If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Extra Extra! Read All About It! Just Not Here!

Started a family blog for family news. I'm still going to maintain Take a Whisk as my foodie and personal blog, but expanding out to include more friends and family over at I Love You Same.

See ya there (and still here).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome Home.

"How was your day?"

Even when I was working full time plus on my business, I was almost always able to pause in my day and meet Young One as he got off the bus after school. This flexibility was really the best part about being a business owner. I wish I would have taken more "because I'm the boss" benefits than I did, but, hindsight is 20/20.

My day is still bracketed by the departure and the arrival of the school bus. Every morning is a bittersweet goodbye, every afternoon a warm welcome home. I get a little apprehensive each afternoon, I have to admit. Could today be the day he comes home in tears, slighted by a friend, bullied by a peer? Is today a celebratory day or one in which he's hardly in the door before he blurts out after school plans with a friend? Is there a joke, fresh on his lips, ready to be delivered in a "wait, wait, I got it wrong, it goes like this" kind of way?

I am so blessed, feel so privileged to be the one that's there for him, no matter what. A constant presence. A ready ear and a welcome home. My job is to make sure he feels valued, important, supported. I do it gladly. I can't imagine giving that position to someone else. I can't imagine missing out on this.

A snack or a drink is usually the first order of business. It's not just a habit, it's a necessity. Lunch or brunch as we now call it takes place at 10:30 in the morning. By afternoon, there's at least one hollow leg to fill.

Today, however, it was a quick drink and a rush to the garage to hop on a scooter. Up and down the driveway and our block, he punctuated his laps with glimpses of his day. "I lost a tooth in Mr. Skinner's class. He asked if anything else was going to fall off?" "The girl in the locker next to me had so much garbage hanging out of her locker it jammed mine!" "Did you know that DJ Hero Renegade gets better reviews than the old regular kind." "Some kid's baby sister threw up on his SHOES. Isn't that gross?"

We talk. Occasionally he asks me about my day. Sometimes we just sit in companionable silence. It's not a huge part of our day, but it's a necessary one. The winding down, transitioning into home life again.

"You're my touch stone, Emma." A quote from Terms of Endearment.

I hope that I am Young One's touch stone. Someone to come to, listen to until he can speak no more, a place that gives him rest, a sounding board. I hope that I can always be that for him. I don't think there's any more important thing to be.

The house smells like baking apples! What a great way to make a house feel cozy and welcoming. Warm apple sauce that simmered all day makes a great after school snack. It's very easy to make and can lend that Martha Stewart/June Cleaver sort of sense of accomplishment without mental anguish, a starched apron, or Valium.

All Day Applesauce

Fill your crock pot with washed, peeled, cored, and slice apples. Overfill it if you can. Sprinkle with brown sugar and a liberal amount of cinnamon. Squeeze in half a lemon. Simmer on low until softened. Taste for sweetness and add a little more sugar if needed. It's best if left a little bit tart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boys to Men

Had to do a little shopping for clothes over the weekend. Not fun with a kid who hates to shop for clothes, but what can you do? Capri pants on a preteen boy is not a good look.

We attempted to purchase a few things at Old Navy, but wound up leaving with one pair of pajamas and one shirt. "The colors are too weird here."

I knew it was best we found things that he would actually wear, but my patience was running thin. My, "You don't see anything here that you like," sounded strained even to my ears.

We're entering uncharted territory on this adventure called parenthood. Gone are the days when I could bring home a shirt with the latest superhero from a movie or video game. We went through a stage where nothing with stripes could cross our threshold. That ruled out almost 99.4% of all boys shirts made on this planet. Rules also dictated that while PJ's could be irreverent and funny, shirts worn to school could not. For this, I am thankful. The thought of backing up a kid who feels he being unfairly treated by a teacher when he's known to wear a shirt that says My Sister Barfed on My Homework still strikes fear in my heart.

He's not into skater boy style, thank God. I have an unspoken rule against skulls on clothing, but he seems to have picked up on that and agrees with me. He's somewhere between skater boy and Ralph Lauren. No skulls, no sagging pants, and definitely no sweater vests or plaid shirts. I think his style could be titled "Don't notice me, no scratchy bits, plain-but-the-color-has-to-be-right, and comfortable."

So, that's what we went looking for. Nothing that could possibly be "made fun of" was purchased. Think middle school camouflage. Nor did we bring home anything that was uncomfortable or itchy. One striped shirt made it home, so that phase must be over. D commented that my poker face reaction to this purchase was Oscar worthy.

