Spare Change

The story of our path to this point is long and boring, so here's the short version.

Before Christmas, God provided us with something very good.

One month ago, we bought either
1. A LARGE Car
2. An Itty Bitty Home

Which was it, you ask?

Good question. I haven't seen it myself yet, but, Lord willing, we'll transplant ourselves there in the late spring sunshine. It's about half the size of a standard single-wide trailor, but it has no steering wheel, so my bet's on the itty-bitty home. The only picture I could find that shows something with similar square footage was this. Take out the gigantic boat, and there's a cozy space for our family of six. Plus, our car/home only cost $500, and that included a stove, refrigerator, and a new furnace. (The Boat Tent costs $2,000, without the boat.)

I am excited!

If one counts our month and a half stint of gypsyhood as a home, then this 1965 Pontiac will be our seventh home, and the first one we've ever owned.
I like that.

Once I see it, I'll take a picture, and then we'll have a naming contest.

Sweet TREATS for Pete Feet

(I used the word, the very worst word, just for you.)

John works the 2-10 shift now, which, overall, is good, but which has the unfortunate side effect of an Abigail making meals that aren't blog-worthy. I make homemade mac and cheese, meatless chili, weird pasta, and less palatable things on a regular basis, and the meals that are blog-worthy are savory soups and stews for which I have no recipe.


All I presently have to offer are a few sweet things. Go.
Build your belly, with my blessing.


Wood, Hay, and Stubble

It's official. Nearly this entire batch of posts is devoted to material goods of little consequence. I'm giving you the pictures that my camera holds, though, so forgive the glut of materialism and the lack of...you know....people.

I'll try to post a few back-logged recipes later this week, along with the exciting 10' X 46' reason that all these posts about stuff, stuff, and more stuff are pretty funny.

Until then, here are a few pictures of Piper before you move onto the wood, hay, and stubble.

After she tried turning me into stone, I put the camera away.
You would have done the same.


This long post is mostly to give McGamma a smile.The girls have some amazing toy wealth, most of which has never been captured on snapshots, and most of which I'm guilty of occasionally playing with. Two years ago, John's mom gave the girls a wooden doll house, a wooden doll family to live within its walls, and furnishings, to boot. To know Mom Owen is to love her, and to know her is also to know that she likes helping things reach their full potential. She gave them not only a doll family but also grandparents and cousins. She gave them not only a kitchen, living room, and bedroom set, but also a playground, a dining room set, and a nursery set. It's all pretty fantastic, and the girls love playing with it.

One day the girls and I answered a knock on our door to find another dollhouse being thrust inside. Our neighbors in the next door apartment were moving, and they wanted to give us their granddaughter's dollhouse. We were happy to take it, and quickly turned the first dollhouse into "Grandma and Grandpa's House," using the "new" dollhouse for the main family's quarters. Funny....we had enough furnishings for TWO houses. Huh.

Anyway, it needs a bit of sprucing up, but with a coat of paint and some wallpaper, it will be as good as new.

The graffiti on the side of the house reads,
"No gandmas
onley 55 or oldr
No Famales
no Brts
no moms
no DaDs."

I think "Famales" is pronounced similarly to "tamales," and it was already there when it became ours. (Thank goodness, because only a Brt would write such a thing on the side of a family dollhouse.)

I showed you the graffiti so you could know how daring Millie was when she did this. (A Gandma! Famale! In the house!)

Last week, after I'd played with tidied the dollhouse while the girls were napping, Millie told me that she had to put herself and Grandma Owen on the couch in the main house because "We like to do this together."

McGamma, behold your little t.v.-head! (And that's Rocky in the corner...)

The girls only watch the occasional movie, in part because we have no television reception and in part because t.v. turns the brains of little girls to mush, but L.I. is a television paradise, and Millie wanted to recreate it here the only way she could.

Even More Wood

I made three sloppy teabags on a whim one night long, long ago. The fact that not one of the three has been lost is nearly miraculous, and they are in constant use. I thought it would be fun to give the girls an upgrade for Christmas, so I made them fifteen, shiny, new teabags. (My motivation was selfish, though, because I have so much more selection now when they serve me.)

This is the only Twelve Days of Christmas gift that I actually made before Epiphany. It's a quick, simple gift that costs two bucks (provided your father keeps the green tea from inside the wooden box and pays the balance and your mother gives you leftover quilt batting and scraps of ric-rac).

