Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming or Going?

That's the question of my summer. Am I coming? Or am I going?

Seems like I'm going to be doing a bit of both in these next few weeks, so if things are a bit sporadic around here, you'll understand why. But the good news is that there will be a lot of great Travel Tuesday posts to fill our time after the summer ends.

In the meantime, some thoughts . . .

1. I don't think parents should put guilt trips on their kids for wanting to spend summers away, but still, I'm missing my middle girl. Eight weeks is a long time to be away from your mama home. Thankfully, according to the postcards we've received, she's not missing us too much. I really would hate it if she got there and was homesick.

2. Kohler, WI is a lovely little town. The kind of place I could settle down in if it weren't north of my never-live-any-farther-north-than-I-do-right-now rule. B and I spent a lovely weekend . . . alone . . . in Kohler last weekend. Which brings me to . . .

3. When you set high expectations of your kids, they'll usually meet them. Mine sure did this past weekend. Thank you, girls!

4. I've been thinking about this a lot lately: why don't I set high expectations of God? I totally believe He's all-powerful and can perform miracles, but I don't look for them. I don't see them every day, so I don't expect them. This frustrates me about myself, and I'm seeing this weakness in my faith more and more through different circumstances.

5. I'm in between books right now, and I hate that feeling. It's like there's something missing in my life when I'm not reading a book. I need to start East of Eden (which I've read before and LOVED) for our book club for August, but in the meantime I need something light. Any suggestions?

6. I live in a house full of bathrooms. In fact, we have four full bathrooms--a real plus when you're raising girls. Why, then, if our home is so bathroom-abundant, do I constantly bemoan the fact that I can't use the downstairs bathroom which is being remodeled right now? Ridiculous. Thankfully, it's almost finished and I'll be able to post pictures next week. I'm loving it, but it's turning out more retro than I originally thought it would. Interesting how that works.

So, I'm heading out tomorrow. You'll definitely get a Fabulous Friday Food post on Friday, but probably not much more this week unless I have some profound thoughts in the car. (Which is entirely likely. I get some of my best ideas while I'm in the car.) But I'm trying to keep your expectations low here. Since I'm coming and going this summer, the most you can probably expect is a quick hello every now and then.

From somewhere. You never know where I'll be coming from . . . or going to. . . .



Shelly

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food

A few months ago, B and I attended an international potluck—an event we attend every year. Now, you’d think that with as much international travel as I’ve done I’d be eager to attend such a dinner.

You would be wrong. See, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to trying new foods. In fact, if I can’t recognize the type of meat that is in a dish, I won’t eat it. Many a delicious dish has been passed over by me just because it doesn’t come with an explanation.

I need an explanation before I’ll try it. I just do.

And curry and me? . . . we’re not exactly friends.

So when I travel, I’m the most pathetic kind of eater. I always make sure I can get some type of delicious bread and some kind of cheese and then I’m good. Oh, sure, I’ll try new things in restaurants . . . as long as I know what’s in them. Because if I got stuck with some kind of strange meat (what is blood sausage, anyway?) that just happened to be covered in a curry-type sauce, it would be all over. My day would be ruined, and I’d have to run to the nearest grocery store to stock up on bread and cheese for the next week.

And don’t even get me started on the potluck concept. Eating food made by someone else under conditions that might be slightly less than the standard I hold for my own kitchen? That’s pushing it.

I like my food. And my mom’s. And my sisters’. Well, and my friend, Jymette, who used to do “Once a Month Cooking” with me when our kids were little—our cooking styles were very similar. Oh, and there’s Amy who leaves the MOST delicious meals for me after I’ve been out of town. Yeah, I’ll take any of their cooking any day.

But I will admit here and now that I have a little bit of a hard time getting used to eating other people’s cooking. I’m weird that way, I know.

**Edited to add that pretty much any restaurant does not count in this assessment. I love to eat out. I would do it every night if I could. Almost.

