Normally, 3 for 3 is a Good Thing

When I was pregnant with Natalie and a sweetly clueless mother-to-be, I registered for an all-wood highchair. It was a carefully researched decision, which is to say I based my choice solely on the fact that I grew up with a wooden highchair, and I figured anything good enough for my Mom when she started having babies in the 70s must be good enough for me.

I received the requested wooden highchair at one of my showers -- I had three, the advantage of being the daughter of a senior pastor who is dearly loved -- and initially, I was very pleased. It looked so sturdy sitting in the corner of my kitchen. So homey. So maternal. I was sure it would be a fixture of my children's lives for years to come.

Then Natalie got old enough to actually sit in the highchair, and its downsides were suddenly revealed. Turns out, it helps if the highchair tray is actually close enough to the child so they can reach the food. This one was apparently built for Hagrid-sized babies, as it was a good 8 inches away from the back of chair even when it was pulled all the way in.

Natalie, who was so petite she wore 6-9 month clothes at her one-year birthday celebration, would pull food off the tray and keep it in her lap while she was eating, as if she she needed a halfway point on the trek to her mouth. The seat had so much room (and the buckle was so flimsy), she could easily stand up in the chair and do a little dance routine.

But I couldn't picture any other highchair in my kitchen, so we soldiered on.

Connor came along, and by 10 months, he was having his own issue with the highchair. Mainly, he viewed it as a prison cell.

I have no clue how he got that idea.

So he started plotting his escape. Which explains how I walked into the kitchen one day and found this.

(Yes, he's really dangling there. Somehow, he managed to transfer himself from the chair to the kitchen counter when I was out of the room -- and then he just hung there, like one of those sticky frogs that stick to windows. For the record, my hand is underneath him while I snapped the shot, but I couldn't NOT take the picture, OK?)

That was the end of the wooden highchair. One eBay transaction later, we were the proud owners of a modern, plastic highchair that was much better at containment.

That is the highchair Teyla inherited a few months ago. Its in decent enough shape, although the cloth liner has seen better days, and the vinyl pad underneath is cracking and rotting. But it worked. We were golden.

Or so I thought.

Problem is, I underestimated Teyla. (I have a feeling I'm going to be saying that for the next 20 years.) That girl could put Houdini to shame. She refuses to sit in it, preferring to eat while she stands, and since it didn't come with seat belts or harnesses of any kind, I have no way to force her little rear end down. Whch is why most meals at our house end like this.

So I'm done. I'm ready for a new highchair, one that actually confines my child at mealtime.

But since I haven't really been in a Babies R Us since that fateful day I registered for the wooden highchair seven years ago, I don't have a clue where to start. I just know I want a highchair that works well for toddlers and that is easy to clean. The cloth liner has pushed my OCD buttons one too many times.

What recommendations have you got for me? Who has a highchair they love?

*Updated to add: I love the suggestions about a booster chair. Unfortunately, the only table that will fit in our kitchen right now is a small, round, table for four (known in the restaurant biz as a four-top). So I don't have room for Teyla to sit with us at the table, nor do I have a fifth chair upon which to attach a convertible seat, which is why I'm looking to invest in a separate highchair. We do have a bigger table with six chairs, but it's in the carpeted dining room right now, which is obviously not a kid-friendly option. On a side-note, you could keep praying for our old house to sell so we could get into a bigger place that would enable us to eat together as a family before the kids are teenagers. Amen.

Travel Opener

Corey left this morning on his first business trip of the season. He'll be gone roughly every other week from this point until May.

The good news? After I get the kids to bed, I'll be free to curl up on the couch with my "Northern Exposure" DVDs, an obsession I have that Corey doesn't share.

The bad news? I'll miss nightly moments like this.

Footnote: I feel compelled to add that I finished the Harry Potter series yesterday, which is a darn good thing because I doubt I could have read them by myself in a darkened house -- too much intensity to handle alone. Yet, since they are almost impossible to put down, I probably would have found myself reading them anyway and then never sleeping.

Also, now that I've finished "The Deathly Hallows," I'm backing off my assertion from last week that I would like to parent like Dumbledore. I still admire his patience and wisdom and charm. But I wouldn't want to emulate him in every way.

confessions from this tired supergirl

I have been writing this post for three days now. Three days of editing and reworking and deleting and starting over and walking away and losing inspiration.

