Friday, December 30, 2011

Ode to Grandma Laura: Accidental Strawberry Jam and a Drive-By Shampooing

Merry Post-Christmas, Happy Post-Hanukkah and Happy Almost New Year!

Wow. Has it been almost another 2 months since I last posted? So much for my return to the blogging world.


In my defense, on top of it being a crazy, busy, sad, happy, sleepless, sleep-filled, travel-heavy two months, I have had my phone as my primary (or only!) means of communicating with the virtual world for much of the two months while Nick confiscated the wireless internet (his phone) and the computer to finish the semester from you-know-where. While the smart phone was a wondrous invention, it is not conducive to writing long emails, let alone an entire blog post.

And I just realized that I spent nearly half of the last two months away from home. No wonder our gas line item in our budget has been way in the red.

Enough excuses. I'm excited to have access to a computer and internet again since I've spent the last couple months doing some fun projects. It was year-of-the-homemade-Christmas-gifts in our household, so we made candles, lavender scented hand lotion, "canvas" photos, face wash, strawberry applesauce, energy bars, and pancake mix. We made a backyard "ice rink." And, most excitingly, I perfected my deodorant! So I have a lot of writing to do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Experiment #7: Masala Chai

So I’m back after a long, deliberate departure from writing and the virtual world. Over the past two months, I did a lot of experimenting for the blog, but haven’t done a lot of writing. I’ve just felt…uninspired. Exhausted. Bummed out. Every time I would try to write, it felt like my brain was wearing flippers and trying to pull a wagon full of bricks up a sandy bank. Nothing of meaning or value would come out. So about 6 weeks ago, I gave up trying and decided to give the brain a break.   

(Turns out I needed all that time anyway to finish Nora’s way-too-ambitious “Rapunzel” Halloween costume that I sewed completely by hand…mmhmm…)

A few weeks ago, I discovered why. I was driving out in surprisingly beautiful rural Iowa, basking in a rare moment where both girls had fallen asleep in the car, breathing in the beautiful fall smells and drinking in the vivid purples, reds, oranges, yellows, golds and greens. Out of nowhere, it hit me: For whatever reason, I’m in transition right now, trying to find my groove, my place, myself.

Then, several weeks ago, I was starting up a study with some friends from church when something clicked: I was not content where I was. Thinking back on the past month or so, I realized I had often wished I was elsewhere or that something was different. I kept trying to manipulate things to create a sense of contentment. That night I realized it wasn’t something that needed to change, it was me. My attitude. After that realization, for the first time in several months, I felt at peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Experiment #6: Faux Canvas Print (in honor of Madeline)

Our little “Meg-Peg” turned one last week. For those of you who know Madeline, you know what a big deal that is. I will eventually get to my experiment, which was using one of our favorite pictures of 7-month-old Madeline to remedy the fact that we have not put up one single picture of Madeline all year. But first, I felt it was odd that it took a whole year to hang a picture of Madeline and I wanted to examine why.

Before I start, I will apologize for the lengthy discourse that follows. It was time to process all the stuff that happened this year and, lucky you, this blog is my medium for downloading. It gets a little philosophical, a little theological and, if I’m honest, a little sappy. Writing this was extremely cathartic, so just consider yourself forewarned.

One Year Ago...
Madeline was born a healthy little girl. Her first night out of the womb, she slept 8 hours straight and could not be awoken to eat. We were a little freaked, but everyone said she was just recovering from the “trauma” of being born. Her amazing sleep abilities continued when we got home. She slept ALL the time and for LONG periods of time. Before she was a month, she was sleeping through the night. After Nora, our extremely high maintenance sleeper (who only just started sleeping through the night a month ago after starting asthma treatments), we thought we had created a super baby (well, she is pretty super). 