So, combine “international” and “potluck” in the same sentence and you’ve got one scared little girly on your hands. (Just don’t tell my kids because I try to get them to eat strange foods all the time. I’m a bit of a hypocrite in this area.)

So you can just imagine the dread and fear with which I approach this “international potluck” every year. Who knows what we’re going to get?

But this year. Ah, this year brought a delightful surprise. Someone brought spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, and I am here to say that they were delicious! Surprisingly so. I ate as many as I could without looking like a pig, I loved them so much.

Now, I’ve long been a fan of the egg roll—all that deep fried deliciousness dipped in sweet sour sauce—but I had never before tasted its cousin the spring roll, a fresher, healthier type of Asian rolled food.

So, you can imagine my delight when this month’s issue of “Everyday Food” came in the mail and supplied me with the recipe for “Summer Rolls” which is, I guess, their take on the spring roll. Doesn’t matter. It looked the same to me.

Last week, Kate and I ventured into the world of Asian cooking and I gotta say, we had fun. And these little rolls are just perfect for those really hot days when you don’t feel like doing any heavy-duty cooking. All you really need is some water and your ingredients and you’re ready to roll. Get it?!

So, without further adieu, Let’s Roll!!

First, assemble your ingredients. You will have a very hard time pulling this off if you have to stop and chop in the middle of your assembly.


We set everything out on the counter, chopped, prepared (the noodles have to have boiling water poured over them), and ready to go.

We used shrimp, chicken, carrots, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, and those funny no-taste-to-them-whatsoever Asian noodles.


And you need spring roll wrappers. All you do with these is take them out of the package and dip them in cold water for about 20 seconds.


Pull them out of the water as soon as they become pliable, but not too pliable or they'll be mush.


Next, put a small amount of whatever ingredients you want on top of the wrapper--this one was carrot and shrimp. Put some of the noodles in the middle, then top with a few more ingredients.


Roll it up and . . . voila! . . . you have a spring roll.


The mango/chicken variety was very tasty. Mmmm.

But you have to have a sauce to dip these sweeties into. I guess a peanut dipping sauce is traditional, and so easy to make.

First, take 1/2 cup of peanut butter.


Add about 1/2 cup of hot water and 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice to the peanut butter and whisk it all together.


Add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce and that's it.


Peanut dipping sauce. Mmmmm.

Just in case you'd like to follow the exact recipe, here you go.

Summer Rolls
1. Pour boiling water over 1 package (4 oz) vermicelli rice noodles and soak 15 minutes. Drain and rinse. Divide into 8 equal portions. Fill a wide, shallow bowl with cool water. Working with one 8-inch spring-roll wrapper at a time, soak until pliable, 20 seconds. Transfer to a flat surface and smooth.

2. Place a layer of desired fillings on bottom third of wrapper, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Top with a portion of noodles and another layer of fillings.

3. Fold bottom of wrapper tightly over fillings.

4. Roll over once, tuck in sides, and finish rolling. If desired, add 3 fresh chives and continue rolling to enclose them. Transfer roll to a plate and cover with a slightly damp paper towel. Repeat to make 8 summer rolls. Serve immediately with dipping sauce, or refrigerate up to 2 hours.

**Note: fillings may include cooked shrimp, chicken, carrots, cucumber, avocado, mango, cilantro, basil, parsley, or whatever your heart desires. Be creative!!

**Additional note: be sure to roll these tightly or they will fall apart when you bite into them. Take it from me.

Creamy Peanut Dipping Sauce
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter with 1/2 cup warm water until smooth. Whisk in 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 4 teaspoons sugar. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts over sauce just before serving.

Now tell me, is this something you'd want to try? Let me know if you do!

What are you making this weekend that will be fabulous?

Shelly

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm Thankful

Today over at Lysa's blog, she challenged us to write down some things for which we are thankful. After the week I've had (and it's only Thursday morning!), I thought I'd just list out some of the things I'm thankful for . . . since Monday.