I think it has something to do with the kids and the fact that they need something from me approximately every 23 seconds.

Or maybe it’s because my brain has been replaced by a sieve. Every time I sit down to write something for the blog lately, all coherent and witty thoughts drain away. Only sludge remains.

Or maybe it’s because my house isn’t clean and my laundry needs laundering and my car is still in the shop and the baby has another dirty diaper and writing a blog post feels like a luxury compared to the urgent needs staring me in the face.

It’s exhausting, this life of mom and wife and God follower and sometimes-blogger. It’s also exhilarating.

That’s why I love the League of Tired Supergirls.

It’s led by my bloggy best friend, Susanna Foth Aughtmon, who blogs at the aptly named Confessions of a Tired Supergirl. The league is a community of everyday heroes who know that supergirls rarely look as good in their tights as they want to, that real life requires vast quantities of chocolate, even vaster quantities of laughter, generous servings of God’s truth and boundless helpings of grace.

And now, the league has its own handbook – Susanna’s first published work, “All I Need is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans: A Tired Supergirl’s Search for Grace.” In it, Susanna catalogs the enemies who daily whisper to us that we aren’t living up to our potential. We meet and face down such villains as Tired Lady, Little Miss No Fair, the Procrastinator and (my personal nemesis) Miz Do Good. Susanna uses humor, the Bible and raw honesty to show us how we can use God’s truth and the occasional roundhouse kick to defeat our foes.

I only recently met Susanna (which is ironic, considering we used to live right down the road from each other), so I didn't know her as she journeyed to write this book and then find someone to publish it. But I am so glad she fought and won that battle. Reading "All I Need is Jesus" is like reading the journal of a funny, authentic and wise friend. I'm proud to name her as a fellow supergirl.

Plus, her book aides me as I go about my supergirl duties, such as conquering the kitchen…

overcoming the toys…

and successfully putting the baby to bed.

(You might note the baby isn't in that picture. That's because I don't win every skirmish. But I try. That's what counts.)

Want to join the league? Then get the book. You can go to Amazon and buy it. (But you might need to use your supergirl speed. They only have two left in stock.) (Which, if you'll permit me, is beyond cool. I never thought I'd say one of my friend's has written a book that has almost sold out on Amazon.)

Alternately, if you're feeling slow on the draw, you can win a copy right here this week.
Leave a comment on this post, and I’ll pick a winner with my super-random selection power on Sunday, February 1.

And now, I'm off to fight my newest enemy, Mr. Writer's Block. Something tells me I can vanquish him with perseverance and lots of prayer and the last of the Peppermint Jo-Jos.

The Chamber of My Secrets

Here's something ironic.

I was so absorbed by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" last night, I forgot to tell you I have a post over at 5 Minutes for Parenting about what the Potter series -- and one character in particular -- is teaching me about parenting.

So go check it out. I'll be back this afternoon, if all goes according to plan, with a super giveaway. (Believe it or not, that was a hint.) See you then.

Aloha -- Which Means Both Hello and Good-Bye

I should be waking up this morning in Hawaii, listening to palm tree fronds shush in the wind and ocean waves pound the lava shore.

Instead, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, which is strewn with half-empty cereal bowls, watching the largest snowflakes I’ve ever seen – seriously, they are about ½-inch diameter – fall gently on my deck, and I’m listening to the harmonious sounds of “Clifford: The Big Red Dog.”

Frankly, I couldn’t be happier.

Six years ago, when Corey and I moved back to the Midwest from our beloved San Diego, we promised each other we would take a mid-winter trip every year. Winter is long in Minnesota; usually, spring can’t get a toehold until April. We knew we would need a sanity check, a break in the madness. (We also knew we’d need to stop worrying about looking cool and start worrying about proper winter attire. But that’s another story.)

This year, we planned to go to Hawaii. Corey had accumulated enough Hilton Honors points for a six-night stay at a very nice resort on the Big Island. It sounded warm and tropical and sunny – everything Minnesota isn’t in January.

