Monday, April 30, 2012

You Know You're a Mom Monday

This week's edition comes to us from my friend Autumn Shea, a brave and pioneering mother of Irish twins. Born inside the same 365 days, Amelia and Mason keep Autumn creating and innovating new approaches to parenthood as she tries to peer inside the minds of not one, but two ambitious toddlers. 

Mia and Mason, covered in creativity
And here are the two, this time playing in the dryer. Apparently they both inherited mum's sense of adventure...and perhaps an appreciation for the whimsical and the absurd too?

And here is Autumn with her hardworking man, and the littles too, all dressed up for Easter.

Autumn is quite crafty and finds herself passing time with fabric and stitch work, bringing her creations to life. I can't say for sure that she is going to sell them to you, but I think it's worth asking. :) Here are a couple of my favorites. 

Look at the details on this little coffee cup hugger. Love this. 

Don't have to have a daughter to know how cute one would be in this little number. :)

And since she obviously has a considerable amount of "free time" left over, she's beginning the journey of becoming a doula - AKA, a wise and intuitive birth attendant - which will suit her well. Of course I'm thrilled at this prospect since I discovered first, what a doula was, that I in fact needed and wanted one, and then happily, found my doula, Rachel Andresen. And as I have raved before, I am so grateful she was a soothing, intelligent, essential part of my birth process. So I do hope this dreams becomes a tangible one for Autumn. 

Autumn blogs sometimes - and should more often, because she's a good writer - at Transparent Heart. She's got a wonderfully adventurous life story and its worth a listen so stop by and pay her a visit. 

Here are Autumn's gifts to us for the week. Installment #6:

You know you’re a mom when…   

you find graham cracker crumbs in your dryer because your two-year-old decided that was the coolest place ever to eat her snack

nap time is the only time you feel like you can get anything done

you need a nap as much as the kids do

the laundry in your kids’ room multiplies mysteriously and begins to travel unaccompanied to other parts of the house

you have as many plastic dishes as you do breakable ones
What's not to love about these squishy little people?

leaving the house is a 20-30 minute ordeal involving finding shoes, putting on shoes, stocking your diaper bag, finding said shoes again, putting shoes BACK on, etc.

using the bathroom with the door open and one or two little buddies is no big deal

you praise YOURSELF for using the potty to encourage your toddler to see it as a desirable skill (Ha ha sorry, Autumn, but I can't help picturing this. So funny.)

you have picked up the same item off the floor 10 times or more in one day

the little people in your house are total rotten little boogers sometimes, but you still wouldn’t trade them for the world

Autumn, thank you for taking time to jot these down and giving us a peak into your world. This was fun. Back again next week with more. 

{Send your You Know You're a Mom moments to, along with a short bio and anything you want me to promote (a blog, small business, whatever). I find pictures on Facebook so if we're not friends yet, send me a few relevant photos and I'll get them up. Thanks for participating in the fun.}


Friday, April 27, 2012

Life Together

Teaming up to think out loud on Community with the Gypsy Mama for Five-Minute Friday. Confession: It took longer than five minutes to get all this down, but it was worth it. And my special note: For all the friends and family who shared our couches and carpet and dishes and milk with, I still love you all. No matter where in the world you are. No matter how long it's been since we talked.

Here I go:
“Do you mind if I bring my snake?” David asked Josh, maybe in a text message two Mays ago. I didn’t mind, as long as she stayed where snakes stay, in glass cages. David moved in a short while later, snake and opinions in tow, along with Derek, the post-military intelligence, twenty-something, who lived almost two lives in his short years. And Rachel unloaded the truck into the room across the hall, two steps from Josh and me. These were our first roommates.



We argued the nutritional value of bacon in the kitchen and if boys were better than girls in the living room. Ah-ha moments about God and the Holy Spirit mixed themselves in. Prank wars were threatened but only barely acted upon. There was some tickling and tackling and so much laughing. There were always dishes in the sink. There were many late, tired nights. There was a baby in a belly growing arms and legs. And often there was Rachel sitting on my bed, whispering to me that I should rest, listening to the Baby Blessings CD and wishing we could hear God say these things to us.

