Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Having babies, real and otherwise

Last night I had a weird dream. I dreamt I was pregnant. Before you read any further, I am NOT pregnant in real life. Throughout my life I have had recurrent dream themes.

Dream themes in my life if anyone cares

1. Shapes - these dreams were mostly as a child and the gi-normous shapes moved like meteorites by my face and often nearly killed me

2. France - I lived in France for a year and am a French major. I will speak French in my dreams and remember words I thought I had long since forgotten.

3. Natural disasters- I will spare you the horrifying details

4. Spontaneously losing my teeth - for no apparent reason, my teeth literally fall out of my head. Not a good dream since I have a thing about dentists!

5. Giving birth, being pregnant - I have had many dream babies.

But what made last night's dream especially interesting was how vivid it was and the timing. I share this with you because it is still so real in my mind. I need to share.

In my dream, I was asleep. I awaken in my dream (does this make sense??) next to my husband much like I do every morning. But in my dream, I am pregnant and our still unborn child is gently kicking me from inside the womb. I nudge the Hubs out of his sleep and put his hand on my roundish belly so he can feel our little person kicking me. Who is this little person? In my dream, in my roundish belly is a girl. And somehow, since it's a dream, I can see her, almost like there's a transparent window. Who does she look like? She looks like my orange-haired, freckle face OS. I love her. I awaken this time in real life and I have to pause for a moment to take in the depth of that dream. I awaken the Hubs who detaches himself from his C-PAP machine and he chuckles when I tell him about our little dream baby.

Why did I dream this? I have at least two theories.

1. My sister is soon to give birth. After having two simply delicious sons, Denise and her Hubs will welcome a daughter. With each passing day, I know that a little girl will join our family and PINK shall rule the land. I currently call my yet to be born niece "Miss Thang" but soon, she will have a new name. Maybe that's the reason for this dream. I'm going to be an aunt again SOON.

2. Or maybe it's this other reason. Last night I became a Teen Community Bible Study Leader. As of yesterday, I will lead (I'm pictured here with my co-leader) and disciple nearly dozen sixth and seventh grade girls!!! Girls with sparkles and pretty colors. Girls with beautiful hair the shades and hues we adult women pay top dollar to replicate. These girls are just beginning the complicated journey into womanhood. They are girls trying to flesh out their faith in Jesus and make it something authentic not just a thing their parents made them believe. And if they're like most females, they are probably full of drama, potential and personality plus some genuine problems and struggles.

I have never nor I will ever give birth to a daughter in my real life. At times I have wondered why the Lord never allowed that to happen. I don't question His will and I am perfectly, absolutely content to be the mama of three fantastic OS. I've never had to share the "joys" of menstruation and for that I give eternal thanks. Being the mama of sons has many benefits!

But I am beginning a new journey which will include girls that I will surely grow to love and cherish. I have included pictures of me here when I was in sixth and seventh grade. Maybe parts of that dream are actually becoming a reality?

Thinking pink, I am...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wow, that was bad, really bad

I made a really bad side dish yesterday. A dish so mind-blowingly bad, it rivals the escarole soup my mother made decades ago which was beyond vile! Yes, it's true!

I was looking forward to using my farmer's market produce and impressing my family with another culinary wonder. Alas, I was not successful. I'm still trying to figure out what went so terribly wrong.

Maybe it was that the recipe called for rice vinegar but I used the apple cider vinegar instead? Or maybe it was because the recipe called for ONE cup of vinegar and one scant teaspoon of sugar? Hmmm, I'm still trying to figure it out.

After chilling the salad for an hour, I took it out and stirred it with a spoon. I noticed that some of the dressing got on my fingers and it stung. Why, why, why?

But when I sat down at the dinner table and tried the salad, I discovered the answer... the salad was ridiculously sour! I thought maybe someone in my family likes the salad so I didn't say anything and monitored everyone's reaction. I asked the Hubs what he thought. I held back the laughter and wow, was I surprised when he said it was good. Did he really think it was good? Was he just trying to be a nice husband? Or was he simply trying to stay out of trouble???

I'm not sure the Hubs even tried the salad. Aaron did though. How did I know? Well, his eyes nearly bulged out of his head, that's how! He thought if he had another bite, his tongue might fall off! We then determined that the salad was inedible. It was, in modern day terms, an epic fail.

