Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Sister, My Friend

When I was a child, about 7 years old, I'm guessing, I had a swing set in the back yard that I shared with my younger sister, Kristin. My dad had put it in the ground with his own two hands, and sanded, painted, and attached the swings himself. It was a special place for us. There were two swings so that Kristin and I could both swing independently, but when it was first put in, she was too young to swing very well by herself. She hadn't gotten the pumping down. There were times when I didn't hesitate to help her with a push, while looking longingly at the swing next to her where I should be having my own fun. It was just expected of me, the big sister, to sacrifice anything to help her. Sometimes I embraced that role, but then there were times I resented it, and, mind you, times when she wasn't all that grateful. We were sisters after all. We had the ability to "hate" each other but still love each other in the same instant.

One afternoon, we were outside playing on the swings. We were particularly grumpy with each other that day for reasons I no longer remember. She wanted to be pushed. Oh, I gave her a push alright. And while she wasn't quite old enough to pump very well herself, she knew good and darn well how to hold on. But for some mysterious reason, my much rougher than average push sent her flying off the swing, screaming. Of course she was fine, and I knew this because when she got up she ran screaming into the house. I was called in, not long after, and sat down on the piano bench.

"Erin, did you push your sister off the swing?" my mom asked.

I've always found it odd that whenever questions like this were posed it was always, "your sister," as though using her name would make it easy for me to forget that she's still, in fact, my sister.

"Did you push Kristin off the swing?"
"Who's Kristin?"

"No," I answered, looking at the floor.

"Erin, did you push your sister off the swing?" This time each word was dragged out a little bit longer.

"No," I replied again.

"Erin, I'm going to ask you one more time," and there it not so subtle cue, telling me they already know the answer to the question, but they just want to hear it from me, though I've never been convinced that the punishment would have been any different regardless.

"No." I was only 7 for goodness sakes. Such cues were lost on me, and may I remind you, she let go?! In my mind, she committed swing set suicide, and my violent push should not be blamed. Like the basketball player who flops to the floor when their jerseys brush, demanding a foul, she was pleased with herself, and I was left standing, wondering why the whistle blew.

My dad then grabbed me by the arm and walked me over to the giant picture window that just happened to be facing the swing set. Oops. Light bulb moment. He didn't have to say it, but he did, "Erin, we saw the whole thing!"

And then, no reasoning or logic as to how she actually fell, was any good at all.

"She's smaller than you!"
"You're the BIG sister!"
"You're old enough to know better!"

I can't remember what my punishment was, but I do remember that before the day was over, Kristin and I were playing Crayon People (another day, another blog) together as though nothing had happened. My sister, my friend. I will never have a relationship with anyone like I have with her.

So now, I try not to become discouraged when I have days when Elijah and Chastity are just tattling on each other all day.

"She hit me!"
"He pushed me!"
"That's mine!"

They have normal moments like these, but more often than not, I am hearing them giggle and laugh together, and take turns without being prompted.

Yesterday I heard Chastity begin to cry. I looked up from my crocheting to see her hold her hand up. Her fingers had gotten pinched during their rough play with some cars. I remained quiet while Elijah calmly said, "Shhhhh, what hurts Chastity?"

She whimpered which finger it was, and he promptly kissed it. "There, is it all better?" She still came to me for some magic mommy kisses, but I was just so tickled. I let Elijah know how wonderful that was. He was already over it, and they were back at the cars again, laughing at each other, and the moment was over.

They normally play very well together, but this has also brought up a small concern. I had taken them to McDonald's play place to play with a bunch of other kids a few weeks ago, and I noticed that they didn't really interact with anyone else. They followed each other around the whole hour we were there. It was a madhouse there, but I never had to worry about losing them. Elijah looked for Chastity at every turn, and she followed him like a giddy shadow, just excited to be in his presence. But now, after really thinking about it, I figure they will gradually learn how to interact with others. They will, one day, develop their own separate friendships, but right now, they are nurturing the most important friendship of all, and they will never have that with anyone else.

Today, I had some crackers out on the counter. Elijah ran into the kitchen. "May I have a cracker, please?"

"Sure," I told him.

He grabbed one, and then another, saying, "And one for my sister, my friend," and he ran to share it with her.

Melt. My. Heart.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The True Star of the Super Bowl

This story is coming a little late, but better late than never, I say! This year's Super Bowl was exciting for me, but not because of the teams playing, the commercials, or even the half time show. Nope. This year was the year of the food.

I planned out an entire buffalo chicken theme for our big Sunday. I made Buffalo Chicken DipBuffalo Chicken Taquitos, and the Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese stole the show. Alas, I have yet to find a buffalo chicken dessert, so instead, I made Baked S'Mores. The one mistake I made: I didn't invite anyone over (until the last minute) to eat it all with us.

In the weeks (yes, weeks...this was important) leading up to the Super Bowl, as I was planning my meal, I became very nervous about the dessert, because my hand mixer had broken just before Christmas while making the best carrot cake I've ever made. May it rest in peace knowing it did not die in vain. The Baked S'more recipe didn't say a mixer was necessary, but it did recommend it. Thankfully, and right on time, my parents informed me that they had a standing mixer for me. It had been one of the things found while cleaning out my grandmother's items after her passing last January, and it had yet to find a home. No one really had a need for it. Well, we did, and my parents promptly brought it up with them on a visit a week before the Super Bowl. 