Rachel when we met at the camping trip. We were friends in minutes.

Then summer ended and the basement boys moved out. And so did Rachel. And in came Jeff and Joe. Joe the guitar player with wild curly hair and a laugh that took up all the room. Jeff fresh from a paid trip to the desert, a little sunburnt and full of some revelation about himself. He and his dark green gear and shaved head took Derek’s old room and Joe moved in to the room without a snake. And then we were mostly just a house of boys. It was me against Bear and Josh and Jeff and Joe, and the tiny in my belly, John, who was mostly on my side, but maybe not by choice. Christy saved the day across the hall some time in September with girly clothes and some late nights talking about boys. And just before a baby came she found her big-girl apartment and off she went exploring.

Jeff, Joe, Josh and John in a bundle, all being exactly like themselves. 

Then the John we’d all been waiting for came after so much time, and nearly all the world came to see him when I’d not slept for nearly three entire days. And we came back home and that was when John and I cried, and I don’t think Jeff or Joe saw any more crying from any two people than they did that November.

He was really that small, I promise you.

Then in January Jeff married Emma, and they had been moved out for only just a breath and then back in across the hall from us, the room for guests but for Christy before them, right next to the baby. And Jeff and Emma became Auntie Ems and Unky Jeff, and all was right like that for two months or so. They learned how to put on a diaper at least. 

Mawwage looks nice on you two. 

The Wheatley wedding reception was a family affair.

They they sold the truck and bought a hippie car and found their own space in the world, which was good but we missed them. And Joe made his first guitar and it looked so nice and sounded even better. And everyone was proud. Then Joe graduated and moved to his space too.

Joe plays guitar and swings a bat. Here he's just singing his heart out.

And then we were an empty house. For just a minute. Long enough to walk around and feel all the quiet and think something might be wrong and enjoy it all the same.

Soon came Allie, sort of. She needed a place to sleep only for thirty days or so because she was a busy blonde fiancée planning to marry her dashing Ryan who lived only a few blocks away. And so we saw that she stayed the night by the rumpled clothes on her bed, but rarely saw her until after she walked down the aisle in ivory.

Allie and her man, who looks like a sock monkey, but he's really a guy named Ryan. 

And then the music came back to the house, with Megan and Kelley, two missionaries on the sojourn to Ireland, needing a landing spot for a while. And this time it was someone else’s turn to grow a baby – theirs. And Rachel came back because we liked her and she liked us, and we thought how much fun we all had last summer and maybe we should just do it again. She was brought her keyboard and more music. So the married people moved into the room Jeff and Derek and Allie had slept in, and Rachel took David and Joe’s room. And both rooms got a nice makeover, one yellow and one purple. And there was more laughing and late nights and belly watching and baby planning. And Christy came back again, in the middle of it all, just to stay for a week or a month. 

Megan and Kelley, in barn and Irish red

But then Rachel moved home and so Christy went downstairs into a room that once housed a snake and two boys and a girl before her. And she gave it another makeover, this time with Pier1 warms – and made it feels so homey. And Christy just never quite left.

The very beautiful and radiant Christy

We try to forget, but some time in there, the bathroom had terrible problems of flooding and the couple with growing belly were moving graciously in and out of their room. And I couldn’t believe all the grace, all the kindness they gave to us as we tried so hard to fix the thing. And we finally did. And the bathroom got a fix-up, with a bathtub and tiles and some other niceties. 

And then, another baby. A Liam.

And then Emma was here for a moment or two, waiting for Jeff to get back. And she sat on our couch and searched her inside eye for perfect lighting on her portrait subjects and scoured her Mac and the Scriptures for perfect understanding on the biggest, longest paper she will ever write. A sign she is almost done with college. And then Jeff came back and everyone was happy. I am sad now because the only pictures of that moment are the ones in my mind. And right away, they went home together, though she arrived alone.

