The Belly, The Belly, Oh! I Am the Belly

One-hundred points to the first commenter who can correctly tell me the song I’m attempting to mimic in my title. Wouldn’t that be a great start to 2008? Because with all those points you could … um, buy … oh never mind. But if you know it, I’ll be really, really impressed.

A blog post I read recently (a horribly tragic story, if you feel inclined to follow the link) reminded me that I hadn’t bothered to back up my Critical Files in about six months.

And lo, the end of a year is a good time for doing that sort of thing. So tonight, I undertook the arduous task of copying and pasting My Documents to my external hard drive. Then, since I had to l walk away from the computer for 45 minutes while it whirred and groaned, I ate some cookies. To replenish my strength.

I’m nothing if not dedicated to my future child.

Unfortunately, all that dedication has lead to serious pound multiplication. As in – my clothes, they won’t stay put. My maternity shirts are not long enough to cover my swollen belly. My maternity jeans are not sturdy enough to hold themselves above my knees.

Which is why I start my day looking like this:

Which is The Intended Sassy Look.

And five minutes later, I look like this:

Which is great if you’re planning to answer the door of your trailer while the entire crew of COPS shouts for Cleatus to come out.

But not so great if you’re trying to look hip and fashionable while shopping the aisles of Target.

The routine of pulling up my pants every five minutes was really starting to drive me mad back in early December. It was then that I remembered a nifty new contraption invented for pregnant women called the Bella Band. Basically, it’s a large band of nylon and spandex (similar to a tube top) (a tube top that would fit Pamela Anderson) that you slip over the waistband of your pants to keep them from sliding down to your hips all the live-long day. (You can also use them earlier in the pregnancy to extend the life of your non-maternity wardrobe. No longer are pregnant women relegated to threading a rubber band through the button hole of their jeans.)

After reading some blogs doing some detailed research on the product, I decided to order two Bella Bands. (As usual for me, the clincher on the deal was free shipping. Those are the magic words of Internet commerce in my book.) It took two long weeks for Baby Center to actually get the bands to me. But once they arrived – oh, the joy and the bliss.

I now look like this:

Which isn't exactly what Victoria's Secret is looking for. But it makes me insanely happy.

Besides, covering up the slice of naked belly is practically a health hazard in Minnesota in December. Imagine -25 wind chill hitting that exposed flesh.

Yeah. I yelped too.

Thus, I’ve been able to finish out the remaining weeks of my pregnancy in a somewhat normal state. (As long as you consider it normal to look like you’ve swallowed an over-inflated beach ball.) It’s true that I go to the bathroom so often, I’m actually starting to look forward to the epidural-driven catheter. It’s also true that I have to wake up at night to turn over, so great is my girth. I also feel a bit like a super-strong trash bag, since the baby is compelled to push and poke and stretch my abdominal muscles on an hourly basis.

But generally speaking, I’m good. My due date isn’t for three more weeks, but I’m dilating a decent amount already. And since Connor, my last baby, was almost born in the car (there’s a post for another day), my doctor is most likely going to schedule an induction for me sometime next week. Which is why I find myself looking forward to 2008 with no small amount of excitement and expectation.

That belly – it houses someone pretty special.

And I can’t wait to meet her.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to finish backing up my files. And then, I’ll probably grab a few more cookies. Because I’ve only got a few days left to have The Belly as an excuse.

Make hay while the sun shines. Or in my case, while the Bella Bands are still flexible. Whatever works.

Random Thoughts, Christmas Version

The house of Love Well had a wonderful Christmas, thank you for asking. It was relaxing and truly low-key. Because we have so little family in the area (and the family we do have, my in-laws, left on Christmas Day to spend the next four months in a warmer climate), it was just the husband, me and our 2.5 kids celebrating the birth of Jesus together. We had no other commitments.

And I don’t know how we managed to get away with it, considering we have a four-year-old and a six-year-old in our house, but we did not get up at the stroke of dawn to open gifts. In fact, as I was tucking the kids into bed on Christmas Eve, our daughter said to me, “Mom, we don’t need to get up early tomorrow to open presents. I think I’ll just get up with Connor and watch TV. And then you and Dad can get ready and take a shower. And then we’ll have breakfast and get our clothes on. And then we’ll open presents.”

Ummmm. Alrighty then. Splendid idea!

And that’s pretty much the way our Christmas morning went – except we put off breakfast (which was really more of a brunch, since it’s genetically impossible for me to eat a Christmas breakfast before noon) until after the gift-opening frenzy. And I didn’t take a shower beforehand either. It just feels like a pajama week to me. After all, why get dressed when you are doing nothing but sleeping, eating, playing games and attempting to to walk up the stairs without collapsing into a fit of contractions?

Besides, we haven’t seen the sun much this week. The sky has been very gray, the temperature in the 20s (you knew it was coming back to the weather, didn’t you?) and it’s been snowing on and off since Christmas afternoon. Pajamas are necessary for hibernation.

(Oh, and speaking of the Christmas snow. It was gorgeous. Huge, fluffy, sparkling flakes that piled up like goose down. Here are a few pictures that really don't do it justice. But I had to share.)

OK. Obviously, there’s not much news to report on this end. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with an update on the pregnancy (complete with belly shots). Turns out, “Sparkles” might be here sooner than we previously thought.

I’d better get that nursery ready.

At least I can do that in my pajamas.


One of my favorite winter weather phenomenon is hoarfrost. Technically, it’s defined as “white, interlocking ice crystals, deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form when the air is moist, the wind is weak or absent, and surfaces are cold.”

Non-technically, it’s breath-taking.

