Monday, December 29, 2008

In touch


I have a compulsion about Christmas cards. I have been doing them since I was about 16 or 17. My family moved around a lot as I was growing up. At Christmas I felt like I could do this one thing to hold onto not just the people who actually cared enough to write back and forth with me all year - and there were several; I was a dedicated letter writer - but others I remembered and thought about.

I took this photo of our door a couple of days ago. This is how my mom displays Christmas greetings at her house. I have never tried to think of another way, although one year we had a door with a nine-pane glass window and I had to tape the cards up around the doorjamb instead.

A few more cards have arrived since then. And there are the newsletters, which I don't display, but I do love them. News of the kids we taught in nursery or the children of my high school friends, no matter how braggy or sensational (and usually it's not) thrills me. Family pictures in red sweaters are universally smiled at here in this house, especially when they come from message board or blog friends I've not had the chance to be with a lot in real life. And the cards - pretty or clever or intricate or even just ordinary, I love them all.

So if you get a card and letter from me and you think it's annoying or prideful or weird, I apologize. I sincerely just want everybody to have as much fun with Christmas cards as I do.

Here are some of my favorites this year:

The yin-yang penguin



The pop-up

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sweet

Just a little photo story today ... Z eats a Christmas cinnamon roll.







Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another tortellini salad

So we had carnitas for Christmas Eve, which were awesome. My flan failed (I unmolded it too soon, I think), and then we had a huge breakfast on Christmas day with cinnamon rolls and eggs and bacon and fruit, and then I didn't cook. We just ate candy and fruit and nuts and leftover cinnamon rolls. Everybody was fine. I might never make a Christmas dinner again. Nobody seems to care.

However, by the end of the day yesterday we were all actually hungry again. I was craving broccoli salad. Didn't want to make two dishes. Here's the result.



Broccoli and Tortellini Salad
1 package cheese tortellini, cooked and drained
2 heads broccoli florets, chopped
1 small to medium bell pepper, diced (we used green)
1/2 c. raisins (we used golden)
1/2 c. nuts (we used almonds)
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled
About half a bottle of your favorite prepared vinaigrette (we used Brianna's Real French)

Mix it together. Eat it. Feel relieved that it is not a candy cane flavored Hershey's kiss, yet is still festive and yummy.

Makes about 6 servings.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy


From us to you on Christmas.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Groove


Four posts in the month of December! That is just pathetic! I am brainstorming ideas for how to get my blogging groove back. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the fact that you can groove yourself to free holiday tunes from Amazon.com. There is a wide variety and you are bound to find at least a few tunes you will enjoy! If you're like me you've overdosed on all the Christmas music you own and are definitely ready for something new at this point!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I've got the brains, you've got the looks

I just updated the master spreadsheet I'm keeping for the professor/postdoc job search for Dr. G-to-be. All told we have found 31 assistant professorships and postdoctoral positions that he absolutely should apply for. Doesn't that seem kind of miraculous for a guy with a doctorate in a highly specialized scientific field? Like somehow he chose just the right discipline at just the right time?

Out of those 31, so far he has had one lecture/interview/not interview and one rejection letter. The two were not from the same place. Sorry, Florida, you will not be seeing us next year, after all.

Our son is fasting and praying that we will move to a place with snow, anyway. Maybe this would be a good time for me to start looking at parkas on sale.

Tonight, again and as always, I believe in miracles. I am so optimistic and excited about our future. Even if it's not going to be by Disney World.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Treasures

One of the things that bugged me when I was working full time was that I never had time for leisure shopping. Bear in mind, to me leisure shopping does not mean strolling department stores smelling perfume and picking up luxury handbags. It means combing through piles of junk at secondhand stores in search of treasures.

Now that I am unemployed, I have time. Sure, I could be scrubbing a bathroom. Who needs it? They are just going to pee on the floor again when they get home from school.

So when I finished my errand at Staples today I just stopped into the Goodwill in the same shopping center. (Would that there were a Deseret Industries close by! Mormons give away the best junk!) Here's what I found today:


A king-size sheet with a cute aqua/yellow/peach daisy print. I'm guessing it's vintage '70s. I'm planning a dress for Z and an a-line skirt for me. Hey, I only have one daughter, and she's growing up fast. I need to do the cheesy stuff while I can. Plus it is so cute and retro it won't be that bad.