Two years from the day when the snake and two boys and a girl moved in, this house on the east side expanded with our hearts. And now we are seven, five adults and two babies. (Well, one is a toddler, but I’m still hanging on.) And Megan and Kelley are still going across the ocean some day, with a little redhead and his baby luggage. And Christy with her gigantic laugh, is finding out her passion and what she looks like as a blond. 

The Liam grows...more and more like Dad every day. :)

And Josh and John and I are living here in this big, huge-small space with a wide, open door that swings in and out, with arms stretched to try to take in all the love that is poured out and squishing the little ones we're growing up; with faces lifted to breathe in the aromas of Kelley’s coffee and Henry’s cooking. And ears straining to hear the singing and strumming from the basement. The sounds of worship.

We live like this, a community, a small family at the end of a block, learning to wash each other’s dishes, struggling to discover what honor looks like to our neighbors, this family. We’re doing this the best we can, which is a mess most days, but the closeness is so warm and worth it. And on the worst weeks when things are going badly, and the dishes are still dirty, and it feels that everyone else is selfish and navelgazing, we look around and know, we can’t have life any other way. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When it starts to feel real

There’s a funny feeling walking through a brand, new rite of passage. Even though high school, college and grad school, marriage and and parenting were all part of the expected, or at least the hoped-for, there was an odd sensation walking across the stage or back down that aisle.

In May 2000, I tossed my black, square cap and tassel as high as I could. I was done with high school forever. I would not miss it. Ever. On to more school, this time my choice. Sort of. In reality, I fought my way through college, never quite feeling secure in a major, wanting always to be somewhere else on the other side of the ocean. 

But in 2005, it happened again. Black stilettos peeked out beneath the black muumuu they call a graduation gown. Up and across a new stage, I was handed another diploma case; smiles and handshakes, and it was over. Five war-torn years of good and bad choices and boys I mostly regretted and living, laughing and battling with a close friend who got married and all the happiness and grief I felt losing her. But I was finished. It was finished.

Then marriage. I didn’t see this one coming, not then, not him. Not Joshua Siders. Not in Manhattan, Kansas. I didn’t know I’d met my match at that coffee shop round table in the fall of 2006. But a year and a half later, I in pink and he in black, danced down a bright, afternoon aisle to the hurrahs and cheers of everyone we loved.

On a day in May, four years ago. 

But every time I passed into the new season, I felt that strange feeling. There was accomplishment, a box checked, new windows and doors opening in front of me. Options, opportunities, a new resume. And the nagging, enormous feeling that it all wasn’t real. Not an out of body experience. Just something I could never quite grasp. Like the times I tried to think about eternity or when I looked up at the black, night sky with stars peering through and thought, “The God who made all that made me”. Cue the internal explosion. 

It just never quite made sense. Josh will tell you I spent at least the first year staring at him with squinted eyes. “We’re married,” I wondered aloud in awe. Like I was trying to hug a redwood of an idea with the arms of my mind. Every time the thought was huge, and I, so very small. “I’m done with high school.” “I’m done with college.” “We’re married.” Over and over, maybe not daily, but it struck me often. And whenever it did, I whispered to him in our hunched-over, Caribbean-hued apartment downtown, whispered we were married. As if not to shock him too much. And he was never quite as surprised as I was.

Then came a day when I didn’t need to tell myself any longer. When the truth of the reality of new beginning folded itself into the fabric of existence, and it’s okay now, okay to be graduated and married, okay to own a house, bear children.

Us last week, celebrating four years.

The other morning I woke up and looked at Josh, and I thought about the days and weeks where we did just this, woke up next to one another, and I squinted and quietly revealed to him we had, in fact, gotten hitched. Inevitably, I was shocked; he was not.

