Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Break From Blogging Brings Happy to the Heart - Christmas Highlights 2013

A little over a week's time has passed since I've sat down to blog.  In between diaper duties, close calls with the Christmas tree, refereeing wrestling matches and a few mild meltdowns, ideas for different posts have meandered through my mind these past few days, but those thoughts just couldn't pull me away from life in the present.  How could any post compete with snuggling on the couch with kiddos, reading Charlie just one more book by a sparkling fire, baking the favorites we savor but once a year, singing my favorite Christmas songs till my hear's content while tackling a sink constantly overflowing with dishes, delivering gifts to neighbors, greeting the UPS man every day (we always get to be friends during the holidays!), and crouching down by the nativity in the evening quiet to savor just a few more moments with my Lord.

I hope that you, too, were able to spend the past few days doing all of the things you love, living richly in the present moment, savoring life....and that's why I knew you woulnd't miss anything here....here doesn't matter - there, your very own place in life does.

This morning I'm up early, long before the bandits arise from their burrows, just so I can spend a few minutes editing all of the photos I've taken (so far) this Christmas.  Unfortunately, my camera has taken some serious "accidental" falls over the past few months and it's showing it's wear and tear in the pics. Time to get it fixed! Looking beyond the fuzzies....I hope you'll see what I see!!
Smiling faces full of surprise...
A proud brother anxiously waiting for his specially chosen gift (a basketball for big brother Ben!) to be opened.
The anticipation of what's inside as paper is torn back layer by layer. No gift bags this year. There's something about tearing the paper that heightens their excitement even more.
The prensentation of the presents.  Show and tell is a must!
Unexpected expressions of joy.
I LOVE to watch our children's faces as they open their gifts, smiles forever imbedded in my memory.
 Growing up fast, but big guy grins still can't be held back.
 Unbelievable believed.
Love for littleness.  There's such a sweetness in their fresh little fingers all warm and chubby, manipulating the pieces with patience until they get it "just right."
 Father and son spend some bonding time over...
 Simple gifts.
Savoring sweets for brunch, something we all look forward to after gifts are revealed.
The Christmas morning Ebelskiver tradition continues.
Days before His birthday, they watch out the window, hoping with great hope for a white Christmas!
Brothers out burnin' off the Jelly Belly stocking stuffer with some sledding!
 A beautiful new blessing to celebrate....patiently waiting until June to hold.
Posing for a few family pics with my parents.  Doesn't my mom look amazing? Thank you for your continued prayers for her. She is doing great!
 Grandkids contain their wiggles while standing with Gran and Grandpa.
 Dapper dude.
The saddest little face you'll every see of a boy holding a candy cane (!).
 What to my wondering eyes should appear??
Four crazy cousins doing stunts, oh dear!
Ham and Beans!
 Accidental matching - I couldn't plan it if I tried.
 Cute curls of the sweetest girl, Miss Peyton enjoys a treat from Uncle Donut.

It wouldn't be Christmas vacation without a "let's gang up on Dad" wrestling match.
Gathering 'round the table for a competetive game of cards - is there any other way to play?
Nothin' but love for the two Steve's.
Scott, his amazing wife Stephanie and their precious daughter, Phebe.  If you haven't met my brother, Scott, yet, you must check out last year's Christmas episode!
 Garrett (one of those ca-razy cousins), Uncle donut and his beautiful wife, Julie.
Gran and the girls, Lauryn and Camryn. They may look innocent, but when it comes to cards, they're fierce!
Cards are always more exciting when you have a princess to advise.
Is there anything better than cuddling up with a warm squishy baby?? Not for Gran! Phebe received approximately 800 hugs and 492 kisses during our two day visit.  She is definitely loved!

The crew is up, and running, and I hear the kitchen calling! 
Happy New Year's Eve, Friends!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Inspiration from Our Lady ~ Why I Love Carrying Life During Advent

Mankind is a great, an immense family....  
This is proven by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.
- Pope John XXIII

All is CALM
thankfully...hopefully for at least the next 9 hours.

as flames flicker happily within the fireplace walls.

As I sit here, clutching my cup of piping hot tea, the air is still, the night is calm.  The only audible sound is the faint vibration of a toddler's sweet snore, signaling the restoration of a busy boy's bones as he waits in sleep for the return of just enough strength to take on tomorrow's world. 