A week before her CHD was discovered
It’s funny now looking back at all the little clues that something was wrong. It seems ridiculous that we didn’t pick anything up earlier. To his credit, Nick was really worried about how much she was sleeping. “It just can’t be this easy,” he kept saying. The doctors told us to enjoy the extra sleep. We joked about her having a blue skin tone. Over the next 6 weeks, her eating times got shorter and her sleeping times got longer. She was always cold and needed to be wrapped up in several blankets. She’d sweat when she’d eat. I compulsively felt her fontanel, convinced that it was constantly a little sunken.

It’s also humbling when I look back and see God’s hand in the process to healing and the sheer number of people who had to be at the top of their game and responsive to that little nagging feeling that something was just not right.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Experiment #5 Addendum

Sometimes my brain is not all there. Most of the time, lately.

Anyway, I completely forgot to explain HOW I use the shampoo and conditioner once it is mixed.

I wet my hair in the shower and then douse it with the baking soda mixture, starting at the crown and working it mostly through my scalp. Then I massage it in and let it sit for several minutes (in my head this is to let the baking soda complete its chemical reaction with all that oil). Then, I just rinse it out. Nick claims he can feel the extra oil washing away.

I use a varying amount of baking soda mixture depending on how sweaty and greasy my hair feels. If it's been a particularly long time (embarrassed grimace), I have used it twice.

Next, I sprinkle on the "conditioner" starting with the ends of my hair and then working up. I tried just putting it on the ends, but found my hair just felt yucky without it all over. I do the same for Nora. Nick doesn't use conditioner every day. I massage it in and let it sit again for a few minutes before rinsing it out.

And that's it.

As a side note, Nick wasn't too keen on the apple cider vinegar (ACV) mixture. He said (and I quote), "I don't want to smell like a pickle." In actuality, the very faint vinegar smell is gone after a few minutes.  He still doesn't like it as a matter of principle.

Experiment #5: Shampoo and Conditioner

The no-'poo family. Look at those luscious locks!
**March 2014 Update!**
As I have noted in a more recent post, I have discontinued use of this particular recipe. After the birth of my third child, it made my scalp and hair WAY too dry, itchy and uncomfortable. I have done some very preliminary research and have come across a plethora of posts (although I have yet to verify the info, it seems to make a lot of sense and fits well with what happened to me) that discuss the damage that rapidly and repeatedly dramatically changing the pH of your hair follicles can do. So I am on the hunt for a "pH balanced" (a.k.a. one that is a similar pH to my scalp) DIY shampoo, because even the commercial shampoos are drying me out (stupid hormones!). That doesn't mean that this won't work for your hair. I know that it works for many. It has just stopped working for me.  I have "heard" that combining aloe and coconut milk works well, so that's first on the docket. I will update in a few months. In the meantime, if anyone has found something that works well, feel free to drop me a message in the box on the right or leave a comment. Thanks!

It has been 47 days since I have used shampoo or conditioner. And yet, my hair looks and feels better. And, most importantly, I have not scared my friends away! (Just wait till the post on deodorant...)

As you may remember from my list post, making my own shampoo was number 35.

My interest in making shampoo started innocently enough. A couple days after I had decided to create this blog, I was taking a shower and noticed we were getting low on shampoo. I hate when that happens because it inevitably means a $50 trip to Target. It’s ridiculous, but I just can’t make it out of Target without spending at least $50. I’m not sure if it’s the welcoming atmosphere of the store, the barrage of items I see en route to the shampoo aisle that I realize we are out of at home (although we’ve somehow survived for months without them), or my total lack of self-control, but it happens without fail.

So I usually avoid Target like I avoid touching fish (ugh).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Experiment #4: Homemade Chocolate Mints

This has been a week of transitions.

Nick started his classes (and his long, long days away from home). Nora started her new fall preschool with all new classmates. Nora and I started "Mama and Nora preschool" on days that she is home with me. Madeline started up with nasty allergies or an annoying persistent cold. My buddy, Anna, and I started up our thrice weekly "crack of dawn" swim dates (don't ask how that went). And I started another "quick" consulting job (really, Kristin? This week?).