Hoarfrost creates a magical fairy land out of the ordinary world. Each tree branch, each blade of grass, each berry, each weed is covered with a thick blanket of glittery ice crystals. And when the sun comes out, nature is encased in diamonds.

A week ago Wednesday, it looked like this.

And this.

And this.

At our old house, it would often look like this.

Or like this.

Or like this.

You can see why it’s a favorite. Even my husband, who harbors no love for winter, says hoarfrost is “the beautiful side of evil." It’s simply stunning.

Plus, it takes the ordinary and outlines it with brilliance. It magnifies what’s already there, forces us to see the oft-unacknowledged.

In a small way, it reminds me of the Christmas season. (Wait! Where are you going? Just go with me here for a minute. And to my husband? Quit rolling your eyes.)

Just as hoarfrost makes us aware of all sorts of details we normally overlook, so the holiday season highlights what’s really in our hearts.

If we are in a season of celebration, Christmas amplifies the joy. If we are in a season of grief, Christmas almost cruelly emphasizes our loss. If we are empty, Christmas’ festivities echo in the barrenness. If we are questioning, Christmas forces us to face our doubt.

I, for one, am thankful that my God is the God of Christmas – the true Christmas, not the holiday as the Western world imagines it.

Because He is the giver of all good gifts, we rejoice. Because He is the One who comforts, we mourn with hope. Because only He ultimately satisfies, we bring our hunger before Him. Because He is The Truth, we can ask without fear.

Wherever you find yourself this December, no matter what the hoarfrost of Christmas brings to light in your heart, I pray you will know the God of Christmas.

Because without Him, it’s all just snow that will melt in a morning.

Irresistable -- and Possibly Unsheddable

You know that classic scene from “Friends” where Rachel plants a huge kiss on Ross after seeing the (equally classic) prom video?

(I know you remember. Don’t try to play cool with me. But because it’s that good, here’s the clip on You Tube.)

(And while this has no real connection with the point of my post, I feel compelled to add that Chandler’s line – “How many cameras are on you?” – is one of the best sitcom quips ever penned.)

It’s a timeless story, really. Girl (or boy) has a close but ordinary friend who is as exciting as a comfy pair of bedroom slippers. Then, without warning – blamo! What was previously common suddenly becomes irresistible.

That’s pretty much me and Christmas cookies this year.

I love to cook, and baking Christmas cookies and breads might be my favorite holiday tradition. It’s not unusual for me to make eight or ten or fifteen different varieties so I’ll have a good assortment to give away to friends, teachers, co-workers, grocery baggers, strangers, anyone who stands still long enough for me to shove a plate of cookies at them, etc.

Normally, it’s not a problem for me to have hundreds of cookies in my kitchen, because normally, cookies just don’t do it for me. They aren’t my thing. I can eat a couple. But then -- I'm done. In fact, since my husband doesn’t eat sweets (a post for another time, to be sure), I usually end up throwing away most of the leftover cookies in January simply because I’m tired of looking at them.

But this year? The cookies! OH MY WORD! They are enticing me in ways I never thought possible. I can’t stop eating them. They are buttery little tidbits of heaven, designed explicitly to dance upon my taste buds. I had two Peanut Butter Blossoms before 10:00 AM today – eaten quickly and secretly, I might add, lest my four-year-old son catch me in the act.

My sister, who was pregnant over the holiday season last year, said it was common for her to eat a dozen cookies at a sitting last December. So clearly, it’s the baby.

But baby? It's mama that's going to have to shed these pounds in a few weeks. Please develop a craving for fresh spinach and whole grains. And today, if you don't mind.

Because while the Peanut Butter Blossoms and Frosted Sugar Cookies are done, I'm still working on the Brownie Toffee Biscotti, the Lemon Glazed Spritz, the Mint Chocolate Brownies, the Peppermint Cookies and the (new-this-year) Rugelach.


Anyone want some cookies? I hear they ship well.

OH! I almost forgot. Our local Christian radio station threw out an innocent-enough question last week: How do you prefer your Peanut Butter Blossoms -- topped with Hershey's Kisses (as God intended) or with Brach's Chocolate Stars (which are waxy and lifeless)? The resulting brouhaha almost crashed their phone lines. Turns out, people are pretty opinionated about their Peanut Butter Blossoms. So I thought I'd set up a poll here. Which do you prefer? And if you'd like, leave me a comment about your favorite Christmas cookie. Because the sugar -- it's working for me today.

Tigger Says "Come On In!" Eeyore says "Wipe Your Shoes."

It hit me this morning: Right now, at 35 weeks pregnant, I am Tigger in Eeyore’s body.

Tigger is my natural personality. I’m enthusiastic. Talkative. Demonstrative. I bounce. I am unrelentingly (some might say nauseatingly) optimistic. My primary motivation in life is fun.

But lately, my body – she isn’t cooperating with my inner Tigger. She’s taken to behaving like one sad little gray sawdust-stuffed donkey. She sighs and plods and mutters gloomily. It’s hard to get her motivated to roll over in bed much less attempt something ambitious like getting dressed.

Which might explain why my Christmas Home Tour is a bit late to BooMama’s party.

henever my inner-Tigger would mention the FUN of the tour to my Eeyore-body over the weekend, Eeyore would answer with something like, “If we have to. I really don’t have the energy right now. Not that I ever have energy these days. It’s all I can do to put thistles on the table for dinner tonight.”


But this morning, after a little peppermint-mocha coffee, Tigger was able to convince Eeyore that the Home Tour would be worth the effort. (Tigger might also have mentioned that it would be a heck of a lot easier than cleaning the house, which was at the top of Eeyore's to-do list today.)

