Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rhubarb Cream Cake~

A couple of days ago, before my thoughts got swept up in reflections of grief and heartbreak, I had noted that I would be making a cake with my kids. While some of you may think it doesn't make sense to post a cake recipe after writing about such personal feelings, for me it makes perfect sense. It makes me realize the connection that everything has in life. It makes me realize that bad and good happen simultaneously in this world. And that helps me to believe and trust in God- if that makes any sense at all. For me it comforts me- knowing that God has everything in control at all times- even when it doesn't make sense to you and I.
So, the fact that I'm posting a picture of cake and sharing the recipe with you doesn't mean that I've forgotten and moved on so quickly from the deep feelings I've been processing, but instead that I am accepting reality and I live my life moment to moment. The ups and downs all fit together and create this crazy, difficult, wonderful, questioning adventure called life.
What you see here is a picture of a piece of Rhubarb Cream Cake topped with real whipped cream. This cake holds deeper meaning than just taste and calories for me. It was a favorite of Teagan's- she would help me pick the rhubarb when we made this cake- it was an early sign of spring and renewal too; that life holds great things after a long, dreary winter. This cake not only tastes yummy, but it embodies wonderful memories for me at the same time. How many things did you eat this week that made you stop and think or remember and reflect too? I think sometimes we need to slow things down and appreciate all of our sense in life- including taste.
Okay- so you should totally be dying for the recipe by now- so without further ado...
Rhubarb Cream Cake as told by my mother~
Make a yellow or white boxed cake mix according to directions. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9x13 cake pan. Next chop 4-5 cups of rhubarb into 1/4 inch pieces. Sprinkle the rhubarb pieces over the top of the cake batter evenly. Next, sprinkle 2/3 cup of sugar over the rhubarb and cake batter. Open a small package of dry strawberry jello and sprinkle that over the cake. (You think this is strange, but trust me...I'm not making this up!). Finally, pour a pint of half and half cream over the entire cake and sprinkles. Place the 9x13 pan into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 45-55 minutes. You may eat it warm or refridgerate and eat it chilled. I've had it both ways and still can't decide which way I like it best. And I love, love this with real whipped cream. But that's a genetic thing for me...Dad was a former dairy farmer and my Mom just plain loves the stuff. So, that's how I like it best.
Good luck with this and if you actually make this- come back here and rate this in my comments from 1 to 5 stars!

Friday, April 28, 2006

My gut hurt...

Yesterday morning I got a phonecall from a close friend telling me that some acquaintances had just received the terrible news that their 18 year old daughter had been killed in a terrible accident. Chills went up and down my spine, my throat got tight, my gut hurt, and for the rest of the day, I relived my own experience of overwhelming grief, pain and heartache.
My hubby would say that I've said enough on this subject- that you've heard all you need to hear. But this is where I come to process my thoughts, to spill out my feelings and to learn from my own words. So, today is one of the days where I do just that. I tell myself what I already know. I revisit some of the lessons I've learned over and over in life. I remind myself of the truths I've experienced- and hope to gain maybe a bit more insight. Or appreciate my life, right now, a little bit more- even though I thought I was already doing a good job of that. I listen to the messages my heart is pouring out once more.
I never would have dreamed that I would be one who understands another mom's ache for the loss of her daughter. That's where the hurt in my gut came from all day yesterday. My mind raced and remembered all the painful moments that have consumed me since the death of Teagan. I know- through my own life experiences- that the road ahead of the family whose path crossed with that of unexpected death is not an easy journey to take. It is one they will wish they could jump off of every morning when they wake. It is one that will try every last ounce of the strength of their soul. It is one that forever taints every happy moment they will experience in life again- life will never be the same- as innocent, as easy, as carefree. Their hearts will bear scars forever.
I was consumed with these thoughts all day and can't help but wonder what it all means in the grand scheme of life. It reminds me that life isn't fair. It reminds me that pain and grief is something anybody can face at any moment in time. It reminds me again of how precious time is with our loved ones. It reminds me of how so many things in our lives are not really as important as we think they are- we would love more and just simply BE- if we knew it was the last day with the ones we care most about. We can't take back time. We can't change the past. We can simply live in the moment we have today.
In nearly five years, I've learned that life hurts too much when you look at it in reverse. I'm not saying I don't revisit memories of Teagan or the moments of bliss we shared. But, I've found to focus on what I had and what I wished I'd done differently, or what could have happened instead of what did happen- brings me down. It creates a wound that can never heal. The only cure I've found is my faith. The faith that gives me HOPE and PEACE and COMFORT and JOY in life again. It tells me of a future in Heaven where all the questions I have will be answered; where the pain of living will be understood. It is how I live- it is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse. It is the reality I live in that Heaven isn't really that far off- it is only a breath away and we are all "mists who appear for a short time and then vanish". It is what keeps me going in the darkest moments, it picks me up and helps me see beauty in life- the here and now every single day. I hope my experience helps to bring out the best in others' lives. That you can appreciate your journey because of the way I've learned to walk mine.
My heart goes out to Newell, Colleen and Carly. I hurt because I understand the hurt they are feeling and will feel for years to come. But I also have a picture in my mind that brings a smile to my face. It is one of their beautiful daughter, Whitney. She is glowing from the light of Heaven around her today. She is breathing the air of Heaven. She knows only sheer delight and is astounded by the glory all around her. I know the Cerak family shares the same faith I possess, and in that I take great comfort. Nothing in life compares to it- and I hope they find it to be an unending source of all they need to meet the deepest needs of their hearts as they pick themselves up and start the new journey of their life.
My wish for you is that you would have this same understanding when life hands you brokeness and heartache. That's my Nitty.Gritty. hurting thoughts for today- that I find really comforting, because they bring peace as well.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Treasure hunt

