So. I have to spread the love to everyone I know. If you've already read this, I'm sorry. I'm a little excited.

My little business venture with the girls has sprouted wings today and took off... Think sparrow, not majestic eagle, okay? But STILL... We did great for a rainy, miserable day... And great for us! And great for just starting out! So, great in general, right? Right.

Check out the post here.
KayKay, the Ladybug and I are The Flour Girls... We sell muffins and mixes! Yum!

Monday Reading

Good Monday!

It's a rainy and cool day today, simply perfect for a hot cup of tea and some quiet reading... You may or may not know this, but I am a reader. And by reader, I mean READER. I read. A LOT. I read to learn. I read to relax. I read because I LOVE WORDS... And language. And the flow of good conversation and great stories... These days there are far too few books in my repertoire, mostly blogs to be honest, but I still typically carve out about an hour a day devoted to reading. The stack of books on my side of the bed is actually threatening to take over the room.

So I thought I would share some of my reading with you... And maybe I'll make it a regular thing or something! But before I do, I wanted to share something I wrote the other night. I recently discovered a blog called Single Dad Laughing, and there is some great reading there. He's raw and real and has great insights, and I love that. Anyway, he wrote a post that ended up being partly about reading, literature and writing, and in an unusual move for me, I decided to comment (I tend to be a lurker, but I'm trying to overcome that. :O)... And I think it turned out really good. Good enough to share here, with my friends, rather than the big, anonymous internet. But not just "good," as in "good writing," but "good," as in, "This is a piece of me and what I believe." And I want to share that here. So, there you have it.

"...I am not the world's best writer, but I am passionate about a well-turned word in all it's many forms.

I am a reader... A poet, a novelist, a journalist, a researcher, and a storyteller at heart... My poetry is often raw and unpolished, my novel has yet to be written, my journalism is simply moments put to paper, my research casts a wide and varied net, and my stories are rarely heard by anyone other than my children, but they are there.

Perhaps, like all great poets, I'll become wildly famous when I'm dead and someone discovers all the scraps of paper, the Starbucks napkins, and the tattered journals filled with my writing. Or perhaps, my children, who are but babies now, when going through my things will read words they've never known, and somehow be changed. And that is more than I could ask for.

Perhaps I'll write my great novel, the one that I have pent up inside me, the one with no name, no characters, and no plot, and it'll top the New York Times bestseller list for weeks and I'll be everyone's new favorite author. Or perhaps the manuscript will sit, untouched by any publisher for years, until it is forgotten. At least I will have written it.

Perhaps my stories will be told to generations to come. Perhaps not. But none of that matters, because what's most important is that I love words. And if no one ever reads my writing again outside of my children, (and then likely after I am gone) I pray that the one thing they learn from it is that our words, spoken or written, are some of the most powerful tools we have available to us. They have the potential to stir unquenchable passions, calm raging oceans of emotion, and provoke great change - as evidenced by your blog, Dan.

And I hope that my children learn that their mother was a woman of passion, who spoke plainly and with great care, knowing that her words had a far-reaching impact, even if no one heard them but her. Because I am a wordsmith..."


Not bad for a 3:30-in-the-morning-and-I-have-low-blood-sugar-so-I'm-surfing-the-internet comment, eh? 

And right now, KayKay is quietly immersed in reading herself, about 50 pages into Peter Pan (fairies and pirates and crocodiles, OH MY!) and loving it. The little Ladybug is happily playing in the bath upstairs, and I am listening to the soft sounds of happy splashing, murmurs of little girl imaginations at work, and the wind whisper through the leaves on our giant oak outside our window as it makes its way through the curtains and twines around my legs, purring the whole time like a cat.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd share some of the things I have been reading recently. Most of it has been related to parenting and homeschooling (as usual!), but of course there are a few random things thrown in here just to spice it up. Enjoy!



29 Lincoln Avenue: Project 10 (An AMAZING project for girls - age 10, but I'm thinking ahead!)

New Urban Habitat

RhymeBrain (This is just fun. I am going to be using it as a tool in homeschooling in the future, methinks. :O)


MotherStyles: Using Personality Type To Discover Your Parenting Strengths (This book has given me some great insights into personality type and how I can use MY personality to my advantage in parenting. I highly recommend this one, if you are interested in personality types...)

 The Phantom Tollbooth (THANK YOU, Miss Olivia for introducing me to this... It is one we will be getting and I'm CERTAIN the girls will love it! This is a great book for young children. Great moral stories told in a MOST unusual manner! :O)

The Cage (A Holocaust Survivor's account... A wonderful, though hard, read.)

In My Hands (An account of a rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust... Also a hard read, but very good.)