Here is a dramatic re-enactment of Aaron's facial expression after trying the tomato and cucumber salad.
My tomato and cucumber salad now tops the list of WWSD - world's worst side dish. Have you ever made something so hideously horrible it lives on in infamy? Let me know, I need a good laugh!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chicken broth for the soul

Chicken broth and me have a thing. I'm not sure when it started but I'd say we're pretty hot and heavy. Perhaps it began (cue dreamlike music) to the time when I went to Lima, Peru and helped in a local soup kitchen.

It was 2007, I was on a mission trip and one day our team went to a very poor village where, among other things, I chopped fresh herbs for the local ladies as they made chicken foot soup for the villagers. We were told not to try any food so I don't know how it tasted but the local village men gobbled it down before they returned to work.

I am a fan of DIY chicken broth and I very much dislike canned soup. Now that I have mastered making my own chicken broth, the Hubs knows he skating on some very thin ice anytime he brings in a can of (HORRORS) soup!

Here are some reasons I like making my own chicken broth.

Healthy - I know what I put into it. Using local, in season vegetables I often get at the farmer's market means I selected the ingredients my family is ingesting.

Easy - Basically I just dump a bunch of veggies, a chicken or a chicken carcass, garlic and spices into a pot of water, turn the heat up and just monitor their progress. I don't measure anything and that's something because I almost always use measuring spoons. You wash the veggies, cut off any yucky parts and let all the goodness cook and simmer together. Simply cut a head of garlic, cut the onions in half and leave the skin on, don't peel the carrots and go on with your bad self! You will be popping your chicken broth collah in no time at all!

Cheap - Before I started making my own chicken stock, the Hubs would often have the dubious task of running to the store to get me chicken broth just as I was in the middle of cooking. Now I have frozen bags of chicken broth on hand, made from the scraps in my kitchen. I feel frugal!

Fun - It's satisfying to create something good for my family. There have been times when I have gone a little overboard and the Hubs will say, "Hon, we have PLENTY of chicken broth!"

So here's the recipe, if you can call it that. My OS love my chicken noodle soup and all the credit goes to the broth.

Yesterday I roasted two chickens and then put the chicken carcasses in a heavy pot. Other times I just put uncooked whole chickens into a heavy pot.

Then check your fridge and cupboards. Get some onions, a whole garlic, carrots, celery, leeks, turnips, parsnips, parsley, green peppers and onions (you don't need all of these) and put whatever you have on hand into the pot.

Add enough water to cover all the ingredients inside. Generously add kosher salt or sea salt along with fresh ground pepper into the pot. Turn the heat to high and when it all starts to boil, turn the heat down and let the broth simmer until the veggies are nearly mushy.

Get either a large bowl or another large pot and with a colander, strain the solid ingredients from the broth. Once you have separated the liquid, you will see how rich and savory it is!

Once cooled, if you notice a layer of fat on top of the broth, simply remove it. You can freeze the broth to use later or immediately in soups, etc. The aroma of soup is permeating my house and I can't wait to feed the Hubs and the OS tonight!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Julie and Julia, Cindy and Bea

My mom, sister and I honored the memory of Grandma Varnado on her birthday by seeing Julie and Julia. What a delightful movie that I connected with on so many levels.
During my junior year in college, I lived in France and developed a fondness for French cooking. The French know their cuisine and I lived in Caen, Normandy with a family that took food seriously. In the summer I worked as a waitress in Monte Carlo and during my 10 months in France, I gained 20 pounds. Aside from the blood sausage (a dark red combination of stuff in a casing) tripe (cow intestines which reminded me of a gi-normous white spider web) and kidneys (which were bathing in this thick, creamy, whitish brown sauce which still produces the
heebie-jeebies every time I think about it!,) I tried nearly everything on my plate. Watching Julie and Julia brought me back to that pivotal moment in my life.

But Grandma Varnado was not a French cook. She didn't whip up fancy aspics or complicated terrines
but whatever she made was splendid. If Grandma were visiting my mom, I would ask for her to make me potato dumplings and she never turned me down. A simple mixture of flour, salt, pepper and potatoes - talk about a cheap meal, yet every time I had a bowl of potato dumplings in front of me, all was right with the world. Just thinking of it makes me long for a steaming, hot bowl of it right now!

