tom and i took the kids to highlands, north carolina. some of our generous family have a home in the mountains and blessed us with this opportunity to get away. i've been filled with mixed emotions; the time together is wonderful and yet the reason we are here is painful. wyatt and cassidy are such fun, beautiful, smart children is a gift, which makes it hard to think about what our family would look like with zeke. i'm constantly healing every day, but sometimes it feels like i'm not making any progress at all.
*thanks to maas for letting us borrow her camera.


have you ever thought about how hard it is to honestly answer the question, "how are you"? regardless of your situation right now, whether life is going good or rough, if someone asks you this question do you answer it honestly?

these last two weeks i think people have avoided this question with us. and rightly so. when people do ask i try to gauge the situation. if we are on the phone and i can tell this isn't meant to lead to in-depth conversation i answer, "i'm okay". but if someone is sitting on my couch and asking me this and i think they're really interested then i'll tell them.

some moments i'm not sad. and this is a weird feeling. shouldn't i be crying? shouldn't i be in bed, unable to face the day? but anyone who has been in a similar situation knows, with a husband, two small children and a community to be a part of, i can't hole up and cut myself off from the day. i have to participate at some level. so to look at me, say at sam and cassie's wedding, you might not know what's really going on.

but there's more.

we took the crib and changing table out of the baby's room last week. when i put stuff away in his room it was too hard to see where he slept. we leave the door shut to his room anyway, but somehow not seeing the crib makes it easier.

the cards came in a flurry the first two weeks, people sending their prayers and love. in some way it made the day better, knowing people were thinking about us, taking a little time out to let us know they care. the cards are slowing down and it's a reminder that people go on in their normal routines for the most part, experiencing small moments of sadness and then back to life.

we experience sadness every day. i'll speak from my experience over the last two and a half weeks. there's an overlying feeling of sadness, almost emptiness. waking up in the morning, taking a shower, being alone with nothing to do, these times create spaces for the sadness to come in, to remind me that my life hasn't gone on. that something has happened to my dreams and plans. i'm praying that at some point i'll be able to accept this change, to live with it.

but for now, if i have a conversation longer than ten minutes i know it will come up, missing zeke, wondering what the Lord is doing with this time of grief and emptiness, speculating on what could have been. be prepared, if you ask me how i'm doing, you might just get tears.


Zeke became uncommonly fussy on August 23th and we took him to the hospital to find he had an infection spreading throughout his body. After several horrible hours and a transfer to Children's Mercy Hospital, Zeke died early Monday morning. We know that G0d is in control and are trusting that He will be with us in our pain. We are grieved beyond words and would appreciate your prayers.


he's here! ezekiel "zeke" john. he came friday august 14th at 11.26pm. i went in friday evening because of a fever and headache and the doctor decided to break my water and get things going. it was a great labor (if that's possible) and by the time he came he was healthy and my fever was gone. when the doctor said, "oh he's big" i thought, not really. yup, 9 lbs 2 oz big. i had no idea and i'm thankful; he didn't seem any bigger than the other two kids who weren't more than 7 and a half pounds. we struggled with the fever some through the weekend, but we're doing well now and he's fitting in great with our family. he's following in wyatt and cassie's footsteps: he sleeps and eats like a champ. i am thankful.
we had great help from family and aunt rachie watched wyatt and cass all weekend so we could take care of our new little one. they were so excited to be with her and i'm sorry to say they will miss her terribly. i'm no substitute for her, but hopefully i can work my way back. they are very excited about their brother, touching him and kissing him. wyatt tells him, "it's okay, baby bruder" when he cries and cassie tries to give him his pacifier all the time. i think it's going to be a great transition to three kids.
we're really thankful he's here for so many reasons. he came just before the 14th ended, meaning he was born on aunt lauren's birthday. we are so glad they are birthday buddies, i know it will be a special bond. and he was born on sabbath and it really did mean i could rest, even if it wasn't sleep. and since he's an august baby we will get to celebrate my mom and aunt's birthday with him, as well as harrison's. plus, if he had been in there one more week he would have been even bigger! so many other reasons to celebrate, but that's it for now. once i get a battery that works for my camera i will post more pictures. in the meantime, here are a few from big cassie, who was smart enough to bring a camera (good work cass!)
the garden is growing and so am i. i have approximately 7 weeks left and the baby keeps getting bigger. no, he does not have a name yet. he's moving a lot these last weeks and our last diagnosis was that he is head down. i pray he stays this way.

as for the garden, i went out the other day to find two of my cucumber plants completely wilted. this is a sad occassion, especially as one of the wilted plants had my first big cucumber on it. i did some research and i found this:

cucumber beetles. these beetles spread something called bacterial wilt of cucurbits. i saw one today but he got away before i could smash him to bits. i am angry. so i sprayed all of my plants with a little soapy water and prayed that everything would continue on in good health. the good news is these guys don't usually affect watermelon plants, so the new flowers that arrived this week should turn into melons.

the cherry tomatoes are ripening and the plants keep getting taller and throwing off more fruit. the regular tomato plants have outgrown me. even the peppers, which had a late showing last year, are producing fruit that is almost ready to eat.

susan replanted her peas and did a section of radishes and they are all sticking their heads up. she covered them with some wire and we're hoping the rabbits, or whoever it was, can't get at them this time.

i guess you could say we are currently on the offensive in the garden, ever since the attack against the peas. don't mess with us!


my big brother celebrates his birthday today. i've always looked up to him and adored him and now my kids do too. (check out wyatt's shiner. he and noah had a head-on collision today while playing with water guns. i guess guns really are dangerous.)


i wasn't worried about turning 30. in fact, i wasn't thinking about it very much, except for when people would bring it up. i left my 20's behind with satisfaction: i graduated from college, i married my ideal man, i got a dog (she has an asterisk by her name currently, but that's a story for some other time), i bought a home with said wonderful husband, i birthed a healthy little boy and then right after that, in quick fashion, birthed a little girl. and as i said adieu to my 20's i felt satisfied knowing my next decade would be just as great. another little boy is on his way and who knows what other adventure there will be.

