Feeding Frenzy

Hey! Can you see? What's she doing?
Is she?
Yes! Yes!
She's pruning the lilacs!
Here she comes!

Oh sweet!
The flowers too!


Hey! That's mine! Leave some for me!

Quit shoving!

You always hog all the flowers!

Well that wasn't much...
You think she'll bring more?

Can you see her?
Is she coming back yet?

Sowing Seeds Uncertainly

Though the sky continues to look like this:
...with no forecasted prospects for improvement, (sunshine? spring like temperatures?) we decided to go forward with the annual Memorial weekend chore of planting the garden. With rain projected for the next five days it is highly possible we'll be replanting again soon! But maybe the seed will like it and we'll get lucky. It's a gamble. How shall we bet?

With a wish and a prayer that the seeds will like the coming rain we got started.
There's plenty of work for everyone and again we had lots of helpers. How could we plant the garden without our kids?

Many hands make light work and all that.

This kid has been planting corn every year since he wore diapers.

I need capable males to construct my garden apparatuses. It's a good thing I birthed five boys.

Every year it's something new.
This year instead of Italian staking or tomato cages, I'm trying a tomato wall to grow my plants on.

By the end of the afternoon, we're mostly done...

...but not without shenanigans....

Digging holes with your brother's head? It's the way kids plant gardens.


From our Surf's Up Mickey Breakfast...

While I was nursing Elle on a bench at D.land, Kate all of the sudden "had to go pee" that very second and wanted me to take her. I know I nurse Elle standing up and walking around sometimes at home...in have-to situations, but I wasn't willing to let the whole park see my belly hang out and boobs while I nursed Elle, just so Kate could have me take her potty. So Shad took her and she'd ONLY go if he'd get her a treat. We sound like pushovers (...and we are), but Kate has had some serious regressions in her potty training in the last 3 weeks, so a treat was worth it. However, I didn't expect Shad to return with THIS....

Seriously hon? I admit that I get them cotton candy almost every time we go to Disneyland, but I buy ONE bag, throw away half of it while the kids aren't looking and then split the rest in half for them to share. But Dad bought them each their own. And the greedy little kids wouldn't even share one bite with us (willingly at least...). Life wouldn't be much fun without Dad's though. Especially in our house. Grateful we have him to balance me out a bit.

We watched Sword in the Stone on the way to Disneyland, so Tanner was VERY determined to get that sword out. He worked on it a couple of different times throughout the day. = )

This is where we spent a good share of our day...the old Mark Twain Island, turned into a Pirate Island. Tanner and Kate played on this treasure for at least and hour. We had to drag them off of that island. I'm pretty sure they thought the treasure was real.

Elle was an angel. Complete angel. Great in the car, great in the stroller, great on the rides.

I'm tired.

The sun will come out......tomorrow?

I live in one of the most beautiful places in America. I know many people think they live in a beautiful place, but where I live people come to visit from all over the world. We have the Cascade Mountain range, the Columbia River Gorge, the Hood River Valley with orchards and vineyards, quaint little towns, basalt cliffs, forests, deserts, wildflowers....so much natural beauty.

Check out this daily photo blog for pictures of the beautiful place where I live. Many of the photos there were taken within a twenty mile radius of my house.

There is just one big problem with our beautiful place.

The weather.

The weather. The weather. The. weather.


It is so unpredictable and inconsistent. Sometimes winter is cold and snowy transforming the landscape into a Currier and Ives scene. Other times it is dark, wet, gloomy and rainy for five months. Spring can be warm, sunny and filled with blossoms and flowers and buzzing bees. Last year spring was so consistently warm that I ate my breakfast outside every morning. We planted the garden once and it grew. My legs were tan by June.

This year? Spring has been cold, wet, damp, cold, clammy and cold. I'm still wearing sweaters. Building fires in the woodstove. Two weeks ago we prepared the soil and the seed potatoes for planting but we never got them in the ground because it hasn't stopped raining. It's a good thing we didn't plant them because they would have rotted and we'd have to replant anyway. It has happened to us before. I haven't harvested one leaf of lettuce or spinach yet. What I planted last fall disappeared. What I planted last March has been creeping and unsure.

The spring flowers and lilacs have come and gone and the only way I could enjoy them was to bring a cluster into the house. There was no sitting out in the garden with my coffee this year.

This weather does not bode well for the next month even. My experience has been that if April and May are cold and rainy, so is June. Is that consistency?

