How to Make Coffee and Change the World

November 20, 2011 in Beth, But Seriously, Health by Beth Woolsey

There are many things I love about Medical Teams International, but I shall start with the most important.

These people do not kid around when they make coffee.

    For sooth, when the folks who work at Medical Teams International make coffee, they do it like every last one of them is a sleep-deprived mother of five. It’s strong, it’s opaque, you can eat it with a fork, and it will keep your heart revved on Maximum Speed for at least 4 hours. You guys, these are the people you can trust to change the world.

    OK, seriously. Coffee’s not actually at the tippy top of the list of things I love about this organization. But you can still trust these people to change the world because every day in countries all over the world, Medical Teams International is using ordinary people to change and save the lives of mamas and their children.

    As an ordinary person myself, that’s a real relief, because sometimes I don’t know what to do on my own about all the heartache in the world.

    I don’t know about you, but I look around my own house with abiding gratitude. Actually, I take that first part back; a lot of you have been incredibly gracious by introducing yourselves and befriending me, either here or over on Facebook, and I feel like it’s not too presumptuous of me to say that I DO know about you, and we look around our houses with abiding gratitude. We may have toilets that clog with giant kid poos, holes in our walls and tantrum-prone kids, but we also know that the clogs, the holes and the tantrums mean that we have the toilets, the walls and the kids.

    When we mamas see our sisters across the globe raising their kids in crisis or poverty, we ache to provide responsible, sustainable help that will make a difference for a lifetime. That’s exactly why I’m writing today about Medical Teams International. We impact lives every single day at home, and we can do it on a global scale, too, because Medical Teams International empowers ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference. I can’t think of any group of people more compassionate, more qualified, or more willing to change the world than we mamas.

      You guys, I want to live in a World of WOW, and I’m old enough now that it’s up to me to help make it happen. My vision is to help build a reality where more of us mamas get to cuddle our babies, and fewer of us have to bury them. I choose to build the World of Wow in cooperation with Medical Teams International because:

      1. They’re committed to helping mamas and their kids so they, in turn, can help others. Read Margarita’s story to learn more.
      2. Medical Teams International can leverage my donation of only $2.35 to change a life. Imagine what they can do with $25!
      3. If I don’t have $2.35, there are other things I can do to help, and I love participating in a game that everyone can play.
      4. Medical Teams International has an amazing 3% overhead rate and rockin’ fiscal responsibility; they carry Charity Navigator’s highest rating.
      5. These people do not kid around when they make coffee. (Hey. That’s still top five. A girl’s gotta have her priorities.)

      Can Medical Teams International really help us build a World of WOW one $2.35 donation at a time? Check out the One in a Million, One at a Time campaign and see for yourself the ways that we can work together to impact one million lives. Or, skip all that and simply donate now; that works, too.

      Happy Thanksgiving Week!

      Wishing all of us a World of WOW,


      P.S. Here’s the recipe for authentic Medical Teams International coffee:

      • Use the recommended amount of coffee grounds.
      • Double that.
      • Add more.
      • Chew.

      P.P.S. Although they provide me with all the coffee I can drink and a part-time paycheck, I’m not being paid, pressured or pampered by Medical Teams International to write this blog post. In fact, they’d probably rather I stop, especially when they see the upcoming post titled “Woody and Me.” Teehee.

      Grandma Mabel’s Banana Bread

      October 2, 2011 in Family, Food, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      Greg’s grandma Mabel made a mean banana bread.  Which is nothing compared to her accomplishment of raising 5 children to adulthood and only once forgetting a child at a gas station.  But, since I don’t have her recipe for raising children, you’re stuck with banana bread.  Sorry.  I assure you, my disappointment in the trade-off is greater than yours.

      Passed from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law for three generations, this, the best banana bread I’ve ever had, is a tried and true recipe.  In fact, my mother-in-law, Judy, and I have only made two improvements in our cumulative 40 years in possession of it.  Improvement #1: omit nuts.  Improvement #2: add chocolate chips.  Now, I enjoy a good banana nut bread as much as the next girl.  But, really, you just can’t beat Mabel’s Old Fashioned (Chocolate Chip / No Nut) Banana Bread for perfection in a pan.

