a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

Ohhh, Christmas Tree!

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!—Charles Barnard

THE Christmas tree:  Symbol of that oh so special holiday, proudly displayed each and every year in a place of prominence, carefully adorned with treasured and sentimental ornaments.  A recognized hallmark of the Christmas season and the BANE of my Decembers. As our family always opts for the “real” variety (instead of the plastic trees of my childhood,) it seems that somewhere along the way a war has been waged between the Spencer family and THE tree.  A battle that never fails to entertain and frustrate at the same time.  This year proved no different.

So may I present to you our annual Christmas tree adventure–in song form!  Oh yes, this year’s tree had us fooled…we REALLY thought this was THE perfect tree :)  Each family member convinced that we could avoid the typical end of the year evergreen hijinks.  Fools we were, this tree had our number from Day 1.

tree poem

THE tree on January 4, 2015.  A little scraggly....

THE tree on January 4, 2015. A little scraggly, still standing!

Still standing!  We made it through December and into 2015.  Sure, it’s a sight to be seen and my son is already begging me to “please, take it DOWN.”  No, son, not yet.  I promised my daughter I would try to have it down by the time her birthday rolls around (mid-January.)  In the meantime, I will sip coffee and watch our once majestic tree transform into a scraggly shrub, daily picking up the ornaments (aided in their fall by the dog no less,) placing lights back onto the branches and taking bets on just how crooked it will get before it tips over (again)…and then, maybe then, I will take it down.  I’m in no hurry.  The whole ordeal has practically become its own Christmas tradition…a tradition I secretly wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  Ohhh, Christmas tree :)

Don’t measure the height of your Christmas tree.  Measure the abundance of the love present in your heart!  Have a blessed Christmas!–author unknown


Another Blog-iversary :)

blogiversaryDear Readers,
I would like to say THANK YOU to those who have been following my blog, hymningandhaing.com.  As I enter my fourth year of blog writing, I am proud of the 65 posts I have penned thus far and the positive feedback that I have received—it continues to fuel my desire to write more!  I am grateful for the fun comments, insights and encouraging words that you have offered throughout my blogging endeavor and I look forward to 2015 and the writing opportunities it will bring!

Happy blog-iversary, hymningandhaing.com!!!

 


A Few of My Favorite Things (2014 in Review)

My favorite things often have a story behind them….  –Amy Sedaris

As 2014 winds down the countdown to New Year’s Day 2015 begins.  It’s at this time every year that we’re all subjected to the top news stories, songs, movies, television shows, etc. of the past twelve months (just in case we forgot.)  We’re also treated to the “best of” and “worst of” inventories for just about every subject under the sun.  And since we’ve already suffered through the roll call of Oprah and Ellen’s favorite things, I thought it was time that I got into the act with a list of my own (never mind the fact that I’m not a talk show host or a celebrity!)  So enjoy (or is it endure?) a few of MY favorite things from 2014 :)

  • Favorite Song:  “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors  This upbeat song hit my radar this spring and really spoke to me as a call to approach each day as an amazing blessing.  I wrote about this song in a previous blog post and labeled it my personal “walk up song” for 2014.  This fun little anthem encourages one to be young, to see each day as a new opportunity, and to wholeheartedly believe in the limitless possibilities of good and joy in this life.  It’s a toe-tapping, high energy, nonsensical call to be AWESOME each and every day.
  • book

    “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea

    Favorite Book I Read:  “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea  I came upon this book by accident or sheer laziness (you decide.)  My daughter and I happened to be at the local library during an unusually heavy downpour.  We had already finished up in the children’s book section, when the thought of facing the rain seemed idiotic (a lifelong Kansan…I knew it would let up in 5-10 minutes.)  So rather than get drenched, we moseyed over to the religion section of the library and this little goodie caught my eye.  It was the subtitle that really sold me:  A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith.  In journal form, the author offers up insight as she sets out to visit a different church every Sunday for a year.  Her journey takes her across every region of the country, including Hawaii.  As a self-proclaimed “Church Nerd,” I found this book to be very eye-opening, offering up moments of hope and reflection while inciting a few sad and squeamish realizations about the Christian faith and how it is received and perceived.  An easy read…fellow “Church Nerds” should make it a point to check this book out.

