7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 9)

On Tuesday afternoon, Connor was intently reading a big book about Narnia he had checked out from the school library.

“Mom, this page has a ton of fonts!” he said.

Weird, I thought to myself. How does a six-year-old know about fonts?

“Let me see the fonts,” I replied, craning my neck.

“Not fonts. FAUNS!” he said.

Oh. That does make more sense.

I decided this week that 2010 will be The Year Without A Real Calendar.

I just can’t find any wall calendars that I like enough to fork over $15.99. It will be weird to have a big blank spot on my fridge this year, and I will miss the incredible nature photography of Rodney Lough. But for now, the printable versions I’m finding online are working just fine.

After I posted Tuesday’s recounting of The Day That Stank from Beginning to End, I had to fight a compulsive urge to apologize. My post was completely accurate, and hopefully, I relayed some of the humor of the day. Because if you can’t laugh at a day filled with poop, general malcontent and a Vikings loss, then you are a sad person indeed.

But I hate sounding even remotely negative or whiny. It’s the annoying optimist in me.

Pollyanna wanted to write a follow-up on Wednesday and say, “But at the end of the day, I still had a roof over my head and my kids were all relatively healthy and I had food and an episode of ‘Scrubs’ on the DVR. So really. No big deal.”

Sometimes I want the optimist to go take a nap and let me have a bad day.

When my parents asked what to get Teyla for her birthday this year, I asked them to send “her” a Pottery Barn Kids gift card, so she could have some quality, adorable bedding for her soon-to-be-coming big girl bed. (That’s what happens when your birthday follows on the heels of Christmas.)

They followed my suggestion. I put their gift card with an old PBK credit I had, and I was able to buy the following quilt and sham on sale.

I love Pottery Barn Kids. Truly. It’s hideously expensive, but I cannot resist the cuteness. I wish I could live in their catalog.

Like Teyla, I also got a bunch of gift cards for my birthday, which enabled me to finally order this.

I’ve been drooling after a cast iron Dutch oven for about a year. Normally, when I cook my usual assortment of winter stews, soups and braises, I use my stock pot. It works, but the metal is pretty thin. And it doesn’t fit in my oven without me removing a rack, which I always forget to do before I preheat. Yea for new kitchen bling!

I need help with Teyla’s hair. It’s curly. And long. As a result, it tangles easier than Los Angeles traffic during a high-speed chase.

I can comb it out after her bath, before she goes to bed. But she tends to rub her head on her blanket as she’s going to sleep, which means the whole thing is a rat’s nest by the time she wakes up in the morning.

Ideas? Who has girls with curly hair?

Talk about a shock. Wednesday, I sat down to check Twitter and saw, to my amazement, that I was the winner of two free tickets to Mark Driscoll’s Song of Solomon conference in St. Paul this weekend. I had unknowingly entered the contest the day before, by promoting the giveaway.

The material for this conference is taken from the same Song of Solomon series that I'm listening to online right now. Do you think God is trying to tell me something?

This is part of the 7 Quick Takes Friday Carnival at Conversion Diary. Have a great weekend! I think mine will be as radiant as the sweet pomegranates in the spring.

24 Weeks

Twenty-four weeks always seems like a milestone to me. Maybe it's because, at this point, the baby's odds of survival on the outside go up dramatically with each passing day. Maybe it's because I'm smack-dab in the middle of the second trimester o' bliss. Maybe it's because I like even numbers.

Whatever the reason, it's all good. I'm 24 weeks today. And while I feel heavy and plodding (and frankly, a little annoyed that
no one else can catch the baby moving; I wrote about that at 5 Minutes for Parenting today), I'm thrilled to be here.

(Sorry. I know the bulky sweater disguises the bump. I actually considered changing clothes before snapping that picture. Then I thought: Eh. This is January in Minnesota. This is reality. So be it.)

The Day That Stank from Beginning to End

Did you know the last Monday in January is touted by some British researchers to be the most depressing day of the year?

The sparkle of Christmas has faded. Holiday bills are rolling in. Days are dull and gray and cold. All those New Year’s resolutions are blown.

