Bats in the Belfry

Dear Millie,

I’ve never liked our fireplace.  From the realtor pictures and even the video tour, I didn’t really take any notice, except that the chimney impressively swept from floor to vaulted second story ceiling.  When we walked into the house to tour it for the first time, however, it was nearly a deal-breaker for me.  It’s visible from the front door, and with the plaster around it crumbling, the ghastly brass trim everywhere…it just looked dumpy.  Unfortunately, fixes for that sort of thing takes know-how and/or money, neither of which we have in excess.

The first winter we lived here, we decided to try out the fireplace for some ambience.  Gordon cleaned out the ashes (including, sadly, a dead little bird) and built a lovely fire.  Being desert-dwellers, neither of us knew whether we needed to have the chimney cleaned (I still don’t know), so we’ve only built a couple of fires in there.  Thank goodness for central heating, I say!

During the summer, Gordon and I were up after the children had all gone to bed.  We were watching Netflix on the sofa directly across from the fireplace, when we heard weird screeching sounds coming from the inside of the chimney.  Bats??  Blast!

We immediately turned to the internet and things quickly felt very dark and desperate indeed.

Over the next few nights, we kept hearing the screeching sound after the kids were all in bed.  We filled out an online request to have someone come take a peek and do some bat removal and also clean our chimney.  Now that I’m telling you about this, I realize we never did hear back from anyone about it.  Huh.

A few days later, we were outside at dusk when Gordon noticed birds flying around the top of our chimney.  I couldn’t hear them, but according to him, they made the same screeching sound we’d heard.  Yay for not being bats!

But, that also meant the top of our ginormous chimney was not capped and that anything could (and did) just come right on down the chimney.  The kids didn’t seem bothered (easier access for Santa and bigger toys!), but I didn’t like the idea that we had a family of birds nesting inside our chimney.

Meanwhile, the brick along the outside porch and walkway had been crumbling.  Gordon also wanted to see about putting egress windows in the basement and getting a quote for finishing it all up down there.  We lucked out finding a great contractor and we got quotes for all sorts of things.  I think we’ll be seeing him often through the years.  The brick out front is repaired and now we’ve moved on to the business of chimneys and fireplaces.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but I’m practically giddy about getting a fireplace with a remote!  We’re having it converted to gas, and I hope that’s a good thing because I wouldn’t know either way.  I’m glad to know we won’t be starting fires in our chimney and that all the bats (or birds) in our belfry will soon be evicted.

Well.  Maybe.

Yesterday after church, a couple stopped to talk with me.  Their adult daughter is Vanessa’s teacher in primary.  The parent couple have Kyle in their class.  They were joking about his unflappable character and then the mom said that Vanessa’s teacher said Vanessa is…”interesting.”  I laughed and she continued that her daughter has concerns about her, but was worried about approaching me about them.  Apparently, Vanessa often talks to characters who aren’t there.  I burst out laughing!  They were a little startled by my response, but I told them there was nothing to worry about.  When I got home, I asked Vanessa if she talks to invisible people at church.  She acted like she had no idea what I was talking about.  Then when Gordon and I were sitting with her, she started turning her head to the side and saying, “Shut it, Ferb!” And, “Not now, Plankton!”  We laughed so hard!

Instead of people realizing she’s trying to get attention, they’re convinced she’s got bees in her bonnet, bats in her belfry, and knots in her noodle!*

Hope you are the same.



*(Thank you to The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater for this lovely combination of crazy-talk.)

Lucy Gets Hungry

Dear Millie,

Happy Friday!

Lucy gets hungry.  She’s a resourceful girl, so she doesn’t trouble us about it too much.  Examples:

  • Today, I bought a giant bag of chocolate chips from Sam’s Club.  I had gone back into the garage to put stuff in the deep freeze, and when I came back in, she had melted chocolate on her face.  

Girlfriend ditched her pretzel, got herself a stool and a pair of scissors and helped herself to chocolate.  It took a few tries, but when a girl needs chocolate, don’t be thinking she’ll just give up.