- I'm thankful for the guys who came to rip up our bathroom.
- I'm thankful for the electrician who came to fix our generator (sort of--see below).
- I'm thankful for the 100 letters and envelopes that "showed up" at my door needing to be stuffed and mailed.
- I'm thankful for friends for my kids and that they are old enough to go to the pool by themselves.
- I'm thankful for the tile I picked up on Tuesday.
- I'm thankful for the summer rolls that Kate and I made together.
- I'm thankful for six trips to the grocery store to purchase all the ingredients for our Asian feast on Tuesday.
- I'm thankful for exercise.
- I'm thankful for friends.
- I'm thankful for babies to cuddle.
- I'm thankful for doctors to care for serious burns and little boys who are brave.
- I'm thankful for Shrek because he makes me laugh.
- I'm thankful for tile in the RIGHT color, even though I had to drive back to the tile store to get it.
- I'm thankful for storms.
- I'm thankful for an electrician who drove through a storm to come fix the generator he supposedly fixed on Monday.
- I'm thankful for pizza when the power goes out.
- I'm thankful for more friends.
- I'm thankful for my community.
- I'm thankful for bad news (and there has been a LOT of it this week) because it puts everything into perspective.
- I'm thankful for chaos because it shows me that I'm really alive.

Shelly

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Will Change You For Sure

If you're anything like me--and I have a feeling you are and that if we met in real life we'd be really good friends--you have probably been touched in some way by autism. If you don't have anyone in your close family with this disorder, you probably know someone who has been affected.

I know a few families who deal with this issue, but until I saw this video I had no idea how hard each and every day must be.

Please, take the time to watch this video. It will change the way you see autistic children.



Shelly

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Community



Last night I experienced community at its finest.

A boy in our neighborhood needs prayer. Desperately.

So, as the day wore on yesterday and people found out about his condition, someone organized a prayer vigil. Word quickly spread that whoever wanted to pray should meet on the playground at our local elementary school at 8:30.

I’ll be honest. I vacillated. I know the family a little because our kids all went to the same elementary school, the little one with the big heart, and I had had several conversations with this boy’s mom, but it’s not like they are close friends or anything. They’re neighbors. I wondered if I’d be intruding on a private moment for close friends if I showed up.

And I wondered if it would be uncomfortable to stand around praying with a handful of people I don’t really know.

But 8:25 came, and I decided I would just go, despite my hesitations and fears.

The school is only two blocks from my house, so I walked over there alone in the twilight, noticing other neighbors beginning to head that direction too. As I turned the corner, just past a row of hedges, I literally drew in a breath as I took in the sight at the playground.

“Oh, Lord. Thank you!” I whispered as I saw a large group starting to gather, friends and neighbors walking from every direction.

As I approached the group, I saw our school’s principal standing in the circle, along with several teachers, parents, boys from this boy’s baseball team, and children from the neighborhood.

In all, I counted over 100 people who had come quickly, spontaneously, as soon as they heard, to pray for a desperate boy in a desperate situation.

There are so many reasons, some of which I’ve written about here, why I love living here, but last night tops my list. Living in a community full of caring people, people who will drop anything to pray for a boy they hardly know, makes my life richer.

I have thought about that prayer vigil constantly since last night, and I feel confident that if one of my children were in a desperate situation the same thing would happen. This beautiful community would rally around us, loving us, praying for us, holding us close.

And I am so thankful for that today.

If you would, please take a moment to pray for our neighbor, Matthew. Out of respect for his family, I won’t go into details, but God knows his need. Thank you.

I'm linking up with Emily's "Tuesday's Unwrapped" today.


Shelly

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Morning Madness


Welcome to the craziness that is my house right now.

Because it's Monday and there is certainly some madness going on here at the moment, I thought a list would help clarify my wild life right now, both for me and for you.

