Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs

This is my first Daring Baker's Challenge. It was scary for me to consider and I must admit that I messed up the pastry dough once and had to do it again and the pastry cream once as well. In the end though the eclairs were so delicious and I'm proud that I accomplished this little project! I'm less happy about the 15,000 calories I consumed during the process, but that's a post for another day!

I used vanilla pastry cream rather than the chocolate pastry cream in this recipe. Some day maybe I'll try in with the chocolate, but if I only ever make these this once I'm glad it was with vanilla pastry cream!

Here is the recipe from Pierre Herme:

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

For other Daring Bakers' post on chocolate eclair, click here.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Fellow Americans...

I have a statement to make. Please click here for an important news story.

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Look Who Is Here!

We live in a small town, of about 15,000 people. We only have 2 major stores to shop in. I had heard rumors that a certain favorite person of mine was in town, but hadn't seen him with my own eyes. Little did I know that when I went to the store today, to buy my favorite beverage, I would literally run right into him!

Tim & Reese (I didn't have a pic of Tim on this computer, so I stole one from Reese!)

Yep, that's's Tim! I had heard the rumors, but my hubby had not. I purposely kept it a secret. Tim loves to surprise Dan. Dan works nights so it's hard to catch him awake during the day, but I had just talked to him and knew he was awake. I told Tim that if he followed me home right then, he could see him. Luckily when I got there Dan was outside working in the yard and I was able to distract him until Tim was right in front of him. Dan's face was priceless as he tried to process how Tim was possibly standing in front of him (or hugging him by that time).

It's so awesome to see him! It makes me miss Reese even more, but so very thankful for the few days we get to spend with Tim. The boys are at the movies now and the kids and I are all hoping for some Tim time before the weekend is through!

Here's a picture of the boys at the last visit. I love to see their faces whenever they see each other for the first time. It's amazing to know their past and see the deep love that has developed. I feel so blessed that they love each other as much as Reese & I.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, I know we will!

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Know and Tell Friday: Back-To-School Edition

Hey, there! Reese here. My 2 oldest kids went back to their American on-base schools on Monday. I now have a 7th grader and a 9th grader. I'm still quite in shock over Sean being in high school. When did my little baby outgrow diapers and a pacifier and start taking algebra classes?! It seems too impossible to be true, but only 4 short years from now he will be off to college. I shed silent and random tears at that prospect.

Sean starting high school is overshadowing dear Kristine's entry into 7th grade. Seventh grade was a big deal when I was a kid because it meant being in junior high (that's what we called it back then) which meant lockers and different teachers and choosing electives. Oddly, in Germany at the base we were at, middle school started in 5th grade. That means middle school is old news to my girl, though she is now a "big" seventh grader who looks down her nose at the "tiny" 6th graders (middle school starts in 6th grade here). She can barely believe that those little babies have been allowed into middle school! LOL!

Zach and Ian won't start their English school classes until next week, and they won't be full time for a couple of weeks after that. I like that though the kids start a bit younger here, their ages are taken in to consideration and allowances are made. They start slowly and will accommodate any kids who need more time to work into the swing of things. I like having the freedom to tailor the start of schooling to my individual children.

To recognize the end-of-summer ritual of going back to school and all that entails, we've cooked up a back-to-school edition KATF. If you don't have kids in school, answer the questions for yourself when you were in school.


1. How far in advance do you start getting ready for back-to-school (whether for your own kids, or for yourself when you were in school)?

2. Do you have any picky eaters who need special considerations for lunches? What does a typical bagged lunch look like in your house?

3. What school supply items do you skimp on and what are you willing to shell out the big bucks for?

4. Do you get your kids up, or do they get up on their own? Any snooze-hitters that have trouble waking up? How about the opposite, any kids that are up at the crack of dawn?

5. Any cafeteria horror stories? Is school food as bad as they say?

6. How important is it to you to make sure your kids have the latest styles and trendiest accessories?

7. Remember the movie Kindergarten Cop? If Arnold Schwarzenegger was your child's new kindergarten teacher, how would you feel?

Heather's answers:

1. How far in advance do you start getting ready for back-to-school (whether for your own kids, or for yourself when you were in school)? We still aren't ready, and school starts on Tuesday. We have all of our school supplies to buy, haircuts to get and random clothes. I really hate the start of the school schedule, it means the goodbye to warm weather and a flexible schedule.

2. Do you have any picky eaters who need special considerations for lunches? What does a typical bagged lunch look like in your house?
No one is overly picky, but they have very bland lunches. It always consists of a Peanut butter sandwich for Mark, no sandwich for Amanda. Then they are allowed two snacks and a drink. The snacks are usually peaches, string cheese, granola bars, carrot sticks. I realized that McKenna will now be needing a sack lunch this year...that will be my interesting one!

3. What school supply items do you skimp on and what are you willing to shell out the big bucks for?
That's a good question. I'm really not willing to spend a lot of money on any items. I figure pencils, pens and glue sticks can always be bought again. I think the one item I will be willing to spend a little more on this year is backpacks. Last year each kid went through 3 backpacks. That is unheard of, I usually make them use one all year but they literally fell apart. I guess I will buy better quality ones this year.