I love the flavors that the girls attach to stripes and splashes of color. Midnight Blueberry, Chocolate Toffee , and Tropical-Fruity Stripe are my current favorites.

A Preface to Hay

Like all children do, Annie gets on doodle kicks in which she draws a variation on the same theme for weeks at a time. In late October and early November, she drew lots of these funny trick-or-treaters. This one is me, dressed as a flower, smiling at the moon. (I'm sure happy, but look at how frightened my candy basket is...)

Then there was her discovery that numbers should be incorporated into fashion. (This was me, wearing one of the many gowns she designed during this time. And those aren't elephant ears, either; it's my hair, for Pete's sake!)

I was glad that this next phase didn't last long. When I asked her why I had a mustache in this portrait, she corrected me by saying, "It's not a mustache. See? You have TWO eyes and TWO noses and TWO mouths." It really wasn't the most flattering drawing she's ever done of me, but at least my headdress was scalloped.

Her use of color, though, seems innate, because she's done it from the time she could scribble, always choosing to utilize as much color as possible. She thinks in rainbows.

When she paints (which is rare because I'm a bad mother), she does the same with both her abstract work

and her highly realistic work.

Now, onto the hay.


Remember Annie's pirate sword? She's fiercely protective of it and hides it in couch crevices, in dresser drawers, and under furniture like she's a squirrel. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she couldn't think of anything, but after I gave her a minute, she said, "A sword with all sorts of colors on it! Red and green and pink and, etc., etc., etc."

I couldn't find one at the dollar store, so I borrowed some paints from my talented painter-sister Becky and dressed up the blade and hilt of her old sword. I also added a strap, which will soon need replacing.

I think the colors on the blade makes it look like a circus sword.

I also made an eye patch in green, her favorite color, because all pirates need a patch in order to see properly.


This was Susannah's gift. I made six wee diapers for her baby, I folded them nicely in a pouch,

And I made a few wipes to clean messes. (What?! Your baby wipes aren't embossed with fancy stitches? A cryin' shame...)

They look pretty cute, but I won't vouch for their absorbency.

And here is Susannah, several minutes after I told her she could use her wipes to clean her baby's bottom or to clean her face. To be fair, she did have the right idea, just the wrong baby.

Even More Stubble

Millie's gift was this square-bottomed bag I sewed for Gracie, her much-loved alter ego. Doesn't she look concerned and prepared?

She has good reason to look prepared, because inside the crazy-colored lining are eight bandages, an empty ointment tube, and popsicle stick splints.

The bandages are fastened with velcro tabs, and they should look familiar to at least one of you. (Thanks for cast-offs, McGamma! They were the perfect cloth for these.)

After Millie oohed and ahhed, she THREW Gracie to the floor and said, "Oh, no! GRACIE! You need to be more careful! Are you hurt? Here, let me get you a bandage." It was at this point that John turned to me and muttered, "This gift was probably a bad idea..."

The girls quickly discovered inexplicable wounds on all of their dolls and lined them up for treatment.

For some reason, Millie thought that the red-hot burners were a suitable recovery room.

So much so that other patients soon filled all the available burners beds.

Then, inevitably, they ran out of patients and began applying bandages to their own previously unnoticed injuries.

(Apologies for their unkempt appearance. John had just made them breakfast shakes, and I hadn't yet plucked the birds out of their hair in order to brush it.)

This girl needed a neck brace because...I suppose because...well, obviously, because she has a neck.

My very favorite part of this half-hour or so occurred when I asked Millie if she wanted to treat Laura's injuries. Laura-- or Beloved Laura, as Millie quite often calls her-- is the doll my mom gave Millie when she turned three years old, and she sleeps with her every night. "Laura?" Millie said with genuine bewilderment, "But Laura doesn't HAVE any injuries."

Meet Beloved Laura.

She's a cloth-bodied doll with button hinges, but her head, unfortunately, was made from hollow, breakable plastic with cloth stretched over it. Yes, I once had to sew her nose shut to keep the broken pieces from spilling out.

The Quilt

Around Christmas, my mom gave Piper her quilt, which though big, isn't nearly as immense as this snapshot makes it seems. I set Piper in the center but by the time I took the picture, she was nearly out of the frame.

