The Words in our Home ~ Jen

When I was in 10th grade, I read the first aphorism—or proverb—that changed my life. It was hanging out right in the middle of Act I of Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar. Cassius says to Brutus “Men at some times are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings” (Act 1, Scene 2, 140-143).

Yeah, I know what Cassius and Brutus went on to do, and I know that in the tenth circle of hell, Satan is chewing on Brutus for eternity. But that’s not the point.

The point is that my 15 year old self was rocked by the divine literary affirmation of what my parents had been telling me: my life was mine, every triumph, mistake and consequence. All mine to make or break. Intoxicating. Empowering.

As a teacher I put aphorisms around my classroom, in print that was big enough to read from across the room, but only if you really focused. I never called attention to them. Aphorisms need to be mulled over a few times. I waited for the students to ask me. And in drips and dribbles, over the course of the year, kids would come to me and say “Can I ask you what this means?” To which I always answered “First, tell me what you think it means”.

I’ve done the same thing in our home. Only Gabriel can read, and he’s probably too young for Ben Franklin, but I want the words to be a fixture in our home, familiar, like old friends. I want the words to be there for the day they lose a game, or get a D, or fight with their friend. Something to mull over. To help them figure it all out.

Because sometimes the answers to life’s questions can be tied up in one tidy, historically, philosophically or spiritually significant saying.

Here they are!*

This was the first sign Shea and I got when we married. It was a gift from my sister-in-laws parents and had hung in our kitchen since the day we moved in.

This was the first sign Shea and I got when we married. It was a gift from my sister-in-law’s parents and has hung in our kitchen since the day we moved in.

This hangs in our guest bathroom. Gotta love Mr. Franklin!

This hangs in our guest bathroom. Gotta love Mr. Franklin!

This sign hung over the window in the nursery for all three babies. From "Guess How Much I Love You". I never want my kids to doubt!

This sign hung over the window in the nursery for all three babies. From “Guess How Much I Love You”. I never want my kids to doubt!

We put this in the living room, along with the S, which is our family initial. We are proud to be children of God.

We put this in the living room, along with the S, which is our family initial. We are proud to be children of God.

I've had this one in my home in some form or fashion for almost twenty years. This MOVES me.

I’ve had this one in my home in some form or fashion for almost twenty years. This MOVES me.

I bought these as favors for Anne's baby shower. There have never been sisters in my family before, and I wanted to let the important women in my life know that I learned about sisterhood from them.  This is who we try to be.

I bought these as favors for Anne’s baby shower. There have never been sisters in my family before, and I wanted to let the important women in my life know that I learned about sisterhood from them. This is who we try to be.

This one kind of speaks for itself. But we want our kids to know we have faith in them.

This one kind of speaks for itself. But we want our kids to know we have faith in them.

I got this one at Kohls. Gabriel quotes it at Kate sometimes, which makes me smile.

I got this one at Kohls. Gabriel quotes it at Kate sometimes, which makes me smile.

This one is going upstairs between the kids' bedrooms. Simple.

This one is going upstairs between the kids’ bedrooms. Simple.

This is our newest sign, purchased from Shutterfly for Shea for Father's Day. Love it!

This is our newest sign, purchased from Shutterfly for Father’s Day. Love it!

Of course, the most important words in our home are contained in our family Bible, which normally lives on our hutch, right within easy reach. But since we are currently short a hutch, it’s in the cupboard next to the phonebook, which is pretty appropriate if you think about it.

I am sure as the years go on, I will add or switch some of the hanging words in our home. Maybe (dream of dreams) the kids will add some of their own eventually. Either way, I hope we are always a family of words, spoken and hanging.

*The wooden signs were made for us by my sister-in-law’s mother, Karen Shoemaker. Her work can be found at www.shabbyshoesigns.com.

Soup in a Jar ~ Dana

Sometimes life happens, doesn’t it?  Jen’s house was hit by the plague last weekend, causing the cancellation of the highly anticipated Memorial Day BBQ, complete with waterslide jumper.  Yesterday, after our pediatrician’s suggestion to start feeding the six-month-old yogurt, projectile vomiting ensued and I spent hours in the ER waiting room.

But it doesn’t have to be illness.  A flat tire, a confrontation with a co-worker, or even just too much laundry can make the task of cooking dinner a daunting task.

