Monday, October 31, 2005

The holiday about nothing

I'm not a big Halloween fan, and it's not a secret among my grownup friends. It's a lot of work with no significant meaning or purpose. That's my general line of thought.

But for my kids, I play along. And you can see why! They are having so much fun, even if a real ninja would never ever forget to tie his sash.

And when I see a glimpse of this, I wonder, maybe it is worthwhile to have a holiday to celebrate pretending, imagination, things that are not real. That's an enchanting idea. And maybe that's what it's supposed to be all about.

So I am off to pick up the munchkins (and that will be an onomotopoeia tonight, I'm sure), decorate the car, pick up a couple of pizzas and head over to the Trunk or Treat.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

TV free no more

My 6 year old's favorite part of church is helping the librarians. The ward librarian is an experienced mom of spirited kids who is wonderfully understanding about my son's need to be busy busy busy all the time. So every week she has a job for him to do before sacrament meeting starts (like folding programs or dusting or straightening shelves) and a little gift for him -- a notepad and pencil, a mini puzzle, just something she has picked up at the $1 store. Needless to say I LURVE her. She is just awesome. She has made my kids want to go to church.

Well today while we were drilling the last touches of "Praise to the Man," they were in there helping. 6 year old picked up the bunny ears for one of the television sets and was playing with them. The librarian told him he could have them, because obviously we don't really use them on the TVs at church -- they are hooked to VCRs for showing Church productions and conference talks when you are unprepared to teach your class. Which is what I did today, so please don't imagine that I'm knocking it.

Anyway, so then he had these telescoping bunny ears during sacrament meeting. Thank heaven we sit in the back of the chapel because it would have been pretty distracting otherwise. They were pretty fun to play with. At some point he asked what they were for. And like an idiot, I told him. And then of course, when we came home we hooked them up to show him how it works.

So now we have broadcast television in our home, something we had expressly decided we didn't want because of lack of control. You can be watching a perfectly innocent basketball game, and all of a sudden there's the bikini team advertising Bud Light, or Paris Hilton's soft porn for Carl's Jr., or something like that, degrading and immodest and antithetical to what I want to teach my kids.

I can't pretend I don't sometimes want to watch TV. I mean, come on. When you have six loads of laundry piled up on the couch it is pretty depressing to think about either running out for a video, watching one of our tired library titles over again, or folding in silence. I used to fold while I listened to This American Life online. But I kind of soured on that after a few nasty references to Mormons.

I think the bunny ears will disappear when the kidlets go to sleep tonight, to come out only when they are asleep, and maybe on Saturday mornings for cartoons -- we'll see. We'll see if we can be moderate. Really we have been TV free not because we are so disciplined, but because we are just the opposite. When we have TV it gets out of control. It's easier to go cold turkey for us. I hope we're not making a big mistake.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here comes trouble

Here are the little troublemakers. Imagine if you will, that their slightly delusional parents have allowed them to come to Sunday afternoon choir practice, bringing with them their coloring books and a bag of colored pencils.

How many dirty looks can Mommy give? How many times can she get up and walk in front of the choir director to shush the crowd? Okay, there are only two of them. They only sound like a crowd. Finally Daddy exiles them to the primary room, only the little troublemaker doesn't want to go. Daddy tells the bigger troublemaker that he needs to set the example. So the bigger troublemaker grabs the littler troublemaker by the wrist and drags him screaming across the back of the chapel as the choir director urgently admonishes the choir to sing their testimonies.

After we finish singing for 90 minutes on the high G-flats of that crazy arrangement of "Praise to the Man" that MoTab sang in General Conference earlier this month (yes, I'm a first soprano, and yes, I was dizzy by the end of this) we discover a fun surprise: there was a pencil sharpener in that bag of colored pencils. And so there are pencil shavings all over the chapel.

I must have been insane even before this experience. I just didn't know it until afterwards.

But they're so cute.

And just so you know, when I was a choir director, I was darn strict about keeping the whole experience to 50 minutes, except for the Saturday before the Christmas program, when I made everybody breakfast to try to make up for the pain.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just doing my job, ma'am

Here's me at a media availability session we had on campus last week for a special visitor.

That was a cool day. We had 3 TV stations and 3 newspapers cover it.

I think I should wear red lipstick more often, but it is such a pain to try to keep it looking good all day. I even use that oil paint kind that supposedly does not come off. Except it does. Meh.

On days when you know you're going to end up on TV, it's worth it. Otherwise, not so much.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Another close approximation

So have I ever mentioned my enormous love and respect for Indian food? I think it is the most complex and interesting cuisine in the world. I look at the long lists of ingredients and spices and almost fall down on my knees. And eating it, that's even better.

Where I live we have a few good restaurants. Only a few. But one is Indian. Thank heavens.

