Saturday, December 15, 2012

a lot like Christmas

Getting into the Christmas mood is a little trickier when the mercury's not dipping below 60. One has to fool the senses with lots of Christmas baking, decorating, & pandora permanently set to "Christmas classics". Becca's done a wonderful job trimming Horizon View. I even have a spray of frosted snowblooms in my bathroom to remind me what winter's like outside of SoCal.
In 4 days, I'll be on my way back to IL though, so I'll get a real taste of winter. :(. This past month has flown by. Noah asked me today, "Why is it that when you're an adult, the time goes by so fast?" I couldn't give him an answer. Though I've had more time to ponder the mountains and valleys the last 4 weeks than I've had since before I got my first job at 16. It's been a delightful respite. And part of me isn't quite ready to go back to the cold. There are however, 17 good reasons to visit, and I am so looking forward to seeing them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

like cinderella...before

Aren't these the cutest liners? Couldn't resist them!
Thursday we cleaned the house from top to bottom. The fridge got cleaned out at lunch. The kids were done with school before noon. All the windows were cleaned. The garage got vacuumed. We discovered the original color of the van. The never-ending war against dirt was temporarily subdued. There was even time to bake a batch of whole wheat apple coconut muffins. And people, this was all before 2:30 pm. I have no idea what happened. Becca & I are trying to figure out how to set this cycle on "rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat". All on only 2 pots of coffee betwixt the both of us. (Normally, it's...more.) As we were congratulating ourselves at lunch over a job well done, looking quite toothsome in our bedraggled state, Noah piped up, "Mom, you look like Cinderella..." then he leaned over to Sophie and said behind his hand in a stage whisper, "...before..." We lost it. He's got quite the sense of comedic timing. Most of the time he is intentionally funny, but some of the funniest times are on accident. On our way to pick up more visitors at the airport, Noah was working on a homework crossword puzzle. Sophie read the clue, "The groom walked his ______ around the track."
        "That's easy!" Noah exclaimed. "The groom walked his bride around the track." I'm surprised Becca managed to stay on the road.
        And since I've hit most of the mundane topics (funny things kids say, baking, cleaning, running errands--Wes, are you rolling your eyes yet, saying, "women!"?) I'm also going to talk about the weather:  it looks like it will be another beautiful day here in San Diego, although a little chilly at 65. (And I've lost a bit of my smugness since it's been about that back in the Midwest. But hey, I'm glad for it. Do you think it will stick around til the 18th? I wouldn't mind if I never experience temperatures below 55 this winter...)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

weekend recap

Here are promised photos from weekend. A few of the highlights:
1. riding in a Mustang convertible through the hills of SoCal.
2. meeting new people that I kind of already knew through previous travels and siblings.
3. discovering a new beach a mere 30 minutes from Escondido.
4. being able to be part of Lizzie's baptism weekend.
5. singing with really good singers.
6. driving to Wagonbach's alone without getting lost.
7. eating Dennis Fulop's kefli.
8. playing Dutch Blitz three nights in a row.
9. Hungarian desserts on Sunday.
10. hiking Elfin Woods.
11. meeting a marine missionary and hearing his testimony.
12. coming back to my Califamily after being gone for 1.5 days and hearing Will say, "I didn't miss you." Becca - "Really? Then why did you keep asking about her?" Success!
13. ordering from the "secret" menu at In 'n' Out. (hint: animal fries)
15. feeling like I was "coming home" when we turned onto Horizon View Drive.
15. conquering the hills driving at night.

