Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Are you still celebrating?

I actually kind of love it when Christmas packages arrive late. It just prolongs the fun, ya know?



The boys now have adorable fleece cheetah pants with tails from my mom and A has the most wonderful cowboy/indian/Peter Pan dress-up set from his birthmom. Thank you, special moms!

And I have a new CD to listen to from my dad. He tells me he listens to this very very loud on his car stereo. I asked him if people stare at stoplights. He said yes. So if you are driving around Salt Lake and you see a very pretty white SUV blasting a boys' choir and organ, look for the friendly bearded man inside and give him a wave for me. Hi, Dad!






Plus, we have now set up some of our original Christmas gifts, like my beautiful fireplace set -- yes, from my beloved Target. Actually I bet you could count on one hand the things in the picture here that are not from Target. Probably there is a special circle of hell for hypocrites like me who loudly decry WalMart while worshipping at the red bullseye at least twice a week.



And the Batmobile! After three days of cooperative work by G and S, it is complete!



Disclaimer: I do not know how or when my boys perfected that satanic tongue-stuck-out expression a la the Rolling Stones. We do not even listen to the Stones much around here. Although I could go for a few tracks about now.

This afternoon we are going to see Night at the Museum. Review later!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

And how I wish I had never told G about the Twisted Sister version of that song I heard on Fresh Air on NPR this week. It was not what I would have chosen to listen to while playing Santa Claus last night. I guess that is a disadvantage of my beloved Rhapsody. You really can find just about anything.



Here we all are in our matching PJs last night. Can you tell it makes me happy to get the whole fam-damnily in matching PJs? I have no idea why moms like stuff like that, but we do. At least I do.

There was a picture of Z here but I took it down so I won't get in trouble. Sorry, slowpokes! If you want to see it shoot me an e-mail and I'll send it, as long as I am reasonably sure you are not a creep.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Encounter in the produce aisle

Guess who I saw today? Baby J! In Food4Less by the oranges! He was in a stroller being pushed by his mom. I asked how old he was and what his name was because I wanted to be sure. It was definitely him. He has grown nicely and is still very, very cute. I did not give any hint that he was at our house for his 27 hours in foster care. But it was nice to see him.

Meanwhile, at home, Z is also thriving. Cuter every day, I swear. The three-week growth spurt has hit; she is eating tons and sleeping deep, but also definitely focusing her eyes better and having more awake, alert time every day.

I bought a Boppy pillow today. I had one for the boys but washed it so often it fell apart. The new ones have slipcovers -- so nice! Already my back feels better.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

After a draining day, another draining day

You know that part in The Horse and His Boy where Shasta rides all night to find Aslan and then Aslan just tells him he has to get back on the horse and ride again?

Or something like that. It has been a while since I read that book -- 3 years or so, and my memory is much shorter than 3 years.

Anyway, I think about that a lot. The reward for a task completed is another task to do.

Monday just about kicked my butt. I was exhausted and sleep deprived. I was trying to work at home. The house was a disaster. G had left for Livermore. And I had to take Z for a visit with her mom (my heart already says birthmom) at the county human services agency. I was so distractible all day. I don't think I accomplished much of anything. I kept trying to sit down and work, and I couldn't stand the mess, so I'd get up to clean. But I couldn't focus on cleaning because I had a baby to gaze at. And I couldn't gaze at the baby for long because I had work to do.

Sal came to see me and brought me a caramel apple cider from Starbucks which was fahbulous. I went to lunch with the ladies from my department at work and had a delicious salad with grilled garlic shrimp and tomatillo dressing. Even that was not enough to focus my poor, freaked-out brain.

Taking Z to the agency was, if possible, even more nerve wracking than the first time. I took in an 8x10 print of our nicest picture of her and a Lenox "Baby's First Christmas" ornament as gifts for meth mommy. I am still mad at her for exposing Z to what she did. But ... but. I am being optimistic, hoping that we will adopt Z and meth mommy will get clean and we will be able to have an open adoption at least to some degree. So I wanted to start off on the right foot. I give nice ornaments to my boys' birthmoms every year and I thought I'd just start the tradition for Z's birthmom in hope and faith. Which means I will probably have to quit calling her meth mommy ... that is probably not very nice.

I dropped Z off at the back door of the agency. I am still not ready to meet meth mommy. (Okay, now I will quit!) From the moment the caseworker took her I felt sick ... nauseated, nervous, sick. It is the weirdest, wrong-est feeling to drive away without her. It is so hard and scary. I so wanted to call someone and whine. I restrained myself. But I got home and got a wonderful package of uber-cute baby stuff from V in Utah ... and cried.

Heavenly Father so watches out for me through the eyes of my girlfriends. The timing of that package was seriously amazing.

Also, we found out we cannot get the court order to take Z to Arizona with us. So we have decided to stay home. How to you spell relief? H-O-M-E. So glad it worked out that way. I would have loved to spend time with G's parents but the whole travel thing for Christmas was freaking me out a lot.

Back to Monday. After a busy evening I finally decided I was going to just have to leave the mess and get my ADD self to bed. Sleep helped a lot.

Yesterday and today have been better. I have sent packages and attended a couple of work meetings and a couple of elementary class Christmas programs. I have done a load of dishes and 2 loads of laundry. I have spent a lot of time feeding and cuddling a darling little girl. I have gotten two nights' sleep with only moderate baby-related interruptions.

I am still tired. G is still not home until tomorrow. I am still not ready for Christmas. But I don't have to think about another visit (along with what it might mean for our future with Z that meth mommy is being so consistent with visits) until Dec. 28. Compared with that stress, a Christmas for which I am not entirely prepared is NOTHING!

My friend B (sometimes known on this blog as crazy B with all her good Mormon craziness) gave me a book called "Remembering Wholeness" that is full of all kinds of crazy stuff. The basic assertion therein is that we create our own reality by what we believe and envision for our lives. I think it's not entirely true ... but not entirely false. Somtimes things really are just beyond our control and sometimes we are meant to have adversity no matter what. We wouldn't hear so much from living prophets about adversity if there were such a simple way for everyone to avoid it entirely.

BUT ... there is real value to persistent and determined optimism, to a positive faith that can drive out fear, to asking God, in real confidence that we will receive, for what we want the most. That is what we're striving for with Z.

That's what's keeping me on the horse these days.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Plymouth Rock would land on them

Yes, my friends, times have changed.

I used to have an organized address list and be so excited to send out Christmas cards that I'd have the letter written in early November and everything stamped and mailed the first week in December.

My life just isn't like that anymore.

I am doing Christmas letters this afternoon. If you want one, please email your address to me. All you cousins who move around the country doing grad school and having babies and stuff, this means you. Also blog friends, if you want in on the fun, jump in.

Sal, I actually have your entire address. Zip code and everything. I think this is my first time mailing something to you without having to call and ask you for part of the address. So you're excused.

Feliz Navidad everybody; my baby is super ultra cute and it's frankly a miracle I am tearing myself away from gazing at her chubby cheeks for long enough to write this. Let alone mail Christmas letters. You might get them by New Year's this year. We'll see.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Baby brother bully buster

When I dropped the kids off at school just now, I happened to notice a big kid -- maybe fourth grade -- with a little kid -- maybe first grade -- in some kind of upside-down head lock, shouting, "Drop it now!" Who knows what he wanted the kid to drop, but I was pretty sure this was not a regulation move.

I rolled down my window and yelled, "HEY!" All three froze and then looked up at the sleepy-looking mom in a hat driving the white minivan. You know, the crusader-for-justice stereotype.

The big kid's friend thought he'd explain the situation. "It's his brother," he said.

"You don't treat anyone like that, no matter who it is," I said.

They split. I felt like Spider-Man. Total hero.

I also felt good in another way, a little more twisted way, because although my boys fight, it's just not like that -- such an uneven distribution of power. My boys fight like friends.

That's weird, that I am proud of the way my kids fight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Can shopping count as an expression of faith?


I just bought a bunch of pink summer clothes in size 6-12 months.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What are you singing this Christmas?


I often remember Christmases by what I sang that year. For example, there was the year I sang "Cool Yule" and "A La Nanita Nana" at the ward party ... a capella, because I was too lazy to call someone to accompany me. And there was the year I sang "O Holy Night" at the ward party ... a capella, beacuse I was too lazy to call someone to accompany me.