I have always wanted a standing mixer. I have been jealous of everyone I've known who's had a Kitchenaid. They look like regal kitchen appliances, standing up on the counters, free from cupboards, looking down on all the other lowly appliances, "Look at me. I'm shiny, and more expensive, and I come with my own fancy mixing bowls." I don't know. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, I was so excited to have one in my kitchen. It is not a Kichenaid, but I don't care. It is a Sunbeam Mixmaster, and I have no idea how old or new it is, but it's in mint condition. The manual is copyrighted 1975, but this doesn't look any older than late 90s I'm guessing. Either way, I'm so excited to have it! Having been in storage for a year, it had a few smudges, a little dust, and some tiny food particles, but it was in very good shape, and the smudges reminded me that my grandmother had used it not all that long ago.

Since it had been in storage, I decided to clean it off before using it. I washed the bowls and the mixers, and then I, someone who is not at all that concerned with the outward appearance of her appliances, scrubbed the mixmaster from top to bottom. I smiled to myself while I scrubbed it until I found my reflection, reminding me of my grandmother. She was known for her cleanliness. I couldn't tell you much about her. I never got to know her very well, unfortunately, but I knew every corner of that house, and I had watched her scrub, dust, and vacuum every inch of it. She was the epitome of the June Cleaver, 1950s housewife. She could make a five course meal and the kitchen would be sparkling before the food hit the table. In that moment, as I scrubbed, I couldn't help but think she would have been proud of the way I polished up her Sunbeam.

After I had finished the Sunbeam's opening ceremonies, I began pouring in the ingredients. What needed mixing was some crushed graham crackers with flour and eggs. My ordinary hand mixer broke down while creaming frosting. Crumbled up graham cracker would have caused it to start smoking and explode. But the Sunbeam handled it gracefully. I couldn't believe how easily the graham cracker mixed with the flour and eggs, making an easy to smooth out dough. It was amazing, the Baked S'Mores were amazing, and the Sunbeam was super easy to clean back up.

We ate and were merry.

And I smiled, knowing that the MixMaster's first use was a huge success, and that Grandma would have been pleased.

 And the Sunbeam took it's rightful place, regally, on our counter top.

~In loving memory of Elizabeth Rae Lawrenson~

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mommy's Red Solo Cup

Most everyone is familiar with the phrase, "my cup runneth over." Well my cup is this cheap little red solo cup that has been used, and reused. It's been filled with family, and good friends, with basketball, and traveling. Just as it has been filled, it has been emptied with drama, injury, and cabin fever, and after all that it's been through, it has a tiny little hole.

I tend to run hot and cold with most things. Like the days, maybe weeks, where I pretend to be an adult who has it all together. During those brief hot streaks I am a mom on a mission, with lists, and organized meal plans and activities. I keep the calendar up to date, and the check book balanced daily, and stay routine with my chores. It's an exciting time really; filled with moments where I just want to pat my multitasking self on the back, and say, "Nice job!"And most importantly, red solo cup is brimming over.

Then some disastrous monstrosity strikes causing me to slip. Such disasters can be anything from one of us being sick, to having an appointment of some sort throw a monkey wrench into my routine for that day. Just like that one bite of chocolate ruins my diet for weeks, that one day off from my routine pushes me into a lazy, dreary streak, and turns my tap to a drip.

It makes sense I guess. I've always had a "go big or go home" mentality, so when I go after something I "go big," just as well as when I don't, I "go home." Every routine I've ever managed to work hard for; exercise, diet, household duties, and even my prayer and Bible time spent with God, all crumble in an instant if I falter even the tiniest bit.

I am a huge creature of habit, so without fail, I always feel much better, happier, and more content amidst my routines, and many of them go hand in hand. If I have one of them together, the rest fall into place. One of my biggest flubs is allowing myself to succumb to exhaustion. I am tired...a LOT, and when I let it take over, it screws up every single routine that I have, effecting one of my favorites: activities with the kids.

I go through spurts where I am a very active, energetic mommy. These spurts take place when I am at the top of my game. With all my ducks in a row, my I's dotted and my T's crossed, and red solo cup filled, I'll have laundry going downstairs, all dishes will be done, and the living room will have been vacuumed before the kids even have lunch. Then, between lunch and nap, we play, and boy, do we play hard. It's usually either basketball, or dancing, or sometimes a strange combination of both. I come from a family where I was allowed to play basketball in the kitchen, so nope...don't frown on sports in the house here! After we've played as hard as we can, we read, color, mold play dough, and practice writing our letters. Nap soon follows, and I retire to my chair a very happy and fulfilled mommy. But when I slip into exhaustion, sadly, I find myself sitting, and watching them play. They do play very well together, and sometimes it is fun just to observe, but I've never been happy warming the bench, and neither is red solo cup.

See, these habits, the good ones, the routines that I so easily fall out of; they fill my cup. I am happy when the house is clean, and happier still when it's all done before noon. I am happy when I exercise; happiest when it's done and out of the way before 7 am. I am happy when I spend time in God's Word; happiest when it begins my day. I am happy when I spend time with my kids; happiest when it is doing something they really love and enjoy.

When I fall into my ruts, allowing myself to be tired and get lazy, that hole in red solo cup slowly drains. It drains so slowly, that I don't even notice it at first. I sometimes don't notice it until it's completely empty. But...but when I allow these simple routines to take over my everyday life, infiltrating every possible moment, life pours into me like a waterfall! It makes that tiny little hole seem very insignificant while the happy just overflows and spews out in the form of a smiling, well-organized, fun-loving, mommy and wife.

I guess what I am saying is that maybe, just maybe, the common isn't so bad. Maybe it is the common that fills us up.

So I'm going to slap some duct tape on my seasoned, red solo cup, and kick that tap into high gear!