Still, in my working-mom life I do not manage to get out to eat very often. I am morally opposed to fast food but still throw it in as a treat for the kids once every four to six weeks. And occasionally we do order some pizza. But the time it takes to actually call a sitter, pick her up, get the kids settled, and go out with my husband to eat a nice meal in a nice restaurant ... it just doesn't happen that much. Not to mention the fact that we are still surviving on 1.5 incomes in a very 2-income society. (Hats off to those who are managing on 1 income alone. It blows my mind. And it just plain blows to have to try to do it.)

So I have to try to satisfy my Indian food cravings on my own. My mom gave me a good little book called A Little Taste of India that has some simpler recipes I can actually manage. Here's one of them, with a few modifications from me.

Golden Egg Curry

1 c diced onions
1 tbsp butter, clarified if you're feeling ambitious
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 15-0z can diced tomatoes (the book calls for fresh, but ...)
1/2 bag frozen green beans (I needed more vegetables and didn't want to cook another dish)
1 can coconut milk
6 hard boiled eggs

Saute onions in butter until translucent. Add garlic, turmeric and cayenne and stir for a minute. Add tomatoes and beans. Simmer very low until almost ready to serve. Add eggs and coconut milk just before serving. Heat through.

Serve with rice and cucumber raita (below). We also like to have some diced mango and some raisins with this dinner.

Cucumber raita

1 - 1.5 c full-fat yogurt or light sour cream
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 a fresh cucumber, chopped fine or grated coarse
pinch salt

Just like with the chili verde I am not trying to claim this is authentic. But it's pretty good as a substitute for a real evening out at Taste of Little India.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I just have to add that there are some really enticing autumn recipes up at Simply Recipes Food and Cooking Blog. And the author there does her own food photography, and it's beautiful.

Now I'm hungry.

It's starting to become eerie

How I keep choosing adoption stories without knowing it. Okay, I knew Misfortune was going to be one, from reading the back cover and stuff, but The Kite Runner I didn't. I'm so extremely glad I read it.

This turned out to be one of the most moving books I have ever read. Elements of guilt, sacrifice and redemption gave this story gut-wrenching power, amplified by disturbing violence. The adoption story broke my heart and inspired me. I can't think of when else I have had to put a book down and cry into my pillow. But this morning I did, lying in my bed with my sore throat, sniffly cold and box of tissues, mourning for the children who are hurt in this world and cheering on those who try to help them.

I sort of saw the adoption thing coming once Amir headed back to Pakistan. I was disappointed at first in what it took to make him decide to go ahead with it. I was hoping that he would overcome his mistaken ideas about the importance of blood ties in creating a family. That's the American adoptive mom in me. But once I started thinking about it in a larger and more symbolic way, learning about "brotherhood" is really what it takes for anyone to open up to help someone else, through adoption or any other means. Right? I know it's applying a Christian structure to an explicitly Muslim story. But in this book, there's a father. There's a brother who sacrifices so another brother can enter into their father's good graces. And in order to merit that sacrifice, the brother who received it must take care of another member of his father's family, one he had previously not seen as "his own." That's a very large story and a very large truth.

I don't want to ruin it for you. But it reminded me, too, of reading Huckleberry Finn in Eugene England's American Lit class at BYU, talking about why Huck reverts to playing an exaggerated romantic hero and seems to forget everything he has learned about Jim in their journey together. In that class we talked about what that meant in the context of American race relations. After reading The Kite Runner, I also see it to be true in being a parent of children. There's backsliding going on. It's so hard for all of us to learn from our experiences. We keep slipping. We think we are doing our best, but we mess up and we break our promises, sometimes with horrific consequences.

Still, we are not irredeemable. We can keep trying -- trying to teach these delicate little people to soar.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Chili verde y amarillo

So I won a prize tonight. It was the ward chili cookoff. My distinction: SPICIEST! And I was the only girl in the game! (Apparently chili is something men cook. I didn't know this. But check me out! Hot mama!)

This will feed a crowd.

Chili verde y amarillo

2 yellow onions, diced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
4 largeish lean pork loin chops, about 1/2 inch thick
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
black pepper to taste
3 8-oz cans green chilies
3 8-oz cans salsa verde
2 cans beef broth
1 bag frozen yellow corn kernels
2 huge cans pinto beans -- they were probably 28 or 32 oz each but I can't check now!

light sour cream
lime wedges

Cook onions in olive oil until translucent. Remove from pan. Brown pork chops. Add onions and other ingredients. Stir, cover, and simmer 2-3 hours. You could also do it in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. The chops should break apart easily with a wooden spoon when the chili is done.

Serve with sour cream, lime and cilantro.

I'm not saying this is chili verde autentico or anything, but it's how I like it. And it won a prize. Magnet clips. Ideal for displaying children's artwork on the fridge. I'm telling you, the ward activities committee really gets my life.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bargain queen

I'm one of those girls who won't pay full price. I buy what's on sale at the grocery store. I shop at TJMaxx, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, and catalog clearance. I get my hair cut at the cheap place and color it myself and it seems to work fine.

So yesterday I noticed: the fashion plate Manolo Blahnik skinny-butt twentysomething at the office has the exact same caramel colored faux-croc briefcase bag I have.

I bet she didn't get it for $24 at Ross. Silly girl. HA!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New favorite

Despite the title reference to an Allison Krauss song, this post is actually a breathless tribute to a song off the most recent Liz Phair album, which I have just discovered. And all the lyrics.
This would be really the perfect place to start an Internet rumor about Liz becoming a Mormon woman. Doesn't this song sound that way? Read all the way to the end.

You lose your way / You've gotta land / You've gotta make another plan / But sometimes I am too tired

You've gotta smile / You've gotta play / You've gotta work another day / But sometimes I am too tired

You've gotta raise your hand and say I don't understand / But there are days when I'm too tired / There are days when I'm just too tired

And the wind that I'm in / Screams on me (screams on me) / Howls around me (howls around me) / And I feel like I am a naked man / I've got nothing and no one in a stranger's land / And the wind will do me in

Everyday / You've gotta run / You've got a job / You get it done / But sometimes I am too tired

You wanna roll in the grass / Kick your shoes off / Have a laugh / But sometimes I am too tired

I wanna raise my hand and say I don't understand / But there are days when I'm too tired / There are days when I'm just too tired

And the wind kicks in again and says / Lean on me (lean on me) / Rise above me (rise above me) / And it says

Sailor don't leave the channel now / Deep blue rollers are breaking across your bow / And the wind will guide you in

So I went up the mountain / But all I saw was another mountain / So I came down the mountain / And I said, leave me here lord

So I went up the mountain / But all I saw was anouther mountain / So I came down the mountain / And I said, leave me here lord / Leave me in the valley / Let me rest my weary head / Give peace to your survivor / Put all my fears to bed

You lose your way / You've gotta land / You've gotta make another plan / But sometimes I am inspired

You're gonna sing another song / You're gonna right another wrong / And sometimes I am inspired

You're gonna raise your hand and sayI don't understand / There are days when you get an answer / There are days when you find your answer

-- "The Wind and the Mountain"by Liz Phair

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Great weekend

Great weekends are not what they used to be.

Friday night, a Blockbuster night. Homemade pizza, snuggling on the couch and early bedtime. Can it get any better?

Saturday, I slept until 8. That's late! Breakfast with the paper (husband already gone, helping some church people put a roof on). Then I did bathrooms, laundry, and mopping before lunch. Also made some granola. Decided we have enough food in the house that I could skip grocery shopping for a few more days. Afternoon, I tackled the computer room, which looked like a garbage barge puked here. I threw away two big boxes of crap -- so liberating. Look! There's carpet in here! (How long until the kids trash it again? Let's not dwell on that thought.) Then a good workout with my new book (The Kite Runner), pancakes and cantaloupe for supper, some delicious online time-wasting in my newly clean computer room, and another early bedtime.

This morning, I dyed my hair before church. Risky, I know. No chance to fix it if things went bad. But what can I say ... call me foolhardy. It's darker than it's ever been before -- medium golden brown. Naturally I'm dark blonde/light brown. I like it. Husband loves it. I think he appreciates any effort to change things. So I dye the hair, rearrange the furniture, buy new underwear. Short attention span. Him or me? That remains to be seen.

Sang in a trio in church. We just did the SSA "We Ever Pray for Thee" from the hymnal, very simply and with some subtle dynamic changes that made it quite nice. Plus we really lucked out on our blend. It worked very well. That's always a good feeling.

Son #1 was feeling snuggly. It's super nice to hug a big gangly six year old all through sacrament meeting. I hope he's not getting sick.

Made some cookies with the kids. Put dinner in the oven before choir practice. Read stories on my bed with a cool breeze blowing in the open window. Started reading The Book of Three to Sam after our nightly Book of Mormon session. It was a good mommy day. And that's all it really takes to make it a good weekend anymore. Call me officially over 30.

But that has its benefits, too. My husband has a new brunette girlfriend, and it's me. YES!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sick potato

So is it just me, or is this kind of a sickly child? He is sick all the time, I swear. At least once a month. Usually it's ear infections, which we will certainly discuss at his physical next week. Personally I think he needs tubes. Anyway, today, lucky me, no ear infection. No, no. Today, flu.