4. Do you get your kids up, or do they get up on their own? Any snooze-hitters that have trouble waking up? How about the opposite, any kids that are up at the crack of dawn?
I get the kids up, and I am the snooze hitter. Last year was the first year that my children were not late for school, and my oldest was in the 7th grade! Getting ready for school is always hard on me. The trick that I had to use last year, due to my husband's work schedule, was all the clothes had to be ready and waiting in the bathroom. By having everything ready the night before, we weren't searching for lost items every morning. It saved us a ton of time.

5. Any cafeteria horror stories? Is school food as bad as they say?
My kids definitely say the food is bad. As of last year, even the pizza is terrible. That's pretty shocking. They all prefer a brown bagged lunch over cafeteria food, so it must be bad.

6. How important is it to you to make sure your kids have the latest styles and trendiest accessories?
Not important at all. Luckily none of my kids are into that. They buy what they enjoy and aren't worried about all the trend setters. I remember when I was in school I wanted all the expensive clothes and I feel very lucky that my kids are not following in my footsteps.

7. Remember the movie Kindergarten Cop? If Arnold Schwarzenegger was your child's new kindergarten teacher, how would you feel?
At first very freaked out! I actually think in the end it would be pretty awesome!

Reese's answers:

1. How far in advance do you start getting ready for back-to-school (whether for your own kids, or for yourself when you were in school)? As I said here, this year was the worst. Usually I start buying school supplies about 2 weeks before school, so I'm not a big planner but I usually get all I need. In Germany we were at a small base and the school supplies always ran very, very low right about the time I went to buy. You'd think I would have learned my lesson after the first year, but do you really think that happened??!! NOPE!

2. Do you have any picky eaters who need special considerations for lunches? What does a typical bagged lunch look like in your house? My kids eat the cafeteria food. Despite the fact that I have no complaints about our military pay (some people do complain alot), we qualify for free lunches. I think it's because Tim's not an officer and we have 4 kids. With free lunches, I don't see why we should pay the money for bagged lunches or deal with the hassle. Occasionally, they won't like what's being served and they'll take a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a sweet of some sort and a drink.

3. What school supply items do you skimp on and what are you willing to shell out the big bucks for?
Like Heather, this year it was backpacks we paid more for. My kids' bags are usually shredded by the end of the school year, and sometimes even need to be replaced mid-year. Sean got a sling backpack in the luggage department and Kristine got an actual carry-on business type bag. They are both black and not in the least frilly, but they both got the ones they wanted.

4. Do you get your kids up, or do they get up on their own? Any snooze-hitters that have trouble waking up? How about the opposite, any kids that are up at the crack of dawn?
Sean has been getting up on his own for years. He's very much the oldest child, very responsible and with it. Kristine inherited her dad's night-owl-can-hardly-wake-up-in-the-mornings condition. She regularly sleeps through her alarm, and she's even slept through the sun shining on her when she slept with the shade open so the sun would wake her up! Poor girl often has to wake up to Sean's loud chiding.

5. Any cafeteria horror stories? Is school food as bad as they say?
There are some things the kids love at the cafeteria, some they hate. Some days Kristine will come home famished because she refused to eat whatever the school was serving. She swears they served tuna surprise at her last school, though that seems a bit far fetched, doesn't it?!

When I was in middle school some of the food was awesome. If I remember correctly, I liked the pizza. One of my clearest memories of middle school was one I wasn't there for; I heard about it from my friends and it stuck with me: we had science right before lunch and one particular day (when I was out sick) they were dissecting sheep's eyeballs. From that experience, my friends went to lunch were the entree of the day was spaghetti and meat balls! Jenny barely made it into the bathroom where she proceeded to be very sick!

6. How important is it to you to make sure your kids have the latest styles and trendiest accessories?
Thankfully, that's not very important to my kids. This year Kristine earnestly requested white shoes, all decked out with silver thread and little shinies here and there. Apparently, all her friends have them. Judging by the vast selection of white, shiny shoes they must be popular this year. Other than a few little things every now and then, it isn't that important to them.

7. Remember the movie Kindergarten Cop? If Arnold Schwarzenegger was your child's new kindergarten teacher, how would you feel?
I'd request a transfer for my child. Why would a massive man be teaching kindergarten unless he had ulterior motives?!

Ok, have at it ladies! Don't forget to visit each other's blogs and get to know each other!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Every Child's Nightmare: A Mom Who Overshares

Today I'm quietly thankful that I'm not Matthew McConaughey. You know the internet abbreviation TMI- too much information? That's a serious understatement in this case. Here is what Matthew's mother Kay has written in her new book "I Amaze Myself" (frankly, she amazes me too- but not necessarily in a good way):

Matthew McConaughey's father died having sex with his mom, Mama McConaughey says in her new book, "I Amaze Myself!"