Either way, it worked. Welcome to my home.

Please note: I realize blue and silver aren't normally the colors associated with Christmas frivolity. But here in Minnesota, we know our outdoor "holiday" decorations are going to be in frozen in place until after Easter. So this year, I opted for a more neutral winter decor.

Besides, I'm a big-time sucker for blue.

As many of you know, we moved in August from our much-larger (and still on-the-market) home to a much smaller (but cozy-and-affordable) townhouse so our family could be in the same area code again. It's been a good thing. But since space is at a premium, the Christmas decorations have been kept to a bare minimum this year.

There's a Christmas display on top of our three-sided fireplace.

Another on our side table.

And ... oh yes! The tree, which is perfectly situated next to our front windows.

It's covered with mostly homemade and sentimental decorations, such as this classic Christmas rooster.

Yes, I made that. I was in first grade, if I remember correctly. I have other examples of my crazy art skills.

I carved that in second grade.

Which is a lie.

And not very Christmas-like. Sorry.

The tree also holds all of my "remember this" ornaments, which may be my favorite Christmas tradition. It started with my Mom, who gave us all a special ornament each December, designed to commemorate some milestone or memory from the past 12 months. For example, here's the ornament from the year I was our college's magazine editor.

And here's one I bought for my husband and me during our first year in San Diego, to immortalize our first year as official Californians. (Get it? A snowman? Made out of shells?!?)

Since this is one tradition I absolutely adore, I'm continuing it with my children. Here's Connor's ornament for this year.

And here's Natalie's. (It commemorates one of her favorite memories from 2007 -- the time she got to dance with the princesses at Disneyland.)

And other than the decor on the kids' bedroom door...

...that's just about it for Christmas decorations at my place. I realize it's slim pickin's compared to many of the BEAUTIFUL homes I've visited on the tour today.

But honestly? I'm OK with my pared down Christmas this year.

For one, we don't have the space right now to fling Christmas decorations hither and yon without turning the whole place into a giant jumble of knick-knacks. And knick-knacks make me twitch.

Second, the fewer decorations I put out, the fewer I'll have to put away. (Which will happen in roughly 15 days. Not that anyone is counting.) And since our new baby girl will be joining us in early January, that's a good thing.

And third, I've discovered keeping it simple helps me actually enjoy the Christmas season and frees me to love well. And something tells me The One who started this whole crazy holiday by sending His Son to dwell among us has loving well as His priority.

May it be mine too.

It's A Wonderful Christmas

Michael W. Smith and I go way back. WAAAAAY back. Back to the time of argyle and pinned jeans, when having a big comb stick out of your back pocket was the epitome of cool, and it was very possible that your calves had ugly red marks from too much Chinese jump rope.

So, like most people of a certain age, I’m always pleased to hear that Smitty has released a new album. That’s why I jumped all over this offer from his promotions company back in late November. Free MWS music? Go ahead, make my Christmas.

The guidelines stipulate that we should listen to the album (or whatever they are called these days) while we do something Christmas-y, like decorate our tree or sip hot chocolate next to the fire. Then we should simply blog the story and – viola. Instant Christmas cheer due to free music.

I had planned to have “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” playing in the background last weekend. My parents were visiting from California for a few days (my Mom was thrilled with all the snow and cold; my Dad, who is sane, was thrilled to have round trip tickets), so we snuck in an early Christmas with Grammie and Papa.

I pictured it something like this: The fireplace is roaring turned on. The family sits around the tree. The music plays gently in the background, while the kids take turns opening a few presents from the California-branch of our family tree. It would be peaceful, joyful and merry – in that order.

Of course, life rarely operates cooperates with our vision of how it should be. Our early Christmas evening was fun – but it was also noisy. (My husband is laughing his head off right now. He has never known my family to be anything but noisy.) I could have played “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses, and we would never have heard a note.

So. Plan B. I didn’t have any other Christmas-y activities planned this week – unless you count going to the post office to mail a package to my brother and sister-in-law in San Diego, and I figured setting up a boom box in the corner of my neighborhood USPS could land me in the slammer. Which isn’t so Christmas-y, if you know what I mean.

In the end, I decided to just listen to “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” while I went about my normal everyday routine. And truly, that was probably a wise decision. Because I actually got to, you know, listen to the music instead of just using it as background filler.

A few thoughts after listening to the CD this week:

Michael W. Smith is an amazing composer. (Which might be expected, considering he wrote his first song at the age of five.) In recent years, he’s released more and more music that has an epic sound, as if he were writing a soundtrack for a movie that’s playing in his head. This album is no exception: Of the 11 tracks on "It's A Wonderful Christmas," five are solely instrumental. They range from sweet melodies that evoke a still winter’s night to songs reminiscent of “The Nutcracker.” Smitty reportedly wanted “lush arrangements” and “powerful orchestrations” to characterize this album. He got his wish.

Of course, the songs with lyrics are unabashedly Christian. The focus is on the baby Messiah who came as God’s gift to the broken world. There’s very little mention of Santa or presents or all the other things our culture tells us are vital for a memorable Christmas. Personally, I love that. If I want schmaltzy Christmas music, I can get it on the radio station in town that’s playing 24 hours of Christmas music everyday until December 25.

Having said that, I feel I must add that Michael W. Smith is no Josh Groban. Now, I love me some Smitty, so don’t take this the wrong way. But it seems like Michael’s voice has tarnished as he’s gotten older. It’s more raspy, less smooth. If he were a 24-year-old unknown, I don’t think he’d make it on “American Idol.” However, his other skills and his vast industry experience more than make up for this. And he always has great singers accompanying him. My favorite on this album is Mandisa, joining him on the warm “Christmas Day.”