And if you’re a Vikings fan, you probably thought about suicide and/or becoming a Packers fan, which is roughly the same thing.

Thankfully, my Monday wasn’t that bad, especially when compared with my Sunday, which was the Day That Stank from Beginning to End.

I mean that both figuratively and literally. Connor and Teyla are now suffering from the stomach virus that kept Natalie home from her field trip last week, so I was up to my elbows in poop all day.

It began with Teyla walking into my completely dark bedroom at 6:30 in the morning with a pained expression on her face and a plaintive cry of “Ouch Mommy! Poo-poo!” And before it was over, Connor had gone through every pair of clean underwear in his drawer AND he had to be removed from the tub mid-bath because of toxic waste in the water.

Even Natalie, who was trying her best to help her pregnant Mommy survive the day, ended up spilling a big glass of milk on the couch, where it promptly ran down cracks in every cushion and soaked Connor’s missing Leapster game cartridges.

Corey was also traveling this past weekend, which added to the sense of malaise. It was raining outside, which meant we were trapped indoors. I had nothing fun planned. The only thing we had to look forward to was clean underwear and the Vikings-Saints game.

And when that ended with heart-breaking failure, well, the day was officially crowned a stinker.

Natalie ran sobbing up the stairs. “I’m going to go take a shower,” she wailed. Connor, who watched the last few minutes of the game dressed only in a bath towel, raged at the TV. “I hate you! I hate you!” And Teyla continued her rampage of the house – I had already quarantined every kitchen chair by putting them on high surfaces and confiscated a box of pasta, a container of chocolate-covered raisins, the dish soap and every Chapstick we own – by tearing into a brand new box of graham crackers, also known as The Crumbliest Food since Sand.

I have never been more satisfied to see a day end.

Thankfully, Monday was much better. Corey came home. (It was his only day home this week, but still. It was better than nothing.) I managed to clean up the disaster the Vikings game had left in its wake. I made Pioneer Woman’s lasagna for dinner, and this time, I didn’t cook it until the cheese was the color of burnt caramel.

And the NFL refs announced they made a ton of bad calls in Sunday’s game and decided the Vikings are going to the Super Bowl after all.

Didn't they?

Oh well. At least we're past the most depressing Monday of the year.

Although for a Vikings fan, Super Bowl Sunday is going to rank a close second.

The Hamster Dance, as Interpreted by a Toddler

I have no idea what made me think of it, but a few weeks ago, I found myself Googling "hamster dance."

Remember that video? Dee-da-dee-da-doe-doe.... It swept the online world in the late '90s. (Which probably means it swept AOL. That was eons ago in Internet time.)

Funny thing is, I couldn't find the original Hamster Dance. I could only find later versions and remixes. (Ever seen the hamsters dance to techno? It's ... well, I lack words.)

Anyway. In a perfect twist of fate, Corey and the kids got me a musical card for my birthday last week.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The Hamster Dance Card.

Did you see the delight on Teyla's face in that video? She's in love with that card. She opens it approximately 1,374 times a day. Give or take.

But that's what I cherish about toddlers -- their utter delight with the world. And that's what I wrote about today at 5 Minutes for Parenting. If you didn't get enough two-year-old joy in that video, come join me there.

Totally Teyla

I was in the final stretch of making dinner last Friday night when I realized I hadn't heard from Teyla in a while.

One of the primary lessons I've learned about that girl is this: Fear silence.

I glanced into the living room. I could see Connor on the floor, next to the dolls where Teyla had been playing five minutes earlier.

"Connor, is Teyla in there with you?"

He didn't even look up. "No."

I turned off the kitchen sink to listen closely. I heard a distant thud and a creak. It sounded like she was in the kids' bathroom upstairs.

"Teyla!" I called. "What are you doing? Come down here and be with us!"

No answer. Just another thud.

I finished stirring the blueberry muffin batter, washed off my hands and walked upstairs.
As I rounded the corner to the bathroom, Teyla jumped and grinned.

She was standing in the bathtub, with a huge wad of wet toilet paper in her hand. Another wad of wet toilet paper was in her mouth, being chewed like gum. The toilet seat was up and most of the water was gone.

