Five Favorites: Jake Jake Jakeboy

30 April 2014

Joining Hallie and memorializing the words of my offspring today.

- 1 -
Jake: Can I play with a chopper?
Me: You mean like a knife? You're too young to play with knives.
Jake: A chopper's not a knife. I think it's just a machete. 

- 2 -
At the splashpad:
Jake: Can you turn the water off?

- 3 -
After hearing the baby cry:
Jake: Lucy Juney is awake! (starts running to her) I want to nibble on her! I want to nibble nibble nibble on her!

- 4 -
Me: Remember that you can't jump and be crazy on the furniture when we have guests.
Jake (looking at me strangely):
Me: Say "OK, mama"
Jake: OK, mama.
Ten minutes later:
Jake (gleefully climbing on the furniture): No being crazy on the furniture when I have gas! 

- 5 -
After I left the littles alone in Jake's room and an obviously wounded Lucy June starts crying:

Me: What's going on in there?
Jake: We were just playing a game and she was the tree and I was the woodpecker.

Such is my life starring these two.

Such is my life.

See Hallie for more favorites!!

How to Blog More - From Someone Who Can’t Seem to Manage It

28 April 2014

A couple of months ago now, I wrote seven blog posts in seven days along with a slew of bloggy friends.

That week was a CRAZY week.

I had so much going on. I had people in town, extra mouths to feed, a baptism party to plan. Jacob was working twelve hours a day including Saturdays and Sundays. It was nuts, but I still somehow managed to pull it off. How? I'm sitting down today to reflect on that question. How did I write seven posts in such a full week, when I can't pull off more than a measly 1.5 in slimmer ones.

I loved writing so much that week. It was a challenge that I reveled in. I looked forward to clicking the publish button. I would draft posts in my head while doing brainless tasks like folding laundry instead of thinking about things like my teeth. I used to think that posting regularly would water down my content because I’m not that creative. But then I realized that - ahem - this is a blog, and I don't know the precise definition of a blog, but I would vote that it contain something about "the occasional watery content."

So why did it work that week? I've mulled it over and these are my non-brilliant answers:

It worked because I decided it was going to work. 

I treated my blog like a priority. Not even a big priority, just a priority. I remembered to set my alarm to get up early and write. I finished blogposts in the dark hours after everyone had gone to bed. I didn’t love all those moments, but I loved the activity of posting everyday. Of setting a goal and sticking to it. 

It worked because I could do it in increments. 

One excellent thing about writing is that you can stop it - when a child interrupts you, you can close your laptop and walk away. Now, walking away is is never ideal, but the ability to do it is a perk. Have you ever tried something like sewing during naptime before your infant sleeps for a reliable amount of time? It just doesn’t work. Every time I consider gearing up for some naptime needling, I imagine myself knee deep in a project when the baby cries, and while nursing her back down, the toddler wakes up and pins and needles and scissors and funfunfunfunfunfun. So while I love myself a good sewing sesh, it ain’t happening until the littlest familial is a more reliable sleeper.

So my glorious afternoon napping time has to be filled with something that can be interrupted. Writing fits the bill. 

Embrace your interrupted time, mom. 

It worked because I got a little help.

One other thing that was unique about my seven posts in seven days: Jacob made a priority of my blogging efforts. 

I felt silly asking him to do this: "Honey, I know that you work all the time and I barely get dinner made at night, but I wanted to take on a project that will make approximately $0.34 in Amazon affiliate links, and I need you to step up your kid-watching game so I can." 

But you know what? He said of course and then solicited my resident-brother to help too. Jacob helped because he likes it that I write. He likes that I keep a family blog. He wanted me to succeed. Can you believe husbands?  

It worked because the creative fire fueled itself.

Jen’s got me thinking all about this because of her Family First Creative E-book. So much insight in that little sucker. I gobbled it up. Or perhaps it was more of an inhale. I inhaled it up. And then I exhaled a happier human. It’s great. Get yourself one before the time runs out (i.e. in the next two hours.)