But, all of this, relatively boring, right? I mean, what mom doesn't go out shopping with their kid? What mom doesn't go through the style dictations of their twelve year old? What mom doesn't make the transition from being able to purchase clothes FOR her child to purchasing WITH her child?

We all do, but that's not what stopped me in my tracks this weekend.

What could possibly make me hide behind a clearance rack for a little longer than a bargain shopper usually does? What could have me contemplating wiping my tears with a polo shirt the size of a five year old?

We're leaving boys department. He's too big! And the difference between a boy's XL and a men's S is not that great. Mostly men's size small came home with us and he doesn't need to grow into them.

I had to have a moment in the boy's department. We're not completely saying goodbye. He still has a few inches to grow before he can fit into man pants, but I doubt that will take long. He's tall and skinny. He's my eye to eye guy now and will soon pass me up. I think he may be taller than his dad's six feet someday.

I sent Young One and D off to peruse the few toys and video games that the store carries just for this purpose. I know somewhere in a security office hidden away in the dismal depths of the store a security guard was muttering, "We have another one." I took a walk down memory lane. I wandered through the little boy section that bordered the big boy clothes. I stroked a little suit complete with bow tie and held up a sweat suit the size of my mom purse. I crossed the border into Baby Land and got weak in my knees near the Onesies.

The time goes by so quickly and most of it is lost in diaper changes, sleepless nights, play dates, permission slips, and school supply lists. And these moments, those that slam into your chest and have you gasping, are few, but potent.

Growing up is inevitable, so is growing older. I weave my aging throughout his growing and together, we're creating this tight bonded fabric of love. Schmaltzy, I know, but it's where I am right now. I'm standing back and standing with him. He needs me less, and more.

Bittersweet is the only word I can think of to describe this time in our lives. I love it and hate it all at the same time.

I got to hold a baby the other day and I was more than happy to hand him back to his mother. I wouldn't want to go back in time for anything. We're where we've grown together to be. But, I have a feeling, there are going to be lots of Mommy tears in my future.

Next time, I'll have Kleenex.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home is Where My Heart is

But, That Doesn't Mean Yours Should be Too

Somewhere Over the Suburbs

In the last two weeks, two people have commented about how they would go "stark raving mad" if they had to stay home all day. Both used those exact same words. One time, yes, I did take notice, but twice? And in such a short time period?

It got me thinking.

Isn't it wonderful that we're all wired differently?

I could have gotten all defensive and tried to educate them on the beauty of staying at home and how I'd been where they are and done that and didn't like it so much. Honestly, though, I know they meant nothing bad towards me by saying it. What I decided to do, and what's working for me in many areas of my life, is to change the one thing that I can control.

My reaction.

I'm learning, through lots of grit and sheer willpower that I can only control me and that I really need to realize that most people mean well. And those that are trying to get a rise out of me by baiting me by tempting me with "this means war" words are more miffed by my nonreaction than if I would go all postal on them.

I'm in a really happy place in my life. I'm at peace with my choices. I honestly can putter around my house, content to take care of it and find little projects to occupy my time. When I worked outside the home, yes, I cleaned and cooked in the minimal minutes I had when I wasn't working, but it wasn't the same. I was unhappy and hardly had the time to even notice that I was.

Who am I to judge someone else, though, that's making their way in the world the way they want to?

You have to do what makes you happy. I can't walk in your business black pumps, nor can you fill my Keen walking shoes.

I make our house a home and I delight in it. What others see as a prison sentence soothes me. I look forward to those blank days on the calendar when I can just be at home. I might rearrange and redecorate. I might make meals for the freezer. I may sew or paint or clear out some clutter. I may have the washing machine, the dryer, and the dishwasher humming, my iPod buzzin' in my ears as I get out the Thankgiving decorations.

I write. I work on volunteer projects. I make plans. I balance the budget. I find the replacement part for the little dohickey that screws the attachements on my Kitchen Aid mixer. I match socks. I talk on the phone. I schedule appointments. I menu plan and figure out ways to save money. I figure out solutions to those things that could drive someone spread a little bit thinner insane.
I manage the house and in return, I get weekends again.

It feeds my soul.

I've been on the other side of the Mommy Wars. You know, the I work harder/faster/better/longer than you struggle that has plagued women since the burning of the bras. If we'd just let go of it and just say, "I'm happy with what I'm doing." And let that just stand alone.

Perhaps it's that we're not.