so i was feeling pretty good about this day, praying that all the jokes about surprise parties were just jokes and that it would be a fairly uneventful day. if tom wanted to spoil me a little that would be fine, but nothing outrageous. when he started getting the kids ready in the morning i thought nothing of it; he does that most mornings anyway. but then i heard him say we had to be somewhere by 9. that had me a little worried. i knew breakfast would be involved -- being 6 months pregnant food is always a center point. so i wondered, where would we have to go at such a specific time? then i saw paul and lauren's car drive by, shortly before 9, and my curiosity grew. once we got in the car and headed down the road my mind raced. it wasn't until we turned onto the frontage road that i knew, and my heart sank a little. krispy kreme.

i like donuts. they're delicious. in fact, that's where we went for mother's day. but a repeat breakfast, and so quickly after mom's day? bummer. we pulled into the maze of a parking lot, and there they were. i saw paul first, but then the rest of my family appeared in the windows and i started to lose it. it was a good surprise, and i had been fooled. as i walked through the doors embarassment washed over me, but i was glad to see it was only family, not everyone i had ever met as lauren and tom joked.
the shock carried on as they presented me with a large poster filled with pictures. for my 30th birthday my family was sending me on a vacation.
in october my mother-in-law took all of her daughters to a place called big cedar lodge outside of branson, missouri. this place looks nothing like the glitzy strip of hillbilly vegas. instead it reminds me of the trail through the buffalo where tom proposed. it's full of trees and water and all the flowers you could dream of.
four days at big cedar sounded like the perfect gift. then i found out that tom and i were leaving, without the kids, in a week, and i was ecstactic. i didn't have to wait around to enjoy this gift, i would get to leave as quickly as i could get my house in order. it should be no surprise that i cried. this was the ideal gift. better than a wooden cutting board or a rain barrel. perfect. wonderful. vacation. top it all off with the fact that tom and i have not had a night away just the two of us since i was pregnant with wyatt, and i am one blessed girl in her thirties. or should i say woman? either way i'm off to a good start.


there's too much to write about right now, but i do have photos to show you that i haven't just been sitting around getting bigger and bigger by the minute. well, i am bigger... but pop landscaped our front yard, gigi recovered our couch, susan and i planted a vegetable garden and blackberry bush, we started getting fresh produce from a local farm, i turned 30 and tom and i are taking a vacation! these are all blogable things and they will make appearances, but for now, take a gander:the blackberry bush is in full sun in the backyard in a fairly yuma-safe position. it has flowers that will be berries, however few, this july.
the cucumber plants are flowering and getting some little baby cumbers on them!
the cucumber bed with the fancy soaker hose. no more hauling the house around the house. it's hard enough to move that thing around at 6 months pregnant, i can't imagine what it would be like at 9. now i just flip the switch and viola!
tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and peas. check back soon for a pea update as these things are growing fast!
pop's remarkable hard work and great eye laid out some beautiful stuff in our yard: astilbes, azaleas, hostas, grasses. tom is very pleased that the holly bush is gone. i'm glad to have a little bit of color and diversity in there. and no more ground cover!

we are planning to pave out this little section in front of the window and hostas and then we can put some chairs our front. the kids are loving their bikes and playing outside so this would be a nice convenient place to sit. check out those giant hostas!
some tidbits:
rock stars ready for abbie's 5th birthday party. both kids are wearing jeans that tom bought at thrift stores before we ever met.
skipping a nap can be dangerous for the kids. when the whole family ran out to pick up a pizza cass didn't last the 15 minute drive and ended up being transferred to the couch. she's a stylish, hard-working girl, and already multi-tasks at age 2. the question is, who models this phone talking?

and just to add depth, i read this verse today and it sums up so much of the journey (the whole chapter really does...) john 15:7 - "If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then asks whatever you want, and it will happen for you."

keep on keepin' on.


i wish my house was starchy clean. i have enough trouble making sure the kids have shirts without stains and tom has underwear, scrubbing the floors seems laughable. but last night i cleaned our bathroom and threw out so much junk: old hair bands, earrings i've had since i had my ears pierced over a decade ago, mascara from last year, lotion that i never liked the smell of in the first place. i scrubbed the flor and toilet. reorganized my jewelry. it felt so good. the only drawback is it took so much time and energy and it is such a small space i don't feel like i accomplished much. i want every corner to be clutterless and free of dog hair. will this ever come true for me?

maybe i should stop blogging and start cleaning...


10 Lessons from the Kitchen (as I write this I'm browning meat for tacos)

Throughout my years of cooking, which really started in college, I've taken a lot from other people. There's the obvious recipes from Mom that I make continually, the tacos and chili and chocolate chip cookies that are standards and get requests from most people who dine at my table. My dad is a solid go-to guy when it comes to recommendations for fancier meals and details. But I also learned a trick here and there from friends. I distinctly remember standing in my kitchen in Manhattan, Kansas with Matt, making dinner. He spent some time working in the kitchen of a bar-b-que restaurant and showed me how to bend my knuckles toward the blade of a knife so as to not cut off my fingertips. By watching my friend Leah make breakfast one morning I learned the speediest way to chop onions and the like is to keep the
point of the knife on the cutting board. My sister Rachel just recently gave me instructions for hard boiled eggs that are easy to peel. Boil for 16 minutes and then soak them in ice water. It worked and now making stuffed eggs isn't painful.

These are all things I probably could have learned from watching a cooking show or reading a food magazine. Since we don't have cable and my subscriptions are limited to Patagonia catalogs and coffee association magazines, I have to get my food knowledge from the people who surround me. My father-in-law, a man who is helpful in the kitchen if not really a cook himself, taught me one of the best tips for cooking and living. When he buys grapes he takes off all of the stems and rinses the grapes and puts them in a container. They are always ready to be eaten just as soon as you open the refrigerator. This is probably something he did when the kids were little and he wanted to make sure they could get a snack themselves. But this little trick spills over into all aspects of life, especially as a wife, mother and hostess.

