Spring Cometh

We're home from Dallas. It was a fabulous "vocation," as Natalie says. What's not to like about a trip where you hang out with good friends and talk for three days straight, where your kids play with their kids without fighting, and where you have to neither cook nor clean up? Heaven, y'all. That's heaven.

(Of course, I'm lamenting -- Jeremiah-style -- that I didn't know about Sprinkles before I left the Big D. And I never did make it to Keller's Drive-In. Or Scalini's. But I did eat at a barbecue joint I'll be dreaming about for the rest of my days. Sigh.)

But we're home now, and thankful to be here. There's nothing quite like your own pillow, you know?

Plus, I'm happy to report, spring cometh to the Upper Midwest. When I woke up the morning after our return and looked at my window, this is what I saw:

What's remarkable about this picture is what's NOT in it -- mainly, snow and ice. It's hard to believe this was the scene in our backyard just three weeks ago:

But then again, that's spring in our neck of the woods. Just when you think you can't stand one more day of snow and ice and indoor living, the sun comes out and the rain falls and hope rises again.

I was thinking about this one morning last week as I drove Natalie to school. The hope of spring in the Upper Midwest is palpable. You can almost taste it in the air. But it's not a hope as we usually think of hope. It's more of a God-hope. The Greek word often translated hope in the New Testament is elpis or elpo. It isn't just a wish or a desire or a possibility. It's a certainty. The Strong's definition for elpo is "to anticipate, usually with pleasure; an expectation or confidence."

In other words, it's a sure thing. It's coming. Just like spring.

I can hardly wait for those flowers to shoot out of the ground and the leaves to unfurl. I long for the warm sun to shine upon my face and bare arms. I am giddy about the thought of my windows being open so I can hear the birds singing in the morning light.

Until then, I hope.

I love this passage in The Message:

"The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us, we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy."

An eternal spring cometh. Isn't that amazing?!? Lord, grow our joyful anticipation. Plant seeds of your elpis in our hearts so we will burst forth with beauty and a fragrant worship when the Sun shines once again. Our hope is in You.

The Hallway of Pew-Pew

This isn't solely a Mommy-blog, but since I am both a Mom and a blogger, the two will tend to intersect from time to time.

This is one of those times.

Connor, my three-year-old, is currently potty-training. He's not all that thrilled about it, since he's just fine with diapers -- even if they are sagging to his knees. And it seems like whole lot of aggravation to him to stop playing just so he can go into the bathroom and do something he used to do while playing. But he's mildly excited about his new "big-boy" Diego underwear, and he likes putting yellow stars on his Potty Chart. And he's already met all the signs of potty training readiness. So -- onward and upward.

But, as I've come to understand, potty training a child is also potty training a Mom. (Can I get an Amen?!?) It means Mom now has to stop what she's doing and attend to a child that's wearing Pull-Ups or (help us Lord) "big-boy" underwear even though he isn't tuned in to the siren call of the nether-regions.

Which brings us to the moment last week, when my sweet husband and I were lounging at the table after dinner. (Lounging is not common in our house, so when the moment presents itself, we wallow in it.) The kids were busy in the bathroom -- Natalie was splashing in the tub, and Connor was playing with some bath toys in the sink.

After five minutes of blissful adult conversation, Connor peaked around a corner of our kitchen, and caught my eye. I smiled. He smiled back. And then -- OH MY WORD! The odor. The nose-scalding, fumigatious odor! I practically knocked the chair over in my haste to get up. "Connor's got a really stinky diaper," I said to my husband in my never-ending quest to state the obvious. "It's bad!"

Connor heard me utter the words "stinky diaper" -- which is code for "get the heck out of here" in the Official Toddler Handbook -- and took off running. I rounded the corner to chase him and stopped dead because I found -- to my horror -- that there were little dots of what Natalie delicately calls "pew-pew" every few inches stretching the 15 feet from the kitchen to the bathroom. Connor, still fleeing, was wearing a Pull-Up that was mostly Pulled-Down from the weight of the load he was carrying. Seems someone hadn't remembered soon enough that Pull-Ups don't hold the amount of bodily fluids that diapers do.

Thankfully, I'm good in a crisis. "STOP!" I screamed at Connor. "STAY!" (Did I mention we used to have two dogs?) I grabbed a beach towel, wrapped up the boy and disintegrating Pull-Up and hauled the whole thing to his bedroom for a change that involved two adults, 58 diaper wipes and about a dozen dry heaves from Mom thanks to the unholy smell.

And the carpet? Let's not talk about it.

I've learned my lesson: Pull-Ups and other such potty-training paraphernalia should only be used under adult supervision. And by adult, I mean someone who's actually paying attention.

If my pain can help someone else avoid this misery, it will have all been worth it.

