Friday, October 31, 2014


Happy Halloween from Pippi Longstocking, Mr. Nilsson, Lord Sparr, and the rapper.

taken at the library's Halloween party last weekend
rapper-10, pippi-8, Mr. Nilsson-1, Lord Sparr-6

Please join me for a stroll down a very adorable Halloween memory lane.

They started asking for the day off of school for Halloween sometime last week, but I'm dressing as a tyrant for Halloween so school it is! We're hunkering down and getting some work done along with some fun Halloween stuff, too. I predict a shorter than usual attention span and costumes on at approximately 8 am.

Isaac at the pumpkin patch: age 1

construction worker-2, construction cone-4 months

tortoise-3, hare-1

We'll have an early dinner and head out as soon as it's socially acceptable to trick-or-treat in Omaha. And I just this second realized that there are zero working light bulbs on the outside of our house so a trip to the store is in order because I can't eat all of these clementines by myself.
personality for miles, this girl! age 2
Did you hear the clementine story? Here it is. Pull up a chair and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. We'll be here a while.
baseball players are 4 and 2. the baseball is 4 months. The coach is 31.
Two years ago we gave out clementines with jack-o-lantern faces sharpied on them. We went this route for a few reasons. I thought it was cute and there's soooo much sugar on Halloween and I feel bad giving out chocolate made by companies that exploit children and pillage the earth and the store was out of the organic, fair trade chocolate by the time we got around to buying it, which was late because if we do it early I eat it all. Yes, I overthink things. Why?

*Let it be known that Jim thinks this is ridiculous and lobbies each year for regular ol' Halloween candy.* 
firefighter-5, brown puppy 3, fisherman-2, frog-1 (cousin Maclain joins the fun!)

Adrian Peterson-6, Black cat-4, tiger-3, bear-2, dinosaur-3 months (Maclain and Beckett join us this year)

Anyway, that's what we did two years ago. Trick-or-treaters were not all that impressed, but considering the laundry bags full of candy they were dragging around the neighborhood, I'd say they got over it. Last year we bought the organic, fair trade chocolate early enough and gave out chocolate squares and people were still unimpressed. In fact one kid tried to walk into our house and choose different candy from my kids' piles on the floor. We still get a good chuckle out of that one.

This year we started our annual Halloween treat distribution discussion and Isaac started lobbying for clementines and Halloween pencils right away. This is uncharacteristic so I was a little confused, but he's the oldest and he quickly had all kids on board. Then I noticed the sly smile and twinkle in his eyes and asked why he wanted to hand those things out. "I like to see the kids' faces then they realize we aren't giving out candy," he replied. Yep. That's my kid.
Encyclopedia Brown-7, ladybug-5, puppy-3

I started cracking up and the deal was done. Clementines and pencils it is. To sweeten the deal he and Audrey wrote things like "try me" and "trick or treat" and "I'm yummy" on the clementines. We also came up with a response for people who inquire about candy or complain about the lack thereof. Here's a sample conversation:
kid: "Where's the candy?"
us: "Probably next door."
rainbow rock star-34, my brother, hockey mullet man-31

Yes, we have a warped sense of humor, but one clementine in the midst of 18 pounds of candy won't kill a kid. Cripes, pop the chocolate bars in the fondue pot, peel the clementine, and dip it in. Ooh la la!
Tin tin-8, jack-o-lantern-6, Adrian Peterson-4

Vampire-9, witch-7, bat-5, skeleton-2 months, witch-36

Happy Halloween. Happy Friday.

And thanks for the link up, Daily Tay and Helene in Between. This is how old married people with kids par-tay!

What are you handing out and what's the first treat you'll steal from your kids' bag once they hit the hay?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

let me be louder

I heard from lots of you yesterday regarding this post on body image and insecurity and beauty. You liked it and commented and shared it and sent me emails and facebook messages. I was so happy to hear from so many of you and so sad that so many of us struggle with this. Dove has campaigns on beauty and Colbie Callait sings songs like this and Maya Angelou writes poems like this and we are educated women with great families and jobs and hobbies, yet we are sometimes crippled by this feeling that we aren't enough. That our looks make us less than. That we should get plastic surgery or stop eating or binge and purge or exercise excessively or take pills or cut ourselves or drown our inadequacies in the drug of the day or give our souls away to the first person to tell us we're pretty, no matter how many strings are attached to that one little statement.