2. Take whatever time I have now to prepare for what's coming up next.

If I pack up my bag with diapers, wipes, snacks and kleenex before the kids get up and we have to rush out of the door, the kids will be happier and I will be less stressed. That's the day-in and day-out example. As it applies to life in general, or for life without the time constraints of children, it means getting a calendar and keeping track of dates. Or contacting people in advance of needing something accomplished. My sister-in-law sent me an e-mail just the other day about a family event happening in May and the plans and gifts that needed to be taken care of because of this get together. Now I don't have to run around in a panic because something that should have been taken care of weeks ago won't get finished.

I suppose I realized this tip as I was plucking grapes myself and thinking about Passover. I sent out an email in February about the holiday and began making preparations for it at that time. But the discussions on the actual gathering of people didn't happen until two weeks before the first night of Passover and the stress quickly grew. Who would bring the sides? Who is eating at our home? What time is the seder starting? All of these details began to bog down the excitement of the event until all at once the pieces came together. As I set my table the afternoon before the celebration I realized if I could take care of all the details myself things would get done faster. The reality is, however, that I need other people to participate too. Which leads to...

3. It's okay to ask for help.


today we had a fun adventure. after dropping noah and lauren off at the airport for their weekend trip to chicago, wyatt, cass and i headed over to big cassie's house in linwood. she lives out on a gravel road surrounded by fields and animals. after getting a tour of her beautiful home we moved out to feed the chickens. wyatt liked tossing the bread but cassie had to fight off libby, the 15 year old, blind and deaf dog. bread is a hot commodity and even wyatt wanted to eat some. good old fashioned white bread.

then we moved on to the pond where we went out on the dock and then cassie caught a little frog. wyatt gave him a little touch but baby cass was hesitant from here on out. we walked up to the field to find the horses. big cassie warned us they weren't the friendliest horses and they might not want to get too close, but as soon as they saw us coming they mosied over. and then they wouldn't leave us alone. big cass held wyatt and he braved the large beasts with their hot breath, but i think baby cass was aftraid they were going to eat her. she kept saying, "oh no" and was on the verge of tears several times. she's usually pretty brave, but these animals were too much for her.

when we made our way back to the house for some snacks she was a bit more comfortable with the "meow", wicket the cat. te cat was pretty friendly and wyatt liked petting her but even with big cassie holding wicket baby cassie did want to pet her. as soon as she ran off cassie surprisingly became interested and the kids spent a while chasing and then losing the cat in the house. we went back outside and drove down the road to see the cows. there were a lot of mamas and babies out but they weren't friendly like the horses and mooved when we approached them. we carefully made our way through the cow patties and back to the car, where the kids started to show their tiredness. we gathered our things and headed out the door, but i thankfully remembered that big cassie had her wedding dress. we went back in and i explained in some sort of kid-friendly fashion that sam and cassie were going to get married and live together like me and papa. big cass not only showed us the dress but put it on and she looked gorgeous. it was a funny switch from her tank top and tube socks but we're sure sam is going to tear up when he sees her walk down the aisle.

thanks big cassie for a great morning! we'll be back out for more horsin' around!


a quick update for anyone interested: the kids are both sleeping at night in the bunk beds and doing quite well. i usually only go in once, sometimes not at all. wyatt isn't quite sure how to feel about sharing a room with his little sister, but i think he secretly likes it. this morning he was hollering that he was hungry so i went in and he was sitting on her bed. she was still laying down with her thumb in her mouth and her blanky in her hand. it's safe to say he woke her up.

there's a drawback to the new sleeping arrangement: they may not be getting all the sleep they need. the combination of late night festivities (birthdays, ball games) keeps us out late, and then when one of them wakes up the other wakes up too. however, there's even an upside to this -- they are taking longer naps, in seperate rooms. the last four days they have both taken naps at least three hours long. this is something i can handle. and if the sun is out when the kids wake me up in the morning-- either hollering about starvation or standing next to my bed telling me about their poopy diapers -- then i feel like i can face the day, and look forward to a quiet afternoon.
last night was a little rough, but after several reprimands i wore them out and they fell asleep in their beds. the problem? twofold: first, cassie is excited about this new arrangement and wants to play in secret with her big brother. wyatt was happy to go along with her, which rather surprised me. second, i might have put them to bed too early. they were still pretty wound up and weren't ready to lay down.

i learned my lesson and tonight i held them off till i could see the sleep rolling in. how many times have i gone back in? once. that's right, just once and that was because wyatt wanted me to turn the closet light on. since he's up high he doesn't get as much light (for book reading and calm playing) so i usually turn this on for him. this was part of the problem (and part of the solution) last night. too much light for little cass. tonight when i left i turned off the closet light and left on only a little nightlight. that seemed to work till he hollered "mama" and asked me to turn the light on. since cassie was still in her bed curled up i decided to oblige him. seems like an okay decision: they are quiet and i'm loving it.


currently the kids are like giant raisins; they've been in the tub for over an hour and still loving it. who am i to take them out and ruin their happiness? we survived one of the busiest holiday weeks of our lives, with two passover meals and two easter meals combined with tom's birthday. with all of the great family in town we were especially busy, but very blessed. in the midst of it all we got some of the best sleep we've had in years. rachel took the kids overnight on friday so we went to bed at a reasonable time and when 9:30AM came we were BOTH still in bed! and in the midst of recupperation for all of us on sunday afternoon the kids slept for three and half hours and we helped ourselves to a giant sized nap as well.

but the most interesting experience in sleep happened saturday night at mima and pop's (deann and mike's). cassie decided she was finished with sleeping in pack-n-plays, even though she slept in one the previous night. she crawled out of two different pack-n-plays, debating on where she wanted to sleep. eventually we laid her down next to wyatt in the big queen-sized bed and after a little correction and wyatt's reassurance ("it's ok cassie, lay down") the two of them fell asleep side by side.

the next night she wandered into wyatt's room and sat down on the lower bunk and before too long we had convinced her to sleep in the new pink bed. she is officially a big girl, sleeping in the crib for naps only and staying in her bed at night. this morning when they both woke up wyatt turned off the noise machine and the heater, opened their door, closed our door (so cassie wouldn't come in and wake us up, wyatt told us) and they played together for a half hour before tom decided he'd had enough sleep. it was a gift, to be sure. we will see how it goes tonight, but we're praying for a repeat. next step, getting their own breakfast.