Like Julia Child, Grandma had skilled hands when it came to the kitchen. I've come to admire women who seem so at home in the kitchen. I feel pretty confident with my cooking abilities but what made Grandma a hero to me was how adept she was at using what she had already in the cupboards and fridge to create a masterful dish. She made cucumbers drenched in vinegar and onions perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. And she made cucumbers with sour cream and dill and I would always get in trouble for sneaking several before dinner. Her cheese ball is legendary in my large extended family. Food was one of Grandma's ways of expressing her love.

When Grandma was raising her family, there was no such thing as fast food. On the rare occasion the family would go on a road trip, Grandma Varnado would make a big plate of fried chicken. She would then place it securely on her lap while the car tooled along until such time that my grandpa would pull over on the side of the road to feed her brood.

Julie and Julia brought back many sweet memories. I'm hoping this movie will inspire women in their kitchens.

Here's to all the meals and memories we have savored! Happy birthday Grandma Varnado!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When strangers speak the truth

Have you ever had someone who doesn't really know you say something very profound to you?

And have you noticed that when that happens that person usually is clueless as to the depth of the statement s/he has just made?

If you answered yes to these questions, you will understand what happened to me today at the Apple Store.

I had scheduled a One-on-One appointment with a skilled Apple technician because as of Wednesday, I became the proud owner of a brand new aluminum 15" MacBookPro. This computer purchase was necessitated because I was never the owner of the MacBookPro I have been using years with my job. But when I lost my job in June, essentially I lost all rights to that computer. It wasn't mine, was never mine and they deserved to get it back. It's as simple as that. On this cloudy summer day, I brought both
computers to the Apple Store to make sure I had transferred all the personal stuff from the old computer to my new "baby."

Austin, the Apple guy, guided me through the process and everything was going quite well. I had been looking forward to the appointment and getting the job done. With great ease, Austin helped me and erased non-work items off the computer.

And then he said it...

"There won't be any trace of you on this computer."

And with a nod of my head, Austin clicked a few more things and 1,866 items began to disappear before my very eyes.

I choked back the tears. I thought to myself, "Don't cry. Don't. Cry. You're at the Apple Store for Pete sake! Puh-lease!" So I adjusted my emotional big girl panties and didn't cry. Wow, that wasn't easy! There were some quiet and awkward moments where neither Austin nor I spoke. I composed myself and watched the computer transition from being something I used and personalized to being just another inanimate piece of work equipment ready for someone else. Austin was right. There isn't any trace of me on the computer.

I hope I will be remembered for the work I did and the love I poured into it. But more importantly, as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, oh how I want to have lived a life that matters. I pray that the traces of me I leave behind are worthy of the life I was given.

Psalm 103:15-16 and verse 22

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nate and his shadow

When my orange-haired, freckle face son Isaac was in fourth grade, he got to be a Kinder-Buddy. This tradition is intended to help the little kids transition to the rules and structure of school. Most people get just one Kinder-Buddy in their lifetime. Ike got three. Two got kicked out of school and the other he only had for a week. I'm not sure how much mentoring took place in that short time!

Now I have a son at West Point and in a way he's got his own Kinder-Buddy. That's because every yearling (also known as a yuk also known as a second year college student) gets a new cadet (soon to be known as a plebe also known as a freshman college student) to take under his/her wing. We're hoping he will have more success than Isaac!

When Nate returned to WP on Sunday, he got to meet his new cadet. Josh (not his real name) and Nate will be spending a fair amount of time together.

I really like this about West Point; that the importance of strong leadership and mentoring is stressed. This allows my son to hone his skills as a compassionate and knowledgeable leader. Judging from how Nate takes being the oldest son very seriously, I'm sure he will rise to the challenge with Josh.

It's also given me a chance to do my part in the process. On Saturday night my friend Carol posted something on facebook about getting some treats for her yuk to give to his new cadet. It sounded like a great idea but I wasn't sure if my son would want to do that. I have to tread lightly on certain things. It was about 8pm when I asked Nate if I could bake something for his new cadet and was surprised when he said sure. Sometimes my OS isn't too keen on my suggestions and offers for help, but he actually seemed happy when I made the offer.

So after dinner I made my OS's mystery cadet some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Thank goodness for the internet because I didn't have brown sugar and found a recipe which contained all the ingredients I had on hand. They tasted good and I was happy.

When Nate met his new cadet on Sunday (they don't become plebes until A-Day which is August 15), Nate

introduced himself and then gave the guy the cookies. Nate had also picked Josh up some candy and soda and those are treasured and coveted items when you're a new cadet. In the days leading up to A-Day, it's easy for new cadets to feel lower than pond scum.