Beauty & Fairy-Tale Wonder

I think my heart was created to beat just a little faster at the thought of fairies and fairy-tale things. As a child, I wanted nothing more than to be Tinkerbell (but not the Disney version... I never liked her much. :O) or Shakespeare's Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream, particularly the film version with Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Titania... Have you seen it? It's SPECTACULARLY GORGEOUS).

 As an adult, when I entered one of my first creative writing classes my professor (whom I love dearly!) and classmates rather scoffed at my answer to the question, "What moves you to write?" and I answered, "Beauty." But it's the truth. Nothing moves me so much as beautiful sights and at the heart of that is my unabashed delight in all things beautiful... In my home, I am surrounded by beauty. I couldn't be happy otherwise. Seriously. Echoes of all things that awaken the senses and imagination are food and drink to my soul. 

But somewhere inside me is that little girl who still longs to sprout her wings and fly away, off into the sun-drenched unknown. There is something about the beauty and imagination of fairies and princesses and "TWOO WUV" that just makes my soul laugh and weep at the same time. *Sigh* Fortunately, I have little fairy-children who are equally enchanted with all things glitter and fairy-tale. Be still my heart! It's wonderful to see their vast imaginations at work weaving intricate creations of all that is pure and good and beautiful. Such innocence. Such wide-eyed wonder. Such beauty.

And then I found this:

From the DIVINE Sweet Eye Candy Creations


Everything about this gives me joy. What do YOU think?

Cave Painting, Among Other Things...

I have cave children... Well, not really. Although sometimes I think that I literally DO have knuckle-dragging cave children, particularly given their tendency toward public nudity and prominent (and, *GASP* proud) displays of flatulence which produce hysterical laughter from them and horrified looks from me.

They take after their father. Well, at least in the area of flatulence. And that's all I have to say about that. (Let's hope he doesn't read this! Ha! Love you, honey. :O)


I am writing this because I finally got around to taking some photos of the cave-paintings we did the other day. They turned out super-cute (at least, I think so), and we "made" our own paint by crushing rocks and dirt and mixing them with some water and paint, and used sticks and our fingers to paint with. We used crumpled paper bags to simulate uneven cave walls.

KayKay's cave painting

The girls both really got into it, although I think the Ladybug was just taken with the fact that she could make a mess and I wouldn't care. Her paintings are supposed to be Sid and Manny from the movie, Ice Age, but she refused to put legs on her blobs, so they're just brownish blobs. *Sigh*

The Ladybug's blobs a la Ice Age

KayKay had more concrete ideas about what she wanted to paint, and although she wasn't satisfied, I thought hers was quite nice. Now, they want to "live like cave people." This is mostly KayKay's idea, although the Ladybug chimes in with her agreement every time it's brought up. It involves turning off the electricity for a week and digging holes to use for toilets.

Close-up of KayKay's mammoth and 5-legged antelope

I have firmly nixed this idea, though, as I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing and furthermore I REALLY don't think our (VERY nice and VERY close) neighbors would appreciate the view of my big white rear which they would ASSUREDLY get if I were forced to dig a hole in our "yard" and use it. NO THANK YOU. Besides the fact that I rather like being able to see after dark and cook on something other than an open fire.

My version of cave-painting. Don't you love the stumpy legs?

As a child, I used to believe that I was born in the wrong century and should have been born in the 18th or 19th centuries... Seriously. I was firmly convinced that God had placed me in the wrong century. Oh, but NO LONGER. Are you kidding? Life as a courtier was equally as dangerous and unsanitary as life on the prairie (the two places I most often dreamt of living). Yeah. I mean, come on? Forty-two layers of dress and that just got you to the "underskirt." Please. I love me some jeans and crocs, and that wonderful thing we call hot running water, and flushable toilets, and who could live without hand-sanitizer, stoves, and refrigerators??? Not moi.

Oh, but KayKay is fixated on this idea. She has told practically everyone we've met about it. *Sigh* I may have to ship her off to her grandparents' to live this one out. Or convince her that she'll catch some hideous disease if she pees outside too many times in a row (no, for right or wrong, I am NOT above occasionally lying to my children in order to "help" them give up an idea that would otherwise make my life miserable :O)... Or SOMETHING. Maybe I can take them camping instead. Anything to not have to dig a hole to relieve myself.

Oh, My Children KNOW How To Party...

Can you tell? No? Well, you should! They are MY children after all. And *I* know how to party! But no. They look perfectly bored to pieces, don't they?

So we go to a dear friend's house (yes, Miss Julie, I'm talking about you again! :O) for the Beautiful Bella-Butterfly's Birthday number FIVE, and what do my children do? Take all the pouty, miserable photos you can imagine. In fact, you don't even *have* to imagine, because here they are.

Oh, they had a FABULOUS time. They just don't *look* like they did. *Sigh* Oh, well.

Adventures in Art and Business Ventures...

Well, I started writing this when all was right in my world, and I felt like singing some gloriously old-movie-moment song about how great my life was.

