UPDATED: How to Dress for an Oregon Summer

Aug 31 2012

Why? How do your kids dress for summer?



Hey, y’all! Since I posted this pic of Cai preparing for Oregon summer, I received this photo, How to Dress for an Alaska Summer, from my friend Carleta:

Carleta: “I can’t provide any explanation for what he is wearing.”

It made me laugh and laugh.

So, late at Facebook-night, I asked for your pictures because we may live far apart, but we are one in spirit and in strangely dressed kids. And, even though it was a holiday weekend, you sent ’em.

Take a gander at this magnificence.


How to Dress for a Seattle* Summer
by Kristen of Your Face is like the Sunshine

 *Psst… I’d title this “How to Dress for a Washington Summer” but you east coasters – sheesh! – you think Washington’s on the other side of the country. 😉


How to Dress for an Idaho Summer
by Audrey of Paci-Catchers


How to Dress for an English Summer
by Fiona of Tea with a Friend


How to Dress for an Illinois Summer
by Laura


How to Dress for a Louisiana Summer
by Terri of the Pampered Chef


How to Dress for a Pennsylvania Summer
by Pearl


How to Dress for a North Carolina Summer
by Michal of Whole-hearted Mama


How to Dress for a Dutch Summer
by Carina


How to Dress for an Ohio Summer
by Karen


Thanks for sending your HILARIOUS pics, friends.

P.S. I feel SO NORMAL right now.


Adoption and the Real Mom, Reprised

Aug 29 2012

Sometimes when I write, I share the marital funny with you.

Sometimes when I write, I share the pee-laced mess.

Sometimes when I write, I ponder the thick, humid exhaustion we mamas breathe.

And sometimes when I write, I confess my guilt for not being at my mama best when we adopted our toddlers.

You and I just never know what’s gonna show up in a life full of kids, do we?

The truth is, when I write about the reality of parenting, there are times I accidentally break open my chest and my heart falls out, and I remember those stories the most because they come from the deepest place of mama fear and mama love. Kids, you guys; they make us lose our minds and find our hearts and consider it a worthy trade.

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about adoption and the Real Mom, and I exposed my soul in all its brokenness and tiny bit of beauty. Today, Jamie Lynne of I Am Not The Babysitter blog fame is rerunning that post, “On Being Made Real,” in its entirety. Jamie’s on a trip to Ethiopia to visit her son’s birthmom. I have no doubt both moms’ hearts will fall out. Would you join me in wishing them peace as they join in the grand adventure of longing and loss and love?

And thank YOU for being part of my grand adventure, too. And for joining your lives to mine here.


On Being Made Real

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day.

When you’re 9 years old and a girl, I suppose being an emotional wreck is to be expected.

Ah, heck.

When you’re 37 years old and girl, I suppose being an emotional wreck is to be expected.

But sometimes, it’s hard to know which 9-year-old wrecks are I Stubbed My Toe And That’s A Great Excuse To Let Go Of The Emotional Mess Smouldering Inside Me,

and which wrecks are Real.

Yeah, yeah.  I know they’re all real.  But the Real real ones are those that will haunt my daughter into adulthood.  The ones that have Serious Potential for me the mama to Screw Up.

The other night, my Aden missed her birthmom.  Aden and Ian share a birthmom, so it was a natural conversation for the three of us to have together, and soon Ian was snuggled up, all ears.  There I sat, on the ground in the hallway next to the piles and piles of dirty laundry, with two kids missing their birthmom and asking questions.

Click over to I Am Not The Babysitter to read the rest…

Or read the original here…


Psst… a big, huge thank you to Kendall Hoover of Greatproofreading.com for connecting me to Jamie. You’re the best. You are.


If cleanliness is next to Godliness…

Aug 28 2012

I handed my son a napkin.

You know, no reason.

He looked at it as though I’d handed him a Walkman. Or a Ming vase. Or brand-name cereal. Something so outside his experience as to be completely foreign.

Befuddled and with furrowed brow he said, “What’s this for?”

I think this sums up all I have taught my children about cleanliness.

If cleanliness really is next to Godliness, my children are spiritually lost.