So, if you're not doing what makes you happiest? Why not? What would you want to do with your days if you could do anything? What would you have to do/sacrifice/change in your life that could get you to your happy place? I honestly think it's possible, but you've got to really change your mindset.

This isn't to say that I don't have days when I curse at the laundry and I shake my fist at the empty milk carton in the refrigerator. I have my moments when I would rather pull out my own fingernails than empty the dishwasher for the third time in a day, but, overall, I'm happy and content with my life at home. It took me a while to get here, but I'm happy that this has been my evolution as a mom, woman, and wife.

It works for me. It's brought my son back to what he was before owning a business put him second. It allows me, on the days when my disease doesn't let me function, to just focus on healing. It helps my husband pursue the career he loves without worrying about what's going on at home. Yes, we have traditional roles, but I'm anything but a traditional stay at home mother.

I challenge you to find that place that makes you happiest and if you're not there, figure out how to get there. It might not be as hard as you think it is.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Cups of Coffee Praise Jesus!

My Favorite Church.
I'm not a demonstrative worshipper. I get a little freaked out every week at confirmation class worship time when the singing of the songs and the waving of the arms starts.

I'm not a song singing with the accompanying actions kind of girl. I'm not even a good, do the actions halfheartedly so to be a good example to my students, kind of girl. This Little Light of Mine strikes fear in my heart. My light is more like the one in your fridge. It turns on when you open me up a bit, but in a big crowd of people, I'm just not going to be waving it around. At least not in the traditional raise your hand and wave your pointer finger around like a light way.

My group of confirmation boys is wild and laughing and a big jumble of talking and sharing and NOISE in our small group class time. Get them in the worship part of the evening and they turn back into sullen, eye rolling, bored preteens. And I'm OK with that.

They're relatively focused and sort of paying attention. Last week, one of them clapped along with one line of one song. I did a victory dance (inside me, quietly, and my little light was turned on).

Now, could I be doing the actions, uncomfortably dancing my way through the worship service just to be a good example to the kids? Yes, I could, but that wouldn't be me. I'm a big believer in celebrating the unique gifts of each person. My boys just might not be gifted in the action area. More than likely, several of them are secretly doing the actions at home practicing for the moment when they're going to BREAK OUT and dare to be Action Man. But, odds are, at least half of them are just like me.

Our gifts lie in other areas.

Need someone to be the butt of a joke, wander across the stage as Moses, or talk about my Spiritual Journey? I'm your girl. Need someone to read a Bible verse, come up with a creative idea to get the kids excited and learning? I'm your girl.

My Little Light is shining, the flame is just a little different from yours. The boys are learning through my example that it's OK to be you, whoever you are, and to celebrate that. So, I won't force them to do anything that just doesn't fit with their personalities. Their gifts will be uncovered soon. My goal is to get them to start thinking about these gifts and perhaps one day, they'll share them.

Wednesday nights are busy for us and Confirmation hits smack dab around the dinner hour. The secret to navigating these busy nights is planning. So, it's either a crock pot meal or sandwiches. This is one of our favorites.

Lemon Pepper Pulled Pork
Makes a great meal and use the leftovers to make Cuban sandwiches the next day (or freeze to make Cubans the next time you have a busy day!)
One large bone in pork loin roast (or boneless, I'm not fussy)
2 1/2 tsp garlic pepper--garlic pepper IS a spice and is required for this recipe
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 TB fresh lemon juice, bottled is fine, but fresh is best
2 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 cups water
Spray crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Pierce pork roast several times with a knife. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and pour over roast in crock pot. Turn roast several times to make sure marinade is covering it. Cook on low 10-12 hours or high 5-6 hours, basting with liquid in the bottom of the crock pot if you can. Remove roast from crock pot and shred with two forks, tossing all fat and bones. Return to crock pot to combine with juices. Serve on buns with cole slaw to top or as a main dish with rice and steamed veggies. Makes a great baked potato topper too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And to Top it All Off, there's an Ed, Edd, and Eddy Marathon TiVoed

I Demand Hazard Pay

I've come to the realization that I would not be a good single mother. Not only are my math skills terrible (more later), but I couldn't open a bottle of maple syrup without becoming a complete ninny AND I burned the pancakes I muddled together for dinner.

I bow down to all you single moms who hit the ground running from the early am and are able to keep it up all day without kicking a puppy.