Are you ready for a little trip today? I hope so. You are just going to have to trust me on this one. I know it's not normal, but I've found a lot of great things and surprises in life are just waiting around the corner if we are willing to take a peek.
So, today I am sending you on a sort of "treasure hunt" if you will. Instead of writing out my most recent thoughts, you are going to have to click over to another blog to find them. I happened to stop by a blog that I go to usually once or twice a week. This morning I was led to comment and my words got rather lengthy in response to what Greta had written.
She is an artist at heart, but has a message within. I would love for you to go to her blog, and read her post titled "Let My Lifesong Sing to You". Then I want you to click on the comments section and read my response. That's my post for you today. It's where my heart and soul are at at this very moment in time.
Then if you feel led, please leave her a comment- or even better, come back here and leave one for me. I'm so hope you find this to be worth the extra effort. I believe that some of life's best blessings are there for the taking- we just need to go the extra mile. I hope this message is something your heart needs to hear. Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Me and the Creative Cronies...

Here are three of about 75 pictures that were snapped at Scrap Etc. event for your viewing pleasure. I will add a few more featuring me and my cool California roomy- plus the always zany Kelli Crowe and maybe a couple of others. But I kind of feel hoggish too. Like I want to protect and keep private some of the moments that I experienced as they were so meaningful to me and I don't want to trivialize their importance by sticking them up here for all to see. Now I get a small taste of what real-life celebrities feel like when their pictures are snapped and released to the media without their consent. And even though I am doing this more for me (and don't worry! I know I'm no big-shot, so you can spare the snide remarks in the comments already, okay?!), I just feel like there is a certain level of respect for all parties involved, and I am not going to be the person to taint other's reputations. That's that.
I apologize to those of you who come here looking for a daily dose of depth and insight to inspire you in your daily routine- but just play along here for another entry or two of my new-found "scraphappiness." What an amazing thing it was for me to be able to connect with people who look at life in a similar manner as myself. It gave validity to my creativity, thoughts, hopes and just plain made me feel good about who I am. Any concerns I had about the money I was spending on this trip and the time I would be away from family proved to be just me overthinking the whole scenerio. Those worries vanished from the moment the event began. I went. I had a great time. I got new ideas. I met new friends. I was inspired. I think that basically justifies my actions.
Today. More laundry, more unpacking and just doing what we all do at my house. Make messes, clean up, make more messes (which specifically includes baking a Rhubarb Cream Cake- dee-lish, may have to post picture of that cake and recipe too...), clean up and just enjoy life in all it's simple glory. Afterall, isn't that what makes life wonderful?!

Monday, April 24, 2006

This is what you get...

I'm home. Back from the longest stretch of me-time I can remember and it was wonderful. And exhausting. But it felt good and whatever doubts I had about going to that scrap event melted over the course of the weekend and by the time I headed home yesterday it was though I could look up and see all the stars lined up in place for me. I chose to be bumped from my original flight home and got a round-trip ticket to use for another time. It was so reassuring to me that I had truly been in the right place at the right time. Don't you just love it when that happens?!
So, to anybody who stops by that was witness to the Scrap Etc event, leave a comment to say hi. You were a pleasure to be around and I hope I can do it again sometime.
There is no feeling in the world that compares to the hugs one gets from the "stars of your life" after being away from home for any length of time. I've got some truly happy kids this morning- happy just to have me home. I only wish they could appreciate me like this all the time! No matter. I am enjoying the extra big smiles, the tight hugs around my neck, the kisses from two kids on my cheeks at the same time, and just simply feeling their love. Oh yeah. Chip's happy I'm here too. And Rachael is probably feeling relief.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Kickin' it up a notch.

First off- let me just address all of you who want pictures here. They are forthcoming. I promise. I think I may post them over a period of time, just so I don't overexcite some of you with too much of me- downright happy- blissful, even- at once. But don't worry they're a comin'.
The really neat thing for me isn't actually even posing with these fun people, because I can PhotoShop myself {and I've done it before...seriously} into a picture with them, but it's about witnessing their creativity and passion for life and art and all things inspiring in person. Talk about an experience! I'm feeling a certain vibe with these "people" despite the fact that I don't necessarily do what they do (which is make scrapbook pages and albums)- and I may even catch the "bug" before I leave and actually start to do it in my own life. I'm walking the line at this point...and the terrific part is how good it feels!
Just being around such a wealth of creativity and talent has made me want to kick it up in my own self. My level of "coolness" has just about peaked out {if that's possible} by rubbing elbows with all the "greats" of the scrapbook industry.
I'm thinking that the let-down that's gonna hit me early next week while I'm emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry is gonna be a bummer- but I'll have proof in pictures of the feeling I've got right now. I'll just have to print a bunch out- sticking up on the fridge and make myself happy all over again.
"Seacrest out." Where'd that come from?! Nitty.Gritty. out! =)

Friday, April 21, 2006

I would like to say I'm missing you.

