospital where McKay goes twice a year for his asthma check up. I sat next to a mama who held a toddler on her lap. The beautiful boy was bald, though not like a newborn - from chemo. She had bags under her eyes and wore her tremendous worry on her sleeve like a thousand-pound anvil. She smiled and thanked me when I handed her something she dropped. My heart ached for this scared little mama and her sick baby. I felt guilty, as I looked over at my robust, healthy boy - totally absorbed in his book and oblivious to the sorrows surrounding us.

Today, once again, my heart is full of gratitude for all the many things my kids can do.

And it aches terribly for the mamas whose kids cannot.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Then and now

Do any of you remember this?

That was my babies in August of 2006. Here are some tidbits about our lives during that time:
  • We lived less than a mile from the beach in sunny, perfect, warm San Diego
  • The Husband did not ever get on a plane, and frequently came home for lunch
  • McKay and Chase were both in elementary school, and Hannah had just started preschool
  • We were both renting and owning a home at the same time (it wasn't pretty)
  • I had a blog that a few people liked to read
  • Hannah's best friend was Sleeping Beauty (and she was sure to remind us of that daily)
  • I had very little time to myself
  • I made lots of cookie dough
  • I drank lots of diet coke
  • The Husband hated his job and was professionally very miserable
  • My kids went to bed at six o'clock every night
  • Chase spent every waking minute hunting lizards
  • I pushed Hannah in the stroller daily on our walk to pick the boys up from school
Here they are, three years later in August of 2009:

And here are some ways our life has changed in the past three years:
  • We no longer live less than a mile from the beach
  • My three kids are in school all day long
  • The Husband is very happy now at his job
  • We are thankfully owning just one home
  • McKay is in his first year of middle school, and Chase and Hannah are both in elementary school
  • Hannah's best friend is no longer Sleeping Beauty
  • Chase spends every waking minute hunting frogs
  • I am now a small business owner
  • The Husband is once again a frequent flier and is never home for lunch (or breakfast, or dinner, come to think of it)
  • My kids still go to bed some days at six o'clock
  • I still make way too much cookie dough
  • I still drink lots of diet coke
  • I have a blog, and a few people like to read it
  • I no longer own or operate a stroller
  • And I have oodles of time to myself
While I'd probably sell my soul to live a mile from the beach again, I wouldn't trade where we are for the world.

Life is good. And it just keeps getting better.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Giving you the best of my brain power

It is not often that I have an idea so profound, so succinct, that it changes my life forever.

I know. Some of you are shocked speechless. You thought I was spewing forth genius all the live long day.

Shut up.

But I figure if Al Gore can invent the internet, I, too, can have a few contributions to my name.

And so it is that I feel compelled to document these things here. You know, as proof that my brain actually once contained some useful cells. And one day when I'm shuffling down a linoleum hallway in some nursing home, toothless and diaper-clad, it will be said that I wasn't always that way.

Idea #1: Treadmill DVR (probably my biggest stroke of genius)

About eight years ago, I decided to stick a DVR in front of my treadmill. I boldly committed myself to taping my shows ONLY on that DVR.

What that commitment meant was this: If I wanted to watch my shows, I had to exercise.

I fully credit that move for helping me to maintain my weight. I would probably be sending in my tape for the Biggest Loser today were it not for that commitment. I hold myself to it, and do not watch my shows on any other TV or DVR. I find that I enjoy my shows so much, it hardly feels like exercise. An hour goes by before I know it and my evenings are freed up to spend time with a husband who cannot stand watching any TV.

And since I just so happen to be slightly fond of the TV, it means I run six days a week. And have done so for eight years.

Idea #2:

The split-end saver

I have been doing this one for so long, I hardly know when it began. Every day after I finish styling my hair, I rub some lotion onto my hands. When the lotion is almost all the way rubbed in, I run my fingers through the ends of my hair. It makes the driest part of my hair soft, and has helped to keep split ends in check. I don't have so much lotion that my hair gets greasy, but just enough to moisturize the dry ends.

I swear by this beauty secret, and will do it until the day I die. Or until I'm diaper-clad in that nursing home. I figure by then, split ends will be the least of my worries, right?

Idea #3:

The dish soap dilemma

When we moved into this house three years ago, I found myself constantly annoyed with the dish soap. Since we use a dishwasher religiously, I don't find myself washing dishes all that often. But when I do, it's a pain to reach under the cupboard and bring the soap out. Plus, then you have to put it away again.

And that's like eight seconds of my life, people.

What's that? You say I could just leave it out all the time?

Um, have you met me? I don't like the ugly things to be left out.

So, I bought an olive oil bottle and filled it with dish soap. It's pretty enough that I don't mind it being out on the counter all the time, and yet provides me the easy access I was longing for, too.

Idea #4: Job charts

I wrote extensively about these puppies in the past. Click over for the full story.

Bottom line: We're still using them today.

Idea #5

World's Best Water Bottle

While I definitely didn't come up with this idea myself, the discovery of this water bottle has changed my life, as well as the lives of several friends I know.