it's been quite a week. tom took sick last thursday and it's a been a string of illness that hasn't left yet. i took wyatt to the doctor on tuesday because he was struggling with a fever, runny nose, watery eyes and a dry cough. lungs: clear. ears: clear. nose: influenza. he was such a big boy at the doctor's office, answering all the questions directly and taking deep breaths when they listened to his lungs. i was really proud. don't get me wrong, a week of being stuck in the house has made me less compassionate and patient than i'd like to be, but we're surviving.

the biggest struggle i've had with him is his sleeping bag. abbie (via james) gave him this cool camo sleeping bag for his birthday. he sleeps in it every night. but with the fever he really shouldn't sleep in something so thick. try telling him that. he screams, he cries, he coughs. then he asks you to zip him up. every night, "zip me up!" (he wants this every night, not just when he's sick) i have to sneak in later and unzip the bag, throw it off of his very sweaty body quickly and quietly, and then put a sheet on top of him. tonight i did it when he was semi-coherent. it didn't matter, he went back to sleep and then later called for a drink. i went in, assisted him in his drinking and then he said something to the effect of "zip me up". tuck me in, maybe. cover me up, perhaps. whatever it was didn't matter. without hesitation i made sure the sheet was spread all over him and began to tuck it in under his sides. as i pulled up the sheet around his neck he said, "thank you".

i'm praying for a night of few coughs and no screams. he's had a rough go, poor little man. we're thankful he's not throwing up all over and instead is just a mopey mess. tonight he laid on the couch while tom read his book about an israeli spy and every now and again wyatt would say, "what happened now, papa?" tom would summarize in a g-rated way the last few pages and wyatt was content. he likes the idea of armies and fighting, he's a boy. however this is the book that has the actual picture of the spy as he was hung by the syrians. not quite 3 year old material.

he laid there a long time, happy to be under the covers, curled up next to his papa. it's nice to have him be such a cuddle bug, but i'm finished wiping noses and listening to an unproductive cough. i miss the fighting over toys and jumping on the bed. most of all i miss a good night of sleep. but i guess i was already getting kind of used to that anyway.


this one is long, but stick with me...

at the beginning of the year tom made a phone call that effected our whole household, including brooks. we spent many months weathering the storm, trying to manage on our own, when finally he had had enough. i'm not even sure i knew what he was doing, but i am so thankful he made the executive decision. he called the new management at deffenbaugh and asked them if they would pick up our recycling even though we don't use them to pick up our trash. we had been rejected in the past, but tom was willing to give the new ownership a chance to make things right.

we live in merriam, not overland park, and therefore we have the freedom to choose what company we use to pick up our trash. after a few run-ins with the deffenbaugh service men (foul language was used and it almost came to blows) we looked into our other options. most people in the area use the monopolizing company but we noticed a few cans around the neighborhood displaying the simple name "A-1". they were nice big, green, trash cans. clean looking, even for containers of waste. we gave them a call and found that the price was the same, for all intents and purposes, and since the switch we have not been disappointed.

perhaps i've blogged about our local company, our trash man in particular. he's a younger guy who mostly works solo driving the nice white truck around. even the vehicle seems better, i've never noticed it spewing black toxins into the air. the most significant part of the switch, at the time at least, was the personality differences. deffenbaugh workers toss the trash into the back of the truck willy-nilly and don't mind if some of the waste falls on the ground. they assume the homeowner will come out later and pick up the trash that the trash men left. our guy (i wish i could remember his name. kevin, maybe?) "kevin" we'll call him, always picks up trash that gets scattered, although this rarely happens because his truck has the handy claw that lifts the whole can into the truck to optimize dumping. so what, he's a thorough trash man. no, there's more.

we've been using A-1 for at least two, maybe three years. as soon as wyatt was old enough to look out the front windows he would run to see this guy do his job every wednesday morning. and "kevin" would look over to the front windows and wave. that's right, wave and smile at little mesmerized wyatt. it took a long time but wyatt eventually starting waving back.

i'll admit, i'm partial to the mom-n-pop businesses out there, and A-1 is just one of them. i leave goodies out on the trash can for "kevin"; cookies or candy, just something to let him know that his is not a completely thankless job. i leave the same stuff out for postman tom, but he's exceptionally nice too. (i could post about him, he actually plays with yuma. a mailman who is not afraid of dogs.)

but here's where we hit a snag. A-1 does not recycle. since they're so small it's just not in their abilities. so being responsible citizens we stockpiled our recyclables in our garage, being careful to sort them accordingly. plastics, glass, paperboard, newspapers. it quickly became a nightmare, especially when were getting the newspaper EVERY DAY. imagine it, if you can, our one car garage filled with plastic tubs containing trash. yum. the only time it really felt great and worthwhile was when i would pile the 4-runner with the tubs (front seat full, back hatch loaded, bins at the feet of the kids and in between their seats) and we'd haul it off to the center. then wyatt (cass was usually asleep, or occupied with food) would get out and help me dump it in the giant trash cans. this is what it was about, preserving our God-given creation so that wyatt and many generations after him could enjoy it. it's what kept me going, forced me to break down every butter box and yogart tub. and as the kids started singing songs i found one that rolls off their tongues -- jack johnson's "reduce, reuse, recycle." no lie.

and now i feel spoiled because everyday i use something that can be recycled i open up my door to the garage and toss it into this nice green rectangular container. that's right, deffenbaugh has decided that they will pick up our recycling even if we don't use their trash service. and all this luxury for a minimal fee, less than driving to the recycling center 20 minutes away. not to mention the stockpiling. now when i recycle it's a moment of true satisfaction instead of a labor of love. and i find i'm recycling more. i don't debate if it's really worth breaking down the tiny instant pudding box. it's two seconds of my time and one less thing in the landfill.