That is why I bring to you my newest discovery:  soup in a jar!  I came across the idea at Noodles and Nuggets and decided to give it a try.  The end result was so good that I wanted to share it with you.  It’s simple, it’s easy, and if you make a whole bunch of them, they can be super cute hostess gifts, housewarming gifts, or just anytime gifts.  But it’s so good that you might just keep all the jars in your pantry for yourself.  We won’t judge you for that.

In half-pint mason jars, layer the dry ingredients, recipe to follow.

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I did a little assembly line on my kitchen counter.  It was so fast and easy, and I bet that if you have older kids, it would be a fun project to do with them. My two-year-old, not so much.

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I love the different colors!  I used red lentils just to give the jars an extra pop.

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So on a night when dinner seems daunting, pop one of these little beauties in 6 cups of water, add ½ – 1 lb. of cooked meat (might I suggest some kind of sausage?) and a can of diced tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Boom Baby.

Soup in a Jar

Ingredients:

1/4 cup split peas

1/8 cup chicken bullion

1/8 cup pearl barley

1/4 cup dry lentils (I used pretty red, but any color will do)

1/8 cup onion flakes

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 cup white rice

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

6 cups water

1/2  – 1 lb cooked meat (I used Hillshire Farms sausage for extra flavor but I bet chicken would be delicious, too.)

Directions:

  1. If making jars ahead of time, layer all dry ingredients in half-pint mason jar.
  2. When ready to cook, combine all ingredients in a stock pot.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!

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Celebrate the Wins ~ Jen

Grace

There’s a trend on the mommy blogs right now—full of mea culpas, some of them tongue in cheek, and some not so much. People are holding up examples of their own poor parenting and laughing about it.

Being a mom is hard, and every mom makes tons of mistakes, but starting a blog by saying “I’m pretty open about the fact that I’m not a good parent”? Sad. Maybe the bar was too high before, when every mom was held to some insane June Cleaver standard. But I’m not sure that wearing our bad mommy moments like badges of honor is the way to go either.

Dana said “But look at those blogs. They have thousands of followers. And there are hundreds of comments after the self-deprecating posts. It must resonate with women on some level.”

It’s true. It must resonate.

Here’s my question: What part of them is it resonating with and are we sure we want to cultivate that part?

Glennon, at Momastery wrote this type of post recently. Hers was tongue in cheek. But the comment section was disturbing and telling. From the woman who mopped her floor for the first time in a year—and only because she spilled coffee on it—to the woman who dressed up like she was going to work, dropped her kids off at school, went home, changed, slept for two more hours, went to the movies, put her work clothes back on and picked her kids up five minutes before daycare closed. The comments were full of story after story—not tongue in cheek—that made me cringe. Not necessarily what the women were saying, but how they were saying it: proudly, and cyber high fiving each other.

Then this comment: “I think mommy guilt should be a thing of the past”.

Ahhh. So that’s what’s going on here.

I agree with this statement. Not the way she meant it, that we should not ever feel guilty for the things we do. Guilt is a useful emotion. It reminds us when we have let ourselves and our own values down. If we feel guilt over something that we did, it’s probably for good reason.

But we need a way to reconcile that guilt. In my Catholic faith, we have Reconciliation—we confess our short comings and ask God for forgiveness. I don’t have a ton of mommy guilt in my life. Not because I don’t make mistakes. Of course I make mistakes. And not because I don’t feel guilt—I do. But I reconcile that guilt and then ask God and myself for forgiveness.

The thing that helps the most is this: since I was very young, I have heard my parents describe life like a baseball game. A long game, with extra innings. Lots of at bats. Sometimes we bunt, sometimes we hit a grand slam. And sometimes we drop the ball or strike out. It’s all part of the game.

Parenting is just like that.

The voice inside my head tells me this: “I get it right and sometimes make mistakes”. I had a friend with tremendous mommy guilt who told me that she just couldn’t think like this. She believed that she made mistakes and sometimes got it right. She needed to give herself permission to make mistakes, to not be perfect.

I don’t get it.

First, who’s asking for perfect? No one. But of all the jobs we do, isn’t parenting the one that deserves our very best effort?

And why, why, why would you ever tell yourself you are a screw-up most of the time? Doesn’t that self script just devolve from “I am not capable today” to “I am not capable this week” to “I am not capable”?

