Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pancakes for Dad

She woke up early.  6:00 used to be standard waking time for me, and I met the world cheerfully and expectantly.  Now at that hour, I roll over and shake Aaron's shoulder.  "She's awake."

But it was Father's Day, and so I rolled the other direction, and my feet touched smooth old hardwood.  I went and got that baby girl, and Daddy slept soundly.  Poor guy.  Only one day of the year his wife doesn't bring the baby back to bed so that everyone can share in the joy of being awake at 6:00.

The morning was still dim and calm.  Anna girl went into her high chair, pacified by a tray full of blueberry pieces.  I lit a candle and puttered around making coffee and opening and shutting the cupboards (sometimes I hope that a pre-made meal will magically appear). We had three hours until church started...breakfast in bed for the World's Greatest Daddy was the obvious conclusion. 

The Joy of Cooking is a staple around here.  It's a giant beast of a cookbook with no pictures, but it's the best.  Especially the pancake recipe. I'm picky about pancakes.  Fluffy, cakey ones won't do - they need to be thin and spongy and have a slight browned crust.

 Joy of Cooking Pancakes

Whisk together in large bowl:

1 1/2 cups flour
3 T sugar
1 3/4 t baking powder
1 t salt

Combine in another bowl:

1 1/2 cups milk
3 T melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla

Mix liquid quickly into dry ingredients. 

There are a few things I always do for pancakes.   I put the griddle on low-medium heat even before I start mixing.  That way it's the perfect temp by the time I'm ready to cook.  Pancakes always seem to burn when I heat the pan too fast.  Butter is the best thing to spread on the griddle.  Add more in-between each batch.  That's the ticket for that crunchy delicious crust.  (Can I step on a soapbox here for a moment and say for the love of all the fathers in your life, butter is not bad for you?  Your body needs good fat.  Don't be scared of butter.  Be scared of margarine because nobody really knows what is in that mess.)

Wait for the tiny bubbles to appear and flip.

When we took in the tray, Aaron said, "I've never had breakfast in bed!"  Truly, a picture perfect first Father's Day...until someone who shall remain anonymous thought that breakfast in bed was intended for her too.  Attempts to pull her off of the tray were not met well.  Daddy's ladies left him to eat alone. But it's boring and sad to be given solitary confinement on Father's Day, so he soon followed us out to the dining room.

We tried.  :)

"I want all the food!  You never feed me!  I'm so hungry!  Have you seen these thighs lately?  Practically wasting away!"

Happy First Father's Day to the man our daughter adores.  I couldn't ask for a more involved, attentive, loving daddy for my child.  She kicks her legs when you walk in the room.  She gives you wet open kisses all over your face.  It's obvious you have her heart.  And mine.  I love you!

And to my own father, who celebrated his 32nd Father's Day, sorry I couldn't make you breakfast in bed.  You probably would have rather had cereal instead.  You've given me so much wisdom and love, you've told more corny jokes than anyone ever expected, you're the whiz of whizzes at saving money and reusing stuff, and you're a stellar Poppa who Anna delights in.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Aldi, The Cool Kid

My mom shopped at Aldi in the 80s, way before it was cool.

I was so embarrassed that our cereal boxes said things like Crunchy Os or Rainbow Whirls.  I coveted the bright yellow box emblazoned with Cheerios, and I wanted Toucan Sam to join me at breakfast. The virtues of buying name-brand were clear to me, the most important being, none of my friends would think we were poor.  

Now I shop at Aldi.  It's come a long way from the dingy, flickering-bulb aisles of my childhood. They have organic cheerios now! (Also, I don't mind now if people think I'm poor.  In many ways, 29 definitely has the upper hand on 7.)

I went last week to just pick up a few things.  I can never go to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  I have a fear that things I want will run out before I get them.  I'm sure this says something deep about my psyche, but I'm not sure what.  When we were in Rome, I pushed Aaron through the entire Vatican full of pulsing crowds (it's kind of huge) because all I really cared to see was the Sistine Chapel, and what if it somehow evaporated or caved in or exploded before we got to it? 

I feel the same way about food.  It's like the Aldi marketing team knows this secret of mine, because all of their coolest foods are labeled with tags that say "Special Edition" or "Seasonal Buy" or "Limited Quantity".  The bags of flour stacked up on a pallet will be there week in and week out, but the Artisan Smoked Honey Cranberry Parsley Sage Gouda?  Who knows when it will disappear?  If I don't buy it this week, I may never get the chance!!!

I present to you my most recent Special-Edition-Seasonal-Limited-Quantity buys.

Salt and Vinegar Chips.  (I had to prop up the bag to make it look like something was in there - but it's empty.  2 days after I bought them.  It's the vinegar.  It burns my tongue, but I can't stop!)