Madness factor #1

We have a little bathroom on the first floor that has been in desperate need of a remodel pretty much ever since we moved in here 12 years ago. And since this is about the only full week I'll be home all summer, we decided this would be a good week to get it done. Go figure.

So this morning brought with it one builder, one plumber, no water, demolition, and lots and lots of chaos.

Madness factor #2

It is wonderful, and very nearly a necessity, to have a generator in our neighborhood. The City hasn't figured out how to handle all the flooding that happens here, so when the power goes out and your sumps don't work, you are in deep doo doo.

Unless you have a generator (which we do).

Unless you have a really big storm on Friday night and the power goes out and your generator doesn't work.

So add the generator repair man to the chaos that is my house this morning.

Madness factor #3

Our weekend was filled with entertaining, which is really fun for me. On Friday, we had some missionary friends over for dinner . . . an impromptu candlelight dinner . . . since we had no power. Thank goodness we have a grill.

Only, when you make baked beans on a grill, you have to remember to stir them every once in a while. Or else they burn. Just sayin'.

Madness factor #4

On Saturday a dear friend from Michigan drove down for the night. He's a pretty special part of our family who we don't get to see very often, so it was great to have him come for a visit.

Honestly, how many 24 year old guys would drive 2 1/2 hours to come visit a couple of "old folks" just to have dinner and go to church the next day? Not many.

Oh, but he may have come just to see "Toy Story 2" with us. Now that was fun!

Madness factor #5

Father's Day was not-so-crazy. We ended up doing the same thing we always do on Father's Day--the Cantigny Park Art Show. We took a picnic, enjoyed the art, and walked around smelling the flowers.



Madness factor #6

So that brings us back to this week. Did I mention that this is our last full week at home for a while? As in a month?

I'm not sure how much I'll be around here in July, but I'll let you know.

At any rate, there WILL be Fabulous Friday Food, so come on back every Friday this summer to get some great recipe ideas for the weekend.

In the meantime, I'd better get back to the chaos. I hear a generator running (hooray!) and a vacuum picking up tile bits in the bathroom and a dog who wants to be let in but who will have to hang out outside for a while.

Shelly

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food

O.K., I'll be the first to admit that the old blog hasn't had much direction to it lately. That's probably why Sitemeter hates me. Thank goodness I don't do this for a living or my children would starve!

But, hey, starve we did NOT this week. I tried a new recipe and found a real winner.

And along the way I may have found just a hint of direction for the summer-time blues. Blogging blues, that is.

For some reason I like to experiment in the summer. I like to take home foods from the French Market and just see what I can do with them. So my thought is that this summer I'll try some new recipes, or maybe dig out some old ones, and have a little bloggy fun with "Fabulous Friday Food." (Like the alliteration?)

Anyway, today I'm going to try this little experiment and see how it goes. If you tell me you like it *hint, hint* maybe I'll keep it up throughout the summer. And if you really like it *hint hint* maybe I'll add a McLinky so that others can play and find some new recipes to try while they are dealing with the summertime blues too.

I don't know. Just a thought. Let me know what you think. *hint hint*

So, on with today's Fabulous Friday Food. I might have mentioned two weeks ago that I had jury duty. Little did I know that jurors get let out for good behavior at lunchtime. Oh sure, they gave us the option to hang around the jury holding cell room, but they also said we could go outside to smoke. For an hour. Even though no cigarette has ever touched my lips (really!), I fled.

I knew there was a Target right down the street, so I hightailed it to my favorite store. I really didn't need much other than a reprieve, so I purchased some Tide and a Martha Stewart Living magazine because nothing says while-away-the-time better than Martha.

When I got back to the holding cell room, I started flipping through the magazine to find several--SEVERAL!!--recipes that I wanted to try. Including this one.

As luck would have it, the French Market happened to have fresh sour cherries this past weekend, so I bought some and went to town creating one of the best desserts I've had in a while. Took me right back to the streets of Paris. *sigh*

So here you go. Martha's recipe (I could never in a million years claim it) for Sour Cherry Clafoutis.