We are surrounded by female Secretaries of State and presidents of universities and lactation consultants and CEOs and stay at home moms and Olympic athletes and librarians that exude strength, beauty, class, intelligence, care, and wisdom. We are educators and accountants and fitness instructors and business owners and single women and nurses and volunteer coordinators and members of the PTA and doctors and moms. Yet we worry about the wrinkles around our eyes and the number on the tag in our jeans and the size of the veins in our legs and the texture of our thighs.
We are raising strong, beautiful, smart daughters and we want them to feel strong and beautiful and smart every single day, but we can't even begin to do the same. We want them to navigate the pre-teen years and ignore the music videos and magazine ads, cyberbullying and websites celebrating eating disorders. Yet we sit out of pictures, watch from the beach instead of dive into the surf, and spend a week/month/year counting calories/eating grapefruits/saying no to carbs in preparation for the class reunion/kid's graduation party/friend's wedding. We obsess over the size of our waist and wrinkles and thighs. Our daughters see this. They see all of it and they take it in and it becomes a piece of who they are. These daughters we want to feel strong and beautiful every single day.

Last night I was reading Anne of Windy Poplars with my fierce, determined, lovely daughter as she brushed my hair. It is part of our nightly routine and something I look forward to all day long. We read great books together. We pause to talk about the things going on in the book or the things going on in our lives. And there's the added bonus of getting my hair brushed. {happy sigh}

Last night Audrey was sitting on my back brushing my hair as I read another of Anne's letters to her beloved Gilbert. She leaned in close and said, "Oh, there's a spot right here where there are a few hairs really close together and they're silver." Ouch. So true. Then she continued on. "They're this really pretty bright silver color." Hey, that doesn't sound so bad. "Does that mean you're getting old? Because I don't think you're getting old."

We talked about how different people get gray hair at different times and since my mom and dad got gray hair young I did, too, and how I found my first gray hair when I was a sophomore in college so you definitely don't have to be old to have gray hair. She asked me to look for gray hair on her head, but nope, still shiny, beautiful brown. We talked about how gray hair just happens and some people let it stay gray and other people color it and it's just how God makes people. We tried to think of women who let their hair turn gray and she could only think of one. We thought of loads of men, but only one woman. That's insane.

OK. We all know there's this big, horrendous, disgusting problem that hits us from all sides. What can we possibly do? What can we do to help ourselves and our daughters in order to stop this nonsense?

I don't have the answers. Obviously. But I thought about it today and came up with a plan of action. Here's what I came up with.
First, no matter how I'm feeling, I never talk about my body in front of my daughter. Oh wait. I actually tell her how fast I can run and how strong I feel when I work out and how I think my eyes are pretty. I want her to hear a lot of that.

Second, my daughter knows what beautiful means. It means full of beauty. As in sunsets and the view from the top of a mountain and a smile that exudes joy. We talk about the fact that beauty has nothing to do with what she's wearing and has everything to do with what's inside of her. Her kindness and intelligence and silliness and zest for life. She comes down the stairs in striped leggings and mismatched socks and a floral shirt and then she smiles and it's just perfect.
Third, I'm loud. I was talking with a friend the other day, and by talking I mean facebook messaging because I don't get to real life talk to any of my friends anymore. Waaahwaaah! She had this junky thing going on at work where someone was putting her down and she was generally feeling crappy about it. You know how people say stuff and even if you know it's not true you start to second guess yourself and feel miserable until finally you think maybe they're right after all? I pulled out my big loud computer voice and put in all caps, "YOU ARE INTELLIGENT AND WORTHY AND LOVED. LET ME BE LOUDER. LET ME BE THE VOICE YOU HEAR." There may have been three lines of exclamation points involved, too. What can I say? I wanted her to get the message loud and clear.

