Beauty Out of Chaos Blog

March 13, 2012

New Foods

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 2:28 pm

On January 6, 2011, in this blog, I listed a few goals for the year, and I included, “Cook more nutritious meals for my family. Especially help Boy 1 learn to sample new foods and find more that he will eat.” That seems like an eternity ago, and such a naïve statement.

In the course of the year, I learned a lot about Boy 1 and how he operates. It’s been a journey full of growth and learning. I discovered that he has some sensory issues that are very real, and that he is not trying to be difficult, dramatic, or ornery.

A lot of parents probably would hear about his difficulties with food and assume that I just need to offer him the correct choices repeatedly until he breaks down and eats. Before this child, I would have agreed. However, and this is amazing to me, Boy 1 would rather go hungry than eat things that look suspicious.

In occupational therapy, he was encouraged to play with foods using his hands and body. That seemed to open doors for him, and dinnertime is changing at our house.

Over the last year, and particularly the last few months, he has added or tried the following foods:

  1. Grilled cheese sandwich
  2. Quesadilla
  3. Chicken nuggets
  4. Chicken drumsticks
  5. Asparagus (sampled and rendered favorable opinion)
  6. Tilipia
  7. Salmon
  8. Breakfast sausages
  9. Thin pork chops
  10. Curly french fries
  11. Hamburger (reincorporated into diet)
  12. Lettuce/spinach leaves

Not everything on this list is healthy, but I’m beyond that now. I just want him to expand his palate, and it seems to be happening. We are especially glad to see him eating more meat. Dinnertimes are a lot happier at our house, which is a relief for everyone.

Occupational therapy encouraged Boy 1 to play with is food, which is hard for a parent like me (echoes of my mother’s reprimands in my head) to accept. I still wonder about how to do that at home and think it would be best if not at mealtime. But I have one great memory of all of us playing at dinner.

Boy 1 was resisting eating plain hamburger. I took it out of the bun and broke it into bits. Finally he started a “magic show,” where he passed the hamburger bit from hand to hand and made it disappear into his mouth. Not that amazing, but the rest of the family was pretty giddy and found it funny, particularly to see this kid enjoying his food. We all started pretending to be the crowd going wild, and his sister suggested that he was Justin Bieber. His name promptly got changed to Justin Eater. Justin Eater’s most amazing act was taking a piece of hamburger, lettuce, bun, and a curly fry and eating it all in one bite.

He like it! That’s triumph at our house.

January 1, 2012

2011 in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 8:37 am
Tags: , ,

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

November 22, 2011

Writing a Children’s Book

Filed under: aspirations,Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 5:49 pm
Tags: ,

I have always wanted to write a children’s book, probably since I was 8 years old or so.

I know, I know—everyone wants to write a children’s book. But I believe that I have what it takes: I am goofy and silly, I can make my kids laugh, I have ideas that are out of the box, I’m a good writer (or so I like to think; hence the blog). I’m can’t draw beyond a stick figure, but that can be overcome with the addition of an illustrator.

Every time I try to put my finger on one, any one story idea, that I could possibly develop, I draw a complete blank. How am I ever going to write this book if I can’t think of a single story idea?

Yesterday I had another one of my either stupid or wildly genius ideas (they usually come while I’m driving). I thought I could take a basic, bare bones plot and keep morphing it and adding to it until it might possibly turn into a real story.

It would go something like this:

The dog woke up in the morning. He went to the store to buy a bone. When he came home, he ate it. He went to sleep happy.

The next day I could add:

The frustrated puppy woke up in his bed of leaves in the forest one foggy morning. He hadn’t eaten in three days. He limped to the berry bushes in search of a morsel. He found nothing and returned home desperate.

And the next day I could add more.

Okay, this is not great literature. My overall thought was that if I forced myself to work on it every day, I might slowly find a plot, a problem, etc.

A children’s author named Melissa M. Williams visited my childrens’ school this fall ( My daughter was very inspired by her, as well as by children’s pop-up book artist Bruce Foster (, who also visited. I noticed that Melissa Williams teaches adult seminars on how to write children’s books. I know there are tons of “how-to” guides out there that could help, but I am skeptical.

Does anyone have experience with finding certain books on the subject particularly helpful?

Would you like to distort my dog story?

Cindy, would you like to write children’s books on theological topics? Our first colloboration could be “Martin Luther: Why the Funny Hat?”

