A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: snow days

This Is Not a Photography Blog

My friend Laura calls me a “Jill of all Trades.”

I think she means it as a compliment, but I’m not totally sure.

I do indeed have a menagerie of random skills that speak more to my A.D.D. than to any special prowess. Laura finds it mildly entertaining… my ability to use a toilet auger, sprout alfalfa seeds under my kitchen sink, repair a small engine, save a choking child, and knit a prayer shawl all on the same day. Sure, it looks good on paper, but you know what they say… “Jill of all trades, master of none.” That is me. Hi. I’m Jill.

I’ve always admired the people who can focus on one goal and hone one craft or skill. Like Laura and photography. This girl is seriously talented. And she’s living the dream… building her own photography biz on her own terms. You should book her now before she gets super famous and can’t fit you into her busy schedule.

As for me, photography isn’t really my thang. I have a Nikon D40 that my sweet husband bought for me a few years ago so I’d stop whining about missing every shot due to the long delay on the tiny little pocket Olympus I was borrowing from my 7 year old son. This past Christmas he bought me my first big-girl lens: an AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED. I have no idea what that means, but it takes real pretty pictures. Like this:

That’s my little girl, playing in the big snow last week in the cute-as-can-be kitty hat her Grandma bought her. I don’t know if this is what the pros call depth of field, but I love the soft gray background and all the different sized snow flakes.

I’m still trying to figure out how to work the dang zoom…

Ooops. Too close. How ’bout that booger just clinging to the nose hair in his left nostril?! Sorry hon.

Now this one turned out just right:

That’s Ike. He’s waiting for a meter reader to chew on. Look at his cute little gray beard. He takes after his mama.

I have so much to learn… like how to capture motion. Sometimes I can get a good shot:

But usually not:

That’s my youngest having oodles of fun with an empty 7-Up bottle. Please don’t tell all my relatives who sent him a metric ton of real toys for Christmas.

And don’t get me started on how much I need to learn about lighting and shadows.

Ouch… that just hurts. Look at his cute little face behind those dark window pane shadows. He was so proud of himself for trying a green smoothie that looked SO GROSS but tasted soooo good. Damn. That could have been such a cute photo if I spent less time making green smoothies and more time reading Photography for Dummies.

So, just wanted to put it out there that if you are looking for one of those Mommy Blogs with gorgeous, artful photography like The Pioneer Woman (my fave!), you are totally barking up the wrong tree. The most artful photo I ever took was when Ike ate that box of crayons… For the record, Laura took the lovely “before” photo of the crayons and I took the “after” photo of the rainbow colored doggie doo. Classy. I know.

Mostly I’m just a blissfully ignorant novice, which is par for the Jill of All Trades course. But once in a while, through the grace of God, I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right lens, and the camera on the right setting. And when that happens, I can see the light! Literally.

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.”
– John 1:32

Can I get an Amen?!

Thanks for reading,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

Helmets R Us

Yesterday was day five of the epic Southern snow storm and icy lock down. But hope is in the air. The ice is beginning to melt. Should be back to normal in a day or two. Well, as normal as my family gets, anyway.

Missing a week of school just flat out sucks… for the kids and the parents. My 11 year old, while being forced to write a Christmas thank you note yesterday, asked me how to spell “much.” So yeah, brain cells have clearly atrophied this week. Unless he received some brain damage when the neighbor kid beaned him in the head with an ice ball the other day… which is another possibility.

The best part of that story is that the shooter’s mom, Tammy, my bff, specifically told the boys (who were in her yard at the time) to NOT aim for the faces or heads. AND, my son (pictured above) was wearing a bike helmet due to the icy sledding conditions and the fact that his mama is a freak. Now he looks like he had an epic battle with He Who Must Not Be Named. Boys and ice balls… they go together safely like bleach and ammonia, or broken glass and crawling babies, or tequila shots and parent-teacher conferences. Sigh.

So my son comes in at the end of the day with this goose-egg on his forehead and I am pissed. I call Tammy with my panties in a wad and say, “Um, excuse me, but what the hell happened over there?” And she says, “I know, I’m so sorry! I told them ‘Not the face! Not the face!’ and it happens to the one kid wearing the helmet.”

Oh my God. She’s mocking me about the helmet.

Listen, I have a good reason, people.

My ONE biological sibling, whom I adore, was life-flighted off a snowy mountain and almost died a few years ago after sledding head-first into a tree. The fact that he is alive and relatively well today is nothing short of miraculous. He was not wearing a helmet.

I mean come on… it is an accepted fact that people should wear helmets when they bike or skate or ride in miniature school buses, why not when they sled? Helloooo? I can’t be the only person to realize this, can I?

So Tammy emails me earlier that day and says: “D refused to wear a helmet — your kids are keeping theirs on…. I’m a bad mom for not making him wear one, but he promised to go down facing forward and away from the deck.”

To which I snarkily replied: “Oh well that’s good… at least if he hits the deck (literally), he’ll mess up his face and not his head.  And besides, his braces will probably keep his teeth in his mouth so you won’t have to search for them in the snow.”

