P.S. I love you, even if your legs are really short

spot rides her bike from jane on Vimeo.

In case you think I sound like I’m twelve years old, the following video should remove all doubt. And also provide some clues as to why our home life is just one big, shiny rainbow.

decorating birthday cake from jane on Vimeo.

All the flip-flops in all the world

Dear Spot,

If you’re reading this when you’re thirteen and looking for a legitimate reason to hate your mother (as if you needed one), you might bring up the fact that I never mentioned that it was your birthday last month, three days after Susan’s. It’s not that I forgot that you turned two, or that we didn’t mark the occasion with the appropriate fanfare, but, well . . . I guess I’m still sore that my calculations were so off two years and ten months ago when I thought that you would be born in November.

Tonight you climbed out of your crib for the first time. Dad pushed you back in as you flung your leg over the railing a few times so you wouldn’t fall, but later, when Sally and Susan were both asleep, and the grown-ups were exploring the wonders of cable tv, you came down the stairs by yourself. You’d taken off your pajamas, again, and you looked so cute, and you’re my third child and still my baby, so I set my laptop aside and snuggled you for a few minutes. Your skin warmed up quickly as I tickled your legs and gobbled your neck.

I asked you “Where’s Spot’s bed?” and pretended to put you down in the washing machine, the kitchen sink, the coat closet, and outside in the cold. You kept saying “no,” until I set you down in a brown plastic bin we have in the corner for toys. You could see the tv from there, and you said that was Spot’s bed, but Mom wasn’t really asking where your bed is. She knows your crib is upstairs in the room you share with Sally.

When I came down from settling you, again, Dad said that I’m so good at getting you kids to want to do what I want you to do. And it’s true, I can cajole you out of a bad mood or make you think that it was your idea to go to sleep or eat your dinner or put your pretty princess boots on. But a lot of the time I can’t muster the energy or time to make you want to do things. Sometimes I just want you kids to put your coats in the closet or get into your car seats without me having to make a game of it. Because sometimes I want to think about other things than how to turn every minute of the day into a “Let’s Tidy up the Nursery or Well-begun is half-done” Mary Poppins game.

Daddy says I need to hide all of the flipflops because next time you fall down the stairs while wearing mine or your older sisters’ you’re going to break your neck. I told him the carpet at the foot of the stairs is pretty thick, especially now that we have an extra rug there, but he worries about things like that, and whether I’ve turned off the stove and the iron and locked the front door. Even though I’ve ironed once in the ten and a half years that we’ve been married, you know that it would be my fault if the house ever burnt down because the iron got left plugged in.

When the weather turned cold a few weeks ago, you refused to wear a jacket or sweater, even when I did a Russian folk dance and pretended to put my head in the sleeves. Then you saw Sally and Susan wearing their new pink snow boots one morning when there was .2 millimeters of snow on the grass, and suddenly you wanted to wear your warmest coat and your boots and a fleece hat. I didn’t tell you that it wasn’t really cold enough for the stay-puff look yet; I figured it was good practice and that I shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. I think we’ll look for a copy of the Elmo’s Potty Time DVD this weekend for that very reason.

When you start pulling off your diaper and trying to wear your oldest sister’s panties, and excitedly showing people at church the cute bloomers that match your dress and saying “panties! panties!” loud enough to be heard over the speaker, I think it might be a sign that you’re interested in being a big girl.

Happy Birthday!


Mommy Jane

Molten Lava Cakes — 5 Ingredients to Chocolate Bliss

My mom turned 50 on Sunday. She’s pretty young for a grandma of six, just as she was young (19) when she was first a mother to me. Last year my sisters and I held a tea party for her with homemade scones, Mary Poppins costumes, and hot chocolate, the works.

This year I thought of fun 50th birthday stuff: black balloons, black roses in a coffin. Luckily I’m a procrastinator, because a week before her birthday she told me she was going in for a biopsy.

Black balloons seem a bit inappropriate when someone’s in the middle of a cancer scare. Chocolate, however, is always a good thing (especially if you’re my mom). Food is a comfort when we’re worried or sick and a way of rejoicing when we’re not.