That wasn't a typo, just an emerging pattern. Fortunately I can hold my own a capella. That's an important skill for a lazy singer with a phone phobia.

There was also the first year in Merced when it was so rainy and I sang "White Christmas" to myself over and over and over, then got a chance to do it (and other songs, too) at a company party for a member of our ward. They paid me a sorely needed $50. That was three years ago.

Two years ago I was fascinated with "I Wonder As I Wander." I sang it at the community's World AIDS Day vigil.

Last year I finally forced myself to learn "Gesu Bambino," something I've wanted to sing for a long time.

This year:

"Some Children See Him" for the Relief Society Party last Wednesday and again for sacrament meeting this coming Sunday ... perfect for me this year with the increasingly rainbowish family

"What Child is This" (Sally DeFord's lovely arrangment) for the ward party last Friday

That insanely high Mack Wilberg arrangement of "Joy to the World" with the ward choir this Sunday ... it is gorgeous but makes me dizzy!

"Still the Holiest Night," also with the ward choir this Sunday

The ward choir is doing a lot more but I am going to be in Tucson on Christmas Eve, so I have not attended choir practice much. Maybe that's why I'm feeling the void of Christmas music this season and blogging about it, probably to excess.

Christmas is music, yes it is!

Next year I want to learn "In the Bleak Mid-Winter." Anybody know a nice arrangement for a soprano soloist?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What's playing at your house this Christmas?

We have our old favorites:



And some more recent discoveries(for us -- they're not all new releases):



And of course the quintessential:



Plus lots and lots of fun stuff I find on Rhapsody.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Feliz Navidad, have some carnitas

We had Sally Lou and fam over this afternoon and evening for games and dinner. Sally re-taught us Phase 10 (we forget games easily) and taught us Spite. Way fun.

We had these carnitas and woo, they rocked! Better than candy! We were going to go get a pie for dessert but no dessert was needed.

I heart you Sal. I'm sorry you weren't feeling well and had to go home early. I wish you could have stayed all evening.

Notice me not telling about your wicked caffeine addiction and your hyper-competitive-bordering-on-evil gameplaying style?

Oh. Well, I still love you.

Wasn't it cool how the kids hardly fought at all? Times have changed. For the better.

Is it too much to ask

That people with gory evil reproduction stories just keep them to themselves?

Honestly, I understand that people with bio kids sometimes have a hard time getting them, too. But they don't have to tell me exactly how long it took them to conceive (almost infallibly shorter than the 5 years we spent on that train), what they did that worked (TMI, people, TMI), how their doctor told them they should never have that sixth (!!) child, their near-miscarriages, actual miscarriages, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, hospital stays, two weeks of pushing, whatever.

You don't have to justify your fertility to me. I am happy that you have children born into your family. However, I'm a little less happy, generally speaking, when you insist on dwelling on the parts of our experience that are different rather than the parts that are the same and reminding me that there is a subsection of the Woman Club that I will never be able to join.

-end rant-

Thursday, December 07, 2006

First thing

The first thing anybody notices about baby Z is her eyelashes. That was the first thing the nurses at the hospital even said to me when I went to pick her up -- "Wait until you see her eyelashes!" They really are incredibly long and pretty! (I figure it is safe to show you just eyelashes, don't you think?)

As I think back, this was actually true for my boys, as well. S had these curly, black eyelashes that just arrested people. Well, that, and his ears. For some reason people noticed his ears. Little old ladies would always say, "Look how his ears lie so nice and flat to his head!"

A has girly eyelashes to this day. Just absolutely luxurious fringe around his deep, dark eyes.

Good to know Z could hold her own in an eyelash-batting contest around here, if it came to that. She's far more likely to have to compete in a belching contest, but as it happens, she is pretty darn good at that, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Because I have been given

So much to be thankful for today!
  • This sweet baby! Oh, my gosh, she is perfect. In the back of my mind I know it could be temporary. In my heart she is already mine. But right this moment my heart is right, she is mine for now and I get to enjoy every minute.
  • A wonderful husband! I am so grateful right now for a man who was brave enough to open up his heart to the possibility of a little child, even when it wasn't his idea. And a man whose arms I can come home to and be sure of even on scary days like yesterday when I had to leave Z with meth mommy for a whole hour and then when I came back to get her they couldn't find her for about 10 minutes, and then I got her back smelling like cigarettes. Yep, scary.
  • Big gangly long-legged boys who still like to give hugs and are great helpers, each in his own way.
  • A flexible and supportive workplace! Guess what, I am working FROM HOME until after Christmas, except on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when G will take care of Z and on Wednesday mornings when my friend C in the ward will watch her while I attend staff meeting. Wahoo!!! I feel so blessed, so lucky!
  • Inexplicable blessings! After visiting another baby daycare today and feeling so discouraged ... I have found a childcare situation for after Christmas that seems almost too good to be true. A family who is also preparing for foster-adopt. They have a two year old son and that's it. Located in a great neighborhood where two of our friends with little kids already live. Makes me wanna move there! I'm visiting this family tomorrow but so far it seems SO great, and I just have a really good feeling about it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Big day - little update

The court hearing was not the bypass services hearing like I thought. It was a detention hearing. The court did confirm that the county was correct to detain Z. They will do the bypass services hearing on Jan. 16. So we have 6 more weeks to pray.

We also went to the doctor with Z and she had a visit with her birthmom. Both went okay. Z is back up at 8 lbs 14 oz, so almost at her birthweight and that is great. The birthmom visit was nervewracking but fine.

More details to come. I have to get dinner on the table and get ready for Mutual.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Q&A on foster adopt

Today we took baby Z to church. I was not sure if it was doing the right thing. She is only 4 days old and it is cold, flu and RSV season. But we had responsibilities and for heaven's sake, she's 9 pounds. Not exactly fragile.

Plus I figured since I got a plastic Christmas tree I might as well go ahead and betray all my principles and get myself a baby bucket. So she just spent the whole time in the baby bucket. And I spend the whole time answering people's questions. I thought you, loyal readers (ha) might like the same information.

Any baby who is born testing positive for drugs or alcohol is immediately detained by the county child welfare agency and placed in foster care upon discharge from the hospital. And thank you, blog readers, for not asking THAT question which is the ONE I am most sick of. There is no good way to answer it without either violating Z's privacy or lying. I have taken to saying, "They don't take these babies away for no reason," an answer with which I am still unsatisfied. I can't stand the labels that come from that -- drug baby, crack baby, meth baby.

Within three working days there must be a court hearing to determine whether the county will bypass services for the birthmom. Well, really just the mom since she is still legally the mother. If they bypass services that pretty much means the mom has lost her chance. This happens most frequently when the birthmom has already lost custody of another child or children or has had other babies born "pos tox." Z's mom has lost four older children, to their father (not the same father as Z's). It is horrible, actually. Meth is Satan, I think.

If they offer services to the mom then she will usually have between 3 and 6 months to clean up her act. Technically. Which, sadly enough, is pretty hard to do if you are already so addicted that you are doing meth within days before giving birth. I am fully aware that there is a sick mother here who is losing children because of a behavior that has become an illness she cannot control. I don't know if I believe she deserves to lose them. But I certainly do not believe Z deserves a meth mommy, and I am skeptical about her ability to get clean now if she couldn't do it when she was pregnant.

Where it gets complicated is if there is an extended family member or a father who comes forward and wants to take the child. So far they do not know of anybody but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. The putative father is incarcerated so at least we know he's not taking custody of any babies anytime soon.

Next most common question: "What nationality is she?" Uh, American. But if you were asking about ethnicity, Z is half white, half Hispanic, we think. It is a little funny, because we have always said we are just sticking with white and black, we aren't trying to become a rainbow family, but you know, never say never I guess.

Another question: what am I doing about work? I have a maternity leave plan in place. Currently I am off until after Tuesday's court hearing. At that point I will arrange childcare if the court decides to work toward reunification with the mom, or take 6 weeks off if it looks like it is moving toward adoption.

But, we have to remember, we may not have answers for a long time. Our friends Steve and Susie started this process about three years ago, and they just finally finalized their adoption of their little boy before they moved to Utah last spring. There was a lot of heartbreaking back and forth during that time with an aunt who was trying to gain custody. But there was a happy ending in a sealing room of the Fresno temple, and we got to be there. I'm keeping that day in my mind.

In spite of the daylong Q&A, I am glad we took Z to church. We now have an entire ward in love with her and praying for the outcome we want in Tuesday's court hearing where they will decide whether to bypass services for Z's mom. If any of my blog friends would like to join us with prayers and positive thoughts, I would appreciate it a lot.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dear Baby Z

It is a darn good thing you are gorgeous, because you have no talent for sleeping. Also, is this a girl thing, this insistence on having a clean diaper before you eat? And also, how is it possible for one tiny person to soak through three nightgowns in one night?

Not that you are really that tiny. At 8 lbs 15 oz I think you may just be equipped to take on the wild things, aka your foster brothers. I am sorry about G calling you Queen Kong. It's not your fault we just watched that overblown silliness they called a movie. Don't listen to him. You are gorgeous, I mean it.

Now I am going to join your morning nap.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Buckle up, buttercup

We're picking up a baby girl tonight. Her name is Z and she was born yesterday. Obviously doing well since she is ready to be discharged already.

Can I just say I've always wanted a baby girl whose name starts with Z? My great-grandmother's name was Zula, which I think is cool as heck. Or, hecka cool, as my kids would say. Grandma Zu didn't want any kids named after her, but you know, times have changed and Zula and other Z names are not that odd anymore.

Hope baby Z stays with us a bit longer than a day. At the moment, the odds look good.

Can you IMAGINE a GIRL in our family!?!?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More old lady wisdom

I have fond memories of Young Women activities, both in Pennsylvania and in Alaska, visiting widows. Sometimes we took treats or helped around the house, but more than anything we were there to listen. That's what it took for me to get it -- to realize that these older sisters had hearts and lives and senses of humor just like mine. Eventually I felt they were friends. When one sister passed away, all the Young Women attended her funeral. Her first name was Fern. I've forgotten her last name.I've forgotten a lot of what they told us, but I remember stories about working in a candy factory, love stories, motherhood stories.

Last night we took four Mia Maids to visit a colorful and funny older sister, Charmaine. What a great storyteller! Her dad was a vaudeville performer and then a Greyhound bus driver, and she spent her childhood shuttling back and forth between Modesto and Salt Lake City. She described her memories of meeting with the one Modesto ward (maybe it was even a branch) in a home, then a rented building, then the Oddfellows' Hall. Now Modesto has two stakes. She told of going to a different stake dance every week in Salt Lake City, hopping on a bus in her fancy dress to get to a different stake center and riding the bus back between 11 p.m. and midnight. She told how special she felt dancing with her dad at church dances. She told about when her family got their first refrigerator and she and her sister -- 9 and 10 years old -- "swang" on the door until they tipped the fridge over, effectively destroying it. And how her parents just quietly cleaned up the mess.

It brought back all those old-lady-wisdom memories for me. I hope the girls enjoyed it as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The incredible edible A

Two funnies from my very funny five year old yesterday. Click the links if you need explanations.

Holding a paper wreath he made in preschool last year that was packed away next to some very powerful cinnamon potpourri:

"Smell this! It smells just like a whole bunch of Hockamollys!"

Sitting around the dinner table eating pie (hey, it was Family Night!) while we read a very scary Urgal battle scene in Eragon:

"How about the bad guys in Lord of the Rings? They're called forks."

That's what we're all about in our family. Lots and lots of candy, and movies that are not age-appropriate! Yeah!

Really, we're having the kid's hearing tested next week. We know he has calicification on his eardrums from the multiple infections he had before his tube placement last February, and I want to make sure he is really hearing okay. This thought-you-saiding and mispronunciation is hilarious but it makes me worry a little bit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Still here

Honestly, it just seems like anything else I post now is going to be kind of a letdown after all that exciting baby drama. We are doing fine, we realize that this is what we signed up for when we chose to become licensed foster parents. It was tough at first but this was really just not the same as losing your own child.

Internally I know I am still processing it. Last night I dreamed that the county called me up and told me that J and his brother were now available for adoption. But even while I was dreaming it I knew it was not real.

We had a lovely weekend with my parents. We visited the zoo in Fresno, the mineral museum in Mariposa, and Yosemite National Park. We played a lot, and I do mean a lot, of Uno Attack. Fun game, that.

Put up the indoor Christmas decorations yesterday. And an artificial tree. I know, I'm a big sellout! But we realized that we will be going out of town for Christmas, and it would be unsafe to leave a real tree up and a bummer to take the tree down before we leave. Outside lights going up tonight.

Other than that, it's just back to our old, everyday challenges. Work and schedules and ADHD. Blah blah, same ol' same ol'.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Surprisingly okay

G and our neighbor/former bishop gave baby J a blessing and also me. A social worker and public health nurse took J about 5:15. It was hard; I cried plenty.

We did get a better explanation of the situation. When they went to detain big brother T Tuesday night, they investigated the grandma's house and determined that J could go there. So the sibs can stay together and stay with family. The mom was also moving in there. So that is where they all are now. I think the likelihood of his coming back to us is very very small.

We put all the baby stuff away. I dreamed about his soft hair and cheeks snuggled up next to me. And then I woke up feeling okay and cooked like a madwoman with my mom and sister. We had a delightful Thanksgiving dinner with my family and some Chinese friends from the university (it almost wouldn't be Thanksgiving for me without Chinese or Indian guests!) and a disabled guy from our ward. Everything came out perfectly. The food was great if I do say so, everybody talked. S got the whole crowd playing Uno Attack (persistent little stinker) and it turned out to be tons of fun.

J came here to open up some hearts -- G's and S's, mostly, I think. He was very good at his job. S sat and read J a book -- twice -- and urged me to "touch his ears, they're so soft!" G keeps showing me the pictures of J he took on his cell phone. I think he was surprised he could fall for a newborn like that. It's a good development. We're ready for what might come next.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

That was fast

Baby J will go back to his mom at 5:30 PM. Something about attorneys and agency policy. Honestly, I cannot understand 50% of what the very nice Hmong social worker says. Maybe he'll bring something in writing.

Processing. Sad.

Hoping my parents get here in time to meet him. Hoping he'll be okay when we don't have him anymore.

Update after the first night

J is an exceptional sleeper. I fed him before I went to bed about 11:45. He woke for a feed and change at 3:30 and then slept until 8:15! He has been awake all mornign and is now (10:15) down for a nap. I sure hope it stays this easy.

The social worker called about 8 last night to say the police would not detain T. The county is going to try to get a court order on Monday to detain him and place him with us. To me that seems to indicate that they have good reasons to detain -- reasons that are private for the kids, but reasons that should make it a pretty open and shut case, the way it has been explained to me. The mom is gonna lose these boys. It is so sad.

Still, the grandma who has T right now could step forward and press for custody. We'll see what happens. Anyway if T comes it won't be until Monday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Five family, for now

When my brother Jake was born -- the third child in the clan -- I was so excited to be "a five family." That's how I said it, reportedly, at age 3.5 (my poor mother).

Well, now I have a five family, at least for a while.

Baby J is 6lb 9oz and doing awesome, eating and sleeping and pooping like he should. He has lots and lots of very black silky straight hair and dark gray eyes. Skinny limbs and long digits. Obviously he is not full African American, and we think probably at least part Hispanic, but beyond that who knows?

The caseworker called a few minutes ago to say he was just waiting for a police escort so he could detain J's 3 year old brother, T, who is currently with his grandma. There may not be trouble, and I sure hope not for T's sake, but they have to be ready just in case. So really we may not stay a five family for long at all. It may be late at night when T gets here. We are in for an adventure.

The boys' mother -- we can't say birthmother yet because legally she is still their mother -- was discharged from the hospital yesterday but has not been back to see him. I'm trying very hard not to read anything into anything, not to expect much. This beautiful child could be gone in a week. Or he could be here six months and then be gone. That's the risk we're taking here.

Sam says "he has nice big cheeks like this" and he pinches his own cheeks.

