Sunday, December 30, 2007

Warmup

After my last post, we suffered an HVAC breakdown. Specifically, the fan went out on our system, so that although the heater was running (and running and running), we weren't getting any of the heat. Our immediate area can probably thank us for a temperature increase of a couple of degrees Thursday and Friday.

We called the landlord and then used up the last of our clean-burning fire logs. No response from the landlord Thursday afternoon, so I called Friday morning and played the baby-with-the-flu card. She was a lot better by then, but it was still a useful card and I don't think it would have been good for her to live in a 59-degrees-fahrenheit house. That was our low temperature. Yes, I am grateful to live in California. It could have been a lot worse.

I skedaddled down to the temple Friday morning and the landlord sent a repair person while I was gone. By the time I came home we had made it back up to 67 degrees.

I still really wanted to warm up that night. So here is what I made for my mom and dad, who arrived in the afternoon. The original idea came from the Everyday Food "Great Food Fast" cookbook. Great cookbook ... you should get it. But of course I can't just leave a good recipe alone. I sort of doubled it ... sort of not. It turned out really well. Here is how I did it.

Pumpkin Enchiladas

1 rotisserie chicken (get the "smokehouse" or "BBQ" flavor if you can), deboned and chopped or shredded
6 scallions, sliced
salt and pepper

1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin (this is the smaller can size)
2 c. chicken broth
6 cloves garlic
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (it's pronounced chi-pot-LAY; I have to remember this or my mom says my brothers will mock me)

About 12 corn tortillas, warmed to soften
About 1 1/2 c shredded colby-jack cheese (or just jack would be fine)

Mix the shredded chicken, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a blender, puree the broth, garlic and peppers. Add the pumpkin to make a sauce.

(I have to say, this sauce was easy and fast, but lacked some flavor that I would wish for in a dish like this. Maybe this is my fault because I substituted the chi-pot-lays for what the cookbook asked for - chili powder. I just wanted the smokiness of them. Next time I am thinking of cooking the garlic with an onion and letting it caramelize - which would also add a bit more volume and body to the sauce - and maybe throwing in some cumin and coriander. I'm always a fan of those two. Maybe even a pinch of cloves. I just would like to see this dish a little darker and more complex. It was still good - don't get me wrong - I wouldn't post the recipe for you if it had been nasty. I just think it could improve.)

Heat oven to 425. Pour about 1 c. sauce in a 9x13" pan.

Wrap chicken mixture in tortillas and place in pan. Pour sauce on and top with cheese. Bake about 20 minutes.

It was spicy! We topped ours with dollops of Mountain High full-fat plain yogurt to cool them down a bit. Yummy, and all very good for you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our vacation so far

  • 1 broken camera
  • 1 Christmas Eve midnight trip to work to borrow a camera
  • 1 Nintendo Wii
  • 1 iPod Shuffle (for me) going back in favor of a more generic but versatile MP3 player
  • 1 set of headphones (for G) - too big to use at the gym, oops!
  • 2 cute little tricycles
  • 1 soccer goal that occasionally draws the kids out away from the Wii - a really cool gift from A's birthmom
  • 1 near-disaster involving the fireplace and 6 stockings
  • 3 people with stomach bugs
  • 2 people with respiratory flu
  • 4 hours in Urgent Care
  • 1 night of panic about the state of the house
  • 1 fun family viewing of Ratatouille
  • 1 social worker with bronchitis
  • 2 cancelled foster/adoption related events today - a bio family visit and a home visit - WHEW!
  • 9 million ants in the bathrooms, finally defeated by an application of the outdoor granules all around the house
  • 1 request per day (at least) from K about when Grandma and Grandpa will arrive (the answer is tomorrow)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa is a woman

And her husband plays video games while she works her butt off putting together bikes and blowing up balloons.

That's all I have to say about that.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Melt in your mouth

In my hyperactive Christmas update post a couple of days ago, I mentioned my grandma's soft ginger cookies. I mixed up the dough tonight and it is being refrigerated until tomorrow. It really wouldn't be fair if I didn't share the recipe with you. This is an heirloom, folks, so treat it nicely.

Ana's Grandma's Soft Ginger Cookies
3/4 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 c. molasses
2 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamom
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
additional sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add molasses and eggs. Beat well. Add flour, soda, spices and salt. Mix until dough is of uniform consistency. It will be quite soft. Chill for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Leave room for them to flatten. Bake 10 minutes. Finished cookies are flat with a crackly surface. They really do stay soft and melt in your mouth!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wordies united for rice

Play this. It's educational fun for a good cause. I can't get much above level 41/42, though. How about you?

Progress report

My kids are out of school for the holidays, and I really want to be home making cookies while they play idyllically beside the cozy but not dangerous fireplace. That vision would not be possible, even if I didn't have to work. So here's reality. It's not so bad.

We went to a work-related Christmas party last night and my big boys got to play, briefly, Wii boxing. A sneak preview, if you will. It went well. I think we chose the right gift, even at the exclusion of all others. Also at this party I karaoke'd "Someone to Love" by Queen. Someone told me it was not fair because I can actually sing and was not drunk. So is that how the rules go for karaoke? I didn't know. I had a hard time keeping up with the words for the first couple of verses but then I remembered how it went better. The party was a good one overall, even though the only drinks available were iced tea and wine. If you were Mormon, pregnant, or a child, you were relegated to taking your plastic cup out to the drinking fountain in the hallway. The food was catered by a local soul-food establishment, and ... yum. I think I literally had some of everything, from clams to coleslaw to pulled pork. Deeeeeee-licious, and today my pants are tight. I skipped my actual office party in favor of this one, since it was more kid-friendly.

All the shopping is done. All the cards are sent. All the packages are sent. I even stayed up late last night and finished almost all the wrapping. It cost me $1.25 in Diet Pepsi today, but that's not so bad. We (oh, who am I kidding, I) have to assemble a tricycle for K and a ride-on toy for Z, and then the gifts will be all taken care of. That's a good feeling.

The decor is all up - has been for a while. I mostly used the Thanksgiving break to take care of that this year, and it worked out well. There was a period where I still had the sunflowers on the front door instead of the red berry wreath, but I eventually got it taken care of. I need a good idea for displaying the kids' Christmas art work. I have saved quite a bit the last few years. Odd sizes and lots of glitter. I am thinking of some kind of gallery in our entry hall, but I want it to look cute and may I say, I have no budget. None. Who's creative enough to help me with this?

I need to bake. It's some kind of compulsion. I had big plans to stick with making whole wheat bread in small gifty sizes with pretty bows. It would be cheap, it would help me rotate my food storage, and it would be a nice contrast to all the junk food at this time of year. But then I found this cute thing and some recipes I really want to make. Brownie biscotti! For real, how could I not try that? And then I got thinking about my grandma's amazing recipe for soft ginger cookies and how I haven't made those in a while ... and how easy would it be just to add some cranberry-oatmeal bar cookies with vanilla buttercream, and make a cute little treat plate for my friends? I still have almost a week to do it!

Sally and family are coming down Saturday and we are going to go see National Treasure 2 and have pizza. Now that's a good Christmas party!

For Christmas Eve I am going to make won-tons. It's kind of a tribute to the Chinese Christmas dinner in A Christmas Story.

Christmas dinner, which we do mid-afternoon on Christmas Day, is gonna be pretty simple. I am thinking ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and rolls (scroll down for the recipe), and then of course a steamed pudding. Since it will just be our little family I don't even have to triple the roll recipe like I did for Thanksgiving.

My parents are coming to celebrate the New Year with us. We are going to be hoping for not too much rain for those few days, and possibly driving around NorCal a bit to visit some museums and stuff. I am really looking forward to this!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Died and gone to heaven

Someone I know said today that her daughter was in heaven. It was a little alarming until we realized she was talking about how excited this girl is about Christmas.

Well, we had a little heaven here at our house last night. It was basically about slow-cooked beef in red wine.

Pot roast with red wine, Yorkshire pudding and rich gravy

3 lb. chuck roast
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 c. red wine

1 c. flour
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. water
1 tbsp. corn starch

Season roast with salt and pepper. Brown in olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Pour in 2 c. wine. Boil until you are satisfied you have boiled off enough alcohol. Somebody somewhere online had a formula for this, but I am disremembering it on purpose.

Cover pan and transfer to 325-degree oven . Roast about 3 hours, turning once halfway through cooking, if you remember, if you're not in Sunday School at that point. (3 hours = ideal cooking time for a Mormon Sunday dinner. Church takes that long, and we are lucky enough to live only moments away from the chapel.)

Take out the meat and remove it from the pan let it rest. Turn up the oven to 450 degrees.

Spoon 2 tbsp. drippings from the roasting pan into a 9x9-inch baking pan and place into oven. Beat milk, flour, eggs and salt together with a wire whisk. Pour into baking pan. Bake in 450-degree oven 18-23 minutes. It will puff up, then deflate after you take it from the oven.