It's the same with my daughter and my message about her worth and beauty and strength. When the day comes and someone calls her fat or skinny or too short or too tall or too curvy or not curvy enough or whatever stupid, subjective, idiotic, impossible nonsense standard they think they get to hold her to, I want her to hear my voice in her ear, loud and clear. (YOU ARE INTELLIGENT AND WORTHY AND LOVED. LET ME BE LOUDER. LET ME BE THE VOICE YOU HEAR. (I also want to punch that person in the teeth. Really.)

Fourth, our faith plays a role in this. We believe we are created in God's image. That we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That God knew the plan for our lives before we were born. That the world can rage around us, but we are safe in God's love. When I was pregnant with Audrey I listened to this song a lot.
I want the voice of truth ringing in her ear, measuring her worth and reminding her that God made her just how she's supposed to be and she is loved.

I don't know. It's too much. This is such a huge issue and it is related to so many other issues. I just know I know a lot of beautiful, you know, full of beauty, women who feel really bad about how they look. I just know there are times I'd rather stay home than figure out what to wear because I hate all of it. I just know I want more than that for my daughter.

How do you handle this in your house and in your heart? Any advice? I'm all ears!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fessing up: insecurity and body image.

Yesterday I posted here about our almost disastrous, yet decidedly fantastic time at a new-to-us park on Sunday. I posted a slew of pictures, both posed and natural, of our family. Man, those were some cute pictures. They make me smile.

Here's what I didn't post. I didn't share any of the pictures that Jim took of all four kids with me. I didn't post them because when I saw the picture my eyes shot to some veins on my legs that I didn't know I had until I saw the pictures. I actually wanted to delete all of the pictures to erase proof of my legs forever and then maybe never wear shorts again. This does not sound like a rational human. I mean, I'm talking about some really sweet pictures of me with children I love with a capital L.O.V.E. and I'm willing to delete them forever because we can see my veins. Veins that, by the way, are essential to my living since they do the not inconsequential job of transporting blood throughout my body.

Here's the thing. I do not consider myself vain. If you've seen me you'll probably agree. I mean, just the other day I looked in the mirror and realized that I do my hair the exact same way I did for ninth grade basketball, minus the scrunchie. My husband owns at least double the amount of clothes that I have. Let's just say that trendy is not my middle name. Yet I saw these pictures and I felt horrible, like I should hide that part of me, a part of me over which I have no control. I feel the same way about my gray hair. It horrifies and embarrasses me, like I'm the only person with gray hair. Like it's my fault I have gray hair. Like that defines me.

That's what gets me. I am a reasonably intelligent person. I pay my bills and raise my kids and care for others. Most importantly, I am a human being created by a really beautiful God who is fine with all of me and who wants to use all of me to share love. These are the things I should think about when I'm defining DeNae. But usually, unfortunately, ridiculously, I don't.

Here's what I want you to know. When I see you live and in person (FYI: that's my favorite way to see you) or your pictures on facebook or your Christmas cards, I'm not looking at your veins or your hair or if you've lost 8 pounds or gained 4 pounds. I'm looking at your smile because I want to make sure you're happy. I'm looking to see if it's a smile I believe could lead to a good, gut aching laugh, not the kind held just long enough for the photographer to snap the picture. I'm looking at who you're with because I want you to be surrounded by the people you love and who hold you up and love you right back. I'm looking for that sparkle in your eyes that shows that the captured moment holds a little slice of joy for you.

That's what I'm looking for in you. Why can't I seek that in myself?
I'm not writing this for you to tell me I'm cute. I'm writing this because I wonder what you notice when you see a picture of yourself.  I wonder how many photos you've sat out of because you weren't the right size or your hair wasn't done or your makeup wasn't great or whatever other lies we tell ourselves. I wonder what you have in your dictionary of you.

Do you know you have a daughter who looks up to you, even if she hides behind a mask of tween angst? Or a mom who looks into your eyes and sees the bright, vivacious little girl she raised and still wants to love and protect from harm? Or a spouse who wishes that when you looked in the mirror you'd see the stunning woman he sees every day? Or a son who needs to see a woman respect and appreciate herself so he can grow up to do the same? Or a friend who can't imagine sharing the ups and downs of life with anyone but sweet, beautiful, kind, caring you? Because that stuff is true.