This morning, however, I did not say that. There’s no need to anymore. The stage of knowing what is and soaking up its goodness is upon me. This is the longed-for stage of comfort and beauty, two wines in the cellar, growing aged and fine together. Finally, I know where we are, I know who we are.

So I looked over at him with my chopped off mess of hair and my nose ring and all the changes we’ve made together, and I said, “I like that I can be myself around you. I appreciate that.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Know You're a Mom Monday

This week's installment of You Know You're a Mom comes to us from Jessica Bouzianis. Jessica moms it up every day with her 16 month old, Grace, all the while taking good care of that bun in the oven. Because of Steven's job, Jessica and her family seem to find themselves in motion most of the time, and this keeps her on her tiptoes, listening in to heaven to see what might be next for them. 

Jessica, Steven and Grace, the little darling

Jessica and I met a few years ago, introduced by a mutual friend. Over the years we found a million obscure lilly pads of commonhood: our unconventional roles with our husbands, our semi-hippie lifestyle choices, and at last, our natural births. Jessica turned me on to natural birth about 5 months into my pregnancy after I watched "The Business of Being Born". After crying my way through the film, I was hooked. No epidural for me

Since then, Jessica and I have ventured through motherhood together, through text, email and Skype - and when we can, in person. Here are a couple shots of our littles enjoying each other's company. Well, it gets better.

Their first meeting at about 4 weeks (Grace) and 2 months (John). Already getting on so well.
And just a few months ago.
Jessica had so many "You Know You're a Mom" moments, but here are a few. There are hilarious...because they're so true.

Installment #5
You know you're a Mom when...

* you go from super proud to totally embarrassed at any second

* you trade in your purse for a diaper bag, and anyone can ask for anything from it,  and more amazingly you can pull it out....a little Mary Poppins, if you will

* you schedule your bathroom trips around a feeding schedule or nap time 
The precious, precocious? Ms. Grace

* you and the hubs are at home with the newborn who starts crying, is hungry and has a dirty diaper......and then you realize, there is no one to pass them off to

* a shower, hairstyle and makeup happen in the same day and you feel like you deserve a trophy....which you do

* every pic or facebook status update includes your little 

* you discuss the consistency of the tot's poo with your hubs as an answer to "how was your day, dear"

* your meal plans revolve around what will be easiest to pick up after the toddler feeds it to the floor

* you wake up to the sound of a babe talking to her stuffed bunny and teddy bear and go in to find her standing at attention to greet you with a Hi!

* you find yourself on your knees in prayer everyday because that little bundle has a way of reminding you that you can't do it on your own

Thank you so much for sharing these universal mommy moments with us, Jessica. Love these. Hope to hear from you again soon when you can talk about being a mommy of two. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Life is the Interruptions

You know what drives me crazy? Interruptions. I can't stand 'em.

I've got a list of regular interruptions plaguing me, and they are each equally disturbing. When I'm in the middle of right-brain brilliance, the last thing I need is to realize that my bladder needs attention, my stomach is grumpy or my child is whining. Attending to bodily functions or stopping to care for others in need is always so difficult to justify when I am about to have a breakthrough with the perfect typeface or when I just thought of a genius small business idea - I just have to buy the domain name. I can barely stand the commas in my stream-of-thought sentences when I just discovered a new hobby or an oppressed people to fight for. Who do these people think they are? I'm trying to solve world hunger over here, and you want a glass of water?

Image credit: 

Today it happened, and with perfect predictability. It was 12:30, my lunch time. I was about to skip the lunch break for one of my favorite projects, the department newsletter. Hunched over the keyboard with my imagination projecting images onto the screen, Feist radio in the background, I would lose myself in graphic design and witty wordage. It was about to go down. Until it wasn't.    

A knock on the door. A request for me to take an angry patient. She just stormed out of another staff member's office, accusing him of wanting her dead. Now she will be yours, I learned. The visions of my peaceful, creative aloneness began to dissolve. A bit of grumbling followed; it was mine.