She held out her extra wad, as if to say, "Want some?"


"Teyla, there are no words for how disgusting this is," I said under my breath, as I pulled the TP out of her mouth and hand.

But at the same time, I couldn't help but smile a little, because it was a moment that was totally Teyla.

18 Hours

Eighteen hours, and it was enough to fill my tank again. I feel refreshed.

Corey and I spent Saturday night away from home, away from the kiddos. We didn't go far and we didn't do anything splashy. We just needed each other.

This phase of our life is intense. Parenting young children is exhausting, as is building a company and a home. Everywhere we look, someone needs something from us. "I need, I need, I need...." The vampires suck us dry. By the time it's 9:00 and the screeching is silenced -- either by bedtime or the off button -- we are dry shells with nothing left to offer.

So this weekend, we snuck away for 18 hours. We didn't go on a cruise (Iike MckMama) or fly to Mexico (like JMom), but the chance to focus on just each other and nourish our marriage was restorative.

I've been listening Mark Driscoll's Song of Songs series lately. (I usually do this while folding laundry, because it keeps my mind occupied as well as my hands.) I've been convicted afresh that my marriage is the most important earthly relationship I have. Right now, our kids are the squeaky wheels. But I would be remiss if I forgot that my husband is the whole bicycle. Without him -- without us -- there is no ride at all.

Eighteen hours is all it took to remind me that this ride is the best. It goes up and it goes down. But every ounce of energy it requires is worth it.

Two More Places to Give to Help Haiti

I don't usually write about my husband's job on my blog -- partly to respect his privacy and partly because it's more fun to leave his position as mysterious as Chandler Bing's.

But in light of the unspeakable tragedy in Haiti, I'm going to pull back the curtain a little today.

Corey works with nonprofits (NGOs if you're outside of the U.S.). He helps them with their fundraising and works with them to streamline and strategize how they raise funds more efficiently and effectively. He is an executive at his company, which means he gets to do all sorts of other fun things, like work on spreadsheets and compile reports for the board and get pulled into emergency budget meetings. But the reason he does what he does each day, the passion that gets him out of bed in the morning, is working with dozens of amazing nonprofits who are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.

Because of his job -- and because I used to work with him -- we have a unique viewpoint. We are intimately acquainted with the behind-the-scenes working of almost all the larger Christian nonprofits in the country. We are also privileged to call many people inside these nonprofits our friends.

With that in mind, I wanted to get the word out about two fabulous Christian ministries in Haiti who aren't getting as much attention as Compassion -- but they deserve it just as much. Both are world relief and development organizations (much like World Vision), which mean they are specifically designed to work with poor communities and disaster situations.

The first is Food for the Poor. If you're immersed in the evangelical subculture, like me, I'd wager you've never heard of them, because they are a Catholic organization. But their love for Jesus is very real. When Corey first started working with them, I was stunned to learn they are the largest relief organization in the U.S. They serve almost exclusively in Latin America and the Caribbean, which naturally means they have a huge presence in Haiti.

Corey actually traveled to Port-au-Prince with Food for the Poor in November to see their work. (I'm trying to get Corey to do a guest post for me on his trip. Short story: My husband, who grew up as a street rat orphan in a third world country and who visited Sumatra just a few months after the 2004 tsunami, said Haiti was the worst poverty he's ever seen in his life.)

As you might imagine, both the disaster in Haiti and Food for the Poor's response are heavy on Corey's heart this week. He's also been insanely busy working for these organizations to raise money for the relief efforts. Some of the employees of his company have been so moved by the tragedy, they are volunteering their time this week to raising funds. They don't have much money to donate, but they figure they can at least donate their time. I love seeing the creative ways people get involved.

The second organization I want to highlight is Food for the Hungry. (Corey went to Indonesia post-tsunami with this ministry, by the way.) Desiring God is one of Food for the Hungry's partners (in addition to Christian artists like Sara Groves), and yesterday, they posted a plea for people to support Food for the Hungry's relief work in Haiti.