With half the family as confirmed "slow-to-adapters" (the jury's still out on Madeline), the week of transitions has been stressful. Lots of crabbiness. Interrupted sleep. Fit throwing. And that was just Nick and me.

As someone who thrives on change, I just don't understand. I love this time of year, with the change of weather, the change of routine, the change of scenery.'s like a massage for my soul.

So, admittedly, I'm not the most patient person when Nick and Nora get out of sorts when things change. And sometimes I'm just downright nasty. Like this week.

So to make up for it, I wanted to do something special for Nora and Nick on their first day of new classes. Nora LOVES Junior Mints. LOVES them. So do I. They bring back memories of sitting in Watertown's dark, non-stadium seating movie theater on Christmas Day, squeaking my shoes as they stick and unstick to the floor coated with gallons of sugary beverages.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Guest Experiment: "Make" Your Own Honey

Due to unforeseen illness (is it ever foreseen?) and since my current experimentation is requiring more time than anticipated, I asked Owen to share his experiment in something that we will never be able to do at this house: beekeeping (thank you, Nick's deadly bee allergy). Owen and Emily and their two daughters (and baby #3 due today!) were some of our first friends here - Emily actually attended Madeline's birth as my doula a whole 3 weeks after meeting me! They are genuine and kind and capture one of the reasons why I love the Iowa City area (yes, I said Iowa) so much. They are this seamless and beautiful blend of urban and rural (not to mention just plain awesome people). They live in an old farmhouse on 5 acres surrounded by corn, but are active participants in the "city" community. And the majority of "city folk" here work hard to bring the farm to the city. You get to meet the farmers at the markets and coops in town and are actually invited go to the farm to see where your food is raised and grown. It's just a truly amazing and real community. So thank you, Owen, for your ongoing friendship and for sharing your foray into keeping bees.

Naturally, people ask me why I started beekeeping. They might expect that it reminds me of my childhood in some way, maybe a close neighbor that kept bees in their backyard, where I would visit the busy, humming hives on hot summer afternoons. But no, it wasn't anything romantic like that. I started beekeeping because I was curious. Kristin asked me to write a guest post for I Can Do It Myself and after reading her blog over, I think we share some common defects. I too want to do it myself, I too want to save money, and I too want to engage with my children. Who doesn't?

I first met an actual beekeeper at the Iowa City Fairgrounds during the Johnson County Fair in 2010. He had a display set up but he wasn't particularly outgoing. He looked a little wild, with a round, red beard that completely hid his mouth. He said that at one time he had sixteen hives, but these days he's down to only three. "Too much dinking around with these dang swarms." See, he doesn't want to pony up cash for new bees, as bee prices have gone up sharply in the last ten years, instead he tries to catch them in the wild.

I grabbed a pamphlet about the local East Central Iowa Beekeeper's Club and asked a few questions, something about how much it takes to get into the hobby and when I should place an order. I think I got a few basic pointers, but I don't really remember. That year I tried to order a package of bees via e-mail, but I was too late for the season. "We are completely sold out of bees. You need to order in Feb or March. Phil Ebert."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Experiment hiatus: the list and YOU

For those of you who have known me for any length of time, know that I have a tendency to dive head-first, eyes closed, mouth screaming into whatever new-fangled idea I cooked up. Then, in anywhere from a few hours to a few months, the novelty wears off and my awesomely awesome idea fizzles.

That will not happen with this blog.

I'm writing this more for me than anything else. I feel the need to explain why there has been a several week silence from Kristin's cyberspace, because I need to convince myself that this time will be different.

At any rate, it has been an exhausting and exciting few weeks. We traveled over 1300 miles by car, cycled between sick kids and sick husband, Nick officially finished his first year of graduate school, I took my first trip to Chicago and ended up completing some unexpected short-term consulting work for my former employer. Whew.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Experiment #3: Puffy Fingerpaint

I love shopping with my dad.