      It takes strong women working together to create nutless excellence like this.  You’re welcome.  You’re very welcome.

      Yesterday morning, I discovered that my banana bowl was sporting a little more brown than green.

      Yesterday morning, I also found my children eating a package of Oreos for breakfast.

      In classic 1 + 1 = 2 fashion, I figured I can solve that breakfast problem Mabel-style.

      And so I did.

      And then I said, “NO ONE IS EATING THAT ‘TIL MAMA HAS SOME COFFEE.”  (Logic and caffeine-withdrawal do not inhabit the same brain, so that made strange and beautiful sense to me at the time.)

      And then came a series of “and thens.”

      Like this:

      And then I made coffee.

      And then I opened the fridge.

      And then I realized I was out of half and half.

      And then I contemplated using nonfat milk in my coffee.

      And then I scoffed at that notion as completely unrealistic and, in fact, demeaning to me as a woman and a mother.

      And then I knew I had to do something important for women and mothers everywhere.

      And then, using the same decaffeinated brain I used to tell the children that they couldn’t eat the warm, fresh-from-the-oven banana bread, I decided that the “something important” I’d do to make the world a better place was to get myself more half and half.  Immediately.

      And then, I told the littles to shoe up; we had a trail to blaze and half and half to buy.

      And then they shod themselves.

      And then we were in the middle of the “Tea, A Drink With” aisle (sidenote: some of you probably call this the Jam and Bread aisle, but only if Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music wasn’t an intricate part of your upbringing… in which case, you have my condolences) when I realized why the other store patrons were looking at us funny.

      Geez, peeps.  It’s like you’ve never been in the Tea, A Drink With aisle with a butterfly, a purple-tutu-encased Superdude, and a little man in a fuschia zebra-print dress.

      And then I realized that living in Weird Oregon is almost worth the rain.  ‘Cause more of those funny looks resulted in thumbs-up than in tsk-tsk’s.  Which is a balm to a decaffeinated, frazzled mama’s heart.

      And then we went home.

      And then mama had coffee.

      And then we ate, with great delight…

      Grandma Mabel’s Old Fashioned
      (Chocolate Chip / No Nut)


      • ¼ cup brown sugar
      • ¾ cup sugar
      • 2 T. soft shortening or oil
      • 1 egg
      • 1 cup mashed bananas
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • 1 cup milk with 2 T. vinegar
      • 3 cups flour
      • 1 ½  tsp. baking powder
      • 1 tsp. baking soda
      • 1 scant tsp. salt
      • ¾ cup chopped nuts
      • as many chocolate chips as you can cram in

      Directions: Cream shortening, sugar, and egg.  Add bananas and vanilla.  Measure almost 1 cup milk and slowly stir in vinegar.  Alternate dry ingredients and milk, reserving about 2 T. flour.  Toss nuts chocolate chips with reserved flour and add last.  Pour in pans and bake at 350o for one hour.  Makes one 5 X 9 loaf or 2 – 3 small loaves.

      It all was, in two words, worth it.

      Vacation Schadenfreude: The Drive Home

      September 19, 2011 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      “Can you wait 5 more minutes ’til we get to a rest stop?  Then you can pee.”

      “I can’t wait!  I’m going to DIE!”

      “Surely, you’re not going to DIE.”

      “I AM!  I am going to DIE.  It’s an emergency, I tell you.  I have to go NOW NOW NOW.”

      “You know what, Mom?” my daughter replied. “If it’s that bad, maybe you shouldn’t order such a big coffee next time.”

      “I PROMISE I won’t.  Just find me a toilet. Everyone keep your eyes peeled!”


      Schadenfreude – noun.  Pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.
      Schadenfreude – verb. To confessionally blog about my own ridiculousness
      solely for the purpose of your enjoyment.  I give, and I give.