Food (as they are known colloquially ) is a tremendous organization, and the more I get to know them, the more I fall in love with them. Like many NGOs, they've been serving the poor in Haiti for years before the earthquake. I followed the progress of their Emergency Response Unit the last few days on Twitter (FH_ERU) as they tried to get a plane into Haiti to both search for their own staff and establish emergency aid. It looks like their director was finally able to land in Port-au-Prince this morning. Time is critical for donations for them as they seek to help those wounded or without food, water and shelter.

Like Compassion and World Vision, both Food for the Poor and Food for the Hungry have earned Charity Navigator's highest ranking (four stars) for ethical and efficient fund management. Read: You can trust them to be wise stewards of your money. If you are still looking for a place to give, I'm honored to recommend these two organizations.

And if you're already given -- no matter where? Thank you. And continue to pray.

Birthday Follow-Up

So thank you -- seriously, THANK YOU -- for all the birthday wishes yesterday. As it turns out, January 13, 2010 didn't get any better as the day went on. In fact, it got worse. Poor Natalie kept trying to assure me she felt better all afternoon, when in reality, her face was ashen and she logged many minutes in the bathroom. She was supposed to go on a field trip to the Minnesota History Museum today -- in fact, I was supposed to go with her, as a parent driver/chaperon. So she was obviously anxious to get better and fell better and be better so she wouldn't miss the fun.

But guess who's propped on my couch right now watching PBS Kids?

Poor girl. First day of school she's missed all year due to illness, and it has to fall on a field trip day.

Anyway. My point is: The sweet e-mails and comments and phone calls I got from you guys (translation for my Southern friends: all y'all) truly made my birthday. I felt enveloped in a cocoon of love, to go over the top with imagery.

And now I'm off to hang out with my girls. (Oh! Side point here, but isn't this typical of kids? Natalie had to stay home today and miss her field trip, which made her cry and say things like, "But it's not FAIR!" And Connor had to go to school today, since he's not sick, which made him cry and say things like, "But it's not FAIR!")

Since today's schedule is suddenly clear, I've decided to cook my birthday dinner and cake today, since they didn't get done yesterday. Cake! Yeah!

And truly, the fact that yesterday was stinky doesn't bother me too much. Because Corey and I are supposed to go to a hotel this weekend to celebrate. And I'm getting a massage on Saturday to celebrate. And tonight, Lord willing, I'll be eating this cake.

So it's really just birthday week here at Love Well.

I'm taking my lemons and making lemon filling.

(Of course, if either Corey or I were to get sick and this weekend's plans were canceled, I'll be joining the "It's not FAIR!" chorus. But let's not go there. Cake is a good conductor of immunity, right?)

The Rest of the Story

Last night, Corey was pulled into an emergency budget meeting (three words o' fun, right there) at 5:00. It was supposed to be done by 6:00.

He got home at 8:30. Just in time to kiss the kids as they climbed into bed.

I was so drained, I was almost crawling.

I fell into bed, knowing that I would need to write my 5 Minutes for Parenting post this morning. But I didn't really have much on the schedule for today. I figured it would be easy to drop Natalie at school, put on a video for Teyla and Connor and whip out a pithy piece on maternity clothes.

I figured it would be easy. Fatal last words.

Since the time I made that bad decision, the following has occurred.

1. Teyla woke up crying at midnight. I felt completely drugged, so I did what I know I shouldn't have done -- I picked her up and carried her right back to bed with me. We both fell soundly asleep.
2. I woke up at 3:30 to Teyla thrashing. She wasn't hurt or sick. She's just a baby who moves constantly in her sleep. I decided to move her back to her crib.
3. As soon as I set her down in her crib, she woke up again. And started crying. Meanwhile, Natalie woke up and headed toward the bathroom. Noises followed which shouldn't be described in public.
4. I finally got Teyla and Natalie settled in their beds. I went back to my bed. Five minutes later, Teyla was crying again.
5. The settle-sleep-cry routine went on for about an hour. Finally, Teyla just climbed out of her crib and came to get in bed with me. I didn't have the strength to fight it.
6. I let everyone sleep in this morning, since I wasn't sure what Natalie's status would be. She woke up and was horrified at the prospect of missing school. So we got ready and dropped her off.
7. I came home, made oatmeal for the younger kids and started to write my post.
8. One minute later, the phone rang. It was the school nurse, informing me Natalie was in her office with a tummy ache. Could I come and get her?

