Monday, September 29, 2008

Update post...then I'll stop

There were a few posts which needed pictures, but could not have them because my camera was lost. So, for anyone who cares, this is the update.

This is one of the two doors that I got from my friend to do some kind of crafty project with. I mentioned this in my post about putting a door on the wall. This is actually the one I have not figured out what to do with yet. So here it sits in my bedroom...

This is the one I actually painted red. I meant to be very authentic and use nice acrylic paints, but I ran out of the "barn red" color I was using and had to do the second half with washable Crayola paints. Hmmm....we also decided not to mount it on the wall right now because it is SO heavy. That lamp is the lamp I got at the Salvation Army for $8 which I was so proud of.

This is the Pottery Barn collage frame that I picked up at the Salvation Army that I liked so much too, (from the same post).

This is one of my favorite pictures from hubby and I in college. Look how young and in love we were. Look how I wore his jersey to support him! This was at his last game. I don't think we were thinking at the moment that I'd be 6 months pregnant at the same time the next year! :) We got married a month after this game.

And last, but not least, this is the go-cart that the neighborhood boys and I built. Well, that's not entirely true. It was practically built when I found it abandoned in the alley except for the front wheels, the wood seats, and the steering/holding-on board.

The other update was to my "big mouth" post, where I said that I was having a dinner party with church friends and ended up inviting some neighborhood men that hang out on the street corner (actually there is one woman too). Anyway, they did not come to the party, but then after I had cleaned up the kitchen and put the leftover chili into the fridge, there was a knock at the was 10:30. Well, Matt let everyone in, they apologized for their lateness, complimented the chili, and chatted with us for about 30 minutes. We had a good talk, we got to know one of the guys ("Spooky") a little better, (he's not so spooky) and everyone was very gracious. I think it went okay?!

That's all.

Over the river and through the woods... Grandmother's house we went. That was yesterday. This is where I go when I want to feel bad about how my kids have no access to grass, or a sprawling home, or a tree swing...

Just kidding, kinda. But my kids do seriously love it at Matt's parents house and can't wait to go back each time we leave. We were there to celebrate grandma and grandpa's combined birthdays since they were born two days apart. Claire and I made those cupcakes, and I brought "spaghettie pie". If you haven't had spaghetti pie...stay tuned. I'll post it some day and you have to make it and love it for all it's cheesy fabulousness. And yes, grandma and grandpa are only 55. But they were young parents and so were we...we're impatient that way.

That's Claire reading with grandma. Claire is a "Harris" through and through. She loves reading and playing games (board games and card games...neither of which I particularly enjoy...unless there are good snacks involved) and grandma does all those things with her. Sometimes I think she likes her better than me. Wait, sometimes?

And Sammy gets to indulge in hours and hours of sports with his Uncle David, who is only 12, and the coolest guy in the world, according to Sam. He goes from one thing to the next all day until he comes in with a head that smells like sweat and announces: "I'm HUNGRY! When is the spaghetti pie going to be ready, mom?" We all love Sammy's very serious "throwing face" when he's playing football. He has a pretty good arm for a 3 year old.

And here is Matt. He's just cute. And I tell him and Sammy daily that they are lucky Jesus made them cute because they both drive me so crazy! But just look at him: what a cute dad.

So after a long day, we started the drive from the 'burbs back to the city with the kids recounting all the great things they did at grandma and grandpa's house and Matt and I wondering why we live where we live. Of course, the feeling fades after a few days and we remember what we like about where we live, but going there brings out my farm envy again. Or at least my yard envy.

The thorn in my flesh...

I'll just tell you a "secret" about myself right now: I'm rarely happy with the decisions a group/program make when deciding how they/it will be run. I'm talking about things like Awana or a gymnastics class, or a preschool, or a ministry, or a small group at church, etc, etc.