While the Yorkshire pudding is cooking, carve your roast. Then heat remaining drippings to boiling. In a tightly covered container, shake together the water and cornstarch. (A sippy cup works great if you hold your finger over the spout. Just a tip from my world.) Pour slowly into drippings while stirring. Cook over medium heat until thickened.

Tender meat, hot Yorkshire pudding, tasty gravy ... It's the Platonic ideal of Sunday dinner. Also, it's relatively cheap, and though it takes some time, it's anything but difficult. Peas on the side make it complete.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How can you have any pudding?

I may have mentioned before that my family, with pretty English roots on both sides (ok, a little Scottish, a little Danish, a little mutt-ish mixed in here and there) has pudding at Christmas. Thanksgiving, too. If there were more good winter holidays we would probably have it more.

Specifically, we have carrot pudding. I somehow managed to squirrel away my mom's actual recipe card, which I tried to scan for you tonight. To me it is so evocative, with my mom's handwriting in three different ballpoint pen colors, and some grease stains, and some vanilla spilled on one edge. I ran into technical difficulties. But I was going to type the recipe anyway.

If you don't have a pudding mold, you can do this in a large coffee can (dry-pack food storage can, for my fellow Mormons) or in a large Pyrex bowl covered with foil and secured with string. I highly recommend a mold, though. It's half the fun. I got mine from Williams-Sonoma, which means it cost an unholy fortune. But, you know, it's my heritage and stuff.

Anyway I don't see them at W-S now. Try here instead, or use your own Google skills, or haunt your local Deseret Industries or other thrift store.

The perfect pot to steam this in is a large water-bath pot made for canning, with the rack to hold the jars. It does a great job holding the pudding mold (or coffee can) steady, so it doesn't rattle around so much. That, I obtained from my mom's very mad D.I. treasure-hunting skills. I don't use it for canning, but I do use it for pudding.

If you see a pudding mold at the D.I. (or Salvation Army or wherever you go treasure hunting) I am interested. I could imagine myself with a collection. Wouldn't G have a fit!?

Carrot Pudding

1 c. grated carrots
3 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
3 c. flour (I like to use half white and half wheat)
1 c. molasses
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts

Beat eggs. Add oil, molasses, sugar, applesauce and carrots. Add dry ingredients. Pour in greased and sugared mold and steam 3 hours.

Hard sauce
1/2 c. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. rum extract

In medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour with a wire whisk. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Serve hot over steamed pudding.

Notes:
My mom's recipe card says: "TRY THIS: Cut oil 1/2 c. and sub. butter. Add extra 1/2 c. applesauce!" I never do it.
We don't slice our pudding. We scoop it with a big serving spoon. We also like some whipped cream on top of the hard sauce. It's holiday food.
Carrot pudding makes an outstanding breakfast.

After typing this, I am almost ready to take on another big holiday dinner ...

However, after a little googling, I am sorely tempted to have this pudding instead. Caramelized apples ... holy yummy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gnomes or a black hole?

One of those things is in my house swallowing the following:

- two brown extension cords
- several tiny screwdrivers
- one brown Born pump
- one pink butterfly baby slipper
- several ballpoint pens
- a laptop power cord
- two fleece jackets
- all my common sense

I suspect gnomes because they apparently have also been eating the insides of our 2 DVD players for dinner. Black holes don't do that.

If I were more motivated I would make this into a 12 Days of Christmas knockoff for you. Sorry. I'm feeling a little too crazy to be motivated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Martha moment



I know we're way past this. It's Christmas. Move on already.

My Chinese guests from Thanksgiving just sent me this snapshot of my centerpiece, of which I was very proud. So let's just take a thankful moment for the happy coincidence of supplies that allowed me to do this on the cheap. Because that's how I like to do these things.

  • some previously used floral foam from a university event
  • the brass tray that I usually don't know what to do with because it's engraved for the 5oth wedding anniversary of G's late grandparents and it just seems like a creepy way to serve hors d'oeuvres or something
  • a bounteous yard of zinnias, berries and greenery
  • a pretty white pumpkin
  • $10 of Green Tea roses from Raley's
I was just so proud of myself!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Like and alike

I have been thinking lately about the peculiar joy of recognition. By that, I mean the moment or even the slow-growing time when you realize that you have found someone with whom you have something, or even a lot of things, in common. It is so delightful. When I find someone who has a little rainbow family like mine, who reads as voraciously as I do, who is as obsessed as I am with food, who went to BYU at the same time I did, who uses the same kick-butt roll recipe I do for the holidays ... it's an incomparable delight. I savor and rejoice in tying those connections.

Even when it's a bond with someone I never thought was much like me at all, like Z's biological mom, the discovery of a personal similarity can be a beautiful reminder that what I sometimes think of as my accomplishments are really more blessings from heaven, and that we really are all God's children way down deep, wanting and needing the same things, just given different challenges and abilities.

Of course, this joy has its opposite. I find one of the most difficult things for me is when someone I thought was so like me turns out not to be so like me, after all. Sometimes it's a shallow and harmless shock, like when I discovered my office mate hated Napoleon Dynamite. Sometimes it's a reaction that reminds me I am neither so kind nor so mature as I would like to think, like when someone who was supposed to be infertile (like me) has a surprise pregnancy. Sometimes it rocks me to the core, like when someone I admire or love turns away from the faith we previously had in common.

It's no secret among those who know me that there are several people in my family who no longer participate in the LDS Church. Over the past few years this has caused me to search, to mourn, to envy, to question where I stand. Sometimes it has led me to judgment and anger. Of course, I'm not very proud of that, when I stand back and look at it. But at the bottom of it all is this visceral hurt that goes something like this: "I thought we were alike, but now I see that we're not."

This is probably no big revelation to anybody but me, but that's not a particularly healthy or productive place to hang out. We stay there, and the rifts grow wider. We start to wonder if the breaking of one tie amounts to a total personal rejection. We pick at the scabs where maybe one or two of our ties to those people have pulled away, and we never start to feel better.

A few days ago one of my brothers became a daddy for the first time. Joy. Recognition. Connection - even across many miles. It has made me realize how much sweeter and even easier it is (once I start) to keep building bonds instead of nursing the empty spots where I found out we were not the same.

So there are people I love whose personal foundations I can't take for granted anymore. I should let myself have the happiness of seeing the treasures they really are, instead of sulking about my broken Lusterware family.

So that's my new resolution. It's really just a long, drawn-out way of saying I'm going to try to be more positive. That's the way I like to say things.

If peace and joy got in a fight, which one would win?

You're getting a sneak preview of our Christmas card picture, you lucky blog readers.

I finally realized that the likelihood of getting all four children bathed, dressed and sitting still for a picture was slim to none. Went for the separate headshots. I'm liking the effect.

How about you?

And as for the clever caption, well, you know, they do pay me for my skill at that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I never thought this day would come

But last night, instead of catching up on House online, I watched Ugly Betty on DVD.

I am exceedingly disappointed with House this season. The only good thing was Cole, aka Big Love, and now he's gone. Are there new writers who really think it's clever, controversial or sexy if House says anatomical terms for major reproductive organs of both sexes in one show? Are they just out of ideas, so they're pulling out the gimmicks, like the whole reality-show thing, and the CIA and the documentary? I don't have time to research this, so I just stop watching.

Ugly Betty, on the other hand, I am loving. Of course I am only halfway through season 1 at this point.

Late to another party, big fat deal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Post 600: I am the luckiest

It's my 600th post on Watch Out for Mama!

Today I am grateful for the scary but safe birth of a new baby in my extended family. So it's time for some totals. I have:

1 amazing-in-every-way husband
2 practically perfect parents
2 kind and loving parents in law
2 super-cute grand-nieces (does that make me sound old?)
3 sweet nieces and nephews on my side - the new total!
3 living grandparents - how lucky is that when you're 33?
4 precious children in my home
4 (so far) ideal partners for my siblings who fit right into the whole crazy fam
5 smart, good-looking, talented and funny siblings
8 siblings and spouses on G's side
13 fun nieces and nephews on G's side - ages 3 to 20-something - counting spouses for the 2 who are married
13 aunts and uncles who remember all my ages and stages, from cute to awkward to whatever I am now
26 cousins with whom I can share memories and future reunions ... and I'm not even counting their spouses and kids!

How is that for counting your blessings?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bad mommy!

It isn't right to read your child's diary, even if he is only six. But Abe has been practicing his writing. Oh, I love first graders!

Oct. 22
I can hlpe my prinses her Name is Z she is 11 muns
tue bays ago she bit me and she wus smiyling at me.

(She has been known to do this. I like how he calls her his princess.)

oct 23
this is wut my dad ses
my name is k and I hav a story and hers how it gos, "UH!"

(Obviously before K's current verbal explosion - he says a lot more than "UH!" these days but that used to be pretty much it!)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Remember this?



We got ourselves some Hubba Bubba at Target and on the way home I was telling the kids about this commercial. Ah, memories!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turnaround

Today I have panicked, cried, yelled, run, driven like a bat out of hell, schmoozed, scurried, spammed (almost), stuffed, and finally ... downed a double chocolate blended creme, grande, with whipped cream.