Aside from going to the bathroom, basically Josh can't go anywhere without Nate. Josh needs books, Nate's got to go with him. Josh is hungry, Nate is with him at every meal. My OS says he feels like he has a child or a pet! HA!

Once you become a full-fledged plebe, it's not a whole lot better. How nice that at the very least, Josh will have a person who treats him with respect and will help him become his best. According to Nate, the guy was gushing with thanks after receiving the snacks. "Corporal, that's awesome! Thanks, Corporal!" (It makes me smile to think of someone calling my baby "Corporal.")

When some people are in leadership positions, they use their authority to abuse and demean those below them. We've all had horrible bosses, terrible teachers; you know those people who were completely inept and woefully in charge. But I know personally that when people take interest in my life, I am definitely more apt to follow their direction and try my best. I'd like to think that I have unknowingly passed on some lessons on how to treat others and inspire. And if I have done that, NONE of the glory goes to me by the way, it's only because of Jesus!

I also liked what I heard about Josh. According to my son, not only did Josh like my cookies but he shared them with his buddies.

Until school starts, Nate's new cadet will tag along wherever Nate goes. This semester, Nate will serve as this young man's encourager, motivator, mentor and if necessary, butt-kicker. My OS is well-suited for this position!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A breath of fresh air

I loved the people and the landscape but one of the things I loved the most about El Salvador was the breezes. You know how the wind gets really strong and blustery just before a drenching rain? Well, minus the rain, that's what the November breezes were like in El Salvador. Simply wonderful!

And during my mission trip, we did laundry, pined it on the line and in mere minutes the fresh air dried the clothes. There is nothing better than the smell of laundry warmed by the sun. So many incredible experiences during my 10 days in El Salvador but the simplest one for me was the tropical breezes.

If my camera would have cooperated, I would have much better pictures, but here's a tiny slice of life.
Today is blazing hot and in an effort to capture those moments and faraway feelings, feeble as it might be, I asked the Hubs to install a clothesline in our garage. Yes, it's a farrrrrrr cry from what I enjoyed in El Salvador but I longed to bring those moments home with me.

Since we have covenants in our neighborhood, I can't hang the clothes line outside. It has to be in the garage. If anyone saw a clothesline in the backyard we'd get a charming notice from the Covenant Police
which is something I'd rather avoid.

This idea might be an epic fail but it was worth a try, right?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The key to a Soldier's heart is through his stomach- recipes included

When I was a young adult, I had my own apartment and a very bad case of depression. There were times when I hurt so badly emotionally, I became numb. It was like I turned off the switch to my feelings and tried to not have any. I'll leave it at that.

But there was something that softened my heart and it was when my dad would call me and invite me over for dinner. My mother's cooking represented comfort and familiarity. How could I say no? At the time, I couldn't cook a thing, I couldn't even boil water (no exaggeration) so a dinner at my parents' house meant that some of my emotional and physical needs were going to be met. Just thinking of my mom's sour cream cucumbers, roast beef, perfectly flavored gravy, fluffy potatoes activates my salivary glands. A part of me melted and healed when I was at my folks' house despite the substantial dysfunction that existed.

Now I have children of my own. My oldest OS returns to West Point tomorrow and I have only cried a few times in anticipation of that heart-tugging farewell which will happen all too soon.

But I have a few tricks up my sleeve that like my mother, will hopefully tether my OS to his home.

Tonight I'm making Jiao Zi (Chinese Pork and Cabbage Dumplings). If I want Nate home for dinner, all I have to do is ask if he's interested in pork dumplings and I'm usually assured of about two hours of his time.

If you have a college-bound child or are a West Point Mama with a Soldier of your own, here are the recipes. It's time intensive but the rewards are oh so great. As an example, Nate invited a few friends over for dinner the other day and one of his buddies asked if we were making those pork dumplings. I wasn't but that sure made me smile. In December, we hosted a dinner party for Nate and his friends where we featured the pork dumplings, they were a hit!

I have documented our recent Jiao Zi experience just for you including the purchasing the round dumpling wrappers at the Grand Asia Market and the Hubs' awkward moments therein to un-retouched photographs of my OS enjoying them later at our humble abode which I know is not the Chinese word for home.

Chinese Pork and Cabbage Dumplings (Jiao Zi)
1 ½ c. Napa cabbage, finely chopped

1 T. salt

1 pound lean ground pork

3 T. light soy sauce

2 T. dry sherry (may substitute water)

1 t. freshly ground ginger or ginger (I use Gourmet Garden ginger in the tube in the produce aisle)

½ t. white pepper, optional

1 T. sesame oil

pinch sugar

1 T. green onion

1 T. cornstarch

1 egg white

1 (1 pound) package round dumpling wrappers (found in Asian grocery stores)

Place cabbage in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together salt, pork, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, pepper, sesame oil, sugar, green onion, cornstarch and egg white. (Some Chinese cooks advise stirring the filling only in one direction.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while cabbage finishes draining.

Squeeze excess water from cabbage by hand. Add to pork and mix well.

To assemble dumplings, pour a little water in a bowl. Hold a dumpling skin in the palm of your hand and spoon over 1 tablespoon of filling in the center. Moisten the edges of the dumpling skin, and fold into a crescent shape. Make sure the dumplings are well sealed or they will lose their filling while they cook!

Fill a large stockpot about halfway with water, and bring to a rolling boil. Add the dumplings (you may need to cook in batches.) When water boils again, add a little cold water to lower the temperature. Repeat. When dumplings boil, for the third time, they are done. (They will float to the surface and the skins will look translucent.)

You can also fry the dumplings up with canola oil. We usually boil some dumplings and fry a bunch of other dumplings.

Note: Round dumpling wrappers are available in the refrigerated section of the Chinese market. Use these instead of square wonton wrappers, which have a different thickness and texture.

Serve with Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce

Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce

½ c. soy sauce

4 T. sesame oil

two dashes vinegar

2 t. chili paste, optional

crushed red pepper flakes

sliced scallions

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve in individual dipping bowls.

Do you have any food that brings you home? I'd love to hear it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Our family has a tradition we have enjoyed for years. Whenever we find a business or a sign which has one of our names, we will stop whatever we are doing and take a picture in front of that sign.

I'm not sure when we started it but I'm always on the lookout. All across the fruited plain, if I spot one of our names, I grab the camera and capture the moment. Yes, it has annoyed "certain" family members but that doesn't stop me.

Join me on a trip through Memory Lane...

We took these pictures during a camping trip through Maine and Pennsylvania. We will never forget the time spent in our pop-up in Freeport and Bar Harbor, Maine.

When the Hubs and I returned to Maine for our 20th wedding anniversary, I just had to stop by this street sign!

During A-Day weekend, I stretched the rules a bit and had Ike stand by this sign since it was made just for him. For your information, yes, Isaac was really excited to do this-NOT!

And then, despite a broken foot, I prodded the Hubs to make a weird turn on a busy street just so I could hop out of the car and get this picture of my mom and I in front of this ramshackled restaurant in New York!

Of course, I also couldn't pass up this sign near Philadelphia when we went to see Nate and the Army/Navy game.

This summer in Raleigh, Ike paused for a photo-op at his hip-hop store in Raleigh. Who would have thought that a freckle-faced, orange haired 12 year white kid could be so enterprising and multi-cultural?

And wow, how cool to see that Isaac has branched out and now has a store in downtown Wilmington! You've got to check out Isaac's hats and suit selection! Stop in and see for yourself!

As we were returning back to our condo, despite a threatening thunderstorm, complete with dramatic bolts of lightning, I made Aaron stand by this sign

And I guess we got our oldest OS on a good day because after miniature golfing at Carolina Beach, I was able to successfully coax this pose in front of THIS sign! For days I had been begging for a picture and when he finally said yes, I leapt in the Equinox for joy! You gotta love it!

What are some of your family traditions? I'm always looking for new things to make memories and create family identity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Being still

Now that I'm back home after a great vacation, I face an empty nest. The guys started school today and Nate leaves for West Point on Sunday. It's the first time in my life where my kids are at school, the hubs is at work and I'm home without babies or a job.

It reminds me of the time when my youngest OS was old enough to go to a gymnastics class by himself. I had longed for the day when Ike was old enough for me to not be there. When that day arrived; however, soon after dashing to the grocery store, I vividly recall pushing the empty cart along the aisles at Kroger and fighting back the tears. My orange-haired, freckle faced toddler was not squeezing me. Instead my stupid purse filled the place where Ike used to be. Oh, how I loved madly embracing that cherub mid-turn at the end of each grocery aisle and I didn't care who saw us or what they thought! (Tears are falling from my eyes just thinking about this...)