Darn you, interruptions. And the day was going so well.

If I could only go to the clinic and not be bothered. If only I could put on the headphones and fade into the design program. If only no one had any mental health crises that needed solutions now. If only there were no people who would rather be dead, no mothers who can't decide the future of their unborn children. If only my son could learn to microwave his own quesadillas, and my husband could debrief himself after his sermons. If only my roommates never had a mid-life crisis or a question about the groceries. Then I would be happy. Then I could read biographies. I could write. Pray. Uninterrupted, I could be so productive. 

If I had long hair and no family and no job, this would be me.  

But then, I remember: the interruptions are the job. The interruptions are the life. The project I'm working on is my job, and so any cantankerous, drama queen who really feels lonely and wants her husband back from war. Compassion is not for planned events only. Justice is not reserved for a crisis that made my schedule. 

And what's more, the interruptions reveal my character. Who I am in the interruption is who I really am. Today, I found out that deep down, I am whiny and grumpy. I am not benevolent and philanthropic as I like to imagine. I am not a bending-over-backwards Servant of All. Sometimes I am just edgy, hostile, prickly, stinky - like a porcupine who needs a bath. But how I respond to the interruption is how I respond to my life. Because the groceries and the bathroom trips and the upset babies and the desperate patients and the person driving slow in traffic and the disorganized lady taking forever in the WalMart check out - they are my life. 

The meditation: the interruptions do not prevent me from my life. They ARE my life. 

Illness is my life. Health is my life. Diapers and playtime and giggling children are my life. Indeed, church meetings that go long and conversations that turn tearful are the life we live in this little ranch house in the valley. They are where Jesus does His best work, on His way to somewhere else. He expected the interruptions, looked out for them, because He didn't call them that. He called them Life, People, Beloved Ones, Essential Moments that would never be lived just this way again. 

Teach me to pay attention to what you're doing, Spirit. Teach me to see the beauty and safe danger in what I don't expect. I would like to reach out and hug the surprises instead of snarling at them. I say I love adventure. Okay, give it to me. Just help me see that my life here, no matter the punctuation, is exactly what I've asked for.

Monday, April 16, 2012

You Know You're a Mom Monday

This week's episode is brought to us by Jazzmin (Jazzy) Earl. My dear friend from ages past, Jazzy and I became friends at age 12 when we ditched the other loser 7th graders to play basketball by ourselves. We lacked talent, but at least we weren't playing Red Rover. 

Jazzy and I, front and center. We were very happy back then, which made up for the severe awkwardness that radiated from our beings.

Us today, 16 years later. And thankfully, less awkward.

Today, Jazzy is an uber-gifted artist and teacher, and she married into the adventure of mommyhood last June. With grace and patience, she parents Payton alongside her husband, Prentiss, and I love hearing the lessons she learns in the process. 
Jazzy tying up the loose ends on her Payton.

You can take a cyber-walk through Jazzy's gallery of beauty and creativity at her portfolio site here. You can also get information on her upcoming art show at the Blue Koi in KC by clicking here. The show will be up the entire month of May so make a point to take the short drive east for a viewing. You won't regret it.

One of Jazzy's latest pieces. See what I mean? Talent.

Installment #4 from Jazzy: 

You know you're a mom when you have to hide veggies in the food or put ridiculous amounts of bacon or cheese with them. 

If you look closely,  you'll see a tiny spot of green. We think it may be broccoli.

What the heck is wrong with vegetables?!  So I have had to do what a mom has to do; and that is to hide the veggies in the food. Would you like some zucchini with that cheese? How about would you like some green beans with that bacon. Seriously a healthy side is not the same in this house these days.  And once it is all prepared, he eats one minuscule piece!  

Jazz, what can we say? You're a trooper. And very good at your job(s).

Jazzy and Payton, having a chill moment, enjoying some Food Network. And hopefully getting some new ideas for disguising health food.