Cashew Butter.

(I already succumbed to the Almond Butter the week before...)

Yogurt Cheese.  (YOGURT cheese?  So interesting and different.)

Shelf Stable Almond Milk.   (We are not lactose intolerant.  So I bought two boxes.  I don't know.  I really don't know.)

Edamame and Brussel Sprouts.  (Because these are way more fun to have in my freezer than corn and green beans.)

I clearly need to send Aaron to the store if I have a short list.  He is not enticed by the hand-crafted cheeses and hippie milk.  He also probably wishes that he could have seen more of the Vatican.  

Aldi, I love you.  Bring me your special foods year round.  This will give me the time to decide if we really need three different kinds of nut butter.  "While supplies last" is just too hard on me.  Kind regards, a loyal shopper.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well

It all began with a text.

We were playing games with two couples (I was probably about to win, but that detail is a little fuzzy), and Aaron got a text from one of our K-Life leaders.

"Do you guys want a puppy?"

Did we want a puppy?  We looked at each other and laughed.  "I want a puppy! I've always wanted a puppy!" I said.

His phone buzzed again.

It was a picture of the puppy.

"Well, maybe we could just go see it."  Aaron passed his phone around the table.  It was a very cute puppy.

This is the point of the memory at which I think two things,


2.  How did we not know that "just going to see it" meant that we were DEFINITELY GETTING A PUPPY???

We went to see the puppy the next day.  She came with a leash, a small bag of food, a few toys, and potty training pads.  What a good deal!  How could we ever possibly need anything more for the puppy?  She was so little!  She was so cuddly!  She waddled!

The first night of our puppy ownership, we had 20 K-Life kids over to hang out, and she slept through it all, under a chair.  We had clearly been gifted with the most easy-going, sweet, docile puppy in the world.  The universe had smiled upon us, and we were well on our way to the perfect American family with 2.5 kids and a Golden Retriever!

(Did I mention that we were 8 weeks pregnant? And that I was sick, sick, sick?)

Our eyes were blinded with puppy love.  We named her Maggie.

Perhaps bringing home a puppy is a little like having a baby.  Bear with me.  The first night in the hospital, the baby sleeps so well.  Your body is full of magical endorphins, not to mention chest-bursting pride at having born a human being, and the tiny baby appears to do nothing but coo and lay contentedly in the plastic bassinet by your bedside.  You arrive home, and that night, the darling baby wakes up every hour, and she is not cooing.  She is CRYING, and she wants SOMETHING, and you are so tired and confused, and you sort of wonder if they would readmit you at the hospital if you drove there right now.

It only took 24 hours to see that this was not a docile puppy.  This was not an easy-going puppy.  She was sweet, yes, but we had unknowingly become the owners of a dog with an extreme case of hyperactivity WHO WOULD NEVER, EVER BE TIRED.

It's only a stage, right?  She'll grow out of it, right?  We asked other dog owners - wasn't your puppy like this?  They would stammer something and exit the conversation quickly.


We did pretty well the first seven months.  Maggie was smart. She house-trained quickly. She learned every trick we taught her.  She thrived on attention.  She loved to go on walks and runs.  Aaron and I had the time and margin to throw a squeaky toy across the house 500 times in a row.  She never did learn not to jump (a euphemism for throwing her entire weight upon a person and humping them rapidly) on visitors.  My mom started coming to the back door because she was afraid.

Then we moved in with my parents.  My dad hates dogs.  My parents don't have a fence.  We had a baby two days after moving in.  You can imagine that all these factors combined into a swirling vortex of the worst possible dog-owning situation ever.

My brother said he would take her.  That lasted four days.

We moved into our home.  For a while, it seemed like maybe we could make this work.  I think it was February, when the long, cold days of being in the house with Maggie and Anna seemed eternal - as if May were only a mirage - that I knew Maggie needed a new home.  She needed attention; she needed exercise; she needed a therapist...none of which we could provide for her.

Tuesday, Maggie went to live with her new family.  They're a young couple, childless.  We gave them the complete and honest scoop on our pup, and they still wanted her. The husband has a lot of energy himself and likes to run 6 miles every morning.  As they retreated down the sidewalk with Maggie pulling them along on her leash, my heart constricted a tiny bit.

"I miss Maggie," I told Aaron later as we cleaned up the dinner mess.

"You miss her hair everywhere?  You miss her barking at you because you're not petting her?  You miss her digging holes in your flowerbeds?"  he replied.

"I don't know.  I just kind of miss her.  I'm a wildly sentimental person, you know."

He shook his head.  (I still amaze him!  After five years of marriage!)