A cute little brown stoneware vase. Not sure whether it is really old or not, but I do love it. I think it will work with the Zona aesthetic I am dreaming up for when I own a home again. Plus, perfect for the dandelion gifts I will doubtless be receiving periodically from my boys beginning in a few months.


A very cute and clean baby doll for Z. Give her one of these and she'll sit in the cart through the whole store. For $1.50, it's a bargain. I've posed baby Z-style (thumbsucker!) so you can see her cute wrinkly hands. Maybe we can make a retro daisy dress for the dolly, too. Won't we be cute?

There was another babydoll, too - a Cabbage Patch Kid for $2. Imagine that our parents spent $50 and up for these in their heyday! Add a few stocking stuffers which shall not be mentioned here - it's a morning of shopping fun for $10 even. Viva thrift.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Funkbuster

I've been in kind of a blogging funk the last couple of weeks.

I got this Facebook tag today and thought I'd put it up here ... maybe it will break me out.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 18 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 18 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. Still in my PJs at 1 PM. Not every day, though.
2. Am the one in charge of the power drill, but not taking out the trash.
3. Fan of kids' books. Try "The Twenty-One Balloons" by William Pene DuBois.
4. Like to tell people what they should do. Hate to ask people to do things. It's a subtle but important difference.
5. Spent junior and senior years of high school working at a radio station, reading the weather forecast and eventually announcing songs on a pre-recorded show.
6. Child bride - age 19 in 1993. Not necessarily recommended for anyone else (young women, this means you!) but it worked out great for me!
7. Got to take American Lit and Mormon Lit classes from Eugene England at BYU. If you haven't read his essays, you should! (See, I like to tell people what they should do!)
8. Only time off the continent: BYU Geology field trip to Hawaii in 1996. Hiked on active flows and flew over the Kilauea crater. AMAZING! Until this trip I thought Hawaii was all about the beach and the tacky shirts. I was SO wrong!
9. Dream trip: Food tour of southern France and Italy. Maybe next year (and next year, I will probably be saying, "maybe next year")
10. Getting used to being unemployed/full-time motherhood after 4.5 years working for UC Merced. I was supposed to become a contract worker but because of budget cuts I am cut loose. It is both sad and fun (see #1).
11. Still deciding what to put on the treat plates for Christmas this year. Oreo truffles? Jam stripe butter cookies? Gingerbread men? Probably all of them.
12. In a lot of suspense about my husband finishing his Ph.D., getting a job and maybe moving next year. Trying not to let it make me too crazy.
13. Louisa tagged me. I think this is my first Facebook tag of this kind.
14. Have been a movie usher, hotel maid, fish factory worker, sandwich artist, Morris Center cafeteria server, phone surveyor, College of Religion receptionist, magazine editor, trade show display planner and university spokesperson.
15. Have touched the Arctic Circle ... not the one where you get cheap hamburgers and courtesy cones. The one where you run into a guy with a canoe full of fish.
16. Loud music: the Breeders (try it! You'll like it! some of you)
17. Quiet music: Ari Hest
18. Christmas music: any. It's the best part! Merry Christmas, friends! I hope this is fun for you!

(Tagging ... whoever wants to do this, as is my habit on the blog.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Two


Today feels like a milestone. My baby is two. I know once a baby hits this age she is not really a baby anymore. She talks. She feeds herself. She runs and jokes and sleeps in a big girl bed.

I keep holding her and smelling her hair and squishing her soft little belly and wondering if I will remember how it feels. She stood in front of me as I sat on the couch folding socks this afternoon and leaned her head back onto my knees and told me a long story in nonsense language, gazing at me steadily with her dark, dark, long-lashed eyes.

In just a couple of months we will finalize her adoption and K's in court and then take them both to our dear little temple in Fresno to be sealed to us forever. My eyes are firmly fixed on that. It makes so many other things seem less important.

Happy birthday to my darling girl, my Z.

Psych!

I think some kids used to spell that "sike." The middle school set is not particularly well known for its knowledge of Greek roots.