Mom’s biopsy came back benign, and we celebrated her birthday with the usual summer fare: hamburgers on the grill, corn on the cob, and chocolate. I offered to make her whatever dessert she wanted, and she requested brownies and ice cream. Now, you know I have NOTHING against a good brownie (i.e. one made from Duncan Hines mix), but there are one or two things in life that are even better than brownies.

And since Mom is just about my (counting on fingers) 5th favorite person on earth, I wanted to make something just a little extra-special. So I called up Tara and asked her what she’s made that’s special, and chocolate, and has easy-to-find and cheap ingredients. She read me this recipe from Allrecipes.com, and the rest is . . . chocolate bliss!

I had to take extra photos, because in the first ones I put the actual amount of whipped cream we like, and then you couldn’t see the cakes. So this picture is highly misleading, dairy-wise.

Here’s what “cakes puff but centers jiggle” looks like:

The first time I made this I accidentally used 4 tablespoons of flour, and they were still good, but they’re better with the right amount. The original recipe calls for making this in a regular muffin pan with jumbo-size liners, but I’ve been wanting some ramekins for baked custard (and I don’t have jumbo liners).

I’d tell you these were a big hit, but that’s pretty obvious, right? The best thing is that you can mix up a batch and then refrigerate the batter for up to three days (maybe more, but we’d eaten it by then). Just bring it up to room temperature before baking.

The best, best thing is that I think Mom will be around for another 50 years to enjoy these with us.

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Ryan, who is no longer Sixteen going on Seventeen

I used to describe my little brother Ryan with words like smart, strong-willed, opinionated, just-a-tad judgemental, dog-lover, extremely handy with power tools and vehicles of all kinds, and might-fit-into-a-right-wing-militia-in-Idaho, except for the gun part.

Ryan is closer in age to my daughter Sally than to me.

Since we share absolutely none of those characteristics (especially not the first four), and since I am fourteen years older, there has sometimes been a bit of . . . friction in our relationship. Although I think I did impress him when I snagged Dick for a husband 10 years ago (Ryan was 7), as Ryan thinks Dick is the cat’s pajamas; perhaps the first thing we ever agreed on.

Last weekend Ryan wanted to know when my blog became all about sex. Apparently he was trying to find something on it to show to his friend, who happens to be a girl, and he was embarrassed as the word sex cropped up in more than one post. He said my mom agreed that some things should remain private, AND he admitted that he hadn’t read the posts in question, but was still willing to bet that they were inappropriate. WELL.

We discussed this rationally, calmly. At crescendoing volume. Ryan says he is so eager to avoid sin that he immediately shuts off at any mention of sex. While (hard as it may be to imagine in a normal teenage American boy) I believe that he is sincere in his desire to remain worthy of serving a mission for our church and marrying an equally pure girl in the future, I had to ask if he honestly expects me to believe that he has a) never watched a James Bond movie or b) never watched any TV or c) never read most books (including dad-sanctioned “classics” such as Ayn Rand’s).

My strongest defense, I think, is that it is appropriate (perhaps imperative) for married people to discuss sex (thought not necessarily on the internet, of course) and how it contributes to the intimacy and health of the marital relationship. And, as one person commented on one of my sex posts, it is CRAZY how sex is discussed so often (and so often misguidedly) by the un-marrieds.

But I digress. I was talking about Ryan, and about why anyone thought it was a good idea for him to join the Debate Club. Because that is so foreign to our natures.

As we argued discussed, I called him a liar, and then apologized and he said some mean things and then apologized. And all of the sudden we were talking more quietly and I could actually hear what he was saying and I realized that he has grown up and might not fit into that right-wing-militia-in-Idaho anymore. I don’t think he’s bugged me about my caffeine fountain drink habit in months. But that might be because he doesn’t know I’ve recidivisted, again.

Ryan is now someone I would choose to be friends with, especially if I were stranded somewhere or needed mechanical help or just wanted conversation with a lively, curious mind. He knows how to keep his promises. His word is good. He will make a great husband and father some day, and he will honor his wife and treat her with great dignity. And if he ever wants to talk about sex and how to please his new wife, I want him to know that I will be here for him.

Happy Birthday, Ryan. We love you!