  • Favorite Item Purchased:  Fire Pit  Let me start by saying that I am both equally terrified and mesmerized by fire!  Yet nothing soothes my spirit like hanging out around a fire pit.  Watching the flames dance around under a star-filled sky is my ultimate idea of relaxation.  No item that we have purchased in the last year has brought this much excitement to every member of our family.  While the kiddos have enjoyed having friends over to share in the fun, they seem to be just as content to hang out with their Dad and I.  And I’m all for anything that brings everyone together for an evening (with minimal bickering, of course!)
  • sue drinks coffeeFavorite TV Show:  “The Middle”  The kiddos first stumbled upon this show in reruns and I wasn’t exactly hooked (at first.)  In fact, I was more insulted than anything.  Somehow, my children got it into their little brains that our family was just like the fictitious Hecks and that as “Mom” I was relegated to the “Frankie” character.  This scatter-brained, (often times) sad excuse for a mother was supposedly me?  No way!  I refused to accept such a role and couldn’t believe my kiddos could put me in the same category.  Yet, over time I came to appreciate this TV family.  In their own unique way, the Hecks love each other, look after each other, and in so many ways this imperfect family is absolutely relatable on a number of levels.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that I still find the “Frankie” reference insulting (let the record show that Sue is my favorite character,) but 2014 has brought about a new appreciation for “Frankie” and this dysfunctional (yet adorable) family sitcom.  You can find it in reruns on a variety of channels, or for new episodes check out ABC on Wednesday nights.
  • Favorite Snack:  S’mores  Okay, since we now have a fire pit, s’mores have earned the top spot for favorite snack of 2014.  While traditionally I am a nachos kind of person, s’mores have gained prominence as the treat of choice.  Funny thing is, that while I could probably eat a pound of nachos…I generally just want one s’more.  Maybe that’s another reason to eat more s’mores!  One little tidbit of advice that I will offer up…we’ve discovered that regular size marshmallows work best.  They toast quickly and provide the right proportion of marshmallow to chocolate to graham cracker ratio.  After experimenting with campfire (extra-large sized) marshmallows and marshmallow squares, we’ve discovered that these varieties seriously affect the ratios.  TIP:  If you just want toasted marshmallows go BIG or square, otherwise for traditional s’mores regular-sized marshmallows are best.  Yummy :)
  • Favorite Product to Hit the Supermarket Shelf: Peet’s Coffee  As a coffee lover I am pretty much Starbucks all the time.  However, whenever I visit the San Francisco Bay Area, for me it has to be Peet’s Coffee.  Later, when I found out that they sold Peet’s at the supermarkets in Northern Cali…well I just had to have that AND buy enough to bring some home to Kansas after a trip.  Now…you won’t believe what I found on the supermarket shelf?  Peet’s Coffee in KANSAS!  People, this is exciting!!!  This coffee is so amazing…strong, rich, full flavor…perfect :)  I went through a bag in a blink and I can’t wait to buy more–locally!  Hooray, hooray…such a happy day!  Jump on to their website for supermarket locations near you.  http://www.peets.com/
  • Favorite Podcast: Freakonomics  My husband first introduced me to Freakonomics a few years ago.  He came across the documentary on Netflix.  Later I found out about the book and the blog.  Finally, I discovered the podcast!  For “News Nerds” like me this is awesome!  Freakonomics is the product of a journalist and an economist.  Together, they uncover the hidden side of everything (their tagline, not mine.)  Both educational and extremely entertaining this is my weekly go-to for information and insight.  Each podcast is about 40-45 minutes long and they cover a variety of topics.  A little something for everyone.
  • Favorite Place to Shop:  Ulta  I have loved playing with make-up since I was a teenager.  So as I near 40, you would think that I would be over it.  NOT!  Enter Ulta, the make-up mega store.  It has just about every make-up product known to (wo)man, in every shade imaginable, and at prices to fit all budgets.  I could spend hours in there.  As far as make-up goes I’m pretty traditional and extremely conservative, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to look.  Orange lipstick, green eyeliner, purple fingernails…yes, I am intrigued (even if I’d never have the guts to wear any of it!)
  • IMG_0622