  • Around Thanksgiving time, Gordon was downstairs passing through the kitchen.  Lucy had come down and went over to Grandma McAllister’s china cabinet.  She opened up one of the side doors, pulled out a cookie, shut the door and left.  Secret stash?
  • I came downstairs one morning and the fridge doors were both open and the bottom drawer was pulled out.  I asked aloud who had left it open and Lucy came sauntering around the corner eating a slice of bologna and said, “What?”  She’s two.
  • I’d made cookies for a missionary zone conference and while I was putting more dough on the pan, Lucy was helping herself to a couple off the cooling rack.
  • On Christmas Eve, Lucy came downstairs wearing a small backpack.  When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she opened it up and dumped out peanut M&Ms and a pair of scissors!  I figured Gordon had given her the candy since it was his, and that the kids had left the scissors out.  Nope.  She’d scaled the wire shelves in our closet to get the M&Ms on the top shelf.  She’d pushed a stool to the dryer and climbed on top to open the cupboard where we *safely* store the scissors.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Gordon and I were talking in the kitchen after church.  Lucy wandered in, opened her favorite side door on the china cabinet, and pulled out an old, discolored and shriveled something-or-other.  I honestly didn’t know what it was, but upon closer inspection (thankfully before she took a bite), I realized it was a slice of bologna.
  • Lucy doesn’t just take care of her own needs.  She cares deeply about her dolls and stuffed bunny family and Star Wars action figures.  There was a lot of leftover jello and chocolate milk after the Community Supper, so I brought some home for the kids.  I’m a bad Mormon and the kids rarely get jello (though now that they’ve discovered it, it’s a common request.  Maybe I should learn how to make it?).  Anyway, I found Lucy feeding her doll orange jello.  Very sweet.  I  also noticed one of her dolls was covered in chocolate milk.  I said that Lucy must’ve been trying to give her a drink, and Vanessa, while practicing her ballet “ultimate spins” in the living room said, “No, she’s giving her a bath!”  Sure enough, Lucy had one of her dolls sitting in a cup of chocolate milk.

Gordon is home!  He flew home Sunday and I’m so glad he’s back.  There were protests at the airport (LAX) and Delta’s system had shut down which resulted in lots of canceled flights and everything being done manually, so we were very fortunate his flights worked out and he made it home.  Late, but home.

It was after 10 and I had all the kids with me since my flight tracker had said everything was on time.  The kids were all tired and Truman was going nuts in the backseat.  He and Lucy are the most wild when they’re tired, everyone was antsy.  It was getting ridiculous back there and when I knew Gordon was picking up his bag, I turned and told the kids, “Hey, let’s all put on smiling faces and act excited when Dad gets in the car.”  Vanessa said, “Or, we could just yell, ‘Surprise!'”  Excited as we were to have him home, that was about all we could muster.

When we got home, we tucked everyone in and went to hit the hay.  We found that Han Solo would be joining us: Lucy even gave him a little pillow in there.

Ack!  Lucy just came upstairs from her nap (already??  She usually sleeps another hour!) and is covered in chocolate.  Where on earth…?  I can never find chocolate when I need it.  Anyway, I’m off to find the source!



The Best Part of Paul

Dear Millie,

What’s new?  It’s been a crazy few days here.  By the way, did you get an Instant Pot?  If not, I’m recommending you do!  I decided to invite a few people over so that we would have to clean up (see previous post about neglecting things).  As predicted, it was stressful and not fun for the preparing part, but it was great when it all came together!  Partly because I made a pot roast in the Instant Pot (an hour and a half!  HA!) and also your amazing rolls that make me look like a rockstar.

I made some good cookies as well, but I’ve been meaning to share the recipe for these other ones: Almond Joy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I halved the recipe because it’s dangerous to have good cookies around.  I had about half dark and half semisweet chips and they turned out great.  Love!  Almond Joys always remind me of Pops.  I’ll have to make these for him the next time I see him.

Don’t forget that it’s Groundhog Day tomorrow!  I’m going to make biscuits and sausage (ground hog, right?) gravy for breakfast before sunrise.  I don’t know if I appreciate that tradition nearly as much now that I’M the mom and have to get up early to make the food, but it’s still fun.  Hoping for an early spring!

I was going through the boys’ backpacks recently and look at this gem from Paul:

Ha ha!  I love it.  “Inmagine.”  So great.