Mourn with me.


How to Make Friends and Messes and Fancy Sandwiches

Aug 27 2012

A new family moved into our neighborhood this weekend. Like us, they have a 10-year-old daughter. Two minutes after their introduction, Aden invited the kid to our house to play, and the girls happily scampered away. Which makes me wonder why we worry so much about teaching kids social boundaries. Aden has none, and she’s clearly better at making friends than I am. Who am I to hold her back with my overrated, don’t-come-on-too-strong, give-them-some-space, clean-the-house-first, friend-making qualms?

As a matter of fact, Aden doesn’t even know her new friend’s name. She’s just calling the kid New Best Friend. As in, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want a popsicle?” And, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want to play Wii?”

New Best Friend seems fine with it. The girls are all snuggled up on the couch, making our Wii controllers incredibly sticky and having a blast. And New Best Friend doesn’t seem at all disturbed by the mess.

Meghan and Paula came over last week.

They’re new friends to me, they’d never been to my house, and I invited them to come.

I panicked.

I cleaned.

I mean, what do you do when new friends come over and you have, like, advance notice and stuff? I took a shower and everything.

Now, I didn’t clean clean my house. Who has the time? Nothing inside any cupboard was washed. My window sills are still home to a few fly carcasses. The top of my fridge is… I don’t think I can talk about it.

I just clutter cleaned. I hurriedly shoved toys in baskets and dishes in the dishwasher, or in the sink, or under the sink. I put toilet paper on the roll to be extra classy, and I grabbed a towel for the bathroom so if Meghan or Paula used the potty (oh dear God, please don’t let her use the potty) she wouldn’t have to wipe her hands on her jeans.

You know. The pretend I’m normal kind of cleaning. The pretend I’ve got this life together kind of cleaning.

But then it all went to hell.

I blame Meghan.

She came in. We were nice nice nicety nice. And then she asked in a whisper, “Is your house always this clean?” And I could tell that it wasn’t necessarily a Good Thing. I could tell it was a Be Real question. I could tell it was a ‘Cause My House Isn’t And I Don’t Want To Be Alone confession.


I used to be a fantastic liar, you guys. I was really good at lying. It was practically my spiritual gift. But I’m out of practice, and so I said, “No, Meghan. This is all a lie. My house isn’t always this clean. My house isn’t even this clean right now.”

And I posted this picture on Facebook a few days later…

… so Meghan could see my real kitchen table. Or not-see it, as the case may be.

It was my way of saying, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want a popsicle?”

And then Meghan wrote back and, in essence, said, “WHEW! YES, I want a popsicle.”

And then YOU wrote and said, “THAT’S OUR TABLE, TOO. Can we have popsicles?”

And then I sighed in relief at our collective mess, because I remembered — again — that the messy truth is a better friend-maker than a tidy lie.

And then I roasted pretty tomatoes, courtesy of my totally rad local farmer friends,

and I made myself a lovely roasted tomato crostini sandwich with basil cream cheese and lemon cucumber

because I need to prove to myself that I’m not just a mess, either. Heh heh. Sometimes, when I’m holding life’s sweet-but-sticky controller, that’s good to remember.

Here’s to the mess, friends. And to the fancy sandwiches. And to Both/And living.



P.S. Do you ever find that it’s a vicious cycle, this complex life with our dueling desires to look competent and live honestly? To seek out a little bit of pretty and still invite folks into the mess? Talk to me, friends.

P.P.S. There’s still poop under my front porch. I thought you should know.

At-Home S’mores (aka Breaking the S’mores Commandment)

Aug 23 2012

S’mores are only for campfires.

It’s a rule everyone knows.

After all, if we had s’mores every day, they wouldn’t be special, right?


God thinks so, too. That’s why “thou shalt not roast s’mores except around the campfire” is one of the ten (or so) commandments, somewhere after “dude, you gotta quit coveting your brother’s Pokemon cards or else do an extra job to earn the money to buy some for yourself.” (Psst… that last one is also known as the You Git What You Git and You Don’t Throw a Fit commandment, or, alternatively, the Get Off Your Whiny Hiney, Kiddo, and Fix Your Problem commandment. It’s almost like God was a parent, you guys.)

