Halley – September 2004-March 2013

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Our cat very unexpectedly had to be put down today due to a bad cancer in her intestines that we only discovered this morning, after about a week of noticing she had no appetite. The vet deemed it basically inoperable.

Halley loved getting scratched on the bald spots on her head. She loved icing and cereal milk (the only thing she showed interest in eating besides her food.) She loved sleeping in the window light and she loved a good, fuzzy blanket to curl up in. She was a gift to Matt before we were even married and kept him company by sleeping on his shoulder as a kitten (and of course, randomly attacking his face when he’d open his eyes, haha.) We rescued her from the Lubbock Animal Hospital because they told us no one would adopt a black cat on Halloween :) I am thankful that last night, she let Olive pet her for the first time. Olive’s first word was “kee-ka” and she said, “HI!” to Halley before anyone else. :)

She was totally crazy, elusive, wild-eyed, and hardly a friend to anyone other than us. But she was OUR crazy cat. She was there for 9 years and went through everything we did. She was a permanent fixture in our home and her constant presence will be missed.

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Ghost of Christmas Past

We’re approaching January 1st – that day when a lot of us have a bit of apprehension, wondering when we’re going to fail at all our best laid plans.  Will it be January 7th? 14th?  How many weeks will it take for you to be back in the same rut you were in on December 31st?  This sounds pretty cynical, but I woke this morning feeling that a lot of the time, changing the things you do on a regular basis is one thing, but changing who you ARE, is an entirely different challenge.  And I want to change who I am.  

I was raised in an incredibly straight-forward speaking family.  There was really no passive-aggression; you always knew where you stood with another person, what you did wrong, and what you needed to do to make amends.  Sometimes this was nice.  There was never really an instance where I was unsure if my mother was upset with me.  I knew.  She either was or she wasn’t.  Same went for my brothers and my dad.  This was nice because you always knew how the day was going to go.  The times our verbose manners weren’t nice, were the times we just wanted to stew for a while; be mad for being mad’s sake.  Very rarely could we have a bad attitude and it not get called out for discussion within the hour.  Set yourself straight, be happy, “get glad in the same britches” and move on!  

This has affected my friendships and my relationships in a lot of ways.  Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that “Alisa tells it like it is” or “Alisa will be honest, so only ask if you really want to know what she thinks.”  I’ve even been called a “Grammar-Nazi” – not because I’m constantly upset or yelling about the mistakes or complete lack of concern for the English language, but because I’ve made it known that it’s important to me to care about properly spelling or using a word. Taking a stand for anything is often seen in a negative light. 

I’d also like to think of myself as caring and forgiving and generous and helpful, but sometimes the negative aspects of my personality are the ones highlighted; the ones I can’t escape.  If you are a fellow strong personality, you know that you can fly straight for months, not offend anyone, be especially passive, but these strides are not remembered by people who have known you longer than a year.  What’s often remembered is how you were short tempered in a certain situation, how you couldn’t hold your composure in a conversation with a difficult family member, or how you prefer the dishes in a certain household appliance to be loaded in a certain way…

It’s hard to change.  And harder than changing yourself is changing how others see you.  It takes years and even then, in conversation, it’s your old ways that usually come up as an example of “the kind of person you are.”  This is disheartening as I look into 2013.  I want to be more patient and kind and helpful, and I believe over the past 10 years I really have developed some of these traits through my marriage and through learning to die to self, even if just little by little.  But it’s only the “little by little” that people around you can see.  Take a little step forward, take a little step back, inch forward, propel miles back, and so forth.  The grand picture is seen only by God and if you’re lucky, you catch glimpses of where you’re headed from time to time, as well.

I challenge myself and you, whoever you are, to let people around you change if they want to.  This means not bringing up what they did yesterday, but simply exist with the person they are today.  The person they are desperately trying to be, if only they could shake away the ghost of the person they were yesterday.  