I’d better get to bed early tonight.  It’s an early morning tomorrow!




Chocolate Cake Day

Dear Millie,

I neglect everything.  I don’t know what it is you think I’m doing, but whatever it is you think I’m doing is probably not the thing I AM doing (which means I should be doing something else)!

I don’t think I’d say we’ve been living in absolute squalor, but the piles just keep piling (laundry, papers, things needing to be put away/filed/etc.–all of which take time and attention).  I need to host a party or something (my go-to method for stress cleaning), but I don’t think a party would undo the prepping-for-the-party-madness my children would be put through.

I also keep thinking that as the children get older, it will get easier since they will be more helpful.  And they ARE, but Lucy seems to be two steps ahead of us in both speed and mess-making capabilities compared to our cleaning abilities.

Eh.  The stuff will always be there, begging my attention.  I won’t say that it doesn’t bother me (because IT DOES).  I don’t like that I always feel like we’re in emergency mode (last night, the children informed me that it was Pajama Day at school and Paul wanted a particular set of pajamas that needed to be washed.  There were plenty of other clothes I was able to wash with them, so yay!  But again, if I’d been sticking to my Laundry Plan, they’d have already been washed and it wouldn’t be an emergency late-night laundering situation).  But, the stuff can and will wait and it’ll have its turn at some point.

Sometimes, a good meal is just what we all need.  We eat drive thru dollar menu meals more than we should, especially considering how much I do enjoy cooking.  It’s the time that kills me.  Anyway, I have a couple of things to share with you that may help!

First, stir fry.  I have a love/hate relationship with stir fry.  I used to crave it and we ate it a LOT.  Fajitas too.  I think I burned us out on them for awhile.  Gordon especially is not a fan of stir fry and really, he never has been.  Recently…ish (October!  Ha!), I saw this recipe for 20-Minute Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry and thought I’d give it a try, because I had all the stuff and it sounded good to me (sorry Gordon!).  We all loved it!  Gordon said we should have it again and Kyle, who hates rice, ate it all up.  Yay!  The recipe says 20 minutes, so that’s awesome, except it took me way longer to slice veggies and chicken and all that.  You could probably buy everything already prepped (and do steak if Abe prefers!), but it still was ready in under an hour.  Try it!

And because emergencies demand chocolate (and because today is Chocolate Cake Day), I give you this:

Emergency Chocolate Cupcakes for Two

(or for one, because emergencies)


Dear Millie,

I made scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Three eggs in, I knew it’d be a great day:

Hope your day is happy!



PS I asked Vanessa what I should title this, and she came up with that!

National Peanut Butter Day and Some Big Hair (and Also, a Book!)

Dear Millie,

How’s everything?  Back in the swing of things at school?  How’s Abe’s leg?

Before I get to anything newsy, Vanessa said to tell you she loves you, and the snow is nearly all melted off the trampoline.  Time to schedule a visit!

I don’t have very much newsy stuff, just tidbits.

*I had some neighbor kids over for breakfast because their mom had to be somewhere early this morning.  The mom told me when she asked if I could help out that they were super excited about pancakes, so of course I made pancakes!  The younger one happened to be in the kitchen as I was cracking eggs into the batter.  “Wait a minute.  Are these egg pancakes?  I don’t like egg pancakes.”  I tried convincing him that all pancakes have eggs.  He wouldn’t believe me!  I told him the pancakes he had here last time (and that he requested for dinner tonight) have eggs.  He replied that he didn’t like those after all and just wanted ones with chocolate chips.  Me too.

*The boys were having a rough time falling asleep last night, so in the end, I turned on a relaxation app.  When Kyle was younger, he often requested that app at bedtime.  I was snickering to myself last night remembering that he often set it to the “quit smoking” customization.

*Today is National Peanut Butter Day!  I think I need to make some of your peanut butter cookies!  A food blogger said once you’ve made a recipe six times, it’s yours.  I don’t know how the other food bloggers of the world feel about that.  You shared the recipe with me though, so I say they’re yours!

*Did you see this?  Big hair from the 80’s: 

Here’s a link to a collection of other fun 80’s ‘dos!  I can smell Aqua Net just looking at the pictures!