First, you make some dough.



Then you refrigerate the dough.


After it's nice and chilled, you roll it out and shape it into a tart pan.


While the crust is baking, you pit and halve some sour cherries. (I'm always looking for any excuse to use the cherry pitter I bought at Williams-Sonoma last summer. Very fun!)


Next, assemble your ingredients for the filling. I used creme fraiche because I'd never tried it before and I wanted to try it, but you can also use sour cream.


Throw the filling together (easy, peasy), pour it into the crust, then artfully arrange the cherries on top.


When it's all finished baking, you'll have a scrumptious dessert that is elegant enough for a dinner party. Or good enough to just stand around eating with your family. But make sure you serve it with some homemade whipped cream. Be still my heart!


Enjoy!!

Sour Cherry Clafoutis
From Martha Stewart Living magazine, June 2010

For the Crusts
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 C. confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 C. all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
Coarse salt

For the Filling
2 large eggs
2/3 C. creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 C. granulated sugar (I used a little more)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Table salt
6 ounces sour cherries (about 1 1/4 cups), pitted and halved

1. Make the crusts: Beat butter and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add yolk, and mix until combined. Add flour and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; mix until just combined. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

2. Set six 4-inch tart rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out six 5 1/2 inch circles, re-rolling scraps as needed. [Here's where I was a deviant--I only used one large tart pan because I didn't have 6 little ones. Sorry, Martha!] Press dough into bottoms and up sides of tart rings, patching any holes ortears. Trim excess dough flush with edges of rings using a knife. Prick bottoms of tart shells all over with a fork, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Bake until pale gold, pressing down dough if puffing, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

4. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees. Make the filling: gently whisk together eggs, creme fraiche, granulated sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of table salt. Pour into prepared tart shell(s), and carefully drop cherry halves, cut sides down, around the top of the filling. Transfer to oven, and bake until just set, 17 to 19 minutes. Let cool.

Serve with homemade whipped cream. Mmmmmm.

Shelly

Book Review: O Me of Little Faith


Is it O.K. to doubt God? Is questioning your faith acceptable? These are the questions I struggled with as I read Jason Boyette’s new book, “O Me of Little Faith.

This is a painfully honest book, and if you’re not ready to delve into the deep dark world of doubt, this probably won’t be a book you’ll want to read. But if you’re looking for a memoir that is vulnerable and real about the Christian faith—all of it—then you might be interested.

I’ll admit I had some issues with Jason. His chapter on prayer was especially inconsistent, in my view. He starts out the chapter saying that basically he doesn’t pray because he’s not so sure that prayer really matters, later admitting that he doesn’t pray as much as he should. But then, toward the end of the chapter, he’s all over the prayer aspect of his faith, saying that using liturgical prayer has greatly helped his prayer life.

Huh? I thought you said you didn’t have much of a prayer life.

As an English teacher, these types of inconsistencies bothered me throughout the book.

But, as much as the inconsistencies bugged me, his conclusion delighted me. I’m glad I read through to the end, because that's where Jason got me (or I got him, not sure which). Even though he spends much of the book bemoaning his conservative Christian upbringing and his internal angst about his lack of faith, he concludes in such a satisfactory way, to me, because he basically says this: Faith is putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, sometimes plodding on toward an uncertain goal.

But it’s worth it.

And that’s where I agree wholeheartedly with Jason. Having faith is not a feeling; it’s a decision.

“In religious faith, as in parenting and marriage, the best response to uncertainty and doubt is commitment. Your kids may occasionally disappoint you, but you love them and raise them anyway, gritting your teeth and hoping for the best. Your spouse may be less than perfect, but you commit to a lifetime of companionship anyway, loving sacrificially and praying for grace. Your relationship with God may be full of doubt, but you leap to faith and hope it’s all real. You worship. You gather with other believers. You pray for mercy.”