Monday, December 3, 2012

i chose to laugh

I was going to write a really nice post about my weekend. It was very nice. I met some new people who were very nice. I don't want to downplay it at all because it really was very lovely. I will perhaps post more pictures of some of the highlights at a later date.
But then Monday happened. And I figured you would find it much more entertaining. At 7 pm I thought it would be a good idea to tackle the Christmas cookie list Becca & I made earlier today. A totally reasonable hour, I thought. Never mind the kid's bedtime's 7:30. Why in the world would they want to join me in a messy, sugary, distastrous endeavor rather than fall into the comfort of their own beds?
Also, I'd had a rather harrowing supper. Dinner, I mean. I will not make the presumption that I have any idea what it's like to be a mother. But I'm understanding it more and more as I observe it from the inside. (Mother, I am sorry for being a selfish little beast at times.) It's not a job for the faint of heart. It's not a job for the unsuspecting & unintentional. It's not a job for those without a sense of humor & an ability to admit imperfection. It's absolutely terrifying realizing I have a little bit of power & influence over such moldable young hearts & minds. Imagine if I were actually the mother! (They have a great one, by the way.) I'm not claiming I know what it's like, and I won't make you suffer through a long explanation of the merits & fulfilling parts of helping Becca out with her kids, but just let me tell you that it is. Actually, I am going to tell you. (What? No one's making you waste your lunch hour reading this.) It is crazily satisfying to see their faces light up when you let them crack the eggs (so what if they spill it all over the counter?). It is strangely moving to watch Will's pudgy little fingers forming cookie dough into balls (so what if they aren't perfectly spherical?). It is a kodak moment when he turns to me and says, "We're chefs, aren't we? I like you, Jenna...can I lick out the bowl?" with those little scarecrow eyebrows raised (So what if he's totally manipulating me?). But like everything else in life, not every moment's a kodak moment.
Because at 7 pm, we were making caramel rolo surprise cookies. They are tasty. Or, as Clint said, "These are really quite spectacular." They. are. good. Come on, a rolo wrapped in chocolate cookie, dipped in sugar and chopped pecans? Here's the recipe. When you make them, you will appreciate the fact that Will was my sous-chef. We were getting along quite nicely (see note in paragraph above, "I like you, Jenna") as long as I let him mold the balls and wrap them around the rolos and dip them in the sugar and place them on the cookie sheet. He only fell off his chair once. And we only made a complete disaster of Becca's kitchen. And I'm pretty sure my "wash your hands every time you so much as breathe on a finger" lecture went unheeded the moment my back was turned. And he most likely thumbed his nose at me while he did it. Then the other two, who were playing "mad scientist" (hence Sophie's lab coat), came slithering out to the kitchen, beckoned by the heavenly scent of baking cookies and insisted on helping too. (Never mind that I'd tried to convice Noah all afternoon that it would be great fun to bake a batch of cookies.) In the midst of 8 hands, the sugar bowl went smashing to the floor.
I sent the kids out of the kitchen so they woudn't step on the glass shards--and because it might've been an hour past their bedtime...oops. As I stood in the kitchen, shopvac in my hand, a pile of dishes to be done, Clint taking pictures of my neat, well-kept appearance, kids still not settled down for the night, the kitchen timer beeping obnoxiously, a tray of cookies still waiting to go in the oven, I thought, "So this is what it feels like to be a mother."  And I chose to laugh instead of cry. I feel like that's maybe the way to survive motherhood. But I could be wrong. I don't claim to be one. I've got a long way to go still. But for a moment, I think I understood how it might feel. By the way, the cookies turned out perfectly, every single one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