Normally, I revel in the travels of D, but he was gone all weekend and headed out Monday morning to San Fran and I'm lonely. To top it all off, Young One has large math assignment that involves fractions and I "do them wrong." Apparently, there is a method involving a grid, an automatic pencil, and an extra hamster to run in the wheel that powers my brain.

Deep breath.

And, on we go.

We're experiencing 60 degree temps here in Mighty Minnesota, weather we should have experienced last month, but it was snowing then. I noticed on the way home from picking up the latest release of blood and gore in video game form, that my festive fall arrangements on the porch are rotting. Lovely.

It appeared that someone kicked in one of the pumpkins I had jauntily arranged by the front porch. On closer inspection, it was revealed that it was, literally, crumbling in upon itself. Learn from my mistakes. Never pick up an old pumpkin. Use a shovel or backhoe or other farm equipment. Said pumpkin oozed through my hands. I swear I'll be off pumpkin pie for ages.

I'm a mess without you, babe. Come home soon. (And please, don't tell me all about Fisherman's Wharf or the sad state of your room service breakfast--you might find an oozing gourd stuffed in your pillow case).

Emergency chocolate is required. I may have already posted this recipe or a variation of it, but I'm too pissy and tired to look for myself. Deal with it. (Oh, and enjoy.)

Ten Second Emergency Chocolate Needed Brownies

A package of low to no fat brownie mix, No Pudge is good
Vanilla yogurt, fat free

Mix brownie mix with as much yogurt as it takes to make a thick batter. You know what brownie batter should look like. Google it if you don't, I have no patience right now. Bake at 350 until done (knife inserted comes out clean). These are relatively (cough cough) healthy and taste great. Lick the bowl while they're baking.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street

Sesame Street turns 40 today. I turn 40 next March. We both grew up together.

My son gasped when I told him that Elmo didn't exist when I watched Sesame Street as a kid.

I remember the First Gordon. Well, it was in reruns because I think I was two when he left, but I still remember! I remember when the set was nothing but one little section of the Street. I remember the first versions of the Muppets. I remember when everyone thought that Big Bird's friend Snuffleupagus was his imaginary friend and how frustrated he'd get when they wouldn't believe him.

Anyone else remember Mr. Hooper?

So Happy Birthday Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Bob, Grover, Oscar, Gordan, Susan, Count, Elmo, Prairie Dawn, Snuffie, and everyone else that I can't remember.

Our Sesame Street years went by so quickly here, but I still love it. If I had the time, I'd probably tune in daily. I once had a goal to work on Sesame Street. The peaceful, loving people that populated it's cast and crew still amaze me.

I'm so sorry for the video, but I heard it on the radio this am and had to share it. It got me giggling. There have been many parodies of Sesame Street. I remember when a group decided to boycott Sesame Street because of it's gay characters--Bert and Ernie. Um. OK. They're Muppets and roommates, not a groundbreaking TV story line. And even if they were, who cares...

Through it all, this show has introduced children to education, to peaceful living, and how to love and care for one another. It has carried on, it's timeless, and I hope it lives forever.

Happy Birthday.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Other Mother

You have to be at least 80 to rock a Christmas vest and turtle neck.

Norman is my Grandma. Her real name is Betty.

She's my favorite old lady.

I've called her Norman since I was a kid. Norman after Henry Fonda's character in On Golden Pond, one of my favorite movies.

She called me Ethel, after Kate Hepburn's character in the same movie. My nickname never stuck. I can't say I'm unhappy about that fact.

Norman is fun. We laugh until the tears roll. She shares her wisdom with me without me even knowing I'm learning. She tells me about the lean years, living in the Depression, and how she snagged such a cool cat like my Grandpa. She never has a cross word, goes easily along with everything anyone wants to do, and is happiest just being with her family.

I stayed at her house Saturday night. We had a bit of a slumber party, visited the guys out at the cabin, and then returned to her house. We looked at old pictures and as I cleaned her living and dining room, she told me about all her little figurines and doodads.

What a fun time. I have to do this more often. As I watched her struggle to walk from place to place and the vagueness that would come over her face from time to time, I realized, I won't have this person in my life forever. And I want to soak her in as much as I can.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Need vs. Want: A Lesson in Frugality

I'm struggling with a want lately. A want for something that's really not necessary. It's not really critical to my physical or mental well-being. I suppose that I could rationalize that it is, but it's not. Truthfully. Really. Elizabeth. It's. Not. Necessary.

But, I want it. I want it so bad, I can reach out and almost touch it. I can taste it, visualize it, almost feel it in my hands.