Living in the Northwest, people here know what to expect and we brace ourselves for rain. But after EIGHT MONTHS of it.....people are getting grumpy! Whining and complaining about our missing spring warmth, on Facebook or in the grocery store, has become the daily mantra. "When will spring come?" is fast becoming "When will summer come?"

I know that many parts of the country experienced this last year. The midwest didn't have much of a hot summer. I remember thinking, now you know how it is here! It was a fluke in the midwest, here it happens more often then we like.

But sometimes it is warm and nice! Just to keep us hoping and staying. Just to keep it unpredictable.

After two weeks of rain with peeks of sun occasionally just to tease us, the forecast is for a dry holiday weekend. Will we be lucky enough to reach 70 degrees?- while the rest of the country is barbecuing at the beach?

This holiday weekend when you are enjoying the sunshine where you are, feel sorry for me...while surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, blooming rhododendrons and green forests... I will bundle up and grill burgers in the rain.

Tattoo You

So, you may be wondering about the tattoo poll I posted on the blog. Or maybe not. You've never been the curious type, I know.

For years I have toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo. My brain just cannot let go of the thought, even though it always (ultimately) boycotts the notion whenever it bubbles to the top. The idea continues to intrigue me, this thought of making permanent on my skin what lives in my heart.

So, what keeps me from taking the plunge? This may be the oddest excuse out there, but here goes. As you may recall, I have vitiligo and went through total depigmentation when I was 14 (hence the name of my blog). If there is any benefit to being super fair (and also limiting my sun exposure), it's that my skin is completely unmarred. I don't have freckles or moles or anything like that - anywhere. For some reason, when I look at myself in the mirror, I have a hard time imagining myself with a decoration.

The other reason is that I worry about what the future me will think of this thing. I have a hard enough time reconciling the "one who packs my lunch" me and the "one who has to eat my lunch" me (seriously, how can I be so disappointed in my own lunch every day when I am the one who packs it?) The future me may be someone entirely different from the now me. Who knows. Plus, there are certainly plenty of reasons to be fearful. I think you'd have to agree that there are a lot of bad tattoos out there. Check out this site to see some of the worst. Will I be the same person at 70 that I am now? In about twenty years, there will be a lot of middle aged women with sagging, lumpy tramp stamps that seemed like a good idea at the time (twenty years prior). A lot of regrettable ideas are born of tequila shots and nothing more. And what about the now-responsible adult who has to sit through a job interview with the letters B-E-E-R tattooed across his knuckles, a grim reminder of a very bad night?

I worry so about making a mistake with my choice of tattoo that I've been pondering it for ten solid years. No lie. If I do get a tattoo one of these days, the loose concept I have in my head is of a celestial-type design showing four stars (for the babies I lost) and something to honor my daughter, the one I got to keep. I wish I had some artsy-fartsy skills so that I could truly envision what it would look like. For now, I guess I'll keep mulling it over.

In the meantime, here is one of my favorite songs of late, "Old White Lincoln" by The Gaslight Anthem. I like the line, "You and your high top sneakers and your sailor tattoos."

Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have made millions and billions of cookies. Or trillions.

At least it feels that way.

When I was a teenager it was my job to keep the cookie jar full of homemade cookies. Throughout the years that our oldest kids were growing up I baked cookies several times a week until I passed the torch onto my daughters.

The all-around favorite cookie has ever and always been the chocolate chip cookie. Dipped in a glass of milk and slurped leaving drips on your chin. The only way to eat a chocolate chip cookie. Or six.

For the last sixteen months I have been baking cookies for the complimentary coffee and cookie bar at Expertec, where Mr. Dirtywrench keeps the cars and trucks in our town purring. Four nights a week the aroma of butter and sugar wafts through the house. The family has finally gotten used to it and I manage to fill the cookie jar without half of them first disappearing to the four corners of the house. And still, the favorite cookie with Expertec customers is the chocolate chip cookie.

Isn't it everyone's favorite cookie? There are countless recipes and variations of recipes for the chocolate chip cookie. Do we really need another one? Probably not- but let me just put my own tried and true, tested, tweaked and tasted recipe out there for consideration. This recipe makes a cookie that is buttery, chewy, crispy and chocolatey. Simple and straightforward but so delicious it is the one cookie I just have to indulge in when I am baking. As I preach with every recipe, good quality ingredients make a difference in the final product. These chocolate chip cookies taste best when good quality butter and chocolate chips are used.

Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies)

Cream together:
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 cups best quality butter, softened

Beat in 2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups of all purpose flour

Stir in 2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes. Let cool on the pan for five minutes then remove to a rack to cool. Nevermind! Eat them while they're still warm and gooey.