And on and on it went.

The bottom line (which Corey would be asking for, if he were standing here right now): I have a new post at 5 Minutes for Pregnancy today. It's all about maternity clothes, and while I really enjoyed writing it, I also pulled half my hair out while doing so.

Go leave a comment for me, OK?

Because on top of all that, it's my birthday. Pass the cupcakes, please.


The fuzzy sun struggles to illuminate the milky horizon.

Everything is gray.

But it is the opposite of dreary.

The air is alive with the very breath of God.

Tiny crystals are carried on each molecule of oxygen.

The earth glitters.

Billions of diamonds coat every branch of every tree, outline every detail and scar.

And like the stars, I like to imagine their Creator knows them by name.

Even a tender blade bears the weight of His glory.

How much more do we?

Teyla Turns Two

She’d only been awake for five minutes, but I could already see the wheels turning under that tangled mop.

I was waiting for the shower water to warm up this morning – hot showers are a must on Mondays – when Teyla pushed open the bathroom door. Her head was down and her eyes were closed against the onslaught of light. She was moving on instinct, not sight. She bumped into my legs and pushed her curls out of her face. Blinking, she immediately transitioned from sleeping baby to adventurous toddler and began rummaging through the bathroom drawers.

She was halfway through her exploration of the second drawer when she came across a sample-sized tube of lotion. That’s when I saw the wheels turning. She shot a glance at me, standing next to the shower curtain, and said, “Mommy! Go!”

Amused at my two-year-old tyrant, I said, “You want me to get in the shower?”

“Yesh,” she insisting, pointing at the steaming enclosure. “Go.”

I couldn’t imagine why she would want to get rid of me. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

I got into the shower but peeked out almost immediately. She was trying to get the tube open with her teeth. She jumped when she saw me looking. “Mommy! No! Go!”

She cracks me up. Even if what she’s doing is no good thing.

I wish I could say that was the first time she’s ordered me around in my own house. But if you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know it’s not. That's just Teyla in a nutshell.

Last week, I was cleaning up the lunch dishes when I saw her tucked into a corner of the couch, playing with her big brother’s new Leapster – a toy she knows she’s not supposed to touch.

“Teyla….” I started to warn. But I got no further, because she jumped, raised her palm to me and said, “Mommy! No! No touchy!”

No touchy?


For the record, Teyla turned two on Saturday. It’s the reason I couldn’t attend Cupcake ’10, even though many of my favorite blogging friends were there and it was relatively close to home.

I just had a cupcake of my own to celebrate.

Happy birthday, Teyla. You make me laugh every day with your sweet, adventurous, warrior ways. I’m thrilled to be your Mommy. I pray God does amazing things with your huge heart, your strong spirit and your inquisitive soul.

And may you never lose the cheesy smile. Amen.

20 Weeks

You know how I've been saying I feel so much bigger with this pregnancy? That I've been showing earlier and popping out more and, in general, needing maternity clothes since the first trimester?

I now have proof.

Here's a picture of me at 20 weeks this time.

(Sorry about the camera-in-front-of-the-face thing. I only have one good spot in this house to take a self-portrait, and I don't have much room for angling.)

And here's a picture of me at 20 weeks with Teyla.


I really must have done something in the last two years to offend my abdominal muscles. Or maybe they are just union workers. "Sorry lady. It's our break. We'll catch you after the holiday."

I wrote more about being 20 weeks pregnant -- halfway! -- at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. See you there.

Cool Things about the Cold

I have been highly amused at the chatter on Twitter the last 24 hours. Seems the lower half of the U.S. is suffering a bit of a cold snap. And my Southern friends are FREEZING TO DEATH RIGHT IN THEIR OWN HOMES.

For the record, our high yesterday was about 9, and our low last night was -13. Yes, that’s cold. But it’s also January in Minnesota. Read: It’s to be expected.