I think I just heard an audible gasp from everyone who has ever met either my dad or me. I am pretty sure that the only time the words “love” and “shopping” are uttered together in a sentence by either of us is to say, “I love it when the stores are closed and there is no possible way I can go shopping.” I just really hate shopping and so does my dad.
But shopping with my dad is awesome for two reasons:

  1. We have the same attention span for shopping (30 minutes max).
  2. We shop by feel.

The three times I have gone shopping with my dad, he would come back to the dressing room with a small pile of clothes - none of them matching (or even distantly coordinating), but all soft, smooth or silky. I like my clothes to look good, but I really like them to feel good.

I'm just a highly tactile person.  I like to knead dough, work with clay, walk barefoot, twirl my hair, wiggle in the sand, and play in the dirt. I have apparently passed this obsession on to my daughter. So at our house, we try to do lots of "hands-on" activitites.

Tactile stimulation is more than just a way to occupy a preschooler's time. It is now being recognized as a legitimate therapeutic treatment with exceptional benefits for everyone from preemies to Alzheimer patients. Modeling letters out of clay is used as a treatment for dyslexia. It has even been suggested that since serotonin, a brain chemical linked to depression, is more present when an individual is active, even fine motor movements can improve mood and combat depression (B.L. Jacobs, Princeton University).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Experiment #2: Homemade Granola

With my husband's plunge into graduate school this past year and his constant 12+ hour days away from home, I have had to learn how to cook. I do not like to cook. Growing up, I did lots of baking with my mom. Baking is therapeutic. Relaxing. Fun.

But cooking? Ugh.

I realize now that my hefty disdain for cooking is primarily because I just never learned how to cook. I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing and have no innate cooking sense to guide me. As you might imagine, I am not very good at it. And, childish though it may seem, I do not like doing things I can't do well.

But, one cannot raise a healthy family on cheesy eggs, tuna melts and spaghetti (the three meals I "cooked" before this year). So in an attempt to remedy my complete lack of culinary knowledge, I started reading (gasp!) cookbooks and cooking magazines. Amid the tedious steps for creating perfect pastas, pizzas, peanut sauce and potstickers, I stumbled upon Bobby Flay's fantastic recipe for "mango agave granola" in Food Network magazine. My beautiful baking gem among the cooking chaos.

Therefore, in an effort to ignore the fact that I have yet to master even one cooking recipe, I am going to blog about something I get to bake.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Experiment #1: Maseca! - Making Corn Tortillas

I am initiating my blogging experimentation with the rather uninspiring tortilla. The tortilla has earned this honor because of the sheer number of tortillas consumed at our house. My husband eats them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One package of 8 lasts about 2 days. So the choice became buy the cheapo tortillas that look the same whether they are 2 days or 2 years old, or spend a fortune on fresh ones.

Back in the day, I spent a semester living with host families and conducting research in rural Costa Rica. Amid the tropical heat, suffocating humidity and diesel buses, I fell in love with the country, the people and their homemade corn tortillas. My host mother in Guápiles (who was a single, working mother of two) always found time to pull out her bag of Maseca corn flour and make her own tortillas, over the stove, without air conditioning. Inspired by her dedication and compelled by their crack-like addictive flavor, I bought a small bag of Maseca corn flour to bring back with me to my dorm room. I imagined padding down to the dorm kitchen for midnight study breaks of warm tortillas dripping with melted cheese. Five years later, as my husband and I were packing our apartment to move across the country, I rediscovered my slumped Maseca bag, abandoned, unopened and long since expired. The dream of the homemade tortilla was lost until a couple months ago when my eyes happened to graze a bag of Maseca in the grocery store. The memory was jogged. I was intrigued. Now, almost a decade after my introduction to these delicious snacks, I am finally attempting to make my own corn tortillas. They are pretty healthy and darn tasty.