After that last one I feel a lot better.

It's only 2 p.m. And it's Z's first birthday. Here's hoping I can get my act together and have a lot smoother rest of the day. It's just gonna be cake (grocery store cake - that's how busy I am feeling) at home with the fam, and Princess Pudge pulling her first babydoll out of a gift bag. No biggie. I can't believe it's been a whole year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Time for a winter pedicure

From A:

"You're real pretty on top, but your feet are sure ugly."

Out of the kindness of my heart, no picture to accompany this one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A holiday gripe

From S:

"I just hate it when people hang up mistletoe. I have to do everything secret-agent style."

You can just picture it, can't you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I must just look like I need help

We are getting a surprise food order from the Church. Unsolicited, unexpected and also un-planned-for. I'm grateful; it's very nice; I know it's not that anybody's trying to insult us or anything. They want to be supportive of the grad student family with foster kids. I get that.

I am just stressing out about where to put it all. Fortunately I found someone to keep the turkey in their deep-freeze for me, because I don't have one, and I already have two turkeys that I got for free from the grocery store promotion that's been running for the last few weeks.

Also, I'm wondering if there will be stuff in there that we just don't eat - cream of mushroom soup and brown-n-serve rolls and frozen pies and stuff. The food bank may be getting some of it.

This has happened to us once before, at Christmas, when S was two and A was a baby and I was all kinds of seasonal-affective crazy. Worst winter of my life. That time, it offended me a little. This time, I am trying hard to suppress my "we-are-not-poor" reaction and just be gracious for once in my life. Can I do it?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Making the grade

I'm just a blogging fool today. I can't shut up.

So sweet 6 year old A left his notebook in my purse.

I presume it was there for sacrament meeting entertainment. I finally buckled down and told my kids they can only have a notebook and a pen during church - no toys. Who needs 'em? They have a great time creating stick figure wars on their notebooks during the meeting.

The tricky part is turning down the volume on the sound effects. If you have a boy or if you have ever been or known a boy, you know what I mean. I hate to do gender stereotyping but it is my experience that girls do not have the sound effects gene. If you would like to contradict this, feel free.

Back to my point. A has some very cute drawings in his notebook. 6-year-old art is always fantastic. But there was a different part that I really liked.

He graded himself on every page. And every grade was 100%. Even on the personal essay that described how much he liked his cat, because it was warm. We have no cat. But fiction can still get a 100%.

My very favorite? The page that said "100% Mom did this." Like I gave the grade.

I think we have a politician on our hands, folks. Or maybe a PR genius.

What would you give yourself 100% for? That is a hard question for grownups. I like how little kids are not so hard on themselves.

Change is inevitable

I was released this weekend from the Young Women's organization in our ward. I knew this was coming and am relieved in many ways, but I am also surprised at how much of my identity I got tangled up in that calling. I was also really touched at the notes I got from "my" girls. I have always felt like I haven't done enough in this job - no, I've known it. But I think the little I do accomplish has touched some hearts, and that's very gratifying to hear. It has been emotional. I really did not want to walk out of the Young Women's room yesterday. It felt really strange. But I also know it really was time for a change.

When I was barely 15 and getting ready to move to Alaska with my family, a friend wrote in my yearbook, "change is inevitable and important." We get what we need at the times when we need it. I do believe this is true, even if it's sometimes hard to process.

Next up for me: Sunbeams. Or more accurately, the combined class of 3, 4 and 5 year olds. This should be fun. K will be in the class come January. They are all cute kiddies. And it doesn't require any Tuesday nights or Saturday jaunts to dances in Modesto. Just a little lesson every week, and play-doh and the hokey-pokey. I think it is going to be a much less flashy way to serve, so to speak. I can really just do it for the right reasons ... I hope! I really am excited!

Fashionably

Late, but in case you are even later than I am, here are some media-type things I've been enjoying. I am getting most of my book ideas lately from Lucy. You've probably already read her reviews, so I'll be brief.
  • Possession, a Romance by A.S. Byatt. This was the best crafted book I have read in years. It may not quite grab you at first, and it definitely doesn't qualify as a fast or easy read, but if you hang in there you will be rewarded! Plot teaser: Two nerdy lit types in the 1980s search for history on two nerdy lit types from the 1850s ...
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Funny and touching ... another nicely structured book where different stories come together in surprising ways. Plot teaser: Adorable old-man Holocaust survivor and angsty teenage girl seem to lead entirely separate lives ...
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I needed a fast read after Posession. This was a charming and meaningful one about how Danish people aided the Jews of their country during World War II. Can't wait to read it to the kids. Made me proud to be part Dane.
  • Amazing Grace (film). Just ... loved it. Period drama, heartfelt romance, social justice, Christian themes ... could there be a better combination? I kept hearing things and thinking, "Oh, that's a phrase I want to remember." Like, "Are you going to use your voice to praise God or to change the world?" Go, watch.
  • NumbThumb. I'm not a member yet. But before Christmas, I will be. There is going to be a big present at our house that starts with "W" and ends with "ii."And if you think I am shelling out $50 for every game you really don't know me at all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jiggity jig

As in, home again, home again ...

So, I almost forgot about this, but traveling for business is not really fun. Boring and lonely is more like what it is.

I had a nice dinner at the West Restaurant at the Hotel Angeleno. It used to be a Holiday Inn. When the crazy Ethiopian cab driver told me that, I almost thought he was taking me to the wrong place, because I knew it was supposed to be a nice place and I thought those could not both be true. But they were. It was very nice. I had yummy salad and roasted chicken and teeny tiny potatoes.

Crazy cab driver asked where I was from (Utah, basically) and had lots of questions about Mormonism. Here's hoping I disabused him of some false notions. He was a big fan of the Word of Wisdom. You will see why in a minute.

He also told me about a natural living guru, last name Noel. I can't remember the first name. He was sure that following this guy's prescriptions would cure our infertility. Yah, like I said, kinda crazy. I did want to look him up, though, just because I am curious about craziness. Anybody got a cue on that for me?

And he showed me his adorable 2 year old daughter on his cell phone. So cute! And proceeded to tell me he does not vaccinate and would not stop talking about being anti-vaccination. Now, I respect people's decisions about their kids. But I think a cab driver or other service professional probably should not harp on customers about such an issue. Would you agree?

It's kind of sad when you go to an exciting city like LA and the most interesting part of the trip is your taxi ride.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the death of a friend

Some random thoughts provoked by the funeral I attended yesterday. Because I just can't get going on work stuff until I set them down.

Occasionally (like yesterday before I went to the funeral) I want to make myself sound like a real musician or even a music snob. I am not. I am more like my friend, who turned down a full ride to Juilliard (which I can never spell) to marry her wonderful husband, a mechanic.

She was only 3 years older than my mom. I want to be with my mom more.

She was a working-outside-the-home mom. I want to be with my kids more.

She visited with the Relief Society presidency 4 years ago when I was brand new here. Noticing the piano in my house and prying out of me that I sing ... calling the ward music chairperson to tell her she had to get me to sing in Sacrament Meeting ... telling me that she would play for me any time, like I was so special and talented ... she made my place here for me, almost singlehandedly.

As an adult she found her birthfamily and a whole new network of people to love and feed and play jokes on. It filled a gap in her life. She was generous enough to talk about it with me. I need to write to my kids' birthmoms.

She had the guts at age 45 to leave behind what she had previously known and embrace a new faith. I admire and respect that so deeply. I'm both heartbroken and furious that there are those who disdain such a brave and faithful choice.

She freely confessed to having a problem being too quick to anger. She was just one of those people with little patience for incompetence or stupidity. And yet she testified before she went that she was never angry about the illness that took her. Just sad that she wouldn't be there for her grandkids as they grew up. Oh, watching those grandkids yesterday ...

She was amazing with young people. Every week we came into the Young Women room to find the remains of her Sunday School treats ... and we are not talking about Dum Dum pops here. It was coffee cake and muffins and tarts and chocolate. I need to show my love more fully. I never cried all weekend until yesterday when I hugged one of my Mia Maids and she broke down in my arms.

I still think cancer is like a black widow spider.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Tis the season

Satsuma mandarins are in the store, fog shrouds us in the mornings, and the Christmas music has begun.

It's all Messiah so far -- I have to sing along and practice because of the stake choir project. My diaphragm is getting a good workout. Anyway, I like the new(ish - it's from last year) recording of Messiah by the Japan Bach Consortium. It sounds like a mandarin orange, light and sweet!

I did also break down this weekend and go searching on Rhapsody for a nice recording of Berlioz' L'Enfance du Christ. I discovered this haphazardly when a music store in Salt Lake was shutting down and giving away all its single-copy choral music for free. I got a copy of "The Shepherds' Farewell to the Holy Family" in translation. I don't know when I've heard a lovelier melody, and I halfway want to direct a ward choir again so I can do it for Christmas. In my search for a recording, I am as yet unsatisfied. Anybody?

