The Great Food Experiment
Thanks to his formative years in Ethiopia, Zinabu is by far my most adventurous and well-rounded eater. He loves Ethiopian food (duh!), he loves comfort food, he loves Mexican food, he loves Chinese food, vegetarian, Indian, middle eastern, and anything else you can come up with. Primarily this is because he loves food. Period. He is still pretty sensitive to when and where his next meal is coming from. He wants to know the food agenda every day. And he gets a tiny bit antsy when the pantry is low. So all in all, food makes him happy.

But his taste buds are seriously a mother's dream. He doesn't like cheese or pasta (my two favorite items in the universe), but other than that, he's happy about anything. He also goes through hot sauce like tokens at Chuck E. Cheese.

My other kids... not so much. Lily is better than Carver, but they still have their ten favorite foods and don't like to stray too far from them. Lily, at least, loves fruit and vegetables and I have no problem getting her daily doses of vitamins and minerals. But Carver.

He's thirteen and I'm still sneaking spinach into his smoothies. He loves white food. Bread. Tortillas. Cheese. He hates vegetables. Most fruit makes him gag. Literally.

But I'm ever optimistic and always wanting my kids to eat as healthy as possible. I used Pinterest this morning to find some interesting recipes... especially foods from other cultures. Here's my list for the week.

Saturday: Vegetarian tamales with salad. I found the recipe here.
Sunday: Falafels and fruit salad.
Monday: Tomato garbanzo bean soup with sandwiches and salad. Recipe here.
Tuesday: Vegetable casserole with pesto and polenta (for me), chicken for everyone else. I'm not stupid.
Wednesday: We have company that night, and I'm trying my hand at spinach and cheese enchiladas. One of my most favorite meals in the world.
Thursday: Tortellini and marinara sauce, garlic bread and salad.
Friday: I'm done. We go to our favorite New York style pizza restaurant.

I think I finally figured out why I hate to cook. For the most part, it makes a mess. A big mess. Between prep work, cooking, eating, and then clearing the table, I use a lot of our dishes, pots and pans, and the sink is full. I really would rather make everyone a piece of toast and call it a day. I also hate the amount of time it takes to make a meal for 6 people, plus clean up. Am I just incredibly slow, or does it take the rest of you two hours to do all that? Seriously, if I begin prep work around 4:30, make the meal, serve it by 5:30 or 6, we eat, then clean up... by the time I'm done it's 6:30 or 6:45. Yes the kids help (a little), and yes there are days when my meals don't take that long, but on average it's a production. I always plan my meals so we know what we're having, but I just wish the entire process was a wee bit easier.

And I just looked at the time. If I'm going to attempt homemade tamales (my first time), I'd better get moving. Who knows how long this will take.


This and That
Today is oddly warm. Like 60 degrees. I am cleaning the carpets and opening windows and you could easily convince me it is April.

David and I just finished the Jason Bourne movies. I loved them. I feel like running around the house, fists clenched in case I need to punch an intruder. We are a little slow in the entertainment department, and we like to watch movies that are a few years old. (That's a nice way of saying we have no time to watch movies and try to see what we can when the mood strikes.)

Carver is going to a laser tag lock-in with his youth group tonight. I have to drop him off at 11:30 pm. I don't even know if I am physically capable of staying up that late.

Someone I love very much is going to find out today the prognosis of her husband's cancer. It makes me feel sick to my stomach that they have to go through this. That they have to sit in a doctor's office to find out the future of their lives. We've been there and it is horrible.

Our extended family are coming on January 8th to celebrate Christmas and New Year's with us. Which means we leave the Christmas tree up until then. I am trying to be a good sport about that, but I get an eye-twitch every time I walk by the ornaments.

My mom gave me a gift card to buy some new clothes. She is so great. Now, I just have to find some time to sneak away and do a little shopping. That's a Christmas miracle all on its own.

David has been home for two whole weeks. It has been bliss. I think he needs to prepare himself to walk back into work on Monday with me hanging onto his legs, kicking and screaming. It will not be pretty. I just can't let him go.

Lily is dog sitting for some friends of mine. So we have Buddy (our dog), Gus (the friend's dog), gerbils and babies, plus a rabbit and a goldfish. All in all, there are 12 critters in the house. You can imagine that Lily is on cloud nine. She is.

