Monday, March 30, 2015

Lily Bird - Track Star

Trying new things makes me nervous.

You would think with all the new things our family has undertaken since The Bird came along eight years ago, I would be over it by now. 

But I'm just not.

I think part of the reason is that as a special needs parent, you work so dadgum hard to get your kid in some sort of routine that when you finally manage to get one in place, you're petrified that something is going to come along and mess things up and you'll have to start all over again. 

And if you've been a special needs parents for longer than, say, a minute, you know this is going to happen. And happen again. And again. And again....

I also think that with these kiddos, so many changes are out of our control that a desire to maintain the status quo is simply a survival mechanism.

But something new always comes along. 

There are therapies to try. Diet changes to make. School programs to tweak. Teachers and aides that come and go. Goals to fine-tune. Visual schedules to adjust. Discipline techniques to modify. Doctors to visit. Medications to consider. Educational approaches to research. Meetings to attend. Respite opportunities. Camps. Playgroups.

The list is endless. 

And exhausting.

Even when a great opportunity for Lily presents itself, I often find myself dragging my feet because I know it means changing our routine yet again. 

So when Lily turned 8 and we discovered that she could participate in Special Olympics, I didn't really give it a thought at all. 

One, because it would be yet another thing to add to our routine. 

But mostly and more honestly, because it felt like yet another step towards admitting that Lily belongs in the special needs community. That we are moving even further towards acceptance, a positive thing to be sure. But that same acceptance still comes at a high price for us - another little piece of our hopes and dreams being chipped away. 

First time on the track.

But with the sweet and patient encouragement of some friends, we decided to give Special Olympics Track a try.

Warming up.

Well. Sort of warming up.

So Birdie is officially a runner. A 50 meter runner, to be more specific. 

Well, a 50 meter runner/walker/hopper/skipper/giggler, to be even more specific. 

First 50 Meter.

And with an entourage, no less.

Typically, I run alongside Lily to keep her going and Ryan is waiting at the finish line to keep her focused on where she's headed. Of course, this is not including all the parents, coaches, and fellow athletes lining the track, cheering, clapping and shouting encouragement.

If Ryan is crouched down at the finish line, Lily often ends her race by turning backwards and plopping her booty onto his bent knee. 

Just like all the Olympic greats, amirite?

Trying the softball toss. Not interested. At. All.

So I wouldn't say that Lily loves running. 

And I wouldn't say that Ryan and I have fully adjusted to the fact that we are there, that we are in Special Olympics. 

And of course, it's still new which means I'm still nervous. 

But pretty soon, it'll just be another part of our routine. 

That ever-changing, fluctuating, shifting, fickle "routine".

The reward at the end of the race.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mamaw's Teacakes

When I was growing up, I had two kinds of Mamaws. 

One was my "school Mamaw". She was an English teacher for lots of years. So I could always talk to her about the day when I would be a teacher myself. How I would decorate my classroom. How I would eat the "for teachers only" baked potatoes at lunch. And how I would teach my students to fall in love with books. This Mamaw is still with me today. And even though neither of us teaches school anymore, we both still love a good baked potato. 

My other Mamaw was my "kitchen Mamaw". And while she went to be with Jesus way back in 2005, she still comes to my mind almost every time I'm cooking. She taught me how to roll out biscuits and make a mean Lemon Icebox Pie. That a pear half with a little dollop of mayonnaise and some grated cheese sitting on a lettuce leaf was considered "salad". That fried shrimp didn't have to come from a restaurant. And even though she told me all the time how much she loved me, her favorite way to show love was through food. 

Those three little fingerprints in the dough? Lily Bird.

While there was always a variety of homemade treats in Mamaw's kitchen, one cookie was a staple. A simple, unassuming, and humble cookie in the midst of more fancy, fussy sweets. 

The teacake.

Not too sweet. Not too crispy. A little bit pillowy and soft. But not at all gummy. 

This is the kind of cookie I imagine the British calling a "biscuit". Maybe these teacakes could be considered the Texas version of a British biscuit. But then, I guess the British call every cookie a biscuit. Like even Oreos. Weird. So maybe we just stick with cookie. 

Before you ask, there is not one teeny gluten free or paleo thing about these cookies. Because sometimes, you just need your Mamaw's cookies exactly the way you remember them. So yes, these could probably be tweaked to fit a special diet but you won't find me messing with my Mamaw's recipe. This is the cookie Mamaw made for her grandkids. And now her grandkids make them for her great-grandkids. And I'm not messing with tradition, even if it means some white flour and Crisco. 

Mamaw's Teacakes

2 cups sugar
1 cup Crisco
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tbsp lemon extract

Mix well. Then add:

5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

Mix until no longer powdery. 

Roll out. Cut with biscuit cutter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 8-9 minutes or until lightly golden around bottom edges of cookies and no longer damp on top. 

Do you have a family recipe that brings back memories? A recipe that's been passed through the generations? I'd love to hear the story. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

For Your Listening Pleasure

Down here in Katy, Texas, it's Spring Break.

And for lots of us, Spring Break means doing a little traveling.

Back in my day, traveling meant loading up the green Oldsmobile, listening to whatever country music was on the radio, reading Nancy Drew nonstop and constantly reminding my little brother to stay on his side of the imaginary line in the backseat.

Today's kids have got it good - bucket seats, built-in DVD players, iPods, iPads, Spotify, Netflix....

But what about the parents riding along up there in the front seat, being forced to listen to "Let it Go" until they're ready to actually let it go - right over a bridge.

Have I got the solution for you:

NPR's This American Life podcasts.

This American Life is a weekly public radio show. Each episode has a theme and a few stories on that theme. Most of the stories are true and about ordinary, everyday people. Sound boring? Well, it's not.  If you love words and stories like I do, you're going to love it.

