Thursday, April 30, 2009

Susan Boyle's mirror for society, French Elle and Western Body Image

How has this happened? It's Thursday, exactly a week since I blogged last. Bad blogger, bad, bad blogger. Oh well, I refuse to have blogging guilt.

Besides, I know exactly how it happened. I started thinking about something that has been bugging me and I fixated on it because that's what I do. Then there was work, writing, homeschooling, a long birth, a conference/workshops and feeling under-the-weather (oh dear, maybe it's the swine flu! I'm kidding, I'm kidding!). Excuses I know but I am here now, finally deciding to put down into words the issue that was troubling me.

Unless you have been on a deserted island, a self-imposed media fast, or suffering through a power outage of hurricane proportions, I'm sure you have seen the video of Susan Boyle singing for her audition for Britain's Got Talent. She has a beautiful voice. Such a comment coming from me is no small thing, being a classically trained singer myself as well as a vocal instructor I am nothing short of a snob when it comes to voices, well, voices that garner recording contracts and international attention anyway. I do like regular, everyday people kind of voices, the kind that are unaltered by recording software and over zealous production. Well trained voices and raw, happy voices (like the kind heard at birthday celebrations, churches and ball games) are my favorites. In case you are wondering, I don't care for most of the voices considered worth listening to these days. Ms. Susan Boyle's though is really quite lovely, I could listen to her repeatedly. So it was with surprise that I found myself cringing through the video featuring this woman's amazing voice. It wasn't her singing that caused me to squirm but something else and I couldn't put my finger on it. I heard people talk about her, read Facebook reactions to the video, saw and read a few interviews with the new singing sensation. Still, it took me a few days to pinpoint where the problem was.

I have heard many great voices of all different varieties and I look forward to hearing many more in my lifetime. The odd thing to me is that many of them were just as beautiful if not more beautiful that Ms. Boyle's yet they never have received such attention so quickly. Perhaps they haven't been in the right place at the right time or they choose to not pursue their chance at fame on reality TV. Or perhaps there was something else at play. Gradually, after watching interviews that increased my discomfort with Ms. Boyle's situation I began to understand. People were genuinely enjoying her voice, that was not the problem, the problem was that they were shocked when it came from her. There was laughter when Ms. Boyle walked onto that stage and the judges' faces expressed knowing looks of annoyance at what they were certain was to come. Based on Ms. Boyle's appearance and age, she was judged in a matter of seconds as something to be laughed at, dismissed, her entertainment value solely for mocking, or poking fun of if you will. It was determined instantly that her talent was intrinsically tied to what was deemed her unfashionable image. The video of her performance became an overnight internet sensation, garnering more viewings of any video before now not because her voice was that remarkable but because her voice came out of a middle aged, fluffy, frumpy, awkward woman. Susan Boyle quite innocently held up a mirror for all of us to examine ourselves, if we dare to look and can see deeper than our quest to look like the super stars we idolize.

I want to be wrong, I want to believe that the laughter that greeted her when she walked on stage was a coincidence, that her rocketing fame has nothing to do with her appearance, nothing to do with people gawking at her as though she was some kind of freak show. But I don't think I am. Why else would Larry King and others point out that she doesn't look the part? Ask her if she's planning a make-over? Reporters write that she must have recently gone shopping when she was spotted sporting an article of clothing more trendy than she had previously been seen wearing? In fact, one of the judges of the show was reported as saying Ms. Boyle shouldn't get a make-over or change her look because she would then lose some of her "charm." I agree, Ms. Boyle shouldn't change her look but not because she would lose some of her "charm" but because in doing so she would be joining the ranks of so many and end up losing herself. Her voice is not contingent on her body shape or appearance, she's already proven that. Ms. Boyle already refused to buy the lie to "look the part," perhaps now we could follow her lead and refuse to buy the lie that says a person's value, skill, and talent are tied to their hair, make-up, figure and some arbitrary fashion police. I believe that Susan Boyle has a wonderful voice but what truly makes her exceptional is her courage to step out on that stage unapologetic for who she is and I hope that even though she has had a bit of a make-over recently, she will continue to let her voice speak for itself. Maybe it is because I have spent time in the world of opera where waif thin body shapes and airbrushed looks rank far behind the actual voice and talent that this rubs me the wrong way. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the hunch that we have it wrong. Not only should we avoid judging a book by it's cover (I'm not particularly fond of that saying) but perhaps we should stop judging covers as being all a person is truly comprised of. That it is acceptable at all to laugh at and dismiss a person when they walk out on a stage or into a room before you know anything about them, their talent or if they are even there to make you laugh simply because they don't look what we have allowed ourselves to believe is required to be talented, smart, original, or beautiful is by far what is truly ugly in our society. This is an ignorant prejudice that runs deep and we are far too consumed with our own reflections to even see. And I won't even touch the commentary this is on our world's view of women, not here, not now. I'll save that for another day. (Ok, but real quick, ask yourself "what if she had been a man?" Running, running away from this now.)