Abe cannot leave him alone to save his life. He adores him.

I can't share identifying pictures on the blog, again because he's not really my baby at this point.
But maybe I can get some good toe pictures. I'll work on it.

We said yes!

Barring something unexpected, we will have a 3 day old baby boy by tonight. Also possibly his 3 year old brother, but we're less sure about that. I am waiting for a call from the placement worker with more details.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here it comes

First call from the county. Still deciding whether to take the placement. G is in class. I am waiting for him to call me back.

Hitchcock has nothing on this kind of suspense.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I almost forgot

Fasting clears the static, and God generally has something important to say on the cleared channel.

I will be the first to admit, I stink at fasting and I don't particularly like it. This is because, as you know, I love food.

However, after an extremely rough week for my brilliant and beautiful little square peg in the public school system, I was determined. I actually fasted when it was not Fast Sunday. It's one for the history books, folks. There are so many questions right now, and it seems overwhelming to face them all by myself. Is ADHD really the right diagnosis, or the complete diagnosis? Do we need a full psychiatric eval? Should we continue with neurofeedback? Do we need to adjust the medication dosage?

My friend M (yes, that M) came by visiting teaching and mentioned the name of an LDS pediatric psychiatrist fairly nearby -- an hour away, which is about as close as any pediatric psychiatrist, unfortunately -- who has helped someone in her extended family. She also bore her testimony of fasting from when her baby was sick and the ward fasted for her (see the linked post for the story). The day after the ward fast, E's blood counts turned around.

And my friend B (yes, that B) happened to give G a ride home from some meetings and stayed to visit a bit. She has a son with a frontal lobe injury, so we do exchange brain-related ideas sometimes. A lot of S's behaviors and challenges are not that different from her son's, and it's interesting. And, as usual, in the middle of all her crazy stuff there were some real gems. For example, reducing input to the brain during times of stress by covering one eye. And massaging in a figure-8 pattern. And not giving up on the neurofeedback because although it's not totally proven it is about the best thing out there right now. And you know, she's just encouraging and sweet and wonderful in all her craziness.

G was talking to someone else in the ward about B. This other person said, "I just can't believe that God really talks that much."

And yet He always has something to say to B. She's always fasting. Hmmm, maybe that's why.

Friday, November 17, 2006

In the stone age

That's me. Won't have a Christmas tree for a few more weeks. Gotta have the ritual, go to the tree lot, choose the tree, cut off the bottom, straighten it out, string the lights. It will take all day. And the kids will be sad because it will not have fluffy fake snow all over it. But it will smell so dang good.

So I'm just wondering, what about you? Yes, folks, you can now make your voice heard on the all important question. Christmas trees, real or artificial?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ain't it just

Too quiet, and not sunshiney enough, when SalGal isn't around? I miss my friend.

Sally, come home!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Weeknight dinner

Lately I have pretty much given up any serious cooking on weeknights. They are mostly for leftovers, pancakes, sandwiches, burritos, and spaghetti. That's 5 weeknight meals right there, so why stretch? You can substitute french toast for the pancakes if you like. Try slicing some bananas on top instead of using butter with your maple syrup. Yummy!

Tuesday night is generally sandwich night because I have Mutual to go to and I want to simplify preparation for me and cleanup for G. (That's right, G is my cleanup man, and so many other things too. I'm a very spoiled wife.) Never one to knock a good meal of tuna melts and Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato Soup, I love my Tuesdays.

But last night I realized that if I made sandwiches for everybody we would be out of bread by the end of the day today. And I refuse to set food in a grocery store before Saturday.

So here is what we had instead:

Garden Turkey Wraps

1/2 a recipe red pepper-dill cream cheese (below)
12 slices deli turkey
1 c chopped lettuce
12 tomato slices
4 Mission whole wheat tortillas

Spread each tortilla with about 3-4 tbsp cream cheese mixture (below). Layer on turkey, lettuce and tomatoes. Roll up to serve. Have some carrot sticks on the side. Pretend it is still summer.

Red Pepper-Dill Cream Cheese

1 block cream cheese, or neufchatel if you are being good (I was not being good, there was real cream cheese on sale for a dollar this week)
3/4 tsp dry dill
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced very very fine (if you have some roasted red pepper that would be awesome, but I used fresh which was also delicious)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together in your Kitchenaid.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nearing the precipice

Talking with G last night, I realized we are once again at the point where we don't know exactly where we are going to be in a year. Last time we stood at this crossroads, when G was deciding on a Ph.D. program, we thought our choice was between moving to Tucson and staying in Salt Lake. We ended up in California. Right now it looks like it's between staying here and maybe moving to Fresno, but who knows what other possibilities may arise?

Nerds that we are, we paged through the entire road atlas last night, looking for places that are racially diverse and tolerant, full of opportunities in higher education for G and me, not too far from our families (mine in Salt Lake and G's parents' winter home in Arizona), not too gray (we're a bit prone to seasonal affective stuff), Mormon-friendly, and preferably not too expensive. Central California is a perfect fit, except for the expensive part. Big sigh.

Texas seems like a good bet. I loved San Antonio so much. Do you have any idea how many universities they have in that state? We lost count. And the cost of houses (low low low) makes me drool. The money that would buy me a shack by the railroad tracks here would get me a brand-new 5-bedroom house with a pool in the Houston suburbs. I think I could handle the heat and humidity if I had a brand-new 5-bedroom house with a pool.

The Denver or Phoenix areas might work. Reno holds some attraction. (I have no love for Vegas, sorry.) We loved St. Paul when we lived there briefly, and Milwaukee when we picked up our darling S, but it's so cold and so far from Grandma's house. North Carolina, where A was born, is beautiful and seems fairly tolerant as southeastern states go, but again, distance is a problem.

It's hard to imagine a job for G in Utah unless one particular professor we know retires at exactly the right time. And although it is still my home in many ways, I don't know if I would feel so patient with its vanillaness, now that I've been away from it for a couple of years. As much as we'd love to go back.

We'd go back to Alaska, where we both went to high school, probably only if God physically appeared before us and told us we had to. Ice fog and 60 below sound like Outer Darkness to me.

We'd take Hawaii if we could make enough money to live there comfortably, meaning in a house where we could control the bugs and lizards and stuff. It's far from the family, but we bet they'd deign to visit us once or twice a year. And if we ever got too sad about being far away from them we could get over it quick with a little trip to the beach. Are you listening, Laie?

Really, I'm so praying for Fresno. It's a bit cheaper than our town, I think I could keep my job with a little maneuvering, and although the air quality still sucks, it has a temple. And a Nordstrom Rack.

Stay tuned for the next 12 - 18 months. It will be great when we figure out where fate will take us. In the meantime I might be a little on edge.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday night smiles

To help you face the last full week before Thanksgiving.



I know it helps me!

Sunday driving

We had a lot of leftovers in the house yesterday. So instead of cooking, we went on a Sunday drive way out on Bear Creek.



The kids were hoping to talk to some cows, but the cows were nowhere near the fence. So we picked some dried thistles and weeds and threw rocks in the canal. That last thing is probably against some kind of rule, but for now I can claim ignorance.



I love the landscapes of the Valley -- orchards and fields and grasslands. Especially ordered rows of trees or grapevines. Something about those cultivated landscapes just makes me feel that all is right with the world.


Also, it is cheesier than anything but I have a fascination with barns. I just always think they make pretty pictures. This is round about what I mean:



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Alternatestimony

I can't find now the post I've been thinking about all week. I can't even remember what blog I read it on. It was something about what you say can in testimony meeting when you don't feel honest saying "I know." I loved the post. Where in the heck is it?

I am really lucky. There are some things I can say I know about because I do still hold that feeling is a way of knowing, that I can trust what my heart tells me, for the most part. I still find that love (and specifically adoptive parent love as opposed to sexual attraction or the urge to care for one's biological offspring) is proof to me of a grander scheme, proof that we are more than meat.

But I have an alternate testimony that I want to share, too.

I love the gospel of Christ. I love the Church. I have chosen it, and I am glad.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Party time, excellent

We had the most delightful Young Women in Excellence last night. It was revitalizing -- that's the best way I can describe it. I can't claim credit; I only made certificates and star decorations and consulted with one girl on preparing her display. But it was an awesome night.