Really I would. But I'm not. Yet anyway. (You had to read the title of this post for all that to make sense.)
I'm in Birmingham, baby...and for all you scrap-happy people out there, you would love to be me right now. Uh huh, uh huh. I've had my picture with Lainie, KelliCrowe, Carrie Colbert, Cathy Zielske and Heidi Swapp so up Elsie Flannigan! Who wants to be next?! Line up behind all the cool people. {wink}
On a lot of days in my ususal life- I sometimes have moments when I sit and think about who I wish I could trade places with in life for a day or two. Not today. Probably not tomorrow either. I am living la vida buena {that's Spanish for livin' the good life, isn't it?!}. So, after more than ten years of never being anywhere without my husband and/or kids for more than 24 hours, I am loving my new found freedom! I promise I will board the plane Sunday morning and head back to reality and I love and miss my family...but for now, I'm soaking it all in.
And while I'm feeling it and living it- I might as well encourage it to all of you. Take a minute for yourself. Crank up the radio when you're driving yourself to work tomorrow morning. Jump at the chance to remind yourself how great of a person you are... aside from being parent, employee, husband or wife, mom or dad, and enjoy a moment in life all to yourself. Or if you're lucky (like me) take a whole weekend. I'm thinking I shouldn't wait another 10 years to do something for myself again. Oh well, I can't obsess about all my missed opportunities in life when I'm in the middle of loving me and my present moment!
If I don't come back here for another day or two- just know I'm having the Nitty.Gritty. time of my life!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How do kids know?

I'm wondering if it is in their DNA as kids- to have the ability to know when they are pushing too hard, and suddenly there's a moment when they have to turn on the charm...
Isabella has been so good at this lately. Last night she pulled this stunt on me at bedtime. She's a handful at getting tucked in and making her stay or at least read books quietly- she seems to get more and more energy as the night wears on. So, last night was no different, except that I was on my own at bedtime- with no nanny or Daddy to jump in and have them take a turn with her. She was begging me to come lay down for a few minutes. Normally- no big deal. Last night- uh, let's see...I'm trying to get my life all in order for this weekend when I'll be gone to Alabama. I had plenty of things to do, and the least pressing item on my to-do list was lay down and snuggle til my 3 year old falls asleep.
But, being the mom-in-th-moment kind of mom, I decided to lay down- rather than threaten and yell and lose my patience- which in case you're wondering, does wear thin on occasion. Last night it was getting pushed- but still had some give. So, I settled down next to Bella and expected her to start singing or story-telling or asking me if we can get a dog or something. Instead, she just turned over and said, "I love you, best Mommy. Merry Christmas."
If I were the kind of person to tear up easily, I would have been bawling. (No tears from me last night- thanks mostly to my staunch German heritage.) I did grin from ear to ear and I stayed a few minutes longer than I would have had Bella not poured on the sweetness.
So, that's my Nitty.Gritty. mushy story for you today. And to think I never, EVER, EVER wanted kids- when Chip and I first met. You know people are always telling people without kids that it'll be so different when you get your own. Well, the truth is, it's not different. Kids can be a real pain when they want to be. They can stress you out more than you dreamed possible. They can make you worry til you think your heart will break. But, they can be the most wonderful thing in the world- at a moment when you think you're almost running on empty. They can change a moment from being one you dread into one you hope you never forget. With a simple sentiment at bedtime such as, "I love you....Merry Christmas". In the middle of April, no less!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Nitty.Gritty. Wedding Song Game

I think the real winner in this whole thing is me! I got to "meet" some regulars here- thanks so much for your kind notes and for guessing too. We have a winner...Missy, you may email me your address and I'll try to get something in the mail before I take off for my weekend.
The song Chip and I danced to was "Fly Me to the Moon". I fell in love with it from the movie "Once Around" (Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter), and on one of our dates Chip was whistling the tune as we walked along the hallway of a mall. I had just doodled the lyrics as I sat in one of my college classes earlier that day.
You know how when you're falling in love with someone, everything just seems so meaningful?! That song was it for me that day. Later on in life, it was one of the songs that Chip could sing to Teagan and she would calm down for him so well. As she grew up she learned all the words to it too. Funny how a simple song can hold such meaning.
Anyway, I'm glad to see that there are still a few of you out there reading Nitty.Gritty. Don't worry. I don't plan on shutting this blog down anytime soon- even if I stop getting comments altogether- I'm doing this first for me. You just happen to get in on the deal! If your comments link to a blog or webpage, I want you to know I check you out too. Sometimes I leave comments as well.
Thanks again to all my "new" blog fans. And congrats to Missy for getting the song right! Ciao for now.

Wanna play along?

I've noticed my "ratings" dropping off around here, and so I'm pulling out my big guns today. Are you ready to play along? Here's the jiggity-jig.
Be the first person to correctly guess the song that played while Chip & I danced our first dance as husband and wife. You may guess up to three different songs- but there's a small catch. You must NOT have commented on Nitty.Gritty. prior to this post- I'm looking to see if there are people out there reading, but not responding (besides you, Andy!) The winner gets a Nitty.Gritty. piece of mail and probably a tiny fridge magnet or something like that.
Just so you know, I read all my comments- so don't try to sneak in the game. Unless I hit 24 comments and nobody has answered correctly. At that point I will open it up to anyone who wants to play along. (I picked 24 comments because I've topped out my comments at 23 people so far.) Good luck and I look forward to "meeting" some of you!
Hubby thinks I've gone blog-insane to post a game such as the "wedding dance song" game, but I guess I'm okay with that. I know he still reads this and loves me the same- no matter what I write about.
So, I am now opening this silly game up to anyone who wishes to play along- and who doesn't think I'm as wacko as my hubby thinks that I am. You may guess once- because here's a big clue...We danced to a classic tune by Frank Sinatra. It was a tune that came up early on in our dating relationship, and it kind of just stuck out as the song for us that day. When I hear it at the weddings I work at, it always makes me smile!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gearing up...