this last month we started getting the paper again. i read an article about recycling and the percentages of waste that go into landfills that can actually be recycled. the article states, "In 2007, the EPA says, Americans produced 254.1 million tons of household trash." what bothered me the most was that by weight 32.7% of that was paper and paperboard. that's packaging, people. cereal boxes, tissue boxes, newspapers, diaper boxes. this is stuff that doesn't even require you to rinse it out. it's the cleanest trash you have. and yet 1/3 of our trash comes from these easy-to-recycle items. it's not like it's glass. you have to hunt down places to take your empty glass bottles. it's not plastic, which usually means it contained something that needs to be washed out so you don't get that icky leftover smell. it's paper. so i keep breaking down and rinsing out in that hopes that maybe one day as wyatt's driving north to the airport he won't be disgusted by the trash that's seeping into the river. maybe.

to read the article click here:


woody allen's "zelig" was not as story driven as i was hoping. or maybe i was just really tired. i actually fell asleep during this movie which means i was exhausted or it wasn't "annie hall". either way i say pass on this one till you've watched everything else. it was filmed like a documentary about a man who transforms, physically, into the people he is with --but only men. with women he's quite charming. when he's hanging out with very overweight men, he turns into an overweight man. he talks with orthodox jews and he grows a beard and he's suddenly wearing black and white. with the chinese he turns into a chinese man. it gets slightly more complicated, but i fell asleep during that part and don't remember much after. there are cameos (of course) by famous people, susan sontag, saul bellow and even charlie chaplan and al capone make appearances. it's creative in a woody allen way, but i still prefer more than one main character with a giant neurosis.

the funniest and yet bothersome part of the movie comes from figuring out why he transforms into these people. mia farrow, as his analyst, discovers it was a defense mechanism from childhood. as a jew he faced a lot of anti-semitism from neighborhood kids and adults. it turns out even his parents blamed him for the anti-semitism. i guess "zelig" is the ultimate expression of assimilation.


An envelope came in the mail about six months ago containing a handwritten note and an article from a magazine. It was an assignment, a writing assignment, something I haven't had in over 6 years: Come up with ten things I’ve learned from being a cook, or cooker, as Wyatt would call me (a good cooker, to be exact). Here’s the first installment of what I’m calling:

10 Lessons from the Kitchen

1. Enjoy the simple things
Tom likes to tell the story about coming home from work one day to find his small son playing with the cheese grater. I'm convinced he finds this funnier than everyone else does, but the truth is, I love my kitchen and all the things I get to play with while I cook. I used to keep the metal, tent-like cheese grater in the bottom pull-out cupboard. At the time this was right at Wyatt's eye level and he would open the doors and pull out the pots and pans and lids. And the grater. Looking back on it, I realize this was not the safest thing in the kitchen for him to play with. It also wasn't the most dangerous. And he never got hurt walking around with it. In fact, I've gotten more hurt grating parmesan cheese with it than Wyatt ever did carrying it around. The cheese grater is actually one of my prized tools in the kitchen. I tend to overdo it on the cheese because, honestly, cheese makes everything better.

Just like the grater, and the cheese that goes into meals, it’s sometimes the uncomplicated things in life that are easiest to enjoy. The kids love playing in the bathtub with old plastic bottles and bubbles. A plain bagel with cream cheese brings me so much satisfaction I could eat one every day. Saying “I love you” to Tom at random times makes him stop and smile so big you’d think I gave him $100.

When I go to Target or some large store that seems to have everything under the sun, I can wander the aisles all day, or at least as long as the kids will let me. Ooh, a bread machine. Cute dresses for spring. And look at all that food. When we get to the toy section the kids get goo-goo eyes and dream about how great their lives would be if only they could have these things. “Maybe I can get that” Wyatt says over and over. And “Baby!” Cassie cries as we go down the pink aisle. I refrain from buying these things for several reasons, but I’m reminded of the most important one when I get home. They love their toys, things they play with every day and things they’ve forgotten they even have. With the sun shining even more these days they spend hours outside, playing in the dirt, riding bikes, shoveling sand around with their buckets and scoops. They forget the toy aisle and all its grandeur and I head to the kitchen and pull out my cheese grater to start dinner.


supper time can be so funny.

tonight i made veggie burritos and cheese quesadillas for the kids. i told wyatt what his food was called and then he told me, pointing to cassie's plate, "it's a cassie-dilla!" no lie. i have never said that before. it may be his first real joke.

at one point tom asked, "who's tooting?" since there were mysterious noises coming from the other end of the table. wyatt was quick to point the blame and his accusation proved correct as cassie let out THE LONGEST toot in the world. can it even be called a toot at that point? it was a record-breaking fart. and she thought it was hilarious. okay, we all thought it was hilarious.

ahh, the joys of supper. good thing i didn't give her any beans.
things i've discovered in the last week or so:

the kids prefer to have their photos taken together, standing side by side.

transfering cassie into wyatt's room, in an uncontaining bed, my prove to be the biggest adventure of our lives.

cassie has developed her verbal skills quite rapidly, yet she still lacks the physical growth that we saw in wyatt at her age. it just goes to show you that their brains focus on either the physical or verbal world. wyatt didn't communicate like cass does at 2, but he could climb up on the bed and jump like a monkey.

if the first day of spring doesn't really show up on friday i will scream.

i enjoy wyatt's thomas the train track as much as he does. well, maybe not quite as much, but really love the challenge of the making it fit with the switches and the super awesome train-wash.

when you're 2 and 3, nothing beats being naked. no matter what the situation it always makes them happy.

i have a boy and i have a girl. the gender differences, though blurred at times, are quite apparent in our daily lives. it's so fun.


sleep has become a frustrating thing for me now. last night was one of the worst nights and perhaps some of you can sympathize. tom went to work around 9 and friends left around 9:30 so i got in bed, posted, read a bit and then went to "sleep". which means i tossed and turned all night. not having tom there creates a weird sensation in my sleep.

we have a king-sized bed so we really don't notice each other much, but for some reason knowing he's not there and then wondering when he will be there causes unrest in my head. he didn't get home till almost 5am which means i got two hours of restful sleep.