We aren’t playing that game here. Our whole lives, Dana and I have reached for excellence—in school, in sports, in marriage, at work and as moms. We take pride in the fact that we mostly got it going on. We will always assume that you mostly got it going on, too. We’re not saying that we’re perfect moms, or that we don’t feel guilt. We’re not and we do.

We’re just saying this: Let’s stop holding up examples of bad motherhood for entertainment. This job we do is important and we need to treat it that way.

Let’s focus on the mostly. Let’s talk about what’s right and good and loving and strong. Let’s celebrate the wins.

As for the rest, reconcile and forgive, baby.

Because it’s almost time for the next inning.

A Good Mammoth ~ Jen

Perris_Valley-20130428-00184

The other night Gabriel was reading to me. It was a “free read” night and he had picked a Step up to Reading version of Ice Age 3.

We’re on the bed, and I’m trying to nurse Annie, who is treating me like a free refill bar at a fast food restaurant. I’m listening-ish. He reads that Manny, the Mammoth dad, and his teenage daughter Peaches, don’t really get along. Peaches yells at her dad “You can’t control my life!” Manny yells back “I’m your dad! It’s my job to control your life!”

Yikes. This needs a clarification, I think as I wrestle Annie to the floor and send her off to Dada.

But before I can say a word, Gabriel says “I think they are both wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“Peaches is wrong” he tells me. “If she’s going to live with her dad, she has to follow his rules.”

“Yes.”

“And Manny is wrong. It’s not his job to control her life.”

“It’s not?”

“No. It’s his job to raise her to be a good mammoth.”

Oh man.

We don’t have teenagers yet. The closest thing we have is my friend’s nine year old. But they are coming, a giant clump of kids who will go through puberty within five years of each other, God help us.

I was not an easy teenager. I was smart and mouthy. Some would call me deceptive, but I would say that I ran excellent public relations campaigns. My parents were on a need to know basis. They needed to know about my excellent grades, outstanding athletic accomplishments, stellar babysitting reviews. What I did on Saturday night was my affair.

My father says if there is any justice in the world (when he says it you can hear the italics, I promise), I will get what I gave times three.

I survived with a clean record and all my limbs intact for one good reason: my parents did a good job. They laid a solid foundation of values and fear—you need both to parent effectively, in my opinion. When good sense didn’t stop me from being a dumbass, fear of the consequences usually did. Or at least prompted me to have a back up plan.

Because my parents were not playing around. I once got put on restriction an entire semester for being the designated driver. I argued this was unfair based on the fact that I was being the responsible one. They argued that we were all 16 and if they had their way we’d be locked up in a convent, so I should shut my mouth while I was ahead.

I understand a bit now how hard it is to raise good kids. Sometimes, every fiber of my being wants to raise safe kids in pretty cages. I’ve seen parents try to control their children into safe adulthood by anticipating every pitfall and negotiating every hardship.

But I know what that looks like at age 16—kids who are champion whiners, have no initiative and no ability to solve their own problems. If I had a dime for every time my dad told one of us to “use your head”, I’d be a rich woman, but that was much better than “I’ll do it for you”.

One of the most famous stories in our family goes like this: when my brother was in high school, he got a flat tire on the 405 freeway during rush hour traffic. He managed to get the truck off the freeway, but it was so old the spare tire was long gone. He called my dad to get some help.  My dad listened to him and said “Call AAA and have it towed. I’m busy.” Click.

How many parents would have the guts to do this today? Strand your 17 year old? Not really stranded, because he had a AAA card in his wallet. But he had to handle the whole thing himself, which he did. To this day, when one of us hits a place where we don’t know what to do next, someone will yell “Call AAA and have it towed!”

As much as we give my dad a hard time, he was right about making us figure it out. And now, here we all are, successful adults.

So I’m going to try to remember: At some point it won’t be my job to control, negotiate and anticipate anymore. As they get older, it’s my job to teach them to do these things for themselves. I want them to go out in the world and be happy, contributing, moral adults.

I want them to be good mammoths.

Planting Trees ~ Dana

One thing that I’ll say about my in-laws is that when they go, they go large.  So when we told them that we wanted to put some fruit trees in our new backyard, they got us some.  Nine to be exact.  Nine fruit trees for my husband Hansel’s birthday back in February.

These poor little trees sat, waiting to be planted, for two months until finally last weekend the weather was warm enough and we had time enough to put them in the ground.  It was quite an undertaking.  There were ten trees all-together, plus three lavender bushes, two salvia bushes, a lilac bush, and no less that sixteen little yellow annual flowers that I had bought that morning to help accent the bushes.  What a wonderful idea!