It's a hard lesson learned, but sometimes the needs have to win out over the wants. I strive to teach this to my son on almost a daily basis. And he reacts to it as I'd like to. Sometimes with stony silence. Sometimes with tears. Eventually, though, there is acquiescence.

I'm waiting for that big word to dawn upon me. I want acceptance to draw over me like a warm blanket. You don't need it. You want it. You have other needs that must go before it. There are others without anything that you should help first. You. Have. So. Much.

When I get this way, wanting, wanting, wanting, something, anything that I just don't require, I try to remind myself of how much I really have. Of how lucky I truly am. I try to throw myself into volunteer work, charity. I read about injustices and the lack of very basic things in other countries or right in my own backyard.
I remind myself and try to quiet my desperation with reflection on what is really important.

It's not easy. We're blasted with consumerism everywhere we turn. I think that's why I've unplugged so much. I don't watch much TV anymore. I'm not really interested. And if I do, I TiVo it so I can zoom through the commercials. Recently, I was instructed on the presence of the Snuggie in our world by my son. Who knew one needed a blanket with sleeves and yet there it is. A completely unnecessary item that will soon clutter the shelves of thrift stores every where. Look for them near the S'more Makers and the Billy Bass Singing Fish.

The Internet is a great thing, but shopping on it is like having a Mall in your home 24/7. I've watched people I know consumed by this Mall's proximity. The cardboard boxes piled up like dirty little secrets are a sure giveaway.

I have taken a thankful approach to our struggling economy. I'm seeing more families make wiser decisions with their money and how much they consume. I've watched our neighborhood library and park usage soar. I've taken great pleasure in listening to others talking about breaking out the board games instead of heading to the movies. Connecting instead of passively consuming.

In these "struggling economic times" I still have so much. I still want, but the reminders that need vs want are very different things are all around me. I just have to look for them and keep looking. And when the feeling still doesn't go away, I look again, closer, until it all becomes crystal clear.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Hunting We Will Go, Well, Not Me

This is the house that Bob built.

Tis the season in Minnesota to see people dressed in bright orange and heading into the woods.

It's the deer hunting opening weekend here in my great state. Young One and D are heading up North to the family log cabin that my dad built. They'll bond, scratch, shoot stuff, and generally have a good time. It's their thing.

If my cold gets better, I'll visit my grandma and we'll have dinner with the hunters on Saturday night. Can't go exposing her to the germs, so I'm hoping this is short lived. If I'm still sniffling, I'll stay home and have some alone time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the Porch

Happy Harvest! I took it upon myself to go totally Martha on a bunch of squash.

Thursday, November 5, 2009




Take a phantom, Snake (an army dude from a video game), a monster, and Harry Potter. Mix with fresh, chilly Fall air. Sprinkle throughout a neighborhood, add candy liberally. Garnish with pumpkins and finish with a nap on the couch.

That's one great recipe for a Happy Halloween.

7 pounds of candy, most of it forgotten by now. We'll donate to a worthy cause. The smiles and the memories, now that's what was really collected.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Connecting Over a Cup

A long time ago, I had a conversation with a dear one about coffee. I have a deep love affair with my morning Joe. I cheat on my husband with him daily. I sometimes think about him as I fall asleep. Freshly ground, deep, dark, rich coffee. It's my morning ritual and my day is not complete without several cups.

Hot in the morning, iced in the afternoon. Or a hot mug, always present, Joe never lets me down.

My dear one, whom I mentioned earlier, couldn't imagine paying close to $5 for a cup of coffee. "Heck," he said, "I don't even pay that for a pot of coffee." "I hardly pay that for a pound," he went on.

Now, as I've also mentioned, I'm a coffee lover. I made a pilgrimage to Kona just to see the beans on their native hillside. I almost didn't leave the island because of it.

"You're not paying for the coffee," I said in an instant of inspiration. "You're paying for a meeting place, the ability to park at a table and read, write, work, or connect."

And, you know what? I was right.

I spent four hours recently connecting with two other moms across the table, while holding steaming cups of almost $5 coffee. We more than profited from the investment. We bought time. Time away from our daily grind, time to share joys and challenges. Time to laugh and support, commiserate and bond.

Worth every penny.

I'm a bit of a cheapskate. I invest only in things that really mean something to me. I don't cruise the mall, I frequent thrift stores, I cut coupons, and I pinch pennies until they scream. Pay $5 for a cup of coffee? No way. Pay $5 to park at a table and connect with other moms?

You bet your bottom dollar.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!