P.S. For variety try adding one cup of shredded coconut and one cup of chopped pecans to the dough with the chocolate chips.

The queen of one-liners

We had a fabulous weekend. Because we don't believe in happy mediums (media?) around here, the weather went straight from 42 degrees last week to 90 degrees this weekend. Go directly to inferno, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

We did squeeze in a lot of outdoorsy stuff over the weekend, though. On Saturday, we attended an eight-year-old's birthday party in the afternoon. The party was for the daughter of a family friend and was held at our local amusement park. We'd made arrangements for them to take A home with them, as their older daughter had agreed to babysit that evening. P and I were celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary with a cocktail cruise. It was a two-hour tour down the river and back again. Two couples from church came and it was a lot of fun. There were four bachelorette parties on the boat, but they weren't as obnoxious as such parties often are. One of the brides came around with a bouquet of blow pops and I bought one for a buck. I have no idea what it was all about (and whether or not a sexual favor was implied in some way), but I do love blow pops.

On Sunday, my neighbor and I made arrangements to take a bike ride on a local trail. She has one of those pull-behind Burleys and volunteered to pull A behind her. Her nephew would be riding in the Burley as well. Hey, if she wants to pull an extra hundred pounds behind her, who am I to argue? It was decidedly muggy on Sunday (90+). After church, the kid kept complaining that it was too hot. Finally, I said, "If you're too hot now, then you're too hot to go on the bike ride today."

She frowned and thrust her chin outward. "Mama. How could you say something so mean to such a nice kid?"

How could I, indeed?

On Sunday evening, the kid invited me to play a game of Go Fish. She has a deck of egg-shaped cards that she got from the Easter Bunny. I said, "Sure, I'll play." I'm always hesitant to accept game invitations from her because one of us is not a good sport. Nevertheless, we sat at the dining room table and played Go Fish. We bantered back in forth with "do you have a three?" and "didn't you just ask me for that?" for a while. Eventually, I had a couple of quartets on the table and she had a bunch of cards in her hand.

I asked her, "Do you have a five?"

Her response: "Just a second. I'll check around."

You'll check around? Where might it be, if not in your hand?

That kid. She doth crack me up.


Back in 2000 I was pregnant with our sixth baby. My BFF, Lila, was pregnant with her seventh and we were due at the same time. We were homeschooling, homebirthing, 30-meal-making buddies who met when we were hauling our oldest boys to Little League baseball games.
We had the same midwife and had a lot of fun being pregnant together. This was taken not long before our babies arrived.

Samuel arrived first and Lila was present at his birth. When things calmed down at our house Lila promptly went home and gave birth to Esther.

This is the first picture of the babies together. Samuel is about 24 hours old and Esther is about one hour old. Did I mention that Lila always birthed Amazon babies? I think Esther weighed something like sixteen pounds. Okay, so that's an exaggeration. But only a little.

We had fun raising our babies together too. They were only one day apart in age.

I love how Esther is giving Sammy the stink-eye in this photo. What do you think she is thinking?

Esther clearly always had the upper hand in these baby photos.

For our babies first birthdays we had a party at our house and they both had their own little cake. This photo was taken that day on our back porch.

Later that summer, Lila and her family moved away to Mexico to live as missionaries. They have come back every two years or so for visits. They are here again for the summer for another stay and tonight they came over for dinner.

I couldn't resist getting Sammy and Esther together again for another picture on the back porch.

Nine years later and they are still as cute as ever.

That Amazon baby has turned into an Amazon nine year old. Sammy is still one day older than her.

Here is a picture of all our kids back in the summer of 2000, the day our friends left for Mexico.

And here are a remnant of the kids tonight. Life has changed. All the older kids are spread out establishing their adult lives, there are two little guys in this photo that weren't born yet in the above photo.
Nothing accentuates the march of time more than pictures of kids.

Well, a look in the mirror every morning works pretty well too.

What not to say

One of the highlights of my weekly routine is listening to the "This American Life" podcast in my car on the way to/from work. I love a good story (even more so when it is true), and I've always enjoyed the way "This American Life" weaves together different tales with a central theme. Ira Glass is the host and he does a great job of narrating the stories and interviewing the storytellers. The fact that I love an NPR program this much . . . it means I'm getting old, right? The other day I was watching a particularly amusing episode of Spongebob Squarepants. It was the one where Patrick is telling Spongebob how to become a mature adult. At one point Patrick says, "And now you have to develop an appreciation for free-form jazz!" I laughed out loud because I have long said that once I start listening to jazz, it's all over.