I appreciated the contrast highlighted in a blog post by Julie Neumann last week on the Women's Rights blog hosted by Change.org comparing the media senastion of Susan Boyle and the French publication of Elle magazine. There are plenty of words here but if you would like to see some of the images from French Elle's edition Stars Sans Fards (Stars without make-up) check it out and read Julie's thoughts on how these two examples challenge our view of body image and hope for not just women, but all of society. Step up to the mirror that Susan has held out to us and inspect your heart, your character and how you determine the value of others.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Over wine and cheese

Last night Jeremy, Evangeline and I had the opportunity to share with Ecclesia's Montrose small groups (there are two, they combined for the evening) the calling God has place on our lives to serve in sharing the Gospel in France. We're calling these "house parties," events with food, conversation and information to help gather prayer, financial, and other support inviting people to join us as ministry partners. This was only our second such gathering and it was truly beautiful. These two small groups are wonderful communities comprised of a diverse group of people pursuing to love as Christ loves. It was such an encouragement to us to spend the evening with them over wine and cheese. Our big girls enjoyed the evening with friends Houston and Christy and celebrated Earth Day taking in an Astros game.

I had intended to blog the raw, vegan pâté creation I made earlier this week but this isn't a cooking blog and that would be three recipes in a row. And we had such a wonderful time last night that I had to share that as well as some of the information we shared with the group.

Percentage of Believers per continent:

Africa: 20.39%
South America: 12.11%
Asia: 5.5%

How about Europe? Would you like to take a guess? 10%? 15%? More? Less? Here's what we've found: a staggering 1.1%. In France alone, it's even less: 0.82% Compare that to the 51% in the United States. (This information is primarily from international statistcs records and cross-checked with both faith and non-faith based organizations. Some sources had slightly different numbers but were within the same range. These numbers were gathered in 2007.)

Some continents and countries stand out with obvious need for food, water, education and the Gospel. Others are hidden behind the veil of materialism and influence. We would love to have a conversation with you exploring the state of the Christian Church in Europe, specifically France and the coming Global impact of this crisis. Few countries in the world have had France's global influence through the ages. For centuries, the Church provided the foundation of French society, and to this day, church buildings still hold the position of prominence in almost every city and village across the country. Unfortunately, those buildings are little more than relics of a time and a faith long since past.

Jeremy and I, along with our children, have been called by God to minister to the downtrodden, the artists, the sex workers, and the families of Paris, France. It will be our pleasure to share more with you about this call and if you would like more information, please don't hesitate to ask. We desire your prayers above all else as we continue to seek to follow God's will completely, with abandon. If you feel led to support us financially, through prayer, providing child care, with website design, graphic design, or in hosting a house party, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to read, this is our calling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Black Bean and spinach Humus- Serious Iron on a chip

I don't know what it takes for a dip to be called "humus," if it has to be made with chick-peas, if tahini is required or if any mashed bean of sorts will do.

Not that I care. I call this black bean humus anyway. We are always looking for a way to get more iron in all of us, particularly Helena and so I turned to two of my favorite sources of iron: spinach and black beans. I'll write out the basics of the recipe (if you can call it that) and then share some of the variations I've made as well.