I don't know if this comes from being a pastor's daughter (and a pastor who thinks he knows the best way to do things at that) or if it's just in my sinful nature to be critical of everything, but am I the only one??? I'll go to something, (take the Awana cubbies class) and think to myself the whole time: "This program is way too long for this age of kid...these three year olds can't handle more than an hour of this!" or "Why don't they do more active things with these kids...they can't sit still this whole time!" Or, I'll enroll my children in a class of some kind and think "why don't they give the kids more turns each? They are just sitting there the whole time!" and then I'll wonder if the people running this thing know how big of a hassle/expense it was to get my kids here. Or lets take our small group of parents at church. Right now we are in a "restructuring" of sorts and I'm just trying to bite my tongue as all the different ideas are thrown out there as to how we will move forward. I have to bite my tongue and say nothing sometimes because my extreme annoyance with the different ideas will come out WAY to clearly if I say anything.

Sometimes this quality in me manifests itself in decent ways. If I think they need more help in a children's ministry in order to make it good, I'll usually volunteer. If I want our small group to meet more consistently and I don't think anyone is volunteering to host it, Matt and I are happy to open our home to make it happen.

But other times it's a big burden to carry. I can't do it all: I can't teach the gymnastics class and run Awana and teach every Sunday School while homeschooling my kids and hosting small group so that I can control it all! I know this, and I know that it is a huge pride issue for me to think I know how to do it all better. I know that I'm going to have to shrug my shoulders and not worry about it if the kids are sitting around too much sometimes at their gym class or if our parent group seems too unstructured for me. I know I have to let it go and "give it to God" as my mom used to say.

This is a tough one for me though. I don't want to waste my family's time on lesser quality activities. I don't want to keep my kids up late for a church thing if it's not going to be "worth it" to us. I don't want to put them in a school if it's not going to challenge them. I don't want to miss naptime for an extracurricular activity if it's not going to be "good".

Well there it is: one of the ugliest and most noble things about me combined. I really have high expectations for myself and my family, and I'm willing to stretch myself pretty thin to help out where help is needed. I'm also willing to cut out activities altogether that I think are taking up good family time but not actually doing much for us. I think that's good.

But the pride element is bad. The control element is bad. The walking around frustrated all the time when I think things aren't going well is bad.

This is a tough one.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My first ever cooking post

This post is dedicated to my mother-in-law whose birthday was last week. For my wedding shower years ago, she made me the cutest scrapbook cookbook with all of Matt's favorite foods. Every page has a picture of him as a child and most of them are of him eatting the food from that recipe. You won't believe how covered in flour it is because we use it all the time. I'm a horrible scrapbooker, so I'm so impressed with her creativity. I thought I'd share one of our favorite cold-weather recipes: pot pie!

The caption there is "chicken pot pie would warm me up!" Haha.

First, you melt 1/3 c of butter, and then add 1/3 c chopped onion. After the onion is tender, you add 1/3 c flour, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper. Stir until well blended and thickened. Gradually stir in 1 and 1/2 c of chicken broth and 2/3 c milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly.

Add 2-3 c cooked chicken (I actually used leftover smoked turkey here and I've used canned chicken as well) and 3-4 c mixed vegetables. My mother-in-law would chop up fresh veggies, but I usually throw in a big bag of mixed frozen vegetables and then maybe a little of whatever else is in the fridge, including spinach sometimes. Remove from heat.

Spoon mixture into crust-lined pan. I always use the kind that is pre-made, but my sister taught me that the refrigerated, roll-out kind is way better than the frozen-already-in-the-pan kind. Also, with the fridge kind, you can use the excess to make cute little cut-outs for the top like Mom Harris would do. I've never done that before, but the kids were making pumpkin-shaped cookies while I was doing this, so I borrowed the cookie cutters to make it more Mom Harris-ish. Put the top crust on, flute, and cut a few little slits. Bake 35-45 minutes at 425 degrees until golden and bubbly.