Is the Christmas music on at your house yet? Have you bought a box of satsumas?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Would you?

Would you go to LA overnight on a week's notice for a work-related meeting, leaving your long-suffering husband alone with four little wild things?

It doesn't seem altogether kind to him, but on the other hand, I've been the one left at home plenty of times. And a night in a hotel seems awfully appealing.

Plus, potentially a good chance to earn back brownie points lost earlier this year in the midst of crises and upheavals.

I haven't heard G's input yet. I'm sure that will make the difference. But on my own, I am kind of leaning toward yes, as crazy as that sounds.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I knew

For all my protesting that faith isn't about knowing the future - and I really believe it isn't - I do believe that sometimes God speaks to us about the future. Sometimes it's in a dream or a dramatic revelation. Sometimes it's just what we know if we really look into the depths of our hearts. Some people describe this as intuition or being in tune with the universe or whatever. To me, it's God saying, "I'm not ignoring you, hold onto this and see what I have in store."

Sometimes it's confusing - so far out of our realm of understanding, we don't know what to do with it, like when I mistakenly thought I was pregnant the same month Z was conceived. I was so devastated that that feeling was not about what I thought it was about. But if we wait, the understanding comes eventually.

From the beginning I felt that Z's story would be a rocky road, but a road with a happy ending. Up until she left, I always sort of knew she would go. After she came back, I have consistently felt that she will not be leaving again. It is looking more and more like that feeling is right.

Some people might wonder why God would care a whit about my little family-building woes. I'm obviously fine, not starving, not in danger, not abused or hurt in any way. Why does he allow the horrible for some, while my family enjoys good, even great blessings?

I might as well ask why he allows me to experience infertility and slog through the foster care system, while other people get to have homemade babies and spend their money and time on other things. My job is to find him in my life. For someone else, it might be a harder job, or it might be a better job, better tailored for them individually. I think God cares about us and guides us within our individual circumstances. I am not convinced that all those circumstances are his doing, but I think some might be. I think mine are.

I know that he loves his children. I know the good things in my life come from him.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Direct quote

From me:

"Fortunately I have a pretty good set of personal issues that occupy all my emotional space, so I don't really get all that upset about work."

Monday, November 05, 2007

My new favorite number

It's 36.

I'm still only 33. Only!

But 36 is the case code for adoptions. Also the new number on Z's file. S did not show at the last court date and the judge (finally!) said enough.

There has been stuff going on with S that I have not been comfortable posting about. Now that I know her, I speculate and share less about her. That's a good thing. But it also means you will have to trust me when I say there are some credible reasons to believe that she will not stay clean long term and is not equipped to parent Z.

Termination of S's parental rights is tentative for February, if I understand correctly. I know how sad this is. I do, I really do. I have said goodbye and never expected to see Z again. I know how much that sucks. I just can't feel it right now. I hope I can be forgiven for that.

Anybody got a WOOT!?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Your sweet voice

Do you have a sweet voice? I do. It is reserved for use with babies, old people (even Nobel Prize-winning scientists) and, oddly, I realized today, female business contacts whom I don't know well.

I noticed this just now when leaving a message for the grizzled city editor at the local paper. No sweet voice for him.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Party kids

I had a post typed this morning about how crappy I felt and how little I wanted to blog. Blogger wouldn't let me post it. Do you smell a rat?

OK, well now that I have uploaded and looked at these cuties, I feel better.*

Plus, cute kid pictures save me from having to think of a blog post.

These were all from the stake Trunk-or-Treat party last night.

As always, pics of the littlest two were up for a limited time only. Sorry if you missed them. Email me if you want, and if I know you are not a creep I will send them to you.





This one you have to be stealthy if you want to get his picture!

*Advil LiquiGels have done their part to improve my mood. I love those way more than candy. But that might just be because of the sheer overwhelming volume of candy I have had in the last 24 hours.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mmmmmmbread

My friend Shelby is the source for this fantastic half-white-half-wheat bread recipe. Made tonight because even though we have miraculously found an extra $45 in the last 5 hours, I had already gotten it into my head to be all frugal and homemakerish and make homemade bread and so I did it!

I have never had good luck making bread before. Shelby is my new BFF.

Shelby's Biracial Bread

3 c warm water
2 tbsp dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar

4 c white flour
4 c wheat flour (I grind this with the wheat grinder attachment on my beloved KitchenAid)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c oil
1 tbsp salt

Sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar, then 2 tbsp yeast over warm water. Do not stir. Allow to bubble.

Add wheat flour and stir. Then add other ingredients, and add white flour until the dough is of about the right consistency. Knead with the mixer for about 1 minute.

Cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 hour. Punch down and form into loaves. Allow to rise in pans 30 minutes.

Bake 20 minutes at 350, then 10 more minutes at 325. It should be lightly browned and smell fantastic.

Good luck not eating the heel when it is hot out of the oven. I had it with some of that killer good microwave jam from Simply Recipes (the plum kind I made a few weeks ago). It is soft and toothsome, not crumbly. Yum.

So what are you doing this weekend?

This is my boring answer to the boring question that everyone asks you on Friday afternoon if you are so lucky as to work in an office.

1. Corralling children while G bravely takes his 6-man team to face the dodgeball challenge of the ward in the next town up.

2. Cleaning the bathrooms and doing the laundry, the way I do every week, theoretically. But this week it will be more than theoretical. It's urgent, people.

3. Going grocery shopping with $16 and a pile of WIC coupons. Fortunately I did have a Costco binge earlier in the month and we have plenty of food - I just have to get milk and fruit and eggs, and maybe bread. Anyway ya gotta love a long month. Sometimes it is so problematic to pay for childcare in advance and get foster care subsidies NOT in advance. I can't wait for Nov. 1.

4. NOT going to a gallery opening to which I was personally invited by the artist. Wah! I heard someone say today, "My son is 30 years old and I finally have a life again." Well, I have a life. But it doesn't really include gallery openings. So be it.

5. NOT going to stake Elders' Quorum social an hour away. I feel bad because their activity is going to flop and I know they already feel isolated from the rest of the stake. But honestly, an hour drive? Do you know how much that costs in gasoline? And remember the part about the $16? Plus, they wanted us in costume. Forget it. Mothers who know do less, that's my excuse.

6. Teaching another chastity lesson in Young Women. Really, I wouldn't have made the first one so all-fired good if I knew I had another soapbox in a few weeks. That's ok. I still have plenty to say about sex and how not to have it when you are a teenager.

7. Making a cake. I got a new frosting spreader, the Pampered Chef one. Oh yeah, I am excited. I might even make two cakes. I promised one for the stake youth Halloween party on Tuesday, and I am sure it will not survive if I don't make one for my family, too. See Lucy's recent learned-by-sad experience entry. (So cute!)

8. Thinking about asking for a release. Thinking. No promises. But it is true that I am completely overextended, and I can't think of anywhere else I can cut back.

9. Finalizing my new childcare plan. Did I tell you the littles' babysitter is quitting? Big bummer. But I have a new plan. The new friend, the intimidating one, turns out to have not so much more money than I do. She wants to babysit. She is starting to be quite cool. You know, maybe she will inspire me to be thinner and more organized and stuff. Stay tuned.

10. Messiah choir practice. I know it is just one more thing on my plate. But singing releases endorphins, kind of like running. It's pure joy. Running is not. So which one do you think I am going to do?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Funnies, verbal and nonverbal

Scene: Getting S up at 6:50 a.m.

S: Everybody get back to bed! It's like 2 in the morning!
Mom: Actually it's almost 7, which is a great time to get up.
S: But it's dark!
Mom: That's because it's almost winter. The days are getting shorter.
S: Does that mean we stay at school for less time?
Mom: No, there's just less and less sun every day.
S: [ponders] THAT SUCKS!

Scene: Saying prayers with K, who didn't get to go to soccer practice with the big boys because of a biting incident.

M: And help me not to bite, AN-Y-MORE.
K: [looks up with devilish grin, clacks his teeth together and nods his head "yes"]
M: Pppppbbbbbbbbhhhhhhhaaaaaah!

(I think that is not how I encourage him to stop biting.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mysteries

- Why do two of my kids naturally know how to beat-box? I swear I have not taught them this. And yes, it's the same two kids who look like you would expect them to know how to beat-box.

- How did I drop $30 on pumpkins and squash last night? The pumpkin patch is just so dang cute with all the zinnias and sunflowers hay bales and piles of knobby orange and green and white edibles ... I did get two Radio Flyer wagons full of said edibles for my $30, and two bags of organic dried apricots, so all in all, not too bad.

- Whom do I have to bribe, and how much, to get K in full-day Head Start?

- How did a giant hole appear in my underwear? And why did I end up wearing this holey (hahaha) underwear on the day I wore a skirt? Brrrrrr ... drafty.

- Boys: sometimes they just don't think. That's not a question, but it's still mysterious.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Zucchini-feta pizza

I don't have much else to say so I will just tell you about some food I made over the weekend. I wish I had some of it right now.