And this is the part I especially liked, when he talks about just holding on to faith, even when parts of you want to let go: “. . . I try to keep pedaling, even when I’m doubting. I keep living as a committed Christian, even on the days when I don’t feel like one. . . . I keep living as if the sun will rise, as if I’ll survive the waters of baptism, as if Jesus will indeed carry me safely across the falls. That’s me in the corner, trying not to lose my religion. How? By working out my salvation with fear and trembling.”

So Jason’s conclusion, that we Christians need a heavy dose of commitment and wherewithal to pursue Christ on those days we doubt, is pretty satisfying to me as I put one foot in front of the other, pressing on toward the goal.



Shelly

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Steadfast



In a little crack in our sidewalk, jutting out between the stones, sits this errant flower. A snapdragon that I didn't plant.

Two years ago I planted snapdragons in my yard. Two years ago we enjoyed their cheerful greeting as we entered our house.

I'm fickle, so last year I chose a different type of flower to grace our entry. And this year, another.

But this crazy snapdragon won't give up. It sprouted between the rocks last year, and I didn't have the heart to pull it out. Then again, this year it showed up, peeking out from its winter hiding place.

Yes, it looks strange. Yes, it is out of place. But I can't let it go, because every time I walk past that little flower I think of words of scripture. Words that God tells me to be: steadfast, immoveable, rooted and grounded in love.

This little flower that seems so out of place is firmly planted, not giving up, weathering the winter storms and gracing us again with life.

So if you come visit me and wonder why on earth there is one little snapdragon jutting out between the stones, you'll know that it's just a reminder to myself: be steadfast.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

Shelly

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: Life in Defiance


Who did it? Who killed Daisy Chance?

If you read my earlier review of Mary DeMuth’s A Slow Burn, you know that I have really enjoyed this trilogy. Not because it presents life in an unrealistic way. Not because it ties everything up with a bow. Quite the opposite.

This series can be tough to read. The characters are so real you feel like you could reach out and touch them. The tragedy so thick you feel like you’re wading through the sorrow until the end.

But isn’t that life sometimes? Life can be tragic, and the people we know suffer. And that’s what I appreciate about Mary’s writing—she’s not afraid to tackle the yucky stuff of life. And yet, through the tragedy and through the suffering, Mary points us clearly to hope.

Yes, you’ll find out in this final book who did it. You’ll find out the name of Daisy’s killer. But, in a way, that’s all secondary because the characters who really matter, the ones we really care about, find their way. They find hope. They find courage. They find redemption.

If you haven’t read Daisy Chain or A Slow Burn first, this book probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you, so get the first two and read them in order. But make sure you finish up with Life in Defiance because here is where you’ll find the ultimate conclusion.

Shelly

Ready for Change?

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange changes.

The lyrics to David Bowie’s famous song have been ringing in my head these past few days since there are just a couple of changes going on around here.



Coming home from the last graduation party yesterday, realizing that this group of kids will never be together again, has left me just a bit melancholy. And so the lyrics ring.

Changes.

Wondering what will happen in the future. Excited, yes, but still . . . wondering.

Turn.

Watching one pack up her things to leave for the summer. Very strange, indeed.



And face . . .

Getting one ready to go forever. Sure, she’ll be back, but things will be different.

. . . the strange changes.

I’ve never been good with change. Just ask my husband. I’ve never lived outside of this state. I’ve never even lived more than 60 miles from where I grew up.

For me, change signals danger somehow. Fear. Uneasiness. I truly admire those who can face change with excitement, anticipation even.

Me? Not so much.

And yet, here it is. Probably the summer of some of the biggest changes in our family’s life so far. I’m not dreading it, but I’m not excited about it either.

I guess you’d say I’m just very aware of it.

So I’m turning and facing the changes.

How about you? How do you handle change? Any tips for this mom?

Shelly

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hockey, Anyone?

I promise, this will be the last time I mention hockey for, oh, about three months.