Intrigued? If you’d like to hear more – or even buy the album on iTunes, like all the kids do these days – click on the “It’s A Wonderful Christmas” banner on my sidebar. Personally, I’m happy to have Smitty’s latest offering to add to my Christmas music playlist. It’s a classic – and something tells me it will be around a lot longer than “Your Christmas Whiskey” or the other recently released "Christmas songs with staying power" highlighted by "USA Today" this week.

(Of course, I also never would have thought Wham’s “Last Christmas” would still be in rotation in 2007. So these things do have an air of mystery about them.)

Why Yes, It Is Cold Enough For Me

The day started out warm enough. (For Minnesota. In December. These are important distinctions.)

True, a blanket of gray clouds hid the cerulean blue sky, for the most part, and the sun played coy, only peaking through now and then to flirt. “What, you like what you see? You want to see me again? Oh, sorry. I have to go now.” But the temperature hovered around 32, the freezing mark. That’s not a bad thing for December 13 in these parts.

Then the wind came, howling and screeching. Straight from the Arctic, said the meteorologists. By lunchtime, it had blown our cozy blanket of clouds halfway to Ohio. It’s a cruel wind with a vicious sting, liable to scrape the skin right off your skeleton if you aren’t wearing enough layers. The empty garbage cans on our street were strewn about like giant bowling pins.

And the temperature? It could probably file a torture complaint with the U.N. It was kicked viciously right in the mercury. Our high tomorrow is 10, under mostly sunny skies.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. If you consider "frostbite blue" to be the official color of good cheer.

Because It's Easier Than Walking Across Hot Coals



Can I share openly and honestly for a few minutes? Because I feel the need to clear the Love Well air, lest some lightning strike my blog.

Yes, my husband is sweet. He's a gifted writer and a wonderful man whom I fall more in love with each day. He's a great father, an intellectual force, a leader among peoples and darn good-looking to boot.

But. But.

That comment yesterday? The one that made y'all swoon? It came from a guilty heart. Consider it penance. Because while he ended his night at the computer, meekly composing a comment worthy of a Hallmark contract, he spent the hours prior to that comment mocking me, "his dear little Heffalump."

Oh yes. 'Tis true.

Let me set the scene. We had just finished dinner. I was exhausted and operating in a mental fog. (Did I mention I did nothing but sit yesterday?) On the counter sat a new package of Starbucks Sumatra coffee beans, an early Christmas present from my parents who came to see us over the weekend.

Seeing as he's the barista in our family, I said to him, "I can take these to Starbucks this week and have them ground. What kind of coffee do we need? French press? Regular?"

With a completely straight face, he answered, "Why don't you have them ground for decaf?"

Puzzled, I cocked my head to one side like a confused puppy and said, "Really? Have we gone through that much decaf lately?"

It was then I saw The Look on his face. Now, you have to understand, my husband is an expert liar. Expert. Just last year, he convinced an entire group of professionals that he had taken Angelina Jolie to the prom in high school, which is a story for another time. It's taken me 15 years to learn his tells.

So when I saw The Look, I knew he was lying about something. But the fog was so thick, I couldn't figure out what he was up to.

"You're lying," I said to him. "But I don't understand...."

And then the clouds parted, and I heard again the words "ground for decaf."

Ahhhh. Yes. Well then.

And lo, the smirk stayed on his face until bedtime, when he read my post and started to feel the prick of the Holy Spirit in his soul.

So the comment? Consider it a reparation -- a sweet reparation, perhaps, but that's only because he felt so darn guilty for picking on a pregnant woman whose gray matter is being systematically absorbed by his own daughter's placenta.

That, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.

And now, I'm off to bed, where I think a little back-rubbing will be in order.

The comment was good -- but not that good.

What I Did Today

This is how bad it is: Today, I sat.

I didn’t clean. (At least, not until after the sun set.) I didn’t make the beds. (Which is one of the signs of the end of the world as we know it.) I didn’t pick up toys. (Another sign. I’m nothing if not a neat freak.) I didn’t do anything productive.

I just sat.

I sat and tried to breathe. That breathing thing – I hear it’s important. But it’s darn near impossible for me to get a lungful of air these days, between the baby squishing my respiratory cavity and my nose congesting.

I sat and tried to force my heart to beat at a calmer pace. It’s not exactly racing, but it’s speed-walking when I do anything that requires exertion – such as trying to breathe through a congested nose – and I really don’t like it.

I sat and stared out my window at the sun glinting off the snow. I sat and watched my four-year-old son play “guys” with the new kitchen utensils my Mom gave me last night. (The cookie dough scoop was a particular hit.) I sat and thought of all the things I should be doing. Mondays are usually my catch-up day, after all, the day when I get all my housework done so I can have fun the rest of the week.

But today, I just sat and faced reality: I’m not a multi-tasker right now. I’m hardly even an uni-tasker. (Any other Alton Brown fans out there?) I’m just a pitiful little Heffalump (an oxymoron, if there ever was one) who is 34 weeks pregnant and almost 36 years old. I can’t do it all anymore. I can’t even try.

And it bugs me.

I like being productive. When I’m not pregnant, I have a ridiculous amount of energy. (No, you may not ask how much coffee I drink.) I don’t do lazy very well. I’m always moving, fidgeting, planning, organizing, scheming. An empty to-do list makes me nervous.