Goal: To make 8 homemade corn tortillas (4 servings)

Time to Completion: 20 minutes, including setup and cleanup. Time is less if you have a larger pan. Each additional tortilla adds between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. 

Cost Comparison: 
1 package of 8 corn tortillas cost $1.75 - $4.50. That's $0.22 - $0.56 per tortilla.
 8 homemade Maseca corn tortillas cost $0.22. That's under $0.03 per tortilla. One 4.4 lb bag of Maseca flour costs approximately $3.60 and makes 132 tortillas. 

Tortilla making is mostly kid-compatible (except for the cooking part) for kids 2 years and older and allows for only minimal, if any, multitasking.

Large mixing bowl
Rolling pin (or if you are fancy shmancy, a tortilla press)
Plastic wrap
Measuring cups and spoons
A fork for mixing
A damp towel or paper towel
At least a 10 inch frypan of some sort. I use an enameled cast iron frypan similar to this one.
Stove or some hot, cooking surface

1 cup of Maseca corn flour
2/3 cup + 3 tablespoons of water
1/8 tsp salt
¼ lime (optional – add a few cents to the total cost)
For the most part, I followed the directions on the back of the bag. Turn on your burner (I set it between the 6 and 7 - medium high) and, if you are using a cast iron pan, put your pan on to heat up. I found out the hard way that you cannot put the tortillas on my pan until it is hot enough or they will stick and burn.

Preparation is the perfect time to involve kids, especially tactile ones. Dump all the ingredients (except the 3 tbsp of water) into the mixing bowl and mix together with the fork. The flour should form little crumbly balls. If you still have powdery flour along the sides, add the extra 3 tbsp of water. If you want, you can add the water one tbsp at a time as indicated on the bag. I have found that in the multitude of times I have made the tortillas, the 3 tbsp is a perfect extra amount of water, even if I am making more than 8 tortillas. I am not sure why, but there you go. I add lime juice to mine, because I love the flavor. If you forgo the lime, you may need extra water.

Then you (or your eager mini-chefs) can smoosh the dough together and knead it until it sticks into one big blob. To make 8 tortillas, I break the blob in half, each half in half again, and again until you get 8 relatively even blobs. Roll the blobs in to balls and put them in the bottom of your mixing bowl and cover the balls with a scantly damp towel. NOTE: Here is where you can modify the moisture of the dough. If your dough is too crumbly, place them under a more damp towel for a few minutes. If they get too wet, take the towel off and let them air dry for a bit. I learned the hard way that having tortillas too damp makes them stick to the pan and too dry makes them crumble when you eat them.

Place a ball in a long sheet of plastic wrap and fold the plastic over. Smoosh the ball down with your hand to make it pancake-like then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 1/16 inch thick, or about the thickness of a DVD. If you get it too thick, it will be less pliable when eating it. They aren't beautifully round without a tortilla press, but they taste just the same.

Carefully pull the flattened dough off the plastic wrap and put it on an ungreased pan for around 50 seconds. My tortillas just start to curl up on the edges and sometimes slide easily on the pan when done. Then flip the tortilla over and cook for 45 seconds on the second side. You may have to adjust the time as you go. Usually by the end, I am cooking them for less time. Mine usually have very light golden spots on them. You can even wash out the bowl and wipe down the counter while your tortillas are cooking.

They are most pliable when warm, but are great cold, too. You can keep them in a sealed container or bag for a week in the fridge. Ours never last more than two days. In fact, they were gone before I could get a finished product picture.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I can do it myself!