I can not believe that we JUST got our tax refund from the IRS and it's almost time to do taxes again. Unfair.

Our computer software Net Nanny now blocks me from Tesi's blog because she likes to swear a little. I find this so hilarious for some reason.


Post-Christmas Blah
Those after-Christmas blues you sometimes read about? Well, I have 'em. All that wonderful excitement and joy leading up to the big day, and after the last present was opened and the last sugar cookie frosted, it dawned on me that life is still the same this side of Christmas as it was before Christmas.

You know that in your head, but it takes a while for your heart to catch up.

We had a small Christmas. Well, small by wealthy North American standards. Totally lavish by standards in other countries. My kids were fine. Actually, I don't think they really noticed. But how pathetic that I noticed and seemed to care. I had to give myself LOTS of lectures about not giving in to the pressures of consumerism. It was a wake-up call for me to do a self-check of our needs and wants. It was also a wake-up call for me to remember that our lives will be the same following a big celebration as they were before. Lily will still be sick. So I'm learning to lower my expectations. And that's ok. We had a fantastic day and we're all loving our break together.

To make life even more interesting, Lily bought gerbils for Carver for Christmas. While the pet shop ensured us they were both boys, alas... they are not. One girl. One boy. And the girl just had 6 babies.



Christmas Tree, 2011 Edition
We actually got our Christmas tree two weeks ago, but I just uploaded the photos to the computer yesterday.  We've been pleasantly busy this week. By busy I mean busy not doing dishes, busy not making our beds, busy not eating three square meals a day but snacking non-stop, busy playing in the snow, busy playing with each other and the dog, and the kids have been busy snooping for presents. (Mwahahahaha! They'll never find them!)

Every year our National Forest offers $10 permits to chop down your own Christmas Tree. (If you can't get to Bridget's house to get the one in her backyard, this is the next best option.) Every year we make the 30 minute drive, get donuts, and scour the woods for the perfect tree. The past few years we've been able to find a tree rather quickly. This year was a wee bit harder. It took some searching.
Zinabu, ready and excited.

Carver, a little upset he couldn't use a chain saw




Caught eating snow.

Finally found one. Carver begins to chop.

Lots of chopping. We helped by watching and cheering.
Back home with our super-sized Charlie Brown tree.

Our trees are tall and somewhat sparse, but we load them down with colorful kid ornaments. They're often clumped more on one side than the other. Heaviest ornaments are usually hung on small limbs so that the branches bend down and almost touch the ground. I love our trees. I need to take a photo of the finished product, but the memories created each year as we do this are priceless.


Stage Hand
This week was Zinabu's 2nd grade holiday play! Entitled "Melten, The Warm-Hearted Snowman," it was cute overload times 1,000. Zinabu, on the other hand, is not so into elementary school musicals. He's not keen on people looking at him--on stage or anywhere else, for that matter. So while all the other kids were getting excited to be elves and reindeer and snowmen and the "town's children", Zinabu was having panic attacks about being in "Melten." His teacher understood his frustration and understood that forcing a kid to do something they really hate is just plain lame. So she gave him the job of curtain opener. He got to stand behind the stage (where no one could see him) and open the curtain at the beginning of the play and then close it at the end. I was so happy that Zinabu was happy. Tuesday night we all went to his play and it was adorable. Our favorite part, though, was when the curtain moved.
Zinabu with two friends who were elves.

At the end of the play, Zinabu was called out on stage to bow. You can see that he bowed quickly and was already heading for the wings faster than you can say "Justin Bieber." I barely had time to take a picture.


Weepy, Whiny, Wednesday
I said I would allow myself one day a week to whine. You're in luck. Today's the day.

Things are in a weird holding pattern. As in... I'm holding my breath, Lily's holding together, my mom holds my hand, and David holds the boys. We're holding it in, holding out for a miracle, and holding our heads up high.

However, at night I weep. I weep into my pillow and wonder how on earth I will get up the next day and do it all over again. Lily is still not in school. Still not where her doctors want her to be. Still not okay. Still on medication that could cause permanent damage to her body. Still missing out on a lot of life.

I am not taking nearly as many photographs as I used to because I'm afraid that when I look back on them in a few years, I will remember only the pain and heartache of this season. I am ready for 2011 to be O.V.E.R. No guarantees that 2012 will be any better. It could be worse. But as far as 2011 is concerned, stick a fork in it. It's done.


