The Family

The Family

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lessons I've Learned From Harry

I think I've mentioned once or twice that I love Harry Potter - the books and the movies. Of course the books are better. You get a more in-depth portrait of all the characters and end up with deep attachments to many of them.

There's the Weasley clan, probably my favorite cast of characters - besides Harry, Ron and Hermione of course. Then there are the professors and all the students from the House of Gryffindor, not to mention Gryffindor alums like Sirius, Lupin and Tonks.

Every time I think about the world J.K. Rowling created I am always astounded at the depth and breadth of the story.

The movies follow the books close enough that I won't complain. I'm a book purist, so any divergence can send me over the edge. 

While we have most of the movies on DVD, I rarely sit and watch them. However, when ABC Family has its Harry Potter weekends, I'm glued to the TV. I think something about the commercial breaks helps. You can get things done in between - diapers changed, clothes washed, kids bathed, dishes cleaned.

Dumbledore's words of wisdom leave me pondering for days.

I was particularly struck by another of Dumbledore's assertions when watching The Order of the Phoenix this past weekend. I'd never paid much attention to it before.

"It is not how you are alike; it is how you are not."

Hearing, and actually comprehending the truth in it, brought me to tears.

While it may not seem like much, especially if you are unfamiliar with the story, it was spoken by Dumbledore at a critical point in Harry's struggle with Voldemort. 

If you've spent a lifetime trying to not to be like someone, you'll understand the importance of that statement.

There's always this nagging fear that you will end up just like that person, or group of people, you don't want to become. Sometimes, focusing on that fear makes the similarities all to clear. But when you step back to see the differences, then the important truth is revealed.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Birmingham Children's Theater

Yesterday was our first time seeing a play staged by the Birmingham Children's Theater. Located at the Birmimgham Jefferson Convention Center in Birmingham, AL, the play was a new twist on Cinderella.

At not quite a full hour, the running time was perfect for squirmy little ones.

The small room with the bleacher-style seats was a rather cozy space.

The fairy godmother, or the fairy godmother in training I should say, made it fun and interactive by having the children in the audience pretend to stir a magic pot throughout the performance.

And afterward, before stopping for lunch and heading home, we walked around downtown Birmingham. There aren't many comfortable July days as far as temperature goes here in Alabama, but yesterday morning proved to be pleasant, non-humid and breezy.

The theater company has what sounds like a great season planned with shows like City Mouse, Country Mouse, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (we just finished reading this book, so this one will be a must) and The Secret Garden.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Circle of Quiet

I was disappointed during the first 50 or so pages. I expected to be wowed, calmed and transformed. Instead, I was just trying to keep up with her train of thought.

"A Circle of Quiet" is a memoir by Madeleine L'Engle, wife, mother and famous author of many children's books.

Once I slowed down - I would describe myself as a fairly fast reader - I came to realize how much I think like the author. She's incredibly opinionated and idealistic. Two traits that can be both a blessing and a curse.

I erroneously presumed this was going to be more about a young mom finding her way during the early years of motherhood. It's more about a writer trying to find her way through motherhood AND life.

The book was first published in 1971. It spans mostly through the decades of the 50s and 60s. She died in 2007.

She was a Christian with doubts. That's something refreshing to hear because I'm not sure that many of us don't have doubts. It's just most of us are too afraid to face them or admit it to anyone else, let alone another Christian.
She was a mother struggling to be a writer and a writer struggling to be a mother. She accepted the many paradoxes of life. It amazes me that many of the things she wrote about then, in terms of the struggles of her time, are the exact things many of us struggle with today. She worried about pollution, disease, the disconnect between many parents and children - why the two generations couldn't talk or connect.

She advocated reading the great writers, both in children's and adult literature, and to read them at all ages.

Here she is in her own words. As you can guess, I picked the passages that most resonated with me.

"How do we teach a child - our own, or those in a classroom - to have compassion: to allow people to be different; to understand that like is not equal; to experiment; to laugh; to love; to accept the fact that the  most important questions a human being can ask do not have - or need - answers."

"But the adolescents today are concerned over a general lack of memory in their parents and teachers, and it is this forgetfulness of what it is like to be twelve, or seventeen, or twenty-one, that is largely responsible for the famous generation gap. The young look at the amnesiac over-thirties and say, 'We look at the adults around us, and if this is what it means to be grownup, then we say, No! We don't ever want to be like most of the adults we see.'"
"What about your relations with the rest of the world? It's all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don't like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong. This doesn't mean that two people who love each other don't need time alone. Two people in the first glory of new love must have great waves of time in which to discover each other. But there is a kind of exclusiveness in some loves, a kind of inturning, which augurs trouble to come."