*Any tips for how to deal with passive aggressive people?  I have the unfortunate responsibility of doing so, and I’m just not sure how to.

*The boys and I finished reading the most delightful book!  It was a little slow getting into it, but the boys had me reading chapter after chapter by the middle (overshooting bedtime cutoff several times and nearly missing the bus a couple of times the next mornings–we all wanted to keep reading!) and then we read probably the last six chapters in one sitting.  Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret.

If Kyle hadn’t already gotten it on New Years Day, I’d tell you that the best auntie would buy it for her favorite nieces and nephews.  You’ll have to get it for yourself (and also maybe for your runner-up favorite nieces and nephews).

*Since we’ve finished that book, we’re on to Book 4 of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  We’ve watched the new Netflix episodes each of the last two Friday nights.  Fun!  Neil Patrick Harris is a good Count Olaf and the boys can’t get enough of Sunny’s comments.

*We should have a page where I list all the books the kids and I (or Gordon) have read together and you can make suggestions for what to read next.  I don’t think you’ve ever led me astray!

*I made sweet and sour chicken Sunday afternoon.  I do love that recipe!  The kids do too.  It takes a bit of time (longer than 30 minutes), but it’s really easy and is so good!  The first time I made it, the strong vinegar smell while it was baking had me worried.  Don’t fret!  It bakes off and the result is fantastic.

I’d best be off!  I hope you have a marvelous, peanut-buttery day!

With love,



Lucy Gets Thirsty

Dear Millie,

Lucy gets thirsty.  Often.  Because she can work the water dispenser on the fridge, she usually takes care of her thirst independently.  The problem is that she’s also quite mischievous.  She often sneaks the boys’ water bottles (and even her own sippy cups) upstairs and plays human water fountain with the liquid contents…all over the carpet.  There really isn’t a place that is out of reach for her because she’s also a skilled problem-solver and can/will scale anything to get to where she wants to be in order to retrieve the object of her current fixation.  We ended up apologizing to the boys and ditching water bottles entirely.  This encouraged Lucy to ask for help with drinks more often, which has been nice.  Unfortunately, it has not been enough for her.  Two recent examples:

The boys were doing dishes.  One does cups, another bowls, another silverware.  This particular day, one had finished his part and had run off to summon the next washer of dishes.  Lucy found it the opportune time to play in the dishwater.  We thought.  She’d perched herself on top of a 5-gallon bucket she had pushed over to the sink and plunged her hands in the murky water.  I was standing with my back to her, talking with Gordon who had just come home.  I heard happy splashing and turned around to pull her away before the kitchen was soaked.  What I found was that she was smacking the nasty scrub brush in the water and sucking the dirty dishwater off.

Another time, we had all finished dinner and the children had scampered off to play for a bit before bedtime.  Lucy stuck around and was playing in the corner with the play kitchen.  Again, my back was to her, and I could hear her banging on her pots and pans as she put them in her little oven and sink.  Eventually, I also heard water.  I turned around to see that the noise wasn’t from her play kitchen as much as it was from the dog’s metal water bowl, and that she was happily using her ladle to help herself to a drink.

So hey!  I made Creamy Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken last night.  It was wonderful!  Here’s a picture from her site (with permission) (you wouldn’t want to eat it based on my photography skills):

I completely forgot the parsley.  Oops!  Gordon would’ve given it all the stars if I’d served it over mashed potatoes instead of pasta, but it was still a winner.  I used ginormous chicken breasts from Sam’s Club, so I do have leftovers, which I’m going to go eat right now.  Mmmmm.

Love you,



In Which I Find I’m Magnetizing

Dearest Millie,

I wasn’t planning to share any more from my Overeaters Anonymous experiences because there isn’t much riveting news from such meetings.  And not that the following is actually riveting, but I just had to share.  Last time, I promise!  Probably!

I was a day or two removed from the first OA meeting when I got a text from the taco lover asking if I’d share a recipe I have for chocolate chip cookies.  It was an emergency of sorts.  Since it’s one of the few things I make well, it’s not a recipe I tend to give out (my friends wouldn’t need me anymore if they had the recipe to make them for themselves!) (I think I have a problem).  Anyway, I told her I’d consider it (it’s the thought that counts, after all!).  She texted me that she was going to just have to use this recipe.  Well, I had to see how they measured up to mine!