    Snapped this photo while cleaning the kitchen! With the Tadaa SLR app your photo can go from “cleaning up” to looking all “cleaned up” with just a few tweaks. Love this app!

    Favorite iPhone App:  Tadaa SLR  I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet knows that I love to take photos.  Now that our phones are our cameras, this makes taking pictures easy and a full-time hobby without all the gear.  I have tried and use a lot of photo apps on my iPhone, but this year’s stand out is Tadaa SLR.  With features that let you adjust the focus and depth, blur with precision (it also includes all the standard editing features) this app makes me feel like a professional photographer (even if it’s only in my head!)  Seriously, at only $2 this is definitely an app worth having and it’s so easy you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!  HONORABLE MENTION:  Wal-mart Savings Catcher because I am a mother on a budget!

  • Favorite Lesson Learned:  GOD’S CONSTANT PROVISION.  I could write a whole book about this line alone!  Going into 2014 I knew there would be one big hurdle for our family life.  (In fact, I heard that little voice as early as December 2013.)  And just as surely as I had been warned, these things came to be.  Without going into too much detail, let me say that God has provided time and time again.  And He has provided in ways and with means that I would never have expected and all in His perfect timing.  Whenever I should have been stressed out and overcome with worry/fear I knew and felt God’s presence.  I’m sure it was maddening for those around me to see that I wasn’t worried (heaven knows I found other things to worry about!)  But let me tell you that we always had what we needed exactly when we needed it!  Friends, God is good–all the time!  I won’t pretend to know God’s plans or why I needed to learn the lesson of provision, but I am grateful for it and I know that it serves a larger purpose in our family’s faith walk.

That pretty much sums it up!  Like the popular song from the Sound of Music…these are a few of my favorite things.  Well, 10 of my favorite things anyway :)  Would love to hear about some of your “best of” or “worst of” items from this past year.

Looking forward to learning, growing and discovering new things in 2015!


Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

Christmas photoWhen you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household :).  And as a self-appointed Christmas authority I feel obligated to share these 12 little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves….

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats and their tiny crumbs in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend  Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup…of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Holiday Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without holiday movies.  My all time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Cards  I love the tradition of Christmas Cards, but I’ve noticed that this tradition is fading.  Sigh.  As someone who has lived in several states and many cities (towns) over the years, this is one of the best ways I know of to catch up with far away friends and family.  Be sure to throw in a zany family photo or funny Christmas letter!
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, my husband and I continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!


I Can Still Taste the Caramel Apples (aka Why I LOVE Halloween!)

Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. —Ellen Goodman

10690117_715990488490123_92735026534026743_nWhen it come to holidays, I like to go full-out! I love traditions…the habits and rituals that create memories (both good and bad, but especially MEANINGFUL) and serve to connect families and friends to the past, present and the future.  Equally as important, I enjoy sharing where, why and how the traditions came about.  So for the last month, my family has endured all of my favorite stories about Halloweens past.  I share these little gems, not just for myself (okay, maybe just for myself) but also as a way to join together my childhood experiences, a little history, some faith/religion and finally…to secretly instill some expectations and wisdom upon my kiddos.  And you thought I just hung out in my kitchen baking cookies all day :)