I can say those things to you just like you can say them to me. Why is it so hard to say them to ourselves?
Here are the pictures. Pictures of me with my beautiful kids on a stellar day at the park. That's what I want to remember from that day. Not the insecurity that racked me when I looked over pictures later that night. The love in my heart and the joy in my soul that moment. Nothing could be more beautiful.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's not what we expected

I am a fairly organized person who is also pretty fine with flying by the seat of my pants. Case in point: our life right now. We've mostly known the general direction our life was going to take since we sold our house, but there have also been many, many unknowns. Many. Lots. Many. Ok. You get it. Some days I roll with the punches and other days I want a clearly defined timeline of how this will all work out. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

This time in our lives can be tricky, but it's also teaching all of us some great lessons in flexibility. Yesterday Jim had the whole day off so we decided to check out a new-to-us recreation area in town. We knew it had lots of trails, a playground, and room to play ball. We got there and divvied up the things for people to carry. Audrey: hula hoop and baseball glove. Isaac: two gloves and a baseball. Elliot: bag of snacks. Jim: Asher and whatever ball he was holding/throwing for Jim to chase. DeNae: purse, camera bag, ball, blanket. My point is we were loaded down with gear as we headed out.

First we had to hit the restrooms. One sign said the visitor's center was open 12-4 on Sundays, but the sign on the door read open 9-5 Monday through Friday. Locked. Never one to miss an opportunity to water a tree, Elliot was ready to find his spot. I showed him some trees off the beaten path a bit and then headed to look at the map. I looked over to see him standing approximately 2 feet from the paved path peeing into some tall grass as two women walked towards us. Niiiiice.

Next we made our way toward the park. Or we thought we did. Earlier in the day I read an online review stating that the maps were not very helpful and they needed more along the paths. We concur. After walking for a while and working up a bit of a sweat and probably causing some confusion as to why we were traveling with a hula hoop, we started asking anyone we saw for directions and approximate time of arrival to the park. We knew we were in trouble when two people pointed us in two different directions, one person said we were going the right way, but that it was "quite a walk," and there was nary a park in sight.

We plopped ourselves right down in the grass to assess the situation. Mostly we just needed a break from walking with all that stuff. We were essentially deciding which perfect stranger we believed was leading us in the direction of the park. Tough decision, considering our history with them consisted of one question. We came up with a game plan and started backtracking. After agreeing to wait near a gazebo to play ball while Jim went to get the car and drive around to find the park, we turned in the opposite direction when we saw a baseball field and then were doubly happy when there was a park right across the street. Yep. This is us flying by the seat of our pants.

We played. Oh, did we play. It had a natural playground. (We're making one once we buy a house in CO.) It had a regular playground. It had tons of open space for ball. Audrey led Elliot and me at wizard school. We all played house. Hi. I'm Daphne and I'm 8. Elliot is my 10 year old brother and Audrey is my 24 year old sister. We climbed through tunnels and walked on logs, went down slides and traversed bridges. We played catch and kicked balls. We climbed trees and jumped off of tunnels.  Oh. And we hula hooped, of course.
this was highly entertaining for a very long time

Wizard teacher teaching us how to make trees fly away

Elliot, a very powerful wizard in training, shows his personal technique

My climbing boy


Audrey at my spell station, where I store my spells

the vW boys

the vW girls

the walker

At one point we all took a break for snack. Isaac and Jim started playing catch and Audrey said, "It's not what I expected." There was that nice comfortable pause, just right for listening to crickets in the shade of brilliant yellow tree on a surprisingly hot October afternoon. Then I replied, "But it sure is great anyway." Audrey laughed and nodded, agreeing. That laugh. Oh, that laugh. We talked about how most of our favorite adventures aren't quite when we expected. Our hiking trip to Tettegouchee will go down in family history as a really cold, rainy, unexpected, wondrous day.
soaked and happy

love these cold and wet troopers

That zoo trip where it started raining as soon as we got there and, without rain gear, we bolted from building to building, soaked to the skin and squeaking shoes for all to hear. We do check the weather before we go places. Sometimes the meteorologist gets it wrong. Shocking, I know. This blip in our  lives that is Omaha.