Thanks for sharing your Mom moment with us, Jazzy. Hope to hear from you again soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mercy: The Hammer and The Life Raft

[Been thinking about Mercy and her subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways of kindness today. So here's a classic Siders House post on Mercy from 2009 for your Saturday. Enjoy.]

The night before his first triathlon, Murphy and his Law were riding my brother’s bumper just to watch him sweat. He could barely take the tiny, almost purposeful, mishaps: the broken swim goggles, the triathlon gear haphazardly strewn about the dining room, the painful, resurfacing image of himself, splashing and flailing helplessly across Lake Shawnee while all the other triathletes glided gracefully past. He was a veritable mess, but all I did at first was remark sarcastically about his about his propensity for hearing about impossible things and doing them because someone said he couldn’t. He obliged my psychobabble jabbing in exchange for a favor. He needed new swim goggles, and he wanted me to go get them. Although I agreed to the task, he soon realized I hadn’t quite picked up on his sense of urgency. “Maybe I’ll get them myself,” he quipped so I would feel bad about my dawdling. Suddenly I felt unnecessary. I wanted him to need me at least a little so I offered to go to Wal-Mart for racing snacks. He took me up on that one.

While he scurried about the kitchen, cursing at the unfortunate series of events, I pondered the idea of going with him. Maybe I could calm him down before the race tomorrow. The thought of him splashing around pathetically with no one to tell him he was okay at the end made me a little sad. On the other hand, what if what he really needed was to hit the ground hard, crash into his limits and feel the pain of over-commitment and under-preparation?

I wondered what Mercy would do in this situation. And without actually asking Mercy what she would do, I offered to go with him, just to feel it out. He seemed relieved at the idea, but suggested that I probably didn’t want to get up at 3:00am. I couldn’t convince him that I did, but we both knew maybe it would make things a little better.

John with the other half-clad males. He's on the far left, goggles on, scanning the water. Excuse the poor photo quality. It was taken on my phone.
Soon I started thinking about the times Mercy rescued me in her strange ways. Sometimes she lets me flounder and flop so I won’t crash quite so badly next time. And then there are times when, maybe out of pure pity for my ignorance, and she throws out a life raft and the circumstances tilt ever so slightly in my favor. Where a moment before I was running uphill with the wind in my face, suddenly I’m coasting on a downhill slope with a breeze coming up from behind.

After my many run-ins with Mercy, I can tell one or two things about her character though. One of her favorite things to do is be really nice when we don’t deserve it. This sort of behavior totally pulls the rug out from under our Pavlovian rug of rewards and consequences. It totally busts the if-then formula we learned about good and bad behavior back in grade school. Mercy chuckles to herself when we stare awestruck as kindness melts over us right after we just got into an argument with our spouse or lied to our boss about our vacation time or cut someone off in traffic. It’s when we are the most unloveable and mean and wretched that we are also most vulnerable to Love and Mercy sneaking up on us with their treacherous goodnesses.

I have to admit though. These means are quite effective. While I’m in the middle of kicking myself for being an ass, I’m completely unarmed when it comes to defending myself against Mercy. I am forced to realize that Kindness just tackled me for no reason except that she loves me, I guess, because I sure did not earn it.

Mercy seems to have this bizarre pleasure in making me very uncomfortable. But it works. Like the summer I was raising money to be in full-time ministry. After my cousin’s wedding one Saturday night, I drank my grandpa’s whiskey in the basement with a few renegade family members until I blacked out. I said all sorts of inappropriate things I wanted to deny except one of my cousin’s got it all on video. The next thing I remember was my face in the toilet, my hair held back by one of my brothers, the other one held me steady. That was the night I lost my right to be self-righteous about how much they drank and I didn’t. I woke up guilty, sunken and hungover, slumped into the queen bed in my bedroom at my parents' house. I sprawled there marinating in heaps of shame, a Satan, my own voice accusing me.