Zucchini-feta pizza with pine nuts and basil

Before you start, heat your oven to 375 degrees.

The crust
1 c very warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt

Mix water, yeast, sugar and oil. Add all-purpose flour and stir to make a "sponge" - meaning, let the yeast bubble up before you go to the next step. Which is adding the whole wheat flour and salt. Stir it in - soon it will be easier to oil up your hands and knead it a bit. This is enough dough for two thin pizza crusts. If you are only making one pizza (using the amounts I am giving below), save half the dough in the freezer for next time.

The pizza
2 small or 1 large zucchini, sliced very thin (use a mandoline if you can)
salt
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
Black pepper
1/3 c pine nuts
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

Lay the sliced zucchini out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit. When you see moisture beading up on the surface, blot it off (I used a paper towel). This keeps the zucchini from expelling all its water when you cook it and causing your crust to get soggy.

Now arrange the zucchini slices nicely on the pizza crust. Sprinkle with basil and pepper, then pine nuts and feta.

Bake it at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Incidentally, when I did this Friday night, I used the other half of the dough to make a plain cheese pizza for the kids with leftover marinara sauce (no meat). Good solution for the pickypoos.

Also incidentally, do you think it would be a good idea if I made a separate category for vegetarian recipes? Would you use it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Runaway

I was going to tell you, on Sunday when sacrament meeting was getting so frustrating with all the little wild things, I just ran away. Specifically, I ran to the mother's room and rocked Z to sleep and actually listened to the speakers. I didn't even rush back to sing in the choir. I just listened. It was awesome. Amazing to hear the messages and to feel something in my heart while holding the sweet weight of a chubby ten-month-old baby in a dark and solitary room. I needed that a lot.

Tonight, my plan is to ditch Mutual and hang out with my kids. They are just having movie night. They really don't need me there.

I think these little things might just be the key to my sanity.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Carrot of fortune

We went to lunch today for a co-worker's birthday. I do always love that. I had some very lovely sushi, which might surprise some people. Yes, you can get some very decent sushi where I live. We are only a couple of hours from the coast, after all.

The main reasons to eat sushi, of course, are two-fold: wasabi and pickled ginger.

Anyway, I got the dumbest fortune cookie ever. It read, "A carrot a day may keep cancer away."

What in the name of all holy root vegetables kind of fortune is that?

Nonetheless, I am having carrots for my afternoon snack.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Die die die

That was K's narration for the jack knife picture in "The Little Engine that Could" last night. Complete with stabbing motions.

Normal 3 year olds don't do this, methinks.

I said, "Did you see someone do that?"

He said, "Yeah."

Holy crap. The more verbal he gets, the more I worry.

Patience

Just a few months. Six months, I bet, and I will know

- What is happening with my husband's career
- What is happening with my career
- Where we will live, at least for the next few years
- What is happening with our foster kids
- Whether we can really buy a home in the near future

In the meantime, it is all making me nuts.

Poor G listened to me vent all evening while I was making ravioli and chopped salad for dinner. He reminded me that I get very impatient when he does that (venting). Yah, the difference is, I almost never do it and he does.

Six months. I can stay sane and patient for six months, right?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And just for fun

I found this quiz on Lindsey's blog (which I also just found! Hi Lindsey!)







Which Mozart Opera Does Your Life Most Resemble?




Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute). For a complete synopsis, see http://www.firstcoastopera.com/Magic Flute synopsis.htm.
Take this quiz!








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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Side salad

Here's what I was making tonight when the reporter called. We had it with some wild salmon I got today at Costco, which was just sauteed with salt and pepper in a skillet.

(I am experimenting with not buying farmed salmon. Wild does taste different, maybe better. Costs more. Sigh. But I hear it is more responsible. I still have to find out why.)

Thai Tomato Peanut Salad

4 ripe tomatoes - different colors if you can get them - cut in eighths
1/4 c Thai lime and chili peanuts (from Trader Joe's)
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
pinch salt

Mix it, eat it. Yummy.

It reminded me a little bit of the bizarro PB&T (yes, that is peanut butter and tomato) sandwiches my mom used to eat when I was a little kid. She was pretty much pregnant all the time, so don't think too weirdly of her.

My day off

The reason I don't take days off very often: you always pay. You really do.

I had a great day -- got a bunch of errands done, hung out with my littles, and had lunch, Trader Joe's and a bookstore jaunt with Sal. It was great.

Tonight I had a reporter call me at 8 p.m. trying to set up at the last minute to go up in the mountains with a bunch of professors tomorrow. I did a mad scramble while cooking dinner for G and me and yelling at kids to go brush their teeth, and I think, maybe, it might work. Maybe!

And then I checked my email (what a dummy) and found that the brochure I've been working on for a couple of weeks with a firm deadline of today finally arrived and the print quality was decidedly subpar. It makes me look like a moron, and you know, I was just trying to fill in because the designer/print coordinator was overbooked. I should so know better. I mean, I didn't do the graphic design - I subbed it out to a freelancer we know and trust, and it just all went to crap. I'm upset because I have been working so hard to earn the trust of the group we did this for -- and I'm very afraid they're going to pull back because of this. I guess a lot will depend on how I handle it now. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow I will know how.

I told Sally I am having a Springsteen obsession right now. I was not really into the Boss when he was so super popular in the '80s; I was kinda too young to get it. But now I think he is one of the great, great songwriters. Plus he always reminds me of Pittsburgh - the whole gritty realism of the place. Anyway the new album, Magic, is great. Super great. But what I really can't quit singing to myself is the song I heard in the grocery store on Saturday - this one. I can't embed it - wah!

I mean, this thing is running in my head over and over. And the weird thing is, it's not because I identify with it so much, but because I know somebody else who really might. I think it is freakish how much other people's problems bother me sometimes.

At least I kept myself awake on the way back from my afternoon escapades, singing the "look at me baby" part and pretending I was on American Idol. I could so rock that.

I hold you in my arms as the band plays
What are those words whispered baby just as you turn away
I saw you last night out on the edge of town
I wanna read your mind and know just what I've got in this new thing I've found

So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise

I heard somebody call your name from underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame underneath your pillow
Well I've tried so hard baby but I just cant see
What a woman like you is doing with me
So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise

Now look at me baby struggling to do everything right
And then it all falls apart when out go the lights
I'm just a lonely pilgrim I walk this world in wealth
I want to know if its you I don't trust cause I damn sure don't trust myself

Now you play the loving woman I'll play the faithful man
But just don't look too close into the palm of my hand
We stood at the altar the gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours maybe baby the gypsy lied
So when you look at me you better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby or just a brilliant disguise

Tonight our bed is cold
I'm lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he's sure of

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saying my say

Hooooo-wee! Furor afoot about President Julie Beck's conference talk yesterday. Here are some of my ideas about it.

Power and responsibility, a la the Spider-Man movies. Women today have tremendous power to choose what our lives will be. Nobody needs to be stuck without choices anymore, especially if the follow counsel to become educated and prepare for the future. I feel trusted to choose my own path. I know that if I am prayerful and if I follow the guidance of the Spirit, my choices are right and accepted - by my LDS peers and leaders, and by God.

It's widely recognized that not every woman can be a stay-at-home mother - there are so many obstacles to that, from singleness to infertility to economic necessity. I have never been called on the carpet for working outside the home as my husband progresses through graduate school. I feel understood.

Trust and understanding are empowering. ("That is power!")

With great power, it's said (by the wise Uncle Ben), comes great responsibility. It has been easy for me to forget that if I am not guided by the Spirit as I choose where to spend my time, I am prone to making wrong choices.

I wrote last week about how hard I used to think it would be for me to give up my job, and how my feelings about that are starting to change. What if I weren't willing to follow those feelings when G finishes up and becomes again able (I hope!) to support our family? I'd be placing my family in jeopardy.

I think President Beck may have been swinging the pendulum back, reminding us that all this freedom and understanding doesn't excuse us from our responsibilities. Sure, the Lord understands when we are doing our best. But honestly, it had better be our very best.

Hard Ideals. I am always relieved when other moms admit that the nitty gritty details of homemaking and even mothering do not come easily for them. Man, they do not come easily for me either. I am naturally messy and disorganized. I am impatient and unrealistic in my expectations. It is hard to overcome those things. I haven't done it yet.

And for some other women it seems so easy! How can the ideal be easy for them but hard for me? That is unfair! It's so easy to feel excluded, looked down on, inferior. And if it makes me feel that way, how can it be right?

Look, if we never aspired to things beyond our reach, how would we ever get any better? Just because a standard is difficult, or even seems impossible, that doesn't make it a false standard. Catering to my abilities is not one of the criteria for truth.

I am not going to be a perfect homemaker today or tomorrow or any other day. Yesterday I got all motivated and made myself a little schedule that started at 5 a.m. today with exercise and scripture study. Then the baby got up in the night and there was just no way I was going to short myself an hour of sleep just to be perfect from 5 - 6 a.m.