I cannot help but smile with deep joy as I think of our Charlie, curled up in fuzzy Christmas footie jammies, nestled beneath piles of favorite blankets and bears, tucked cozy within innocence and warmth.
December  2010.  Waiting to meet Charlie.
How is it possible, I wonder to myself, that more than two years has passed since I last sat alone on this same couch, on a similar winter night, looking down upon Charlie, our "hidden one," growing beneath my heart.  He was our very best Christmas gift that year, a very real, and very present part of our family, even though we had yet to endure three months of waiting before we could hold him. Now, two years later, here I am again, blessed to be carrying our sixth child! Waiting...wondering with great anticipation just who this little person is that God has created.

Isn't it amazing how babies have a mysterious and magical way of filling us with hope? It saddens me, deeply to know that their are unwanted babies, unwanted children in the world, that these precious ones are seen as a burden rather than a blessing, that in many circumstances a higher priority is placed upon the financial "burden" of a baby, the physical and emotional efforts required of us to care for them, the supreme sacrifice of convenience and comfort.  I don't deny the difficulties involved in parenthood, nor do I lack sympathy for the most supremely strenuous circumstances that children are often brought into, but I do long to hear about and speak about the sheer goodness and the real and earnest hope that every single child brings into the world.  

No circumstance could have been more unbearable than that of the Holy Family's.  Their story has become just that - a story - and one that we have all heard so many times that it has become bland, redundant, and a bit over-polished if you will.  Our visual is the same old colorful, clean and tidy image of Mary on the donkey, led by Joseph, the two of them finally finding a place to rest their heads in a stable of fresh hay and perfectly tame animals. Then, "Poof!" A baby, and shepherds and angels and wise men and singing and, well, "the end."  If we really stop to think about it, the real, stark, bleak conditions of the birth, can we honestly ignore the poverty of their conditions? Doing so shouldn't cause us to abandon the happy spirit of Christmas, but to delve deeper into it's real meaning. There's so much more to the story, when we place ourselves within it...
I find myself being drawn into the story ever deeper when I am expecting.  I long to empathize with Mary, to be united to her in a real and profound way, to know how she felt during such a tumultuous time so as to draw closer to her Son, our hope, our miracle.  Nearly ready to welcome her son, Mary desired, as every mother-to-be does, to perfect her nest, to prepare the crib and wash the linens, to tidy the home and also to rest, to seek fellowship with and encouragement from friends and family, to enjoy the quiet and the calm before the world around her changes in a most profound way. In her holiness she lacked not an ounce of naturalness.

But, Mary was not given the opportunity to fulfill her nesting instincts. She was called away from her home, from everything familiar, being obedient to circumstances outside of her control, reporting under law for the census....on a donkey, no less.  Can you even imagine? The terrain they traveled wasn't smooth and flat, but rugged, hilly, rocky, and rough. Middle Eastern weather during the winter months is often bleak, cold and windy, with night time temperatures reaching unbearable lows.  For more than seventy miles they endured these conditions, and SHE WAS NINE MONTHS PREGNANT!

This is why "Mary on the Donkey" is my life's mantra when it comes to motherhood.  My discomforts and inconveniences pale in comparison to everything she endured. When I feel that my complaints over fat feet and hemorrhoids, the heat the cold, too many doctor appointments and not enough fast food choices etc., etc. are totally justified given my "condition" these words always seem to pop into my head. Thankfully, I know that Our Lady is praying for me, and cheering me on through it all from above!  

The most captivating, most heartwarming stories we read about online or hear about on the news are most inspiring when a deep difficulty has been overcome, when fruit has been born of great suffering, when goodness has overcome evil, when light has broken through the darkness.  To enter into the beauty, the miracle, the supreme JOY of Christ's birth, we must first journey through the darkness, alongside not only, Mary and Joseph, but also the people of the old testament who waited, who longed to see, to know to experience their Savior and His promise of hope and salvation.  This is the beauty of Advent - to prepare us experience the triumph of the Christmas story, through prayer and contemplation of the road leading up to Christ's birth.
As mothers, we are Mary on the donkey, saying "yes" again and again, every moment of every day, to every challenge, every circumstance, every difficulty that comes our way.  As women who long with their entire being to be life-bearers, but who face the struggle of seeing that dream realized, you too, are Mary on the donkey, following the will of God, no matter how intensely painful the journey may be, trusting that fruit will come from your sacrifice. 