Yet, here I am. Sitting. Stuck. Still. Too tired to do much of anything.

I’m not happy about it. But I also know God is God in every season of my life. My prayer is that He’ll use the remaining weeks of this pregnancy to teach me how to abide. That my worth is not wrapped up in completed tasks. That very often, I let the urgent and busy things of my life distract me from the important and valuable.

And that today, sitting was the right thing to do -- both for me and for Sparkles. (Have I told you that's what my six-year-old daughter wants to name her baby sister? Sparkles Diamond. "It's beautiful," she sighs, dreamily.)

So how about you? What did you do today?

Dude Postscript

During our weekly play-date this afternoon with my college roommate Angie, I tried to entertain her by recounting the "Dude" ad I posted on my blog earlier this week.

"So this guy is sitting on a couch? And his friend comes in and sits down right next to him. And he's all, 'Dude!' And the rest of the commercial revolves around him saying every iteration of the word dude. 'Dude.' 'Duuude.' 'DUDE!'"

At which point, my four-year-old son playing in the next room responded, "What Mom?"

So yes, I really do use that word.

A lot.

Maybe too much.

Oh, and by the way? Our deck now looks like this:

It just won't stop snowing here in the Upper Midwest. I think we might actually have a white Christmas this year.

To which I can only say, "Dude!"

So This Blonde Walks Into The Room....

Speaking as a natural blonde, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this news story.

Behold the power of the blonde -- able to make people stupid just by entering the room!

While blondes may have more fun, a new study suggests that fair-haired ladies may be making those around them dumber.

Researchers found that men's scores on general knowledge tests drop when they are shown photos of blonde women, the Sunday Times of London reported.

Upon further inspection, it was found that the test subjects were not distracted by the light hair, but driven by social stereotypes to "think blonde."

And before someone tells me "think blonde" is an oxymoron, let me just say: thhhbbbppptttt.

This, on the other hand, made me laugh out loud. Especially since I say "dude" approximately 148 times a day, give or take. I'm like a female version of this guy. Only I don't drink Bud Light. And most of my "dudes" are directed at people under four feet tall.

(Sorry for the puffiness of this post. I'm too exhausted for deep thoughts tonight. ... Or maybe I just hung out with too many blondes today.)

The One Where God Keeps Me Humble

OK. God has a sense of humor.

Just hours after I mock San Diego mercilessly for being such a weather wimpy city, it goes and gets real rain. Yesterday's storm was actually worse than predicted. (Which is rare. It's usually the other way around.) The airport, which is downtown, only recorded .73 inches (and yet that still set a new record, which tells you something about San Diego's arid climate), but coastal areas in North County reported totals of almost two inches. And inland, where the devastating fires burned in October, rainfall totals were upward of four, even six inches. All told, yesterday's storm delivered the most rain San Diego has seen in one day in more than a year.


Thankfully, God didn't humiliate me
completely. The storm predicted to hit Minnesota did come through and deliver a punch of snow. It's still coming down outside my window, so I can't give totals yet. But I would guess we have close to six inches on the ground right now.

Here's the scene off my back deck:

Here's the snow piling up against our patio door; the kids love this:

And here's the scene inside my house:

Because what good is the first snowstorm of the year if you aren't going to hibernate a little?

Oh, and this? This is simmering on my stove:

The world's best chili. I've only made it once before, and boy, am I excited about dinner tonight. It smells like Tex-Mex heaven in here -- cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, bay leaves. It's a cornucopia of aroma. (And the cinnamon-sugar smell of the homemade donuts I made for brunch is still perfuming the air too.)

Maybe I'll even whip up a pan of cornbread. And some fresh chocolate-chip cookies.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

It All Depends On Your Definition of "Significant"

Being a Certified Weather Geek -- and a girl who had dreams of being a meteorologist until a friend told me a major component of forecasting is math -- I'm delighted to report that Minnesota is under a Winter Storm Watch for this weekend. We're expected to get at least six inches of snow on Saturday, to be followed by strong winds and plummeting temperatures. The National Weather Service is throwing around phrases like "powerful low pressure system" and "significant wintry weather" and "six to 10 inches by Sunday."

Be still my beating heart.

For the record, I don't love winter. Quite the opposite. Winter in these parts tends to be cruel and stinging and indifferent to one's pain. "Fool! You dare to bare your head in December? Let me remind you what wind chill means." It's difficult to love such a tyrant.

It's just that I love
storms. Thunderstorms, snowstorms, hailstorms, brainstorms -- they all give me a buzz that probably isn't healthy.

I'm the weirdo who stands outside during a tornado warning and scans the horizon for funnel clouds. I annoy my husband beyond words by calling him every five minutes during a severe storm to report the latest on the situation. ("OK, now they are saying the center of the cell -- and it's red on the radar, almost up to a magenta, and you know that's bad -- is going to pass just north of us within 20 minutes.") I know the difference between sleet (ice pellets) and freezing rain (glaze ice). I was the go-to girl at the TV station whenever weather made the national news. ("A tornado in Kansas? With home video?!? Sweet! I'll write it for all the newscasts.")

So it goes without saying that this weekend's potential storm -- the first of the season -- has me all a-twitter. I'm sure I'll spend a good chunk of time today tracking the system, reading the latest forecasts and generally acting like a teenager who is expecting Miley Cyrus to come to dinner Saturday night.

And then there's this: A few minutes ago, I logged in to my favorite weather site to get the latest. There was a blinking red box on my home page. "One of your other locations also has alert information."

I click. Turns out, it's San Diego, which is expecting -- wait for it -- rain this weekend.