So, I can't do it. That doesn't mean I quit trying or rail on the person who tells me what to shoot for.

What I do is keep trying, give myself a little credit for that, and rely on the Savior's grace to pick up where I collapse. And eventually I get better.

Actually that is a pretty big principle that applies to a lot of things, not just mothering.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You read to me, I'll read to you

You may have heard me say before that the one thing I am really excellent at, as a mother, is reading to my kids. Patience, not so hot. Housekeeping, definitely iffy. Gospel teaching, spotty at best. But reading out loud, we do every day and we spend a good amount of time at it. I flatter myself that it's why my kids are so darn stinking smart. I'm a big believer in read-aloud.

So last night we left Harry Potter in quite a place. If you haven't read the Deathly Hallows by now, you almost deserve a spoiler, but I will be nice and not give it to you. S begged me to go on, trying to figure out how the book could go on after what just happened, but it was 9 p.m. and I had to say no.

After we finish this book in a couple of days we are going for something light: Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary. I have been previewing it and laughing out loud, especially in the spitball chapter where ... oh, never mind; I'm staying away from spoilers. I just love Otis and I love it when I remember that my kids are SO Otis themselves - that spark of mischief drives me nuts but it is also so essential to their smarts and spunk and personality. They are really awesome kids.

So if, hypothetically, my life were feeling about as serious as Harry Potter's incident in the Forbidden Forest right now, what would you read to me to lighten it all up and make me remember what I love and what makes me smile?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Choices and corners

On Sunday I narrowly escaped teaching the Mia Maids the "Making Wise Choices" lesson.

I've taught this lesson before and actually, I like it. Three years ago I offered the girls a choice between a fresh nectarine and a rotten nectarine. Easy choice. Then a choice between the fresh nectarine and a bag of candy. Not such an easy choice, until you think about goals and consequences. Then we went on to talk about all the factors and strategies that go into making good choices when they are not so easy and obvious.

But this time I was woefully unprepared. No nectarines, fresh or rotten, or candy to be found in the house, and it was fast Sunday, anyhow. I was actually sitting in Sunday School, my parents beside me to witness my state of unpreparedness, trying to recall all the things we talked about in my three-years-ago Wise Choices lesson and write them down on a notepad otherwise filled with choo-choo trains and stick figure battles, the remnants of a sacrament meeting where the kids behaved astonishingly well. (It helps to have extra hands - I love grandparents!)

It turned out that we had a guest teaching a combined Young Men/Young Women lesson. I was off the hook. We also had a combined priesthood meeting/Relief Society lesson. The topic was "Teaching Your Children Responsibility." It was good, nothing new, but good reminders about charts and consequences and more Love and Logic type stuff, which I totally believe in and subscribe to but don't always implement too well.

Mainly this led me to ponder on the choices that currently affect me the most: having four children at home, and having a full-time job.

Right now I feel like these two choices are constantly at odds. The kind of family life I want is simply incompatible with full-time employment.

I can't stand the rushing and the chaos.

I can't stand it that I actually resent a child who refuses to open his mouth at the dentist after an hour-long sojourn in the waiting room, making for three hours total off work, counting pick up and drop off at daycare.

I can't stand forgetting to send lunch money and getting the call from the cafeteria that a child is getting the bare-minimum "my mom is a loser" lunch and being unable to do anything about it.

I can't stand being unable to sit down and play with the child who is driving me nuts (yes, still) and remind myself that I do in fact love him.

I can't stand cramming every errand and activity into Saturday, and still being completely unprepared for the sabbath.

I can't stand having great ideas for family home evening and job charts and rewards and fun times together, but being completely incapable of implementing them.

I can't stand these questions:

"Can you bring the fish to my class?"

"Can you help with the book fair?"

"Why can't we be home schooled?"

In three years and three months, I've never wanted to quit my job. I've loved it. I've worried that I would mourn too hard if or when it was time to leave it. Suddenly that has changed, which is just weird. A corner turned.

When G and I switched keys today, I told him it's enough. We need to live someplace where we can live on one income. I love California, but this is ridiculous.

I hope that if I get to be a stay-at-home mom again, I will do it better - will be more motivated and organized and confident. I think when I did it before, I wasted a lot of that gift.

Now taking nominations for locations where a multiracial family can live in an open society on one Ph.D. salary. And if possible, enjoy fabulous fresh local produce and proximity to both mountains and ocean. *sniff!*

Real quick

I have a baptized boy. It was a busy weekend but I think everything went well. For me, at least, the baptism was a very emotional and spiritual experience.

I can't believe he's really eight and baptized. On the other hand I can see his growing maturity and I know he was really ready for this. It is neat.

I think S felt it, too. He is a quiet kid, not open with his emotions and definitely shy in front of large crowds (and we had a LOT of people there to support him yesterday; that was awesome!). But he had a good talk with his dad about faith and what he was doing, on which I got a later report. Special times.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A new list of stuff

  • Born shoes. I am now the proud owner of 5 pair - 4 sandals and my newest addition, darling brown low-heeled pumps with buckles and wingtip detail. Deliciously comfy and cute, if I do say so. And I've never paid full price for a single pair. Thank you, eBay.
  • The Cuisinart countertop ice cream maker. I'm mostly making vanilla frozen yogurt because the kids like it. It's great!
  • No-iron blouses from Land's End. They really don't need to be ironed. I am hooked. It's especially great because I never ironed anyway, so for the first time ever, I am not going around all wrinkled.
  • Mountain High plain whole-milk yogurt. It is so fabulous, and not just for making frozen yogurt. I have been having it with granola in the mornings. Yum.
  • Dry-roasted green peas for snacks. It's a veggie, it's a protein, it's a crunchy, salty snack. The wasabi kind are, of course, the best.
  • Sierra Trading Post. I got great deals on fleece jackets and long-underwear "pajamas" for all the kids.
  • Gerber sweet potato puffs for the babe. She is in love. I am thrilled that she can entertain herself by eating. Uh-oh, am I teaching her something bad? Meh. Sweet potatoes are a kind of vegetable.
  • Towel bibs. I got out the two I made for S when he was little, because Z now will not keep a bib on. For the uninitiated, a towel bib is made by cutting a neck hole about 3/4 of the way up a hand towel and sewing stretch ribbing around the hole to make a cute little neckline. Baby can't pull it off, and it's big and absorbent. Awesome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Annoying man

What do you do when you have one child who just annoys the heck out of you in everything he does?

I'm not going to pretend it could possibly be Z, so we are just going to use the masculine pronoun here.

Seriously, every time said child opens his mouth, my ears bleed and I want to scream. Every time he thinks he's done something cute and funny, I want to send him to his room. I have to seriously psych myself up for my time with him. And I know all he wants is my attention.

How does one get over such a problem?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Foody fall

It cools down, I wanna cook. We had a very well-fed weekend. There are no inventive recipes worth posting, but maybe some good ideas for you.

Friday night, tri-tip from the soccer fundraiser dinner. The meat, chili and rolls were all outstanding. I don't know why they bother with green salad out of a bag, but whatever. The rest was worth the $8/head price. I ended up buying 6 of these dinners because S's friend was with us Friday night. They watched Pokemon and played Legos. I love it that S is being more social and spending time with friends.

Saturday noon, a delicious wrap with the leftover tri-tip, muenster cheese, thin-sliced apples, green leaf lettuce and honey mustard dressing. Then the boys went to their soccer game, where they were shut out 6-0. Happily they are still having fun - even more so now that it is not so hot outside.

Saturday night, chicken parmesan, pasta and broccoli. This is right out of the new issue of Everyday Food. Go get it. Definitely worth making - very easy and good.

Sunday, pork chops broiled with Penzey's Steak Spice (thank you Sally), pureed sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts with butter. And then a banana cake with penuche frosting - both recipes straight out of Betty Crocker. Same cake my sister little M had for her wedding last month. We've been fondly remembering and craving ever since. Z had a taste and thought she died and went to heaven. She also loved the sweet potatoes. Who wouldn't?

She pulls up to standing now. She raises her arms and wiggles her fingers when she wants to be picked up - her first specific communication, I think. Gosh, she's going to be big before we know it. Yesterday I watched her nap, all pink cheeks and long, dark eyelashes against the white sheets. Unspeakably gorgeous, still. I just feel so lucky for every moment I have with her.

We didn't end up going to the movies. It was a relaxing weekend. Nice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whew!

It has been a buttkicker week. I keep having those lately. And I keep thinking maybe next week will be easier. Well, maybe it will.

G has been up in Livermore most days blasting water into ions and finding out what chemicals are in it, and I have been holding down the fort, so to speak.

We had our foster licensing visit on Tuesday and he took a day to clean the whole house. Have I mentioned that I am married to the best man in the entire world? I love social worker clean. I love it even more when I didn't do it.

You do know about the levels of clean, right?