 

 

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My iPhone is Ruining My Life

This morning at 4:48, I woke up feeling restless.  I was a bit hot, hearing “lovely Rita, meter-maid” over and over (beginning to hate that song) and my brain just wouldn’t calm down.  I tried singing some lines from a very soothing song; “you can fall asleep by being very still.  You can close your eyes and slow yourself and when you think your thoughts, be sure that they are sweet ones…” but I couldn’t think sweet thoughts.  I got up, went to the bathroom and there I found myself googling on my iPhone, “My iPhone is Ruining My Life”  I did. I googled that exact phrase.  I’m not one to pass the blame on to something or someone for whatever troubles I might be facing.  I’ll be the first to take the blame for most of what goes wrong in my life.  I have a full sense of awareness of my bad decisions and how they tend to affect myself and others.  So I will admit that it’s not the iPhone per se, but my addiction to it, that has left me feeling lonely, bored, and not creative anymore.  Oh, and sucking socially.

I think the iPhone is a wonderful device, and thank goodness it was around to help me level a picture I hung the other day, and yes, it takes great insta-photos of my daughter and my sandwiches and the cat sitting in a cardboard box.  But I think my feelings on its merits are best summed up in a great chart I found while googling the iPhone’s destruction of my life this morning.

 

I stared at that purple section of the pie.  What could I be doing with that purple chunk of valuable time instead of playing word games, checking Facebook 500 times an hour, my email 200 times an hour, Instagram 100 times an hour, etc?  I am not going to lie to myself and pretend that I used to be a fabulous writer.  I was never one to keep a regular journal, even before the invention of The Seemingly Necessary Time Waster, but I DID do probably a half dozen fun, creative things a week and I wrote at least once a week.  That’s better than once in 6 months.  I sent care packages to my friends, I had UNINTERRUPTED conversation with those friends.  I feel proud that for the most part, my coffee dates with friends are still phone-free.  But what about my dinners with my family?  iPhone is there.  Sometimes it’s a reference tool, and great – I am glad that I can look up what ridiculous thing someone said on Facebook so that I can gossip about it with Matt.  But what about Olive?  What are her little eyes already getting used to seeing?  Mom’s face, illuminated by a tiny screen and looking slack-jawed and spaced out while checking in to see what someone less important is doing with their time.

I want my life back.  My old life.  I want to have the opportunity to follow through on my creative impulses, again.  I can’t count how many times I think of something fun to do and then find that I’ve wasted 30 minutes to an hour staring at my phone, and then my opportunity is lost. How many times have I started reading a book, only to have the irresistible urge to check my phone and end up foregoing my book to see what crafts or recipes someone else ISN’T doing on Pinterest?

I’m not going to say “I’m finished” and chunk that valuable piece of metal and plastic out the door.  But I will say that games I’m playing will be dramatically decreased.  So if I don’t play with you, guess what?  I still really like you.  I’d just rather spend those 5 minutes not staring at my phone.  Where I can cut back, I’m going to.  How to cut the addiction of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, though?  Other than Instagram, those things are on the “regular computer” as I’ve gotten in the stupid habit of saying.  I’m going to make a cyber-space vow that my phone will be on the charger during meal times/coffee dates/walks around the block, far away from the impulse to grab, swipe, check and then fade away from reality.  I want to participate more in my own life.  I want to breathe in the air and feel a pen and paper in my hand again, and more than anything, I just want to not be addicted anymore.  And I want for Olive to see my face illuminated  by the sun,  her sweet smile, or by something snarky her dad just said. It might be a little lonely as every other person in the world has the same addiction.  But I can at least be the change I want to see, right?  Right.

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Eight Months is a dream

I have been a stupendously bad blogger.  I have wanted to write out my feelings about Olive every day, but instead, I find myself taking more pictures, but I think for me, that is the way I’ll tell my stories when I’m older.  If I see a picture, I can remember most of the details.  

That said, I wanted to write about how completely charming Olive is right now.  Eight months old on the 6th of November, and she couldn’t be more fun.  I find myself thinking nearly every day,”This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life”  That should tell you something – an eight month old baby is so dreamy!  She’s sleeping from about 9:30 to 8 in the morning and other than a few set backs from teething, she sticks to that schedule.  She still fights naps tooth and nail, but she will take a couple a day – sometimes three if we’re lucky.  She’s just so ON, she hates settling down for a nap.  