“On Monday mornings, he and I often said goodbye by making love,” Kay McConaughey tells Us Weekly. “But one day, all of a sudden, it just happened. I knew that something was wrong, because I didn’t hear anything from him. Just nothing," she says. "But it was just the best way to go!”

When her husband couldn’t be revived, she made sure he was taken from the house in the nude.

“I was just so proud to show off my big old Jim McConaughey — and his gift,” she says.

Kay McConaughey also says her famous son, 38, was a happy accident. It was just after she’d married Matthew’s dad for the third time.

“I was deciding, ‘Do I want to have another baby? Do I want to have an affair? Or go back to school?’” she says. “That’s when Matthew was conceived. We had tried for 16 years and no baby. So Matthew was a big surprise!”

What would you be saying to your mother right about now if she wrote a book like that?!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gas Tank Woes & School Clothes Shopping

I finally stepped out of my "back to school denial" phase and took the kids back to school shopping on Saturday. We always go about 1 1/2 hours away because if you buy your clothes in this small town, you will look like every other person in school, and we just can't have that. :) It's a tradition. My mom and this year one of my sisters and the kids all load up in my suburban and head out for a fun day of shopping.

My gas tank was beyond empty as I was leaving for the day. Thank goodness the gas station is straight down the hill from my house and I knew I could coast in if I needed too. I argued with myself over how much gas I would need and decided that if I told the attendant to "fill it up", it would only be about $80 - ouch! So, confident in my thought process, I told him to "fill it up!".

After awhile of sitting there, I could have read a book it took so long, I hear the pump turn off and then the attendant says "Your tank isn't full but the pump automatically shuts off at $100, want me to re-swipe your card and go again?". He thought he was pretty funny! I, on the other hand, saw no humor in the matter. I emphatically told him no, I would take my chances at where the $100 got me. Thankfully, it did get me to the full line.

It leaves me to wonder, is a paid off suburban worth it? I have yet to figure that out.

Regardless of the gas tank issue, we had a wonderful day together. The finale of the day was the girls doing a fashion show of all their new clothes for school. We are almost ready. This weekend will be all about the school supplies and getting organized. Should be a fun weekend. :(

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Politics and Life

I don't like to talk politics with people- even though I have strong political views- simply because it's such a dividing issue. I am first and foremost a Christian, not the member of a political party. All my political views have their foundations in my Christian beliefs.

With that in mind, I've decided to post a statement by Catholic Cardinal Egan. He is addressing comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Tom Brokaw. Here is her comment:

Brokaw: …“I if [Obama] were to come to you and say ‘help me out here, Madam Speaker, when does life begin,’ what would you tell him?

Pelosi: “I would say that as an ardent practicing Catholic this is an issue that I have studied for a long time, and what I know is over the centuries the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said three months. We don’t know. The point is it that it shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to chose.”

Here is Cardinal Egan's statement:

Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York

The Bible begins with God breathing life into man. I believe that human life is of the utmost importance to God and that the arrogance associated with our "right to choose" will carry very heavy consequences when we face God. It is one issue that I won't brush aside when considering a candidate. I want to encourage you who are Christian to take this issue of unborn life into your considerations when you vote in November.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This is me this morning:

This is my trendy English hairdresser cutting all my hair off:

This is all my hair, about to be swept up and thrown in the "rubbish bin":

This is the wild style my hairdresser gave me before I left the salon. I don't intend to copy the gravity-defying back part any time soon.

Here it is after I tamed it a bit! I still need to get used to it, but I think I'm really going to like it once the shock wears off.

(For those of you who know her, I look like my mom, don't I?!)

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Peace and Other News

We've been a bit neglectful of Crazyville these days, only because we're inhabiting Crazyville in a very real, uncyber way. Truth is, I've missed you all. I love my blogging friends!

I wanted to take a minute to encourage anyone with time and an interest to checkout today's My Utmost for His Highest daily devotion for today (click here). It was one of those "Now Words" for me when I read it this morning, a word from God for my present circumstances. It's about peace and looking into the undisturbed face of Jesus and finding no reason to fret. It's exactly what I needed to read today and it drove me to my knees. I need Jesus. I need his peace.

I have been reading My Utmost For His Highest for years, though I have it in the original version and the online version is in updated language. While the website is easier to understand, I must say that some of the beautiful poetic language Mr Chambers used is lost. He was very direct, and somehow the newer language is softened and less powerful. Still, it hits home. I encourage you to bookmark the site if you don't own the book and read the daily devotions there. The link is in the "Escapes from Crazyville" section of our sidebar.

In other news, today is Hair Cut Day! I must say, I'm nervous. I stopped by the salon on Saturday and met the hairdresser who I've booked my appointment with; she seems confident that she can cut it the way I want. One thing I really like is that her own hair is straight and fine, and cut short in a very edgy way. That might help her to know my hair and what I'm going for.