But those of you in warmer locales aren't equipped to deal with temperatures in the 20s or below. I understand this. And truly, you have my sympathy. I love to mock y’all, but I do it in love. Being cold stinks. And when you don’t have down-filled comforters on every bed or seat warmers in your car, I can only imagine it must be extra stinky.

To that end, I thought I’d share a few bits of encouragement I’ve picked up during my years in Minnesota. I’ve spent the better part of my life here (notice I said better, not warmer), so if there’s anything I should be an expert on, it’s the positives about winter weather.

Without further ado, here are a few Cool Things about the Cold:

1. Cold mornings are beautiful mornings.

Waking up to a sunny winter morning in Minnesota is like living inside a pearl. Everything is translucent white, and the sun’s first rays are the brightest pink and gold. The sky is as blue as the sea, and quite often, the moon still glows in the sky. The tree tops catch the new light and sparkle with icicles.

Corey says it’s the beautiful side of evil. But even he agrees – it's hard to deny God's glory is evident in that kind of a sunrise.

2. Sun dogs.

Sun dogs and/or halos are some of my favorite cold weather phenomenon. If you’re really interested in the science behind it, check Wiki. But in a nutshell, sun dogs are rainbow spheres or halos surrounding the sun, which are formed when light hits the ice dust in the atmosphere.

Here’s a picture of a sun dog I took in December on my phone.

It’s not the best shot – you can’t see the prism colors, for one – but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

3. No bugs.

I realize this is obvious, but when it’s cold, the bugs die. All of them. Even Nazi cockroaches, presumably. We have about six bug-free months here in Minnesota. It’s glorious.

4. No worries about fashion.

This isn’t to say Minnesotans dress like they’re headed for Everest every day. (Well, OK. Some do.) But when it’s -10 outside, no one is wearing cute shoes. We’re wearing WARM shoes. And no one is judging your outfit, because it’s hidden under your coat (scarf, mittens, hat) anyway.

To be clear, I don’t dress in sweats every day. I love my jeans and sweaters, and I cherish a funky scarf and fun jewelry. But there isn’t pressure to keep up with the fashion trends in the winter. It’s like everyone gets a four-month pass to relax and just be themselves. Ahhhhhh.....

5. Tear ducts unclog and nose hairs disintegrate.

When I walked back to my car yesterday morning after dropping Natalie at school, the wind was whistling. Since the temp was about -9, I’m guessing the wind chill was around -25. And wind that frigid is impossible to ignore. Tears instantly formed in my eyes, and my nose felt more clear than it had in a week. Talk about easing sinus congestion. It's nature's Neti pot.

6. It’s possible to freeze-dry your hair.

I don’t necessarily recommend this one, but if you go outside with wet hair and it’s brutally cold, your hair will instantly freeze into glittering dreadlocks. And since super-cold air is also super-dry air, most of the moisture will be sucked out of your hair by the time it defrosts.

(Disclaimer: I did this one time when I was a teenager. I was on a missions trip on an Indian reservation in Northern Minnesota, and I stepped outside with wet hair when it was -35 air temperature. My hair was frigid, but it was also dry in about five minutes. Normally, my hair takes 10 minutes to dry with a hair dryer.) (And no, I didn’t catch a cold. That whole wet-hair-in-the-winter-will-make-you-sick thing is a myth.)

7. Cold weather fosters resilience and creativity.

This is especially true for kids, and one of the reasons I’m thrilled to be raising my family in this climate. After about two weeks indoors with only their siblings as playmates, kids are actually eager to go outside and play, even if it’s -5 at the time. I have wonderful memories of playing outside in the snow all afternoon – building snow forts and tunnels and hatching elaborate plans for snowball fights. Sledding is best when it’s 20 and below; any warmer, and the snow is too sticky for the sleds to really get going.

And when I finally did lose feeling in my fingers and toes and come inside, there’s nothing like sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate.

If it’s truly too cold to go outside, kids are forced to get creative indoors. Winter is the season of the indoor tent in the living room and the grocery store that used to be the dining room table. I love watching my kids learn to entertain themselves, without the help of TV, video games or playgrounds.