- 2 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed
- 4 cups or so of fresh baby spinach (or more, I've used almost an entire 10oz container before)
- 2 garlic cloves or garlic powder, minced
- 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 3 tbsp water
- salt and pepper to taste
- half a bunch of fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tahini

Whiz beans in food processor gradually adding water. When beans are pretty smooth begin to add spinach one cup at a time. Add garlic, chili powder, parsley and salt and pepper. Serve with toasted bread, toasted tortillias, tortillia chips, carrot and celery sticks or whatever else strikes your fancy. I should warn you though, this stuff looks like poop. I played that up to the girls and they giggled with their first bites. The gross factor does wear off, I promise and as I type this up I decorated in black bean dip handprint smears by Evangeline and the other girls are around me nibbling on toast pieces dipped in this very thing... well, a variation of it.

The more economical version would be to soak and cook dry beans, divid them into freezer containers by 15 oz (or whatever unit works for you) and just pull those out as you need them. Significant savings.

Variations:

omit the tahini add basil and oregano and double the olive oil.

omit the tahini, olive oil and parsley double the chili powder, add half an avecado (optional, I didn't have one today so I skipped this part) and through in half a bunch of cilantro. A pinch of cyanne is also really good in this one but the girls won't eat that.

In reality I'm not convinced the olive oil is neccessary, I rarely put it in any more.

This has turned out to be a hit with the family, we enjoy it at least once a week and it has been known to be considered a meal a time or two because I consider it a better option than PB&J. It's fast, easy, the kids help and it's extremely high in iron, fiber, protien and just all around goodness. If you give it a try, let me know how yours turns out and any variations you come up with.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coconut Curry Chicken in the crock-pot

Ok, yesterday I was "complaining" about how good my house smelled while dinner was cooking and was asked to share the recipe. I know, what a thing to suffer, yummy smells from the kitchen. But there are two reasons why this was so difficult: 1.) it was a chicken dish and I've pretty much gone to being a vegetarian/vegan so it was pure torture to smell that good and 2.) it was a crock-pot recipe and it cooked ALL. DAY. LONG! I kept telling myself that I would make a tofu version of this recipe but didn't realize I actually did have extra firm tofu in the fridge to do so. Next time I will. Because I caved this time, fell off the proverbial wagon.

So, without further ado, the recipe I made yesterday...

It was loosely based on the Rachel Ray crock-pot Thai Coconut Curry Chicken recipe on the crock-pot lady's A Year of CrockPotting blog. One of the best blogs ever. Reading the recipe again, ok, it was very losely based on this one. I have made this one before, following it exactly. Once. Because I only ever follow a recipe exactly, once. If that. So never mind, here's my version!

- Frozen Chicken
- Two cans coconut milk, you could use light but it tastes better if you use the thick stuff.
- 1 Tbsp Hot Curry Paste
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 4 medium potatoes
- 2 sweet potatoes or yams
- 1 large onion or two little ones
- 1 red pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger, more if using dried.
- 1 C frozen peas
dash of salt and pepper

I used a 6 quart crock-pot.

Throw the chicken in the crock-pot frozen or fresh doesn't really matter but if it's frozen be sure you give it enough time to cook through. I think I used 5 breasts because that's what I had in the freezer, it was 1.79 lbs according to the label. You could use more or less and legs and thighs work well too, I know because I've used them.

Chop and add all the veggies but the peas. Add garlic, salt, pepper, brown sugar and ginger, I've also used a lot of ginger cut into long thin strips in this recipe if I'm going to be able to cook it a long time (on low rather than high) but my ginger was nasty so I had to opt for the powdered variety this time. Pour in one can of coconut milk, if you want a lot of the sauce like we do then fill that can with water and add that as well. Lastly, add curry paste which I think it could use more but my kids won't eat it then so Jeremy and I add more later but be careful if you do that, it's easy to over-do curry paste. Stir all the top ingredients (leave the chicken alone at the bottom), cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 but I have to tell you, it tastes so much better cooked on low and the chicken is melt in your mouth tender.

Thirty minutes before serving add the peas and the second can of coconut milk. This way the peas stay nice and bright green with a firm texture. If you add them too soon they turn kind of gray and mushy which I don't like at all but if that's your thing then go for it. This would also be a good time to start your rice if you're serving it over sticky/Jasmine rice. It's also great with couscous which takes a lot less time than the rice.

I serve straight from the stoneware of the crockpot but before I put it on the table I fish out the chicken and cut it up into chunks for easier serving and we eat less that way I've noticed.