When I was a toddler, my parents bought me this book:

It quickly became a favorite. When I got married, my dad brought the well-loved book to the reception and in his seemingly endless toast (which friends and family lovingly refer to as “the filibuster”), he graciously bestowed it upon my poor unwitting husband, Nick. As well as he knew me, Nick had not yet experienced the full magnitude of my intensely fierce and (I can now admit this) exceedingly annoying need to do things myself. Over the past 6 years, I have commended myself on my progress in becoming less militant about not accepting help. “I have matured!” I say, patting myself smugly on the back. Or have I…

Last month, I was carrying three bags, two heavy car seats and my 8-month-old daughter while simultaneously pushing my 3-year-old in a laden down stroller and pulling a rolling suitcase through a crowded airport. My kind father (who, in my defense, was carrying a substantial amount of luggage himself) asked if he could help me carry something.

I glared at him, feeling a piercing annoyance swell. After 3 decades, did he really still think I was incapable of taking care of myself? Really? What was wrong with him? He was deliberately trying to make me feel incompetent! 30 years old, two kids, and he was still treating me like a child! Somewhere between the snippy, “I’m fine dad. Just get the door,” and the exaggeratedly exasperated sigh that followed his innocent question, I realized the absurdity of my mental interchange. Clearly, I still have a long way to go (at this very moment, I can actually hear my dad chuckling from 500 miles away).

The Plunge
We recently celebrated my departure from the income-generating world and migration to living exclusively on Nick’s graduate student stipend. I have worked partially or entirely from home for the past 4 years. It was determined that it was now in everyone’s best interest if I gave up the work so I could sleep more than 4 hours a night and spend the other 20 hours in a civilized mood. It was a financially terrifying step and an ego bruiser to admit that I just couldn’t do it all.

My first day of unemployment, both girls miraculously fell asleep at the same time (an event that has yet to be recreated). I frantically finished cleaning up from lunch and raced to the computer to grab some work time. “Oh yeah!” I remembered. “No work! ME time!” So I walked outside to our backyard. I stopped. I looked around. What should I do? Laundry was done. Dishes washed. House picked up. I guess I could use a toothbrush to scrub the grout around the bathtub. I felt…lost. Unhinged. Useless. I sat down as a rush of panic slapped me in the face. It had been so long since I had a chunk of time that was all mine where I didn’t have mounds of unfinished work hovering over me in a guilt inducing cloud. For thirty horrifying minutes, I sat listlessly in the yard and pulled apart blades of grass. Then the baby sneezed. I bolted up and raced inside to grab her, invigorated. I had something to do!

That night I sat down to think. I have always dreamed of being entirely self-sufficient. I even had a list of 54 things I wanted to learn to do myself. Consequently, I had accumulated lots of little half-started projects over the years that I never seemed to have time to finish: the first chapter of a children’s book, a sweater sleeve on knitting needles and piles of beautiful and luxurious yarn, quilt pieces for a baby blanket for a now 8-year old child, paints and canvases, 5 pages in my wedding scrapbook, three overflowing recipe boxes full of directions to make “from scratch” foods, an abandoned pile of lumber and some neat-looking power tools, a digital SLR camera and half a dozen lenses…

But where to start? How to start? I was paralyzed by too many options. It was then I decided that I needed a plan of attack. Something to direct me and give purpose to these “selfish” pursuits. Without something to direct my time, I saw my unfruitful future of sitting for mindless hours watching The Cosby Show on Netflix.

The Experiment
To honor this fantastically freeing and tremendously terrifying phase of life, I decided to embrace my power of stubborn self-reliance and harness it to pursue a mastery of feasible, cost- and time-effective self-sufficient activities. I want to challenge myself with public accountability. This blog is dedicated to chronicling my pursuit of self-sufficiency with the following purposes:

Minimize spending. Nick and I recently sat down to revamp our now scantily clad budget, a terrifying, tedious and daunting task that we had been successfully avoiding for several weeks. After four hours of blood, sweat and tears, we sat together on the floor, wide-eyed and silent. “Well, that’s depressing,” Nick mumbled. After a few days of panic, despair and whiny self-pity, we knew we needed to change our habits to avoid accruing a mortgage-worth of student debt over the next 6 years of Nick’s doctoral training. Make more at home, buy less. But are doing things myself actually cheaper? I want to find out what activities will really minimize our spending over the long haul.