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With post-digger in hand, we (and by we I mean he) started the planting around 11:00.  I mean really, how long could planting 10 trees take?

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The answer is about six hours.  About half way through, when Hansel was taking a much-deserved break, I thought I’d get in on the fun, too.  But when I couldn’t really lift the post-digger, I decided that the little yellow annuals were just my speed, in between playing with the baby, feeding the toddler, and hunting ladybugs.

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So now we’ve got an even prettier backyard, and I love the thought of watching these trees grow.  They are just another physical reminder that we are planting our roots here.  And that feels so good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had real roots somewhere.

Up until we got married five years ago, I hadn’t lived in one place for more than two years since I moved out of my parents’ house to go to college at the age of seventeen (in 1993, y’all).  The first house that my husband and I lived in was nice, but it never really felt like home to me.  But this place.  This place is my beautiful home.  My children are happy here.  I can put up my feet in my backyard and sip a glass of sweet tea.  In fact, I’m writing this outside right now, smelling the orange blossoms, my skin warming in the sun, and the roots of my trees anchoring themselves down in the beautiful dirt.

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High Harvest ~ Dana

When Jen and I were brainstorming names for our new blog, one of the words that really resonated with me was “Harvest.”  I bounced around a lot of titles including this word because I feel like this time in my life is the High Harvest.  It’s not the Thanksgiving, end of the season harvest, but the one where things are just starting to get good.  It’s like when the grocery store finally has good fruit again after a winter of just apples.

For as long as I can remember, I assumed that my life would be like my mom’s life:  That I would meet my future husband in college, that we would be married after we graduated, that we would start a family after a few years of getting used to being married.

But of course, my journey was quite different.  After school I lived in Europe.  I came home and bounced from job to job.  I met my husband the year that I turned 30.  And after a few years of dating, and a few years of marriage, Here we are.

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Where the strawberries are, I see my two sweet daughters’ faces smiling back at me.  Amongst the watermelons, our lovely new home.  Tucked in with the pineapple, my darling husband.  And here and there, with the asparagus, the leeks, and the heirloom tomatoes, my family and the friends whom I cherish.

Now, lest you think that the harvest is a time to rest on one’s laurels, let me assure that the harvest is still work and life is not perfect.  We have two little ones, still in diapers.  My dad is in chemotherapy, fighting for his life.  My husband works time and a half every day so that I can stay at home with our children.  This is far from easy.  And we are not resting.

Still, I look at all of the wonderful things that are coming from my years of hard sowing and in those rare moments of solitude and quiet, I am so grateful to be just where I have landed.  I am enjoying the High Harvest and wondering which seeds I will sow next.

Here ~ Jen

Home

For those of you who are new, I started on a blog called Hallelujah Highway with three good friends. For years and years, the Highway metaphor was apt for my life. I was journeying towards marriage, motherhood, economic security, health. There was always a bend or fork in the road up ahead, and I was moving, moving, moving.

My job was my gas pedal, speeding me on. Working required me to box my life into neat chunks of time. On a good day, all the chunks got checked off and I fell into bed with a book for one last twenty minute chunk before sleep.  I was good at this. Ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire.

Then I quit my job to stay home. Not without a lot of soul searching. I had a master’s degree and tenure and that cushy teacher’s pension everyone complains about. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Life at home is busy, but moves at a softer speed. There are no defined chunks of time, just things to do. No pressure. No lists. No expectations. Believe it or not, that’s a hard adjustment.

I had a newborn, and for long months the goal was to get through each day. By the time she was old enough for me to think about a schedule other than hers, our lives had settled into a lovely rhythm that I didn’t want to disturb.

And now a year later, I know this: my life is not a highway anymore. Once I slowed down, I noticed that I had arrived. I was Here.

This is not about being a stay at home mom. That’s not what I mean by Here.

Here is a place for which my husband and I hoped, prayed and worked.

Here is a destination to be savored and explored.

Here there are graces and blessings and peace.

Here is what I wanted; I need to stand still, right Here and live it.

The journey is important. The journey pushes and strengthens us. But every journey needs a destination, or it’s just wandering.

We want this blog to be a place where we celebrate the Here. Our Here. Your Here. We want to bridge the gap between working moms and stay at home moms and figure out ways to help each other be happier and healthier in our Here.

Welcome!