As fathers, those of you who embrace the call to provide for and to protect your own family, you are Joseph leading humbly, offering up your own fiat, your very own yes to the will of God - despite the circumstances and conditions the world may place upon your shoulders.  Lead on with confidence in the beautiful hope that your children are to the world, in the fruit that your sacrifices have yet to bear, in the grace and strength that only Christ our Savior can give.

As our family waits, in gracious hope and bubbling excitement for Christmas day, we unite ourselves to the Holy Family, to their living witness to hope, and we hold tight to one another, giving thanks for the little life whom we will hold in our love next year at this time.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Perfect Last Minute Gift ~ Creative Handmade Bookmarks

Hello, Friends!! I'm so happy you are here, because today I have a wonderful gift to share with you! My beautiful friend, Kelly, from This Ain't the Lyceum, has ever so kindly offered to compose a guest post for me, since I've got a little "I'm trying to grow a baby here" fatigue goin' on, and blogging has been taken over by naps and snacks. She truly understands!  If you haven't added Kelly's blog to your list of favorites, you will need to do that right now, because I promise her sense of humor, zest for life and all things motherhood, her beautiful writing style and creative approach to homeschooling (sprinkled with the perfect amount of sarcasm) will keep you coming back week after week. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your creative genius with all of us today!...
Inadvertently, at some point in the final days before Christmas, one of your kids is going to utter the words, “I still need a present for my music teacher, best friend, grandma, cousin, mailman,
etc.!” Do you a.) pull out your hair while walking them around a crowded store or b.) search
through the house for new­ish items to re­gift, provided the recipient has poor eyesight? Well no more! Let me present you with the perfect, last minute gift idea that is practical and useful
for the recipient, yet simple enough for non­crafty types of all ages and created from items easily
found around the house. Behold, the humble bookmark.
Bookmarks can be as simple or elaborate as your imagination. They look great tucked in an
envelope, used as a gift tag, peeking out of a stocking, or slipped in a favorite book. My kids range in age from three to eleven and bookmarks are still a fun craft we can all work on together. I’m going to share a few of our favorite designs to inspire you and then the sky’s the limit!

My favorite bookmark was inspired by this pattern over at Wee Folk Art. I took Kimara’s gnome design and altered it slightly. I make these out of cereal or cracker boxes, covering the glossy, product side with patterned paper, and cut the gnome’s hat, beard and book from other scraps I find lying around the art table or magazine bin. ‘Highlights’ magazines usually have enough red for a bright hat.
I use a store bought bookmark as a template for simpler bookmarks. If you need a template, I’ve
often used these as well.  My kids cut bookmarks from magazine covers and give bundles to
friends or we’ll cut some of my youngest’s artwork out, and paste it to cardboard for grandparents
whose refrigerators are otherwise covered with masterpieces.
Bookmarks can be adorned with the smallest bits of scrapbook paper, washi tape, stickers and
stamps. If you have a laminator or clear packaging tape, your creations can be made water
resistant and include items like pressed flowers too. Here’s an array of some of our favorites.Can
you see the teeth marks in the laminated ones? Perfect for a house with littles. The bookmarks
may outlast the board books.
Do you save Christmas cards? Why not upcycle them into a festive bookmark? The two layers of
The possibilities are endless. Forget the last minute store run and spend a fun evening at home
creating a useful gift that your friends and family are sure to enjoy for years to come. Who knows, it might be a new Advent tradition in the making.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You Asked, I've Answered ~ My 10 Tips on Running {healhty and happy} During Pregnancy

There's nothing better than a country run!!
Yesterday the temps outside reached an incredible 56 degrees!! That's Kansas for ya! Last week, we barely peeked our noses outdoors with the temps in the teens, and this week, thanks to the crazy warm-up, the kids are whizzing through their school work just so they can get out and play.
Let's go!
I am incredibly grateful for these gorgeous days, because they allow me the opportunity to get out and run.  When I'm not pregnant, below freezing temps and snow cannot keep me indoors! However, I'm extra cautious with running when expecting, so days like today are perfect for me and my little running buddy to take on the miles.
14 weeks along with #6 and happily running for two!
A little "bump" in the road {hee, hee}.
I've had a few people ask me recently, via e-mail, since the announcement of our newest little wonder, how I'm able to keep up with the miles during pregnancy. So, I've decided to collect my thoughts and write a post answering their question.