Maximize time. Let’s just be brutally honest. There’s a reason why more people don’t churn their own butter, use cloth diapers or grow their own food. It takes time and effort. But how much? Is it more time and effort to do things like Grandma? Before using cloth diapers, I would have sworn they were more work. 3 years and two cloth diapered kids later, I can say the work just about equals out. But I realize there are some things that are just not going to be worth the extra time spent for the money saved. I want to know what those things are, so I don’t waste my time. 

Save the planet! We recently took a family trip to one of our new favorite places: the city dump. Lest you judge too harshly, we frequent the dump to shlep the deliciously earthy smelling compost for use in our garden. On this particular occasion, the temperature was tiptoeing around 90 degrees and the breeze sent intermittent wafts of stench from the actual dump portion. “Phfeww! What is that stinky smell?” my three-year-old Nora wanted to know. So we wandered over to see the heavy machinery rolling viciously over the acres and acres of stinking garbage. I explained to Nora that this is why we recycle and compost and reuse things rather than throwing them away, all the while thinking guiltily about the plastic peanut butter jar I had thrown away that morning because I was too lazy to clean it out. Ironically, that night, Nora chose to read the story of creation in her kids’ Bible illustrating that God’s first job for man was to care for the plants and animals and the earth. I think of all the waste created in the name of convenience and want to do my part to remedy that with my new found time.

Engage the offspring. Nora is an extreme extrovert. She just cannot be alone. Ever. As an infant (and even to a large degree now), she couldn’t even sleep unless she was in physical contact with another human body. Now I truly love spending time with my creative, energetic and astute child, but as an extreme introvert, she exhausts me. I need to plan engaging activities with her in mind. With rare exception, if I can’t do it with Nora, it won’t get done.

Chronicle the journey. I am terrible at documentation. I weep to think of the creative wisdom lost forever because I didn’t write down what I did or lost the scrap of paper I wrote it on. I also rarely pay attention to time. I am notorious for getting partway into an ambitious project and having to stop because I discover that it is already10 minutes past bedtime and Nora is dancing maniacally in the flour she dumped all over the floor and Madeline is smearing her food through her hair and shrieking. Creating a blog will force me to be a responsible adult. Right? 

Rekindle the creativity. Writing is my life, my escape, my soul’s fuel, my passion. It is how I think, create, connect and pray. I spent the last four years doing exclusively technical and scientific writing. For me, it was like subsisting only on oatmeal and vitamin supplements – you can survive, but the joy of eating is gone. I want to reclaim that joy. But like a runner after a 4 year hiatus, it takes me a lot of work to get back in creative writing shape. And motivation to do the workouts.

Amass existing knowledge. I don’t plan to reinvent the wheel. Along with trying out my own ideas, I plan to research what has already been done, try it at home and give credit where credit is due. I want to have a repository of all that knowledge at my fingertips.

In Conclusion…
Rather than fight with my nature, I have decided to embrace my annoyingly stubborn need to do things myself. However, lest you think I am still a toddler stuck in a soon-to-be-nearing-middle-age adult body, I have done some growing. When our second child, Madeline, was six weeks old, we took her to the doctor to treat suspected pink-eye and instead discovered she had a life-threatening congenital heart defect. She was admitted to the hospital immediately and had an awesomely successful open-heart surgery a week later. We had just moved to a new town, so I had to humble myself and accept the help of not only friends and family, but casual acquaintances. It was strange at first, accepting help from people I barely knew and knowing I may never be able to repay them. It’s a little like making your hands talk like Bert and Ernie for your kid in public. At first you feel really awkward. It's embarrassing. You just know people are judging. But gradually you realize that letting go and giving in is freeing. Exulting. And it actually brings joy to everyone (even if your voices don't sound at all like Bert and Ernie).