We had a happy Easter at our house this weekend. I am happy to say that although the chocolate bunnies and colored eggs are a fun touch, Easter has much more depth and meaning than that. I hope you found your celebration to be more than just enjoying food and family, even though that is a good thing, and were stirred inside at the thought of the deeper meaning of this holiday. For me it is a reminder of the HOPE that awaits me for all eternity- my religion celebrates a living God and Savior. It means that I pray to a God who hears me, cares for me, has a plan for me, and has a place waiting for me in heaven with Him someday. My faith is more than just going to church or doing good things in hope that I am counted worthy of getting into heaven someday. I hope that you already have this same hope and assurance through your faith. If not, I hope you will seek it with all your heart until God becomes as real to you as He is to me!
That's the meaningful stuff for today. The rest of my thoughts are consumed with my preparations for the rest of the week. Three days til I'm on my way to Alabama for my Scrap weekend! The tough part of the trip is all the stuff I have to do before I leave home. I'm the kind of person who likes to have all my bases covered- you know- the obsessive, over-thinking mom...that's me. I was thinking, if something happened where I did check out "for good" it would take a small team to fill my shoes. That's a good and bad thing. It makes me realize how much I do for my family- and I feel good about that; they deserve a lot of me- but it means doing a lot of extra work so that life runs smoothly while I'm away.
I've been having fun making little goodie bags for the ladies that will be teaching the scrap classes in Birmingham- you know, Elsie, Carrie Colbert, Heidi Swapp and Cathy Zielske. The fabulous four! I made a bunch of mini-magnets for each of them by pulling pictures and logos off their blogsites. I figure most of them probably have a magnet board somewhere in their scrap area- or at the very least they have a fridge that they can stick 'em on. Or they can give them away to someone who really wants them.
I guess I've got plenty on my Nitty.Gritty. to-do list this week. Wish me luck!!!

Friday, April 14, 2006

That special connection...

Twenty-nine years ago a young lady made a decision in her life that affected my life in a permanent and special way. I'm sure it was the most difficult decision of her life; one that has caused her to shed more tears than she can count. That woman is my youngest brother's birth mom. Jeff came to our family in a unique way. I believe it was planned out before the world began- so it was no surprise to God- but it wasn't totally unexpected in the lives of my parents and us as his brothers and sisters back in 1977.
My dad had recently sold a farm and given up his life as a dairy farmer in order to go to college and pursue a degree to do ministry- specifically as a church minister. My mom stayed home with my siblings and I- there were four of us ages 2-8. Needless to say, we had a very busy household and a full life. Or so we thought.
A simple phonecall to my mom in the middle of the day changed all that. The man on the phone asked if she would be home that night because a baby would be dropped off at our doorstep. My mom laughed, but went along with what she thought seemed to be a prank, and much to our surprise, in the middle of an April thunderstorm, late into the night there was a knock at the door and a man handed over a baby to my dad. He gave him a slip of paper and told him to contact by phone the lawyer written that note. That was it. My dad didn't ask questions.
Imagine the surprise and delight in our home when me and my sisters and brother woke to find a new baby in our house. I remember all the questions we had... "Where did he come from? Are we gonna keep him? What should we call him? Where did he come from again? I didn't know we were gonna have a baby!"
I was four years old at the time. I was so in love with babies and puppies and anything small and cuddly at that age. I "claimed him" as mine. My mom told us he may not stay with us forever, that his other mommy might come back and take him back to her home. She found me sleeping on the floor in front of his makeshift bed that second night he was with us. When she woke me to take me back to my bed she asked, "Jody, what are you doing sleeping here on the floor?" I matter-of-factly replied, "If his mom is going take him back she's gonna have to step on me first!"
Thankfully Jeff stayed in our home and lives for good. He has been a part of our family since he was five days old, although his adoption wasn't complete until he was 11 months old. I have always felt a special connection with my brother Jeff. He and I have shared a bond as brother and sister that isn't always typical. We never had the spats and fights and rivalry that a lot of brother/sister relationships have. We have laughed and goofed around and been good buds since day one.
This past fall Jeff married his beautiful wife, Marci and they have two wonderful kids, Rachel and Owen. Jeff's life has had its share of struggles, as well as joy and moments he has accomplished so much! I am proud to this day, to say that he is my brother. I couldn't imagine my life without him in it- he has added a dimension that although it wasn't planned or decided by my parents, has added much happiness to all our lives the past 29 years.
Today I say thank you to his birth mother, Robin, and I hope she knows deep in her heart that she gave us a gift we cannot put a price tag on. To Jeff, I say "Happy Birthday." I believe in fate and purpose and I'm so glad that God put you in our lives in a very special way. Best wishes for another year of happiness and joy! All my love, Girl.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's not about the cardstock.