We have our own new group: Enablers Anonymous.

But hey, the recipe she sent me was great (she was glad to hear it, because she hadn’t tried it when I texted her about it a couple of days later.  !!!  I don’t know what happened with her emergency).  Gordon prefers them to my small-batch cookies because they doesn’t taste so much like brown sugar, he says.  Anyway, if you need cookies for two (I know my recipe hasn’t worked out for you in the past), here ya go!

Last night was my second OA meeting.  It went well, as far as sitting in a group of strangers and admitting that you (I) have issues.  I was glad that I had gone and even felt comfortable enough to give everyone a hug, as is tradition after such meetings.  Unfortunately, my attempt to be friendly and encouraging resulted in a faux pas.  As I was going to hug one of the members, I turned my face to tell her something, but she was holding on more tightly and longer than I’d expected, and so I found myself kiss-talking on her cheek.  I couldn’t pull my head back far enough to not still be rubbing my nose on her (blast my big nose!), she still didn’t let go, and I couldn’t stop talking.  I thought she’d back up (NOPE) and I was mortified that I probably had her makeup on my teeth.  I quickly buried my face in her shoulder and gave her a few brisk back pats until she let go.  I couldn’t even look at the rest of the group as I hurried out to my car with my compadres.

And that’s why you’ll probably never hear anything more about OA meetings from me.

Gracefully yours,




Dear Millie,

I thought the exact same thing about the arrows on the garage sale signs!  I was curious to find out how Abe would make it work, because I wasn’t making sense of it at all!

It reminds me of the one time in 1st grade I got a “U” on my math worksheet.  I still get hives just remembering.  There were two columns with numbers in each.  The directions said, “Use the greater-than sign.”  I knew some of those numbers on the right were greater than the ones on the left, but the directions said I had to use the greater-than sign!  Do I do the math correctly, or do I follow the directions?  The choice was harrowing.  I carefully drew the greater-than sign between the sets of numbers all the way down the middle of the columns.  The next set of columns with numbers asked me to use the less-than sign.  WHAT.  Some of the numbers on the left were greater than the ones on the right!  Was this a practice in following directions or actual math??  I remember a kid named Jacob telling me that I’d gotten a “U” on my worksheet and I thought he was kidding because I’d followed the directions and I’d surely earned nothing less than an “E” on that assignment.  I still remember my cheeks burning when I saw my graded worksheet.

I think a lot of issues I experience as an adult stem from that very experience, which leads me to last night, where I found myself talking some friends into joining me at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

One of the friends loves soda.  A chain of convenience stores you’ll see in the Midwest have their fountain sodas labeled by “buddy” size or something like that.  Anyway, this friend always has a soda buddy with her, and the other friend had gotten her a shirt for her birthday teasing her about that:


The friend who bought the shirt loves tacos.  I mean, LOVES tacos.  She would/could eat them every single meal of every single day.  She sends me taco memes often and when I saw this shirt at Target, I immediately thought of her:

SO, my friends were awesome and agreed to go with me to OA, except the soda-lover thought I was asking if she wanted to go to an Order of the Arrow meeting, so she may have felt a little weirded out when we got there.

I was feeling antsy about going and meeting new people and talking about how I *might* have an issue (I don’t really!  I’ve totally got it under control.  I just choose to stuff myself silly at all times).  As I was trying to think about how to act, what I would say, and how I could break the ice, I was thinking my friends could wear their shirts.  Then I wished I had a shirt.  What could I bring that would make me cool?  I came up with the perfect solution to any new situation.  No joke:





Love you,


I Can’t, and It’s Okay (Right?)

Dear Millie,

The Family Prude does Las Vegas!  HA!  Oh, I love you.  We should definitely do Vegas together sometime, sans nudies.