So. S’mores are only for campfires. The Bible says so.

And that’s why I’m going to ask you to keep this post on the down-low, folks. Shhhhh! ‘Cause we just got back from camping (and whining and tenting), and I still had a hankering for s’mores.

Did you know you can make s’mores at home? Like, right in your kitchen? By the heat of your stove?


I mean … shhhhh … you can.

Of course, I first discovered home-bound s’mores-making when I was 16 and my mom wasn’t home to tell me that roasting marshmallows over the open stove flame is poor form. And probably dangerous. And generally a bad idea. So, in a fit of brilliance, I stuck a marshmallow on a fork and roasted away. And ate. And roasted again. And ate. And roasted again. Mmm!

Maybe you already know all about at-home s’mores. But just in case you’re missing this important life skill, I feel it’s my duty to lead you astray. You are, after all, my kind of people. I owe you. And I pay my debts in junk food.

And so, here you go.

At-home S’mores:
The Instructions 

1. Secretly buy miscellaneous chocolate candy at the store, and stuff it way down deep in your purse with the matchbox cars and used Kleenex and empty lip gloss cadavers. Your goal? That no one will find them. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, not even you.

2. At home, assemble the s’mores fixin’s.

3. Glance over at your extra-grody stove top, realize that it’s no place for taking bloggy pictures, and feel overcome with the certainty that you’ll never have it all together. Ever. Sigh in frustration and add a few piratey ARGHs for maximum expression of self-directed angst.

4. Now choose to reject shame. Again. Because, by golly, this is life with children. It’s messy. And full of burnt noodles.

5. Do your pride a solid and semi-wash that stove top. Not, like, thoroughly or anything extreme. Who has the time? But, even though almost no one will notice, your heart and your Marine father will be glad you did. That, for today, is enough.

6. Move on. Sheesh, Beth.

7. After you put chocolate on the graham cracker, zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds or ’til just melty.

8. Enlist a herd of small children and neighborhood teenagers to burn sugar onto roast marshmallows over the stove burner. **

**FYI, my firefighter friends do not approve this message.

9. Assemble drippy, melty, semi-burnt, perfect, delicious s’mores.

And eat ’em.


10. Wonder how in the world you’ve gained back 16 of the 40 pounds you once lost. Gosh. Life is full of mysteries, isn’t it?

Enjoy breaking the s’mores rules, friends!


P.S. This is Cai, while camping, one s’more in. He had at least 4 more that night.

When he finished, there were graham crackers in his ears and marshmallow on his spine, is what I’m saying.

P.P.S. And then he passed out.

Which makes me wonder why Sugar Comas aren’t a recommended sleep aid.


If you have a favorite s’mores recipe, do share it in the comments! My friend Molly puts her marshmallows in Oreo cookies (genius!) and my friend Eric substitutes the graham crackers for snickerdoodles and roasts the entire concoction over the flame to caramelize the cinnamon sugar (I gained 12 pounds right there – a pound for every bite – and it was worth it).

What’s your s’mores suggestion?


Tent Erection Instructions

Aug 21 2012

It was like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Camping Edition as Greg and I gathered our family members to march our new tent from the wrong campsite, where we initially (and privately) erected it, to the correct site, where it should’ve been from the start.

You know what? We shouldn’t judge. Tent erection is a tricky business, and this is a relatively new tent, and stuff doesn’t always happen in the best, most appropriate places when we’re still learning. I think we should agree to give the tent a break and not embarrass him any further. OK? OK.

This whole situation reminded me of the great example my parents always set for my brother and me. Always, always. They were, perhaps unusually for their conservative Christian community, very open and willing to answer any questions we had, often in excruciating detail until we cried, “Enough! I don’t need to know any more!” And then they giggled and high-fived and we rolled our eyes and vowed never to ask them anything, ever again.

The first time Greg and I, as young newlyweds, borrowed my parents’ old Hilary tent, my dad explained that everything we needed know was included in his meticulously handwritten instructions inside the tent bag. We just didn’t know that “everything we needed to know” meant “everything we needed to know,” ya know?