"What about the mothers who loathe the thought of getting old, who think it a disgrace to look or act their age, as though becoming mature were something to be ashamed of instead of rejoiced in, mothers who pride themselves on dressing like their teenage daughters, and consider it a compliment when people say they look like sisters. Perhaps the daughter doesn't want a sister; perhaps she wants a mother."
 Amen on that one Mrs. L'Engle.

Monday, July 22, 2013

For What I Do Is Not The Good I Want To Do...

Tom Sawyer got the gist of it when he realized the following:
"...namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing."
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell lament about it in their song "Open Season on My Heart."
"I try to change without much luck. I reach a point where I get stuck."
St. Paul knew it all too well.
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And If I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, this is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." Romans 7:15-20
It seems like I have the best intentions as a mom, but as soon as I try to focus on not doing something, like yelling or becoming frustrated so easily, those things increase.

When I try to tell myself I need to stay away from e-mail until a certain time of day so that I can pay more attention to the children, it's like an instant urge, that I often give in to, to run to my computer (or phone or I-pad).

Should I, like George Costanza once realized on an episode of Seinfeld, convince myself of the opposite.

Maybe I should tell myself that I am no longer going to talk in a calm, rational tone of voice. Maybe I should tell myself to check my e-mail the moment I awake and remind myself of how urgent it is several times throughout the day.

I wish I had some insight or an epiphany to share about fighting the daily battles of conscience.

But I've got nothing. Sigh!

Oh well, tomorrow is a new day!

Friday, July 19, 2013

On The Day You Turned Two

You won't remember yesterday.

It was your second birthday, and it was one of the few days in the past few weeks it didn't rain.

Your brother was so excited for you that he woke up at the crack of dawn. He wanted to be the first to show you the Dora and princess balloons your daddy bought the night before. We tied them to your high chair, and you squealed with delight when you saw them.

You carried your cookie monster toy around all day and even slept with it during naptime. You were freaked out by your new "What's in the Bible" dvds, another cookie monster Aunt Anna got you and a pink, fuzzy hair clip. You made sure we knew you didn't like them.

You talked to many people on the phone and when they wished you a happy birthday you repeated the phrase back to them as if it was their birthday. 

You couldn't wait to eat your strawberry cake. You kept making your way to the dining room table trying to sniff the cake and then telling us all how good it smelled.

And today, while we were eating some of that leftover cake with real the strawberries baked inside, you leaned over and told me you loved me. My heart melted and swelled all in the same moment.

Oh my sweet, fiesty, loud, beautiful daughter. I was so afraid of having a girl before you were born. Now I can't understand why. You make me remember what it was like to be a little girl and how fun life truly is.

Some days you do scare me; it has more to do with your complete lack of fear than my fears about raising you and messing it all up.

You talk more than I ever imagined a two year old could.

You make us all laugh daily. We laugh at you and with you. Don't ever forget how effective laughter can be, both making people laugh and especially laughing at yourself, for dealing with the ills of life.

We are so glad to call you ours. And even though you aren't technically a baby anymore, you'll always be my baby girl.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CSA Wednesday

On Wednesday we head to a local farm to pick up produce as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Here's what we got today:
Bell Peppers



This was likely the last pick up. All the rain has damaged some crops. There's supposed to be muscadines that will come in in early August, but if that's the only thing available then we'll probably pass on that pick up. No one in this house is a fan of them.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Tired - Exhausted of strength or energy; fatigued.

It's a word that encompasses many meanings.

There's the state of mental tiredness. This can occur after long hours of study. Maybe it happens because of hours, days, weeks or years spent working on a project or dealing with a problem.

There's also an emotional tiredness. Being emotionally exhausted occurs during hardships like deaths, break-ups and when strife rears its ugly head. This feeling of fatigue is usually connected to our interpersonal relationships.

Then there's the physical meaning of the word. Let's see how far we can go with this one.

Ask any pregnant woman what it means to be tired, and she'll likely tell you it carries a whole new meaning.

There's the perpetual feeling of being tired when you are in the throes of raising young children. It's an everyday kind of tired that leaves you in a stupor much of the time.

There's the tired one feels after an intense workout that leaves your body depleted.

Then there's the tired that comes along with having a late night. Maybe you stayed up too late watching TV, reading that novel or trying to express yourself with just the right word on your blog.