Last month, I was feeling so frustrated that I was so behind on everything.  I have had a type of countdown to Christmas in my mind for years and have never yet been able to pull it together and pull it off.  Nor was I able to pull off timely Christmas cards with the photo from our session with Disaster (they arrived in the mail yesterday!  You may start expecting one in the mail in maybe a week or so.  Or later.  Valentine’s Day?).  We didn’t get outside lights up (we haven’t since we moved here!  Gordon used to enjoy the math of perfectly positioned lights.  I’m not sure if the cold here is the deterrent, or just that the house is a different shape and difficult to work with), the tree was never fully ornamented (on the spontaneous day of putting the tree up and ornamenting, I found a few boxes that had several ornaments each and we had the kids put them on.  I never got to go through the rest of the boxes, so our tree was pretty sparse as far as ornaments go), I had only two or three Christmas knick-knacks displayed (out of several boxes-worth like I used to display in our last home), and it was just so busy.

I did so enjoy the countdown I shared here, but I felt like I was constantly missing the mark, as far as picture-perfect holidays go.  As I was helping someone ready their home for a visit from CPS, I worried that if CPS were to stop by my house, they’d have to seriously question whether my home was up to snuff.  The walls are all dirty with handprints and Lucy has made a mural of nearly all of them.  The dishes were always half-done, as I could only get done what I had time to do.  The house always smelled like yesterday’s dinner.  There are piles of paper covering the high counter and more piles by my computer and boxes and boxes that still have yet to be unpacked.  I won’t talk about the laundry pile on the couch.  And I never, not during the entire month leading up to the holidays, felt like I had it all together.  My hair was never nicely done, my makeup was an afterthought, and my clothes always felt a bit frumpy and unkempt.  I was trying to gather presents and organize meaningful experiences for another family and coordinate meals for those who would be without otherwise.  My family ate a lot of frozen pizza, corn dogs, and chicken nuggets.

All these things added up to feelings of inadequacy.  One day in particular, I was picking up Kyle’s friend for an afternoon of sledding and other goof-offery, and as I pulled into his driveway, I was struck with such a sense of…I don’t know…imperfection?  Kyle’s friend is one of seven beautiful children, his dad is a doctor, his mom is a gorgeous, always put-together, unbelievably lucky-in-the-genetic-lottery type, and their home, wow, their home was amazing.  I looked it up on Zillow so I could know what I was looking for (I can’t follow directions.  Even with Siri.  And in the couple of times I’ve been there since, I’ve still driven past it!  But anyway, I’d seen pictures of the interior as well as the exterior and holy cow).  Anyway, I used to think that the mom could do it all because they had a nanny.  Of course she could do her hair and makeup and workout and clean her house and manage running children to and fro!

Well.  They let the nanny go.  With their recent move here, the dad has better hours and can help the mom.  They really don’t need her services.  Huh.  They do have things together on their own then.  Rats!

One day, a few of us moms were practicing a musical number for Christmas Day’s church services.  We started talking about what we wanted for Christmas (I wanted sleep!  And a clean house!).  Anyway, this particular mom I’d been admiring (and feeling a bit deficient compared to) just the day before, turned to me and said that her husband had offered, as a Christmas present, to hire someone to help with housework.  Not the deep-clean type of help, because they’d have to cut through the regular stuff to get to that, just getting dishes and laundry and vacuuming and the occasional mopping in.  What.  She went on to say that as she was also helping at the house where we were prepping for CPS, she wondered whether if they came to her house, they’d take her children away.  I laughed politely and doubted that was the case, because I’d seen pictures of her house by golly, but then she said, “No, I’m serious.  I’m not trying to say, ‘Oh, my house is dirty,’ and it really isn’t.  It’s BAD.  Like, scary, smelly bad.  The dishes are filling the sink and are on every counter and the laundry is piled and just…that’s why my husband wanted to get help.  We’re drowning over there!”

I couldn’t believe it.

She went on to say that she’d not had time to do her hair and just pulled it into a ponytail on the way (it looked as though she’d spent a lot of time on it) and that she was late, so she had to throw on whichever slip-on shoes she found first (they were the cutest ballet flats), and that meant she hadn’t put on socks and her toes were freezing.  I thought she’d spent time coordinating all the pieces of her ensemble, but no!  It was just whatever she could grab on the way out the door since we were meeting at the church and she had to quickly get out of her pajamas.  Huh!