      Driving home from our vacation last month was quite a challenge.  The kids did great, overall, but no one’s more of a road trip baby than me.

      I know some of you enjoy road trips.  And I respect you; I really do.  I just can’t figure out why you like them.

      As you can probably guess, my mature and composed outcry of urinary urgency compelled Murphy to impose his Law.  There wasn’t a potty for miles and miles (and miles and miles).  We were stuck in city rush hour traffic.  And, all the while, my bladder continued to expand to a truly outrageous and extraordinary size.

      Have you ever seen Alien?  Where the foreign lifeform ripples under its victim’s skin?  My bladder gleefully played the role of the alien, stretching, growing, waving hello to passersby, and generally wreaking happy havoc on my insides.

      I was forced to ponder important questions.  Like what, exactly, is so bad about wetting the car, anyway?  How horrific can a pee-soaked seat really be?  And, if my bladder explodes, will the bladder shrapnel harm anyone except myself?

      Then it happened.  The heavens parted and a shaft of light beamed down onto a road sign that read “Gas Station: Next Left.”  OhdearJesus, LordGodinHeaven, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.  I swear if you let the gas station be open, I will never drink coffee again.

      It’s very important to make sure that you only make deals with Jesus when you’re sincere and truly able and willing to follow through.  I learned that in theology class at my liberal arts Christian college.  (FYI, my theology professors are rolling over in their graves right now.  Even the ones who aren’t dead.  I’m not sure why they’re being so dramatic, especially since I’m pretty sure that my grades provided all the illumination necessary to expose my theological disabilities.)

      Sure enough, at the next exit, there was a gas station.  It was intact.  It was OPEN!  Customers efficiently pumped gas and queued for the car wash while I made my mad dash – through the remarkably CLEAN store – for the restroom.

      Only to discover an immaculate sign that read: Restroom Out of Order.

      Aw, Jesus!  Come on, dude! (It’s almost as though he knew I was insincere in my coffee promise and wanted to mess with me.  Weird.)

      Well, it was way too late.  You know that point where you’re SURE you’re going to get to go, and so you absolutely, positively cannot hold it for even 2 more minutes?  Yeah, well, I’d reached that moment 90 seconds earlier when I saw that the gas station was open.

      So I did what any reasonable mother would do whose bladder is full past bursting in a crowded parking lot.

      I ripped open the van’s sliding door and ordered my teenager out of her seat.  “Out, out, OUT.  Now, now, NOW.  GetoutgetoutgetoutgetoutgetOUT.”

      She leapt from the van, clearly unwilling to confront the crazy woman formerly known as her mother who was making demands in one- and two-word staccato formation.

      She leapt out.  And I leapt in.  Right into her seat.  Which was behind tinted glass.  Which some people think is translucent.  But I say is practically opaque.

      And I’m not going to tell you what happened next.  Because I am a model of discretion, and I wouldn’t want to ruin my reputation.  And because it’s entertaining to bring this story to an abrupt and unsatisfying end.

      On an unrelated note, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to a certain, special, empty, jumbo McDonald’s cup who was there for me during a critical time in my life.  I’m not sure I can ever adequately find words for the kind of friend you were to me.  But I needed you.  Needed you bad.  Needed you good.  And you were there for me, baby.  You were there.


      (Psst… looking for the “I Like Book” giveaway?  You still have time to enter!  Click here.)

      Caffeine: Strong, Dark, and Yes, Please

      March 24, 2011 in Food, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      Today is Day 8 of Single Parenting.

      And today is the day I’m doubling my daily caffeine intake.

      Ah, caffeine.

      I love you, caffeine.

      Several years ago, I cut caffeine out of my diet entirely.  I felt so self-righteous.

      “Do you want some coffee, Beth?”

      “No, thank you.  I don’t drink caffeine.  It’s poison, you know.”

      I don’t really know if caffeine is poison.  I just felt much more self-righteous  saying that as if it’s so.

      “Beth, are you eating chocolate?”

      “Of course I am.”

      “Did you know chocolate has caffeine in it?”