"Special Weather Statement: Chance of showers tonight through Saturday and gusty west winds.... The best chance for significant rainfall amounts will be Friday evening into early Saturday morning. Rainfall amounts will range from a few hundredths to near one-half inch in the coastal areas and from one-quarter inch to nearly one inch in the mountains."

And me without my ark. I hope my brother and sister-in-law will survive the terror that is ... The Drizzle!

Reminds me of one of my favorite e-mails from a few years back. The subject line said: Severe So Cal Storm Damage. The picture attached showed this:

Of course, having lived in California for almost 10 years, this shouldn't be a startling phenomenon to me. My rear end still bears the marks from the day it was handed to me on a silver platter because I didn't lead the 5PM newscast with The Rain.

Me: "That wasn't rain. That was mist! I didn't even need to turn on my wipers when I ran out for lunch. Why would I lead the news with it?"
News Director: "You've got to quit thinking like a Midwesterner! That was rain! That was dangerous! That was huge! And next time, you lead with it!"

So if you're wanting an update this weekend on the significant weather, be it six inches of snow and ice followed by below-zero wind chills or something resembling spit on your windshield, you know where to turn. I'm here for you.

More at 11.

"I'll love you forever," said the psycho mother

(Full disclosure: I wrote this post about year ago and published it on a private blog I share with some close friends. But the memories were stirred up today when I read The Queen B's list of seven random things about her.

Side story, but did you know she's practically related to George Clooney because of a pig? No, I will not shut up. Go read for yourself.

So anyway. I resurrected the post because it's new to my readers here, and the feelings expressed within come from deep in my heart. Truly. I love children's books almost -- if not more -- than I love Noggin. But this book could keep a counselor in business for years.)

Just a random rant today about the "classic" children's book "I'll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. I won't recap the whole book here, since most people seem to remember it from their childhoods.

I don't. But maybe I just blocked it out of my mind. Because, seriously: THE BOOK IS PSYCHO!

Natalie received it as a gift a few years back, and she's just gotten around to requesting it in the last few months. The story follows the relationship between a mother and a son as he grows up, and the common refrain is, "I love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

OK. So it's sweet when the boy is a baby. And a toddler. And it's endearing when he's a boy and a teenager. But by the time he's a man and has his own place across town, the mother is so obsessed that she's driving over to his house in the middle of the night, climbing in his window, cradling as he sleeps and singing this song to him?!? That's not endearing. That's SICK!

Making things worse: the illustration where the mother is driving her car over to her grown son's house in the middle of the night with the ladder on top of her car. (And if you aren't familiar with this book: I am not making this up!) Maybe even creepier is the fact that she's tied a red flag to the back of the ladder that extends off the car. You mean, she's planned this trip?!? Let go, woman! Get a life!

Thankfully, the book leaves out the part where the son gets married and Mom tries to cradle him while he and his new wife are trying to be ... intimate.

OK. Thanks. I feel better now.

The question now becomes: How can I 'accidentally" lose this book before the kids request it again? Because I can't read it before bed anymore. It gives me nightmares.

So Random It Will Make Your Eyes Water

Angie of Flibbertigibberish tagged me the week before Thanksgiving with the Seven Random Things meme. It's a fun meme -- one of my favorites -- so I am more than happy to play along. Problem is, it's just so terribly difficult to find seven random things about myself.

<crickets chirp, crickets chirp>

Alrighty. I didn't expect you to believe me anyway.

So without further ado, here are a few of my peculiarities so you can mock me mercilessly get to know The Real Me. I'm just warning: It ain't pretty.

1. If the phone company assigns me a phone number with too many odd numbers, I will force them to give me a new one. Because even numbers are happy, and odd numbers give me the heebie-jeebies. Never again will I submit to a number like 505-9995. Never again.

2. I went to a Richard Marx concert in the early 1990s. Wilson Phillips opened for him. I don’t know whether to cry or to laugh at that memory.

3. I love the smell of new tennis shoes. There’s something about that rubber sole that makes my pulse pound. It’s like a drug for me.

4. I secretly adore children’s television programming. It’s fun, educational and innocent. I’m afraid that, when my children are all in school, a delivery man will find me watching “Noggin” by myself. (This is especially ironic considering how much grief I used to give my Mom when I discovered she occasionally watched “Sesame Street” even after she had no little ones at home anymore.)

5. We moved four times during our tenure in San Diego. But we always lived within a mile or so of Naval Air Station Miramar (now Marine Air Station Miramar), the home of Top Gun. (At least, it was the home of Top Gun when the movie was filmed. Now the Top Gun school is in Nevada and why am I telling you all this useless information anyway? Sorry. I think I slipped into journalist mode there for a minute.)

My point is, no matter where we lived, our home was constantly subjected to low-flying, loud, military jets. And nothing could have made me happier. It was just so wicked and awesome and countless other '80s words. I especially loved it when the F-16s were low enough to make the air crackle as they buzzed our house. As our older neighbors often said, “Yes sir, it’s loud. But that’s the sound of freedom!” I still miss the daily roar of those planes.

6. I have a birthmark in the shape of a funky “K” on my leg. The summer I was a camp counselor, I told all my campers that the birthmark convinced my parents to name me Kelly. Yes, I know. I’m evil.

7. Pie is my favorite dessert. I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool chocoholic, but these days, I’m all about fruit. Apple? Divine. Pumpkin? Vegetables for dessert. Blueberry? Get the ice cream. I’m especially a sucker for authentic Key lime pie (which is not the same thing as "lime" pie that is green; that pie is an aberration and just plain wrong). Real Key lime pie is yellow and will make your jaw ache from the perfect foil of sweet and tart. If it's on the menu at a good restaurant, I will not be able to resist ordering a huge slice, even if I need to take it to go.