What's the biggest problem we have with water bottles? The condensation that leaves ugly water marks all over the place and soaks your hands every time you take a drink.

This water bottle is genius. There is an inner bottle that is not exposed to any outside air, thus eliminating the pesky condensation. It's nicely marked to help you keep track of the volume you consume, and they offer a lovely pink shade that promotes breast cancer awareness.

(I feel like an infomercial here.)

At first, I could only find them online, but lately I've even seen them in the aisles at Target. Pick up a few today. Your dehydrated body will thank you.

Idea #6


I created this snack one day after craving chocolate and peanut butter together, but finding myself in the unfortunate predicament of trying to eat healthy.

You know. That one day. When I tried healthy eating.

It has become my go-to afternoon snack, and I've even gotten the Husband addicted to them. It's simply this: a chocolate rice cake, a dab of peanut butter, and a half a banana. Two hundred calories of bliss.

Yes, I realize that rice cakes went out of style after we all got over the low-fat diets in the 90s, but this snack is fantastic. It's sweet, salty, crunchy, and filling. I combine it with a good 24 ounces from my special water bottle, and the three o'clock munchies are no longer a problem.

Idea #7:

My favorite photos on the wall

While I can only take credit for the idea of the wall, the Husband was the mastermind behind the planning and placement of the arrangement you see here.

But I LOVE my photo wall. It's the first thing you see when you walk through our front door, and it is my favorite room in the whole house. The light in there is spectacular, and the furniture is just right. When I'm going to curl up with a good book and a blanket, this is the room I go to.

In fact, it's where I'm typing right now. Best thing we ever put up on our walls. Ever.

I guess that's it. It appears that I have only had seven good ideas in my lifetime. But considering the brain power I'm sporting, I'd say that's not too shabby.

Not too shabby at all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'll have an insulin shot to go, please.

I got LOTS of emails after I posted about the delicious carb-coma inducing bread that I make.

And none of them hate mail, surprisingly.

Seems that all of you like bread as much as me.

I, myself, have serious bread issues. I am incapable of eating bread that comes from the grocery store. I think it tastes nasty, has no real flavor, and the texture reminds me of cardboard.

I mean, if I'm going to give up taste, I might as well just eat healthy foods and toss out the cookie dough.

Bwaaahhhh! As if.

ANYhoo, I posted a few years ago (can't find the post or I'd link) about the beautiful bread machine that had changed my life (and put my local Great Harvest out of business). After making multiple loaves per week for a couple of years, the poor thing died about a month ago. Not wanting to rush out and spend a few hundred bucks the month before Christmas on an appliance of all things, I started to experiment with making my own bread. I tried several recipes and each received two greasy thumbs up from the people around here.

This recipe was settled on as a favorite, and I've been making it ever since. It takes maybe eight minutes of my time, and then sits on the counter and does all the work by itself. Every few days, I make another couple of loaves. It's delicious and I'm in love with it.

And since I know you will be, too, here is the recipe in my favorite form: photo.

May your thighs thank you, as mine have.

Join me in my diabetic heaven, will you?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A most unexpected, perfect day

Well, no sense denying it any longer. Winter is here. In all her white, windy, wind-chill glory. Got the call from the school district late last night that the impending storm would be enough to close school for the day. (I tried not to laugh as I thought of my youth spent in Utah without a single snow day. Like ever.)

But I promptly ran through the house and turned off all the little people's alarm clocks. Left a note on the banister informing them of the good news (and included a warning for them to not wake the mama in the morning). I slept in until almost nine and woke up with a smile on my face and a deep sense of satisfaction in my soul.

There's nothing I like more than sleeping in.

Well, maybe I can think of a few things, but it's definitely in the top five.

After a late breakfast, a family workout, and a round of showers, we headed out the door. We have some fabulous friends who just so happened to buy a house around the corner, and we joined them to break in their new backyard.

Clearly, it was a chore for some of us:

They've got a pond in their backyard that is nestled so nicely between two large hills - the perfect combination for skating and sledding on a wintry day.

And thanks to the arctic clippers that keep making their way through St. Louis, the sub-freezing temperatures have worked their magic on the pond - rendering it frozen solid. This is pretty unusual around these parts - we tend to get much more reasonable temperatures in the wintertime.

The day was full of smiles, sleds, and snow boots.

Not even a few crashes on the way down could dampen the fun. It was kid heaven.

And the pristine, perfect day was topped off by rounds of hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches. I watched it all - the laughter in the beautiful kitchen. The smiles all around the table. Their rosy, red cheeks. The piles of soggy gloves and boots.

And I said a silent prayer of thanks for this unexpected gift of a day.

My only fear is that their hearts will break when they have to get on the bus and head back to school tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Putting the trash out (a.k.a: Keeping it real)

Travelin' Oma wrote a very thought-provoking post yesterday. She talked about assessing whether the posts we write are real reflections of our true selves or if they are merely the best of us put on display. (She really says it much more eloquently than that. Click over and read her post. You won't be sorry).

But it got me thinking about my own blog and the part of my life that I choose to reveal here.

Do I often intentionally put my best foot forward, ignoring my many faults and failings?