This is a favorite dish of my family, we eat it as often as we can. It's easy and feeds the 6 of us with significant left overs which always makes me happy. That, and that there are only two cooking dishes dirty from this counting the rice pot and the crock-pot. Next time I really have to try to make one with tofu so I can eat guilt-free. But this time I enjoyed it and my guilt vanished by the second bite.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spontanity

I have always been a little bit... crazy. Impulsive, spontaneous, a sense of adventure and enjoy the wild side. Or I used to anyway. I'm beginning to think that I have changed.

Friday, Jeremy's mom (hi Mommy!) called and asked us to come for a visit... right away. As in, make it in time for lunch on Sunday. She's in Colorado Springs. We're in Houston. "You're spontaneous, right?!" She says on the voice mail. Spontaneous? Of course we are! Look at us, we're bohemians at heart, artists, go-with-the-flow types, of course we're spontaneous! But this wasn't just about us being spontaneous people, Grandma (Great-Grandma to the girls) is near the end and we wanted to see her before she passes. Jeremy's two sisters were already there for that very reason and it would be the first time in 10 years that all the siblings would be together. So we say yes, because we want to see Grandma and family. And we want to be spontaneous. Being practiced in spontaneity, we figure why not. We often jump on bikes for a spur of the moment trip to the grocery store for sushi, I've been known to head out to the park with only 5 minutes notice, rotting bananas have suddenly been pulled from the counter and thrown into batter for banana bread with no warning, obviously, we're spontaneous. In our lives, every day is spontaneous, I don't plan much of anything. It's only a 16 hour trip according to yahoo maps, no big deal! We live on spontaneity. Just throw everything you can find and all the kids in the van and we're off. After an oil change and new tires. Jeremy's mom called around noon on Friday, we were recovering from a late night at the theatre (HITs is putting on their production of Beauty and the Beast at Miller Outdoor Theater, Houstonians, if you didn't catch it last week you simply HAVE to go this weekend!) doing school work and working in the garden when we got her message. In the spirit of spontaneity we were on the road less than 12 hours later.

Four hours later I was reconsidering the value of spontaneity and Jeremy pointed out that impulsive people often have to be resqued. It looked like we were no exception. Something had happened with the oil change and 350 miles from home at 4:30am the oil light had come on, a strange knocking sound was coming from under the hood and it smelled like my oven in a way that is not good at all. Did I mention we were 350 miles north of Houston? Do you know what is 350 miles north of Houston? Nothing. And, wouldn't you know it, everyone had to pee. I'll spare you the details but of 6 people in the van only one was wearing a diaper and could actually pee in her pants and she was whining for different reasons. It seemed like it was a very long time before the tow truck pulled up. In the interest of keeping a very long story from getting ridiculously long, we made it into Wichita Falls, met quite possibly the nicest people on the planet there, had a complete strange buy our breakfast at Denny's for our entire family of 6, were told that nothing could be found wrong with the van and headed back on our way north. We only made it 250 miles before we had to stop again, this time we called the mechanic back in Wichita Falls so he could hear the sound the van was making at which point he said we needed to keep the van hot and get it to a mechanic ASAP. If there was nothing 350 miles north of Houston, there was zilch 600 miles. Small town after small town offered us but fleeting hope, most didn't have a mechanic and the ones that did had mechanics that didn't believe in working on Saturdays. Eventually a nice manager of a local grocery store called a friend in a slightly larger town further north of where we were and he offered to stay open to help us out. When we got there he listened and suggested we go see someone else further north still. Who sent us to someone else. Finally we were advised to get another oil change and see if that would fix the problem and hard to believe as this is, it worked! Oil change completed we were on our way. The only obstacles remaining were: fatigue, ice, fatigue, snow, fatigue, rain, fatigue, heavy fog, fatigue, grumpy kids, fatigue, potty breaks, fatigue, fatigue, fatigue. Close to 23 hours later we rolled into Colorado Springs almost too tired to move.