I'm now supposed to tag seven other bloggers to keep the link love going. So I'm tagging one of my new favorite bloggers The Queen B, one of my perennial favorite bloggers The Preacher's Wife, a few real-life friends (Calandra, Mindy and Becky), a blogger who is thoughtful, funny and raising three of the cutest triplets on the planet at Lots of Scotts, and a blogger who probably gets so much traffic she won't be able to play but I'm going to try anyway at It Coulda' Been Worse.

And in case one of my tagees has done this before and can't come up with seven new random things about themselves (to which I would reply: HA!), may I suggest that you narrow the scope to "Seven Random Things: Christmas Edition" or "Seven Random Things: This Really Annoys Me" or "Seven Random Things: The Snob Factor." (Which is a really good post by another great blogger, Veronica at Toddled Dredge. Maybe I'll tag her too. What the heck? It's Monday, I'm drinking my coffee and I'm feeling the love.)

I'd also tag my husband, Mr. Love Well, who recently started his own blog so he can share what he's learning through his study of John 15. But I think that would open a can of worms that is better left shut. And buried. Underground. Where it can't hurt anyone. Like nuclear waste.

Oh. And if you'd like to make a pregnant girl feel better about herself, now that her weirdness has been posted on the Internet for all to see? (And for the second time, I might add.) Leave me a comment and tell me something random about you. Spread the joy. 'Tis the season.

<Group hug>

Go in peace.

Thanksgiving Lessons 2007

I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my house for more than ten years now.

It's not because I'm Martha Stewart. Nor is it because I'm a cooking prodigy. (Someday, I'll blog about the very first meal I cooked for my brand new husband. Short version: Calling it a meal is generous. Extremely generous.)

No, it's simply because I like to eat. And on holidays, I want to eat food that's familiar, food that's from my family of origin.

Don't mess with my culinary traditions. They are all I've got.

It all started in 1996. Mr. Love Well and I were living in San Diego, 2,000 miles away from our families. We didn't have money to go home for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. Neither did the majority of our friends. So I volunteered to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of "the orphans" in our young marrieds Sunday school class. And -- voila. A tradition was born.

Over the course of the ten years, I've learned a lot -- about cooking, about myself, about my husband. I've learned trying to tuck the wings under a raw, wet turkey is a lot like trying to bathe a tantrum-throwing infant. I've learned I should rearrange my oven racks before I preheat to 425. I've learned how to take the neck out of the turkey cavity without gagging. (Actually, I'm still working on that last one.)

But this year I've learned as much as the previous ten years combined. It's been a doozy.

So without further delay, here are a few of the lessons from Thanksgiving Day 2007:

1. If you're going to brine a turkey, it helps to have a brining location chosen and tested before you submerge an 18-pound bird in a three-gallon salt-and-sugar solution. Otherwise, you might find out too late that the crisper drawer where you planned to store the brining turkey isn't water-tight. And you might find this out by discovering a small creek of brining solution running from your second fridge down the floor of your garage.

2. Brining works wonders on dry, bland turkey meat. It's the difference between a Red Delicious and a Honeycrisp. Only I don't usually put gravy on my apples.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It is Thanksgiving, people.

3. One of these:

Can occupy one of these:

For at least 20 minutes.

Of course, you'll also need to deal with the pad of
scratch paper you keep next to the phone becoming this:

4. If you have one of these:

Wait. What happened to my feet?

Oh! If I lean way over ... there they are!

Anyway. If you have one of these:

You'll be spending a lot of time in one of these:

A LOT. I'm considering the installation of a flat-screen and wall-to-wall carpeting.

Or a catheter.

(Side story, but during one 12-hour period this week, I finished off the the roll of toilet paper in every single bathroom in the townhouse. What do you think that says about me?)

5. Do not try to taste-test these mashed potatoes -- even for seasoning purposes. Because if you do, you may find your eyes rolling to the back of your head and unintelligible sounds coming from deep in your soul. Oh. My. Word.

Just put them in a serving dish and set them on your table. In the name of hospitality, allow your guests to help themselves first.

Then, pile your plate high and tell yourself it's a low-calorie dish. The Pioneer Woman says so.

6. A Thanksgiving morning like this:

Makes you really thankful for the warm smiles inside, like these:

And, of course, for this:

And this, sitting on your kitchen counter:

Because they are just symbols of the sweetness coming later in the day, when family gathers around a table to share over-flowing plates and over-flowing hearts.

Surely God's blessings upon me are like homemade pie at the end of a Thanksgiving meal -- an over-abundance of richness, a bounty of goodness. I'm humbled by His grace.

I pray my day-to-day living always spills over into thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6). I've been given so much.

Inside My Brain, For Just One Day

Sunday, November 18 - 9:00 AM
Oh, Natalie is singing with her first-grade Sunday school class in church today! I need to grab the camera.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:30 AM
Dang it! I left the camera on the desk.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:45 AM
There she is! There's our big six-year-old, walking in with all the other kids. Only ... why is she limping?!? Oh! One of her shoes has fallen off! Whoops! Good thing she can put it back on while she hops to the front of the sanctuary.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:46 AM
OK, now I know why I've heard Natalie singing "'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus" the last few weeks. She learned it at Sunday school. Look at all those kids singing that old, faithful hymn. ... Hi sweetie! Yes, I see you waving and smiling! I'm waving back!