She is mobile and loves crawling.  Except she doesn’t crawl perfectly – she sticks her right leg out in front of her while keeping her left knee on the ground and does this little crab walk as fast as she can.  Consequently, there is always a permanent rug burn on her left knee/shin :)  She figured out how to go very slowly down the tiny step into our living room.  We were so proud and clapped and clapped for her, and instead of being satisfied, she immediately turned around and went back up the step, and then back down about 3 more times.  She shrieks with this crazy laugh when I’m behind her as she’s crawling and she will crawl faster to get away from me.  She is ticklish under her chin and loves to laugh.  Well, it’s a fake laugh, but it cracks us up and she loves to do it.  

She will also “sing” along whenever I sing, or whenever we’re at church.  It’s a high pitched squeal, but she only does it when there’s singing or music.  

She’s begun to flirt.  If Matt’s holding her, and she sees me, she’ll smile and then quickly turn away and bury her face in his shoulder.  So I’ll go around behind him to look at her again and she’ll shriek and turn around the other way, laughing the whole time.  When she wakes up from her naps, she’s typically not happy, but when she is, I will find her sitting up in her crib and when I come in the room, she will immediately go into crawling mode to get away from me while laughing.  

I’m telling you, living with her is the most fun I’ve ever had.

She loves to eat.  She has begun to show her appreciation by very loud cow-like “Mmmmmm’s” and will beat her hands on the tray.  Yeah, we’re trying baby sign language, but we’re not diligent with it, so she hasn’t picked up the sign for “more” yet, and honestly, it’s pretty low on my priority list to get her to do it.  I’m cooking for her and just pick up a little extra of whatever fruits or vegetables are on sale (means they’re in season, too – bonus!) and we roast the vegetables and then puree them up, and I usually combine two or three fruits into a chunky puree, and other than apples, I leave the fruits raw.  We’ve not gone by the books, food-wise.  We’ve had Thai coconut beef soup with crispy shallots – it got blended into baby food.  Chicken fricassee, beef ragu, osso bucco and mushroom risotto, pumpkin ravioli – those have been our weekend fun meals and we just blend them up and she’s loved every one.  I think the only time she isn’t a fan of food is when she’s tired.  So we’ve learned to feed her when she’s happy!

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We love you, baby girl, and we can’t wait for another month to hang out with you.  You make every minute better.  

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Food Education

 

Here’s a list Matt and I compiled a couple months before Olive was born.  These are foods or food experiences that we would like her to eventually have.  There’s no time frame on these (especially since some she can’t enjoy till she’s 21) and this list will grow and grow, as she does.  But this list is full of items we have felt connected to in one way or another.  Some items are really high class.  Some are junk food.  Some are sophisticated, some are comfort food. Whether it’s simply outstanding flavor (Kow soy soup) or a memory (Granna’s Christmas eggnog), or even just the SMELL of certain things cooking, we want Olive to enjoy as many foods as possible and to create a list of her own some day.  Here’s our list; ever growing:

  1. Pad Thai
  2. Fish Cakes
  3. Kow Soy
  4. Thai Tea
  5. Vietnamese Coffee
  6. Seared fresh tuna in Hawaii
  7. Wasabi
  8. Eggs Benedict
  9. French fries from Bouchon
  10. Sourdough baguette
  11. Isaphan from Pierre Herme
  12. Cassoulet
  13. Ragu
  14. a ripe summer tomato
  15. Matt’s homemade bacon
  16. duck confit
  17. fresh baked bread with cold butter
  18. homemade ice cream
  19. caramel (also homemade)
  20. bananas foster
  21. Macaroni and cheese – Keller
  22. warm banana bread
  23. homemade chocolate chip cookies
  24. grilled cheese sandwich
  25. tomato soup
  26. Granna’s eggnog
  27. Double Stuff Oreos
  28. Potatoes Sarladais
  29. Potatoes Gratin
  30. Almond cake
  31. Buttered popcorn
  32. Onion Rings
  33. Yeasted waffles
  34. apple cider
  35. potato salad
  36. deviled eggs
  37. Black’s bbq beef ribs
  38. avocados
  39. guacamole
  40. corn pudding
  41. Sticky Toffee Pudding
  42. Creme brulee
  43. brownies
  44. apple pie
  45. chess pie
  46. blue cheese and honey
  47. pears
  48. Zinfandel from Napa Valley
  49. Chex Mix from the oven
  50. Cheese ball and crackers
  51. sausage balls
  52. chicken fried steak
  53. challah
  54. cinnamon rolls
  55. brown sugar bacon
  56. soft scrambled eggs
  57. cheddar cheese souffle
  58. poppyseed chicken
  59. carrot and ginger puree
  60. properly roasted chicken
  61. Brussels sprouts with bacon
  62. thumbprint cookies
  63. Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
  64. chocolate truffles
  65. truffle risotto
  66. cheesy polenta
  67. grits cakes with tomato marmalade
  68. summer strawberry
  69. fresh whipped cream
  70. chili and cornbread
  71. BLT – all homemade
  72. baklava
  73. lamb gyro
  74. hushpuppies
  75. fish and chips with tartar sauce
  76. mashed potatoes with beef gravy
  77. meatloaf
  78. beef wellington
  79. chili cheese hotdog
  80. tater tots
  81. sopapillas and honey
  82. chili rellanos
  83. garlic naan
  84. chicken tikka masala
  85. pizza
  86. fried mozzerella
  87. chocolate malt
  88. Gin and Tonic
  89. beef stroganoff with marsala cream sauce
  90. cheese burger from the charcoal grill
  91. charcuterie
  92. manchego
  93. nutella
  94. peanut butter banana sandwich
  95. spinach dip
  96. pina colada
  97. crab cakes
  98. crab legs in butter
  99. crawfish etoufee
  100. The smell of mire poix in butter
  101. Bbq brisket
  102. Pork Ribs in Memphis
  103. A good apple – Sweet Tango, Honey Crisp
  104. Truly Fresh Coffee
  105. Fresh pineapple
  106. Roasted green chilis
  107. Buffalo wings
  108. Fried rice with fried egg
  109. Tacos al pastor
  110. Gumbo
  111. Lasagna
  112. Chips and salsa
  113. Macarons
  114. Cheesecake
  115. Croissant
  116. Stuffing
  117. Corn on the cob
  118. Pommeau
  119. Carnitas
  120. Cream soda
  121. Root beer float
  122. Red beans and rice
  123. Pulled pork sandwich with vinegar sauce
  124. Bread and butter pickles
  125. Raw honey
  126. Gougere
  127. Chipotles
  128. Pesto
  129. Roasted garlic
  130. Caprese salad
  131. Old fashioned donut
  132. Ramen
  133. Crepes
  134. Jalapeno pretzel
  135. Mufaletta
  136. East Side Kings pork bun
  137. Homemade apricot jam
  138. Toasted marshmallows
  139. S’mores
  140. Beef Burgundy
  141. Breakfast burritos
  142. Fish taco with crunchy cabbage
  143. Spaghetti Carbona
  144. Bagel and cream cheese
  145. Queso
  146. Shrimp and grits in Atlanta
  147. Biscoff spread
  148. Jerk chicken
  149. Creamed corn
  150. MomMom’s orange cake
  151. Dutch Honey Syrup
  152. Pigs in a blanket
  153. Salt and Vinegar kettle chips
  154. Osso Bucco
  155. Seared scallops
  156. Maple blondie ice cream

157. Scraping a vanilla bean and swirling the contents into a pot of simmering heavy cream.  Then licking the remaining beans off your thumb.

I just now added that last one :)

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Thoughts on being a mom to a little girl

Found this draft that I wrote before Olive was born that I never finished:

Just feeling really blessed by my mom.  She is a woman of God and she calms my fears – not by telling me everything is going to be alright, because that’s a lie.  But by reminding me that God is walking beside me and hurts when I hurt and relishes in my happiness.  If I can be that type of reminder to my little girl, everything else will fall into place.

Things she will do because I do, and the best way to teach is by example:

Twirl her hair
Bite her nails
Close her eyes when she sings
Criticize …everything (gotta work on that one)
Be completely in love with Matt
Love to bake

I just wanted to get this posted because it was a nice thought and I never blog anymore.  In the middle of editing 1,000+ photos this week, I can’t help but be the most proud of this one:


Olive, dear, I pray for you every day that above everything else, that you have compassion for others and wisdom to help yourself and everyone you meet.   I pray that you care for nothing more in this life than to help those in need and show the love of Christ to the hurting, to friend the friendless and cook for the hungry.  I want all the other fun stuff for you, too, but ultimately, I pray for your character and your relationship with God to surpass anything I’ve ever known.  Maybe together, we can grow closer to Him.