She didn’t write back. Go figure.

She’ll get over it. We love each other more than our luggage. And maybe she’ll rethink letting an 11 year old “refuse” safety gear. She doesn’t let him refuse a seat belt or protective eye wear at the gun range, so there’s hope.

Look, I have enough to worry about. If I can prevent a traumatic brain injury, why not. I mean really… my kids have enough of a mental handicap being raised by a slacker like me. Then missing a whole week of school on top of it? Puh-lease. The homeschooled kids in my neighborhood probably just moved on to advanced Latin stems this week. My kids, on the other hand, for their foreign language enrichment, watched a Scooby Doo DVD in Spanish… multiple times. I must admit, it’s pretty entertaining… especially hearing “ZOINKS!” in a Spanish accent. Anything with a Spanish accent is better… even Shaggy Rogers. Yes, that’s his last name. Google it. We watch A LOT of Scooby Doo around here… in our helmets.

Safety first!


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris

Cabin Fever and Cocoa Cocktails

Day four of the epic Southern snow storm. Day four of the husband working from home and the kids’ schools and activities all canceled. The roads are impassable. We haven’t received mail all week. We are trapped; and I am one degree Celsius away from starring in an episode of Snapped.

I have a sudden new appreciation for The Donner Party. And they didn’t even have a Crock Pot to soften up those rump roasts.

Surprisingly, I was somewhat prepared for this. My refrigerator is stocked. I have plenty of wine. I even had the foresight to fill the bathtub with water in case the pipes break so we can at least flush toilets in an emergency. Hey, there are a lot of butt-holes in this house. We finally broke three year old Bucket Head of the “I can poop outside” habit a few months ago… wouldn’t want to confuse the little guy if our water supply freezes up.

So how does a mom like me cope? Not very well, to be honest. I try to keep the kids outside as much as possible. But the thing about kids and snow is that it makes SO MUCH more work for the mamas. I have to get them all dressed in multiple layers, zip the zippers that their mittened fingers can’t grasp, manage the wet clothes when they come in, make the hot cocoa, remove the snot-cicles, and extricate sharp sticks from soft tissue. It’s exhausting just writing about it, let alone doing it. And it is an endless cycle. They go out for a couple of hours (tops), get cold, come in, undress, dry off, eat, and rest. Like bad Chinese food, an hour later the cycle begins again. Times like this make those polygamous families in Utah look pretty damn appealing. Who couldn’t use a few sister-wives to help with all the work and boudoir duties? It really does take a village.

Well, with all this endless outdoor frolicking and indoor defrosting, we used up our last packet of Swiss Miss yesterday. Unacceptable. My three year old, who can’t say the hard “c” sound, says he must have “totoa in the tow tup” (cocoa in the cow cup). It’s pretty tute. Clearly I needed to find a way to make homemade cocoa. If I had to milk the cat and melt my chocolate flavored calcium chews, I would do it. Luckily, I didn’t have to work that hard.

Here’s the recipe I found (and revised) in my desperation. There are tons of recipes out there but I wanted one that was easy, tasty, and not filled with artificial ingredients like non-dairy creamer. And since we’re totally snowed in, my magic pantry would need to provide all the ingredients. Perhaps you recall the magic pantry that saved Mini-Me’s birthday party a couple years ago? This recipe is based on one from Alton Brown of the Food Network. I love that man… he has never let me down. I think there may have been a typo in the instruction part of his original recipe, so I tweaked it a bit and made it more user friendly. Warning… once you taste this, you will never be able to drink store-bought cocoa mix again. This is much richer and more complex… perfect for serious chocolate lovers. I’m guessing it’s also much more economical and of course less packaging makes it better for the environment. Win-win-win!

Homemade all natural hot cocoa mix by The Bearded Iris

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix


  • 2 cups powdered sugar (must be powdered… not granulated)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk (powdered WHOLE milk trumps the non fat kind)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (don’t skip this… thickens it the perfect amount)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste (I omitted this…my kids are sissies)
  • Hot water


Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.

For the semi-frozen kiddies: Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a mug and add 6 oz. hot water. Stir to combine. Add some mini marshmallows if you have ’em. This is pretty watery, but my kids didn’t like it any stronger than that. Whatever… more for me.

For the exhausted adults: Place 4 or 5 tablespoons of the mixture into a mug, add in that tiny pinch of cayenne you omitted for your sissy kids, and add 6 oz. hot water. Stir to combine. Then add 1.5 ounces of Baileys Irish Cream, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, or the bathtub moonshine you’ve been saving for that special occasion, a.k.a. Thursday.

Seal the rest of your homemade cocoa mix in an airtight container… it keeps indefinitely in the pantry.

Looks like school is canceled again tomorrow and one of my best friends just called to see if I had killed any children or pets yet this week. Ah, she knows me all too well. Where is that Crock Pot, anyway?

Seasons eatings!



© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris

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