But did you happen to hear who won the Stanley Cup last week?

I know, I know, it's kind of obnoxious to rub it in the face of my friends from Philly (of whom I may have one or two), but if you've ever lived in Chicago you would understand that we don't win much around here. I mean, the Cubs have been waiting for something like 100 years for a World Series win, so come on, you've got to let us have our day of celebration.

They just don't come around very often in these parts.

So, on Friday, celebrate we did. With two million of our closest friends.

We took the train into the city for the festivities, leaving home around 7 a.m. Hey, after investing all that time watching about 80 games this year, we felt we should be there.

This was what we saw as soon as we left the station.


Two of my favorite hockey fans.

Maggie is the one on the left. Have I mentioned that she's a HUGE Blackhawks fan? She is. She even got to sit in the Blackhawks management box on her birthday this year.

HUGE, I'm telling you!

Then there were these knuckleheads hanging off a balcony waaaaay up high.


Me and my favorite fan. Doesn't she look happy?


After about two hours of waiting in the hot, hot sun, the busses finally rolled by. The players were just a little excited.


(Yes, we were kind of far away, but that's because Maggie and I wanted to stand on the steps of Millennium Park so we could see the busses roll down Washington Street and make the turn up Michigan Avenue.)

There it is! Sorry about the blurry picture, but like I said, we were pretty far away.


After the busses came by, the crowds moved in. Check out this mass of humanity that filled the streets. Every inch of space was taken up--it was CRAZY!!


As I said, the day was hot. Really hot. And humid.

But I ask you, was this necessary? Really? Come on.


Shelly

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Today I just feel like shouting "Help me!" to all of you.

I am still recovering from our big graduation weekend which, by the way, was TONS of fun. Family came from all over the country to help, and believe me, they helped. Especially when the skies opened up about 15 minutes before the big party, dumping a huge amount of rain in just a few minutes. Everyone pitched in, wiping down tables and chairs, throwing tablecloths in the dryer, setting up food. It was amazing.

(That's me with the graduate right before the party.)

As soon as the last guests left my house yesterday, I headed off to jury duty. Not much to say about that other than as much as I love me some HGTV, five hours straight of it in a room full of strangers made me want to paint my walls black and curl up in a corner and cry. By about 10 a.m. I thought I would die of boredom right then and there in the jury waiting room, but by 2 p.m. there was almost going to be trouble. Thankfully, around 2:15, they announced that none of us prisoners potential jurors would be needed that day and we could go home.

I was hoping to get some good blog fodder out of my experience, but other than listening to the very, very sick woman across the room cough all day, and watching people sleep or read, there wasn't much to write home about. All in all, jury duty was a bust. But stay tuned . . . they could call me up again in a year.

Today I'm just trying to find myself in the laundry. Another not-so-fun activity to blog about.

Other than that, I got nothin'. Nothin' at all. My brain is tired, even at the beginning of summer, and I got nothin' to blog about.

So, I'm in desperate need of help. What would you like me to write about in the next couple of weeks? I am behind on a couple of book reviews, so you'll probably see those, but aside from that, it's anybody's guess as to what I'm going to say.

Ideas, people! I need ideas! Help a girl out and give me something to do.

And in the meantime, read this. I was going to blog about the umpire who blew the perfect game last week, but time got away from me and it didn't happen. And then I read this article by Peggy Noonan and, well, she just says it so much better than I would have anyway. (Just in case you didn't know, Peggy is my writing idol. That woman can turn a phrase like none other. And make it seem effortless in the process. *sigh*)

So go read Peggy's article.

And then come back and tell me what you'd like to hear about from me this summer.

Thanks!

Shelly

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And We'll Have Fun, Fun, Fun!!!

Usually on the first full day of summer we plan to have fun.

Zoo trip? Sure!

Downtown? You bet!

Head to the pool? Absolutely!

Jury duty? Ah, . . . no.