Anyhow, in her ebook, Jen writes about how writing gives her energy. So I've been organizing my daily activities on a spectrum with soul-sucking on one end and life-giving on the other. Blogging energizes me. I tend to be a better mother and wife on days when I post on the blog. 

This fact has me noticing Jacob's life-giving habits too. Take these two examples:

Scene 1: The other day Jacob worked one small job in the morning and then took my car into the mechanic in the afternoon. He was stuck at the mechanic for over three hours watching an ain't-my-baby reality show and came home afterwards miserable and utterly exhausted. It made no sense: he’d just gone and sat in a chair without anyone drooling on him or pulling his hair for three full hours, which is more of a vacation than I’ve had since October, and yet he seemed zapped of all lifeblood.

Scene 2: On a different day Jacob left for work early in the morning, worked hard till the afternoon, came home, turned around and built a fence in the corner of the yard where he planned to put the beehives and worked worked worked until dark. Did I love that he was busy drilling his fence together while I juggled babies and made dinner? No, sirree. Did I feel generally entitled to much more husbandly help than I was getting? You betcha. But that man waltzed into dinner and was so alive. I tried to put on my exhausted-and-it’s-all-your-fault face, but he was so happy it was contagious. He loves hard work. He really likes his job. He really likes hammering things. He really likes his bees. He looked at me with eyes full of gratitude and smiled right through all my frustration and said: “Can I give you a back rub tonight?"

All this to say - pursuing hobbies that we love is important, not only to encourage a life outside of our primary identities as parents/spouses/railroad workers/etc but also because it blesses the people around us to see us thriving. 

It worked because I told people I was going to do it.

Say it with me: Public Shame.

That’s the kind of motivation I need.

To blog more I will have to make a commitment to it, and it has to be a public one because my secret commitments never work. 

You get what you measure, they say they say, so today on April 28th - because April 28ths are as good a day as any - I commit to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the rest of 2014. Eeek. If I fail I will scribble a luscious scarlet A for Almost onto the nearest piece of scratch paper, tape it to my shirt, and Hester Prynne a picture of myself wearing it right here for all to see.

Stakes = high.

If you want to level up your blogging and need a similar kick in the kiester, I encourage you to shout it from the blogtops and, in favorite words of the world’s newest saint, be not afraid.

And in the queue for Wednesday: toddler fashion.

So Much Cooking

24 April 2014

So I feel like for the past few months I've been cooking nonstop.

Part of this is my fault. I'm very much a from-scratch person when it comes to cooking. I'm pretty much always looking for ways to go further down the unprocessed food chain.

Did you say I can MAKE my own coconut milk? Will it take LOTS of extra time and will my results be marginally worse than canned coconut milk but that will only cause me to try again and again and again? When can we start??

Today I was looking at a recipe that called for buttermilk and I thought "Well, I don't have enough time to buy my favorite cream from Costco and culture it and then churn it before tomorrow, so I guess this one's not happening." I know. I even annoy myself. In order for me to drive to my neighborhood grocery store to buy buttermilk I will have to give myself a pep talk. With a lip-pursing, steering-wheel gripping kind of pep talk, I can usually do it. 

Can't relate? Well, we all have our crosses, right?

Ugh. So yes. I spend a lot of time cooking, and that's a whole lot my fault. 

But we've also had a lot of people eating over here lately. My little brother's been living with us and he probably eats enough for two and a half adults, so I have to up my game on the regular. I have another bachelor brother in Houston who comes over semi-regularly, and it seems like every week we have some friend or relative driving through town and stopping in for a meal, and I feel like I'm just doing SO much cooking. And it's hard. It takes so much thinking and planning. And I want to be good at it. And it's hard. 

We hope to have a whole bramble of children. They will probably want to eat everyday. I'd love for our house to be a house of big meals and big laughter. But, geesh, if I don't feel like I'm already living in a loop of me clutzing about my kitchen chopping onions, wielding giant pans and pots, dishing out food, nursing a baby, unloading a dishwasher, processing some laundry, and then, hey, we're chopping onions again! 