maybe it's the light i left on for him in the living room. maybe it's the bladder infection (confirmed today with very "convincing numbers" according to the nurse). maybe it's the pregnancy. all i know is i'm not looking forward to this night job, but i'll just try and be thankful he has a job at all.

tonight's movie: zelig, with mia farrow and woody allen. i'm hoping the pain meds will kick in and i'll be able to relax and soon SOON i will be a normally functioning human being. in the meantime, i will say that i'm looking forward to having the stomach for some homemade bagels, courtesy of susan simon. amazing, isn't she? now if only she'd post...


cola beans and coffee

i do have days where i feel like i'm on the up-and-up. the sun is shining, i wake up with energy, the kids are cheery and i'm ready for the day. those days are usually closely followed by days of exhaustion and sickness. it's a cycle i'm ready to get out of. i'm willing to jump off if i know i'll land safely. i'm trying weird things to feel better, all of them experiments to see what works: sucking on slices of cola beans from africa; chewing crystalized ginger; starting my day with a cup of black coffee (you'd be amazed at how many days this has actually helped); not eating; eating all the time. i can't find a pattern that works.

for instance: sunday, monday and tuesday were days of shear busyness, cooking food and making costumes for purim events. i did alright those three days and ended up with some great food and cute costumes (photos to follow shortly). but i woke up this morning, begrudgingly, with a headache, a queasy stomach and what feels like a bladder infection. after mustering up the energy to change diapers and feed the kids i emptied the dishwasher and folded some clothes. then off to the coffee shop with lauren and maeret, where i consumed a small mocha and an asiago bagel with cream cheese. 10am. feeling a lot better. who can say if it's the food or the friends. we stayed there for a long time, then rushed home for lunch and naps for the kids. while they slept and tom stayed home i went to whole foods and hy-vee. came home, hung out with maasen and ate a sandwich. 4 pm. i felt good during that in between time but once i sat down to eat i thought to myself, i could go to bed right now. 4:30pm. uh-oh. unload groceries, make dinner, feed the family, have people over, yikes, i'm spent. and the headache makes another appearance and the bladder is still angry. so why am i writing? go to bed, leah! get some sleep so tomorrow you'll wake up smiling. because we all know tom isn't going to get up, he may have just gone to bed...

good night.

right after i shower...


zorba the greek

i didn't have any expectations for this movie. i assume awards from the academy meant more in 1964 than they do today, so that seemed to bode well. it won for best cinematography, supporting actress, and art direction. it was also nominated for best picture, actor, director and writing.

that said, it was entertaining. it started off unclear and slow but the two main characters quickly developed into an odd couple style pairing, with zorba living life to the fullest and basil being more timid about doing anything, especially living his life. zorba's free-spirited lifestyle takes over most of the movie, but he also has a way of demanding that fun be had. his character is developed enough that he doesn't just seem like a loose canon.

along with basil's more melancholy attitude is a darker sub-plot involving a young widow and the men of the town in crete. i don't want to divulge too much information but at one point i could only stare and repeat, "what?!" tom asked from the other room if i needed to turn off the movie. this subplot makes my head spin and confuses me to no end, so if you have any insight please email me, or post a comment.

this one dark angle changes the feeling of the movie for me, and yet i enjoyed the story and the characters and especially the setting. it's a good story of living life to the fullest with a good caution that goes along with it. check it out from your local library.


tom is starting a new painting gig this week and it means he's working nights. i've decided to use this time (approximately 6pm to 1am) to watch some movies. picking out movies for tom is like picking out anything else for tom, impossible, so it's nice to have some freedom here. part of tom's movie watching problem is that he doesn't necessarily like movies. he would rather watch a soccer game or ku. and that's fine, because i like watching those too, but only so much. on our honeymoon he humored me and we watched about 20 movies in our condo in canada, but since then he's become pickier about what we watch. mostly documentaries and true stories. in the last few weeks we watched "schindler's list", "munich", and "defiance". talk about uplifting.

the movies that are slated for this week or the next are "zorba the greek" winner of 3 academy awards, woody allen's "zelig", and "the young philadelphians" starring the great paul newman. i'm looking forward to seeing these old movies, classics that any good movie-watcher should know. stay tuned...


i wrote too soon...wyatt threw up at 3 after complaining that his stomach hurt. awesome. here we go again...
i'm not the only one throwing up in our house, but i wish i was. actually, cassie is no longer vomiting but had enough of that to last us her lifetime. it wasn't massive amounts, at least not after the first episode, but it happened so frequently that i'm exhausted by it. and the icing on the cake was the diarrhea that followed. but it seems that all has cleard and i'm the only one with a queasey stomach again.

honestly the hardest struggle of her being sick was the food situation. poor wyatt was on a bland food diet too while cass was sick, which meant waffles that papa made and oatmeal. surprisingly he wasn't too upset. they both laid around a lot, watched "jonah: a veggie tales movie" and bob the builder. the rentals were only partially successful because they came from the library and they skipped a bit. it wsa worth it though because after watching bob the builder they started saying, "reduce, reuse, recycle."

i talked through what that means with wyatt and i think he got it a bit. we used to take all of our recycling to the center since the trash company we use doesn't do recycling and the other company that does pick up recycling wouldn't do so without doing our trash. we didn't feel like switching for undisclosed reasons. anyway, wyatt knows about throwing aluminum and glass in large trash cans where they crash loudly. now, however, we are in the lap of luxury, or so it seems, because the "other" trash company has decided to pick up our recycling for a ridiculously low price. now every week a truck comes by and picks up our bin of recyclcables. we don't have to separate them or anything. it's a dream come true.

what else is going on in the blake household? i know all of this is terribly interesting...

wyatt says cassie is "the best sharer of all" which is pretty true, but leaves something to be desired in his patience.

cassie talks on her phones like an adult. she holds it between her shoulder and head, no hands style, and makes arrangements for the day.

wyatt still thinks we're going to have another little girl (we have a sonogram in a month or so).

cassie is sitting in the booster seat and wyatt has moved to a normal chair, and normal silverware. so far so good.

cass has been a cuddlebug for over two weeks and will sit with us for long periods of time, just being held. she'll even go to our bed and just lay down by herself. she apparently needs her alone time.

both of them are talking a lot which makes it so much easier for us. they communicate with each other which proves most helpful instead of just getting frustrated with each other.

things are always changing in the home, but right now i would take a week of good health and sunshine. for all of us. that means you too.


does this look right to you?

judgment: judg-ment [juhj-muhnt] –noun 1. an act or instance of judging.