I'll post pictures later! I'll be getting it cut at about 4 am Oregon time, while Heather's snoozing. I'll try to get a picture up my mid-afternoon.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Know and Tell Friday

1. Are you right- or left-handed?

2. Any nicknames they have (or have had) and the story behind them?

3. Do you need to do laundry right now?

4. What CD is in your CD player/music on your iPod right now?

5. How/when did you learn to ride a bicycle?

6. What is your favorite weird food combination?

7. What is something you have that is of sentimental value?

Heather's answers:

1. Are you right- or left-handed? I am left handed! The weird thing is that I do everything right handed, except write.

2. Any nicknames they have (or have had) and the story behind them? My oldest nickname is Duckbutt. My grandpa said that once I learned to walk, and was still wearing a diaper, I looked like a duckbutt. The nickname stuck through most of my childhood and is still occasionally mentioned at family get-togethers. Once I was older my friends even called me DB for short.

3. Do you need to do laundry right now? Yep, I always have laundry to do. I hate laundry, it's my worst chore!

4. What CD is in your CD player/music on your ipod right now? Natasha Bedingfield.

5. How did you learn to ride a bicycle? My dad taught me at my great-grandma's house. She lived on this very quiet road and he ran along with me until I got it right, riding bikes is still one of my favorite things.

6. What is your favorite weird food combination? I love peanut butter and pickle sandwiches..yum!

7. What is something you have that is of sentimental value? I have a lot of different things but one of my favorite sentimental things is my stuffed bear, Shannon. I have had her since I was very little. She has gone everywhere with me. She even fell in the river with me once. She sits on Amanda's bookshelf.

Reese's answers:

1. Are you right- or left-handed?
Right handed.

2. Any nicknames they have (or have had) and the story behind them?
When I was little and went by my first name Carrie, my toddler little brother Joel couldn't say my name properly and it came out of his tiny mouth sounding something like "cow-cow". I endured being affectionately called Cow-cow until I was 12, then I refused to answer to Carrie and called myself by my middle name Darice (rhymes with Clarice). As a teenager my friends would call me "Duracell with a copper top" because of the similarity between the words "Darice" and "Duracell" and because I had very light blonde hair. They also called me Reesie or Reese, sometimes Dorritos (the similarity in sounds again). Once I moved to Germany I was tired of the way people always mispronounced Darice and started introducing myself as Reese. Tim always called me that anyway, so it was an easy transition.

3. Do you need to do laundry right now?
Actually, no. I did it yesterday.

4. What CD is in your CD player/music on your iPod right now?
I can't get over the new Coldplay album. I love it.

5. How/when did you learn to ride a bicycle?
I don't remember. I rememeber my first purple bike with the banana seat, though! Iloved it!

6. What is your favorite weird food combination?
I don't think I like any weird combinations of food, though Heather would likely disagree! I love kiwi and cottage cheese, which I've never seen/heard anyone else have but I don't think it's weird. Some of my favorite unconventional flavor combinations is chocolate with Earl Grey tea.

7. What is something you have that is of sentimental value?
My wedding rings (the original and the one from the set that we bought after Tim lost his ring that was way too big) and my mother's ring which has the birth stones of all my kids.

Your turn!

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Of All The Nerve

Can you believe what someone at work did???

Don't worry, I fixed it!!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

School? No Thanks, I'm in Denial.

Heather emailed me yesterday and confessed to being unprepared for her kids' return to school. Seems she enjoys summer so much she tries to extend it by living in voluntary denial that it's coming to an end. But compared to me this year, she looks like Queen of Preparedness.

My oldest son Sean (who starts high school this year) came home from his friend's house and informed me (with a wild look in his eyes) that school starts on Monday. He told me this last night, Tuesday. I guess it would have paid off to have read all those emails from the school. I thought the BX was weird for having so many school supplies out for so long, and thought my neighbor- who was offering to help my kids find their bus stops- was insanely, overly prepared. In truth, it turns out everyone else is right on schedule and I'm worse than not prepared- I'm clueless.

Needless to say, I spent the day getting school supplies and taking care of other school-related business. I was out for more than 8 hours and now I'd like to fall asleep until it's time to drive the kids to school on Monday.

How about you all? Prepared for the return of school days?

(And in unrelated news, my rice pudding recipe and picture are up at Go Dairy Free!)

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Random Observations on Separation

I've started wearing a watch. I always do when Tim leaves. When he's here I chart my days by his movements: I know when to start breakfast by when he gets up, I allow Zach to play video games only after Tim's left for work, dinner is cooking an hour before Tim arrives home. When we're out together, I ask the ever-watch-wearing Tim what time it is. When he's gone, I'm lost in time. So I wear a watch.

I don't like wearing a watch.


You know how you can still feel a person's presence after they've left you? How you drop a friend off and you still sense them as you drive away? That might be the hardest part of saying good-bye to Tim. After he left, the air in the van was still imprinted with his silhouette. At home, he's slept on his side of the bed so many times that his aura was left for days before the molecules forgot what it felt like to surround him. His imprint is everywhere- in every room of the house, on his pillow, on his chair at the kitchen table. It's both a blessing and a curse as the air closes in around the spaces it kept for him; it's easier to go about the day without the acute pain of missing him but sad how space forgets a person used to inhabit it. I think that's what ghosts are, the random remembrance of time and space of who they used to surround and caress.