Although there's been a great deal of scrutiny over the years on whether women should run or not while pregnant (because sitting on the couch is a wise alternative??), I am happy to report that medical experts all over the world are more supportive of that type of activity now than ever. You can read more about that here and here if you like.
Whether you run, walk, hike, swim, do Pilate's or any other work-out during your pregnancy, you will most certainly reap the benefits of your efforts throughout your 9 month journey, during labor, delivery and post pregnancy as well.  Here are a few of the top reasons to work-out while pregnant:

1. Energy Boost
Exercising during pregnancy is a great way to strengthen your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles, making your body more efficient to handle life's daily demands. Remember, fitness fights fatigue!

2.  Reduced Discomforts
Exercising while pregnant will naturally strengthen and tone your muscles, aids in circulation, and with proper stretching, can reduce muscle aches and pains that often accompany the strain of carrying an extra 15 pounds out in front.

3.  Better Sleep
Studies show that women who exercise regularly while pregnant experience deeper, more restful sleep.  For me, this is one of the greatest benefits!

4.  Mood Booster
Bring on the endorphins! Exercise is a natural mood booster, and, if you're like me, and often feel frustrated by fluctuating hormones during pregnancy, a natural remedy for the ups and downs is exercise.  Working out also keeps me feeling flirty rather than frumpy, which my husband loves (wink!).

5.  Preparation for Childbirth
Giving birth is the toughest work-out you'll ever experience.  The better shape you're in prior to heading to the hospital, the better equipped you'll be when it comes time to push!

6.  Faster Post-Birth Recovery
Bouncing back to your pre-baby shape after giving birth can be a long and difficult challenge.  However, if you were able to stick to your fitness goals during pregnancy, getting back into your favorite pair of jeans will happen sooner than later. More importantly, if you have other little ones at home keeping up with them, and the normal daily demands of life will also be less taxing!

Although I'm not a medical expert, in my 13 years (and 6 pregnancies!) of reading, research, and experience with maternal fitness, I can say with confidence that there are really only two reasons why you shouldn't run while pregnant: 1.  If you have any type of health concern that has held you back from any type of physical activity prior to pregnancy (and your doctor has given you strict instructions not to exercise).  2.  You have not been exercising prior to becoming pregnant.  If it's been a while since you've stepped foot in a gym or dug out the dreaded exercise DVD's, now is not the time to resolve to begin running. Walking, swimming or other forms of light activity are more appropriate options to begin with.

Just to recap, if  you had a regular exercise routine prior to getting pregnant and if your doctor has not cautioned you against running while pregnant, then please read on!  Here's a list of my top tips to consider throughout your months of running ahead:
Proof that PR's don't matter when pregnant. I ran this 5 mile race nauseous and 8 weeks pregnant well over my typical race pace. I found joy in just being out there, knowing races in the upcoming year would be few and far between.
Now is not the time to set PR's.  Speed and distance records should not even be on your mind at this point, even if you're a seasoned, competitive runner.  Right now, your goals should be focused on a running schedule that will help you achieve the benefits listed above.

Out with the old, in with the new. In the past, the standard recommendation from the ACOG for woman who exercised during pregnancy was that she should not let her heart rate exceed 140 beats/minute during activity.  Recent reports from the academy now place stronger emphasis on a woman's rate of perceived exertion over heart rate when it comes to exercising safely. (Here's a brief summary.)

Talk to me. Given the information in #2, using the "talk test," which is the ability to carry on a conversation while working out, and the comfort test (no physical pain or discomfort) while exercising are two very important guides that will help you to know if you're working out at the proper level during exercise.

Stay Hydrated.  This isn't just important during the warmer months, but at any time of the year you are pregnant.  Drinking plenty of water before and after during working out will ensure that your body stays cool and will help ward of muscle cramps. If you are able to carry a hand held water bottle during longer runs/walks, I highly recommend it. (This is my favorite brand!) Don't underestimate the importance of this one!