Seriously, I think one of the most effective tools in parenting (and a number of other categories) is the personal testimony.  That’s why I like telling Sean and Casey all about my Halloween adventures–successes and epic fails (age appropriate, of course.)  Everything from what costumes we donned (not ashamed to admit that I was Bat Girl more than once) to trick or treating in the neighborhood to visiting my great grandmother’s house (for peanuts and apples) to haunted houses and everything in between.  We compare and contrast classroom parties, popular candy (then and now), real (and not so real) ghost stories all while asking questions and googling Halloween history.  Together we’ve learned a lot!  And the payoff comes when the kiddos are just as invested in the traditions as I am :)

10616209_716894205066418_4160538980628630829_nI would say that I get my love of Halloween from my Dad.  He was the first adult (outside of teachers) that I can remember dressing up for Halloween on a regular basis.  Dad likes his costumes to be scary, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I have many memories of his gory masks and spooky get-ups.  He would help us carve pumpkins and Mom would work on roasting the pumpkin seeds.  At the time, pumpkin patches weren’t a part of our Halloween experience…but we looked forward to the carving nonetheless.  We didn’t use fancy stencils or patterns and our primitive carving tools could have easily sent one of us to the ER (fortunately it never came to that!)  Today, my family looks forward to our annual trip to “the patch” (which my son tells me doesn’t sound quite right) and choosing our own pumpkins from a giant field of orange and green.  Over the years, I have amassed a great deal of pumpkin carving supplies and we make an event out of the whole thing…complete with spooky music courtesy of Pandora.  This year we added hot dogs and s’mores to the occasion.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year (and someday I will master those pumpkin seeds, too!)

The traditions go way beyond the pumpkin patch and the carving.  We decorate the house, reminisce over old Halloween photos and spend countless hours discussing, shopping and creating Halloween costumes.  The costumes have become one of our best-loved parts of the season.  Fortunately, my kids aren’t into scary and with a little imagination and planning, they’ve managed to come up with some pretty creative costumes over the years.  And while I’ve quietly lobbied for the “family” costume, I am afraid that ship has sailed.  For some years, however, I was able to finagle the kiddos into coordinated costumes, but my luck eventually ran out there, too :(.  Oh well.  There’s plenty of fun in sharing stories about past costumes, who we went trick or treating with (family or friends,) where we were living at the time and surprisingly no one ever seems to mention the candy.

Typically we watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” once (sometimes twice) each October and I marvel at the questions the kids come up with.  When they were younger, they needed help with the character’s names and who was related to whom.  Now they ask why Lucy is so mean, how come Charlie Brown can’t get a break, and what Snoopy’s role as the Red Baron is really all about.  This year I had to explain that bobbing for apples was a real thing and we discussed some of the reasons why that tradition didn’t carry on (gross.)  We marvel at Schroeder’s piano playing skills, discuss party invite etiquette and basically feel bad for Linus.

As the children have grown older, Halloween has included a faith dialogue as well.  We talk about the early history of the holiday…a time when pagan superstitions and overall fear fueled the observance.  Picture a people who warily watched the seasons change and anxiously retreated into a time of the year when no crops grew, the weather was particularly harsh and their survival depended upon the work that had been done in the warmer months.  Harvest really was a reason to celebrate as they prepared for months of cold and uncertainty.  Can you imagine how they were compelled to turn to a number of gods for protection and provision?  Warding off evil lent itself to carving scary faces on gourds and trees and displaying these items on their doorsteps.  And what about trick or treating?  A custom that spans ancient beliefs, religious practices and morphed into a “pseudo-war” between the haves and have-nots before becoming the family friendly outing that we now know.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-history-of-trick-or-treating-is-weirder-than-you-thought-79408373/?no-ist