Sunday, November 18 - 12:15 PM
Listen: She's singing to herself in the backseat of the van on the way home from church. What a precious little voice! Of course, the lyrics are getting butchered. ('Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to tay him at his word, Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for gray to trust Him or.) But still. That voice! Slightly off-key and innocent and sweet. If we could just get that on CD to give to the grandparents for Christmas. They would be bawling in ten seconds flat.

Sunday, November 18 - 1:00 PM
Isn't that funny? She's even singing absent-mindedly to herself while we eat lunch. That hymn must really go deep. ... Although it is a tad strange that she sings "oh for gray to trust Him or." Do you think I should correct her? ... Nah. She's just a kid. Enjoy the simplicity, Kelly.

Sunday, November 18 - 2:30 PM
Seriously? Still? The same song? And no other verses or the rest of the chorus or anything? Just "Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for gray to trust Him or. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for gray to trust Him or."?!? ... Lord, would it squelch her spirit if I reminded her of the "how I've proved Him o'er and o'er" line? ... Yes? Well. Maybe you could get bring it to her trusting little mind?

Sunday, November 18 - 3:18 PM
The song. The mind-numbing song. It will never end. Please, Lord, make it stop! Just make it stop?

Sunday, November 18 - 3:36 PM

Sunday, November 18 - 3:45 PM
Honey, how about if we sing a different song? Pick a Wiggles song. ANY Wiggles song.

Sunday, November 18 - 3:47 PM
Ahhhh! Never before have I appreciated the inherent beauty of "Toot, Toot, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car." Thank you, Lord, for Jeff and Murray and Anthony and Greg!

Thanksgiving, A Week Early

I woke up at 5:00 AM today. It wasn’t my intention, but pregnant women tend to awaken at all hours of the night. Either we’re suffocating due to the fact that we’ve somehow managed to lie on our backs, which “compresses both the inferior vena cava and the lower aorta.” (And here I didn’t even know I had a vena cava, much less one that was inferior. Should I send it to counseling, and if so, do you think it’s covered by my maternity insurance?). Or it’s time to visit – once again – the WC. (Note: If you can make your way to the bathroom, use the facilities and get back in bed without ever opening your eyes, you probably make the trip too much. As my husband said last week as I gulped down yet another bottle of water, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to pour it in the toilet and get a full night’s sleep?”)

So. I woke up. But I couldn’t get back to sleep. Which is strange for me. Sleeping is one of my better skills.

Instead, I lay in bed, thinking about my life. About the kids sleeping peacefully in their beds down the hall from me. About the man sleeping two inches from my face. About the baby sleeping (yes, sleeping – not rolling or kicking or mambo-ing) in my swollen belly. And I was suddenly overcome with such a deep feeling of gratitude that I was almost giddy.

“Thank you, God, for these blessings! Thank you that we have shelter over our heads. Thank you that we are healthy. Thank you that you have restored my relationship with my husband. Thank you that we’re building a family. Thank you for pursuing us and loving us and giving us all good things.”

And with that glow in my heart, I slowly – ever so slowly – went back to sleep. It only took me about 50 minutes.

Five minutes later, I heard the shuffle of pajamad feet coming toward our room. I cracked open an eyelid. 6:00 AM. Our four-year-old quickly appeared next to our bed and climbed in. (Translation: Sleep-time is so over.) My six-year-old daughter woke up about an hour later and immediately started whining. The four-year-old responded by hitting and spitting. The words “stupid” and “hate” may have been slung. Cries of indignation and hurt filled the air. And during our morning prayer time – a new things for us, so don’t get too impressed – my husband had the audacity to open his prayer by saying, “Lord, thank you that I get to go to work now.”

It wasn’t even 7:30 AM. Those warm and gooey feelings that had flooded me earlier melted away with the night. The day had begun.

During breakfast, the following events occurred.

1. My daughter refused to study her spelling words, even though she can’t spell many of them, because she’s “tired and it’s too hard.”
2. I mismeasured the amount of water needed for my hot Kashi, creating a bowl of watery gruel that was so hideous, I had to toss it and start over.
3. My son sat naked and crying in his bedroom for a full ten minutes while I ate my (second bowl of) Kashi because he didn’t want to put his clothes on by himself nor did he want to humble himself to ask for my help.
4. During an attempt to put something away in the pantry, I knocked over the brand-new-yet-open canister of cornmeal, which poured out like a yellow waterfall onto every shelf and every box and every floor item below.
5. My children accused me of trying to freeze them to death. (True, it was 63 degrees on the main level when we came down this morning. Since we’re in a middle townhouse unit, we haven’t needed to turn the heat on yet. But for crying out loud, people, this is Minnesota, and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better! Toughen up!)

Yes. It’s a wonderful world. Do you hear the music? Do you feel the love?

By the time I delivered Natalie to school and got into the car to return home, I was glum indeed.

But then, a song came on our local Christian radio station. And it wasn’t “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.” (Anyone else grow up watching “Hee-Haw?” Or is it only those of us who spent their early years in Kentucky?) It was Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Live Out Loud.”

It’s always been a favorite of mine. And this morning, it did something miraculous. It changed my attitude and reminded me that I’ve been given something far better than anything I could imagine – a new life, a forever heart, a restored relationship with the very God who created the universe.

"Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."
- Psalm 43:5

So for the rest of today, I’m going to live out loud. Even if my children launch into a whine worth of Napa. Even if the white laundry turns pink. Even if the chocolate-glazed pumpkin cookies I’m itching to bake this afternoon end up tasting like chocolate-glazed feather pillow.

Because I was made to live out loud. And nothing can steal that kind of joy.