7 quick takes Friday (Vol. 12)

— 1 —
Last week I was hunting for recipes to use for my sister Treasa’s belated birthday cake. I ended up coming across this recipe, which I will definitely make again. I tried this recipe for strawberry frosting, though I didn’t follow it closely. I got so excited about using my immersion blender to puree the strawberries that I used way too much puree and the frosting was runny. But it was quite decadent and also attractive.

Because our sons would rather look at a cake than eat it, we always decorate our cakes. Aunt Treasa likes cows, and her nephews were adamant that this had to be a cow cake. Because she was coming to dinner on the night of the Preakness, I suggested that we blend the two themes. The boys loved the idea of a racetrack cake, but I only realized later that was because they thought cars would be involved. So they were—until the boys took them off to play with them.

The best part was the edible racetrack. I am not a great baker, but I am happy to have an excuse to put crushed graham crackers on top of a frosted cake. No one here likes graham crackers much until they are crushed and placed on top of a cake. We used a bag of SpongeBob graham crackers that was going stale, and now they’re gone. More room in the pantry! (Oh, and did anyone notice that the horse our sons picked came in second?)
— 2 —
I don’t like cell phones. I don’t like that everyone is expected to be reachable all the time. I don’t like that they give people license to be late. I carry a cheap pay-as-you-go phone because I feel I have to have a phone, but I don’t pretend to be happy about it. However, I really did rely on my cell phone on Monday when our car broke down. So then why, oh why, have I managed to forget my cell phone not once—but twice—this week? Last night as we were driving home in the rain, running low on fuel, I realized that if we emptied the tank, we could be stranded for a long time without a phone. So we stopped.
As I was pumping gas, I glanced through the window at the boys, and I could see Leo trying to say something.
“I can’t hear you!” I called back. “I’ll just be a minute!”
I could see him yelling back at me, getting more and more frustrated.
Oh, dear, I thought. He must really need something. In this day of amazing technology, however, I was stuck at a pump that you have to hold the whole time you’re pumping.
When I finally climbed into the car, Leo told me why he was upset. He wanted me to focus on getting gas so we wouldn’t break down. So he was yelling, “Don’t look at us, Mama!”
That’s a communication problem that cell phones wouldn’t fix.
— 3 —
Our daily commute is long, and every week the traffic seems to get heavier. We have decided to put our house on the market so we can drive less and spend more time outside the car. Meanwhile, I am not as worried about selling the house as showing the house. How do people sell houses? Do you keep a laundry basket in each room and throw everything into it and then into the car? Do you hire a daily maid service? Give away all your belongings? Only use disposable dishes? Any and all tips are welcome.

This week John has been cleaning our bedroom, so he and I have been camping out in the boys’ rooms. They think this is great fun.
It reminds me of how when I was a child, during one family vacation we stayed at the “Hopkins Hotel.” It was actually our house on Hopkins Road and we all swapped beds each night in between day trips. Without question, it was the best family vacation we ever took. I’m looking forward to getting back to our bed, but I’m also reminding myself that we’re making memories with our boys.
— 4 —
This week in the adoption world there was talk of how adoptive families were among the groups targeted by the IRS for audits last year. We were among the many adoptive families who had to jump through the extra paperwork hoops. It was frustrating, but adoptive families are used to hassle and paperwork. The fact that they asked us to provide the exact same information we had already provided, while holding onto our refund because they could, just felt like part of the routine. However, we were fortunate that we had not had to borrow money for our adoption fees. For many families this was not just a hassle, but a costly problem. Our government should be helping children join families, not standing in the way.
— 5 —

Last week the MDDC Press Association honored several of my colleagues at The Catholic Review, and they threw in an award for my blog.
When I told John, he sounded happy but surprised. That’s how I feel. It almost doesn’t make sense to receive an award for something I enjoy so much. I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to write about my family and our faith and adoption and connect with people who share those interests.
Isn’t it extraordinary that anyone would actually read what I write and respond? So thank you.
An award is just frosting on the cake—but probably not strawberry frosting.
— 6 —
When we arrived home after our long commute last Friday, we discovered that John had just painted our door. Leo and Daniel were curious and full of questions. So I took a photo of Daniel—and his brother’s dragon pillow—in front of it. Isn’t the door beautiful? Who wouldn’t want to buy a house with such an attractive door? It even matches the kitchen walls. And isn’t it unbelievable how easy it is for me to get photos that don’t show my sons’ faces?
— 7 —
In my full-time job I write stories for Loyola University Maryland, and we just published this story this week. It reminded me of the sacrifices soldiers make for our country—and for each of us—every day. I hope you’ll join me this Memorial Day weekend in prayer for this soldier, whose life has changed so drastically, and for all those who have served our country, especially those who have given their lives.
Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog.

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The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.