10700574_718765481545957_3257901382160519510_oIt’s November 1st and  costumes lie crumpled up on the floor, candy wrappers dot the tabletops, and tired looking eyes stare up at me.  And while the whole Halloween adventure culminates in one day, I realize that it’s not the holiday itself that means so much to me–it’s actually the whole season.  We’ve been gearing up, preparing for, talking about and making plans for a whole month.  Through it all we’ve carved out special (additional!) time together…outside of mealtimes and the occasional quiet evening.  We’ve cooked and baked together.  We’ve shopped together.  We’ve attended school parties together.  We’ve enjoyed nature together.  And it feels good.  I know these seasons are fleeting.  Before long, their Halloween plans won’t include me.  The kids are growing up so fast and that probably scares me more than any creepy costume on Halloween.  For now I hold onto the imagination and creativity of the season.  I look forward to the cooler temperatures and the rustling of leaves and my mind wanders (unafraid) to the approaching season that seems to draw us closer (even if it only is for warmth :) )  The traditions abound and yes, I can still taste the caramel apples that sweeten this already favored season.

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch. ~Robert Brault

 

 

 

 

 

 


Election Reflection (I Got My Sticker, How ‘Bout You?)

Did you vote? Or did you “rock the vote?”

I votedEither way on this post-election Wednesday I am enjoying the quiet.  As I sip coffee I am mindful of the fact that my phone is eerily and peacefully quiet (yes, we still have a landline!)  No longer am I the recipient of ten thousand political robocalls…none of which I ever listened to from start to finish…that is if I even picked up!  It was so bad that my children would even groan when the phone rang.  The Caller ID (yeah, I still have that, too) flashed phone numbers from around the country.  Some robocalls even left messages for me…I didn’t know that they could do that?  When an actual “live” person was on the line, they only wanted to know which way I was voting.  Sounded like I trap to me.  I politely told the fella that I hadn’t decided and that must have put me on another list, because the calls really amped up from there.  Vying for your vote is serious business!  Outreach that could have boosted my ego and made me feel super popular, actually made me a little sad and not to mention overall annoyed.  I makes me wonder how effective this strategy really is and whether or not it even matters any more (the incessant campaigning, not the vote.)

Listen, I’m not apolitical.  In fact, I might be a little too political.  That being said, I really want to see an end to all of this insane campaign saturation.  I understand that the candidates have a job to do, but I also think that the American people have a job to do, too.  And in some ways, the candidates are letting us off the hook with their quick 5 point mailers, flashy slogans and negative campaigning.  I remember being a student in junior high (man, I am dating myself all over the place…that would be “middle school” for some of you) taking government class and absolutely LOVING it.  I enjoyed learning about the history of our country and the hows and whys in which the government was set up.  Somewhere along the way I thought it was my responsibility as a citizen to participate and understand politics.  I thought the onus was on me to take the time to research the candidates and issues on the ballot.  In some ways, I feel really let down to know that this isn’t necessarily the case.

We all know that the negative campaigning has increased year after year, election after election.  At times it feels like the political process is more about mudslinging and name calling…bringing to mind childhood playground antics and bullying mentality.  Most people who I talk to agree that this is irritating, mean-spirited and in some cases, off-putting enough to cause them to bow out of the process altogether.    As an adult, I should no longer be surprised to see how politics causes rifts in families and friendships…yet I am consistently amazed at how divisive it all can be.  I try not to be discouraged…and as a result this election season I set out to be more observant of the whole process as it relates to the current political culture in America.  I’m taking in the mailers, radio and TV ads, the intense campaign presence on the internet and especially all the attention focused on our newest voters, not to mention future voters.  It’s been interesting….

As a parent, I’m particularly invested in how my kiddos see the election process.  One moment in particular comes to mind:  the Presidential Election in 2008.  At the time, my youngest was three and my oldest was seven.  Nickelodeon was doing a gangbusters job of involving the kids in the election with the Kids Pick the President campaign.  So much so, that my kids were lobbying for opposing candidates.  Casey was crazy about “Rock Bobama” (yes, that’s what she called him :) ) She ran around the house mumbling “Rock Bobama” for weeks.  She recognized him whenever he came on TV (whether it was Nickelodeon or not.)  You would have thought he was a member of the family.  She would be mesmerized by the Kids Pick the President promos and would ask us if we were voting for her candidate!  It was incredibly cute and sort of disturbing at the same time.  She had no idea what voting was, but when the promo showed up during “Dora the Explorer” she knew enough to know this was serious business.  We laugh about it now, but it goes to show how well some campaigns work.