Watch your step. If you are a fan of the treadmill or trail running, please reconsider these options during pregnancy. A woman's balance, particularly during the latter months, is naturally off-center, which makes climbing over uneven surfaces or maintaining balance on a treadmill while running or walking even more difficult.  Please be cautious! Remember, you won't be pregnant forever, and this time of modification will be over before you know it.

Dress for success. Invest in proper shoes and proper attire.  Shoes are definitely the most important accessory you can invest in as a runner.  Make sure you choose the shoe that fits properly and provides the much needed cushion and support your joints need during this time.  You can read more about finding the right shoe in this article.  Don't forget to dress for the weather.  Layers are perfect for colder climates, and moisture wicking, breathable fabrics are essential for warm days.  If you're in search of athletic wear designed for pregnancy here's a no budget and a low budget option.

Say "yes" to support. No matter what your fitness goals or fitness level, consider wearing a support belt.  This belt has been my go-to throughout 5 pregnancies, and I'm wearing it now!  It's adjustable, and will give your tummy the much needed lift your muscles need not only during exercise, but also throughout the day while working around the house.  During the last two months of my pregnancy, I rarely take it off!

Slow down, sister! Don't feel defeated if you have to walk.  It's true, runners tend to have pretty big egos when it comes to distance, time and frequency of activity.  I speak from experience, when I say that I have yet to run for a full 9 months of pregnancy, and it's difficult to put the brakes on every time.  Around month 7, I slow to a jog/walk combo.  The eighth and ninth month I surrender to a walk, and rely on my favorite pregnancy videos (Pilate's and aerobics) to help me finish the baby race. My heart wants to run, but my abdominal and pelvic muscles are clearly telling me to walk.  Running simply becomes uncomfortable, and I know it's important to listen to my body at this point.

Pick a partner. Consider finding a running/walking buddy.  Hitting the road as a pair is not only safer than going out alone, it also offers an added opportunity to de-stress and to gain that much needed support and motivation that only another pregnant friend (or at least one who has been through it too) can give!

Cave to the crave. I know you might be thinking "really??" about this last one, but it is important to keep your body properly, healthfully fueled before and after working out.  If you're like me, keeping your caloric intake up during pregnancy is NOT a problem! Even though you may feel like you've earned a pint of Ben and Jerry's, choosing the right post-workout snack is very important for muscle recovery and energy restoration. Look for a healthy protein/carb combo such as your favorite nut butter spread on whole grain toast with a banana, plain yogurt sprinkled with berries, nuts and a drizzle of agave, or a fruit smoothie with an added protein (just be sure that if you're adding a protein powder, that it doesn't contain any herbal supplements that aren't pregnancy approved).
Are you a reader/research buff like me?? Fit and healthy pregnancy by Christina Pinto is one of my favorites.  It's chocked full of exercise guidelines, dietary suggestions, and proper research to give you peace of mind and plenty of encouragement throughout your maternal fitness journey.

* P.S. I didn't mention in any of the tips above the vital importance of stretching.  Stretching for 10 - 15 minutes after any form of exercise will help you stay limber and ease muscle soreness. It's easy to skip this step, but the extra time you take to follow through with stretching will pay off down the road! *

Friday, December 13, 2013

Self Pity. The Deep Wallowing Kind. And, How I Found My Way Out Last Night at a Pizza Joint.

Last night, after Ben's basketball game, I decided to surprise the boys and take them out for pizza. Okay, the truth is, my lazy bones had gotten the best of me. After a very loooooong day, cooking for 7 seemed like the equivalent of climbing a mountain barefoot and pregnant with an elephant on my back.  As we cruised down the stretch of highway, the bleak early evening darkness defeated by the hopeful sparkle of Christmas lights set proudly in place from house to house, could not distract my anxious heart from the longing I had to hear my phone chirp, telling me I had a message from Steve.

My husband had been in meetings all afternoon, and though his schedule is often busy and unpredictable, I always hold out hope that he will be with us at supper time.  I don't mind keeping my preparations warm, and pacifying the kids for a while if it means we can all be together around the table.  

As the kids climbed over seats and out of the suburban into the cozy warmth of the pizza parlor, I turned to look down the street, hoping that maybe I would see the lights of Steve's pick-up truck heading our way. 


The smell of fresh Italian baking rising from the kitchen made our tummies rumble and our mouths water, a welcome feeling for me after almost three months of first trimester nausea.  Filing through the maze of tables and chairs we made our way to the center of the restaurant and found the perfect spot to park by the fireplace.  The very moment we all sat down, I couldn't help but notice an elderly lady, sitting in a booth nearby, dining alone.  