The girls gathered at the home of a member near the church. There they were outfitted with feather boas and sunglasses. Members of the High Priests Quorum chauffeured them to the church, where they found a roped-off arrival area and several Young Men to help them out of their cars, as well as "reporters" (an elderly couple from the ward -- they've served three missions) cameras (me and the Laurel advisor) and adoring fans (parents) all wanting interviews, pictures, and autographs.

And, oh yeah, a red carpet. Of course.

They were all so cute and gracious. They giggled and blew kisses and posed and mouthed, "I'm famous!" I can't wait to watch and edit the video I took, but I haven't had time yet.

The program included a musical number -- "I Am Like a Star" -- by two Primary girls, a song by our Young Women, and remarks from our bishop. We handed out certificates and watched a slideshow of all our activities this year. The girls giggled and hid their faces as they saw themselves onscreen swimming, making jam, learning some origami, singing. Those in charge of the slideshow had even gathered photos of girls in their individual activities and at their homes doing soccer, homework, ballet, scripture study, tending younger siblings. It was like a slideshow you might see in the general YW broadcast, but without the headquarters-style slickness that sometimes gets under my skin. It was real -- it was our girls. I loved it, absolutely loved it.

Then we had time to visit our Personal Progress expo. Each girl made a display showing one experience or project she worked on during they year. People actually lingered and talked and asked the girls about their experiences. It was perfect! And we had the most amazing, delicious gold-dusted, star-shaped sugar cookies from Old Tyme Bakery in Turlock (watch out if you ever go there, it is dangerously good!) and pink, sparkly punch (cranberry and 7-up, very elegant, ha!)

One girl who has just in the last several months started to attend activities again through the efforts of my amazing advisor K showed up, did a display, and brought her mom, who has basically left the Church but is willing to let her daughters continue to participate. Younger brothers and sisters came to see what their older sisters had done. The stake YW presidency and the bishopric were there, engaged with our girls. I was just so happy to see all this happen!

Honestly, I am the slacker of the group in our YW board. My life just does not allow me to be there for everything and do everything I want to. I can't be the one visiting girls in their homes and doing Personal Progress with them. I can't be the one driving to the next town over to pick up the girls from the Spanish Branch for activities. Basically I teach a Sunday lesson a couple of times a month, I give hugs and smiles, I plan the occasional activity, I send notes in the mail, and I love the girls. That's all I can do.

Last night I felt like with the efforts of the rest of the board, what I can do might actually be doing some good.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bumper, dude

That was some little kid's version of "bummer, dude." I forget now which little kid it was. Maybe someone G and I had in Nursery when we were at BYU.

I just spent an hour scrambling around trying to find a particular political science professor to be on Good Morning America tomorrow. I couldn't find him, and the liaison for the show called back to say they had decided to go in a different direction. Our chance is gone. That would have been unspeakably cool.

On the bright side, now I get to go home to my family instead of spending the night doing media stuff.

But still. Bumper.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Company dessert

So we had some people over for Sunday dinner today and it was kind of a fiasco in some ways. Will someone please make me just quit trying to make mashed potatoes? I am cursed, I tell you. When my parents come for Thanksgiving in a few weeks my mom is going to have to do the potatoes. I cannot make nice mashed potatoes to save my life. Today my problem was undercooking them just a tad, so they were lumpy. Tasty, because I mixed in some butternut squash and plenty of butter and whole milk, but lumpy. Wah.

The roast beef and peas and gravy turned out fine, thankfully. My mama taught me good. And I made a good dessert. Ugly but good. It just did not set up firm enough to cut properly. So on the plate it resembled my famous banana cream pile (watch out for those dang disposable pie tins ... but that was a different day).

I think next time I will make it in ramiekins instead of a pie tin. That would solve the serving problem and also be conceptually good because of how it resembles a creme brulee. Mmmmmmm, creme brulee.

How many ramiekins? I am guessing about 8, but that is untested.

Caramel-banana Cheesecake Pie

Pie crust for 1 9" pie or 8 ramiekins

2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 carton Yoplait Whips Dulce de Leche (yes, for real, necessity was the mother of invention here when I opened the sour cream to find it gone, but it turned out great)
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt

1 banana, sliced
About 1/2 c brown sugar

Pre-bake pie crust 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until barely turning golden. Reduce oven to 325.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and salt. Beat as smooth as you can. A few small lumps can remain and it's fine. But don't be too shy to crank up that mixer. Fluffy is good in this case.

Pour cream cheese mixture into crust(s) and spread evenly. Bake 25 - 30 minutes for a pie. Probably shorter for ramiekins but like I said, I have not tested that yet. Remove from oven and arrange sliced bananas on top. Cover with a coat of brown sugar, maybe 1/4" thick. Place under low broiler until sugar melts. Watch it closely! (Man, I wish I had a torch. It would be creme brulee every day.)

Chill in the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving. This makes a very flavorful, light, fluffy, creamy cheesecake. And with caramelized bananas 'pontop you really can't lose.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Some good luck on Dia de los Muertos

It's not that often I take a photo I am really really proud of, and even less often I take one I can share broadly.

Today I did. Have I mentioned I have a really cool job?

Hope you have good luck today, too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

President Midas

Wanna hear something funny? It's not about my husband's career. It's about his church calling. That's fair game, isn't it?

He has been the elders' quorum president in our ward for a little more than two years now. For the non-Mormons out there, that means he leads the men in the congregation who are basically under 40 - 45 years old.

There are two other wards in our town. The elders' quorum in each is now headed by one of G's former counselors. So it's kind of like he's training the leaders for the other congregations in town. He also did a home teaching workshop in stake leadership training last month that people are still raving to him about.

He is the EQP with the golden touch. He doesn't want to be proud of this, he knows he shouldn't be, but he kind of is.

I am the wife, so I just get to be proud without feeling too guilty about it. Haha. On to other funny stuff about G.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

He was going to be Captain Underpants for Halloween, but we didn't get the flesh-colored unitard in time. Actually we didn't get it at all, and I told him if he just went in his altogether no one would believe he was naked. They would think he was wearing a fur coat. So he was Davy Crockett instead -- lucky for him I went to the Alamo, or he wouldn't have had a costume at all. Note the cell phone. He's a very modern kind of Davy Crockett. Also hot. Woo!

But then when we did our brief TOT'ing after the church party, noooooobody was smiling at Davy Crockett. And we started considering, dressing up as a guy who fights Mexicans is maybe not such a hot idea in our part of the country. Let's think on that.

So next year Captain Underpants may just visit the stake Trunk or Treat party.

(If he goes to a stake party mostly naked, will he get out of his calling? The question remains.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween list

  • Crazy costumes at a work party (if I were less scrupulous I would post pictures of the boss in his hilarious, goofy wig. We have a good boss)
  • Frenzied preparations at home, including finding the Captain Jack shirt in the dryer at the last possible minute
  • Leaving a pan of canneloni uneaten on the counter -- darn lucky I remembered to take it out of the oven
  • Forgetting the plastic pumpkins and sending the boys around to do Trunk or Treat with my purse and camera case (the purse actually looked remarkably piratey, and the camera case was black enough to look okay for Zorro)
  • Handing out $25 worth of candy in 15 minutes at Trunk or Treat -- whew!
  • Boogieing boys in the costume parade (pictured, right)
  • Doing the twist with two enthusiastic boys who are miraculously not embarrassed to dance with Mama
  • S knocking A's Zorro hat off EVERY TIME he did the hokey pokey and turned himself about and A being a great sport
  • Two brothers running down our street, hats in hand, gleefully trick or treating

Halloween is over for another year. I worked my attitude and didn't get frustrated. It was fun. I'm glad the next one is a year away.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Word girl

I think of myself as a word girl. I consume them like crazy, as I've confessed before. I've somehow managed to read a lot in the last month. I don't know how.

Well, I sort of do. Mostly by neglecting things I should have been doing instead, like doing my church calling and getting the oil changed in the car and de-spider-webbing the corners of the dining room.