Since we had been to this particular resort before, we knew the fun that awaited us. We regaled the kids with details ever since July, when we made the reservations. “You can swim with these giant turtles in the lagoon! And there’s a high-speed tram to take you to the other side of the resort! And you can travel from pool to pool via waterslide! And did we mention it’s warm?”

But last week, as the day for our departure approached, reality caught up with me and took me down for the count.

I started to think about the time difference. Waikoloa is four hours behind Minnesota. That meant, if Teyla slept in until 7:00 AM – which, let’s be honest, she only does about once a month; normally she gets up between 6:00 and 6:30 – she would wake up ready for the day at 3:00 AM Hawaii time. Three. In the morning. On a good day. And I harbor no illusions that the darkness would stop her early wakenings, because it’s dark at our house until about 7:30 AM right now, and it doesn’t stop her at all.

I started to think about the flights that would get us to Hawaii. We were scheduled to fly from Minneapolis to Seattle (flight time – 3 hours, 49 minutes). We had a 2 hour layover in Seattle, before we departed for Maui (flight time – 5 hours, 53 minutes). After we arrived in Maui – at 11:30 PM our body time, I might add – we had an hour before our flight to Kona (flight time – only 48 minutes). Once we finally arrived on the Big Island, we would catch a cab to our resort, about 40 minutes away. After check-in, we would need to wait for a shuttle tram or boat to take us to our actual building. Door-to-door travel time? Something like 15 hours.

Oh! And all those flights were completely full (I checked), so Teyla – also known as the little girl who doesn’t even sit in her high chair to eat – would be sitting standing on my lap the entire time.

I started to think about how expensive Hawaii is. Our hotel stay was covered, and most of our airline tickets were purchased with frequent flier miles – this is the only time it’s nice to have a husband who travels – but food? We’d be paying. (And, just to give you an idea, the mediocre breakfast buffet at the resort is $30 for adults and $20 for children. That means we’d be paying $100 just for our family to eat a morning meal.) If we wanted to sight see, we’d be paying to rent a car (and paying a resort fee to park it). If Corey and I wanted to do anything by ourselves – we love to SCUBA dive, for example – we’d have to pay to put the kids in the kids’ camp and pay to join a SCUBA charter. If we wanted to use beach toys, we’d have to rent them. If we wanted to check our e-mail, we’d have to pay for the Internet. If we wanted to breathe, I’m pretty sure we’d have to cough up a dollar for air.

In other words, even with the majority of the costs covered, it was still going to be an expensive vacation.

All these thoughts swarmed together and left me with a pit in my stomach. I tried to console myself by constantly looking at the Waikoloa weather. (“OK, so it’s -18 outside my front door right now, and in Waikoloa? It’s sunny and 78. How can you say no to that?”) I reminded myself that the kids have been looking forward to this trip for six months already, and to deny them this would be crueler than sending the Christmas dog back to the shelter. (Whoops. Haven’t told you that story yet, have I?) I told myself Corey would be frustrated beyond frustration if I tried to break into his thoughts now and suggest this trip might be a teensy bit too much work.

But on Wednesday night, as Corey and I were hanging out in the kitchen, I couldn’t stop myself from testing the waters.

“So, you know this trip on Saturday. Are we sure we want to do this?”

(Notice my use of the royal “we.”)

“Why?” he asked, eyeing me calmly. “Are you having second thoughts?”

(Corey isn’t royal.)

“Yeah,” I answered nervously, hoping my voice didn’t stray into panic. “Yeah, I’m rethinking.”

To my shock, Corey replied, “Well, it doesn’t really matter to me where we go – as long as its someplace warm.”

That was that. We spent the next 90 minutes looking at cancellation policies, which weren’t severe, since we were using points to pay for everything. So we canceled.

And we’ve both heaved great sighs of relief heavenward ever since. Corey is so far behind at work right now, the thought of leaving for a whole week had him near tears. (Which is a joke, clearly, because Vulcans don't cry, but it made me smile.) I’m thrilled I have a whole week with nothing on the schedule. Maybe I'll have a chance to write. And the kids? They are giddy that they don’t have to leave home. (Well, Connor is anyway. He’s spooked by volcanoes – thanks Backyardigans! – so he's relieved we’re not taking him to the home of KÄ«lauea. Natalie is disappointed, naturally, but she's also highly distract.... hey, look! It's a new "Curious George" DVD!)