8. Cross-border unity: -40 is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Negative 40 is the point where the two temperature charts become one again. Unity. It’s a beautiful thing. More cold weather is probably the answer to world peace.

9. You instantly gain a second fridge and freezer.

I can’t imagine trying to bake dozens of Christmas cookies – most of which need to be chilled before baking, chilled after baking or cooled before frosting – without a cold garage. I can put my Double-Chocolate Mint Brownies outside for five minutes, and they are instantly ready for the first layer of icing.

And this weekend, when I bake Teyla a birthday cake (she’ll be two; more about that to come, obviously), I won’t have to clear out space in my freezer to harden the crumb coat. I’ll just stick it in my garage for an hour.

10. Cold days are sunny days.

This is one of those phenomenon that might not be obvious, if you don’t live in a cold climate. But if it’s -10 outside, I can guarantee it’s also sunny. Clouds in the winter act as a atmospheric blanket, trapping ground heat near the earth’s surface and keeping things warm. When that blanket is pulled back, the heat quickly dissipates and we get completely sunny and brisk days.

And vitamin D? It’s a happy drug.

So what did I forget? Fellow Northerners, chime in.

And Southern friends, take heart: According to the Wall Street Journal this morning, temperatures should be on the rise later this week.

(And if the rest of the story is right and this continues to be one of the coldest winters we've seen in years, you can always come back here and get a cup of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, on me.)

The Real Start to the New Year

Welcome to the real first day of 2010.

I know it's technically January 4. But those weekend days? The days where the kids are still home and you can still sleep in and the Christmas cookies beckon for breakfast? They don't count.

But today, the mother of all Mondays, to borrow a Twitter phrase from Leighton, is the day the gears start to turn again. The routine might be slow and sluggish, but it's there. The kids are off to school. The housework awaits. The laundry issues demands. And the Christmas cookies are stale. (At least, that's what I keep telling myself to resist tempation.)

It's the official beginning of the year.

Personally, I'm ready.

I love vacation, and being a just-barely-dominant sanguine, I live for fun. It's my primary motivator in life.

But the other half of my temperament is melancholic, and that means my spirit also loves order and routine and accomplishing tasks.

And the mother of all Mondays is all about goals and structure and possibilities.

Saddle up the horses. We've got a whole new year -- nay, a new decade -- staring us in the face.

The excitement of a blank canvas even negates the -3 temperature outside.


After all, it is Monday. You can't expect perfection.

If you have no idea what I mean by temperament, you can test yourself here, which uses a test very similar to the one my husband and I use when we lead a seminar on temperament and relationships. Just be sure to come back and tell me what you are. The sanguine in me thinks that would be fun, and the melancholic in me thinks that would be informative and useful.

Saturday Evening Post

I've seen links to Elizabeth Esther's blog popping up on many of my favorite blog haunts (such as Conversion Diary or Extraordinary Ordinary or Mylestones) for months now. But probably like many of you, I'm trying to keep my blog reader lean, so I never clicked through.

My mistake.

I don't remember which link finally piqued my curiosity. But Elizabeth pulled me in immediately. I spent at least 30 minutes surfing her site -- looking at past posts, checking out her writing style, getting to know Elizabeth. And I was blown away. She's articulate, thoughtful, funny -- three things that make for a great communicator, in my book. (I also couldn't help but gasp at her Christmas is Pagan? post, because I read it about 24 hours after I posted Christmas Salad Dressing. Talk about a perfect counter-point to my holiday frustrations. Her take on the push-pull between Jesus Christmas and Santa Christmas was very healing to me.)

The first Saturday of every month, Elizabeth hosts the Saturday Evening Post carnival designed to let bloggers "show off" their favorite post from the past month. Because today is also the first Saturday in the new year, she's switching it up a bit and asking for people's favorite post from all of 2009. Wow! Talk about a tall order.

I choose my Story Unfolding post, which shares my struggle to balance my desire to make a BIG difference in this world with the reality of being a stay-at-home Mom, which sometimes makes me feel invisible.

If you missed that one, by all means, check it out. And then head over to Elizabeth's blog to read some awesome posts or even play along yourself.

Happy New Year!