Ta-dah! This dinner has been taken to almost everyone having a new baby, and it's one of the dinners that my whole family included. Except Sammy says "I mainly like the chicken and crust." Typical.

A new camera!!!

I finally got a new camera! It's pretty fabulous too. It was on a huge sale and they had to ship one to me from a Best Buy that was really far away from me, so I had to wait patiently...missing photo opportunities every day and begrudging them for it.

But now it is here and I was so excited about it that I took tons of pictures just sitting there in my dining room to try it out. This is the camera I got, but I got it for $100 cheaper! So, here were the first shots

My girl, looking stunning as usual.

The flowers Matt got me the other day...but taken from far away to check out the zoom!

Matt, the deliverer of the pretty flowers, and looking slightly scruffy as he does on work-from-home days.

The new watercolor paints I got for Claire...what better way to check out the good color-capturing of the camera.

And little Penny, again taken from far away so we could zoom way in on her.

Well, all the posts I wanted to write that wouldn't be complete without pictures are to come, but I just needed a moment to celebrate having a camera again! This is probably about the time that the camera I lost will resurface...

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Since I was a kid, I hated Sundays. Being the pastor's daughter, it meant that my dad had spent until midnight on a Saturday preparing his sermon and preparing the bulletin and that he was now completely exhausted. My dad was asleep before lunch was over and my mom would undress down to her slip: (remember slips?) and take an afternoon nap. My older sister would read in her bed, and I would hate my life. No one to play with...nothing to do...sigh.

Then, I grew up and married someone very not unlike my older sister who is happy to lay in bed (or on the couch watching a Bear's game) while I...sigh. I have this crazy nervous energy and also a desire to finish everything that could not be finished througout the rest of the regular week (not very Sabbath-like of me). So today, after teaching the kid's sunday school class, I came home, put the kids down for a nap (and the husband in front of the game) and then cleaned out the car. Our car is gross. I'm talking rotten bananas and fishy crackers and spilled coffee (towers of half-empty, to-go coffee cups). I'm talking stuff we meant to take to the Salvation Army mixed with stuff we took to the pool all summer (is it Fall now?) mixed with more fishy crackers.

And now that is done. I vacuumed it and wiped it down and threw out all the crackers. And then I went to get my daughter at her friend's house, had some wine with the mom, chatted with an old college buddy, and now I'm about to watch a movie with the husband. Now THAT is a productive Sunday. Forget that boring nap stuff. ;) I'll sleep when I'm dead. That is on a plaque I saw once. I'm gonna get that plaque and hang it up in my kitchen...even though it's theologically incorrect. But whatever.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The woodworking class

So, I had an idea that I would start this little woodshop class for the neighborhood boys in my garage once a week. I don't mean anything super technical because I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to woodworking at all. But, after our basement (flooding) remodeling project, I had this plethora of power tools at my disposal as well as lots of other random materials. I had no intention of letting the boys use the power tools, but I thought we'd build something the little boat and dock I found here.

Well, knowing nothing about wood, I bought these huge 2x4's and my circle saw wouldn't even saw through them to make the cute triangle shape. Weak battery? dull blade? I don't know. So we had to give up that project. We made the docks, had the dowel rods for the sail, but couldn't finish them. Shoot.

Well, one little boy had asked if we could build a race car. I told him there was no way I could do that because I couldn't even build the boats with my saw! But then the next day, I saw what I think was a gift from God to these guys: a half-made go-cart-like-thing in the alley behind my house. It was like a giant box with back wheels. I don't know what it had originally been, but the boys spent the afternoon attaching wheels onto the front of it from another broken thing (I used the drill which they thought was very cool) and nailing wood onto it to make a seat and a "steering wheel" of sorts. It does not steer. They ran up and down the alley so happy. One even looked at me and said, "Ms. Susan...I told you we could make the race cart!!!!"