And then reality hit: the kids started arguing, bickering and threatening to stab each other with sticks, I realized that you can't see the floor in one of the rooms in my home, and I'm right now, at this moment, trying to recover from a nearly hour-long festival of bad attitudes and crying from the eldest of the two (slightly) maniacal monkeys I call my children. She's currently upstairs crying loudly and writing in her "Feelings Journal" before she takes a 30-minute rest. *Sigh*

But since it was a nearly 40-hour span of happy children, happy mommy, I feel that I should, at the very least, send some of that happiness out into the world. And hopefully, this episode in the soap-opera I call my life will fade (QUICKLY, God-willing!!) into the past. Please, merciful Lord, let it end soon. *Double sigh*

So today has been a good day. Yesterday was too.

Happy children. Beautiful weather. Sunshine, blue skies, cool autumn air. Art lessons, sprinkled with a life lesson on compassion and giving back.

The house is a wreck, and I feel like my body is going to give out on me any second if I keep pushing myself so hard, but that's okay. Because these have been good days. And that's a big deal to me.

Yesterday, there were moments of irritation, and some moments of sadness over the fact that it's likely we won't be spending the holidays with family, but there was peace in our home, the sun shining in the windows, a sleeping babe, and a busy little bee working quietly.

Every other Wednesday we have art lessons (generally painting) with my dear friend, the incomparable Miss Gretchen Ann, a very dear friend of mine who is an AMAZING artist and designer.

So yesterday, being Wednesday, we packed up and headed over to Gretchen's house. Gretchen is the queen of peace, so going to her house is like being immersed in reassurance, quiet and contentment. Which is a balm to my heart, bringing harmony to the the three-ring-circus of chaos that often fills my life.

It's always a delightful experience to go to Gretchen's house, but yesterday was especially good. Gretchen had planned a project for us which included a field trip! And it was an exceptionally worthy one. One which spoke directly to one of the quiet desires of my heart, a desire that she knew nothing about!

Are you ready to hear what it was???

Well... Gretchen had planned for us to do some paintings and maybe some writing and then take those things over to her elderly aunt who was just diagnosed with cancer.


The reason why this is so special to me is because I have been working on ideas for how to incorporate giving back to others, particularly the elderly and ill, for the last several months. It has been heavy on my heart that my children not only learn how to be good stewards of compassion and kindness in our home, but also out in the world. This is something that I feel children should learn early, but I have felt at a loss as to HOW exactly to get started. So when Gretchen made this suggestion, I was floored. It was perfect!

So we learned about painting still life (at which I SUCK, I might add. :O), and painted roses and bouquets. The girls did great, and although mine was more made up from my idea of what it SHOULD look like rather than what it really did, all the paintings turned out nicely. The Ladybug was sure to sign her name, and KayKay wrote a sweet little poem for Gretchen's Aunt Mimi about blessings and healing.

Then we all piled in the car, with a pit stop for some amazing local burgers in between, and drove just a mile or two to Gretchen's Aunt Mimi's house. Aunt Mimi was simply darling and I completely want an Aunt Mimi of my own! She welcomed us in like we were old family, and was absolutely thrilled with the paintings and poem. We only stayed a few minutes because she is in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation and tires easily, but they were lovely minutes. Both the girls were extra sweet and took much pleasure in presenting their artwork to Aunt Mimi. We prayed blessings over her before we left, and it was great.

Today, we have experimented with "cave painting." We are studying the beginnings of civilization using The Story of the World, and one of the projects in it was to simulate cave paintings, like those in Lascaux, France. It was a neat idea, so we tried it.

We took large pieces of crumpled brown paper bags and those were our "cave walls." I took the idea a little further (the original idea just suggests using brown, red, and black paint), and we created our own paint using charcoal, dirt, and water, mixed up with a little paint to keep it thick enough. We then used sticks and our fingers to paint. It was messy, dirty and totally fun. I'll try to get some pictures up with this post later today when I have the camera.

We talked about what it would be like to live in caves, and how it would be to make paint only using the things we could find. The Ladybug was curious how cave people would live light, so I explained that likely they only had a bit of firelight, if they were lucky. She was appropriately flabbergasted.

And then the meltdown started, so we packed it up and I stopped hallucinating about my perfectly gorgeous life and how perfectly perfect it was. Or rather, I was drug, kicking and screaming the whole way from my hallucination by children who were themselves literally kicking and screaming. *Triple sigh*

It is a season. And it REALLY IS GETTING BETTER. I promise!

At least I was able to deal with the meltdown sympathetically and without anger. Yay for progress! 

Anyway, I was going to spend some time ruminating about my recent business venture and how great it is and blah, blah, blah, but oh, forget it. I'd rather be able to see the floor today, I think. And while I have a few minutes of quiet (AT LAST the quiet has come! Hallelujah!), I might as well get going on that. If you want to know about my business, check out my other blog, here. Or call me, because if you're reading this, most likely you already know me and because you love me so much, probably have my number on speed dial. Oh wait... There I go hallucinating again! Sorry!