Can't ... Breathe ... But It's Dang Pretty

We're still in Dallas. Northwest Airlines will probably need to carefully balance the plane when we board tomorrow due to the copious amount of great food we've eaten the last two days. (Translation: Kelly happy.) And man, is it green here! It's like we've fast-forwarded four weeks. The grass is growing, the trees have unfurled new, yellow-green leaves, and Natalie has already picked me two bouquets of "yellow flowers."

It's cloudy and stormy today -- which equals humidity. Our hotel room's sickly AC can't banish that "someone-is-smothering-me-with-a-pillow" feeling. So we're off to our friends' house to play with their kids -- which is where we've been most of the last few days. As my daughter said yesterday as we drove along TX 114, "Mom, I like Texas."

I'm Going to Texas, Y'All

I'm getting so excited I can hardly stand it. So may I share with you?

We're going to Dallas this weekend, and we're going to see our good friends David and Tammy. Yee-haw! Dave and Tammy were some of our closest friends back in San Diego. God saw fit to move us all away from Paradise a few years back, and while our physical roads parted, our friendship remains strong. (That's one of the cool things about moving: Friends. All over the country.)

I haven't been to Texas since 1980, when Dallas was synonymous with J.R. and shiny glass buildings. Thanks to Tammy -- who is a native Texan -- and her gentle twang, I can say "y'all" and even "all y'all" without embarrassing myself. But what else do I need to know to enjoy my four days in the Lone Star State? Are there local customs I should know about -- or avoid? What is the appropriate attire for March in Texas (besides maroon)? Will I be allowed through security if I don't carry a gun?

And most importantly -- where should I eat?!?

Am I Still Irish if I Don't Eat the Food?

I believe I've mentioned before that I am fairly giddy about food. It comes from my birth family. We love to discuss dinner over breakfast. Vacations revolve around what we're going to eat that day. "What do you say we head to In-and-Out for lunch, Jamba Juice for an afternoon snack and then go to Mandarin Gourmet for dinner? Other than that, I don't care what we do today." Even our most treasured family heirlooms are memories of food. "Remember Nannie's gravy?!? Mmmmm. Now that was eating."

So put that together with the fact that the biggest chunk of our family ancestry comes from Ireland, and you should have a clan that enjoys some good corned beef together on St. Patrick's Day each year.

Problem is, I have come to the slow realization that I hate Irish food. Corned beef? Yuck. Steamed cabbage? Whew. Boiled potatoes and carrots? Pass the salt and pepper, please. And soda bread? Well, I'm redeemed there. It's difficult for me to dislike anything that has "bread" in the title. But still.

Growing up, we had a traditional Irish meal each March 17. It was part of what we did, and there was no questioning it. Once I got married, I continued on the tradition without scrutiny. "Sorry, honey, it's what I do." Then, last year, after cooking all day and ending up with a smell in my kitchen that would easily qualify for a chemical weapon, I looked around to see no one eating the meal (except the soda bread, of course; we would have starved that night without the soda bread). And it hit me -- maybe I shouldn't do this next year.

So I celebrated St. Patrick's Day this year with just a green sweater and prayers of thanks to God for faithful servants like Maewyn Succat.
And maybe a little mood music from Celtic Woman so I could pretend to riverdance around my kitchen. You can take the girl out of Ireland....

Because Chocolate Makes Everything Better

I love my daughter. And for the record -- she loves carrots on their own and eats them by the bushels. (We should really pee orange in our house. We eat that many carrots.) But this particular day, she apparently decided to mix things up.

Football is to Texas as Hockey is to Minnesota

I don't know how this happened, exactly. I'm a nice Midwestern girl who grew up in the suburbs. No one in my family hunts pigs (or any other animal, for that matter). I've only been to a rodeo once. I've never eaten at Sonic. I've never had interesting neighbors. (Unless you count the dreadlocked hippie who grew vegetables in her front yard. But that's not that weird. Not in California.) I have never -- and I mean never -- watched a college football game from start to finish. I don't even know what A&M stands for.

But somehow, I've fallen into a whole slew of blogs written by Texans -- and I'm loving it.

Maybe it's because I grew up eating grits slathered with butter and drinking sweet tea. Or maybe it's because I say "y'all" at least once a day. (I even sling an "all y'all" every once in a while, thanks to my Texas-born-and-raised friend Tammy.) Or maybe it's because I understand this one very important thing about Texans -- they love their football. They are fanatical about it. It's more than a pastime; it's a passion.

And right there, we have something in common. For while I like football -- my husband played; ergo, I'm a fan -- I'm downright nuts about the sport of my home state, which is hockey. I love everything about the game -- the slightly sweaty smell of the rink, the crisp sounds of the blades on the ice, the creak of the boards when a player lands a well-placed check. I especially love the game in its purest form -- which is to say, when it's not a boxing match on ice.