My blogging took a backseat to papercrafting yesterday. I know there are a lot of people who just don't "get" this thing I have with paper, plain or polkadot. But it's more than that to me. It's something that goes much deeper- back to kindergarten and first grade, when I remember being so proud of getting S+ and Os for grades in things such as cutting and basic art. It has to do with an inner characteristic that exists and gets jazzed up inside me when holiday times come around, or any other idea that comes to mind that can be recreated in reality.
For me the fun started when I realized I could pull out a bunny from my great big book of clipart and do something with the silouette. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had an arrangement of bunny cards ready to pop in the mail to say "Happy Easter/Springtime" to some of my family and various friends.
It makes me happy to make stuff- especially when that stuff includes Heidi Swapp photo corners and 3-D embellishments like the cottonball tail on these bunnies. Can't you just feel the love in these simple little cards?! You should, because Bella sat up with me gluing and cutting and "helping" until 11:30 pm. She's my budding obsessive crafter/artist, which of course, I will only continue to encourage her to pursue.
My point here today, besides mentioning how much I love mail, is that we all have something in life that we enjoy doing. As much as I am good at math, I'd go crazy sitting at a desk doing accounting all day long. Yet I know people who love that line of work. Others people love to compete- and they fuel themselves by preparing for sporting events. I get worn out just thinking of what actually goes into running a marathon!
One of the fun things for me to see through this blog is the diversity we all posess. Every person in this world has something to offer. Spring is the season of new beginnings and fresh starts. I encourage you to do something in your own life that taps into the thing that you "shine" at. That thing that gets your heart pumped just thinking about it. You know what it is in your life. Maybe you do it everyday- if you're lucky it's your job and you get paid doing what you love. Consider yourself blessed. If it's not your job and you haven't enjoyed your special talent or gift in life for awhile, I challenge you to carve out time in your schedule to do something that makes you happy- just because. It may be really simple- like my bunny cards- but it will do good for your heart and soul. And doing good things for my heart and soul always creates some sort of positive ripple effect in my life. Some of you will be getting some mail soon. I hope you enjoy the ripple.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Glitch and perspective...

Okay. There was a glitch in the system. Now it's back to normal, but at one point there were two of the same posts here. The second post wouldn't allow comments. Thanks to those of you for contacting me and sharing your thoughts by regular email instead!
Here's an update to my previous post just hours ago.
To keep my reality in check, Bella was in true form this morning. She did the whole run with her arms open for a hug this morning, but then things took a major turn from sweetness. She normally does very well in the bathroom by herself, but this morning as I helped her two sisters get changed and dressed, Bella took it upon herself to take her jammies off and then she proceeded to dangle the pants in the toilet.
I stepped around the corner of the door to check on her and this is what I saw. She looked up at me and said, "Um." I said, "Um....what are you doing?" (See Chip? Most moms would be freaking out yelling at this point. No. Not me. I just said, Um....what are you doing. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that maybe she had a really good reason to be sticking her pants in the toilet. Turns out she didn't- but the point is I could have lost it. Really. It would have been justified at 9:45 am. I just happen to have a high tolerance for obscure behavior and a bit of patience to boot.)
Bella just stood there. Then she said, "I'm cleaning my jammies." I said, "We don't clean our jammies in the toilet- ever, okay?" She hands the last dry corner of one pantleg to me and said, "Okay." Then I wanted to make sure that her 3-year old "Okay." meant, "Yes, Mommy. I totally get it. I will never stick my pants or any other clothes in the toilet again. Okay." So I tested her. "Bella, where will you never dangle any of your clothes again", I asked. "Um. I don't know", she answered. "In the toilet?" I suggested. " the toilet." she replied. Once more, just because I wasn't so thrilled with the amount of coaxing I had had to do in the previous test, I tried again.
"Bella, is the toilet a place where you are ever gonna put your clothes inside? Think for a second about this. Do you think Mommy wants you to put clothes into the toilet?" "No, Mommy. It's not a great idea to put jammies in the toilet. You can clean 'em in the wash." I smiled. "Thanks Bella. You're so smart. Now Mommy is going to do some laundry. Is that a good idea?" She jumped up and down twice while saying, "Yeah!"
I'm so glad I can blog about the joys of parenting. Oh yeah. I love it all. Especially when you realize that your kid has just learned a valuable life lesson and it's not even noon yet. Love that!

Equal airtime

Being a mom, as all of you moms already know, is life's biggest juggling act. It is my standing disclaimer here at Nitty.Gritty. that I am not an expert or sometimes even qualified in this arena of parenting, I simply have a lot of kids- which means I am experienced and have a few good tips. On the good days I can come here and brag to the world in picture and in word. On the bad days I am doing everything within my power not to chop my own head off and give up. Of course it's a disgusting thought- and I would never come close to doing something like that for real (I'm much too cool of a mom for THAT!), but life gets harried around here at times. Even striking a yoga pose and humming a monotone note with my eyes shut while breathing through my nose wouldn't bring things back to normal at times. Yet there's something about kids that makes you want to try. To try to be great- even in the day to day.
So today I am giving Bella her rightful blogspace- as Brock had his pancake post and Ava and Wyndham had their recent spotlights as well. I've got friends and family who check here for pictures and updates- so I'm being "fair and balanced" as a mom. [Incidentally, if you like fair and balanced journalism, you can check out for more of that subject.]
I couldn't help but pull out a photo of Teagan at the same time I give you Isabella- so that you can see the striking resemblance they share for yourself. It still stops me in my tracks on occasion, when I find Bella with a certain look or mannerism that was so "Teagan" at that same age. While Bella will never fill her big sister's shoes, I do look at her at times as my sort of "bonus kid", in that Chip and I were not even remotely thinking of more kids in our life when we found out we were pregnant with Bella. I did pray long and hard for another girl once I found out I was going to have another baby...but believe me, I never expected to get one with so many shared features to Teagan. Bella has been a big reason I'm the person I am today- post tragedy- with happiness and joy in life. She has been one of the reasons I've wanted to breathe again and experience the goodness life still affords to me.
Although keeping up with her energy and enthusiasm for even the little things in life can be exhausting (like her not going to bed until roughly 10:30 - 11:30 most nights),I can't help but love everything about her. I love the way she comes running to me in the morning with her arms open wide to give me a tight hug. I love the glint in her eye; the way she smiles mischieveously when she's planning her next adventure. I love that when she's being scolded she says through her tears, "I want to be a nice girl". She has a big heart. She has the energy to match and it makes my job enormous and full everyday. Bella, along with the rest of the gang in my house, is the reason I strive to be my best. I don't deserve all I've been given. But I recognize the gifts in my life. And I a realize my good fortune of being a part of theirs everyday.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"She makes me want to be a better person"

I basically stole the title of this post from Jack Nicholson's line to Helen Hunt in the movie, "As Good as it Gets". But, you know, it's so true. For the rest of my life I don't think I can ever tell too much about Wyndham that I will tire of her story. How does a person get sick of talking about a miracle?! From age 3 weeks, Wyndham has had to fight for her life- literally at times. She's small in stature, but she makes up for it in perseverance and heart. I snapped these pictures over the weekend. They make me smile; I think they should make you smile- even if you aren't her mother.
You see, a year ago at this time Wyndham was only crawling on her hands and knees to get around. She could stand steady, only if she were leaning against a wall. She had just learned to climb up the stairs, but she couldn't go down the stairs. She was rarely letting us know if she had preferences of any kind. For example, if she were hungry, even though she knew some basic signs, she wouldn't let us know she wanted something to eat. She wouldn't fuss or cry or throw a fit. She would simply wait for us to bring it up or wait until mealtime.
These pictures give you a small glimpse of just how far she has come. She is in a wonderful rehab program and has therapy three times a week. (occupational, physical and speech therapy) All the hours she logs there are obviously paying off. Wyndham is walking independently, she is signing much more often, and in one picture, she even got her own little cup from the cupboard and poured herself a drink from the spout on the refrigerator. I was so proud of her! I wonder just how proud she is inside herself. I know she understands that she has certain limitations in life. What she'll never know is how much she inspires me every single day. Some people will never witness a miracle in their life. I get to live with one everyday. And sometimes it's nice to share my good fortune with people like you.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Weddings, weddings, weddings!

Good thing I love weddings, because basically from now until October I will be going to at least one wedding reception each weekend, and sometimes two! I work at a golf club which is host to these receptions and so I show up, help with last minute setting up, coordinate with the caterer and musicians, as well as tend bar. It is a fun job for me because I get to see how each bride has such different taste in decorations, formalwear and the cakes can be an event in themselves. So, if you find me slacking on the ol' Nitty.Gritty. blog on Friday and Saturday nights- most likely it's because I'm off watching the bridal party dancing up a storm or trying to keep the groomsmen from having too much fun! If you love looking at wedding stuff as much as I do you can click over to for some couture veils; I also love thumbing through Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine for great design ideas- I look at how I can turn "wedding stuff" into "other stuff" party favors for a kids birthday or how I can talk my hubby into dressing in 60's or 70's vintage clothing along with me and the kids on location for a funky family photo. See the retro layout in the current Weddings issue for the effect I'm going for. And of course, if we ever do the "flashback family shoot" I will post photos here first! Now, I'm off to get ready for a wedding reception. How lucky am I?!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why would you take advice from this face?