sophie's afternoon arrangement

We're making great strides! Will told me he loved me! In all seriousness even, without his little 3-year old way of sarcasm. How that little squirt can pack such a wallop in his insults is, well, insulting. I do really love the little guy. There are things I love about each of the kids. Noah and I bond over Calvin & Hobbes; we read it together every night. For school, we are going to write our own comic strip. I made a caricature of Noah for it. He was not impressed and told his mom I was making fun of him. So we had a brief lesson in caricatures. Unfortunately, I threw it away, so you can't see it.
Sophie and I have gone shopping together. Tomorrow (maybe), we are going to work on starting a watercolor painting. She is who I was 10 years ago. Except taller. This was a floral arrangement she made this afternoon from found nature objects. I am quite impressed with the asymmetrical balance & modern appeal of it. The colors are gorgeous together, aren't they? Perhaps Sophie has a future in floral design.
A note from Soph: I was just feeling a bit creative at the moment! When I see something pretty and I'm feeling bored but creative, I think of something to do! Who knows? Maybe I will become a florist someday!   Sophi
As for Will & I...well, for now, I'm just going to focus on the fact that he loves me.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Full. That's how I felt last week. Full of food (weren't we all!), fun, and mostly thankfulness. Actually, full isn't really accurate. It was more like, bursting at the seams. What a great holiday. Somebody was thinkin'. We discussed the author of Thanksgiving at one of the many family dinners I was at; it was a woman behind it all (was there ever any doubt?). And to have it always on a Thursday so that we have three weekends in one week? God bless you, Sarah Josepha Hale.
I just really love the thought behind it, the real original thought. Not the whole gluttony part, or shopping part, or even the family togetherness part. Thanksgiving is just something I need to be more conscious of everday. And though this year it was so easy to rejoice & give thanks for where I'm at, I wish I were a more thankful individual, especially when life isn't a cloudless 75 degrees & there's no dessert & decaf after dinner.
Kevin & Martha were here, so I got to tag along on little excursions with the Mueller girls & their families. We ate so many good meals, followed by a string of desserts with names like "cranberry-pear & gingersnap crumble"," mountainberry/apple pie", "irish coffee blondies", & "flan". I spent Thanksgiving with the Fulop's, two turkeys, & good times. Went to the beach. Got a little watercolor painting in. But oddly enough, it wasn't the desserts, or daytrips, or climate that made me the most thankful. No, it was the calm & peace in my soul. To know I'm where God wants me for the time being is worth more than all the other little blessings. And if He wants me somewhere not quite so temperate next time, I just hope my fickle little heart sings just as loud then. And if you want to smugly remind me of my smug comments on balmy weather and whatnot then, I suppose I can't stop you. But who's in SoCal now, huh? (Feel free to make faces at the computer if you so desire.)
Perhaps I'll convince Becca to sign that 25 year contract yet though...
But lest you think all I do is play, here's some of the work projects we did. Visitors beware. Clint & Becca believe in earning your keep. :). You must build retaining walls! And strip doors! And transplant groundcover! And build mission models! All in the unbearably balmy temperatures of a San Diego afternoon. They make us take breaks and eat popsicles. If you are thinking this is your kind of purgatory, feel free to pray about moving here. And we can be smug together.

Monday, November 19, 2012


What did you do Sunday after church? Eat some real food? Take a nap? Huddle under a blanket to get away from the vicious wind?
I went to Coronado Island. And biked. And walked in the sand. And ate awesome Mexican food.

Even living 45 minutes away (that's like Bloomington, people!), it still has a magic of its own. There is nothing less cool about it because it's easily accessible & can be done on a whim. It reminded me so much of Cape Cod: not that the two are comparable at all architecturally, geographically, or culturally, but both have managed to live up to my expectations. They are exactly what I think they should be and more. And I don't think I'll ever get tired of either.

As we crossed the Coronado Bridge, Becca leaned back and sighed, "I can just feel my body relaxing whenever we go over this bridge." I totally agreed. There's something timeless about the ritzy, yet casual charm of the island (which isn't actually an island, but a peninsula, as Sophie informed us--more than once), where a multi-million dollar home will have an old burnt orange Ford parked out in front of it. And it appeals to all types of people: families, the fabulously wealthy, Mexicans most likely on the dodge, conservatives, hipsters, & ladies in over the knee red suede boots and fishnet stockings pushing strollers.
We rented three bikes for the group of us and enjoyed a leisurely pedal around the island, admiring the homes, sharing intellectual conversation, never dreaming of breaking the "no sidewalk" rule...haha. Did you really think with two teen boys, 5 competitive children, & a majority of Dotterers that it wouldn't turn into a race of the fast & furious? There was definitely more than one person that heard Will mandhandling the bike bell, turned around, then dove off the sidewalk with a look of panic to avoid the contraption laden with people bearing down on them. One lady raced towards her toddling child with the exact same expression you'd expect to see if it were a man-eating tiger instead of a (relatively) slow-moving 8-person bike. It was so much fun!
And for the record, I'd just like to clarify, that while I may have been on the bike with eight people, only half of which had pedals, we were first to the finish line.
After pedaling up an appetite, Clint & Becca took us to their favorite restaurant, Miguel's. If you ever go, I must warn you that the white dip they bring out with the chips is loaded with calories, and you probably just better let me eat it all. (Becca said they took Adam & Rachel there, and as soon as they got back home, Rachel started making it by the gallon. Ok, that might be a slight hyperbole, but you get the point--it's some good stuff!) And as I sat there eating my genuine chimichanga drenched in 4-cheese-jalepeno-cream awesomeness, the din of a family excited to be with eachother enveloping me, the pleasant nip of twilight on my nose, twinkly lights strung around narrow cobblestoned streets, I felt so blessed.