And where can a hockey fan revel in the competitive grace that is hockey at its finest? Why, at the Minnesota State Boys' High School Hockey Tournament, of course, which wraps up today. It's a contest, an institution and a love-fest, all wrapped up in one glorious weekend. My favorite part? It's not about fighting -- at least, not gratuitous fighting. It's about skating -- skating fast and with flair. And shooting the puck using skill and teamwork. It's about sportsmanship and decade-old rivalries and the sheer love of the game.
Teams that come from small, Canadian-border towns like Warroad and Roseau travel to St. Paul to compete against high schools that have more students than their entire town population -- and they usually win. Many of these boys learned to skate as soon as they learned to walk, and they've spent many a cold winter day playing hockey in backyard rinks until their toes were numb.

So why am I writing this ode to hockey? Well, it's about all I can do, seeing as I live "outstate" right now, and I can't watch any of the tournament on TV. (It's broadcast live in the Twin Cities.) I can only sit at my computer and wait for updates on the Web -- which, as you can imagine, is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Thus, I've decided to channel my frustration into positive energy -- you sensed that, right? -- and do something constructive. And now, I'm off to pop some popcorn and grab another handful of Dark Raisinets. The final game is 7:00 PM tonight. I'll need stamina to hit reload 358 times.


I stumbled across a new food item at "the Wal-Mart" yesterday: Nestle's Dark Raisinets.

Wow. Double-wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

I can't stop eating these little nuggets of goodness. The chocolate is dark enough to make them rich, and the raisins are plump and tart and chewy. Plus, they are "a natural source of antioxidants." It says that right on the bag.

I realize there are two kinds of people in this world: those who love chocolate-covered raisins, and those who think they look and taste like small turds left by rabbits. Obviously, I'm in the first camp. If you are in the second, I feel sorry for you. Really. And I'm happy for me. Because now I can have the Raisinets bag all to myself.

A Few of my Favorite Things

Welcome to my little corner of the Ultimate Blog Party. Seeing as I'm guest #669, I'm not sure how many people will make it here. I mean, I'm waayyyy down the receiving line - past the mother of the bride, past the bridesmaids, past the grandparents, past the second cousin-in-laws. But if you happen to stop by via the party, I'm happy to have you.

Many of the blogs I've read this fine Monday morning have the theme of spring. "Spring is just around the corner," they say. "I had to run the AC this weekend for the first time."

Oh. Really?

It's made me more than a tad jealous, seeing as spring is most definitely NOT around the corner for me. (See post below for proof.) Our high today is 20. I doubt we'll see the ground again -- much less something green resembling fresh grass -- until the beginning of April.

I am so. over. winter. But for now, I have to deal with reality. And one of my favorite coping methods is to think of a few of my favorite things. (You know. Like raindrops on noses and whiskers on kittens. Or something like that.)

So here are a few of my favorite things:
1. A bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran topped with ice cold milk and perfectly ripe red strawberries.
2. The sound of birds singing in the trees outside my window.
3. My kids playing and laughing together.
4. Chicken Salsa Chili with all the toppings.
5. An uninterrupted time of Bible study and prayer.
6. Canoeing in The Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
7. Going out for coffee with my husband.
8. Stephen Curtis Chapman on the radio.
9. Being tan. (I know, I know. But I'm going for authentic here, and well, that's the truth.)
10. People who make me laugh and people who laugh with me.
11. "The Chronicles of Narnia."
12. A long, hot shower. Uninterrupted.
13. The sounds and smells of Del Mar Beach.
14. Any breakfast at Hash House A Go-Go, but preferably the mango-coconut flapjacks.
15. The expectation of God's promises. (My favorite lately -- Psalm 145:13-19.)
16. When my husband brings me flowers.
17. A fresh tomato out of my garden.
18. Lilacs.
19. Sun sparkles on water.
20. Daily Believing God.

Ahhhh. I feel better already. So how about you? What are a few of your favorite things?


Here in the Frozen North, we're digging out from back-to-back snowstorms. (My mantra? "It's March. It will melt soon. It's March. It will melt soon.")

We're going to get out and enjoy some serious playtime today. How could we not with six-foot drifts stacked up like mini-mountain ranges in the backyard?

Of course, I feel slightly sad when I see my prized Adirondack chairs buried in snow this deep. No wonder their paint is peeling.

Added to the excitement: Icicles that could easily kill a charging bear. My front roofline reminds me of that new restaurant in NYC, Kobe Club, that has 2,000 samauri swords hanging from the ceiling. (Nothing like imminent death to keep your mind off the fact that you're paying $200 for a mediocre meal.)
Here's Kobe Club:

And here's Chez Kelly: