Saturday, January 31, 2015


Party Pictures on Flickr

Back when I had this...

Fifi's 1st Birthday

... I could not imagine ending up with this.

Fi's 8th Birthday

When Fifi was little, she was pink and princessy, girly and giggly, cheeky and chubby. Now, here she is, an eight year old who reads 500 page books, loves science and history, and wants to be an American ambassador to Japan before pursuing the White House as President of the United States. An eight year old who squealed with delight over receiving a book about Martin Luther King, Jr for her birthday. An eight year old who has the confidence to dance her own routines at a Zumba party.

An eight year old whose heart is so selfless that she told people they didn't need to bring a present to her party, she just wanted them to be there. An eight year old who is already smarter than I am. I am so proud of the young woman my daughter is becoming. She is amazing!

Some days, I forget to see who this girl is inside. As she approaches adolescence more quickly than I'd like, I see those sparks of teenage attitude flicker up when she fights with her sister or bosses her around or smarts off to me with hands on hips and eyes rolled. I get weary and fed up with the near-teen behavior and sometimes lose sight of who the real person is inside. The girl who will do anything for anyone. The girl who loves and protects her brother and sister ferociously. The girl who thinks deeper thoughts than any child I've ever met, and who is not afraid to come to different conclusions and hold differing beliefs to both her friends and her parents, as long as she is true to herself. This girl is selfless, intelligent, mature, confident, independent and driven. It's easy to forget all of that when she is acting like, well, a child. Because when a child is as mature of Fi is, we adults sometimes forget at times to remember that she is, actually, still a kid. And kids are allowed to be imperfect sometimes! I'm glad that amongst all the books, diaries, and science kits she received for her birthday she also received a doll. It's good to be a kid while you can, baby. I know the path to the Presidency is hard and requires a lot of serious study, but playing with dolls is a wonderful pastime!

Today at her Zumba Glow Party, as I watched how well she gets along with her peers, how thoughtful she was of every child who walked through the door, making sure they all had glow bracelets and their glow party favor, and how genuinely grateful and gracious she was to each person who brought her a gift, I remembered very well just what an amazing kid my daughter is. What a shining light! (How appropriate that you had a Glow party!)

Happy birthday, Fifi-bear. Each day you grow more and more beautiful, inside and out. You make your mum and dad so incredibly proud. We are stunned by the fact that though we made you, you are your own unique person who impresses and astonishes us constantly with your awesomeness. Though we'd like to take a little bit of credit for how awesome you are, we know that really, it's all you, babe. Your awesomeness is all you.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

For Posterity: Kids Say the Darndest Things Part 1

Veterans Day
Lolly: Did you know the Vegetarians are coming to school?!
Me: Do you mean the Veterans?
Lolly: Yeah!

Baby Books
Upon finding her first cut lock of hair in her baby book:
Fifi: There's a sample of my DNA in there.

Say What?!
After watching our wedding video, Lolly announces loudly, in public: Mum and Dad made a love movie and we watched it! Ew!

When I'm Eighteen
Fifi: When I move out, I won't ever need to rent a house. If all goes according to plan, I'll be living in the White House.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Have Your Pizza And Eat It Too!

My new favorite keto dinner (or lunch!) - Low Carb Tortilla Pizza!

I've seen lots of pizza base substitutes like Almond Bun Pizza, the Cauliflower Pizza Crust or the Meatza, but none of them were really what I wanted. And I love pizza so foregoing pizza is THE hardest part of keto for me - even harder than saying no to cake!! (However, I'm also keen to find a keto cake, if such a thing could possibly exist.)

I've been buying these Mission Carb Balance tortillas for our Taco Nights (used to be Taco Tuesdays but I work now on Tuesdays, so it's just Taco Whenevers, sigh). Scott and I don't mind using lettuce to wrap our taco-y goodness up, but sometimes you just want a freaking tortilla. And at 6 net grams a piece, I think that's not bad for dinner!!

So then the idea came to me, not sure if I saw it online or just envisioned it as I dreamed of pizza, to use these low carb tortillas as pizza bases, and ya'll, the rest is history. This has been my lunch or dinner three times this week. I am so happy.

They are so easy and pretty low carb, as long as you plan for it. I try to stay under 20-25g a day, so this usually fits in no bother, as long as my other meals are pretty close to carb-free.  The pizza sauce I've been using is just the Kroger brand pizza parlour style pizza sauce - 4g per 1/4 cup.  If you use the small flour Mission Carb Balance, the pizza doesn't even need a full quarter cup; if you use the large wheat ones, however, you probably will. So assuming you use a large wheat low carb tortilla and a quarter cup of sauce, you should be able eat an entire "thin crust" pizza for 10 net grams of carbs.  If you use pre-shredded cheese, you'll probably need to add 2g or 3g to your total. If you shred it yourself, you'll be golden! Pepperoni, tuna, ground beef, bacon, or chicken ought to be carb-free. For any other added toppings, just add in whatever carbs they contain, if any. I simply enjoy cheese and pepperoni, so 10g-carb pizza is good for me!!

Monday, January 05, 2015

End of an Era

Today was the first day I ventured out of the house with Jaguar in "big boy" pants.

(He did great for the first part of the day at the gym, not so great later. Eek. Cringe.)

Regardless, the end is in sight. He's two and a half, so yes, he could still be wearing diapers for a while yet, but I have a feeling we're getting close to actually being totally potty trained. He's almost there. It's the end of an era.

Which got me thinking... Jaguar is my End of Eras baby.

A few months ago, I bought him a new stroller. The one we'd brought over with us from Scotland had finally taken it's last stroll. As I paid the cashier more money than I really wanted to pay, it occurred to me: This is the last time I'll ever buy a stroller. At least until I'm a grandma.

And about six months ago, just a few weeks after his second birthday, I breastfed him for the last time. It was unceremonious. I didn't realize it was the last time. I can't even remember when the last time was, it was so unceremonious. We had just finished. It was over. It wasn't until at least a month later when I realized: I'm done breastfeeding. I'll never breastfeed again. Not even when I'm a grandma.

I packed away his cloth diapers a few months ago. He's too big for them now. I don't have the heart to get rid of them just yet, but no one in this family will ever wear them again. The end of my cloth diaper era.

He's in his own bed now. No more cribs.

He drinks out of cups now. No more sippys.

And now he's potty training. Soon, no more diapers.

(Which, incidentally, hurray!)

Happy as No More Diapers makes me, it's also the end of yet another babyhood era in our family. The McFarlane babyhoods are nearly complete. Never again (lord willing and the creek don't rise) will there be another baby in this family. No more breastfeeding. No more baby-led weaning. No more baby-wearing in slings. No more bed-sharing. No more cribs, sippy cups, bibs, muslins. No more diapers.

It's a relief, but it's also kind of sad. We're soon to be a family of kids. Of school-age kids. I mean, in six months, Jaguar will be old enough for pre-school. PRE-SCHOOL. In just over two years, we'll have a child in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL.

I don't care if it's a cliche, it's totally freaking true - Kids grow up so fast!

I never shed a tear over Jaguar's last breast feed, the way I did over Lolly's and especially Fifi's. I'm not feeling weepy now either over the end of this baby era. I know I'm truly ready now to say goodbye to our family's babyhoods. But it's sobering. We have only this one life to live and one chance to live it, and, well, a really special part of my life is just about over, never to be repeated. I'll soon be the mother of school children, then teenagers, then college students, leaving me an Empty Nester. And Scott and I will be that old couple who look at each other in our empty house and wonder, "What the heck happens now?" And we'll plan to travel the world, except one of the kids will announce they are having a baby, and we'll suddenly be grandparents instead of globtrotters, and we'll be cool grandparents until our bones get too achy and we can't see through our cataracts and then, at some point, we'll just die.

End of an era indeed.

Okay, feeling a little weepy now.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

You Can't Handle the Truth!

In the early months of 2014, I started writing in a secret blog to get some thoughts and feelings out of me that I wasn't yet able to say publicly.  At the time, I still felt very scared to "come out" as atheist. Since doing so, I've found people to be a lot more tolerant and accepting than I expected; that is, people who already know me to some extent and who read my blog.  As for how others would react, I'm not really sure; I don't generally share this information with people I barely know or have just met for fear of rejection, pity or getting mission-friendshipped. There have been many situations in which I've had a sudden, inexplicable urge to announce that I'm an atheist, but I don't.  Usually because it would be completely inappropriate (such as times when I'm surrounded by people talking about God's will and love and grace and whatever else, assuming that naturally everyone around them is in complete agreement) but also because I realize doing so would turn me into the opposition, the other, the opposite. While I don't see the Bible Belt as frightening a place to be an atheist anymore, and while I'm not as worried about how people will think of me, there is still a lot of truth in the words I wrote nine months ago.


April 10, 2014 

Being anything other than Christian in the Bible Belt is a little like trying to walk a tight rope suspended above an enclosure of, say, hungry tigers. Admittedly it depends on where in the Bible Belt you are - some cities are more tolerant than others - but where we are, it's pretty "ropey" to be non-religious, and even worse if you are a confirmed "atheist". Though it's never happened to anyone I personally know (unless you count internet friends, in which case, it's happened to several people I know), I've heard horror stories of people losing their jobs over their (lack of) faith and being ostracized by their families and communities. Keeping our opinions to ourselves, in not only religion but also politics, has become our modus operandi. My husband doesn't talk about religion or politics at work, and I don't talk about them with other mothers at soccer practice or play groups. It's a little isolating, but it's what we do to survive. I imagine the small population of people with religious beliefs aside from Christianity or political affiliations aside from Republican feel the same way. (I remember me and my entire class shunning a girl on the playground in elementary school because her family was voting for Michael Dukakis instead of George Bush back in the 1988 presidential election.)

It's not that I'm ashamed of my new-found unbelief. It's more that to be an unbeliever is akin to being unvaccinated. It's as if people have this fear that if they come in close contact with an unbeliever, some of their unbelievingness might infect them, or at least infect the more vulnerable members of society. If an unbelieving child plays with their believing children, they might pass on some kind of doubt-bacteria which could start an epidemic. Christianity has practically eradicated atheism and agnosticism in the South; no one wants those few unenlightened families to interfere with the herd. Generally speaking, folks tend to have two reactions to someone who doesn't agree with their religious beliefs - proselytize or ostracize. (There are of course those wonderful people who choose to live and let live, for whom I am incredibly grateful.)

I'm not a rock, I'm not an island, so I do worry about being alienated. I grew up in this town, even though I lived elsewhere for fourteen years. I returned to this area a very different person than the young girl who left it. When I run into people who knew that girl, it's uncomfortable to reveal the woman I have become. So, it's not surprising what I said a few days ago to the dentist.

In all my thirty-plus years, I've never had a cavity. Until this year. So last week I went to my dentist's office for my first filling ever. I've known my dentists for most of my life. They are father and brother to the kid who was my best friend for many years. When we returned to the area, we chose their practice, because they are fantastic at what they do, and I know and trust them. While I reclined in the chair, waiting for the anesthetic to kick in, the senior dentist, my friend's father, came in to say hello, catch up a little on the fourteen years we've been away.

He asked about my parents, asked about my brothers.  I asked about his wife, his son. I asked if he was still at our old church.  He asked me where we are going to church.

I guess I sort of asked for that.

And at the moment of truth, I wimped out.  "We're going to the Lutheran church," I answered.

I was surprised by my response. It wasn't a complete fabrication; it is the church we were visiting as a last ditch effort to recover some sort of mustard seed of faith before realizing we just flat out did not buy into it anymore.  But it's not the church we attend. We don't attend anywhere.

The answer satisfied him, and we moved on.  But I kept thinking about what I'd said, about  how hard it is to admit being atheist now.  I could imagine the look on his face if I'd told the truth.  Which would it be, a millisecond of sadness, disappointment or disapproval before reverting to medical professionalism? Would the conversation have become stilted, uncomfortable?

Maybe, just maybe, it would have been fine, but I know this place and its people, and I can say pretty confidently that there would have been at least a little sadness in his eyes. It's hard for a Christian to see one of its sheep wandering, ignoring the shepherd's voice, leaving the flock.  It's not only hard because they worry about that sheep's eternal soul, but it conflicts with their understanding of the shepherd.  Why wouldn't the shepherd leave the flock in search of the lost sheep?  It must be a problem with the sheep, not the shepherd.  It's never a problem with the shepherd.