(There's a story in my family history about a man who owned a sheep ranch. He mainly went out with the sheep and read all day. The ranch was most successful when he was out on a mission and his very efficient and businesslike wife took over. Some days I just shrug and tell myself I can't escape my genes.)

My little sister M (smart and beautiful girl) provided A Northern Light for me to read when I was in Utah a month ago. I was in the middle of The Shipping News at the time, but I took a break and read it.

It was a great read. Young adult fiction is really refreshing sometimes, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think it's because it's less likely to get caught up in the craft of writing and instead just tells the story. And story is what I really, really love. I love writing and words, yes. But story is the satisfaction, the payoff. (That was validated at the conference I went to in San Antonio, by the way. It made me want to write to tell stories, and it was absolutely invigorating!)

A Northern Light tackles words and story, talent and passion, love and family. How they all fit and don't fit in the life of a girl, a woman. For me, that's the daily problem of balancing my life. And the choices I made when I was seventeen and eighteen and nineteen do affect that.

I'm very lucky that I can do what I do -- balance, I mean. And also unlucky that I can't do things differently. If a few cells worked differently for me and G, I know my life would be very different. I would have had a baby in 1995, and kept going from there -- instead of adopting my first in 1999 and proceeding in fits and starts to build this family, sometimes successful, sometimes not.

It was thought-provoking for me, reading this novel, to revisit the different possibilities that existed for me when I was so young: Getting married, going to college, a career in music, a career in words. The risks I took, the risks I was too afraid to take.

I'm really glad I knew how to make those choices in the way I did -- seeking guidance from above. Because although I may look back and wonder, I only rarely look back and regret. And most often I look back with a lot of gratitude. Although I thought at different times that I had the perfect plan, life unfolded in a different way. And it has turned out pretty well, so far.

Next up: The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich. I mostly read it at the gym, and then while I was sick. I swear.

What I'd really like to know

Is whether this research could lead to effective treatments for male infertility. Contraception, we really don't need in our family.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"That kicked the butt of any other curry you've ever made"

That was G's reaction to tonight's dinner, which was Thai red curry. Made with purchased curry paste.

Make sure you cut all the veggies before you start cooking. Failing to do that is my usual mistake with stir-fries. I didn't make it today. Maybe that is why G loved it so much. Ha.

Well, it was good.

Thai Red Curry

1 chicken breast, sliced
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp corn starch

1 tsp vegetable oil

1/2 yellow onion, cut in 1" dice
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut in 1" dice
1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets

2 tbsp purchased Thai red curry paste (mae ploy) (more if you like it spicy)
1 can coconut milk
About 1 tsp Thai fish sauce
About 2 tbsp basil chiffonade

Sprinkle vinegar over chicken, then corn starch. Stir to coat.

Stir fry chicken in oil over high heat until no longer pink. Remove from pan.

Add curry paste to pan. Stir until fragrant. Add half the coconut milk and stir until smooth. Add all vegetables and chicken. Stir until cooked tender-crisp.

Add remaining coconut milk and fish sauce. Heat through. Add basil and stir.

Serve over jasmine rice with regular Thai condiments - lime, peanuts, Sriracha.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Activism for the day: Oxfam/Starbucks

I love me some Starbucks. Mormonish Starbucks, like shaken iced tea lemonade made with herbal tea, or those yummy yummy chocolate chip blended cremes.

Oxfam and I have something to say to Starbucks, though. In the interest of getting to my meeting on time, I'll just paste Oxfam's text.

Each year, coffee companies make billions of dollars. Starbucks alone earned almost $5.8 billion in net revenues during the first three quarters of 2006.

Yet, for every cup of coffee Starbucks sells, poor farmers in coffee-growing countries like Ethiopia earn only about $.03. Even worse, while Ethiopian farmers grow some of the finest name-brand coffees in the world - think Harar, Yirgacheffe, and Sidamo - they don't see the premium profits those names command among consumers.

Tell Starbucks to give Ethiopia control over its coffee names.

With as many as 15 million Ethiopians dependent on coffee, Ethiopia has decided to get its farmers more of what they deserve. The country's government has asked Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement that will allow Ethiopia to control the names of its coffees. That way, Ethiopia can help determine an export price that makes sure farmers see a larger share of the profits enabling them to feed their children, send them to school and get them better healthcare.

Oxfam and a coalition of allies are asking Starbucks to sign this agreement. According to one coalition member, control of the name brands could increase Ethiopia's coffee export income by more than 25 percent - or $88 million annually. This money could go a lot way to help lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

So please, help us convince Starbucks to sign this agreement with Ethiopia. Poor farmers deserve a fair share of the profits.

Also coming up: Oxfam's skip-a-meal day on Nov. 16. It's like Fast Sunday for the whole world. I'm gonna do it, how about you?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Before I got sick, there was pad thai

Okay folks, I took the picture with my phone, so have mercy. It looked a lot better than this in real life and tasted a lot better than it looked. Honest!

By the way, this was another case of me getting mad when G took the leftovers to work. (It's been a while since I felt that way but you notice it was another recipe involving sweet and spicy and lime. What does that tell you?)

I really wanted this food today with lots of hot sauce to clear out my poor, stuffy head. Guess I'll have to make more, sometime.

Here's how I did it, Saturday night before the ickies hit me.

Pad Thai (Vegetarian)

1 package rice noodles

About 1/4 c peanuts, raw
2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced
Aboug 2 tbsp onion, finely minced (I had no shallots, but that would be more authentic)

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed, drained and julienned
1 egg, lightly beaten

about 1/3 c purchased pad thai sauce (and yes, this is a big cheat, but it is a lot easier to find the bottled sauce than it is to find tamarind around here, and you kind of need that to make the sauce from scratch)

about 1 1/2 c fresh mung bean sprouts

Place noodles to soak in lukewarm water. They should soak about 40 - 60 minutes until they are firm but flexible. They will cook further when you add them to the rest of your stuff. If you like them softer, boil them. But I think firmer is better.

Heat oil in wok or large pan over high heat. Add peanuts and stir until browned. Remove with metal strainer or slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Salt lightly.

Cook garlic and onion in oil until beginning to brown lightly. Add tofu and noodles and stir.

Push the mixture to one side, making a small space. Pour the egg there and stir until almost cooked. Then stir it into the noodle mixture. Add the bean sprouts and pad thai sauce and stir thoroughly. It will all be very tangly. Persevere until you get the sauce distributed through everything.

By now the noodles should be soft enough to enjoy. Serve the whole messy mass on a platter garnished with peanuts, lime, cilantro and jalapenos. Pass the Sriracha hot sauce and maybe a little sugar if you like. I put the garnishes on the side so everyone can choose what they like best, which is how you mostly find it in Thai restaurants, at least around here.

I never really ate Thai before I came to California, if you can believe that. What was I thinking? I also bought some red curry paste which I am excited to try. Coming soon!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Math problem

Trouble sleeping, even in the wonderful Westin Heavenly Bed
+Airplane travel
+3 days of ibuprofen for cramps
+Friday night sugar binge
+Getting dehydrated at the pumpkin patch
+Back in the Valley suffering with allergies
--------------------------------------------
SICK!

This sucks!

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm bound for the promised food

Day: Sunday, Oct. 15
Meal: Brunch
Place: Imperial Garden, Fresno
Ate: Multitudinous and varied dim sum
Best part: Shrimp pancakes with cilantro
Worst part: Unable to stop myself

Seriously, WHY have I never had dim sum before? This was almost worth the sabbath-breaking aspect of it. So great. I also hear Imperial Garden is open on Saturdays. So I am thinking I would like to combine my next visit with a temple trip to atone for my sabbath breaking. Are you listening, up there?