It was an amazing weekend. Jeremy and I got sick but were able to function, sorta. We had a wonderful time with family catching up, telling stories and making new memories. Grandma got to meet Evangeline, her youngest Great-Grandchild, Evangeline mastered stairs, it snowed Easter morning so after lunch there were snowball fights and sledding, Easter was celebrated as a family with everyone gathered around Grandma's hospital bed singing Easter hymns in four part harmony (punctuated with coughs from Jeremy and I), and days were extended into late nights talking. I struggled to relax having left an expecting client due any day back in Houston but eventually I was able to take a deep breath of the dry, thin Colorado air and let it go just a little while on a walk with the family. We had to high tail it back to Houston early Tuesday morning making our trip much too short but having to return to responsibilities back home. For now, spontaneity is pretty limited to how many diapers I can fit into a diaper bag and bike trips for ice cream but this trip was worth it. We will all remember the Easter where we sang Easter hymns in 4 part harmony around Great-Grandma and had snowball fights. I must find more ways for such precious memories.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Birthday

Today is my birthday. All I really asked for was getting to sleep in and foods I don't usually eat for breakfast. Already happened plus I got some lovely homemade gifts from the girls and a stack of books from Jeremy. It's shaping up to be a great day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Eight

I don't remember being 8. There are a few fuzzy memories of when I was 5 or of kindergarten anyway: "M" day where we all had to bring something that started with "M" and there were marshmallows, M&M's, a kid with red dots all over his face for "measles." A crush on PJ or was it JP? David chasing me around the playground trying to get a kiss and the substitute that was kind of mean about quiet time. After that I have vague memories of events or playing but I could have been any age. I remember some birthdays (the ice cream cake with clowns and the chocolate chip themed one), vacations, school projects, etc. but just being 8 doesn't stand out to me.

Maybe this is why sometimes I look at Lavinia and wonder where this variety of person came from and how in the world can I relate to her.

Two weeks ago she turned 8 and being that she got a big party last year this year it was a small affair, just family. We let her pick out whatever she wanted to eat for the day and after her initial request of French Toast, Doughnuts, Kolaches, Cupcakes, ice cream, crepes and a whole lot of other sweets we amended the "whatever you want part" to be "one breakfast option, some kind of non-sweet lunch and dinner option and one celebration sweet" which left plenty of room for lots of junk she normally doesn't get to have. She pouted but settled on French Toast, Macaronni and Cheese with hot dogs (yuck!), cupcakes, and pizza. Hardly growing food but we conceded and she enjoyed her feast of grease and sugar. We gave her the gifts in a similarly simple fashion, she gushed over an American Girl doll from Grandma and Grandpa Martin (only complained once that it wasn't the one she asked for) and carried her around changing her outfits and hairstyle multiple times a day right off the bat, she giggled over arts and crafts supplies from Jeremy and I, she hugged a new outfit, shrugged at the $50 she could spend anywhere on anything (amended to exclude everything normally excluded when she asked "Even a Barbi!?"), and squeeled over the "Fairy Realm" series. The best gift of all though was 6 rolls of Scotch tape all her very own. She loves tape, steals it constantly sticking it everywhere from walls to paper sculptures to herself. Jeremy and I had been half joking for two years now that we should get her tape and we finally did. I never expected that she would be so delighted by this gift, made me wonder why we didn't give it to her years ago. Oh to be 8 when Scotch tape would trump $50.

Today we had a call from the director of the home school enrichment program the girls go to on Tuesdays, she asked us to see her when we came to pick up the girls, there was something she needed to discuss with us. Apparently, during Creative Writing the boy (we'll call him Bob) Lavinia had a crush on last month decided to write the boy (we'll call him Joe) that Lavinia has a crush on this month and so Bob, who Lavinia informed she no longer liked, told Joe that Lavinia now liked him. Joe handed the note to Lavinia who freaked out and wrote a note back to Joe denying the whole thing and telling him that she infact hated him. Horrified that she told the boy that she does actually like that she hates him, her heart got the better of her and in front of the entire class she stood up and declared that she lied and that she does in fact have a crush on Joe. Her pension for drama earned her, along with Bob and Joe, a trip to the Director's office and a phone call to mom and dad. I wasn't exactly sure what my reaction was supposed to be so I laughed. Hard. Really, really hard. In case your wondering, the director laughed too. For that matter, perhaps the entire class did since they all witness her rather loud proclamation of love to Joe. A long conversation with daddy about how she doesn't need to be announcing her love to anyone outside her family for at least another 12 years or so Lavinia seems unphased by the entire experience. When asked if she was embarressed at all that the entire class heard she said no because she knew it was important to tell Joe how she really felt. She's 8. We are in so much trouble.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My baby is no longer a baby.