      “I choose not to believe that.”  Always practical, that’s me.  Facts?  Who needs ’em?  No one likes a chocolate alarmist.

      I quit caffeine one day while pouring myself a cup of coffee.  The sunlight was streaming through the window in one of those perfect ribbons that cuts through the dust particles and makes you think that the light has split itself into tiny, bright, glittering chunks of luminescence.  As the light hit the coffee on its way from the carafe to my cup, it shone like liquid gold.

      I whispered to my coffee, “You’re so pretty.”

      My own personal Gollum moment.  Precious.

      You know how people say they can quit any time?  Yeah, well, I decided I’d better see if I really could.

      I could.

      I did.

      No caffeine for me for 6 years.  Yay, me!

      Then I had twins.

      And I haven’t quit drinking caffeine ever since.

      So, despite the fact that I’m doubling my caffeine intake for today (just today — yeah, right), I’m not worried.  I haven’t once, all week long, talked aloud to my coffee.

      Maybe once or twice in my head.

      Maybe I thought she looked particularly sassy and darkly delicious sitting in my cup.

      Maybe I sighed as she warmed my hands.

      Maybe I winked to her.

      But I didn’t talk out loud.

      No, sirree.

      This girl has boundaries when it comes to talking to inanimate objects.  (Please ignore the post where I talked to my pneumonia meds.  Thank you.)

      Why all the caffeine today?

      Because a) I’m tired, and b) I planned to0 much.

      Sure, the cures for regular people are to a) sleep more, and b) slow down.

      Silly, silly regular people.

      As for me and my kids, we’re headed to the beach.

      Come on.  We only have 2 more sleeps ’til the whole family is back together.  We have to live it up!

      More soon.  Hopefully from somewhere wet, cold, overcast, and sandy.  Now, if that doesn’t sound like fun, I don’t know what does!

      Freshly Squeezed

      January 17, 2011 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      When we took Abby (12) to her birth country of Vietnam two years ago, I introduced her to Vietnamese coffee.

      Vietnamese coffee is thick, potent, and laced with sweetened condensed milk.  It’s a hit of caffeine and sugar that’ll strip the enamel off your teeth and make the dead sit up and bark — all in one fell swoop.

      It’ll even allow a 10 year old kid to keep moving all day in a time zone opposite her own.

      I say this by way of confession, not self-congratulation.  In 7th grade, my dorm father told me that drinking coffee would make my knees turn black.  I don’t know if that was some kind of Italian saying (he also insisted we never cut our spaghetti noodles) or if he was just weird.  Regardless, he made me believe to the depth of my being that feeding coffee to a child is wrong.

      My life is full of neverthelesses.

      Nevertheless, Abby picked up the coffee habit well and truly.

      On every trip, we seem to pick up a few more bad habits.

      Like my habit in Canada, where I’m always sure to buy a couple bottles of Tylenol with codeine before my return trip to the States.  Hey, it’s legal.  And wonderful.  And although they say there’s not enough codeine to make much of a pain-relief difference, this is one of those instances when I actually believe it’s the thought that counts.  I think it works, therefore it does.

      For your information, I have not fed Tylenol with codeine to my kids no matter how many times I’ve been tempted by the sleep-inducing side effect.  Now I am congratulating myself.  Yay, me!

      Sure, I have low standards.  Standards you could probably trip over.  But they’re there for the tripping, right?  I’m going with the theory that some standards are better than none.

      Katee (15) has her permit to learn to drive.  Her real parents insist on teaching her themselves without my help.  Something about needing to be responsible for their own child while she’s maneuvering a lethal weapon.  (Blah blah blah).  On this trip, I taught her to drive while talking on a cell phone:

      OK.  Maybe her parents have a point.

      Also in the bad habits department, we let our Meat Eater (aka, Ian) order the world’s largest chicken nugget.

      He threw up a few hours later.

      Some people say, quit while you’re ahead.

      I say, squeeze every little, tiny bit of fun out of every vacation and when you’re an empty husk with nothing left to give then go home.