Inside vs. Outside
On the outside I look a little like this.

Well, minus the map and binoculars. (I leave those to Meghan.) I am, unfortunately, somewhat rumpled. I wear a baseball cap out of desperation when my hair will not cooperate. I have a bag of crap slung over my shoulder. I am either coming or going and not necessarily getting much done. I am average.

But what do I feel like on the inside?

Curvy and strong. Smoky eyes. A killer voice that belts out the blues. Awesome hair that always looks nice. Strength and compassion and purpose fill my days. On top of everything. Eternally young.

No, I can't sing. And no, I would never wear that much eye make-up. But that's how I feel on the inside. I think as kids we feel a certain way on the inside and assume that's how we present ourselves to the world. At a certain age, we have to come to grips with the cruel reality that what we feel like on the inside is not always how the world perceives us or even allows us to be.

One of my kids has a strong personality, and I often feel the frustration of trying to contain him. But why am I containing him? Shouldn't I let him be who he feels like for as long as possible? So without further ado, let me show you who my kids are on the inside.


Long live childhood


What Have You...
given up for your child?

In the wake of the London Vacation Tragedy (as I now refer to it in my head), I find myself teetering on the edge of feeling sorry for myself and feeling grateful to be able to take good care of Lily. I allowed myself one weekend to feel all the pain about cancelling our vacation plans, and then I had to move on. I confess I still have to be careful not to spend much time on Facebook, because it feels like everyone and their third cousin has just traveled, is traveling, or is going to travel to somewhere amazing. If I dwell there too long, I feel a pity party coming on and I have to be super-duper careful not. to. go. there.

Over the past week, though, I've challenged myself to think about what I, as a parent, continually give up in order to be a parent. It's not just one trip to London. Parenting is a lifelong act of giving up. Everything from sleep to a trim waistline, from complaint-free meals to song choices on the radio, from financial abundance to worry free evenings, you give up a lot. But would I have it any other way? Certainly not. Despite the fact that I still spend way too much of my free time attempting to match up socks, I would be the most selfish person on the planet were it not for my kids and the lessons they teach me about letting go. Letting go of having things my way in order to embrace a new way of doing things.

And unless you grew up in a cave, someone gave up a whole lot in order to raise you. Regardless of your relationship with your parents or caregivers, you are a walking, talking, functioning member of society because someone sacrificed for you. Their time. Their money. Their season in life to travel. Whatever.

So London is currently off the table of things we're looking forward to, but my day-to-day bursts of joy are not. They remain ever present. Ever there. Ever reminding me that my sacrifices are not equal to the love I receive.

Besides, maybe someday the doors will open for us to go to Holland.


When Christmas Goes Bad
Just found this hilarious blog post on the worst Christmas Nativity sets... ever. Go here to view them yourself. But only when you have time to laugh out loud. I personally can't decide between the Irish Nativity or the Meat Nativity. I'm dying to know your favorites.


Highlights from Thanksgiving
Our Thanksgiving trip to the mountains was fabulous on so many levels. Mostly because we left "life" behind at our house and escaped from all our responsibilities and demands. Lily was feeling pretty good that week, too, so she was able to keep up with her brothers in the pool and in the snow. It's always hard going on vacation because our family feels so conspicuous. I don't feel that way at home. I guess when we're in our own town keeping to our own routine I don't feel as sensitive to people's stares and questions. But when we're away from home, I'm hyper-sensitive to it. It doesn't help that my kids were the only children of color within a 45 mile radius. The only African American we saw that week was our waitress, which is not exactly what I'm looking for in regards to diversity. But my kids get trophies for adapting to their environment, sticking together, and shrugging off long glances and stares. When you become a conspicuous-looking family, you sign up for a lifetime of being under a microscope. I'm not complaining about it, because we chose this. You do get tired, though, of the same personal questions from strangers over and over and over again. Is it bad that I hope one of these days one of my kids will just pipe up and say, "Shut up!" to the next person that asks if they're siblings?
Watching the kids play.

Lily comes down the sledding hill. 
My kids in a blizzard at the inner tubing hill. You can barely make it out in the background. It was ffffrrreeeezing, but they totally rocked it anyway.

A whole week of this view. Good therapy indeed.