I set Piper down to pick some pecks of pickled peppers. (How many did she pick?)

Finally, my favorite part... I love the whole quilt, but the best part is the piper sewn in the center. Mom asked Debbie to draw a piper so she could use it for a template, and it is perfect. I love it, and when Piper's big enough to know, she'll love it, too.

John Thinks Kids are Baby Goats

My first student teaching placement in college paired me with an incredible teacher. One of his valuable practices was to give his students the tools to recognize media manipulation. They'd spend a week or two studying the various ways in which advertisers use flattery, quiet threats, and other tactics to wheedle us into buying, using, and consuming products. It was fascinating, and I find myself still reading advertisements through the lens of that knowledge.

I ripped this advertisement from a parenting magazine I flipped through at the laundromat.

Jen Wilson. Among her other notable achievements (not to mention her incredibly toned calves!), she's a "kid dropper-offer and kid picker-upper." Oh, yeah, and she helps with homework and shops for groceries.

I have many thoughts about the absolute worthiness and substance of my current calling as a mother. I have just as many thoughts about our culture's disparagement of that calling. I'm constantly told, in both blatant and subtle ways, that being just a mother is not enough, especially if one has visible intelligence, beauty, creativity, or talent just GOING TO WASTE in the home. (And the idea that "successful" motherhood looks like Martha Stewart-hood is just as bad.) If only the Council Devoted to the Incredible Egg and Western culture in general spoke the truth about the tending of little souls.

I didn't want to take the time to place my thoughts down coherently right now, but I still felt the need to respond to the advertisement, so I added an asterisked message.

There. That's better.


Millie was eating a lifesaver and asked me its flavor.

"Pina colada," I answered.

This ensued.

Millie: "Pickle-atta?"
Me: "No, Pina colada."
Millie, bravely forging ahead, "Pita-lotta?"

I had to stop laughing before I tried for three's the charm.


Susannah has a touch of excema. She doesn't quite understand what it is, but she mangles it well.

Mournfully, in an attempt to stave off bedtime as I tuck her in, "Mama. I need med'cine. I have eggs in mine arms."

At supper, working herself into tears, "Oh, no, Millie! I have eggs! Oh, no..."

Last night, in a panic, "Mama! I have Nest Egg in mine elbows!"
Ah, don't I wish. She'd be our Goose with the Golden Excema...

A Question for Camera People

I have a glorified point and shoot camera. Glorified because although it doesn't have the bells and whistles of a high-end camera, it does allow a limited range of manual control if the user knows anything about photography.

I don't know anything, but maybe I'll learn. In that ethereal Someday. When I'm ninety.

A couple of weeks ago, I took this picture of the moon in a tree house. It's a typical amateur moon shot.

This is the moon shot I took that same night with the limited range of control my camera allows. It's still a typical amateur moon shot, except I can see the man on the moon! I was excited by this. To anyone who does know something about photography: is it possible to take a picture of the moon with the clarity of the bottom picture instead of the hazy white of the top while still capturing the branches? I think that would've been cool, but if it's possible, I have no idea how to do it.

I don't even remember what I did between the first and second shots to make the difference. I just looked in my camera's manual (which, two years later, I still haven't read), and it says that the camera can shoot from 4 sec. to 1/1000 of a sec. in 1/3 EV increments and from it can shoot from F 3.5 to F 13.6.

I know these numbers have something to do with aperture and shutter speed, but I don't know much about what that means. I remember Luke patiently explaining it to me once and giving up when my eyes glazed over. (When I'm ninety, Luke, you can try again, and I'll take awesome pictures of my wheelchair.)

You Already Saw the Film

...which, incidentally, is more entertaining than these pictures, but here I am, feeding Piper cereal for the first time.

She liked it well enough.

If you saw how messy she was in John's movie, it's due to the tradition of all older siblings also getting to feed the baby, no matter how ill-prepared they are.

Dig Deep

I've been meaning to post this for a few months now. Millie was reading a comic book John had passed down to her when she held these up with a puzzled grin. These are two notes that were written on Houghton College scrap stationary on a night when Mildred was a baby, Elizabeth was not yet a Brown, and Fred and Elizabeth hid funny notes in our apartment. Five years later, we finally uncovered them, and I love that they are addressed to the very girl by whom they were found.