And sometimes I have to lower my simple food nazi standards and buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, sometimes I don't have the time to let my chopped onions rest long enough to develop their cancer-fighting allinase enzymes. I'm learning to make it through those moments.

I'm learning a lot actually.

Some little lessons like "When in doubt, triple the recipe."

"Unless it's from the Pioneer Woman."

I'm learning to talk myself out of stressful situations. Like when the husband is still not home, and we're barreling into toddler meltdownville, and I'm figuring out how to stretch the entree because I just found out that so-and-so is coming to dinner, and I'm begging Jake to run get a toy for the six month old in the Bumbo since my very modulated version of Little Bunny Foo Foo is no longer cutting it, all I have to do is get a little perspective, a little eye of the storm. I have to remind myself that this is just all I ever wanted. 

I have to remind myself that it won't do to stress out over preparing big dinners because big dinners are among my most favorite things.

I have to remind myself how happy all this feeding of big mouths and quieting of little ones makes me.

Because I'm so happy. Life has never been fuller or more demanding. Sleep has never been so precious or so unpredictable. My blog posts have never sung so many verses of the same song, but it's just the truth. I'm so blessed. And I'm so exhausted. And I'm so blessed.

Now I'm off to make another resolution to meal plan. 

Easter 2014 + a Link Up

23 April 2014

Saturday afternoon found us breaking out the turmeric and boiling down the blueberries to dye some eggs. They weren't quite as cool as last year's because I was too lazy to go buy a beet, but they did the job.

We had some multigenerational cookin in the kitchen.

And though my sausage and egg casserole was decadent and delicious, the real hit of the day was the swing Jacob made.

We got some quality time and kodak moments with

our neighbor Frankie.

Jake played most of the morning in Frankie's yard but eventually got interested in our party.

The toddler seemed to like the egg hunt

and the baby was generally content to be held the livelong day.

Our Easter was bright and filled with family and sangria.

And I'll go ahead and seize the momentum of this blog post to Answer Me This with Kendra. This week's preguntas:

1. What did your famly wear to Mass on Easter Sunday.

See above for various glimpses of our Easter finery. I'm very bad at getting any type of formal shots together. I'm much more of a candid photo over a formal photo kind of a girl, but I also recognize that photos of the entire family just don't happen naturally, so I think I'm going to have to start orchestrating them.

2. Easter bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?

I'm going to give a very apathetic thumbs down on this one. The Easter bunny didn't really play a part of my childhood, maybe this deprived me of magical moments and rich memories, but...oh well...I didn't even mention him (her?) all day.

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or someone else's house.

We hosted Easter for my family here in Houston. It was my first experience hosting my mother for a holiday. I didn't really think about it at the time, but I suppose that's kind of monumental right?

We are still traveling for holidays generally. I expect to host more and more holidays as the children get bigger in mass and quantity.

4. What's your favorite kind of candy?

I don't really like most candy enough to eat it. Except chocolate. But that habit is hard to sustain because as I get older my chocolate preferences are getting more and more expensive. Like THIS STUFF. Deli$h.

5. Do you like video games?

I can get addicted to video games very easily. I was in a Candy Crush hole last summer. Jacob would get so mad when he would find me playing it when we were packing for the move. Until he got sucked in himself. Then I started getting annoyed whenever I would find him playing it. Double standard much?

Video games were a source of SO MANY fights between my siblings and me growing up that I'm gonna say no, I don't like video games. We'll see how long I can keep them out of my house.

6. Do you speak another language?

Spanish and Italian.

My childhood nanny/housekeeper was Guatemalan, so we got a lot of "Vamanos!!! Zapatos!!!!" growing up.

I minored in Italian, studied abroad in Rome, and then lived in Italy after college. So my Italian is really good. Pour me too much vino rosso sometime and I'll let you hear it.

There you have it, friends. Sigh. I wish I blogged more. I miss it when I don't. But my six month old is clingy and teething and is entrenched in a lovely phase called "I won't sleep if I don't have two hands and one foot on your person, mom" and I can't juggle blogging under these circumstances...someday perhaps.

I'm dashing down this blog post while Jake is singing her some Raffi songs, but Baby Beluga is ending now and my post as two parts mother and one party baby-perch is calling. 