You bet I do.

I don't want to look back years from now at this silly record of our everyday lives and wonder if all I did was complain about how annoying my kids are.

But I also don't want to look back and know that the sugary sweetness I posted about was not how I really felt every second of every day.

It's a tricky balance - sorting between the reality of our lives and the way we'd like them to be.

In hopes of striking a more symmetrical record, I am going to treat you to a little bit of my trash today. It is with much trepidation that I give you a taste of the real Stie, in all her grainy, un-photoshoppped, un-made up, bags-under-the-eyes glory:


This is the sight the Husband gets has to see first thing every morning. Poor guy.

And for your judging pleasure, here are a few real things about me that you may or may not have known:

I am a clean freak, but that does not mean there are not scary closets and drawers in my house. I have a storage room in my basement, as we speak, that would cause anyone great physical injury if they tried to walk through it, so mountainous are the massive piles of stuff.

I am very vain. I spend a lot of time worrying about what I look like. I will not go to the store without my hair done and my face fully made up. I absolutely think sweats should never be seen in public. And, yes, I judge those who do.

I am also highly self-critical. You would think with all that time spent primping that I would be more happy with what I see in the mirror. I'm not. I constantly second guess every single thing I do and say. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be good enough for myself.

I am not good with confrontation. If I have an issue to work out with someone, I am of the, "let's bury it deep and never speak of it again" variety. Passive aggressive, much? I wrote the book on it.

Lastly, I sometimes dread the hours between three and five p.m. every day. While I am excited to see my kids come home, I really dislike helping them with homework. They're all tired, cranky, talking a mile a minute, and seem to need something from me at the exact same minute. I've also usually procrastinated and am trying to get dinner ready during that time, as well. I feel pulled in so many different directions that some days I think my head will explode. It's my least favorite time of the day.

So there you have it. A little bit of reality - for better or for worse.

What I'd really like to see now is YOUR reality. Post a picture of yourself sans make-up, and put a little bit of the trash out for the rest of us to see. That way, years from now when we think we were nothing but perfect, we'll know the real truth.

And we'll like each other all the more for it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just trying to obey my president

I feel proud in admitting that my life is anything but glamorous. Our daily routine is about as far as you can get from the paparazzo-stalked lives of those I see on the covers of my favorite smut mags at the grocery store.

Unlike a lot of the celebrities on those covers, I am not thin and starving. Vera Wang does not dress me. I have the unfortunate privilege of having to style my own hair every morning. And nobody is standing out on my front lawn hoping to catch a glimpse of me in juicy sweatpants, wearing no make-up.

Lord help us, that would be quite a fright for the paparazzos now, wouldn't it?

But what my life lacks in spontaneous excitement, it definitely makes up for in predictability.

And being the OCD freak that I am, I like me some predictability. It's reassuring and familiar. A warm blanket of routine and order. You can count on it to be there, come rain or come shine.

For instance, I can predict, with almost one hundred percent certainty, which of my three children will not like dinner on any given night.

I can predict who will be bored at which movie. And who will whine the most when dragged through which store. There is a certain comfort in the familiar and habitual behaviors that we all have.

Take this girl, for example. I know that my mini-me she will not willingly utter a word in the morning to anyone until after she's been fed:

[Sadly, I know that because she gets it from me. I feel you, girlfriend!]

I can also predict that each week, one of the little people in this house (whose name just happens to rhyme with 'Base') will always have a larger pile of laundry than the others. There's the same number of days between washings, but magically he seems to dirty more clothes.

(I'm pretty sure that he's just adverse to actually hanging the clean clothes up.)

And I feel confident in predicting that this little fashionista will never stop raiding my closet. Doesn't seem to bother her that our shoe sizes are not remotely the same either.

Who am I to deny the diva her most critical knee-high boots for afternoon playtime?

But in all the predictability, there is one area which is a source of constant scrutiny for me. It is my eternal struggle between what I want to do and what I know I should do.

Help me, dear friends.

Why is it that when I know I should be eating this:

All I really want to be eating is this?

I think Woodrow Wilson said it best when he said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."

Well, Mr. President, I definitely don't want to be making any enemies.

Warm bread and jam it is. If you insist.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fare thee well, 2009

I am breaking radio silence here at Casa de Stie. (I know. Try to contain yourselves.)

We have had a lovely holiday break, and plan on making the most of the few days we have left. It has been just a fantastic week - lots of movies, books, games, naps, and food. The Husband has been TOTALLY off the grid. We have only ventured out of the house for movies, absolutely necessary grocery store runs, and church. It's been positively heaven. I could stand this life all year long.

Of course, my house would be a wreck.

But it'd be nice to live like this a little more often.

Today I have been pouring over my photo archives -- reminiscing and laughing, cringing and critiquing. And what I decided was this: 2009 was very kind to us. So much so that I find myself on my knees in gratitude and sheer wonder at our good fortune. We've had our challenges, as every family does, but we successfully wound our way through another year -- learning, laughing, crying, and loving.

Here, to ring in the new year, are the highlights from our family. In photo form.

Happy new year, indeed.