I was so happy for them that I told them they could come back the next day and paint it. Why do I say things like that???? Not reigning it in, for sure. So today, they came back multiplied by about 5. Literally, a van pulled up in front of my house and about 10 boys knocked at my door. I was so overwhelmed I told them that I couldn't find the paint but that they could still play with the go-cart and then I gave them all a bunch of candy. They were pretty happy.
What have I started???? And how am I going to top a race-car? One of the guys said to me today: "Maybe we can build a tree-house next." Tree house? What happend to tiny toy boat????
Oh my.

In the meantime, while I was busy with these boys in the garage, my crazy 3-year-old learned how to ride his bike without training wheels. Jeesh! They grow up fast.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A door on the version

So, I was inspired by that fabulous Nester lady over at the Nesting Place to hang a door on the wall. I've been scouring back alleys around here, but with all the flooding around here lately, all the doors I've found have had major water damage. Then, the other day, at my friend Brigitte's house, I found it: the most beautiful vintage door with a huge piece of glass in the window and fabulous vintagey hardware to go with it. I very tentatively asked her what her plans were for it, and she said "take it!" I'm so excited!

She has several doors is solid without a window and one has the beautiful window that I thought might make a cool frame if I mounted a picture beneath it. Is that just too scrap book-y? Or is it cool? I don't know. I was thinking a cool farm/barn picture or something. Maybe I could order one from Pioneer Woman! Something like this!

My husband is going to laugh and tell me that our city rowhouse-style home is going to look funny decorated like a big lodge, but maybe that's ok.

If I ever get a camera, I'll post the finished product.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The good with the bad

Things I'm thankful for and enjoying right now:My new bike, which we got at Kmart, of all places, but it makes me feel so free! I see now why all those crazy Chicagoans bike everywhere, taking there lives into their own hands. I promise not to become one of those bikers that drives in front of cars as if they are a car (except going 4 miles/hour) but, it's so nice to not have to get into a huge car just to take the kids to the park. Both my kids are sick right now, so last night I took them on a little ride pulling them behind me in one of those tag-a-long things. Matt calls this bike my old lady bike because it kind of is, but I love it!

My next new favorite thing is not to be confused with the actual Pottery Barn chairs above, BUT, I got a chair very similar to the one on the right at the Salvation Army, brand new, for $10! It actually had an original tag still on it and was just sitting there waiting for me. I love it!

Again, not to be confused with the exact product above, but I got a Pottery Barn collage frame similar to the one above, from again...the Salvation Army...for another $10! I filled it with all the prettiest pictures of my little family (I left out the crying ones, the nose-picking ones, and the ones where Sammy is holding himself). I love it because it's so hard for me to choose just two or three pictures to put up, so this allowed me to be completely non-decisive and just put them all!

Finally, from that fabulous thrift store, the SA, I purchased a lamp similar to the one above, (but in dark wood, not shiny silver) for another big $8!

Last but not least, I'm happy that school has started. My kids only go a few mornings a week, but it's so great to have some time to get things done around here (and a social outlet for my very social 3 y/o boy)! And fall is starting and I love fall and the start of school. It just makes me want to smell pencils!

OH, I forgot, after my chilli dinner last weekend, a very kind lady brought me a set of new wine glasses as she noticed I was a little short, (I break them constantly). I'm enjoying those already! Thanks Terry.

Things I'm not enjoying:

Everyone in the family is sick (except for me). The only good thing about sickness is that I feel no guilt letting everyone watch obscene amounts of PBS.

I need my hair highlighted and cut. My roots are awful.

My house is not clean. Right now I'm busy tending to little (and big) sick people, but everytime I step over another load of laundry, I groan that my house is so yuck right now.

My husband and I had an ongoing argument all weekend, but now he's sick too and pitiful looking so I think we have to let it go. Probably for the best anyway.