Answer Me This

13 April 2014

Linking up with Kendra today at Catholic All Year because she's my old buddy from LA and because I like her blog and because I like blog posts that write themselves especially when I've been in a bit of a blogging dessert, so here we go.

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

In Lent we tend to find ourselves at Saturday vigil Masses. Jacob ALWAYS gives up alcohol and sweets for Lent which basically means I do too, and since Jacob is a Letter of the Law type, we go to Mass on Saturdays so we can start our feasting early. Because Saturdays without beer are kind of more like Sadurdays (Get it? Get it? 100% for you, honey)

But my preferred Mass is the 11am. An 11am Mass means that we don't have to rush breakfast and we can maybe even be on time. Also, our couple crush goes to the 11am, so that's another reason.

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

I would have to say hot, so long as I am somewhere like Houston with really great A/C. 

My dear friend from college has a very smart grandmother (who with her husband basically started the Core at University of Dallas, so Smart Smart) said that the hottest she ever was was in Boston in the summer and the coldest she ever was was Florida in the winter. Tell me that doesn't blow your mind.

3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

Four. Three brothers and a sister. They're awesome and I could talk about them all day.

My dad's mother had sixteen brothers and sisters though, which is a lot more than four. 

I snapped that picture of a picture at her house last week. This is sixteen of my great grandparents' eighteen children. One died when he was two before my grandmother - middle row, second from the right - was even born. She was number 13. She was named June because she was born in June and didn't get a middle name. Number 12 - Ralph - is not in the picture up there because he was the one boy who died in the war. My great-grandmother had seven sons in the war. Seven. Legend has it she got a medal from the president. My Nana June and her brother Ralph were super close. She still has the last letter he ever wrote. He wrote it in a foxhole. He wrote it to her.  

Uncle Otto - top row, third from the left - didn't make the photo so they left a hole for him and drew him in. Clever clever pre-Picasa.

4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

This isn't a very fun question. Probably a judge. Judges are very scary. The whole legal authority to require things of me or take things away from me. Or maybe I just can't stand getting in trouble.  

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

I played with Barbies a lot as a little girl - by myself in my room and sometimes at a specific friend's house - but I was embarrassed about it, and I still kind of am. I think that answers the question. 

6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Learn to be wrong at least sometimes because chances are you're wrong a lot. (Said me to myself.)

7QT: Huckle Cat and other Adult Concerns

04 April 2014

The kiddos have stuffy noses and a cough so I'm going to have to keep these short: little sleep, little blog.
- 1 -
Most days Jake will only cooperate with me if I refer to him as Huckle Cat, myself as Ms. Honey Bear, and Lucy June as Lowly Worm. Thanks, Rich. 

- 2 -
Jake's a pretty good little eater. He eats pretty much everything except salad greens and sweet peppers, and he'll still try those without a fight whenever we prompt him. I'm pretty proud of his palate, but as he gets older he's making it increasingly clear that he would always rather be eating plain sliced sandwich bread. 

- 3 -
I feel like this move to Houston has catapulted me into the concerns of adulthood. Instead of spending leisure time reading about the latest health food craze or sinking into the couch with some post-apocalyptic teen fiction, I read about dollar cost averages. I think that makes me less cool. But I suppose that's up for debate. 

- 4 -
The more I read about money management, the more I realize how far I am from being an organized mature adult. Contrary to expectation, it didn't happen the moment our landlord passed us the keys to an actual house to live in. (No more garages for us!

I still hate HATE making any kind of official phone calls. I am not on a cleaning schedule. I never sort the mail, opting instead to encourage my dependence on catch-alls. I don't get dressed every day. I'm actually regressing. A couple weeks ago I cut four inches off my own hair, just like I did with my bestie when I was six: we were in her parents' closet and hid all the evidence in her mother's shoes. Except this time I used a youtube video that was posted by a nineteen year old, so yeah, I've come a long way. 

- 6 -

Take Entitled: Since Moving into a House 

My kitchen is approximately three times bigger than any kitchen I've had in my adulthood, and I  grew into it in approximately 48 hours. Now I complain about having to take actual steps while unloading the dishwasher.