Over the years, Steve and I have made a habit of inviting the elderly to join our family at our table if they are eating alone, but as our family has grown in size, that habit has waned, as we wonder if eating alone is preferable to eating with a mob.  I looked at her warmly and smiled, then turned my attention back to the kiddos.

While I visited with the boys about the day, the basketball victory, who is most likely to match up in the Super Bowl, and what to get dad for Christmas, I could see our "friend" admiring the boys, especially Charlie.  The moment she finished her meal, she turned toward me with a smile, and we began conversing.  We talked about the first thing that every mother and grandmother always talk about - kids! After she expressed sincere empathy about how busy I must be, I shared with her that I have an amazing team-mate to share the joys with, and that I was waiting on him to arrive to join us for supper.  I went on to explain that I after a crazy day, I needed a night off from the kitchen, and it was then that I immediately saw her eyes well up with tears.  
Between the tears, she shared that ever since she had lost her husband a couple of years ago, she has found it so difficult to cook for just one person. Looking at her with compassion, I remarked that I couldn't possibly imagine how she must feel, but that I share in understanding of the generous gift of love she gave to her husband every day, for all of their years together. "My husband is the only reason I cook every single day. I do it for him, and him alone."  She nodded in agreement, in our common bond, wiping the tears from her eyes with a wrinkled tissue.  

As I reached out for her hand, I complimented her on her devotion to her husband.  "That kind of love and attentiveness seems kind of rare these days with everyone leading such busy lives and being consumed by busy schedules.  Cooking for your family, every day, sitting around a table full of love and and stories and laughter and sometimes tears is as nourishing to our souls as the food is. It seems like such an ordinary thing, the quiet sacrifice of serving your family a home cooked meal night after night. But, over the years, that ordinary gift, that ordinary experience can add up to something pretty extraordinary."  She squeezed my hand in unity.  

In our brief time together, I felt a deep consolation inside, one that I didn't realize I desperately needed.  I confess to feeling weary lately of stay-at-home motherhood, of cleaning up after the flu that has nestled itself, unwelcome, into our home, of lacking the energy to keep our nest tidy and organized, piles of this and that anywhere and everywhere, of noticing every single dang time I go out for groceries - because that seems like the only time I go out - that every other mom in the world besides me seems to be able to find something besides sweats that fit, to have polished nails and freshly combed hair. And, the career moms, oh, do I sometimes day-dream of being in your shoes....if only for something part time.....just so I can reassure myself that I really am capable of doing more than change diapers and fold laundry, that I can socialize on a level beyond toddlers and teens, that I can make a difference in the world outside of my own little one at the end of the cul-de-sac.

The consolation came, when I looked into the eyes of this woman, who couldn't hold back tears nor hide her mind's stroll down memory lane, as she spoke endearingly of her husband with great fondness, great longing, and great loneliness.  What she wouldn't do to have him back for one more meal, for one more mess to clean up, for one more load of his laundry to fold, for one more opportunity to be "home" to him - as hidden, and as simple, and as unappreciated by the world as that ministry may be.

While I think that my bouts of disenchantment with motherhood and service to the family, yes - at times - even to my spouse, are normal, shame on me for succumbing to it.  How easy it is to forget - until you are reminded by a complete stranger - of how precious what you, in your moments of self-pity can no longer appreciate.  To be reminded that everything, in the end, really boils down to love.  EVERYTHING we do, unnoticed and unappreciated, mundane and maddening, when done for love of the Lord, and for the love of our family (primarily our husbands) has merit, has meaning, and has a message. Such quiet love, over time, speaks volumes to the power of sacrificial love, love that, like a glue, is strengthening and bonding, strong enough to hold people together, to hold families together, to hold our life in this crazy mixed up world together and keep us pointed toward heaven. 

My only regret after saying good-bye to this precious lady, was that we didn't exchange names or phone numbers.  I'm deeply hoping that we'll meet again. It would give me great joy to invite her to our home for supper.  I have a feeling she wouldn't let me stand alone in the kitchen, and I would be just fine with that. Goodness knows, she could probably teach me a thing or two over the stove - not just about cooking.