JUDGMENT. no E. that's right. it's word, and espn is using it to describe this week in college basketball. and it's a good week because ku beat #2ou last night (i know without the best player in college basketball, so what?!) but it's still tripping us out. JUDGEMENT. the english language has no rules. at least none that apply all the time. i'm so thankful i was born into the language. getting a degree in it was a cinch ([sÄ­nch] n. Something easy to accomplish)in my four years of higher education i never learned the rule for judgment.


i know a lot of you are already in on the no cow's milk lifestyle, but just to reiterate, and if brooks wants to elaborate (because he probably reads our blogs all the time...) here's a thought:

we're sick. colds really, runny noses, headaches, coughs. i took cassie in on thursday because her cough was so bad and i wanted to make sure it wasn't something terrible. she was tested for strep and it came back negative. we went again on tuesday for her two year check-up, and she checked out fine. just a cold, that she shared with all of us. my favorite part about taking the kids to the doctor when they're sick is knowing that he's not going to tell me they have an ear infection. brooks says that it's the milk in children's diets that causes ear infections, and the extreme cases where they have to have tubes put in.

i definitely get a weird feeling from the nurses at the office when i tell them she doesn't drink milk AT ALL, but when the doctor comes in he has no problem with it. my kids are growing, they're healthy for the most part, and they've never had ear infections. i'm pleased.

plus, water is so much cheaper.

here's an article if you're interested. my favorite thought: "the nutrients in cow's milk are excessive for human beings."


when i woke up on february 13th, two years ago it was with a lot of excitement and a lot of snow. several inches. it was beautiful to start that monday with such an image. our short drive to the hospital made me glad that we had planned to go in that morning, that tom didn't have to jump out of bed unexpectedly to scrape off the car because i was having contractions. i was doing what seems to be typical these days for birth, i was being induced.

two years later the pain still lingers from my 1.5 hours of labor and delivery. poor cassidy didn't know what was going on i'm sure. she was probably all cozy inside, thinking, "i'll stay for another couple of days. my reservation hasn't expired yet." but i kicked her out. and she kicked my butt. i can't blame her. it was really cold that morning.

it's cliche, i recognize this, but i would endure that pain again for little cassie faye. at first glance she is a stark contrast to her brother: long curly hair, more olive-complected, louder and more outgoing, ready to steal the show. but when you get to know her, she's more reserved than you'd think. she's not the gifted performer that her cousin abbie is, although when she gets around the right people she can turn on the charm. this makes her a lot like her papa: she loves people, but not too many, and mostly ones she knows. and she's really cute.

so today we celebrated cassidy faith and her two years of being in our family. it was a new experience for wyatt, realizing that the day was more about her than him, that her gifts were more for her than him, that there was maybe a time when it was just him... no, i don't think that thought has crossed his mind. when i ask him what he wants this next baby to be he says a girl. that's a pretty good testimony to how much we love our little girl.


just to put it out there, in case you weren't sure: i am finished with being sick EVERY day. let me rephrase that: i am READY to be finished being sick EVERY day. sometimes multiple times. and the only person (other than me) that you can feel even sorrier for is tom. the man has spent the last two months being all things to all people in this house. granted, i still do the everyday tasks like cooking (usually), laundry and regular child maintenance, there are many mornings that i do not make an appearance and he takes care of all their needs. a couple of mornings this turned into waffles and yogart, which is a pretty delicous meal. homemade, from scratch waffles, no less.

and to top it all off he put together wyatt's bunkbeds this weekend. no instructions, just putting together the boards we got from a friend. figuring out what size screws to buy, sawing off the tops because they were too tall. all the while letting wyatt help and letting me mope. it was a rough weekend, me feeling like i'd been hit by a train and cassie running a fever, with a runny nose and hopefully a new tooth on the way. tom did it all in stride. he's a keeper, in the marriage sense of the word.

but again, let me reiterate (for my sake and tom's) i'm ready to stop throwing up everyday.
tom is legally off the cleanse. yesterday was his last day, officially, but he gave in a couple of days early. i guess the thought of eating another salad pushed him over the edge. this time around i think i learned more from the cleanse, and i think more of that knowledge will be transformed into my cooking. we went to the store today and instead of russets i bought red potatoes. a small change, but i think the smaller potatoes mean we will eat less of them. also, due to huge pregnancy cravings i bought a lot of fruit: oranges, grapes, cantaloupe, things that were affordable. also, susan brought some cantaloupe over the other night and it was delicious. wyatt actually identified the cantaloup in the cart, "like aunt susan?" should be yummy.

also this week, i perfected the oven-baked french fry. yummo, people. i made them for the burgers we had for sabbath supper (those were another story) and sam said they were the best fries he'd ever had. now, for those of you who know sam, you'll quickly recognize he's exaggerating. for those of you who don't know sam, he's exaggerating. he's like tom, he tends to do that. but i have to admit, having sam over for dinner is one of my favorite things because it seems like no matter what i put on the table he loves it. maybe it's just because he's a starving college kid. either way, it boosts my cooking esteem by miles.

so the fries: simple. i tried them the other week for sunday night group dinner and due to the issue of baking several things in the oven at once the potatoes suffered. the recipe: line a cookie sheet with foil (a susan simon tip), put some olive oil on it, slice up some taters into wedges (with the skin on, that makes them really yummy), drizzle them with more olive oil and then sprinkle them with seasoning, like kc masterpiece or some other delicious rub. bake at 450' for 25 minutes, flip them and bake for antoher 25 minutes, then for the last couple of minutes broil them. like i said, easy and yummy. (as long as you're not trying to bake something else at 350'). everyone enjoyed them, except baby cass who just wanted more burger.