 This photo was of the city as we drove by. My shutterspeed was pretty slow so I'd have enough light to actually capture the scene, but that meant any movement of the camera was captured too. It's not a great photo, but I thought the lights look like music notes & like it as an abstract photo! Just thought it was too cool not to share.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

my califamily

I feel a little ashamed for my total dropped-of-the-face-of-the-earthedness. You'd understand if you saw the mountain I'm currently dwelling on. And there's 3 little demands on my time that make phoning rather difficult. That, and my phone aversion. I've named my family here "my Califamily," which they will be referred to hereafter.  Here is my perspective on the Califamily:
This is typical of Will. He is so aptly named. My strategy right now with him is playing hard to get & distraction. "Don't say no to me!" is his favorite phrase. Ah, he will succeed in life, no doubt. And yet, the little monster is slowly weaseling his way into my heart. Reminds me of Wes somehow...

 Then there's Noah. Kenny#2 if ever there was one. He loves to make people laugh & will go to great lengths to achieve this. He even has the same habit of blinking his pretty brown eyes frequently to try & make you think he's innocent. He's my baking sidekick.

Sophie is the oldest. I can totally relate to her; feeling like I want to grow up, then deciding I really just want to play velcro ball. Life is one big drama for her, with events like the billygoat bullying all the other goats a major tragedy worthy of tears and drastic action. She loves to read & is very self-disciplined with her schoolwork.
It's a little strange, fitting into a family that's not my immediate family. But it feels so natural, like slipping on a pair of shoes from someone else but realizing they fit perfectly. They'll never replace my own, but my Califamily would never try to do that anyway. Every new day that goes by though, I feel a little more at home, learn a little more about them, love my own family a little more, and try to praise God in it all. It also helps that I will have Forrest people in church my first two Sundays!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Photo Card

Sweet Scalloped Ribbon Christmas
Send Christmas cards personalized with your favorite photos.
View the entire collection of cards.
**I ordered these today & they suckered me into posting this so I get $10 off my next order. Pretend to be surprised when you get one in the mail. If you don't get one in the mail, well, here you are! Merry Christmas early:) And no hard feelings. These things are expensive! Not to mention postage.

dragonfruit & little lovely things

 This is what I ate for breakfast this morning. That, and a bittersweet chocolate & pear scone (not to be confused with bittersweet chocolate & pear cake, though they are like first cousins, or maybe even siblings), and some mango greek yogurt. The pink spikey thing is a "dragonfruit". I've never even heard of one, let alone eaten one.
The inside looks like a white kiwi, but Noah informed me they're usually magenta. It tasted a little like kiwi, too. Noah took one bite, made a face, then raced to the trashcan, where he spat it all out, with more sound effects than were probably necessary. Normally, they are more flavorful & pack more punch, Becca told me, leaving her slice quietly unfinished on her plate. But, being a landlocked Midwesterner til four days ago, where in November strawberries count as exotic fruit, I thought it was pretty good. It was at least new & exciting.