My kids have been trickling out of school this year. One finished two weeks ago. One finished last week. One finished yesterday. So today is the first day that we could sleep in, have fun, do whatever we want.

Except for me. Because I'm a productive citizen, and I've been called to do my duty.

I wanted to spend some time writing this week, but since laptops and cell phones are not permitted, I guess I'll have to bring a notepad and do it the old fashioned way. Maybe I'll get more done without the distraction of blogs and Facebook.

Hopefully I'll be back from time to time this week. I'll try to check in as I can.

But in the meantime, I'd love to hear YOUR stories from jury duty since I've never done this before. What am I in for??

Shelly

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Graduation Day

Dear Kate,

I couldn’t find a card that would say everything I want to say to you on your graduation day, so I thought I’d be my usual verbose self and write you a letter. What can I say? It’s what I do.

Today’s the day. Not the day you’ve been waiting for your whole life—I wouldn’t presume that the day of your high school graduation is “it” for you—but it is a fairly significant day.

Today marks a change for you. It’s a day that signifies leaving one part of your life behind and looking forward to new adventures and new challenges.

Today is the day you’ve prepared for, and I know you’re ready. As your mom, I could not be more proud of the young woman I see before me. She is beautiful. She is strong. She is ready.

I’m not going to write to you about what’s gone. It’s been a great 18 years, and we often reflect and laugh together about your days in our family. And it’s not like you’re leaving our family—you never will. You will always be a part of us, Kate.

No, today I’m going to write to you about what’s ahead, both for you and for the world you’re entering because if there is one thing I know with all my heart it is that you are going to make a difference. And the way you will best make a difference is to be exceptional.

So, be exceptional.

Be exceptional, not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are.

When you were younger I encouraged you to NOT be known as the “smart girl” or the “basketball player” or the “tall girl” (not that you could help that!) I didn’t want those things to define you. I wanted, instead, for you to strive to be known as Kate W., the “kind girl” or “the girl who really loves Jesus.”

There are lots and lots of smart people out there. You’re one of them, as the cords around your neck today will signify. There are a lot of outstanding athletes out there too. The world has plenty of rich people and influential people and successful people. Musicians, businessmen and women, politicians.

Being exceptional has nothing to do with status or money or the type of job you hold. Being exceptional means taking everything God has given you—every gift, every talent, every opportunity—and using it for His glory and to lift up those around you.

Believe me, there are many “exceptional” people out there by the world’s standards, but there aren’t many people like you. Because there aren’t many who know the authors of nearly every childrens’ book series and who will enthusiastically share their recommendations with the kids at the library.

There aren’t many who will notice when a friend is hurting.

And there aren’t many people who will take the time to look a little boy named Ulysses right in the eye and tell him that he’s special and show him by spending time with him that he’s loved.

There’s only one you, Kate, and only you can love the way you do. So use that gift, and all the gifts you’ve been given, to promote the wellbeing of others. Use your “smart brain” as we always say, not for your own gain, but for the benefit of those around you so that you leave this world a little bit better than when you started, just because you were here.

And that’s what I want you to do. Love. Live a life that is marked by love so that everyone around you will be drawn to you because of what’s inside.

The Ulysses’ of this world need you.

You can do this because your dad and I believe in you. You will always have our support. You will always have our love.

So, off you go, dear girl, into a world that needs exceptional people just like you. You are going to do great!

Love,

Mom


Shelly

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Quick Hello

Hi there! Remember me? I hope so.

I've been juuuust a little bit busy with one child graduating from high school tomorrow and twelve people inhabiting my house for the weekend.

And then there's the little matter of some crossed signals and just a couple hundred people coming to a graduation party. Which is going to be great. And fun. And uplifting to my daughter (I hope).

But all this means that blogging is going by the wayside this week.

Come back tomorrow, though, for a special little something. And, hopefully, next week I'll be back in full force.

. . . Unless I get called for jury duty . . . which has a very real possibility of happening. Stay tuned!

Shelly