1. regular clean (in our house, this is actually pretty much dirty)
2. friends clean (pick up the piles of crap)
3. visiting teachers clean (hide the piles of crap; dust surfaces)
4. mom clean (put away the piles of crap)
5. mother-in-law clean (scrub things)
6. social worker clean (scrub things really really good, toss out old medications, and put things where they are actually supposed to go)

Just another of my efforts to inform you about the really important things you should know. Sorry about all the crap. I am trying to keep my rating racy as the sex and homosexuality posts slide off the front page. Everybody knows PG doesn't sell tickets.

So this weekend, the only thing on the docket is soccer. And it is supposed to rain. I am thinking maybe we will go to the movies. Doesn't that sound fun for a rainy fall weekend? Do you know any good movies I should see, that are still in theaters?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What a good girl am I

I pulled out about 5 plums and did this. Except with plums instead of figs and oranges. I bought figs, but I had to eat them. Mmmmmmmmmm, figs.

I love love love Simply Recipes - since the author is only a couple of hours away from me, her recipes are always on track with what is seasonal and local for me. Super!

It's a killer week, actually. G is going up to Livermore almost every day for scheduled lab time on the big fancy chemical analyzing machines. I am coming into work at 7 so I can leave (theoretically) at 4 to pick up the short people. Yesterday I didn't get out until 4:45 (talking to professors about a new grant for a "cognitive sensorium" and visualization facility - cool stuff!) and it took me a full hour to pick everybody up because they were in 3 different places - A at the after school program, S at a friend's house (great new friend with an amazing mom with whom I am trying hard not to compare myself unfavorably) and the littles' team (K and Z) at their babysitter's house. Amazingly, we made it back in time for a snack before soccer practice. G got home in time to take the big boys, and I put dinner on - slow-cooked beef soft tacos with avocado. Not too dang bad.

Slow-cooked beef soft tacos

1 lb beef round, chunks for stew, trimmed of fat
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilies
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions (scallions, for you East Coasters), green and white parts, sliced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin

Plop them all in the Crock-Pot and cook it all day. Shred the beef with a fork. Serve on whole-grain tortillas with avocado chunks and salsa. Cheese and sour cream are of course delicious but entirely optional.

About the mom of the new friend. Here is a reminder for me not to be so psycho:

When a new person moves into the ward, she is actually a potential friend - not just someone with thinner thighs, more money, nicer kids and better housekeeping skills than me who homeschools her children and has great parenting ideas and the primary household rule of "we must have fun." Someone like this may not necessarily be out of my league as a girlfriend. In spite of all that.

Think positive, Mama. You make some awesome tacos.

Monday, September 17, 2007

All that zucchini

It's the time of year when all my good Mormon friends - the ones with gardens, I mean - are trying to use up their zucchini.

Here is a very sophisticated and delicious soup from the Everyday Food "Great Food Fast" cookbook (great cookbook, by the way!) to help you out.

Curried Zucchini Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 med. onion, rough chopped
2 tsp curry powder
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 small to medium zucchini, rough chopped
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
4 c water

Cook onion in oil with salt until translucent. Add curry powder and garlic; stir. Add zucchini, potato and water. Simmer 15 minutes or until zucchini is cooked. Puree in batches in the blender.

Seriously, so good.

We had it last night with lemon-garlic broiled chicken, basmati rice, garden pear and grape tomatoes, and a yogurt-scallion sauce.

And once again the kids ate cold cereal ... they are cuckoo.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Viva!

Have you ever had the chance to shout a big old "VIVA" for your workplace? How about for "la paz y la justicia?" Or a "si se puede" with a large crowd? It's pretty cool.

I caught the last part of a talk today by Dolores Huerta, a labor organizer who worked with Cesar Chavez founding the United Farm Workers and a current activist with the Fund for the Feminist Majority.

Among the messages:
  • See wedge issues like abortion, gay marriage and immigration for what they are: smokescreens to get conservatives in power.
  • The real root of the current tidal wave of undocumented immigrants is NAFTA and our economic colonization of our neighbors to the south.
  • We treated post-WWII Germany and Japan a heckuva lot better than we treat Latin America.
  • Eradicating racism would make a lot of our policy challenges (war in Iraq, immigration trouble) disappear. E.g., we would never dream of a war where we killed a million white civilians.
  • Young people today are the "fix it" generation who will no longer tolerate racism and sexism. (I hope she is right!)
  • People ask her how she could organize among poor farm workers with almost no resources. She responds that people have power just by being people. Sometimes that is all they have, but it is enough to effect change.
  • Cesar Chavez never attended high school. Likely some of the geniuses of the world are out there picking your food.
Inspiring information just flowed out of this lady like a river. I wish I could remember more of what she said ... my head is killing me today and apparently whatever is causing the pain is also causing a memory leak.

Tonight remember this

When the baby wakes up at 10 p.m. crying, she is not in psychic distress mourning for her mother.

She just wants a bottle.

This stuff makes me so out of my head sometimes!

(After I finally clued in last night and fed the little chub, she was so happy and cute I could not quite bring myself to put her down and go to sleep. Yawn!!)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Too much TV?

S: I have severe heartburn.

This is what happens when a kid who watches too much TV gets a rug burn playing at his friend's house and being dragged down the stairs while laughing hysterically. Heartburn, rug burn ... whatevah.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two scoops

First, the scoop on Z. Basically, she is back because the county screwed up. S was supposed to do more time in rehab and some parenting classes before she started her 30-day trial reunification with Z. The county did not walk her through that, and they started the 30 days without them. So now she has to do them and they will not let her have Z back until she does. This is a mess, and if I were her, I would be beyond furious. I haven't talked with her yet - just been booked today and yesterday. Four kids is quite a lot for me. Anyway apparently in every other way S is doing well. That's good.

Z is great. She has grown and has learned to crawl. I worried that she would be sad or confused. So far that does not seem to be the case, so thank heaven for that.

So this still could be temporary. It could also be a turning point, depending on how S handles it. I will leave that at that.

Here is the other scoop.

Easiest ice cream ever

1 qt. dairy half-and-half
1 can (8 oz or whatever it is) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c of whatever you like to stir into ice cream (I used some chopped up peaches and froze them ahead of time so they didn't melt my ice cream)

Mix together everything but the stir-ins. Process it in your ice cream freezer according to the directions. Stir in the other stuff at the end.

It shouldn't be this easy, I tell you.

Z still doesn't like cold things but I am trying to teach her. Ask my mom about babies (like me) and peaches and vanilla ice cream. Those things just go together. When I found that combo about 33 years ago, it was the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy tears

The county just called me. Z is coming home tonight.

I don't know why, and I don't know what is going to happen.

But I know God knew this before I did. I have had experiences that I hardly dared believe and certainly did not dare share. But they kept me going.

I am feeling so grateful right now, and so excited! I am shaking!

The gay FHE

I mentioned once on a comment on Feminist Mormon Housewives that we have had a Family Home Evening about treating our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters (in my case, brothers, literally) with love and respect. I've had a request to share this information privately and I figured if I am going to type it up I might as well make it a blog post.

I will be the first to admit that there has been a learning curve for me on this. I can remember lots of things I've said, especially in times before I knew my brothers were gay, that probably hurt their feelings and pushed them away from me. But I think I've improved in many ways, and I hope openness and awareness can make the curve for my kids not quite so steep as it was for me. If by chance they are gay, I hope with all my heart that they can avoid the pain my brothers have felt.

I got inspired to have this FHE after reading Carol Lynn Pearson's most recent book, No More Goodbyes. I think one of the most practical things we can do to override some of the outdated curricula and misguided traditions our kids will run into at church, is to provide a good foundation of truth, reason and love at home. I don't think the LDS Church's official position is necessarily outdated or misguided (though I hope for ongoing change) but many members still use old materials or propagate false traditions.

A few disclaimers:
  • We keep FHE pretty simple at our house, so if you're here looking for clever object lessons or themed treats, sorry.
  • This is not an insurrectionist FHE plan, nor is it intended to be. I believe everything we have taught here is in line with the current Church position on homosexuality.
  • Also, I am fully aware this is not an exhaustive discussion of all things related to Mormonism and homosexuality. I intended it as a foundation - an opener - for my two elementary-school-age kids. Mainly I want my kids to know that in the future, they can talk to G and me about this. I want them to have some clear standards for how to treat others, especially in our extended family. And I want the seed planted in their hearts that we will love them no matter what.
Here's what we did, after our standard opening song, prayer and family business.

1. Talked about Jesus' teaching to love one another.

2. Talked about people we know who are gay. Provided the following definition:

Gay or lesbian is when someone falls in love with people who are the same sex as them. Gay men fall in love with men, and lesbian women fall in love with women. Sometimes lesbian is also called gay.

I kept it this simple because my kids are young. Their knowledge about sex is still pretty general - we haven't discussed mechanics yet.

3. Discussed our ideal concept of family: a man and a woman being married for eternity in the temple. Some people can do this, and some people cannot. People who cannot do this, for any reason, are good people who are doing their best. We love them, and so do God and Christ.