Last week at church, my arm brushed Tim's and I cried as I realized that it was the last time I'd stand with him at church for awhile. I value worshiping together. Our spiritual lives are the completion of our physical ones, and joining with my soulmate in intimate communion with God is an honor and deeply moving. Yesterday, I worshiped without him. It is true that when everything else falls away, we are left exposed before God and he covers us. He is the husband to the husbandless and the father to the fatherless. He is all I need.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Know and Tell Friday: Kayren's OCD Edition

Heather and I decided when we first started this particular blog that we wanted to use it to celebrate friendship. It's been fun building on our own friendship through this little endeavor, and through it we've found more friendships to rejoice in. One of the newest blogging friends we've made is Kayren from Everything's Coming Up Daisies. Kayren is funny, insightful and a dedicated homeschool mom who has managed to work her way into our hearts with her wit and understanding. Usually the Nancy Drew trying to figure out the weekly Know and Tell Friday questions before they're posted, this week a wild hair prompted Kayren to offer some questions of her own. Considering the past week's burdens for Heather and Reese, we both jumped at the chance to kick back and let someone else take the wheel this time around. Not only that, but the questions are downright hilarious! So, enjoy this special offering of questions from Kayren.

1. Do you put the toilet paper on coming over the top or underneath, or does it matter? If someone puts it on wrong do you have to fix it?

2. Do you wear shoes in the house?

3. If something falls out of the dryer when you’re folding clothes or putting it in the laundry basket, do you have to rewash it or do you just continue on like nothing happened?

4. Which side of the bed do you sleep on? What about in a hotel?

5. Do you do everything in the shower in the same order every time?

6. How many times a day do you think you wash your hands?

7. What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Does it ever vary?

Heather's answers:

1. Do you put the toilet paper on coming over the top or underneath, or does it matter? If someone puts it on wrong do you have to fix it? Before I met my husband I would have said "who cares!" But since we've been together he's always been adamant that it goes with the paper coming over the top, and yes, I will now fix it if I see it wrong.

2. Do you wear shoes in the house? No way! I never wear shoes. I even go barefoot at work, how is that for professional? If my feet get dirty though, I have to put on socks or it bugs my teeth - weird huh?

3. If something falls out of the dryer when you’re folding clothes or putting it in the laundry basket, do you have to rewash it or do you just continue on like nothing happened? Nope, I look the other way and pretend it never fell. I hate to do laundry!

4. Which side of the bed do you sleep on? What about in a hotel? Since Dan works nights I take up the whole bed, or just sleep on his side. If he is home I sleep on the left side. In a hotel I sleep on the left, only because Dan demands it. He's very rigid in his routines so things stay the same whether at home or away.

5. Do you do everything in the shower in the same order every time? Yes, I wash my hair, put the conditioner in. While the conditioner is setting in I was all over and shave my armpits and legs, then wash the conditioner out. After that I put the water as hot as I can stand it and just stand there. Sometimes I just stand there for 10 minutes. It's my quiet time. I love it in my shower!

6. How many times a day do you think you wash your hands? This is obviously going to gross Reese out, and probably Kayren too, but I am not a big hand washer. I do after using the bathroom and that's about it.

7. What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Does it ever vary? I push snooze over and over and then go brush my teeth, and no it never varies.

Reese's answers:

1. Do you put the toilet paper on coming over the top or underneath, or does it matter? If someone puts it on wrong do you have to fix it?
Over the top!!! It's the RIGHT way! LOL! I feel very strongly about this. If it's backwards at any bathroom I visit, I fix it. I used to wonder if it actually was backwards when it came from underneath, but then a wise guest on Oprah pointed out that printed toilet paper is printed in top and it doesn't show properly when it comes from underneath. That was it for me, because that's wisdom there. You've got to recognize truth when you come across it, and I took this little gem and ran with it!

2. Do you wear shoes in the house?
Nope. I don't wear shoes ever, unless I have to. I even take them off very often when I'm driving. (Heather, I used to take my shoes off at work too, all the time.)

3. If something falls out of the dryer when you’re folding clothes or putting it in the laundry basket, do you have to rewash it or do you just continue on like nothing happened?
No way, Jose! When I'm hanging laundry up on the clothesline outside (or taking it down) and it falls on the ground I just shake it out and keep on going. It's not like I have to eat it or anything!

4. Which side of the bed do you sleep on? What about in a hotel?
Currently, I sleep on the left side. I usually choose the side farthest from the door, so that miscellaneous junk doesn't find it's way onto my nightstand. In hotels, I choose the side of the bed nearest the clock so I can wake up to the alarm.