This morning he barfed up a bunch of phlegm. So I (bad mommy) thought he was just having a problem digesting all the byproducts of his seasonal allergies. Gave him some allergy medicine and sent him to preschool. Where he barfed up his cantaloupe breakfast. So (very logically) I took him with me to campus to do some media stuff and got him a Pepsi, then back to my office to watch cartoons. Where he barfed up the Pepsi. I feel bad for the custodians, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do. At least it was all Pepsi at that point, not cantaloupe.

On the plus side, I now get to work (blog) from home while he sleeps the afternoon away on the family room couch.

I really hope I do NOT get sick.

Get well soon, potato. Again.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

This might not be for you

But basically I thought Misfortune was a fantastic ride. Like Austen? Dickens? Shakespeare? Classics? Rethinking the role of nature and nurture in the development of human sexuality in a very 21st-century way? Well then, maybe it is for you, after all!

The title character is sometimes called Miss Fortune by the villagers, having survived a botched late-term abortion and been abandoned on a garbage heap, then found and adopted by the richest man in England in 1820. The hitch? Miss Fortune is a boy, but her eccentric adoptive father so wants a daughter to replace his beloved late sister that he rears his beloved child as Rose, a girl. In this he has the complicity of his wife, a scholar fascinated with ideas of dual-genderism and socially constructed sexuality. (Their marriage begins for convenience and remains sexless, though it grows loving.) Adolescence "outs" Rose, who must then confront an internal masculinity and balance it with the femininity he was brought up to show.

Occasionally graphic, slightly disturbing, sexy, complex, clever and thought-provoking. I dare you!

(Maybe another time we can talk about why I will not watch R-rated movies but have no problem with a book like this. Hm. If you all can help me figure that out I will be indebted to you!)

Monday, October 03, 2005

The dawning of a brighter day

I tend to be somewhat vulnerable to episodes of depression. I can think of three, possibly four times I have gone through about four months at a time of just not feeling okay -- nightly crying jags, lack of motivation, etc. One just before I got married, in the summer. One just before I graduated from college, in the late winter and early spring. One after my second child came home, in a dark and horrible winter of ear infections, allergic reactions and two-year-old mayhem. And one (I think) after we moved here to California.

No matter how many times I go through this, I never know what's happening to me until one day I suddenly feel okay again. The sun comes out and I realize that it wasn't so much that life sucked for the previous four months -- it was just that I was in a hole.

I think something similar is happening to me right now. I'm climbing out of a hole. Not a mental-emotional one, though. A spiritual hole. I've been in it for almost a year, with occasional peeks at the sunshine but never a real emergence. Doubts have plagued me. I've been slow to give and quick to suspect. I've felt out of place and out of patience. Answers have not been coming, or at least they have not been heard.

And I can say this only because it's getting better now. My ladder for climbing out of the pit? It's made of a lot of different things. Different rungs, if you want to be a little silly with the metaphor.

My home teachers told me they would like to hear me bear my testimony, and I did, knowing there was a lot I could not say I know, but a few things I could. I let my words last Sunday linger on those things. I know my Savior loves me. I know he atoned for my sins. Opening up to the members of my ward opened up my heart and I've felt different since that time.

I taught in Young Women about the messages we get from the world and the messages we get from the Word of God. (The lesson was "The Word of God as a Standard.") Now I have been blessed all year that the times I have taught in YW I have had glimpses of the Spirit, enough that I don't think my spiritual slump has affected that calling. But this time those contrasts struck me so hard. The world, and the "god of this world," or Satan, hold up standards that lead to misery, loneliness, death -- especially to women. They devalue our bodies, our capacities, our callings. They offer false promises of happiness through fashion, sex, money, success. In contrast the true gospel offers respect, enlightenment, real love, and real heart-happiness, real joy through unwavering devotion to the strait gate and narrow path. Without apology our scriptures and our prophets show us the way to happiness. Unpopular though that way may be.

Crazy B had her book club meeting Friday. We talked about this crazy book and I had this crazy question about how Satan attacks our families. The answer that came to mind was about the roles we play. How we compare ourselves to our siblings and even our spouses, and how Satan works wedges in those relationships through our negative comparisons and causes us to resent each other. I do that garbage all the time. Maybe now I can stop.

And then Conference this weekend. We finally have a computer setup at home good enough to listen reliably through the Church's Web site. (I understand we could have watched online through BYU-TV, but I didn't learn that until this morning.) I blasted it through the house as I did my Saturday chores and as I crocheted and relaxed on Sunday. The Spirit filled my heart with gratitude and testified of truth as Elder Holland spoke to the Young Women (and their leaders) about rejecting the standards of the world. As President Hinckley spoke about forgiveness. And so many more important messages. It's going to be wonderful to review them in a month or so.

Yep, I think I'm waking up. I'm so excited.