That's kinda how my new little life here is. I didn't realize how wearing having three jobs really was; how much I really disliked working in an office; how little time I had to just think; how I'm not cut out for an ambitious career at all. Nope, I'm happy to just putter around the kitchen, have a little room, a little free time, a little playtime, a little sunshine, a little rock to call my perch. I'm shockingly grateful for the little everyday routine I live now. There is a rock I have claimed as my own in the backyard that overlooks the valley. Monday I sat there, sun on my shoulders, serenaded by Mexican tunes blaring from a truck down in the valley, thanking God that this is where I'm at. Why do I feel that sometimes I have to be doing so much? Every shred of stress I've felt for so long is gone. All it took was to move 2,058 miles away. I don't know how long I'll be here. Not long enough I'm afraid. This phase can't last forever. But for now, I'm going to enjoy every blessed second of it. I'm going to sit in the sun & think happy thoughts. I'm going to play Indians with Sophie & Noah. I will make Will like me (he doesn't like my "scary" eyes, but I'm confident I will weasel my way into his affections eventually...). I'm going to bake to my little heart's content. I'm going to read Calvin & Hobbes til my throat's hoarse. I'm going to gorge myself on pomegranates. I will eat dessert every lunch Sunday. I will get 8 blissful hours of sleep every night. I will not know what day it is. And I will wake up every morning with a thankful heart for my lovely little life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

the view from my window

Well, here I am. In California. Right now, it still seems so surreal. Not quite like a vacation, though, like I was worred about. It feels too...homey to be a vacation. I mean, you don't grocery shop or have a library card or receive UPS packages when you're on a vacation.
This is the actual view from my window. On the way up to Clint & Becca's house for the first time, I asked, "What are those trees along the drive? Are those...apples?" Clint glibly replied, "No, pomegranates." That was my first reality check that I was definitely no longer in the Midwest. (As if the curvy roads, citrus groves, & dry air weren't enough clues.) So after church yesterday, I snacked on pomegranates grown along the drive. This morning I woke up with a slight bloody nose from the dry air. I took a walk this morning with the dog, Sibley, and watched every step I took because of all the, ahem, snake holes. But no worries, Noah informed me that it's too cold for them to come out now(!!). Then he took me on a tour of their "fort", which consists of a cluster of rocks peppered with snake-friendly crevices and suspicious holes. It will take me a while to get over jumping at the sight of every wind-ruffled twig.

 The adorable Sibley. Her ears are in permanent cockeye.
 Just one of many citrus trees in the backyard.
I feel shockingly at home though. And for the first time in my life, I have my own bathroom! There will be lots to adjust to, but it doesn't worry me--at all. Perhaps that's naive. I know I'll miss my family fiercely at times, and there will be moments I'll long for the comfort of just knowing how to drive places without having to think or follow a GPS, & when a walk was only a walk instead of a heart-palpitating journey through snake-infested soils--and oh, did I mention there are mountain lions? (Brenda, I promise to always take Sibley with me. I actually had to drag her along this morning, but I wasn't about to brave the hills alone! Not the first morning anyway.) But it feels right to be here. And I am resting in that. After I get settled, my posts will take on the banal day-to-dayness I've named my blog after, and you will be subjected to the antics of StrongWill, Sophie, & Noah, but til then, pomegranates, snakes, & an un-cornfied view!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

let this be an adventure

In two days, I will no longer be a Midwesterner. For the first time in my life.
This is the beginning of something new, and an adventure, I think.
(my fortune cookie from a time I don't remember. But I've had it for a while.)
My feet are starting to just itch for sunny San Diego, a new chapter, an open door (finally), another place to shape me into who I'm supposed to be. If I said I were purely full of excitement, I'd almost not be lying. But there is a small crevice deep inside, where my family & friends have carved out a little niche that won't be filled by anything else. That crevice will be reserved for them always. Yet, I know this is the next step for me, just like I knew when Columbus was over. Just like when I knew Columbus was starting. It seems God would have me to be a bit of a tumbleweed. I can't say that I mind all that much. Someday I'd like a little place to call my own, with a bookcase full of MY books, and a china cabinet showcasing the 2 sets of dishes, 6 sets of glasses, 2 cakeplates, etc, I already own, a niche for my yellow velvet chair, & the satisfaction of it being mine. But until then, San Diego's not a bad place to spend the winter.
As a nod to Alex, I want to thank everyone for putting up with my restlessness, job complaints, etc up til now. It's hard to explain how much you all mean to me, how ready I am to get away, & how those 2 aren't related at all, but are both true. I think you know what I'm trying to say. After all, you are my family & friends.