November 11, 2011

What Do You Miss?

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 6:08 pm

I miss:

  1. My husband, A LOT. He has been in Norway most of this fall, and it is hard. I miss being around his unconditional love. I miss someone being there to listen to my worries and concerns. And I miss being hugged tight, tight—even when I am smelly, have coffee breath, or haven’t brushed my hair. I miss having somone to curl up with in my king-sized bed. I miss my husband turning on CNN and Fox News so that I hear the politicial scoop of the day. I miss my husband’s get-up-and-go attitude, which keeps me going as well. I miss his cooking and his wine selections.
  2. I miss my boys coming in to my bed every morning. When they were littler, they used to come in our bed about 6 AM, and one would snuggle up on each side of me. It was such a nice sandwich feeling!
  3. I miss baby fat on my babies. They have no fat now that they are older.
  4. Days without homework.
  5. Playdates—we don’t have as many these days.
  6. The leaves changing colors in the fall.
  7. Freezing mornings that make you want to stay under the warm covers just a little bit longer.
  8. My friends who have moved overseas, and my friends from college. I learned a lot about kindness from them.
  9. My sister—we have not had a good visit in a while. My sister makes me giggle like I’m about 10. I love it.
  10. Fashion sense. I must have gotten out of line when God passed out that one.

What I don’t miss:

  1. Hours spent walking, jiggling, patting, and generally comforting mad babies—especially at night.
  2. Temper tantrums.
  3. Baby food stains.
  4. The last 3 pounds.
  5. Dirty diapers.
  6. The heat from this past summer.
  7. OCD, depression, anxiety.
  8. Infertility. Whoo, I would not wish that one on my worst enemy.
  9. Living in Louisiana.
  10. I don’t miss God. I know he’s always there.

November 3, 2011

Retail Blues

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 2:32 am

Oh, my goodness, I was in Kohl’s today, and I couldn’t believe my ears: they were playing holiday music. My jaw hit the floor.

I just barely packed away my Halloween decorations, and my kids are still pawing with disbelief through the haul they brought home Monday evening.

I try to look away when I see different shopping centers put up Christmas in early October. I try to pretend I am not noticing when retailers begin to sneak Christmas up on us, but this was so IN MY FACE.

I want to have November as a month to itself. I don’t want it to be one big shopping month before December. November is beautiful—we enjoy temperatures (finally), a nice weeklong break from school with Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving itself.

Christmas is also beautiful, my favorite holiday.

Making November a long, drawn-out part of Christmas does an injustice to both. It makes me feel like a pawn in the hands of retailers who get to determine what our holidays mean and when we get to think about them.

I don’t want Christmas to be about sales projections and realizations, whether or not our collective purchases and overexpenditures can perk up the economy. I want it to be a matter of enjoying each day of the season and its spiritual renewal. I want it to be on my terms, not broadcast a month early over the PA system in a department store.

October 1, 2011

Homework and Twins

Filed under: ADHD,children,education,parenting,travel,Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 2:25 pm
Tags: ,

I have twin boys in second grade, and we have discovered over the summer that one has ADHD as well as some sensory issues (or maybe sensory issues contributing to the ADHD?). That’s another post, but in the meantime, homework has become quite an issue for us.

It’s still better than it was last year, when we were having complete meltdowns, but it is very time and energy consuming. Not to mention emotional. We spend from about 4 PM to 5 PM each day on homework, and then we spend 20 minutes reading together at bedtime. I LOVE reading with the boys every day.

This year, we have homework every day, Monday through Thursday, and sometimes we have long-term projects that require work on the weekends. So far, we have had to complete a tri-fold display board about an Australian animal, and now we are to rehearse some lines for a class play over the weekend.

I am hoping that I make it through the year! My husband will be out of the country most of the year, and my energy is being drained.

My son with issues really needs me to sit with him while he works. He requires encouragement, redirection, and moral support.

And guess what?? I have a daughter in fifth grade, and thank goodness, she is very independent, or she would be flunking fifth grade. I have no time left to give her.

I think the boys’ second grade class is very typical in terms of homework, and I love their teacher. Couldn’t ask for better. The school is wonderful and deliberate about implementing the best of educational practices. But this experience, so far, has made me question the value of homework at this age.