Gordon sent me a post Jake had linked to on Facebook about “lifestyle porn” and I while I don’t necessarily agree that Mormons have a monopoly on fake-life blogging, etc., I loved so much of it!  I can relate.  I know what we see online is often contrived and the picture we see is the best picture out of hundreds (even on food blogs!), but it’s hard to not be sucked into thinking that’s the reality–clean counters with beautiful food and kids cutting out cookies while sitting their flourless bums on the counter.  Where are the scribbles on the walls?  Where are the piles of papers from school that need signatures or the pots and pans from the beautiful meal or the children still in footy pajamas from that morning?  (Mine is right behind me.)

Of course the pictures of my gorgeous friend’s home were amazing…they were from the realtor trying to sell the house!  If you look on Zillow at the pictures of my home, you’ll be blown away by my palatial quarters.  I can tell you right now that I was disappointed when I saw the house in person.  Obviously, I still liked it enough to buy it and the land it came with can’t be beaten, but the fireplace looks horrendous, the cracks in the walls and terrible cover-up paint jobs were not in the pictures…not even in the video walk-through the realtor had done for us.  The rooms are much smaller than the pictures portrayed, and I guess it all (reality, metaphors, and all) comes down to angles and lenses.

I lead a messy life.  I’m resigned to (and now embrace) this season of my life.  I love it, fingerprinted walls and all.  I’m not saying I won’t keep cleaning and washing dishes and working on the maddening laundry (if everyone would just stop wearing clothes, we wouldn’t have this problem!  Hmmm…I think we have too many windows to pull that off), but there were/are so many good and more important things: Gordon got all A’s in his master’s program this semester, even after the lit review we thought would kill us.  We were so ready and excited for Christmas, Santa came a day early.  We spent Christmas Eve sledding with friends instead of prancing around, perfectly coiffed, taking pictures and never enjoying the snow outside.  Ten families had turkeys and hams and all the fixings delivered to them courtesy of the ward, and another family had Christmas covered for them and the three extra children they were welcoming into their home.

Christmas at my house looked less like the magazines and blogs and more like what my kids will actually remember: a big mess of wrapping paper, squeals of glee and laughter, and a vague smell of onions and garlic.  While I do hope I ever get to do the advent I have in my mind (and maybe serve dinner all dolled up because who doesn’t like to feel fancy now and then?), I’ll be happy if all our Christmases look like this one did.  I hope yours do, too.

Happily “can’ting”,


PS  I had bought all the stuff to make this Sparkling Cranberry Cider and other things for our fancy Christmas dinner.  I don’t remember what we ended up having for dinner on Christmas (frozen pizza??), but we just had the chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and veggies last night.  Ha ha!  I made the cider New Years Eve and we loved it!  The kids were sad that I’d halved the recipe.  Since I haven’t been able to find any Hawaiian Punch concentrate for Gordon’s family’s traditional Christmas Punch, I think this will be our go-to!

PPS I do remember what I’d made for Christmas breakfast before church!  I don’t think Gordon tried it, but the kids and I loved it!  It was this Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread.  We all love Monkey Bread to begin with, so that was a big draw.  The fact that it used premade cinnamon rolls meant it came together in just a few minutes (score!  We usually just have cereal out for the kids on Sundays since there isn’t much time for cooking).  I usually steer clear of Pillsbury dough because it has a bit of a chemical taste or something, but this tasted nothing like that.

I wondered, though, how I could make it without canned cinnamon rolls, since I’d never bought those before now and I doubt I’ll have them in my fridge when I have a hankering for that recipe.  A couple of days later, Mel from posted these Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls.  They worked out great (well, except that I didn’t notice the cream I used had passed its expiration date.  That definitely affected the flavor of the icing.  Oh, and I ended up making two batches of icing [second batch with milk instead of soured cream] because there definitely wasn’t enough to drizzle around.  The pictures show a good amount on them, but the recipe only produced enough to have half a spip per roll.  Unacceptable!  Ha ha)!  Anyway, I’m thinking the biscuit cinnamon roll recipe would work great since you’re not working with yeast and risings, etc.  Either way, now you have some recipes I’d recommend you try!