Day: Sunday. Oct. 15
Meal: Snack
Place: The Grove, DFW Airport
Ate: Mixed bag of fruit, nuts and candy
Best part: Chocolate covered almonds and dried apricots
Worst part: I should have gotten dinner instead

Day: Sunday, Oct. 15
Meal: Dinner, sort of
Place: The Westin Riverwalk, Room 1018, minibar
Ate: Trail mix, York Peppermint Patties
Best part: Didn't have to go out after flying all day
Worst part: I should have gotten dinner instead

Day: Monday, Oct. 16
Meal: Breakfast
Place: The Westin Riverwalk, Room 1018, room service
Ate: Omelet with ham, tomatoes and monterey jack cheese; hash browns; ketchup; orange juice
Best part: Room service rocks; I felt like a princess
Worst part: Room service costs ... but at least I was on the company dime

Day: Monday, Oct. 16
Meal: Lunch
Place: The Westin Riverwalk basement bakery/cafe (sorry, I forgot the name of it)
Ate: Turkey club wrap, jicama slaw, Diet Pepsi
Best part: That slaw! The cilantro! The lime! Baby!
Worst part: Rushing through lunch to be on time for the conference

Day: Monday, Oct. 16
Meal: Dinner
Place: Mi Tierra, Market Square, San Antonio
Ate: Orange-marinated carnitas, homemade tortillas, guacamole, beans and rice, lots and lots of chips and salsa; virgin strawberry daiquiri (yes that is a Shirley Temple. Envision me in curls.)
Best part: It's a tie between the strolling mariachi singing us "San Antonio Rose" (the song I was trying so hard to remember the words to) and the amazing ceiling which had reflective foil decorations interspersed with icicle lights to create the sparkliest darn expanse of ceiling I have ever seen. I want to do it for Christmas. It was gloriously Mexican. Also the carnitas were outstanding.
Worst part: Eating too much of the chips and (very spicy and yummy) salsa before dinner arrived

On our way to Mi Tierra, we ran into a group looking for the bar Coyote Ugly. We think they were really lost. One of the guys was American Indian. The other guy was teasing him about his lack of a sense of direction.

Day: Tuesday, Oct. 17
Meal: Breakfast
Place: Westin Riverwalk (included in the conference)
Ate: Nothing special, just muffins and grapefruit juice. This is not really worth writing about.

The conference got good this day, by the way. Excellent presentations and we ended up really enjoying the group we hung out with. We did stuff together the whole rest of the time.

Day: Tuesday, Oct. 17
Meal: Lunch
Place: Paesano's on the Riverwalkk
Ate: Fried Calimari, Special Salad, ice water
Best part: All the food. Was outstanding. I loved the artichoke hearts in the salad.
Worst part: The waitress was slow and clueless and we were late getting back to the conference.

Day: Tuesday, Oct, 17
Meal: Dinner
Place: Boudro's on the Riverwalk
Ate: Chili-seared prawns, apple slaw, yucca griddle cakes, another Shirley Temple
Best part: Everything. The service, the food, all absolutely impeccable. It was a little crowded but honestly, no biggie. A place like that is gonna be crowded. We were lucky to get a reservation!
Worst part: They can't make the prickly pear margarita virgin. But it was about the prettiest drink I have ever seen.

After dinner and before dessert we took the boat ride on the river which was only $6.50 and very peaceful and fun. I recommend it.

Day: Tuesday, Oct. 17
Meal: Dessert
Place: Mr. Ice Cream on the Riverwalk above Boudro's
Ate: Blue Bunny ice cream in a cup, Black Walnut and Chocolate.
Best part: Come on, it's ice cream. And we ate it overlooking the riverwalk. What could be bad? Oh wait ...
Worst part: Scary monkey machine that talked to me when I walked by it.

Day: Wednesday, Oct. 18
Meal: Breakfast
Place: Westin Riverwalk (included in the conference)
Ate: Bagel with strawberry cream cheese, teeny tiny egg burrito
Best part: Uh - ?
Worst part: Skipping the salsa and eating the egg burrito plain. Icky. Also, they did not have any water or juice out for us. Just soda. Whatevah.

At this meal I discovered I was sitting between two fellow Indigo Girls fans. I professed my fanhood. Other Fan asked me if I had their new CD that came out in September. Duh, I guess I am not as big a fan as I thought. Anyway I have listened to it now and it is pretty good. But there sure are a lot of F words. Why? Why?

Day: Wednesday, Oct. 18
Meal: Lunch
Place: Boone's in Market Square
Ate: Alamo City Sandwich, consisting of chicken, ham, cheese, black beans, tomato and avocado on a big, eggy bun. Grilled. Also a Diet Dr. Pepper and some corn chips, which I did not eat.
Best part: Eating some very homey, non-foofy food for the first time in days. Remembering how my mom used to make grilled cheese sandwiches with refried beans in them. Yummy.
Worst part: Choosing a caffeinated beverage and a salty sandwich when I was just about to get knocked over with really vengeful, evil menstrual cramps. Whine!

Market Square is way fun if you like Mexican stuff. Everything is Mexican, and I mean everything. How many shops full of pottery and silver jewelry and ponchos and embroidered blouses can one girl look at in an afternoon? If she has really wicked cramps, not near enough. I love that stuff. The Mexican stuff ... not the cramps.

Day: Wednesday, Oct. 18
Meal: Dinner
Place: Au Bon Pain, DFW Airport
Ate: Mediterranean Chicken Salad, Dasani bottled water
Best part: Kalamata olives and feta cheese
Worst part: Rushing again

Day: Wednesday, Oct. 19
Meal: Bedtime snack
Place: Home, sweet home
Ate: Two fresh chocolate chip cookies made by G, who is a way better mom than me
Best part: Goes without saying.

Are you married to a grad student? I am

And I just learned that he should probably be thanking me just for being his wife. Apparently just by existing in a married state I am advancing his career. According to this article.

That was my ego boost for the day. Also a ray of hope that he might actually finish someday.

San Antonio restaurant food blog still coming. I SWEAR.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Try this

This is to keep you all busy and humble you a little bit while I catch up on my work. Later on I promise I will do a food blog about the restaurants in San Antonio (awesome!!) and review the book I finished and the new one I am reading.

In the meantime: try this!

I sucked at it! Big time!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Old San Anton'

No time to get Patsy Cline singing on the blog for you tonight. You'll just have to imagine it. It has been running through my head all day long. Too bad I don't know the lyrics to that one. It is annoying to have a wordless earworm. Something, SOMEthing something to the AL-amo ... some-SOME thing something San Anton'!

My word, it is taking a long time to get my photos on Photobucket right now. What in the heck is the matter with the so-called high-speed internet, Westin? Anybody?

Okay, here they are.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The courthouse

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The San Fernando Cathedral

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Alamo, of course


It was so humid here this morning I thought I was about to die. However I was successful on my SalGal-assigned shopping mission. Woot!

Ate lunch on the run in the hotel restaurant. The club burrito with ancho mayo was not fireworks-inducing, but tasty. The jicama slaw with cilantro-lime dressing, considerably more memorable. Just what I needed after a very sweaty sightseeing morning.

The conference ... I am reserving judgment for now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

(Heart)breaking the news

Before I put the kids to bed tonight I told them that I am leaving tomorrow for a few days for a publications conference in San Antonio. I planned this carefully. I didn't want them to have to stew about it for a long time, but I didn't want them to be surprised when I head for the airport instead of sacrament meeting tomorrow morning.

A - emotional, loving, flexible child - cried and cried, made me promise to leave him a red lipstick kiss on a piece of paper and make Daddy roughhouse with him. (Yes, I am normally the one who does that. If you have been reading this blog for very long you already know that we have our gender roles a little funny in our family.) Then he prayed that I would "have safe travels" and not get hurt.

S - mischievous, creative, stubborn child - first confided his plan to stow away in my suitcase and play Pirates of the Caribbean on his Gameboy all day while I attended my meetings, thereby missing school and escaping three days' worth of homework. Then he prayed that God would "bind me to the ground" so I couldn't leave. You can imagine him saying this, if you know S.

My kids are used to G being gone, but not me. It does feel different. Is it because of our habits, or because there really is something different? I can't answer that; all I know is that it's hard. I am really excited for this conference because we are getting ready to start up a magazine. But I am awfully glad I don't have to travel for work very often. I don't know how other mamas do it.

Adios! I'm off to the Riverwalk, leaving my sad little kids behind.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Workbaby

Here is my new workbaby. Launched it yesterday and spent the day today working out the inevitable round of first generation bugs.

I wonder if it will be the last one before I get a new realbaby?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New world explorer

We're not celebrating Columbus Day today. Oh no, we have another eager explorer who arrived in a new world on October 12, promptly initiating the utter destruction of its previous order. Much to the general good luck and betterment of all involved, in this case.