5. Do you do everything in the shower in the same order every time?
Yes, every time. Shampoo/condition hair, wash face, then body. I shave my armpits while my conditioner sits and if I'm going to shave my legs I'll do it at the end of everything else. It all makes sense to me that way. See, I've had acne for most of my life, so I feel like I need to do my hair first so that my facial cleaner washes off any bits of shampoo/conditioner that may have touched my face. Clearly, shaving makes sense when I don't have anything else to do but wait for the conditioner to do it's thing. Washing my bod last washes away any traces of other cleaners that weren't meant for the body. Shaving my legs is last priority unless it's a date night or something.... (TMI, right?!)

6. How many times a day do you think you wash your hands?
Lots. Every time I use the restroom, every time I take a Little Boy to the restroom, every time I use creams or makeup on my face (applied with my fingertips), after I touch sticky foods or dead animals (chicken, sausage, ground beef, etc. I'm a wanna-be vegetarian so these things gross me out!), after I touch live animals, whenever I take the garbage out, when I get back home from being out in public, after I blow a Little Boy's nose, after I shake hands with someone who seems sick, many times when I'm babysitting... It's really amazing that I still have skin on my hands. (I'm feeling a bit like Monk as I re-read this!)

7. What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Does it ever vary?
Brush my teeth, usually.

You're turn! Post your answers, sign up with Mr Linky, and leave a comment! And don't forget to visit each other's blog - it multiplies the fun!


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Separation.... Again.

It's become somewhat of a tradition that when Tim leaves for an extended amount of time I will write sappy and self-pitying pieces and post them on our blog. This time, though, I just needed to disappear for a bit. I did spend a cumulative 5 hours feeling sorry for myself (in the 3 days since he's left), but I think I'm done with that now. I think I'm ready to resume my "normal" life.

Since I purposefully neglected to write on the most emotional days following the separation, I don't have anything mushy and sentimental so I've decided to repost what I wrote when Tim left for Kuwait last year (originally posted here). I'm also adding the song that best reflects my feelings when Tim leaves. The fact that it isn't making me cry right now is solid proof that I'm emotionally stable at the moment. Yay! I plan to stay that way, and look forward to Tim's return after awhile.

On Marriage and the Hole in My Heart:

The dull ache started last week, every time I thought of Tim leaving. Twenty-four hours before he left it became a deep sadness, the deepest I've ever known. By the time we had only four hours together it was a desperate sadness- thick and mucky and lonely. I felt compelled to tell him how much I loved him, how he was a part of me and I wouldn't be whole until he came back. I felt the tearing- him from me- in my heart. The gray clouds, wind, and driving rain matched my mood as I left the place where he boarded a bus that took him out of my life until the fall.

We've had a turbulent marriage. The early years were the worst, the middle years contained a prolonged separation and near divorce, these last years have been the easiest as we have gained a small level of maturity and experience that likely came from joining the military and moving across the world. We've come to rely on each other as partners and friends as never before. By the grace of God, we've survived storms that would sink most couples. To God be the glory for this. It's despite our weakness that we still stand as a couple and a family.

This image comes to my mind: when back home last month I picked up a Nifty Knitter, a funky little device that allows Kristine and I to knit hats and scarves and various other things with ease. (Nifty, eh?!) I made a hat for Kristine, using 2 threads of yarn, one a pretty multicolor thread in maroon/gray/ivory, the other a soft, fluffy sage green color. Using them both at the same time made the hat stronger, thicker and more sturdy. In creating it, I tied, twisted, stretched and manipulated the yarns- in the end I constructed a hat with what might have seemed like a hardship from the yarn's perspective.

God joined Tim and I together, allowing us to be twisted and tugged with our own sinfulness and by the natural afflictions of life. At one point we rebelled against the discomfort of it all, separating and unraveling our life together. All along I heard God's voice in my spirit: "You and Tim were meant for each other." After a time we renewed our vows- renewed our commitment to being woven and spun into a couple again. Now, looking back over the past few years, I can see the project taking shape. I see the ways I've become like him, the ways he's more like me, the similar interests and the ease with which we carry on conversations when given a moment to do so. I feel a bond with him that words can't adequately describe. I know I wasn't remiss in following God back to the loom of "Tim and Reese." In these hours since Tim left, the predominant feeling I have is one of incompleteness.

And it's not like we have attained some awesome level of marital maturity. We still fight and have misunderstandings, and there were times in the past few months I thought to myself,
"I can't wait for him to leave!" (I'm sure he thought, "I can't wait to get away from this lady!") But when enduring a prolonged absence from one another, especially in the face of the dangers of war, all the crap falls away and it's just us. Suddenly the little things don't matter. The petty stuff seems so... petty. Larger, more important things loom ahead. Like love. Commitment. Family.