"Hey," I continued.  "What if she comes back to us, like the dogs in The Incredible Journey? What if she came back five times in a row to us like that?  Would we keep her then?"

"Um, no."

I may be wildly sentimental, but the man I married is strongly realistic.

Last night on the couch, Aaron nudged me.  He was on Facebook, and the couple had posted a video of the husband playing with Maggie.  "She's being so calm!" Aaron whispered, as if she might hear us through the screen and begin to hump it.

"Wow, she is being calm.  I guess it's working out."

We both stared at the video, transfixed, and I knew then that Maggie's new home was going to be a great fit.

The day Maggie left.  I realized we had no family pictures of the four of us, and we had to have complete documentation of that time we had a dog. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Letter to My 21 Year Old Self

Hello, sweet thing.

Today, your 29 year old self leaned into the mirror and saw a little gray hair poking up near the front.

She thought of you, younger Lara who wakes up every morning before class to run, shower, and straighten her hair.  There aren't any gray hairs looking back from that dorm mirror, are there?

I need to tell you a few things.  We're almost 30 now, and things look a little different on the other side of the decade.

You, tender heart, are beautiful.  It's the question that pounds in your heart with every ragged breath on your morning run.  Am I pretty?  Am I pretty?  You've bought into the skinny-equals- pretty lie, and in your mind, you are never quite truly skinny.  That boy who you want to notice you?  He's not going to.  In a year, he's going to date your best friend, and after graduation, they will part ways, and he will become nothing more than that boy you tried to impress by losing 20 pounds.  Someday you will live in a house where the only mirror you can see yourself in is a wavy and speckled century-old medicine cabinet.  It's not full length, so you can't stand in front of it debating whether or not your thighs are fat.  Listen - you might not be able to believe me now, but heed me when I say hope is coming,

for you will move in your own skin without stopping every other step to analyze it, you will give up running in favor of extra sleep, you will know that your beauty is not in a number or your face, you will leave the gray hairs unplucked.  Oh dearest, it's a breathtaking freedom. 

You, beloved, will be broken.  In a few months, you will begin dating one of your friends.  In the middle of all the crazy, fun college things, you will begin to love him.  You will wonder if?  Is this it?  It is not.  When the whole long, complicated story ends, you will be left with a month of college days, and you will cry your way through every one of them.  In that darkness, my love, remember - it is God's hand who breaks you with kindness, and it will be His hand that holds you with tenderness.  When you arrive in India nary half a year later, you will arrive with a two-piece heart, yet when you leave, there will be no counting the many pieces it has shattered into.

You will know then that brokenness is not a disease to be cured, but a precious posture of those who follow the Rabbi Jesus.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You, young dreamer, will see dreams fulfilled and dreams deferred.   At 29, it's not a hut in Africa or a flat in India where you will lay your head.  It's a house in Missouri, your home town.  But not even Jesus returned to Nazareth, you protest?  Wait and see, fiery girl.  Wait and see.  A million tiny graces will fall around you in that town you think you've moved out of for good.   A million tiny graces and two huge ones -  a man who is the closest earthly representation to Christ you've seen and a baby who brings only joy.  The passion you live with now?  Call it to mind often as you age.  The ethereal dreams need flesh.  That neighbor across the street needs Christ.  You live in your home town, yes, but God lives in you, and He'll move into any neighborhood you ever unpack your boxes in.

As the years stack up, you will dream still.  Keep dreaming.  You'll soon have proof enough to know that all the dreams worth dreaming belong to Him.  


It's a lot, huh?  You have 8 years to unwrap it all, and it all comes one day at a time.



P.S.  And because I know you are wondering,

You still LOVE coffee at 29.  Although you have to switch to decaf while you're nursing.

I can't tell you what you name your baby.  That's best kept a surprise.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rugs I Will Not Be Buying

I've been looking for a living room rug for a while.  Internet shopping is a black hole...you peer over the edge, and suddenly you're falling for hours and hours through pages and pages of clicks and clicks.  

I haven't found the rug I'm looking for yet.  I don't know why.  There are so many good options.  Let's peruse together.  Come, come, fall into the black hole with me.  

Aztec is very in right now, so Southwestern adobe rugs must be too, right?

PURPLE!  The color of Aaron's university employer!  

I call this one Rooster Surveying Rooster.  I think this option would really work out if Aaron lets me get chickens.

We could take this rug so many directions.  Haven't people been saying animal print is the new neutral? 

And the moon.  On my floor and in the sky?  Luxury. 

What is killing me right now is that a few years ago, I stood at the entry of the best place in the world to buy a rug, and I didn't even go in.  Maybe I can talk my sister into going back for me.

In the meantime, I'll just be a few hundred webpages into the black hole...