On the other side of the ballot was Sean’s candidate:  Senator John McCain.  Sean was particularly moved by the fact that Senator McCain served in the military and had been a prisoner of war.  At the time, my son was a student in Wichita public schools.  His class was following the election process and he had a zillion questions for me.  We spent a lot of time (clarification…a lot of time for a seven-year old) looking up both candidates and their platforms.  Sean felt very confident and ready to cast his ballot at school.  When his candidate lost, he was sad and surprised.  I was taken aback at his reaction.  He explained to me that it wasn’t fair…Senator McCain had given up so much for this country.  He was certain that he would be a great leader.  He sulked a bit, but if you know Sean…he bounced out of it rather quickly–although I did see him shoot his sister an occasional evil glare whenever she mumbled about the house chanting “Rock Bobama.”  The campaign may have been over, but it’s hard to undo a phrase that has been hardwired into a three-year old’s brain.  Thanks, Nickelodeon.

As a family, we spent a lot of time talking about the election this year.  The kids shared their thoughts, ideas and especially their observations.  Casey still has several “new” political catchphrases rolling around in her brain and off her tongue (she knows quite a few negative ads verbatim. Thank you, YouTube!)  Living in Kansas, the campaign was particularly mean-spirited at times …especially where the U.S. Senate was concerned.  We went over and over what it means to be a “liberal” and a “conservative.”  I don’t know about you, but I found it all rather amusing that we spent the whole 20 minute ride to the orthodontist’s office talking about Senator Harry Reid and why he was mentioned in so many political ads.  On a more solemn note, never did I imagine that I would have to explain “gay marriage’ to a nine-year old or drudge up the terrible crimes committed by the Carr brothers and why that was a relevant part of this election’s campaign to my thirteen-year old.  But this is the real world–good and bad, and politics is certainly no exception.

Overall, I’m glad that we have made time to discuss the importance of voting and the election process.  It made my day to see a long line at my polling site and to discover via Facebook that a number of my friends and family voted as well.  It is an incredible responsibility–one I don’t take lightly and I hope to instill that value in the hearts and minds of my kiddos.  Last night while listening to a local pundit recap the election results, the radio host asked him this question, “What wins elections?  What do you think the anti-tax group did that the pro-tax campaign didn’t do?”  He simply answered that there are so many factors…money of course, but also repetition of message.  He said, “Repetition wins.”  I took those two words to heart.  I love this country and we have plenty of room for improvement.  And if “repetition wins,” then we have some important ideals that we need to repeat…freedom, responsibility, and honesty to name a few.  At the same time, we have to keep in mind that repetition can work against us as well.  If you hear enough that your vote doesn’t count, nothing ever changes, or that voting isn’t important…well eventually that will sink in, too.

So keep voting, America.  Over and over.  Repeat.

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

 


Dear Daughter…Marry a Chef (You’ll Thank Me Later)

Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art. —Unknown

When I was a kid, I would tell my mother that I wanted to live in a house without a kitchen.  Actually, if I remember correctly, we had several conversations about it.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve even brought up the subject with a couple of past boyfriends (just to let them know what they were in for—yes, I’m a courteous girl :).)  And my poor husband, he knows all too well how much I LOATHE the kitchen.  Turns out that it’s not really the kitchen that I have a problem with…I mean I always planned to have a microwave and a refrigerator (I’m not stupid.)  What I really hate is the COOKING that takes place in the kitchen!