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Life Now

I used to look at people who had kids and think, “They only just pretend to be happy.  They couldn’t possibly be.”  Or I’d simply think that people with children had ceased to really live life.  That they’d made certain compromises and were now living with those choices.  I thought things like: parents wish their lives were different, parents wish they’d traveled more, parents wish they could eat at nice restaurants, etc.  And so I made it a point to go at least 5 years with Matt until we decided to cease living, or, have a child.  Matt even used to say about people who were “trying ” to have a kid, “Oh, so they’re done doing everything they’ve always wanted to do?” We weren’t being intentionally tacky, we were just reacting to the overall hostage situation that having a child seems to be.

And then I found myself last night, sitting under a tree with my new family.  The weather was perfect – early evening light streaming across the park, coming through the trees and giving everything a soft glow.  We spread out a blanket and pulled out our bread, cheeses, fruits and wine and let Olive stare up into the contrast of trees against the sky.  She only sees strong contrasting colors at this point in her development, so I knew the trees would be a good idea.  And they were, for a time.  Then, she’d had enough and got fussy so I whipped out the blanket and swaddled her and Matt held her and bounced her while we continued to eat until she got drowsy.  Then, she slept the rest of our picnic and Matt and I got to talk about life and projects we want to do this year and mostly, about how awesome Olive is turning out to be.

On the way home I realized that we ARE living.  We haven’t ceased, we haven’t put projects on hold (well, maybe for a couple of months) but we haven’t said, “never again” to activities we did before.  Well meaning friends have said things like, “Oh, you’ll never do ____ again – you won’t have time!” or “Get sleep now because you’ll never sleep again” and I’m not sure why people speak in extremes like that, but it’s simply not true.  We’ve already enjoyed a glass of wine on our back porch, with our little girl in our arms.  We’ve already seen a movie (left her with a baby sitter) and had a nice meal out (again, babysitter) and have taken our daily walks around the block (sure, sometimes our companion screams) and Matt’s made bread every week and we’ve made nice meals for ourselves at home and I’ve kept the house nice and we’ve made our “fancy coffee” on Saturdays together and…the point is, if you want to keep up the things you used to love to do – just DO them.  Yeah, it’s more difficult.  Dinners are usually in shifts, sometimes one-handed, but we recognize these things are temporary while she is so small.  Olive is this new, fascinating creature that requires our whole presence.  And that is a beautiful thing because we’re already seeing time slip quickly past.  She’s already grown 3 more inches in length, and it won’t be long till those “newborn” sized clothes seem like a joke, while presently, they engulf her tiny frame.

Olive is astounding.  When people say, “Oh, she’s so beautiful”, I say, “thank you!” but what I really think is, “I know!  Isn’t it incredible?! I had nothing to do with it!”  It’s my privilege to nurse her about 10 times in a 24 hour period.  So, for 10 hours a day, I’m staring at her.  Well, I read a lot, too, but I stare at her quite a bit, and it never gets old.  Her soft, pliable ears, her long eye lashes, the way her nose scrunches up while she eats, her red rabbit-soft hair, and her hands…they’re my favorite part of her so far.  Her mouth is a close second.  I notice her perfectly oval fingernail beds, the way her pointer fingers on both hands are slightly double-jointed.  I notice the lines on her knuckles and inside her palms.  She’s complete.  There is no where for her to go but up and out.  I’m humbled to gaze at her and realize I was given her as a gift.  She is not mine and she never will be, ultimately.  She belongs to the only One perfect enough to create her.  She deserves no less than to someday know her Creator.  It wasn’t me and it’s not Matt.  I was just the vessel and I am thankful every day that her perfect hands were once pressed against the inside walls of my body, forming their perfect lines.

So I realize now, with new-found humility, that parents aren’t ceasing to live unless they just choose to.  That life is only bigger and greater with each new addition to the family.  A child is the perfect companion for the life God gave you.  A new love, a new face to point toward the heavens, to gaze at the trees together.  A new voice to teach funny songs, a new tongue to experience warm watermelon in the hot summer sun and a sticky hand to hold while walking around that same, familiar block, now reborn as a new adventure every single day.

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