At the end of the day, my response was probably the most prudent one I could have given.  I hate being dishonest with others, untrue to myself, but I'll put both my hands up in the air and admit that on most days it's better than being pitied or rejected.

Friday, January 02, 2015

How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Baby Kittens

Sometimes I feel like writing or blogging but don't feel like I have anything to write about. Sometimes I'll read an article and think about discussing it, but I usually end up thinking it would make more sense just to link to the article itself and let you draw your own conclusions. And then sometimes I ask the internet for some inspiration. And the internet gives me this.

Because the internet loves me, and it loves baby kittens.

So today, I bring you How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Baby Kittens!

The subject first begs the question: What are the "biggest problems" and in what context are we speaking? Do we mean the World's Biggest Problems, and if so, what are they? Or do we mean the biggest problems baby kittens face? I'd like to think we're talking The Big Stuff here, so let's tackle the question of: Can the world's biggest problems really be solved with baby kittens?

The world's biggest problems, as far as I can tell are violence, pollution and hunger. Can baby kittens really solve all these problems?

When it comes to violence, I think the answer is simple. Yes. Baby kittens can curb violence in the world. There are large scale wars devastating entire nations while everyday crime occurring in neighborhoods destroy families and communities. Perhaps if we gave war councils a tiny baby kitten to hold and thugs some playful kittens to love, there would be less violence in the world. It is incredibly difficult to feel violent while holding a fluffy, sleeping, purring baby kitten in your lap. It just is.

Pollution, however, is much harder to solve simply with baby kittens but, I believe, not impossible. Large scale pollution, created by industries and for-profit corporations, is damaging our planet faster than they will ever admit. From the ozone layer to natural habitats to earth's limited resources - fracking, chemical waste and green house gases, among other things, are destroying our planet. Yet imagine if we loosed baby kittens over an oil field, or let them roam freely near a toxic waste dump? I am certain the very thought of disaster befalling baby kittens would cause all industries to reconsider how their actions are affecting this home we call Earth (though, admittedly, this has failed to save other species less cute than the Felis kittenus).

Finally, can baby kittens really solve hunger? While they may be small, they can be easily grown in large numbers, overcrowded in barns and bred for size and tenderness, just as we do our chicken, pigs and cows.

Thank you, good night and screw you, heartless food industry corporations.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 An Adventure Odyssey

In the Year 2015...

It sounds so futuristic, doesn't it? Sounds like we should be on space shifts exploring new solar systems, using teleportation for transportation, and wearing tight-fitting onesie body suits.

Fifteen years ago I graduated high school. Fifteen years. I know that maybe doesn't sound all that long ago (especially not for you folk who are coming up for your thirty and forty year high school reunions.) But still, fifteen years ago - I'm 32 - that is nearly half my life ago.

Half. My. LIFE. And I feel like I've had life for quite some time now.

I'm optimistic about 2015. I feel like we have settled into American life now, we've started to figure out the system and I'm re-figuring out the culture, and we've kind of got a grasp on how this American life is supposed to work out for us. Now it's time to actually make use of it, to do something with it, to take it in hand or by storm, whichever necessary. This year is going to be the year we take control. This year is going to be filled with adventure. This year we will take risks.

What does all that mean? I have no idea, but I'm going to find out. No, I'm not just going to find out, I'm going to make it happen.

My resolution for this year: Make time for adventure. Make excuses to have adventure. Do something meaningful. Make this year count. Instead of letting life pass me by, live each day intentionally.

I may not explore space or drive a flying car, but it's 2015 and it's the beginning of our future. I can't wait! Adventures for us may not mean cliff jumping (hell, it DEFINITELY won't include cliff jumping for me) or world travel, but it might mean instead of lying around on a Saturday feeling lazy and impatient with each other, taking a flattened cardboard box and going hill sliding with the kids. It might mean taking a short, inexpensive road trip to see something interesting. It might mean starting a new hobby or delving back into old ones. It might mean learning about things I've always wanted to learn about or reading new books that I wouldn't ordinarily read. It might mean searching for a job or a career, when the time comes, that will leave the world a better place.

Whatever adventure looks like in 2015, I'll be there ready to take it. Let's do this!

Happy New Year to all of us!