Money. Dinero. Moolah. Cash. Pounds. Francs... No matter what you call it, this stuff is a big part of the lives of most people in the world- particularly Americans. Why you would take my advice concerning money, I don't know. Maybe because I look a little bit like Suze Orman. I will say upfront that I am not trained in financial advising. I have strong opinions on money and how it should be handled- but I am not a professional in any way, shape or form as far as dollars are concerned. So what you read here should be taken as my opinion and regarded (or disregarded) as such.
I'm not sure if it's the fact that taxes are due soon, or what, but I've decided to post some of my personal Nitty.Gritty. thoughts on money here for you to read. First of all, I want to say that I truly believe that much of the way we feel about money in life comes from the way we were raised in it. My childhood experiences with cash- earning it, saving it, spending it, donating it- all of that influenced me deeply as to how I view it today. I was brought up with very conservative, traditional views of money. I opened a CD account and had a savings account by the time I was in third grade. I remember being so proud of the fact that I had my name printed on deposit slips with the logo from ZAPP bank. I did a lot of babysitting in my neighborhood and I earned quite a bit of money through junior high and high school. (I found waiting tables to be much more profitable than babysitting!)
After putting 10% in the offering on Sundays at church, most of the rest of my earnings I put into savings. I loved to watch my account grow. I got my first credit card when I was in 10th or 11th grade- I rarely used it, but my dad thought it would be good for me to establish a credit rating. I would buy gas for the car, or charge a few necessities when I was at Target, and then each month I paid off my full balance. Having a credit card was a pretty simple thing in my life. I don't even think I realized it could get me into trouble. I understood that I should only buy things in life that I could pay for in the end. I never thought to buy something "big" just to have it, or to pay for it over a series of months. If I really wanted a big item, I saved enough money for it and then purchased it, or decided if I really wanted to use some of the money in my savings account to buy it outright. That is how I did it for years.
Then reality hit as I had to take out a student loan as a senior in college. My money innocence came to a screeching halt as I learned what interest was...and not the kind I had been used to earning on those CDs I had put away as a kid. Life just sort of kept happening, and next there was an engagment, paying for wedding/honeymoon expense. Then came a monthly townhome payment, and car expenses and insurance. I had to sort of undo the concepts I had lived with for so long and accept the fact that sometimes you can't quite pay off a full credit card bill.
I grew to understand what "worry" had to do with money. Most often I brought it upon myself, and most often it was needless worry. The kind that I let affect my moods somedays, or that I tossed and turned about before falling asleep at night- only to find that each month it somehow worked out alright, and I would feel bad that I had even wasted time and spent energy worrying about this money thing.
So this is what has been on my mind off and on in recent days. The tragedy of my life has certainly affected almost everypart of my life- and I realized it even affected my attitudes and beliefs about money. I realize that I rarely "worry" about money anymore. Or at least not in the way I had before my life changed so dramatically. I've thought it about it alot. I don't think anybody has ever died directly because of money. They may have died because someone wanted their money, or that they owed a big gambling debt, or a host of other things- but that all happened as a result of the choices they made (or someone else made) concerning money.
I think I've learned that money is only as important as we allow it to be in our lives. I think that too many times people focus on money as the issue or matter at hand- when in reality there is a driving force behind that issue; usually it is not money-related at all.
I'm not here to solve money issues, or to tell you how to spend or save your cash. I simply am spilling my personal thoughts on this subject and maybe I will come back to this topic again sometime. I am happy to say that money doesn't control my life or {most of} the choices I make. It is a part of my life, but it doesn't affect how much sleep I do or do not get at night. It doesn't make me better than you, or less of a person to you. I hope I make good decisions with my money that enhance my life and make me a better person. Whether it means saving it, spending it, or giving it to other people or organizations that really need it. I think this world needs a money reality-check. The cool thing is that we can each start by looking at money in our own lives. Don't ask me to solve the problem of our nation's national debt! I don't claim to have the answer- just a little insight into what's important in this life. And for me it's not always money! You are more than welcome to agree or disagree with me on this topic. It's my Nitty.Gritty. dollar day today. That's all for now.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Appreciating the life you've been given~

Last night I was glued to the television until 1:00am- totally out of character for me to do so. I found myself mesmerized by a series of shows on TLC about pediatric specialists reconstructing faces and skulls of kids born with abnormalties or other various facial traumas and growth.
Having been through my own medical experiences I find these particular shows very engaging. In part, it makes me realize there are other people and families out there going through more than I. It also jolts me back in the reality of my own life- which sometimes doesn't look so glamorous in the day to day living on the inside of it.
This series of shows, "Born Without a Face" and "FaceMakers" showed me just how blessed I am with the condition of my kids- including Wyndham. It is inspiring to me to watch another set of parents living out what I have claimed to be true in my own life. That being- we don't always get to choose what comes our way, good or bad, but we have the choice to make the best of any situation. It is amazing to see the strength and the courage that people have when faced with the most difficult situations thrown at them. I'm not the only one who has walked a bumpy road in life and found ways to smile along the path. Click to read about Juliana's story or to see the picture of this little girl. She is a living reminder that joy can come in the midst of brokeness and challenge. I will think of her when I start thinking I have it so rough. Kind of makes one realize just how lucky and easy we have it in life...and too often we take it for granted. I hope you appreciate your life a little bit more today.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Inside the mind of a 2 year old...

I have struggled to get Ava to smile for me when I snap pictures of her for about the past year now. She turns her head away, closes her eyes, or just plain won't smile. Smart as I am, I am happy to say that I finally figured her out. At least as far as pictures go. I'm still trying to understand her recent fascination with dumping Lucky Charms out of the box and crushing them all over- usually on my bed. But, this picture thing is a non-issue now. Yep. After a year of fighting her for a smile I found that I simply have to take the picture when she is doing something she shouldn't be doing. Like jumping on the couch- or thinking of dumping the cereal. Then this little chi-chi is all smiles! Now I just need to work on my photography skills and we'll be golden!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"My mom is a fontaholic"

I didn't intend for this to be the follow-up post to my thoughts on Oprah yesterday, it just happened this morning so here it is for you today. In case it ever happens that I get dragged onto a show like "Dr. Phil", I will have proof in pictures, that my children didn't have an awful childhood.
I am hoping that my mothering will actually produce happy, well-adjusted, contributing members of society, but one never knows for sure. So, today when I mixed up pancake batter for breakfast I found myself AND all four kids in such a great mood that I not only made the enhanced pancake recipe off the side of the Bisquick box- I also poured the batter out into letters and shapes too. For you die-hard scrappers- you are probably smiling, like I was earlier, when I made the pancake collage and imagined the newest CK Pancake Batter Font. Like the Heidi Swapp Kitchen-Aid, it has not yet hit the market...but I've sure got the ideas flowing around here lately! Wait til I get home from my weekend Scrap Event!
Back to my thoughts on pancakes...
You never know if your kids are really getting all that you do for them and how much you would sacrifice in your life for the sake of their happiness and well-being. I was the person who never, EVER wanted kids- I think deep down I knew just how much was involved with raising great ones- and in my early twenties I decided I was not among the chosen who should take on such responsibilty. You should applaud me for being so young- and yet so in tune with my inner self and my abilities!
Flash forward 10/15 years and here I am asking my kids if they want their pancake letters "serif or sans serif". [I told you I was obsessed with fonts! It's just a part of's a minor thing in the big picture of parenting- so just let it go for now.] I was thinking back to the memories I have of my mom making 'initial pancakes' for breakfast. It was something she did to make being a kid fun at that moment...and now I realize she did it because she cared about us having a great life. It takes maybe an extra minute or two in the overall scheme of breakfast. But in the overall memories of childhood it actually means so much more. I realized today, as I poured out the pancake batter in the shape of a star that I was so blessed with my family and all the things that made up my childhood experiences. I don't think I've been appreciative enough for how simple and yet, wonderful it really was. I had two parents who loved each other and my siblings so much. I can't think of a single time in which they fought or argued in front of us. They gave us rules and discipline and boundaries- and at the same time they gave us love and rewards and freedom.
I can only hope that as much as my kids enjoyed their pancakes at breakfast, that they will someday grow up to appreciate that it was more than just my love of letters and shapes. It was more than just my desire for them to have a good time at breakfast. It is my longing for them to recognize their value, worth and potential. And my dream for them to be able to live that out however they choose to do so. Yes, that's a picture of my son, Brock, enjoying his "B" pancake and strawberries...and playing GameBoy Advance too. And no, it's not even 10 am yet. I guess that's how balance looks in my home at breakfast at this point in my life. That's my Nitty.Gritty. thoughts on pancakes.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Learn something new everyday!