Kiss the Cook :)

Kiss the Cook :)

Maybe my dislike for cooking comes from possessing a very plain and boring palate.  For example…I’m pretty much a beans and rice girl, when we go out for dinner I typically choose one of three entrees:  cheeseburger, pizza or chicken, and I’m not very into sweets.  There isn’t an adventurous bone in my body when it comes to trying new foods (asparagus anyone?)  And I’m actually very okay with this.  I view eating in the same manner that I see the need for sleep–a mere necessity and nothing more.  I have a hard time relating to a lot of my foodie friends who rave about their latest food find and go on and on about “pairing” this delectable tidbit with that scrumptious delicacy (am I even using those words right?)  I really just don’t get it.

In my own defense, I WANTED to get it.  I wanted to be a so called “expert” in the kitchen.  While I make a mean sandwich, I secretly aspired to be whiz in the kitchen.  I own a lot of cookbooks, including the elusive Joy of Cooking CD-ROM and at one point I was absolutely addicted to the Food Network.  Like many stay-at-home moms, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, and Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) were not only my idols, but also my best friends.  As soon as it was acceptable for me to turn off Nickelodeon (11am or so) I would quickly click the channel to see what my “friends” were whipping up for lunch and dinner.  Never has anyone been more into “homemade” and “from scratch” as yours truly.  I was rolling out dough, making my own stock, and a regular in the fresh herb section at our local supermarket.  I’m not sure if I crossed the line into “cooking obsessed,” but I’m pretty sure I was right on the edge.  When my three year old daughter started to request tuning into Rachael Ray instead of Dora the Explorer I finally woke up.

To be honest, I was spending a lot of time, energy and money on a hobby that I hated.  Not only did I not enjoy cooking, but truth be told, I was NOT very good at it.  In hindsight, I realize that I was fighting a losing battle.  Don’t get me wrong…I have the utmost respect for foodies and chefs alike.  It just turns out that it’s not my thing.  Slowly, I stopped turning in to the Food Network and filling my time with other things.  I began adhering more to the Sandra Lee method of food prep—“Seventy percent store-bought, ready-made plus 30 percent fresh allows you to take 100 percent of the credit.” Her kitchen motto was all that was left of my so called “love of cooking.”

Needless to say, my family didn’t starve to death.  Not once has any one ever said, “Oh, Anna, how I wish you could go back to making (fill in the blank.)”  While there are few remaining recipes that I rely on all these years later, I don’t really sweat it…especially since my children inherited my same plain and boring palate.  We primarily live on the basics:  a variety of chicken dinners, tacos, spaghetti, LOTS of sandwiches and whatever my husband can grill.  It’s not exciting, but it fills a hole.  What used to make me feel like a failure as a wife and mother, now has crossed over into the realm of acceptance.  I no longer want to be a good cook.  If I could, I honestly would quit cooking altogether and live on cereal. Unfortunately, that is not an option.  Sigh.

So here it is…I am over the mom pressure from the foodie crowd (I couldn’t grow or can anything to save my life.) I will be the first one to shout from the rooftops that being a successful wife, mother, & homemaker doesn’t mean that you are required to be a culinary genius, too.  Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean your worth and value is tied up in what’s for dinner.  Serving chicken nuggets does not make you less of a woman.  I wish someone had told me all of this years ago.  Today, the only chef I pay attention to on the Food Network is Guy Fieri…and that’s because I like to drool over the food (mostly cheeseburgers and barbeque) he samples on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  Mmmmm….

I completely understand that no “knight-in-shining-apron” is going to come to my kitchen rescue anytime soon.  Research shows that even in today’s modern society, woman are responsible for nearly 80% of household food prep.  And while a growing number of men are becoming more and more comfortable in the family kitchen, I realize that meals will continue to fall into the woman/wife/mom category for the foreseeable future.  And that’s okay because I’ve already been coaching my daughter to marry a chef.  Problem solved.  (You’re welcome.)

Today’s menu has two choices:  TAKE IT or LEAVE IT!


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