Best part? We’re still going to get the heck out of Dodge. We're just going to do it in February and go someplace much closer to home. (But no so close that it requires ear muffs.)

When I called my sister last Friday to tell her the news, my brother-in-law shouted in the background, "I'm disappointed in you, Kelly. I thought you were always up for a challenge."

He's right. Usually I am. Canceling this trip because it was going to be HARD is very uncharacteristic of me. Even now, part of me is growling "wimp" at the other part of me.

But I can't help but feel that, this time, I made the right call.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 3)

If there was ever a week when I needed a 7 Quick Takes Friday, this is it. Once again, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for starting and hosting this weekly carnival.
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I’m happy to report that my birthday improved 100% after my whiny post the other day. The kids came home from school, breathless with excitement over “Mom’s birthday.” It’s hard to be in a snit when your kids are giving you hugs every few minutes and watching your every grumpy movement with shining eyes. Teyla took a short nap, which enabled me to bake one of my favorite cakes. Corey came home with mysterious bundles and escorted the quivering children upstairs for help with the secrets; that gave me almost 40 minutes BY MYSELF to throw together some lasagna soup, heat some baguette and finish the cake.

After dinner, I opened a bunch of birthday cards from friends; Corey had furtively snuck them out of the mail each day so I would have a pile on my actual birthday. Then the kids, who were literally bouncing on their toes with anticipation, helped me open my gifts. “Here, Mom, let me show you what I drew. That’s you and me and that’s a heart between us because I love you. Do you want me to open the present now?”

They each got me a perfume sample, by the way. And Corey got me a boxed set of the perfume he liked the most, with the stipulation that I use the sample vial first so I can decide if I like it as much as he does.

But the best birthday present by far was the news that my Mom does NOT have cancer. (Sorry; I haven't mentioned anything about this until now to protect my parents' privacy.) She was in surgery the morning of my birthday, due to some ominous test results. When the doctor came out and said he could find no evidence of malignancy, the day when from uncertain to glorious. We are so thankful for God’s mercy.

------- 2 -------
Can you feel colder than numb?

So asks my favorite local meteorologist.

The answer: I don’t know. I can’t feel anything anymore.

It’s -21 here this morning. Air temperature. Wind chill is in the -35 to -45 range.

When I took Natalie and Connor to school this morning, the air around us shimmered with so-called “diamond dust,” ice crystals that spontaneously form mid-air on the coldest of days. The sun shined so bright, the sky was so blue, I felt like my sinuses were being pierced with light.

It’s the beautiful side of evil.

------- 3 -------
On the other hand, I no longer have to worry about black widows living in my back yard, like I did when I lived in San Diego. And now they have brown widow spiders to worry about.

I guess that’s the evil side of beautiful.

------- 4 -------
We were supposed to leave for a week-long vacation in Hawaii tomorrow morning.

But now, we’re not going.

I’m going to tell the full story right here, sometime this weekend.

(Check that out! I can still write a tease!)

(And since I'll be home next week without any plans, I'll be doing a lot of blog catch-up. I'm looking forward to that, actually.)

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Trivial question: My hair is dark blond. I’ve been highlighting the top for a few years now, but I’ve never done a complete whole-head foil since my hair is unnaturally thick and long.

But then I saw this picture of the back of my head at Teyla’s birthday party, and it made me wonder.

I'm like a new Batman villain -- Two-Hair: Bright on top but dark underneath. Which is her true color?

Is it worth the time and money to highlight the whole shebang? Vote now!

------- 6 -------
This video is a few weeks old, but it still makes me laugh. It perfectly captures Teyla’s personality. (Please note: I’m TRYING to get her to walk.)

------- 7 -------
Here’s the quote I’ve been pondering this week.
The great danger facing all of us -- let me say it again, for one feels it tremendously -- is not that we shall make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel that life has no meaning at all -- not these things. The dangers is that we may fail to perceive life's greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to render the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God -- and be content to have it so -- that is the danger. That some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the husks and trappings of life -- and have really missed life itself. For life without God, to one who has known the richness and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, impossible. That is what one prays one's friends may be spared -- satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle and thrill which comes from a friendship with the Father.
-Phillips Brooks

It's My Party, and I'll Whine If I Want To

So today is my birthday.