I never felt this way with my daughter, when I was helping with just one kid. Part of me recognizes that I am reacting to what it is like to do homework with a kid who doesn’t find academics a breeze.

And I know that American schools are in a heap of trouble and need to focus on getting their kids up to speed. I just wonder if daily homework before about fourth grade bears as much fruit as we hope it does.

When I was in school, I remember WANTING homework and having to wait until fourth grade to get it. Even then, it was usually just a few math problems or whatever was left on a page we had been working in class. Only about 10 minutes. I think I turned out OK.

What do you think is the answer??? How can we instill the basics in our kids without wearing them, and their parents, out?

September 28, 2011

Texas Drought

Filed under: drought,Texas,Uncategorized,weather — cjdwhite @ 7:10 pm
Tags: , ,

Texas is in the midsts of a summer/fall season that is setting records for heat and a year that is the worst drought in the state’s history, I believe. This summer we set the record for the hottest summer ever recorded in the U.S., taking the title from Oklahome in 1934 during the Dust Bowl. We are not happy about this. It has not been pleasant, and it has not been fun.

The worst part is the drought. When I started thinking back, I realized that I had never lived through a drought before. When I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, I saw a blizzard or two. In St. Louis, Missouri, I saw flooding, as I have in New Orleans and Houston. I have seen record-setting cold in both Cleveland and St. Louis, and I made it through the record-setting summer of 1980 in St. Louis, when the temperature hit 100 degrees or higher for 30 straight days.

Here in Houston we have hurricanes and tropical storms enough that they are not unusual at all.

But this is my first drought, and it is ugly. We are at 11.94 inches of rain for the year. Normally we have 35.61 inches at this point in the year.

At its most extreme, the drought has caused massive forest fires, almost decimating a historical pine forest/park to the west of us. Many have lost their homes in the area around Austin from the fires. More close at hand, George Bush Park suffered a fire, and we could see the plume of smoke from our house.

That’s devestation enough, but it’s the little things that get me, like seeing the trees die and suffer. As we drive to school, you can see fall colors in the trees, but it’s not fall here. We don’t see the leaves change until early December. The trees are just plain dying. If they are not dying, they are letting go of their leaves so that they can conserve energy and hopefully make it through the drought. The Houston Parks Dept. recently asked for $4.5 million just to remove dead trees from city parks. That doesn’t even go toward replacing all the trees that we are going to lose.

Although Houston is a major metropolitan area, the fourth largest city in the U.S., it has these huge, amazing, spreading live oaks. These cannot be replaced quickly, if at all. I just do not know what our new normal will look like.

My daughter and I took a photographic journey through our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago for a school assignment. As we walked through the streets together, I was amazed to see the damage, and that’s mostly what she took pictures of. We are under watering restrictions, so the lawns look scrawny and brown. They are receding from the sidewalks so badly that you can stick your flattened hand down between the soil and the concrete. Azalea bushes are brown, dried to the core. Water pipes are routinely breaking due to the shifting of the soil as it dries. We saw water spurting out of broken pipes and flowing in streams down the edges of the streets into the sewers. All that wasted water, and all the brown, dry grass and trees around it.

My son asked me, “Where do we go when we run out of water?” He must think it is like a hurricane from which we can evacuate to a safe place.

I know that our drought is just a mere taste of what it is like in Africa. At least we have running water and a sure supply of it. We can drink and eat without worry.

My hearts go out to the people in Africa.

A Letter from the South

Filed under: children,parenting,Texas,Uncategorized,weather — cjdwhite @ 6:51 pm
Tags: ,

I have recently spent a great deal of time in retail establishments shopping for my kids’ school pictures and other kids’ clothes. Yes, this was frustrating, and yes, I now feel like writing a letter. A complaining letter. Let’s call it an open letter from the American South to the manufacturers and retailers of our clothing.

Dear Sirs (and some Madames, but I’m thinking it’s “Sirs” based on my complaints—see below):

We in the South can no longer function in your Yankee-centric system and would like to lodge a few complaints against your assumptions and the way you do business. If you listen, you could make a whole bunch of cash and a whole bunch of moms REALLY happy. If you don’t, you just look clueless.

First, please stop acting like everyone in the whole U.S. is set for bathing suits after July 4th. Guess what! The car temperature gauge read 96 degrees at 1 PM this afternoon, and it’s September 28. Believe me, we are still swimming. We are still baking, and we are still swimming. Funny thing, but our kids grow in the three months between July and the October. Clothes rip, fade, and stretch out of shape. Replacements are needed. But we can’t find them!!