Jacob and I still speak as if we can hear what the other is saying no matter where the other person is in the house. And we almost can. So we try again only louder.  

Despite many promises to the contrary, the yard was messy with toys five minutes after we moved in. It is messy today. It will be messy tomorrow. 

- 5 -
Lucy June loves her brother.

For the most part

- 7 -
Also, we've been kicking the can on ordering new bees since we lost both our hives before leaving California. But it looks like we're getting some attention out by the box so keep your fingers crossed. 

Maybe I should put out another sign.

Happy weekend, friends!!

The Husband's Favorite Kitchen Items

02 April 2014

So today I'm copycatting myself and posting Jacob's favorite of our kitchen items to Hallie's Link Up.

When we first started dating, Jacob and I couldn't be in the kitchen together without arguing. All of the kids in Jacob's family grew up experimenting in the kitchen. He was very comfortable at the stove; he'd toss in new ingredients and skip others and had that obnoxious disdain for recipes that Recipe Followers like myself have trouble appreciating. At one point we had a rule that only one of us was allowed in the kitchen at any given time. Either he was cooking or I was cooking. Neither of us were very proud of this development, but it probably saved our relationship.

The root of the problem: Jacob was a better cook than I was. He experimented in the kitchen and the food he made was delicious. I knew how to make my mother's chili and my mother's chicken and dumplings and that's about where my prowess ceased. Part of me loved that Jacob was a good cook, but the other part of me found it infuriating, especially when his culinary knowhow would skulk about my shoulder while I was trying my hand at the stove. I remember when he made me a dish that I didn't like. It was some type of pasta, and he'd thrown in a spice that didn't do the dish any favors. I ate his failed pasta with such relish because it proved that Jacob Augustine Rhodes wasn't flawless in the kitchen and maybe we could get married after all.

Five years of marriage later and we've matured into a nice and traditional "Wife does 90%" of the cooking, I frequently ask him to taste test, and kitchen fights are a thing of the past.

Cutting this long story not quite so long, here are Jacob's five favorite kitchen items, or at least the five kitchen items he responded with when I quizzed him this morning.

- 1 -
Jacob wanted this lid so much he bought it for me for Christmas and opened it for me two weeks early. It finds its way onto the stove whenever he's in the kitchen. It's admittedly very handy.
- 2 -
We are blender people. The blender we got when we first married was a classy looking thing that smelled a little like burning rubber whenever we used it. We knew we wanted a nice blender, and we soon found ourselves on the frontlines of the great Blendtec vs. Vitamix debate. We picked the Vitamix because we preferred the control panel - Blendtec's is digital - and the tamper is sort of indispensable with the kind of smoothies we tend to make. We've had ours for about a year and a half, and we use it multiple times a day.

They're pretty cost prohibitive, but they have great warranties and you can buy Certified Refurbished Vitamixes that are less expensive.

- 3 -

I'm actually surprised that I forgot this when I put up my kitchen favorites. I grew fond of these in Europe, and we got one for our wedding. It got a lot of use when Jakeboy started solids since he was on a pretty deliberate little baby diet called What Mom & Dad Are Eating All Mashed Up. I'm pretty sure Jacob likes it because of it's associations with Butternut Squash Bisque. 

- 4 -

When I first eschewed paper towels I wasn't very formal about it. I had a bag of old rags mixed in with our nice dish towels and our napkins, and this "system" drove Jacob crazy. So we bought some bar mop towels that now sit in a nice stack under our sink, can be used for all household messes, and get thrown straight into a laundry basket whenever they've reached their limits.

- 5 -
Looking around Kitchen. Glances at Liquor Cabinet: 
Does Alcohol Count?

Sure, babe.

What are your significant other's favorite things in your kitchen?

>> <<

Well I have to run away and read some Little House in the Big Woods with the little man.

Me: let's read the one about the sugar snow and the dance at grandpa's.
Jake: I think we could just read about the bear and Pa gets his toenail ripped off.  
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