We left it at that, but I couldn't help but think of life, all of it. It's not what I expected. But it sure is great anyway.
jump in

What about you? Do you recall a moment that was not at all what you expected, but turned out to be just what you needed?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tis the season for pumpkin swirl chocolate brownies

We're in a time of our lives where it's pretty easy to feel sad. While we have a lot to look forward to, this limbo is not treating us very well. I won't get into the details because they're boring and so small in the grand scheme of the big world, but I will say there are many tears from many eyes and lots of time spent sitting in my lap. Then, once the kids are in bed, there's lots of soul searching as I pray we made the right decision and that things will get better once we're settled. Sounds fun, huh?

In an effort to amuse, distract, and entertain ourselves, we take field trips to check out local hot spots and we dance in the living room and we wear our Halloween costumes whenever we want to and we make brownies! Today started out dreary and gray and Isaac asked about making more of the pumpkin cookies I made earlier in the week that we may have inhaled without even chewing. Mmm mmmm good. We are out of chocolate chips so he thought of another recipe to try. He asked for pumpkin brownies and I said we'd have to look online for a recipe because I didn't know anything about pumpkin brownies.

To Pinterest we went and we found a tasty looking recipe with one problem: 9x9 inch pan. There are six of us in our family. Minus the baby who we have yet to introduce to the ooey, gooey, delectable dessert known as the brownie. Don't worry; he is not wasting away.
9x9 pans of brownies are gone in one setting and this is not okay with me. We decided to double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan to guarantee leftovers.

List made and to the store we went.

Here's what you'll need:
 Here's the lowdown. We eat pretty well. Case in point: The other day Isaac asked why other kids don't think broccoli is good and Audrey raved about brussel sprouts and Elliot's favorite food is smoothie with spinach and flax seed. Brownies are a variation from the norm and they aren't healthy. We don't have canola oil so I used coconut oil and we always just have organic eggs and sugar. These are still really unhealthy and I'm okay with that every once in a while.
 This little choochie face was supposed to be napping, not walking around with a frying pan while pushing a laundry basket. Aaah, the best laid plans. . .
 There was deep concentration as cans were opened.
 This is what pumpkin puree, cream cheese, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, and sugar look like.

 Action shot of measuring, stirring, and egg cracking.
 This is what pumpkin puree, etc looks like after being whipped up with a fork. This recipe calls for a mixer, but we don't have one in our rental house so we all took our turns whipping the heck out of it. The cream cheese never got entirely smooth, but that's ok. Still tastes good.
 You make the brownies according to the box and pour 3/4 of the batter in. Audrey asked, "How do you know what 3/4 of it is?" I let her know it's okay if it isn't perfect. Just pour and guess and it'll taste wonderful.
Then you pour the pumpkin puree mixture on top. Can you tell which kid is hungrier?
Add the remaining 1/4 (give or take) of the brownie mix on top and swirl to make it beauteous. Then stick it in the oven.
Let Audrey take your picture with your littlest sous chef.
F for presentation. I can never get the presentation right. I promise they looked better in real life and they taste fantastic!

Three kids, one sleeping baby, brownies, and Muppets Most Wanted. It's a good night, people!

You want in on the brownies? Here you go.

Easy Pumpkin Swirl Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients for Pumpkin swirl filling:
6 oz softened cream cheese
1 c. canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) It always says this on recipes. Must be important.
2 eggs
6 TBSP sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

9x13 brownie mix
eggs, oil, and water as directions state on box

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Beat pumpkin filling ingredients on low speed until mixed or use your big muscles and whip it up! Set aside.
Prepare brownie mix according to directions on box or your favorite homemade recipe.
Pour 3/4 of brownie batter into prepared pan. Or, you know, around 3/4 of it. Pour all of pumpkin filling mix on top. Add remaining brownie batter on top and swirl with a knife to make it all pretty and fancy. Clearly I'm all about the fancy.
Bake for 45-50 minutes and check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.

You can find the original recipe here. Obviously my brownies are healthy since I used coconut oil and did a few yoga moves while they baked. (That last part is a lie. So is the first part. The middle part about coconut oil is true. Glad that's cleared up.)

It's Friday. Hallelujah! Are you turning on the oven to bake anything this fine, fall weekend?