It happened suddenly and even though I suspected it would it is still a little sad. She still has the chubby cheeks and the little barrel belly with a little nose and pouty lips, she could still pass for a baby. Until she stands and walks across the room or dances to music on the stereo thus solidifying her place in toddlerhood. Unlike our other girls, Evangeline didn't go through a trying to walk phase, she simply didn't seem interested. She never held onto our fingers taking tipy-toe steps and giggling. There were no tottering attempts to stand and haltering steps followed by a plop on her bum. Content to crawl and cruise, she was far more interested in climbing: onto the couch, onto chairs, into cabinets and drawers, up the bunk-bed ladder, into the bath tub, onto tables and beds. After figuring out the up she started working on down and is pretty good too. Occassionaly we'd see her let go of the couch or chair, take a 2-3 steps and reach for the next piece of furniture in her way around the room. That was it. Nothing else to lead us to believe she was actually interested in walking. I started praying that she'd walk by Easter to properly show off the dress I've made for her, in white.

She started Friday, I wasn't with her for the first time in over a week. Jeremy and the girls were listening to music when she decided she wanted to dance with them. She left the couch and walked to the middle of the room to contribute her fancy dance moves. They cheered and she clapped for herself before continuing on to the table. She crawled a few more times but more and more she was spotted walking around from object to object pausing every now and then to clap for herself. By the time I got home she was napping and I was given reports from her excited sisters as to what amazing feets she had accomplished. When she got up she acted as though she had never done such things, crawling and cruising just as she had the day before. But then she remembered, stood herself up in the middle of the room and walked over to pick up a toy. There it was, it really happened. I couldn't pretend everyone else was making it up. I clapped and cheered for her and she clapped and cheered for herself.

She hasn't looked back. No falling or tottering, she is practically running now and loves to dance to any and every music she hears. She bounces, rocks, sways, and turns circles in her little dance. Asserting her independence, she doesn't walk TO people, only away and she doesn't see the point in holding hands. The only time she will walk to someone is if they are holding food but we all know that she's walking to the food, not the person. When friends were over Saturday night they commented how it looks like she's been walking for a little bit already, I suspect she's been doing it for months when nobody was looking.

So good bye baby, hello toddler!

video

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cave paintings and lizard soup

In history the girls and I are studying about ancient times, primarily the early nomadic people around Egypt and Mesopotamia before those places became Egypt and Mesopotamia. We've learned about the fertile crescent, how the people moved from place to place based on food sources, what they wore, how they hunted and gathered, what they ate(lizard soup anyone?), how they lived and how we know these things about them. Cave paintings, stories of their daily lives (which seem so much more interesting than mine!) recorded on walls of stone using fingers, leaves, sticks, and paints from plants and stones created thousands of years ago. I suspect, though I have no proof of this, they were compelled to make these rudimentary works of art not to record history for us thousands of years later but because they were moved to create and they created from what they knew, as simple as that. In examining cave paintings and then creating our own I found myself wondering if there was a designated "artist" in the community or anyone and everyone contributed when they felt so moved. Certainly there were those that had a natural talent for various arts but was it limited only to those that were declared masters and their students or was everyone welcome to dip into the thick and chunky paints they created turning their fingers orange as they smeared the goo on the cave walls. I have no idea but it's kind of fun to consider.

The girls made their own cave paintings. I like books, I love books and I can read history like it's a novel, completely fascinated by what people before us have done. This works for me. Not the girls so much. There are reasons to believe that if I want these lessons to stick with the girls we have to move beyond reading a book. So they create images of their own, in a sketch book, that reflects what we have learned, we call this "Waldorf Inspired." Vocabulary, dates, places, maps, and depictions are recorded there in their own hand sometimes following my lead in a crayon drawing, at other times creating their own original representation. Our cave painting experience went beyond our sketch books and onto several panels of dry wall left over and being tossed from our neighbor's post-Ike renovations. Set up in the "garage area" (just a small carport type thing), the girls used left over paints from the same renovation, leaves, sticks and their fingers to create paintings that depicted nomadic life in the crescent circle. They had a blast. There are now blue, red, rust, and orange-y paint smears on the grass in our backyard where they wiped their fingers clean and several sheets of dry wall leaning up against our house warping in the humidity making them even more cave like with their rough paintings of history. I'm not sure how much of this lesson will really stick but I know they won't forget cave painting or lizards soup- I know because that was part of their cave painting.