Now. Because I care about you. And because not everyone has the privilege of growing up with educationally-minded parents. And because you may find yourself someday in desperate need of this information, I present to you my father’s original tent erection instructions.



  1. Roll out tent, find door, get it oriented the way you want it. (So far, so good – this is the easy part)
  2. Drive in all the stakes; the metal stakes are for the corners. (This is the kinky part)
  3. Assemble the top frame; every loop must have a pole going through it; tighten the wing nuts on the front and rear center bars. If you blow this step, an incomplete, or partial erection, will result. If this happens, you may not be able to penetrate the door.
  4. Assemble and install the four 2-section corner poles; pointy ends should face each other and overlap.
  5. ERECT.


  1. Announce in a loud voice that, “This tent can’t drive, can’t hold its liquor, and can’t make love.” Watch it wilt.
  2. Remove all poles.
  3. Remove the stakes.
  4. Fold.

And, for those of you who are visual learners, here’s my dad’s diagram of…


*sometimes call “The Flaccid Tent


There you have it, folks.

Now you know. And I’m no longer so alone.


We camp. I blame the Scots.

Aug 20 2012

Beverly Beach, Oregon

We camp at the mercy of my extended family because, without the assisting army of grandparents and cousins, we simply don’t have the energy, expertise, vehicle space or motivation to move the Camping Mountain on our own.

And we camp because, using classic peer pressure techniques, my family makes us.

Yes, yes. I heard Nancy Reagan say it in the 1980’s:

Just Say No.

But then Nike was all pppsshhht!, and they bombarded us with


Frankly, Nancy, Nike won. I’m captured by their bravado every time.

(To be fair, though, Nance, in addition to my JUST DO IT conversion, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and teach it how to sing. So I might have a tiny problem. I admit it.)

The things is, my family is Scottish. We drink, we’re made out of freckles, and we honor our forefathers. The ancestors dared each other to eat haggis and throw logs for fun whilst wearing no undies beneath their man-skirts. We dare each other to take legions of children camping. It’s equal parts gross-out fest, a test of brute strength, and risky exposure to the elements; also, you never know when you’re gonna catch a guy peeing on the landscaping. You see the parallels.

My family shows up every summer in our driveway with their We Don’t Care That You’re Being a Whiny Little Baby, Beth, We Mean Business faces on, and they toss our threadbare sleeping bags, broken bike helmets, and leaky coolers in their cars ’til the cars cry uncle, beg for mercy and limp off down the road. I gripe and moan that the effort involved in camping isn’t worth it, and then we load up five or six miscellaneous children, and we follow my family from our familiar wilderness into the new one.

What can I say? You see this bridge at our campsite?

Yeah. If my family jumps off it, I’ll feel the cool breeze on my plummeting body soon enough, ’cause God knows I’m jumping, too. That’s how we roll in my family.

Or that’s how we jump.

Or that’s how we camp in 50-degree Oregon weather.

FIFTY DEGREES, you guys. It was fifty shades of freaking COLD.

In conclusion, we camp. And I blame the Scots.

The End.

Except to say, we had a ridiculous amount of very messy fun.

And ten kids is a lot of kids.

And cousins make the world a better place.

And Oregon is truly gorgeous.

But not as gorgeous as them.

And I might — just maybe I will — go again next year.

The End.



P.S. I usually lie when I say “the end.”

P.P.S. There was an inappropriate sausage joke hoping to get a word in somewhere back there around the haggis, but, seriously, we just got home yesterday, and I am Too Tired to make it. That should tell you exactly how tired I am.

P.P.P.S. I have to go now. I’m only at the base camp of Mount Laundry, and I have a LONG CLIMB ahead of me ’cause I’m hoping to summit before sunset.

P.P.P.P.S. I might be using you to procrastinate a tiny bit on the laundry. I hope you understand. I want you to know I’m willing to return the favor.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Special thanks to Papa, Nana, Melissa Anne, Webb, Jen, Nayfan, Weswee, Uncle M and Auntie D for making our camping – and family – dreams come true. We all know we couldn’t do it without you.