Seven years ago, after quite a rollercoaster ride, we went to court in Milwaukee, met a courageous woman in a tough situation, and then brought home our eight-week-old firstborn son. Happy Gotcha Day, S!

(This photo was actually taken when he was 4 days old, the first time I met him, but it is the closest thing I have to a Gotcha Day photo on my computer here at work. Sorry!)

Our original adoption tradition is lighting a specific candle on this and other special days as we remember our kids' birthmoms. I sent each birthmom an identical candle. In theory at least, we are burning these lights at the same moments in our different places across the country as we think about each other.

The boys are old enough now that they really like this tradition. Sometimes we light the candle just when they are missing their birthmoms and want to think about them. It's nice to have a simple, thoughtful action to take to help them process those feelings.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Was this stupid? I'm thinking no

Remember the bad day when I found out the other party in my May car accident was seeking more money from me? Like, almost $4k over my damage limit which was $5k? I sent the letter from his collections person to my insurance person and thought she was going to contact him to dispute it. She never did. So I started hearing from them again. So today I called her and long story short, talked to the scary collections man. He offered me a settlement of "only" $2400. I told him I could not pay that amount without knowing exactly what I am paying for. Because honestly, that man's car was worth maybe $5-6k. Not $9-10k. It was a 1999 Jetta, folks.

The collections man told me the insurance company had placed a hold on the file and was considering seeking even more money. And he had offered me a settlement to avoid "rattling cages" with the insurance company.

What the freaking heck? (Notice me curbing the swears!)

I think he is trying, in his very charming Southern-accented way, to intimidate me. What do you think?

As much as I would love to get this settled and taken care of, I am getting ticked enough to want them to actually take me to court and see how in the heck they plan to make it look like a 1999 Jetta is worth more than $6k. Ever.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Baby E update: good, but more prayers are needed

Baby E (who had e. coli) is better, home and doing well. Grateful prayers! But ...

Her big brother T, who is 6, now has the bug. It is especially dangerous for him -- he has only one kidney because of an infection he suffered as a baby. He is hurting a lot!

You know how there are some kids you just love? Kids you just want to pick up and hug any time you see them? Kids who talk to adults with total confidence and cuteness? Kids who are great friends to other kids? T is one of those kids. I love him. I am worried. And can you imagine how his poor parents feel?

So this family still needs your prayers. Just a little one in your heart would be great.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Late to another party

This was a fun one, though. And I can't say I wasn't invited before. It was just not a good time for reading, for me, when this book came out in 2002. I had two little zippers of my own at that point whose incredibly precious baby pictures may someday grace the covers of sweet and ironic and telling memoirs. God forbid.

Best thing about this book: Voice. Grownup Zippy, has an exquisite storytelling voice that links her with her childhood self. It has the same experimental self-assuredness that S demonstrated tonight on our walk, when he read a sign about a lost watch on the creekside trail and told me "Someone probably picked it up and hid it somewhere so she can't find it."

In A Girl Named Zippy, we see things that the childlike voice of Haven Kimmel never says -- and those are the things that are funny and sad and sweet. It's an irony like a green apple; it bites in a very lovely way.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tea, stew, books ... must be fall

I am enjoying a nice cuppa on a cool morning -- Celestial Seasonings Peach Apricot Honeybush tea. Just sweet enough to satisfy without any sugar added, and the warmth is so soothing to my very tired bones. I have that tired thing where my ribcage seems to hurt a little when I inhale. I really need to get more sleep.

It would help a lot if no one would come in at 5 AM to tell me they lost their "grandma blanket." Both my kids have gorgeous quilts made by my mom -- they are really special. But not special enough to warrant a visit to mommy in the deep middle of the night. Don't tell me 5 AM is morning; I don't believe it.

It would also help a lot if I did not stay up until midnight, but you know.

So I have been cooking this week from Everyday Food. I made the hunter-style chicken which was okay but I did not see the point of cooking it in the microwave. It did not cook the chicken in the specified time period, so I basically could have done it just as fast or faster on the stove. Anyway we ate it with kamut rotelle and parmesan, and it was tasty.

The really good recipe was this beef stew in the crockpot. Super easy and flavorful with the garlic and onion and bay leaves. Perfect for Wednesday when G was basically persona non grata because he was preparing a talk for the Yosemite Hydroclimate meeting yesterday, and I had to take S to a neurofeedback appointment at 5:15 so we didn't get home at all until 6:30. Translation: no time to cook. Crockpot ideal. My only modification was that I did not cut up the beef. I just plopped it in there and broke it up with a wooden spoon when it was all cooked. I love it when meat does that.

I'm reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. It's the kind of book that makes me want to write a novel. It's just beautiful writing, so evocative of place and person. The funny thing is, as I was reading in the car last weekend, I said to G, "This book could never be a Hollywood movie. Everything is just too complex and there is no movie star who would look right for Quoyle." And then I found out there is a movie after all. But I don't think I will see it. Without the prose, what would be the point? And there's also that old thing about me being mentally able to handle R rated books but not R rated movies. Mysterious.

I also got a couple of new paperbacks to read from my mom and sister. Woo! More book posts to come. Maybe I will have to get my butt back to the gym and start reading on the elliptical trainer again. That would probably be a good idea. If I could get to bed on time, I could get up in the morning and do it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Curses on having a life

When what I would really like to do this afternoon is watch old Sesame Street clips on YouTube.

Enjoy it for me!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Scary sick

My dear friend, visiting teacher and YW president was in the hospital 2 weeks ago with what I thought was a really really bad flu. Well tonight at Mutual I found out it was actually ... ta-dah, E. COLI! From the spinach! Holy crap!

But this is the really bad, scary part: Now her baby girl has caught it. E is only 14 months old and about the cutest thing in the world. She is in the hospital. They have been able to keep her hydrated but not treat her with antibiotics becase it will somehow attack her organs. I don't really understand it but it is very, very scary!

Anyway if you have a moment in your prayers please add baby E in California. I just love this wonderful baby and her mommy and want them to be all better and past this nightmare!

In the meantime I am scheming to stop at their house on the way home from work tomorrow and take away all their dirty laundry and bring it back clean and folded in the morning. Knowing my friend there will probably not be very much. But I really want to do something ...

The change of wardrobe

Autumn has arrived in California. It's cool and overcast. I'm wearing sandals for maybe the last time. I need to get out the winter clothes and find some winter shoes that will make me as happy as three pair of Born sandals made me this past summer. Any ideas? And I need new pants (still size 14, dang it). I want black and charcoal, I want wool or wool blend, I want boot cut, I want long enough to wear with heels, I want quality, and I want a bargain. It's hard to find bargains when you know exactly what you want. I may (gulp!) end up paying full price. Unless someone out there wants to volunteer to be my personal shopper.

I also need to sort out the kids clothes and put away all the shorts and tank tops. Because you know they will keep wearing them as long as they are in the drawer. They're both in shorts today. I made them step outside to make sure they would be comfortable and of course they both swore they were fine. It can't have been more than 55 degrees out there. It will probably be the weekend before I have a chance to haul the Rubbermaid totes out of the garage and go through everything and get things out and put things away. Here's to a week of chilly legs. Their friends will all be jealous and their teachers will think their mother is a loser.

This is S's third year in a size 8. He is growing upward but not outward right now. Which means I probably need to get him some new pants. When he was a size 8 in the waist but not in the legs, he frayed the cuffs of a couple of otherwise very good pair of jeans. Because his mother did not have time to hem. Thankfully I bought A some size 6 winter clothes last February on clearance. I used to do that for both kids but I have been befuddled by S's recent growth/non-growth patterns. It's hard to predict anymore what he's going to be looking like in future seasons.

So -- shoes, pants for mama, pants for second grader. It adds up. We're waiting on a refund check from the university, which jerked us around a little bit last month over grad student fees. We were so compliant and good and paid our $255 right as soon as they asked. Then the other grad students protested and got the fee requirement suspended. And now of course it takes a month or more for those of us who paid to get our money back. That's the reward for doing as you're told. Lesson learned.

Here's to the change of seasons and one more big chore to add to my list.