also, i must say, sam said kiddush this week before dinner and it was fantastic. he has been saying it the last couple of times he has come to dinner and this week tom and i noticed how comfortable he seemed with his hebrew. cassie has been lighting the candles, too, and i think pretty soon she'll be singing the blessing. in a few months their home will be a wonderful place to be on sabbath.


this comes from my brother, the most well-informed man in europe...or america for that matter.

it's a good reminder of what's really happening. and if you don't read his blog then at least check out this post:


for the blogosphere friends who haven't heard, baby #3 is coming august 22. or thereabouts. after a month of "morning" (all day sometimes) sickness, i visited the pregnancy coordinator and she put me on a new drug for nausea. the first couple hours i thought it was great, but now i'm starting to rethink the whole process. the benefits may not be worth the side effects. i'm debating that little pill right now, but thanking the Lord that i'm 9 weeks in and this means (at least in the past) that i will be feeling like a new woman on week 13.

this should be an interesting pregnancy, as i've never been huge in the summer and i'm already dreading the heat. with two kids my energy level has severely decreased and tom is picking up the slack. i feel bad for him, getting up most mornings with both kids yelling "MAMA!" but he does it anyway.

on a sidenote, wyatt is getting the potty training thing down pretty well. he sometimes even goes into the bathroom and sits on the toilet by himself. my biggest concern for him is that he thinks he's a big boy now and doesn't always use the little toilet insert thing so he just hangs on for dear life, his bum dangling dangerously close to the cold toilet water. he very well could fall in. i try telling him that he is a big boy but his bum is not a big bum. honestly, though, i'm seeing a problem arise in the poop area: when he poops they are the littlest turds. and then a day or two later i find a load in his diaper/pull-up. any tips on how to get the kid to relax?

and cassie, well, she's not interested in the process. she would rather wash her hands. my hope is they'll both be potty-trained by the time this new one comes out. wyatt says he wants a girl. no matter how many times i ask him he says he wants a little sister. he must really like cass. she is pretty great. and i don't think the little lady has any idea that there's a real baby on the way. she'll be so excited to get her hands on a live baby. just today they both were playing with her babies in her crib and i heard him say, "ew! poopie!" i had to ask whose poopie it was and was relieved to hear him say, "my baby's". maybe they'll be changing diapers in 8 months.


it's been snowing here, little flakes every couple of days. saturday acutally gave us a little snow to work with and wyatt, with the new concept of a snowman in his head thanks to winnie the pooh, decided he wanted to build a snowman. mind you, it was 45' out and sunny when we attempted this, and it really only turned out to be me building, as tom couldn't remember how to make one. in fact, he's not sure he's ever made a snowman. i assume that's because he made forts to protect himself from his brothers.

we also had to find clothes for the kids to wear. we don't spend much time out in the snow and the mittens i purchased for cassie 4 months ago have disappeared. but the snowsuit fits her, and so do the boots. wyatt on the other hand, well, let's just say i'll be shopping sales this spring for 4T snow stuff. nevertheless, i was really proud of our little snowman, and proud that no one got hurt...

you see, one time, when i was in high school and my siblings were in college (or out of college, i think) we built a snowman. at least, i remember it being a snowman but when i try to get an image in my head, i'm not really sure what it was. but we'll go with snowman, more traditional. and my creative siblings thought, let's get some spray paint and to really jazz him up. it worked great for a while until the spray paint got clogged. and rachel decided the best way to fix it would be to jab at it with a toothpick. while holding the can as close to her face as possible she pushed down on the nozzle and spray paint went everywhere, including her eyes.


have you ever called 911? they're pretty fast. and pretty nice. the ambulance came and the guys walked into the house, commenting on the snowman out front. they took a look at rachel, i can't remember if they flushed her eye out (we had already done that ourselves) but they seemed to think she would be fine and left not long after they arrived. when we went back outside we saw the snowman was surrounded in yellow "do not cross" tape. we felt a lot better knowing our neightborhood would be safe from the snowman.

boy, it's a good thing our parents were home...


introducing: sam-a-lam-a-ding-dong, sammy, sam the man van buskirk. i find it hard to just call him sam. he's a great guy, marrying our favorite big cassie, and blogging from manhappenin' kansas. check him out on the sidebar.


i thought this was an interesting piece of information put out via the A.P.

"Leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Turkey and the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, attended the summit in Egypt.

Israel did not send a representative. Hamas, shunned internationally as a terrorist organization, was not invited."

amazing that we're putting this in print and yet people all over the world are upset that israel is actually fighting back after being hit with rockets every day for six years. even during the previous "cease fire" the people in sderot were bracing themselves for kassam rockets. somehow israel is the bad guy for wanting to get hamas out of gaza, and yet the world shuns hamas as a terrorist organization. i know not all things are so black and white, but if you look at the facts (all of them) we need to be supporting this tiny nation of israel before the philistines, ahem, palestinians attack again.


michael d. blake officially retired this month and his company sent him off with quite the party. there were so many nice things said about him it was overwhelming. i know i got teary-eyed. as family we all know he is an exceptional man, but to hear his boss/partner of 30 years, as well as other associates sing his praises was to see a different side of him. the word tenacious kept coming up, "like a dog on a bone" was a phrase repeated throughout the night. tom observed that we see him as diligent, but in the work world that is tenacity. no wonder he was so successful for so long. i'm sure the whole company will miss him, but as evidenced by last monday when he came with deann to watch the kids, we will get more time with him now that he's not so busy. congratulations to you mike, and welcome to a whole new life!

you're wondering, what's the story on this picture, leah? a good question, but i must ask (since paul is polling people too) is this:

a) a plate still being nibbled on
b) a plate that needs to be cleared to make room for more
c) a plate that does not get cleared even when plates with more food (pieces of cake, for crying out loud) are getting cleared

you guessed it, this was my plate. i thought i was finished. apparently i hadn't cleared my plate enough because all the other plates got cleared and mine stayed on the table. it wasn't until they (unnamed restaurant) started taking tablecloths off the tables that this plate got cleared. my poor plate. next time i'll put it in front of susan and lauren. their plates disappeared all night.