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.


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


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.)