      Consider the fun squeezed:

      The absolute best kind of vacation is the one where you can’t wait to go and then, when it’s over, you can’t wait to come home.

      We just had the best kind of vacation.

      I am thrilled to be home.

      Our little ones are tucked safely in bed.

      Visions of Buzz Lightyear dance in their head.

      It’s finally time to soak in the tub, massage my feet and find that bottle of Canadian Tylenol.  (You’re surprised I wasn’t on drugs the whole time, aren’t you?)

      Before I go, though, thanks for coming along on this trip.  I’m grateful for your kindness in reading and commenting.

      And a special thanks to the behind-the-scenes crew who made the trip possible:

      • My folks, who watched 4 kids at various times, provided airport shuttle service, and learned that Aden is the Boss of the McDonalds Playland (and everywhere else — the sooner you learn, the easier it is on everyone)
      • Greg’s folks, who watched 3 kids at various times and learned to check first to make sure the McDonalds Happy Meal Toy is not a personal voice amplification device
      • My cousin, who heard my cry for help and provided emergency science tutoring for a desperate middle schooler
      • Katee’s folks, who watched 1 kid and who also said we weren’t crazy for doing this (they lie on demand which is why they’re such good friends)

      Sending love to you all and best wishes for a good night’s sleep (I can think of no higher blessing),


      The Number Nine

      January 12, 2011 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      Miss Aden turned 9 years old today.

      Waking Up Nine

      Here’s something you should know about Aden:  She was born without a verbal filter.

      Aden says what she thinks and plows ahead at full speed into conversations the rest of us would avoid.

      (Or maybe she wasn’t born this way and it’s a learned behavior, but since that implicates me, I’m going to go with genetics.)

      Truthfully, the things Aden says are one of the reasons I love being her mom.  I never know what I’m gonna get next, but I count on the fact that it’ll be entertaining.

      In honor of Aden’s day, I offer you these verbal vignettes, all courtesy of Aden and all from the time our vacation began on Monday:


      The Presence of Presents

      Aden:  Excuse me.  Mom?  I do not think that four presents was enough for me today.

      No, excuse me, Aden.  My sincere apologies.  (This is why I need a rolling-my-eyes smiley icon.)

      Aden and "only" present #2

      And this is what Aden looks like when she’s getting a lecture about gratitude and appropriate responses to receiving gifts:

      Complete with drooping Mouse ears


      Hey, Good Lookin’

      Aden walked in the bathroom to talk to me while I was showering.  (Totally normal for our family.)

      Aden: Hey, Mom! Guess what?!

      Me: What?

      Aden:  I can see you through the shower door!

      Me:  Yep, that’s what a glass door is for.  Seeing things through it.

      Aden:  Lookin’ gooood!

      Me:  Aw, Aden, that’s so nice.  Every mommy likes to hear she looks good.  Thank you!

      Aden:  No, Mom.  I mean I’m good at lookin’ at things.

      Me:  Oh.


      The Scent of Aden

      Cael (4): Something stinks in here, Mom.

      Me: What do you think it is?

      Cael: I think it’s Aden.  She toots a lot.

      Me, worried that Aden would feel criticized:  Aden, how do you feel about what Cael just said?

      Aden, cheerfully:  Yep!  I think it’s me!  I do toot a lot.  Sorry, Mom.  Sorry, Cael.  I’ll take my butt somewhere else.

      Cael and Aden


      The Dangers of Drinking

      Aden has spent a lot of time on our Disney trip talking to random strangers, something that’s pretty common for her.

      Mostly, her conversations have consisted of things like,

      Hey, you!  It’s my birthday, ya know!

      This child doesn’t struggle with shyness.

      This morning, Aden explained to her brothers that Mom has to drink coffee every day.  Cael chimed in with, Yep!  That’s so Mom can be nice and not mean.

      Isn’t it sweet how well my kids know me?

      I grabbed coffee as soon as we arrived at the park this morning.

      Upon walking out of the coffee shop, Aden looked pointedly at me and said loudly for all the passers-by to hear,

      Oh NO!  Mom’s drinking again.