Re: temperature reading in previous paragraph: please quit taking all of the shorts and short-sleeved shirts off the shelves after July 4th. Forcing my kid into a long-sleeved shirt at this juncture seems like a form of torture. Or maybe a weight-loss-by-sweating plan.

And don’t get me started on my all-the-tween-clothes-for-girls-make-them-look-like-hootchie-mamas spiel. If your clothes had their way, my daughter would be dying of sweat on picture day just from walking in from the parking lot. Oh, unless she chose to be a streetwalker, which is definitely a possiblity. I guess then she would have goose bumps.

And although you think I’m happy to see the Christmas dresses and suits in the stores, I’m not. What happened to fall wear? Good night, people, this is what we here in TEXAS buy for Christmas because the Christmas outfits are so darn HOT. That’s right, we could be slapping mosquitoes and sweating on the front porch on Christmas day. Or we could be warming up next to a Norman Rockwell fire in the fireplace. Or we could be doing both, on the same day. One never knows. So we like layers! And clothes that aren’t so heavy, for goodness sakes! I don’t think it’s cute when my boys sweat thourgh their turtlenecks during the school Christmas program.

I think my Yankee sisters will join me in expressing universal dismay when you take all cold-weather clothes out of the stores after Christmas. We have at least a couple more months of pants left, and they are nowhere to be found.

So, in sum, I would like to recommend that you send someone, anyone, from your company to Houston to live, with their kids, for a week at any time of the year (well, maybe not July or August, because the employee might spontaneously combust when it hits 100 degrees). And then you will see that not everyone in the U.S. is living the Yankee four seasons of the year.

We need our own retail calendar down here. Don’t hesitate—act now.


Disgruntled Mom

(give me my gruntles back)

September 7, 2011

Creative Spelling

Filed under: children,education,language,Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 10:17 pm

My boys have a new type of homework this year, and I think I am getting a little too excited about it! Someone needs to send Mommy back to school.

Anyway, each week they have about five simple words to learn (like “do” or “have”) and three that are more difficult (either ones they didn’t catch the week before or ones related to their current unit, which is Austrailia[!]). When they come home on Monday evening with eight words, they are supposed to choose an activity to do with each word.

We have a list of activities to choose from, and it is quite good. For example, the boys can write a word five times in five different colors, or write words that rhyme with the word, create a picture using their word, type the word on the computer, type the word on the computer in five different fonts, etc. But one of the last choices on the sheet is to make up your own activity! Woo hoo! Yesterday we spelled words with pistachio shells, and I have been spending my mental leisure time thinking up other choices.

For your reading pleasure, I bring you CJDWHITE’S HOMEMADE SPELLING ACTIVITIES:

  1. Write the word with drinking straws (cut them if needed).
  2. Paint it in water on the driveway, sidewalk, etc.
  3. Roll up towels and use them to form letters.
  4. Make letters out of toothpicks.
  5. Rub the word into your carpeting with the tip of your finger—or take a stick and draw it in the sand/dirt (latter not my idea, I have to be honest).
  6. Make letters out of spaghetti noodles or dried beans.
  7. Play dough is screaming for attention here!
  8. Steam on the bathroom mirror, anyone? Car windows would also work, if it ever got cold here.
  9. Spell with a magnetic letter set (for that one, I will have to gather up all the magnetic letters that are scattered all over the house and under the frig).
  10. Wet footprints on the driveway (again, our weather has not been cooperating with that one—we haven’t had rain in weeks and are barely allowed to water, but a girl can hope, can’t she?).

Now, please, I would like to hear your creative ideas so when my boys start moaning, and it will happen in a few weeks, I will have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Thank you!

Later to blog about the My Weird School Daze series of children’s books. I promise!

August 6, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — cjdwhite @ 9:25 pm

Later this week, we were riding in the car and listening to the Top 40 station. A song came on, and my daughter gleefully said, “OK, Mom, name that artist!” It took me a while, but I got it: Katy Perry, “Kalifornia Girrrrls.” Although maybe it’s “Gurrls.” And I’m not sure how many r‘s she uses in the song title.

Lucky it wasn’t a spelling test. Score one for Mom!

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