Maybe it was a late-night chat.

Sometimes that late night comes with a headache and remorse the next morning.

There's also a tired that comes with the seasons. Daylight saving time can throw you off for days.

Let's not forget the tired one feels from travel. There's the after the trip tired that makes you think you need a vacation to recover from the vacation you just took.

There's also the I'm not going to sleep on my flight and try to stay up the whole next day in Europe tired. This tired just might lead one to begin crying in the middle of the Louvre because a security guard wouldn't allow her to sit on the floor to rest her tired and weary body.

So you learn your lesson from that and then the next year you induce tired by taking a Benadryl on your flight to London. Only one because you don't want the groggy tired you'll have when you awake from taking two.

Then there's the husband that maybe didn't learn his lesson the year before, and he finds he's so tired he's about to vomit or pass out (maybe both) on a long, winding bus ride through the English countryside.

There are tired eyes when you've been behind the computer for too long, especially in the dark.

Then there's the pleasant feeling of tired. This one can come come on a breezy beach, rocking on the porch or on any given Sunday.

It would seem that the physical aspects of tired are endless. There's countless other scenarios not coming into play here.

There's also the state of being tired of something. It's not so much a feeling as a state of being.

First, there's the things one can be tired of, but knows there is little that can be done about them. For instance, being tired of the laundry or the need to continually wash dishes.

Next, there's being tired of in the sense of being fed up. Like being fed up with the way someone is acting or with the way you are being treated. Maybe it's the constant mess that has become your house.

Then there's the antithesis to tired of. It's the things one never gets tired of.

Like the feeling of God's providence.

Like kisses from your children.

Like knowing you are loved.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Those Dysfunctional Tudors

I always loved it when the teacher made it to Henry VIII in world history. My favorite of his wives was Anne Boleyn.

So I wasn't thrilled at the way she was portrayed in Hilary Mantel's novels "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies."  I found myself regarding her with the deepest sense of contempt and scorn.

Mantel herself says at the end of the second novel that these weren't books about Anne Boleyn or Henry VIII. They are fictional accounts of Thomas Cromwell and his role in Henry's first three marriages and the demise of the first two. She freely admits that her take on Anne was something she wanted to play with based on some of the historical accounts.

She's the writer; she's free to do such. And an excellent author she is. The details and scenarios she paints go beyond the renowned of the stories themselves. She has deep insights into religion and human nature.

It's just that the genre of historical fiction itself is complicated.  It's hard not to read with a more critical eye. You take what you've heard in the past and measure a lot of what the author is saying against that.

Mantel's Cromwell is equal parts honorable and despicable. Anne, however, is painted as a true Jezebel. Possibly worse. And Henry. Don't even get me started on Henry. I managed to find myself sympathizing with and, at times, liking the brute.

The first book, "Wolf Hall," was the longer of the two. It was also a slower read. "Bring Up the Bodies" was the better of the two, mainly because of the story of Anne. I'm interested to see how Mantel will deal with the fall and execution of Cromwell himself in the third novel, which is yet to be released.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CSA Wednesday

On Wednesday we head to a local farm to pick up produce as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Here's what we got today:

Cherry Tomatoes - these have such a sweet, acidic taste


Bell Pepper in assorted shapes and sizes



Monday, July 8, 2013

The Georgia Aquarium

Ending the tour of the shark tank is truly a breath-taking moment. You walk around the corner to a huge glass window with serene music playing in the background and all you can do is sit and stare in wonder and amazement.

With Jack being such a shark lover, I've come to learn a good deal about them myself the past few years. The whale shark, the largest fish in the sea, has to be my favorite.

The Georgia Aquarium has two on display!

Spending Sunday morning at the Georgia Aquarium was a real treat for both Jack and Mattie.

Mattie is not one to contain her excitement. She was screaming at the top of her lungs the whole time we were there about "fishies."

This was one of the cooler things we've seen at an aquarium. We've been to several, but had never seen these water snakes. They burrow themselves down into the sand and partially emerge. Not one was floating around; they were all poking out of the sand.

I know the Georgia Aquarium brags that it is the world's largest aquarium, but I couldn't tell much difference in the size of it versus aquariums in Chattanooga and Chicago. All three are huge and great places to explore.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rainy Days

I love a rainy day. It offers a great excuse to stay in your pajamas all day, watch movies, curl up on the couch with a blanket and read or just take a nap when at least one of your children does.

Two days in a row? Works for me.