      Mmmm... coffee!

      Thanks, Aden.  Thanks a lot.


      Here’s wishing my funny girl a very happy year full of honesty and joy.

      I think we’re headed the right way already.


      December 15, 2010 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

      What fantastic entries in the Overwhelmedness Contest, ladies and gentlemen!

      I am deeply impressed with the messes you all have made of your lives through the simple acts of being thoughtful parents, hard working employees, and community volunteers.  Ain’t it grand?

      The smartest thing I did all week was to bow out of judging the contest.  My sincere and public apologies, Kim and Sally.  You have your work cut out for you.

      I won’t waste your time by recounting all of the fabulous stories about sleeping with chickens, double-kid infections (I mean, I’ve heard of double-ear infections, but this one’s new to me), secret collisions with semi trucks, blog-comment-posting while at 1st grade Christmas programs, and a child’s attempts to remove her mother’s nipples.  Reading the comments is worthwhile, and I’m quite certain you’ll find something in there to make your life look calm and relaxed.  If calm and relaxed appeals to you.

      In the spirit of Christmas (or the holiday of your choice), I will leave you with two gifts.

      The first is technically a regift, complete with new wrapping paper and bow.  My loving brother posted an “actually” correction to my last blog entry, in which I stated that “caffeine is one of only five known antidotes for overwhelmedness.”  I think his gift of knowledge and hope is worth the repost here:

      You were pretty close about there being 5 antidotes for overwhelmedness, Jeff writes.

      Um, thanks, Jeff.

      There are actually 6. After Coffee, the others are Sleep, Laughter, Lists, Exercise, and Alcohol.

      You can even combine them, but some combos are more effective than others.

      For example, Coffee plus Lists is a powerful overwhelmedness-reducer.  However, Coffee and Sleep don’t play nice together, and Exercise plus Alcohol can also be problematic.

      For the ultimate overwhelmedness-eliminating experience, I highly recommend getting drunk on Kahlua, laughing at someone far bigger than yourself, getting knocked out, then dreaming of making lists while riding a recumbent stationary bike.  And to be clear, by “highly recommend” I mean “strongly caution against.”

      See?  Regifting is fun.

      My second gift to you is the gift of schadenfreude, which is defined as “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.”  You have given me such schadenfreude in your overwhelmedness comments, that I feel the only appropriate way to thank you is to give you some in return.  Schadenfreude reciprocity, if you will.

      My Christmas list used to include things like jewelry and books and make-up and magazines.  Since having children, my gift requests have changed to cries for help, desperate pleas for acts of service.

      My number one most desired gift this year is stove-top and oven cleaning.  Here’s why:

      My husband’s number one most desired gift this year is childcare for our 4-year-old twins so he can clean the garage.  Here’s why:

      That stain on the foam mattress in the bottom center of the picture?  Dog pee.  We’re that fantastic.

      This weekend is our Christmas open house.

      Yep – I actually invited people over here.

      I will be locking the garage door and praying to God no one finds the key.  (Did you hear that, God?)

      My house will look like this:

      That’s pretty much the extent of my Christmas decorating.  I had to work really hard to take that picture from an angle where things looked clean.  Here’s a picture from further away:

      Oh, who am I kidding?  That’s pretty clean for us, too.  But it’ll be even cleaner at the open house.

      I’ll spend all day Saturday cleaning and cooking.  I’ll hire my middle schooler and her friends to babysit to make that possible.  This is after I hired my friend’s mom to preclean the house this week; somehow, it’ll need recleaning by the weekend.

      I’ll put clean, dry towels in the bathroom and stock it with soap and toilet paper.  I’ll hide my stove-top under an enormous skillet and double-burner griddle under the guise that that’s their place in the kitchen.

      And then I’ll pretend our house always looks immaculate.  And that we always have soap in our bathroom.  And that I did it all without help.  (How does she do it?)

      You won’t tell, will you?

      Happy Schadenfreude, from me to you.