But, back to NPR. I hooked up my iPod in my car on Tuesday and started to listen to the most recent podcast. The theme was "home movies." Ira narrated an introduction wherein a woman was watching a home movie. You could hear the sounds of a projector whirring away. The woman was studying the movie intently because she was curious about one particular person who appeared on the screen. Then Ira said this: "She is adopted and she thinks this may be her real mother." I stopped listening on the spot. I couldn't be sure if he would continue using negative adoption language, and I didn't want my jaw clenched for a solid hour.

Adoptive parents are used to people not knowing the correct terms to use in relation to adoption. Most of us have been knocked around quite a bit in the journey to parenthood but even so, I wouldn't say we are overly sensitive in general. However, I was surprised to hear the term "real mother" used by a radio host/personality, someone who should really know better.

My daughter has a birthmother who loves her very much. I think about A's birthmother every single day. She gave birth to this beautiful child and she is the only reason I am a mother. I would never try to diminish her role in any way. The term "real mother" is just insulting all the way around. My daughter has a mom and a birthmom. From the moment she was born , I have taken care of A's needs. When she was a baby, I got up three times a night to feed her and changed the vast majority of the diapers. I take her to the doctor and make sure she eats well. I buy her clothes and everything else she needs (and lots of stuff she doesn't need). I read to her at night. I floss her teeth. I laugh at the "Guess what? Chicken butt!" joke every time she tells it. I hug her tightly every day of her life and tell her that I love her with all my heart.

What, exactly, do I need to do in order to be her "real" mother? Hmm, Ira Glass?

Dodging Raindrops In the Garden

Last week while I was busy baking cupcakes, we had gorgeous spring days with 70+ temps and bright sunshine. I managed to enjoy some of it between pouring cake batter and washing mixing bowls.

Now that my days are more leisurely, the weather has turned cold and rainy. But of course!

With our long cold spring our blooms are a bit later than usual. Instead of lilacs for Mother's Day, they are blooming now. I am always anxious to enjoy lilac time. I knew they were out there displaying their glory in the cold rain so as soon as the rain cleared for a bit today I ran out with my camera and my clippers...

We have a long old hedge of common farmhouse lilacs. They perfume the air!

These are my favorite. I acquired them in a plant trade with the baseball concession lady years ago. She took some of my common lilacs and I got these lovely (but less fragrant) darker ones. The planting is now twelve feet tall!

This new little plant with double blooms is one I got at a nursery with a gift certificate from my church. The nursery tag said the blooms would be dark purple with white edges. They aren't. It is still pretty.

I was excited to find three clusters of flowers on this new little plant that I started from a slip of a shrub growing at my church. It will be wonderful in cut bouquets some day!

This is another new little start from a friend's garden that hasn't shown me any flowers yet. Maybe next year?

That is the status of my lilac collection. Maybe I need to add a pink one this year...?

As I strolled around my yard in the momentary sunshine, I was pleasantly surprised several times. In just a week the landscape has changed so much.

This garish azalea took me by surprise as I rounded a corner. It is one of the very first plants I put in after coming to Oregon from the azalea-less Midwest. I was very enchanted by azaleas and rhododendrons when we first arrived. This plant is about fifteen years old and doesn't look a day over three.

Another surprise! This weigela, which I bought as a broken little stick from a fall clearance nursery sale is in full bloom in a place where I can't see it out any window. No wonder the hummingbirds are so busy around here.

And this rhodie, at the back corner of the house, quietly blooms its scarlet flowers. This shrub is also fifteen or so years old but often gets clobbered by heavy falling snow off the roof.

Last weekend when I had visitors to my studio, the newly mowed lawn displayed a carpet of dandelions. This week it's buttercups!

We finally got the strawberry bed completely mulched. The plants are blooming well. I can't wait for my breakfast bowl of berries!

It looks like we'll have another bumper crop of blueberries, if the bees are doing their job. It's a good thing since I have lots of summer berry pies on the wedding schedule.

What is blooming out your way?

(Apologies for the smudged camera lens that contributes to poor photo quality. I'm sure my son is grinding his teeth as he views them.)


A week of work in the kitchen produced this:
Fudge cupcakes with vanilla cream filling and chocolate ganache.
Lemon buttermilk cupcakes with lemon curd and blueberry cream icing.
Carrot pineapple cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese icing.
Strawberry rhubarb tartlettes garnished with whipped cream and a strawberry slice.

Now I want to take a three day nap.