That's my encouragement to those of you reading this who are married: cherish the good, consciously discount the bad, and keep with it. Most of the time the bad really is trivial. Resist the natural urge to magnify the faults of your spouse and to look over the strengths. Cherish the one God put in your life. The gift of companionship and love is precious and worth every effort you put into it.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Storm Is Here

My family is watching the storm roll in. Watching. Waiting. My sister learned terrible news last Monday. This is the same sister, B, that I asked for prayers weeks earlier for her baby. Now, I am begging for prayers once again. My sister's baby, baby M, has many complications, which are life threatening. One doctor used the word terminal, one did not. She currently has a bilateral cleft pallet, hand deformity and the worst of it is Hydrocephalus (water on the brain). She will probably be mentally delayed. Right after she is born, she will need a shunt put in her brain, and after that multiple surgeries to repair her pallet, and possibly more brain surgeries. We truly do not know anymore than that. We find out more in her next several appointments.

The storm is here, again. My other sister K (B's twin) had a child, James, with a genetic disorder called Menkes. He passed away at 19 months. We have been down this road before, and it's an ugly one. Of course, we loved James passionately. We were blessed beyond blessed to have him, even if it was for only 19 months. If I were to choose though, I would choose him here. That's why I say it's ugly because even though parts of the journey are breathtakingly beautiful, the end result is still the same, he was taken all too soon. I have watched one sister bury her child, and chances are, I will watch another.

Back when James was diagnosed I had written Reese a letter, I don't even remember what was in it. Probably a lot of questions that started with "why!". Since this blog is about our friendship, and because she wrote something so beautiful the other day, I wanted to give you a small glimpse of how blessed I am to have her.

Here is just a portion of her reply 5 years ago, and a portion of the email that once again I am leaning on.

The first thing I know is that God became human so he could understand us. He has felt every emotion you now feel, including anger and doubt. Whatever happens, never feel that you have to be "good" when confronting God. Wail, scream, beat your pillow up. Be honest. Tell him you feel angry and hurt and betrayed by the things you don't understand. Your ability to feel emotions is a gift (though it sometimes feels like a curse) from God. He is not above listening to your honest feelings. I read a book once about that said it's important to be angry and honest "in God's face," in the way a small child faces a parent for answers even when there are no answers to be had. To turn our backs and rail against God is a sin, to face him and present our pain, our questions, even our arguments is not.
So, at the end of the day, after crying out, "Why God? It's not fair! It's not right! I don't understand why you've allowed this destruction to touch my family. This hurts more than I think I can take, and on top of it I have to watch my family in pain. Why? Why? Why?" After the emotions are spent you curl up in Daddy God's arms and say, "Sometimes my life just don't make sense at all. When the mountains seems so big, and my faith just seems so small. So, hold me Jesus 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory, won't you be my Prince of Peace?"
But, Heather, it's a process. Maybe the old and mature attain the perfect understanding of not understanding, but the rest of us struggle. The important thing is that you struggle against your doubt rather than giving in. Know that you won't feel good about this terrible news, ever, even if you come to accept it. Pain will never feel right, because it's not.

There is so much more to that letter, that is but a small portion. I remember the days after James was diagnosed and I was so angry. Daily I would get up and read that, and then proceed to yell at God, to tell him how I really felt! When I went to bed, I once again, would wail and scream into my pillow and sob myself to sleep, and once again, tell Him what I really felt. After awhile the anger subsided, and the peace came in.

I am angry again. Wondering how God can ask this of us twice. Wondering how I will watch my sister do this, hating watching my children grieve over the cousin that they will adore no matter what, but probably won't have the opportunity to run and play with.

I know that by the time M gets here, more questions will be answered and hopefully we will all be feeling the peace that we so desperately need but right now we are riding the winds of this storm and even though God is in control, I hate where He is taking us.

I also know that after the storm has passed, and the sun is shining, the landscape will have changed, all of us will have changed. We will have loved deeper then ever before, cried harder and prayed longer. Our family will never be the same. No matter what the outcome, we will have changed for the better, but right now it is painful and so very hard!

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heather's a Coma!

I always have to copy Reese when she does these fun little quizzes! No wonder why Reese and I get along so well :) I don't think this describes me, but it cracks me up.

You Are a Comma

You are open minded and extremely optimistic.

You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.

You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.

(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

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Reese is a Question Mark!

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dairy Free Rice Pudding

My youngest son has a dairy allergy, which can be quite a challenge when I'm in the mood to cook. Do I only make things he can eat, or leave him out when it's time to serve? Most often if I'm really wanting to make something with dairy in it, I'll make whatever it is, plus something he can have.

The first time it occurred to me to make rice pudding, I was watching Mr Roger's Neighborhood. He took a tour of a bakery that makes it, so I decided to give it a try. It's very simple to make and changing up the flavor is easy too. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or cardamom, throw in some raisins or other dried fruit when you cook the rice, or try some grated orange zest and a little orange flavoring with the vanilla extract (orange would be great with a tad of cinnamon and some cardamom!). After Ian was diagnosed with the milk allergy I stopped making rice pudding because it contained milk. Recently I modified my recipe and Ian is now a huge fan!