And I'm done.

Potato Leek Soup

So nearly a decade ago now, when the Daddy and I first got married, and had moved to the cool, rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest, I heard all about his German Mother's potato leek soup. I was always hearing about my MIL's food (he put up with a lot of scary food experimentation those first years! He still does. And he always eats it. He's a really good hubby that way...). I still do. Not that I blame him, she's an AH-MAZING cook. I've never had anything she's made that I didn't shovel down with gusto.

But at first, I turned my nose up at it - who eats leeks anyway? But then I had my first taste, and I was sold. Oh MAN was this soup good. It is the PERFECT winter comfort food. And it's loaded with carbs. And it has snosages. What's not to love?

So without further ado, here is my dear MIL's recipe.

German Potato Leek Soup

Approximately 5 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed (I generally get russet, but you can use pretty much any kind)
1 Kielbasa sausage, cut into small-ish pieces
1 large onion or 2 small ones, cut into small pieces
1 large carrot, diced or sliced (however you want to cut it - I prefer smaller pieces, so I generally dice it. :O)
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced and washed
1 package Knorr Leek Soup Mix (optional, just gives it a stronger leeky flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of garlic powder

In a large pot, boil water and then place cubed potatoes and sliced carrots in the boiling (or almost boiling) water. Make certain there is not too much water - only an inch or so covering the tops of the potatoes will do. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic powder.

While those are cooking, drop the cubed Kielbasa into saucepan. Brown them up nicely and set aside. Then in the SAME pan, drop in the onions with a little butter, on medium heat. Once the onions have just begun to caramelize (and being sure to scrape up all the good kielbasa drippings off the bottom of the pan), drop in the leeks. Allow them to reduce by half, stirring so they don't burn. Also salt and pepper them, if desired.

After the leeks and onions are reduced, add in the package of leek soup mix. Stir everything around so it is well coated with Kielbasa juice and leek soup mix. Take off heat and let rest for a minute.

While the leeks, onion and soup mix are "resting," take the boiling potatoes off the heat and then, using a  potato masher, mash the potatoes in the pot WITH the water still in it. It will be chunky, so just make sure to try to keep the chunks relatively small. After everything is mashed, replace it back on the heat, turned to medium or medium-low. Add in the Kielbasa and the leek-onion-soup mix. Stir well and continue cooking for another hour or so. Stir frequently so it doesn't burn.

Serve with a crusty bread of some kind and ENJOY!

This soup is ALWAYS better the next day, but we still love it the first day, too.


KayKay's Poem

Here is a recent poem written by KayKay for her Opa. It was too adorable not to share!

The Birthday Poem

Happy Birthday
you are Great
I'd say that even if
I had to be locked in a crate
When I see you at your home
I always miss the garden gnome
When I see you at your house
and I show you my great big blouse
I always feel
like a happy little mouse!

It's Spring for Me

Spring? What the heck d'ya mean, Kristen? For goodness sake's it's OCTOBER! And it's COLD. It's time for sweaters and hot cocoa, and you're talking about spring???

Well, let's just say there are lots of things in my life that are coming into blossom right NOW.

Some struggles that I have had my ENTIRE adult life are finally coming to an end, and I feel that I am finally stepping into new places of wholeness and healing. And I couldn't be happier about it!

There are also some shifts happening in our family dynamic, and I am excited to see how we grow into these new things.

For example... I never knew that I had anger issues until I had my children. I was fairly even-tempered and easygoing. So I believed that that was who I was, and it never occurred to me that I might be an angry parent. But then I had my daughters and...

Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. For a while there I felt like all there was of me was this angry mommy monster who did nothing but yell and scream and freak out about EVERYTHING. Yuck. It was an awful place. I have made strides forward, but in eight years, there has not been the feeling that  I had control over this area of my life. The angry monster controlled me, not the other way around. Ugh. And how many prayers have I prayed? Deliver me, oh Lord. Help me, God. Save me from myself. And most especially, save my children. Protect them... From me. From my anger.

Oh, there has been a lot of guilt and tears over this part of my life. So much.

But finally, in the last month or so, it's like the walls that have kept me from finding self-control have crumbled down. And I can breathe. The monster is gone, replaced by peace. Yes, the monster still tries to come out at times, but it isn't in control anymore. And if it does manage to make an appearance, it is very quickly sent packing. So where there was brokenness and grief, now there is wholeness.

And what a change I have seen in my children. God is so good.

So this is my spring; I have come out of the winter of my desolation and into the newness of what my life as a mom can be like outside of anger.

And that's just ONE thing. There are many others! Baruch HaShem.