And I’m not having a good day. It’s pretty stinky, actually.

I could enumerate all the reasons why I’m sinking into the pit of despair, but I doubt dwelling on them would do me any good. This is definitely one of those count-your-blessings type of moments. I need an attitude adjustment.

Problem is, I’ve had so many crummy days lately, my attitude adjustment wrench is getting a little bent out of shape. I’m starting to think things like, “Here’s a blessing! I have a fork, which I could stick into my eyeballs.”

So help me, wonderful Internet friends. I need some laughter, I need some fun, I need some encouragement. (And all the more as you see the day approaching. Trust me, it’s full-out bearing down on me right now.)

Hit me.


It's January again.

January, when the world around me is devoid of color, when everything is shades of gray, when the temperature plummets and takes my will to live.

That's January.

Or it was. Until last year.

Because last year, on January 9, the sweetest little girl was handed to me as I lay in a hospital bed, blissfully feeling no pain, only happiness.

And now, January is color and spunk and joy and kisses to me.

I can hardly believe she's one.

Last year, she could only lay in my arms.

Now she can walk and talk and get into all sorts of trouble.

(If I had the energy to make a thought balloon, it would say, "What's that? What's that over there? Can I eat it? Can I wear it? Is it dangerous?")

Last year, she could only be amazed by the blur of motion and noise that were her siblings.

Now, she is completely captivated by their antics ...

and their love.

Last year, she had a Daddy who was wrapped around her little finger.

Now ... well, she has a Daddy who is so whipped, he can hardly stand it.

Teyla, my prayer for you is that your heart for God is as wild as your hair, that your strength of will also means strength of character, that your inquisitiveness and mirth will make you into a smart, joyful, mighty, warrior princess for The One who gave you to us.

You are my delight, sweet one.

You are my springtime in the middle of winter, my smile in the night.

You are so loved.


Teyla's trying to say her first word this week.

It's not ma-ma. It's not da-da.

Any guesses?

(The whole story is in my 5 Minutes for Parenting post today.)

Fire Hose Drinking

Christmas is over.


We had an incredibly satisfying, incredibly hectic, incredibly incredible two weeks.

It was like trying to drink from a fire hose. Too much fun. Too much laughter. Too many desserts. Too many activities. Too many people I love in too short a time.

Undoubtedly, I'll share a few holiday stories in the coming days, including the final chapter in The Great Pet Quest of 2008.

But seeing as I've only even
attempted normal for 36 hours now, I'll keep today's blogosphere re-entry simple.

(I've watched a lot of sci-fi. I know what a botched re-entry looks like -- a small room bathed in crimson light, surroundings that are blurred from the shaking, flames, then screams. Which, now that I think about it, isn't all that dissimilar from me when I'm awoken from a nap. Either way, it's ugly. I don't want to go there.)

Enter stage right, a few December pictures.

Christmas morning. The three stooges. I'm surprised the camera was able to catch them sitting still, seeing as they were practically vibrating with excitement.

Looking for presents to distribute. In our family, we take turns opening gifts versus having a free-for-all, and each year, one child (usually the one who can read) plays Santa's elf and delivers each present to its intended recipient. (As long as they can read Mom's handwriting, that is.)

I wish this picture had sound, because then you would be able to hear Teyla saying, "Ooooohhhhhh" in her husky little voice. She was so amazed by Christmas this year. (And this little musical table was her absolute favorite; she still dances to it daily).

Why Connect Four is a dangerous game when you have a baby.

Also ... highchairs? Dangerous, at least for this baby. She will NOT be restrained.

Doesn't matter if the calendar says "Vacation." Babies don't sleep in. Teyla and I have watched many a sunrise over the last few weeks. Her bedhead delights me so, I almost forget I'd rather be sleeping.

Unca Jon and Natalie ...

... Unca Michael and Connor. I feel like I should apologize to my brothers. Every time they enter my house, my children mistake them for chairs.

Teyla and Corey, exploring the Children's Museum. (Yes, she's walking.)

Sledding at sunset.

Homemade marshmallow meets homemade hot chocolate. Bliss defined.


Funny. All of a sudden, I'm ready for the fire hose to unleash on me again.