The LeSabre, Not mine, but a close relative. Crushed red velvet interior and a front bench seat. And on this terrible day, sparkling like almost-new.

Soon I saw my car, the "legendary" Buick LeSabre, pull up in front of the house. And I wasn’t driving it. When I inquired about the strange behavior of my vehicle, my mother informed me that my father had taken it out and cleaned it. And it was sparkly, as sparkly as an ’86 Buick LeSabre could be, with a full tank of gas and everything. It was horrible. When I knew what I really deserved was to be excommunicated, here comes Mercy, my Teacher, sidling up next to me with cookies and warm milk, taking me out of the cold, and erasing my latest black mark off the whiteboard. When Mercy wins, she kind of loses, at first, so I can win. I can’t say that I understand it fully, but all I know is, this is the only way we both get what we want in the end. I turn around, tearful, repentant and grateful, and she gets to welcome me home.

This is the sort of thing Mercy loves to do. And this is why I am not Mercy. But I can’t deny she’s good at her job.

PS: The good news for John: he participated in the triathlon anyway, despite all the obstacles, or in his case, because of them. He ended up with an excellent time and to his own chagrin, he will probably end up doing a couple more. And if I know him, he may not even train for them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foodie Friday: A Gift from the Generations

I grew up under the skyscraper guardian evergreens, playing under small patches of sky. On the map, our 3-bedroom ranch was only an inch from the ocean, but it took about an hour to drive there. Sand in my toes, salt on my tongue, I spent many an afternoon digging a new route to China beneath the Pacific along Cannon Beach. The ocean was always my favorite place to be, but I never dreamed in salt water grey. I dreamed about Kansas, in sky blue and earth brown. Because my huge, kissing, hugging family lived there, in a little suburb of Kansas City. And at the end of every year, we hopped a plane to be with them. One, two, three, and then four tiny Newmans, with one Papa thrilled to see his family again, and one Mama, happy too, but strung out from packing the four little monkeys to trek halfway across the US.

We were greeted with cheers and hugs and various forms of sugar, which of course was nearly unlawful in our Oregon house. But everyone knows Christmas is time for the annual fructose overdose. Cookies, candy, coffeecake - yes, please. Needless to say, with all the excess sugar and 20ish extra cousins around to play with, high speed chases around the yard and bed-jumping ensued. And every year, at the center of the busy joy was the same woman, Mama Jean. The mother of eight herself, she was not to be daunted by the sound of children laughing, yelling, or asking to eat...again.

Our trips to Kansas City were some of our happiest. And then something happened, but I think I expected it. While I was playing outside in 1993, a tiny white cotton flower floated down from the sky. I pulled it down, made a wish and sent it back to God. I wished for us to move to Kansas. Suddenly, someone pushed the fast forward button. I finished 6th grade, Dad got a job, the house went up for sale, movers stashed our belongings in brown cardboard, and then, voila! We lived in Kansas. The dream came true. And the rest, as they say, is history.

One of my favorite things about Kansas was always Mama Jean, with her delicate, inimitable style and creativity, and a smile and confidence that warmed us all. An elegant matriarch, she cooked and baked and dreamed and loved with generosity and extravagance. Even her speech was like a song, a jazzy ballad with gusto and polish. She lived and loved so well. 

We lost Mama Jean to heaven last August - not her loss, by any means. But she lives on way beyond the gene pool of eight children, 30 grandchildren and 30-something greats...and counting. Although that's quite the legacy already. But she is very much alive in our conversations, in the trademark, dry Newman humor, in our impeccable (yes) fashion sense, in our recipes, in our Christian Catholic faith, in the tiny details we would never notice had she not cared first. She lives in nearly a hundred people who came after her, and nearly a million ways we were all touched by her.

Mama Jean and her scrumtrulecent spread. She had a gift. And we loved how it tasted.