But here I am now, a chapter of my life is unfolding. I am adrift and possess a blank canvas of opportunity. Oh, the possibilities!

The varied bass tones which fill my home will be making noise elsewhere. I feel the void and the quiet. Everyone is going forward. Where am I going? I am not going back to a familiar job that I loved and was pretty good at. It is weird, because about this time last year, I was busy scheduling speaking opportunities. Now that season of life is over. Poof. Just like that. I am relieved because the work was so draining and sad because I loved the kids and the message we shared. If I could color my feelings, they would be a dark mustard (for the sad feelings) and a streak of pink (representing excitement.) Yes, it is an awkward and ugly collection of hues.

So what is next? I'm taking a Wednesday morning Bible study and I'm going to lead a girls' Bible on Monday night. That much I know. And honestly with this extra time I now have, my house can be cleaner, I could be leaner, that list of improvements, both personal and otherwise, is long.
Many Bible verses pop into my head but this one has echoed within me...from Psalm 46...

Be still and know that I am God

That's where I am, keepin' it real...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Earth, wind and fire

I don't want to deceive anyone and make you think that we are just one big happy family all the time. We fuss and argue, we agitate and frustrate. Try as we might, there are times, far too often, when we even get disappointed in one another and yell. Even on vacation. Apparently I have a certain look, my children know too well where my jaw tightens, my eyes bulge out, it's quite lovely I'm told. Luckily there are no pictures which have captured such a moment. If there are, I will delete such photos immediately. You will only see this look in person, never on film!

To prove my point, I wanted to share a very W-H moment we had during our trip to the coast. It was a cool summer night on Carolina Beach. There is a long stretch of beach at Carolina Beach where you can camp or make fires. Put this on your list of things to do before you die. It's really awesome. And it might just be a guy thing but my men like to burn things. So on this crisp July night, Nate, Aaron and Isaac create a mighty bonfire and the hubs and I join them. We gather around the aluminum fire pit that was placed in a hole dug in the sand. (Remember this part).

Ike grabs a reed he had pulled from the sandbar and fashions a skewer for marshmallows. Quite resourceful. Apparently Isaac unwittingly adds extra fiber to the marshmallow which I note upon biting into my gritty summer treat. Then Nathan adds additional sand in my mouth when he kicks up his heels walking past me, not on purpose but whatev. (This might have been a eye-bulging moment.) Thanks, Soldier/Son!

The hubs and I depart and the boys continue their time by the roaring fire. (Remember this part.)

Legend goes that the boys were putting out the fire on the beach, ready to retire for the evening. It's around 11pm and Aaron says smugly, "I'm just gonna enjoy the hot sand while you guys work."Aaron holds the flashlight while Nate and Ike pick things up.

It is about this time that Isaac pours sand over his brother's foot. The sand near the fire was warm and good but the sand Ike dumped on Aaron's foot had been directly on the coals. It was poker-hot. In Aaron's vernacular, "insanely hot." Ike wasn't trying to hurt his brother but indeed he did, giving him a second degree burn on the top of his foot! While the hubs and I are chilling in the condo, Aaron is screaming on the beach, Nate is getting angry both at Isaac for doing it and Aaron for shrieking, and our 12 year-old, orange-haired, freckle-face Ike is numb. A precious moment? Hardly.

In the middle of the night, Aaron had trouble sleeping because of the pain. We helped him the best we could and in the morning, it was feeling somewhat better. If you ask nicely, Aaron will show you the singed foot hair.

Thankfully, though we were laughing about it by the evening. Aaron might have another scar to add to his collection. Ask him about the scar he obtained while running into a urinal, or hopping up a brick step to our house. He's quite the conversation piece.

When all is said and done though, it is well with my soul. I still have three OS who when together, still say "I love you" to each other before bedtime. This includes if they are on the phone with friends. How many teenage boys do you know who interrupt a conversation with a buddy just to shout, "I love you" to their annoying kid brother? Yes, I am blessed beyond measure.

Woefully imperfect, etched memories are sometimes burned into our lives forever, pun intended. (This is a picture of our family on a ferry to Southport, days before the charming burning incident.)

I'd love to hear your vacation stories! Got a scar story? Tell me!