So put the headphones on those kiddos because here's a few of my favorites to get you started:

Switched at Birth

Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde

The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About


House on Loon Lake

Notes on Camp

And I can't leave out The Alibi , the episode that launched This American Life's first spin-off show called Serial. According to the website, "Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won't know what happens until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it's important to listen to the episodes in order, starting with Episode 1."

And I hate to sound bossy (except not really), but if we are friends at all, you will listen to Serial. All 12 episodes. And you will get sucked in. You will be able to think of almost nothing else. You will discuss it with your friends. You will take sides. And you will come back here and tell me what side you're on. And you will thank me. So, I'll just go ahead and say it....

You're welcome.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Help Me Decorate my Bathroom

The other day, I mentioned that we've just had our master bath remodeled

The glass was put in this week and it is officially finished. 

Well, it's officially finished except for one little spot.

And here's where you come in. 

Before I show you some really great before and after shots, I'd love to get your suggestions for what to do with that little spot. Then I can show you the whole beautifully completed bath, without having to say "pretend like there's a cool piece of furniture here" or "maybe I'll hang something here". 

Here's the area that I need some help with:

I mean, I know the weight scales add the perfect decorative touch but maybe it needs just a little bit more, yes?

To the left of the space is the new shower. To the right is Ryan's vanity. The space is a little more than 3 feet wide. From the top of the tile to the floor is about 7 1/2 feet. And it's a 10 foot ceiling.

I want to do something a little unusual - not just the expected hooks and decorative towels. 

But of course, what I want to do is so unexpected that even I can't figure it out. 

So this is your chance, all you home interior design gurus - give me some ideas. But there is one big, big rule:

It cannot be something crafty that you swear I can make because it's just so easy.

I am not crafty. I do not want to be crafty. I just want to wield my credit card. Not a paintbrush or a stencil or fake flowers that I must arrange. And I would really like to wield said credit card for less than $200. 

And, if you can, links help - I'm much better with actual visuals than trying to picture something in my mind. 

Can you help a girl out? I'd greatly appreciate it! 

Monday, March 2, 2015

What I'm Reading....

Gracious y'all.

Every time I talk about books, I feel like I do such an inadequate job of communicating just how much I love words.

Ryan always says that my motto is "why tell a story in 20 words when you can tell it in 2000?".

But I just can't help myself.

I love words.

And I love details.

Because so often in books, the details are what make the words sing. That turn simple words into poetry. Details turn the plain old words into pictures I can so clearly see in my mind.

I like to know what people eat. And what they wear. What the living room looks like and what's in the pantry. What books are on the shelves and what kind of flowers are in the garden. What music is playing and what smells are wafting from the kitchen.

I just adore words.

And what better place to get my fill of lovely words than some really wonderful books?

Here are some books I've already read, the three that I'm currently reading, and a few of the many on my TBR (to be read) list.

What's Done -

You're Going to be Okay - Holley Gerth
     Do you sometimes wonder exactly how you're going to make it through the hard days? Well then Holley is the gal for you. Not only does she offer encouraging words of hope, she gives you step-by-step instructions to keep on keeping on. I think the fact that she's a life coach sets her a little bit apart from all the other Christian self-help type books out there. And Chapter 3 is worth the price of the book all by itself.

Bread and Wine - Shauna Niequist
     What can I say? I am completely smitten with Shauna and every word she writes. If you haven't read any of her books yet, you just have to. I'm laying down the law and totally being the boss of you.   But you'll thank me later.

Delicious! - Ruth Reichl
     Ruth was the Editor of "Gourmet" and has written several memoirs but this is her first fiction novel. It's totally fun and light and charming with a hint of mystery.

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
     I'm not what most would call an adventurous person so I live vicariously through the stories of others. This is a first-hand account of the disastrous climb of Mt. Everest in May 1996. It left me breathless and content to be a little bit cautious.

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty
     A sweet and captivating romantic comedy that was more thought-provoking than I expected. Alice wakes up after a fall in the gym unable to remember the last ten years of her life. As family and friends help fill in the gaps, she finds she doesn't really like what's she become. A good story of what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
     First of all, this book mostly takes place in a bookstore and is filled with references to books. So right away, it's a win. Then the story pulls you in and shows you that sometimes, when life is not going as you expected, it just might be the best thing that ever happened. Delightful and endearing.

What's In the Works -

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage - Ann Patchett
     First of all, Ann Patchett. I'm such a fan. And this book gives this fan a peek into Ann's life. Her writing, her family, her friends, her husband, the opening of her bookstore. Seriously. The woman loves to read, loves to write, and owns a bookstore. Gosh. I'm such a fan. Or did I already say that?

Small Victories - Anne Lamott
     Anne is wise and irreverent. She's honest and completely unexpected. And she makes me think. How can you not love a woman who writes things like, "I have a lot of faith and a lot of fear a lot of the time." Amen sister.

To Dwell in Darkness - Deborah Crombie
     Murder. Mystery. Suspense. Dead bodies and detectives. My weakness. Because please, people. Not all reading is for learning. Some is for escaping. OK. Most is for escaping. Warning - this is the 16th book in this series so do not start with this book! You must read them in order or we simply cannot be friends anymore.

What's Next in Line - (or just a few of them, at least...)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good - Jan Karon
Scary Close - Donald Miller
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis - Lauren Winner
Don't Look Back - Gregg Hurwitz
Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage - Molly Wizenberg
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free - Hector Tobar
An Everlasting Meal - Tamar Adler

So fellow lover of words and books, have you read anything I mentioned? Thoughts? Plus, any books I need to add to that "Next in Line' list up there?


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