I can handle a third day on occasion.

It appears, however, that four days is my limit.

It has rained now for five straight days. The first three it was almost non-stop. So yesterday morning, upon waking and seeing it would likely be another day where the heavens poured all day, it was more than I could stand.

I knew I was going to have some bored and whiny children and fast. The wheels in my mind began to turn as I prepared breakfast.

By 7:30 am I decided we would fly to Washington D.C. later in the evening and stay through Monday. I knew Matt wouldn't be able to go with us, but I'm comfortable navigating DC. I wouldn't have to lug car seats because of the Metro and I could have packed everything in one suitcase.

I could do it with two kids!

The exhilaration kicked in.

Then the cost of the flight came up on the Delta website. That idea was quickly nixed.

Not to worry. By 8 am I was set on Chicago. I had gone so far as to type in all the information for Jack and me (we still have a couple of weeks left before Mattie has to have a ticket) and picked our seats. I was just waiting on a text from my mother-in-law confirming she would go with us.

I wasn't going to attempt Chicago alone. We would have to take a cab at some point; maybe even more than once. That meant I'd have to take more than I or the children could possibly carry on our own. I'm also not as familiar with the layout of Chicago.

Alas, Chicago was not to be.

It's probably a good thing. I would have spent way more than I should have on plane tickets. Not to mention Jack was crying because Matt couldn't go with us.

I was not to be deterred though. I was on a mission at this point. We were going to do something that involved travel.

By 8:30 am I recovered from my disappointment enough to book a hotel in Atlanta for the night. It's not even a two-hour drive for us, so spending one night in Atlanta was much more reasonable - in terms of both time and money.

We got a great deal on the hotel. I realized that booking a hotel the day you plan to check in can sometimes be well worth the price versus booking a flight that way; the airlines know in most cases people are desperate and will pay the outrageous price.

When we got to Atlanta it was still raining. We headed to eat at the Atlanta Grill, which was on the second floor of our hotel. Anywhere that puts a basket of assorted bread accompanied with lots of butter on the table is my kind of place!

There was a lot of Southern food on the menu. I ended up getting a vegetable plate loaded with a cucumber/tomato mix, asparagus, fried green tomatoes, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. I also ordered a tomato soup, which we all shared. Matt had fried chicken. Jack and Mattie stuck to typical kid's menu choices - pizza and spaghetti.

After dinner we walked a block or two in the rain, but then it started coming down in a torrent. By the time we made it back to the hotel it was lightning.

We got up this morning and had a great breakfast buffet, once again at the Atlanta Grill. The kids got to eat free!

Then is was off to the Georgia Aquarium. More on that to come.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Twist on Scrambled Eggs

My favorite show on the Travel Channel is No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.

Two weeks ago was the first time I had a few minutes to sit down and watch his newer show, The Layover.

He was staying at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, and in one of the clips he was making scrambled eggs. I tried his version earlier this week and can't wait to make it again tomorrow morning to see what my husband thinks.

I must admit, it was heavy on my stomach for so early in the morning. I may not put as much sour cream this next time!

Here's what he/I did:
-Chop up a few slices of bacon and cook in a hot skillet with a little butter
-Add some chopped scallions (I added these too soon the other day)
-Once the bacon is cooked, pour in your eggs
-Stir in sour cream when ready to serve

It's an easy, delightful change from traditional and plain scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

CSA Wednesday

On Wednesday we head to a local farm to pick up produce as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) progam.

You're going to have to use your imagination today because the pictures are stuck on Matt's I-Pad. It's been frozen for a few hours and won't reboot.

We received:
A box full of cantaloupe

Watermelon - just in time for the Fourth of July

Cherry Tomatoes - these have by far been the best tomatoes I've tasted this summer


Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The street that is Senoia is lined with antique and gift shops. There's a cafe, several restaurants and a hangout that someone told me, that someone being my mother-in-law, Zac Brown owns.

It's also the place where the hit AMC show The Walking Dead is filmed.

Mattie and I went with my mother-in-law to Senoia on Saturday. It was about a 20-minute drive from her house, and we peeked into a few of the antique shops, the furniture store and had lunch at the coffee shop.

We took turns strolling Mattie through each place. I bought a couple of candles and this:

We've got  some birthdays coming up in this house!!

A certain little girl will soon be two, followed the next month by her brother who turns six.

When I came across this sign I decided to go with it instead of trying to find a banner on the Internet. I thought this would be a keepsake to put out every year for each of our birthdays.