Pictures of our history lessons:









Everyone's Beautiful- except me.

Deep breath. It's simple really, just write a few sentences about your day, life with kids, homeschooling and whatever is in the crockpot at the moment. Not hard, you can do this.

Yes, I talk to myself. Even to prepare to write a blog post. In fact, I talk to myself all the time though it's never really to myself but to some imaginary host of readers. A host. There are 7 followers of my blog, hardly a host. But I love you guys, even if it doesn't appear that way thanks to my gross neglect of my blog. They don't make it here often but I write post after post in my head through out my day, I'm thinking of you, I promise.

The neglect is over, it ends here. I'm blogging again. Last night I had dinner with an author, Katherine Center, a wonderful woman who nicely kicked me in the rear though I don't think she realized it. Blog, she said, and write. Constantly struggle with the balance but at least struggle. So here I blog. My confession, I want to be a writer, always have but have always dismissed it as something that would never happen because, well, there are millions of people that want to be a writer and last night I learned what I already knew with out numbers to back it up- something like one in 900 submissions to a publisher get published. The number could have been 9,000, I don't exactly remember and in reality it doesn't exactly matter, the odds are not good. Still, I'm going to try. Here's my first attempt, I'm telling the world that I want to be a writer and I'm working on a book. All 7 of you. Plus maybe my mom, and if she can figure out how to comment she might even say hi. Hi mom.

The question is what to blog about. In my mind, my life is boring, really boring. I see beauty in my life but I am not part of it, just the onlooker of beautiful moments that perhaps only I'd appreciate because they are created by the glue and painted covered hands of my offspring. Cooking, cleaning, home schooling, knitting, and occasionally writing, not exactly the stuff of captivating posts and I'm not about to have a specific theme to my blog, say homeschooling or crafting because I am far too unfocused and unorganized to achieve that well. My blog reflects my life, a little bit of everything and profoundly unorganized and the idea of recording that chaos somewhere and holding it up for the world to see (yes, even the 7) is rather intimidating. Sure, I could present something that is nice and polished, like a semi-precious stone cut and smoothed to shine as something of real value but in reality I would know, it's still just a piece of rock you can find on a hiking trip made to look pretty. No, that doesn't interest me, if for no reason other than I stink at lying. I'd be found out. All it would take is for one person that's been to my house to say something and it would be all undone. Sticking with the truth even if it is messy and unglamorous.

Enough about me. Last night my good friend, Monette (currently blog-less, this situation must be remedied) invited me to an event she planned for her club to have dinner with Katherine Center who is *gasp* really a very normal woman and mother. Borrowing Katherine's most recently published book, Everyone's Beautiful, from Monette, I read through it in about 3 days, give or take. I would have read it in less time, an easy read it's free flowing conversational style makes it hard to put down but I had a few distractions that required I feed and teach them at least once in a while. It was everything all the quotes and reviews said it would be and more. Mildly depressing for maybe three quarters of the book for me not because it's a depressing story, on the contrary, it's funny, poignant, real, and engaging, but because in the telling of a young stay-at-home-mother with three children under 4 it was a little too real for me. I squirmed at times in spite of my laughter with the feeling that I could relate with the main character a little too well. This is so much of what made it so I wanted to read it all in one sitting. Uncomfortable though I may be with the idea that I could relate to this character I had to see where the book was going, what was going to happen to her. She starts off the book declaring that she decided to change and I had to know what that change would be and how it would take place. The further I got into the book the more I had to know about this change, if for no other reason than to have hope for myself.
Read this book if you have been a mother of small children, are a mother of small children, want to be a mother of small children, or have a mother. Though it's a book about a mother of small children in reality it's about so much more, a book about feeling stuck and what we do to change it. A story of love, hope, promise, and the humor in life that accompanies us on whatever path we're on if we have the courage to see it. And beauty, a story of beauty. I'm attempting to find that in myself now too.

And that was more than a few sentences. I really need to write a book.