4. Talked briefly about the law of chastity: God has commanded us to share our bodies with another person only when we are married to that person. We are expected to keep this law. Not everybody keeps it. That doesn't mean they are bad people.

5. Provided some guidelines:
  • We never make fun of someone because of who they like or love.
  • We never use the word "f-----." It is as offensive and wrong as the "n" word (something my African-American kids unfortunately understand all too well).
  • We never use the word "gay" to mean "bad" or "stupid."
  • We treat everybody the same as a child of God.
  • If there are things we don't understand, we ask questions of Mom or Dad.
6. Assured the kids that each one of them is a beloved and precious part of our family no matter what -- no matter whom they love and no matter what they do.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sex and the teenage Mormon

Ooooh, I am so excited. I have been in Young Women for more than three-and-a-half years, and next week I finally get to teach the "Power of Procreation" lesson.

In the past this has been handled by having the bishop come in and teach about it, usually drawing very heavily from the Boyd K. Packer talk in the manual. The talk has a lot of good things about it. But the "bring the bishop in" approach combined with the "read the talk aloud with a picture of Elder Packer on display" approach strikes me as unsatisfactory -- a way to teach the sex lesson without ever having to really talk about sex. Having a male authority figure teach it, especially, limits the presentation to a male perspective and tends to stifle any questions the girls might have.

I recognize that there are women of a certain age, probably both in and out of the Church, who cannot even say the word "sex" out loud. This I learned in my dear friend B's Deseret Book book club when we read "Purity and Passion" by Wendy Watson. The older generation there hemmed and hawed about "intimacy" and "relations" and really liked the "co-creating love" euphemism in the book. After we calmed down from our fits of laughter, the girls my age (late 20s to early 30s) were still wide-eyed with wonder. We had no idea the women in our moms' generation were like that even when their kids weren't around.

So here is what I am thinking. I live two blocks from the church building. I think I might bring my girls over here for the lesson. Just to be more comfortable and friendly and sit around drinking sodas and really talking, instead of lined up on folding chairs in the sweaty top-floor classroom where we're usually assigned. I want to use some of the points discussed on the recent ExII post about the RS Law of Chastity lesson -- especially the "sacred, not secret" parallel with temple ordinances. And I think if the temple is the appropriate place to talk about temple ordinances, then home is the right place to talk about sex.

I think I might invite moms. Just so I can't be accused of corrupting the youth. But will that stymie the discussion and prevent the girls from asking the questions they want to ask? What do you think?

I know for sure I am going to tell the girls that the law of chastity means more than girls being responsible for holding off the boys until they're married. I am going to tell them that girls have a sex drive, too, and that's how it's supposed to be, and they are just as responsible as boys are for keeping it under control.

I am going to tell them that chastity is a law to protect them not just from premarital pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but from heartbreak, confusion and divided loyalty. I so believe that.

I want to tell them that sex is great in the right context. I might need help conveying that in a convincing yet appropriate way.

Though I don't know of any specific repentance situations in the class, we will for sure talk about repentance and forgiveness.

And we will talk about what to do if you become a victim of abuse, rape or sexual assault.

Just, you know, stuff the bishop might not always think about when he comes in to read the Boyd K. Packer talk in the manual.

What would you tell the Mormon girls about sex?

(I will delete any inappropriate responses post haste. Be respectful of both sex and Mormonism, and your comments will be welcome!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Random

  • What would you rather have: a clone or a nanny?
  • Tonight I braided K's ginormous afro into lots of tiny braids. Tomorrow I am going to ask the social worker if we can leave it in and try to let it lock up. Or I might re-do it in smaller braids before we let the dreadlocks start, if we are allowed to do that. It is soooooooooo cute!
  • Also on the agenda tomorrow: picking up my cell phone at the post office (don't ask, ARGH), two morning meetings, orientation for the county childcare reimbursement program, and trying to get social security cards for me, G and K. New for K, replacements for me and G. We are dorks. You think I might be pushing too hard? I think so.
  • Have you watched that show on Fox where you sing karaoke and then you have to keep singing while the words stop appearing? It is exceedingly dumb. Nonetheless I would like to go on the show and win money for the only thing I am good at remembering.
  • Two times this week, S (who has birthday money and is feeling rich) has bought things for K. Monday, LifeSavers at the airport on the way back from my sister's wedding. Today, a 25-cent toy from the machine outside the neighborhood bodega. Isn't that the sweetest thing ever? I am so, SO proud of him.
  • Yes, we have a bodega. It is run by a middle eastern family. I'm ashamed to say I don't know exactly what flavor of middle eastern. The prices are outrageous and the clientele very diverse. I have been known to buy candy there on the way home. I'm a bribery mom, you see.
  • And the million-dollar question: when there is a court hearing at the end of Z's mom's 30-day trial period on Sept. 13, should I go? On the one hand, I think it might help me make sense of things. On the other hand, if I were S trying (apparently) to avoid my kids' former foster mom, it would creep me out to have her show up in court. What do you think?

On that note, I bid you good night.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Coming of age with the Spanish Branch YW

One of my YW is having a quinceaneara on Saturday.

At the LDS chapel.

This caused quite a stir among the YW board and some others last night as we passed around the fairly elaborately printed invitation (in Spanish, so most of us dummies could only guess what it said, including me). It's a Catholic ceremony, after all. Can you perform a Catholic blessing inside a Mormon church? Did the branch president know? Had they even scheduled the building? Would they be able to get in?

One person griped about how the building has been so messy lately and "the branch people are the worst offenders."

(Good grief. Don't they realize it's probably my kids crapping everything up? That is, after all, their usual modus operandi. All I have to do for proof is look around the family room where they were playing Nintendo 64 tonight.)

The building scheduler came to pick up his wife and daughter from YW. He said yes, they scheduled it, and no, he didn't realize what it was for.

Then someone went to ask the bishop about it. He told everybody to pipe down, it's no big deal.

I like that there bishop.

More quinceanera tidbits:

A few years ago one of my YW told me her parents wouldn't allow her to have a quinceanera, because all her cousins who had them wound up pregnant shortly thereafter. She has a baby now, unmarried, but she did make it all the way to age 19 before becoming a mother. I guess it could be worse.

Another YW once recounted her adventures at her cousins' quinceanera: Mostly it was all about riding in the backseat of a rented low-rider limousine with hydraulics and making it bounce all night long. With the hydraulics, not any baby-making activities. I have to say, that sounds like fun.

I'll have to post an update on the weekend. I have burning questions: Will she take all our modesty lessons to heart and choose a dress with sleeves? Will there really be a Catholic priest performing the blessing? Will there be hopping cars? We'll see.

Calling out the CPKs

Comment with the name(s) of your Cabbage Patch Kids and their birthdays. Come on, I'm talking about my generation. I know you had one, or maybe more.

I had Megan Arlene, brown hair and brown eyes, birthday Sept.1. Also Claire Muriel, blonde hair and blue eyes, birthday also Sept.1.

I got them in 1984 and 1985.

Happy belated 23rd and 22nd birthdays to my girls. I wonder where in the heck they are?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Digging vs. shoveling

What is the difference between digging out of a mess and shoveling giant piles of crap?

Today I do not really know.

I'm back from another trip with a million things to take care of.

My baby sister is married as of last Friday. She was beautiful. It went great. I'm very optimistic about her future.

As long as she doesn't try to be a mom and a worker and a YW leader and whatever else the heck it is I do, all at the same time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Groove

This is how I'm doing, besides singing "The KKK Took My Baby Away," over and over to the point where S has to tell me to be quiet so he can do his homework.

I mostly have my groove back. I am getting my work done. I am getting my calling done. I am cooking dinner and washing my hair and not sleeping too much. I go entire days without crying.

But I still feel like there has been a wrong turn in the continuum of my life. Like things are not supposed to be this way. And if I could just go back to the right moment and flap the right butterfly wing, get the judge to say no instead of yes, things would be different.

Or maybe there is another way to get back on track, a way I don't see yet. I pray this is true, because going back in time does not seem too likely.

I wish I could ask S (Z's mom) if she really feels right about this reunification. If she really, really believes it is in Z's best interest. How gauche would that be?

I am going to call her from soccer practice under the guise of needing to tell her some stuff about WIC. I am really paranoid about coming across as needy and whiny and unstable. I am supposed to be the competent one, you know? I'm the one with a license to parent.

I worry about Z's confusion and ability to process this. She is 9 months old as of yesterday. That's the age for stranger anxiety. Who is the stranger to her - me, or S? Can a baby's brain really process two mothers, or process a transition at such a time? Whom will she blame for this, in her subconscious? What if it's a year or more from now, and she's gone through something horrible, and then comes back to us? What would that do to her? To me?

In the meantime, we are all falling hard for K. He is hilarious and adorable. And we cannot get crap in the way of information about his case. It's frustrating.

On an unrelated note, there's construction outside my workplace that literally causes the entire building to convulse every few seconds. It's not as scary now that I've realized it's about a bus turnaround, not a high-magnitude earthquake, but it still freaks the heck out of me.