Although I'm far from renown when it comes to baking, cooking or any type of kitchen activity (besides eating), today I am honored to share one of Mama Jean's prized recipes with you. I have no idea how prized it was to her, but because of the taste of it, it was prized by all of us. I'm not lying when I say it was more or less a form of currency when sent to my brother during his two deployments to Iraq. It's that good. This is a Midwestern coffeecake to beat them all. If you're trying to impress a few friends at an upcoming party, shower or other social gathering, I recommend whipping up this delicious, breakfast masterpiece. Be prepared you'll be asked to make it again so keep these few, simple ingredients on hand. 

In her handwriting - the original recipe. The more readable version is below.

Here is the recipe for Mama Jean's Sherry Bundt Cake.

You will need:
A bundt pan
Non-stick spray
A mixing bowl
A mixer (hand or bowl mixer)
An oven
The ingredients - you probably have all of it in your cupboard, except cooking sherry

1 package of yellow cake mix
1 package of vanilla pudding 
4 eggs
3/4 cup cooking sherry
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp butter-flavored extract or vanilla extract (I use the vanilla)
1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, mixed together 
Chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients together for one minute on low speed.
Then mix on medium speed for five minutes.
Spray your bundt pan with the non-stick spray.
Then sprinkle part of the sugar and cinnamon blend on the bottom of the bundt pan. 
Pour 1/2 of your cake mixture evenly into the pan.
Sprinkle more of the sugar and cinnamon blend over the cake mixture.
Then pour the remaining cake mixture over the top of the sugar/cinnamon. 
This creates a layer in between, in case that wasn't obvious. :)
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Handy tip: I found that it helped to let the pan cool briefly after leaving the oven and then I turned it upside down over night to allow the bundt pan and the cake to separate so none of the cake is stuck to the pan. Use your best judgment on this since you know your cooking gear best.

Bon appetit. 

[I'm considering starting a food series with a story theme to it, like this one. If you have some good recipes with great stories attached, please pass them on. I'll see what kind of admissions I get and I may include them. Thanks.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

But You Came Back: Spoken Word piece

Sunday I shared a spoken word/prose piece I wrote, inspired by Jesus, the only human being who was also God, the only One who lived large, died but came back. The only One who could reunite us with the Father. The Way. The Truth. The Life.

The MP3 of the live performance is here, along with the words for your reading-along pleasure. Thanks for listening.

But You Came Back
by Sarah Siders 

All of them died. Gone. Departed.
Their big mouths, big dreams, their propaganda.
Not even one of them could hold a candle.
To You.

All of them died. Gone.
They all started
The same way as you.
Babies, then children,
Men or women.
The rallies, assemblies,
They had followers too.

They left us here 
To figure it out out.
But You came down
To show us how.

When they died,
We laid them in the ground
Or sailed them out to sea;
Gave a grand farewell 
For their legacy.

But not You.
We hung You.
We strung You up.
Beheaded Your followers.
Shut them up too.

We celebrated 
The day You died.
Didn't expect for You to rise.
Didn't believe Your stories were true.
Cause we laid them in the ground
For good.
But not You.

Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust.
We know everyone who breaths 

And walks on this earth must
Die and stay dead,
No matter how grand 
A life that they lived.
But you came back.

And how we laughed,
"Those stories He tells"
Thinks He's the Son of God
We'll show Him well
He'll die with the rest of 'em
Lay down with the best of 'em
No one comes back 
There are no exceptions."
Until You resurrected,
Brought life from the deadest
And the powers of hell 
That had prevented
All creation 
You crushed, took down
Like no man who talked loud
In a stadium could
But You said You would

For what many had promised
You delivered,
Not just truth
But Life forever.
Where others failed,
You prevailed.

We laid them down
In the ground forever,
But You came back
So we could be together

One day we'll rise up
At Heaven's sound,
And You'll come down
Your name renown.

We proclaim Your Glory,
We tell Your story
Because the other ones died,
But You Came Back.