Dairy Free Rice Pudding

3/4 c rice
1 1/2 c water

1 c rice milk
1/3 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 t cinnamon

1 egg, beaten
1/2 c rice milk

1 T margarine or non-hydrogenated spread
1/2 t vanilla extract

1. Bring water to boil and add rice. Just before all the water is absorbed, add milk, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Continue to boil on low until thick and creamy.

2. Combine beaten egg and rice milk. Add to rice mixture and stir continually until the pudding is very thick.

3. Remove from heat and add margarine and vanilla. Dish into serving bowls and serve warm, or cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Serve cold.

Makes 4 servings.

For the dairy containing version, click here.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Know and Tell Friday: Fill In The Blank Edition

Heather and I always intend to talk about the questions for Know and Tell Friday via email on Thursday, then answer our questions and have the post ready to go by midnight Pacific time. We've made no secret of the fact that we've been failing miserably at the pre-planning part. Last week I realized I hadn't even thought about KATF-- as I drifted off to sleep on Thursday night. At various times, Heather and I have each done whole posts without input from each other.

This week we determined to be good. I started out my communications with Heather on Thursday (in the morning in Oregon, late evening in England) with proposals for possible themes. She responded immediately, and back and forth flew the emails... and that takes us up to right now, approximately 4 hours later and we're no closer to selecting seven interesting and thought-provoking questions. I'm thinking we're both thrive-on-the-adrenaline-that-comes-at-the-last-minute gals
(this is true, I am a big procrastinator). Pre-planning clearly doesn't work for us. It would help if we could stop oohing and aahing over the Cute Wiggle (What's a good email without some oohing and aahing!). He's frequently a topic of email conversations. Him and Johnny Depp.

Here we go (if there are actually questions following this paragraph it means we came up with something. Maybe we'll even decide to pursue our each-write-half-a-question idea):

1. My favorite bedtime attire is _____.

2. The perfect meal would include ______ with a hearty side of _____ and a big glass of ______.

3. The most memorable girl's night out I've ever had was when _____________. That was in 19__/20__. I was ___-years-old.

4. My earliest memory is __________.

5. The family is gone for the evening and I will spend my time __________________.

6. Right now I am _________________.

7. When I am done blogging, I am going to _________________.

Heather's Answers:

1. My favorite bedtime attire is sweats and a sweatshirt, I'm all about comfort!

2. The perfect meal would include chicken with a hearty side of mashed potatoes and gravy and a big glass of PEPSI.

3. The most memorable girl's night out I've ever had was when I was a teenager. We were hanging out in my friend's camper and I think her sister banged on the door. All I remember was all of us screaming and hitting the ground. I think M & M's went flying that night! That was in 1988 (around there). I was 14 (ish)-years-old.

4. My earliest memory is probably when I was about 2 and I was sitting under mine (or my brother's) crib. I had just stuck paper up my nose and I was trying to not get caught.

5. The family is gone for the evening and I will spend my time
relaxing. I would lounge around watching tv or reading a good book.

6. Right now I am listening to the sound of thunder above my house. We have had amazing thunder and lightening storms this summer.

7. When I am done blogging, I am going to go watch Larry King Live. Steven Curtis Chapman and family were on tonight and I'm anxious to see how they are doing.

Reese's Answers:

1. My favorite bedtime attire is
jammie pants and a tank top. I can't EVER sleep in socks, unless it's really cold and I peel them off as soon as my feet warm up. My daughter is different, even in the summer she can't sleep unless she's put her socks on first. Human are such a quirky lot!

2. The perfect meal would include
something vegetarian with simple ingredients and complex flavors that I can't come up with but a talented chef's can with a hearty side of German red sauerkraut/apples in red wine and a big glass of Thai iced tea. If I were to answer this question tomorrow morning it might be something different, like chicken and dumplings, garlic mashed potatoes and hot apple cider.

3. The most memorable girl's night out I've ever had was when
dressing up, leaving my kids with my parents and driving to Portland to meet Christina and Billie for dinner. That was in 2002. I was 26-years-old. It wasn't a really big occasion and we didn't do much but it was special because I was taking a break from kids and spending time with old friends before I moved to Germany.

4. My earliest memory is
throwing a HUGE fit because I didn't want to be left with friends while my mom went to the hospital to give birth to my brother (I was 2.). My second earliest memory is walking with my dad into the hospital room and seeing my mom holding him.

5. The family is gone for the evening and I will spend my time reading, or if I have lots of time maybe going to the gym. If I really wanted to splurge, I'd shower after I was done working out and stop at a restaurant on the way home, order some tea and savor the fact that I was alone and no one was asking me to wipe their butts/noses/hands/faces.

6. Right now I am sitting at the computer, still wearing my glasses instead of my contacts and needing a shower. Ian is climbing on my chair, demonstarting how he can "jump off everything" and asking me to "move [my] little bum-bum" and get him breakfast!

7. When I am done blogging, I am going to move my little bum-bum and take a shower! Sean and Kristine come home from camp today and I'm excited to go pick them up later!

Your turn! We can't wait to read all your exciting and fun-filled answers! Happy Friday!

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