All in all, though, I have much more to be thankful for than I have to whine about so I think I'll go throw in a load of laundry, bring the husband a few more Motrin, and then jump on my bike and head to the Salvation Army! Just kidding. I'll stick around and play Nurse Nancy a little while longer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 1 of Homeschool, sorta

Today I tried to really figure out what Claire and I are going to do and when . We have our curriculum and our plans are solid, but the problem keeps being...Sam. We love our Sammy and he's fabulous. If you needed someone to plow a field for you, Sammy could do it. If you wanted a small boy to carry a giant load for you, Sam's your guy. If you wanted him to say, run 10 miles without stopping, he could probably make it. But if you want Sammy to go play by himself for 15 minutes while you work on math with his big sister, forget it.

Today, Matt worked from home so we had about 10 minutes without Sammy but then he came down so I tried to get him going on glue sticks and such for a while so that Claire and I could finish up. Well, not only was Claire very distracted, but also Sam kept needing my help or rolling the glue stick way up, or asking me where the scissors were, etc. Then, to really get attention, he added in a few "potty words" (we've told him he can only say "poop" in the bathroom. "Tinkle", "toot", "bottom" and "penis" shortly followed when he decided that those words were his favorite conversation starters). So, learning place value quickly ended up like this:

Me: "Claire, so...which one is the 'tens' place?"
Claire: "that one"
Me: "Right! Good job."
Sammy: "Mommy, look how big I made this glue!"
Me: "Sam...that's enough. Seriously. Roll it back down."
Sammy: "Claire, look...this glue looks like poop!"
Claire: (laughter)
Me: "alright, let's take a little break. I'm gonna go get some more coffee"
The kids: (more laughter)

It's a good thing this girl is naturally bright or I'd be in serious trouble. I guess God only gives us what we can handle. What if I had two Sammy's!? ;) We love him though.

My big mouth? Or for the best?

So, last year I was part of this group at Breakthrough Urban Ministries called BUILD, which is basically a racial reconciliation/social justice discussion group. We read articles and books and discussed them together. A lot of it had to do with inequalities in education and a lot about the way that black and white people view each other, even now. We talked politics and urban ministry and whether or not we can really reconcile if we aren't willing to live near each other. There were loud heated discussions, but oddly by the end of it, everyone seemed to really respect and even like each other. It was really refreshing for me, living here, to hear other people's thoughts on those issues. It was also nice, as a mom, to discuss something besides things relating to my children for one evening a week. After it was all over, I had everyone over for a little party and the leader guy even said to me "Susan, I never knew you were a mother!" God bless him. Not that I don't want to be known as a mother, but the fact that people saw me as something besides a mother of young children for a while was nice! (Did my mom jeans not give it away? What about the food stains on my clothes?)

So, now that I go to a church where several of these people attend as well, I've tried to keep up the occassional get-togethers to keep the discussion going a bit. We have one planned for Friday at our house and 3 or 4 people will be there, (besides Matt and I).

Soooooooooooo, last night on my walk home from my daughter's friend's house, I saw some guys that I regularly bump into on such walks. They drink beer on the corner, but I drink wine in my house, so who's to judge right? Anyway, we somehow got into a discussion about church, and then after quite a while one thing led to another and this BUILD get-together came up, and I.... invited them. Definitely not a "reigning it in" move. This was more of a totally not reigning it in move. Do I want these fellas in my house? One of them seems very excited to come over for chili, and after all our years in this neighborhood, I'd love it if a few people actually knew I was a Christian, you know? And I'd love to get them to our church, or at least into a church, ( I making a huge judgment call to assume they don't go to church???). Or I'd at least like them to know that all Christians don't hate and judge them. I don't know. It was an impulsive move, but I might have wrecked the party. I usually serve beer and wine, but do I NOT now so that they don't take advantage of that situation? Do I cut them off after one beer? Oh, this all seems so petty when I really just want them to have a good conversation with my old BUILD friends, but I don't know. I don't know. Maybe this will be an actual test of whether or not our group learned anything during our discussions. Or maybe it will just be a test of the extent of my hospitality. We'll see....