Here's hoping that this link works to send you over to the Oprah archives- so you don't have to go searching for it yourself. Oh yeah...been with blogger about 6 months now and am just getting the hang of adding links into my posts. Watch out for me now!


----Four years ago the furniture in my living room got rearranged so that Chip and I could sit down for a two hour interview with a producer from the Oprah Show. I had emailed a short note in response to the question posed on the Oprah website asking, "Have you forgiven a horrible crime?" I had no idea we would be taping video the next day...and then be whisked off to Chicago to share our story in studio with Oprah and her audience the next day. It all happened so fast. I do remember how gracious and courteous everyone of her staff were to me and my family. I remember how warm and genuine Oprah felt when we met her onstage for the first time. She seemed so sincere in what she had to say to didn't "feel" like just a tv show.
I've watched our show "Incredible Stories of Forgiveness" several times since it originally aired in April 2002. I, of course, wish I could tape a do-over show now, four years later, having grown and experienced and lived- with joy again- because I think it would be a whole new story. I look so sad and serious- it doesn't even really look like me when I watch that tape.
I guess that it's a true testament that what we said about forgiveness and our ability to look forward to the rest of our lives was actually true in our hearts as well. I think there were people who doubted what Chip and I were saying back then. They didn't understand how we could truly forgive someone who claimed the life of Teagan. They didn't think that we would actually live out what we were claiming in our lives.
But here we are, four years later, and the fact that we were able to forgive and move on has been the singlemost important factor in finding purpose and joy and renewal in life. We believe, without a doubt, that we will see Teagan again in Heaven someday. We know that it wasn't fair that she was killed so young, and in the way she died. Yet, we found that forgiveness allowed us to start the healing process that our hearts so desprately needed after our tragedy. We found we weren't so consumed with anger about what happened. Sure, there are times when we look back and say we wish things hadn't happened the way they did. We were very happy and blessed with our lives back then. We have struggled and yelled and cried and hated our reality at times...but in those moments we've learned new things. We've learned that you can turn your pain into something positive. We've learned that if you are willing to believe, in the midst of hurt, good things can happen- they will. We've learned that life has it's dark moments- but they only last as long as you keep hanging on to them.
When I look back at all that has happened, I see that we've had choices all along the way- some of them have not been very easy choices to make. In each instance, when we've chosen the path of love or hope or simply looked ahead, instead of looking back, we've experienced growth, contentment and goodness. It's still amazing to me that we have that kind of power within ourselves- that we can in essence "create our own destiny." Chip and I had no idea we were "writing" a story that would one day be told to a global audience. We had no idea that simply saying you forgive someone, and then actually living the reality of those words could impact our own lives and countless others.
I am grateful, as I reflect on that opportunity that somehow came our way, through Oprah and her staff. It was a whirlwind doing the inhome video, shooting various places around our town, flying to Chicago and then being on stage with Oprah the next day. It happened so fast- and it was a wonderful experience. Especially now as I reflect upon it, years later, and see just how far we've come!
{If you'd like to see some highlights and a video clip of our show, go to and do a search using the words, Incredible Stories of Forgiveness} And I still remember being able to eat breakfast the morning we were headed to the studio to tape with Oprah. I had Vanilla Bean French was warm and delicious! I can't believe that in itself didn't have me smiling on camera more- but I guess my emotions took over. You can bet I'd have some smiles if I were on Oprah today! That's my Nitty.Gritty. trip down memory lane for this Monday. Have a sweet one.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

My take on the MasterCard Ad...

First date at Mall of America- Dinner Planet Hollywood/Movie "Mrs. Doubtfire"-cost...$90.00

Wedding & Honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii....$9,000

Owning our first home....$78,000

Number of hours logged in hospitals for birth of 5 kids and other various traumas....feels like more than 78,000

Having you at my side as we walk life's journey together....Priceless.

Happy birthday to my best friend and husband, Chip. My life would not be the same without you in it- you've made me a better person in so many ways; you challenge me, laugh in the darkest moments with me, help me imagine our future and make me look forward to each new day. I can't think of anyone better suited for me than you. I love you with all my heart and wish you many more years of fun and adventure in this life. Happy, Happy birthday. {This is no April Fool's's all 100% true!}