We got totally psyched today. A place where G has progressed through the initial stages of a faculty search sent us a big, fat envelope. I called him, all worked up. No rejection letter is that big, right? He had me open it while he was on the phone.

It was the notes of all the students who had been at his guest lecture.

I'll pause while you take in the weirdness of that.

This place bewilders me. But I really want him to get the job there.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, by the way. I have been cooking for what feels like a week and am looking forward to my turkey sandwich in a few minutes, white bean chili tomorrow and not doing any real cooking for several days thereafter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Recuperation


It's been a difficult few weeks for me in some ways, most of it too personal to blog about. Lots of happy things going on, and those you know about. Some heartbreaking things, too.

In the middle of it all, I've been reading The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. It was short, but not fast. Peaceful and challenging at the same time. The characters familiar, the setting utterly foreign to me.

Maybe it felt so right for me because it was about a refuge, a recuperation, a peaceful, slow-moving time. But it also turned out to be a demanding period of personal growth for the protagonist, Stephen, a young man from Hong Kong who goes to recover from tuberculosis at his family's seaside home in Japan in 1937-8.

It was about being caught between worlds and passions; Stephen is faraway and helpless as the Japanese army moves through Canton toward his home, unable to reconcile the kindness and goodness of the people he is meeting in Japan with the horrors of war between the two countries. He falls in love with a young woman and witnesses a sea change in his parents' marriage while learning about a doomed and beautiful true love story from a prior generation. He says he is there to paint but discovers a talent for writing and a passion for story.

It was about brothers and sisters, being close and not close, during hard times and easy times. What happens to us when we are struck by what we never expected?

The prose in this book is as spare, clean and lovely as the shoji-screened rooms described in its pages. Here's a sample that I found moving, as Stephen visits a shrine with Matsu, the other main character, who is the caretaker of Stephen's parents' house.

I quickly clapped three times and pulled on the rope. I stared hard at the enclosed shrine and the bowl of rice. The burning incense stung my eyes. I bowed low and tried to concentrate on some kind of prayer. My mind was confused. Who or what should I pray for? There were too many thoughts cluttering my head to choose only one. I wanted to pray for my parents' marriage, or Sachi and Matsu's happiness, or for the war to end in China. I could feel Matsu standing behind me, waiting. So I simply closed my eyes tight and prayed for all of us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Loose, footloose

I am officially self-employed. At the university today, I had a nice pot-luck farewell luncheon complete with a humorous "Top 10 Reasons Ana is Leaving" and a beautiful framed photo of the campus. Hugs and teary goodbyes, and a big box of crap I have taken into the office over the last four and a half years now sitting on my dining room table.

My replacement starts Monday. I am training her, and billing it. Here's to freelancing ... and yes, that kind of means all the goodbyes were for nothing. Maybe I can get another party with presents and stuff when G gets a grownup job and we actually move away. Although, who knows when that will be.

The best surprise today was learning that my benefits continue through Dec. 31. With a little luck, we will have no gap in health insurance coverage! This is a big blessing! I'm so grateful.

Already, though, my login for the campus network is nullified. That was quick!

Now that I'm in business for myself and had to turn in all my work equipment, I did a crazy thing (for a Luddite) and bought a cell phone. If you would like the number, let me know.

In reality, things are not going to change that much. I will just be working (and blogging) from my home PC and not my work laptop. And running my own life, theoretically.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is my country

My 9-year-old S was in the local Veteran's Day Parade today with his Cub Scout pack. G and I took the younger three kids to watch.

A small town parade is a great way to spend an afternoon, no matter how you slice it. The parade participants hand out candy and tchochkes to the kids. The announcer greets parade participants he knows personally. You are sure to see a couple of kids from the ward playing the clarinet or the trombone.

This was our first time attending for Veteran's Day. Here is what struck me: We were all there. Our little town was so well represented, and I do kind of think our town represents the United States in its diversity and patriotism.

The Lao Veterans marched in impressive numbers - older men, all, they made me cry. Their white counterparts rode in convertibles and polished vintage autos - a sad disparity, but guess which group was more moving?

A group of caballeros rode high-stepping stallions to the accompaniment of mariachi music. The NAACP made an appearance with a couple of families carrying a banner.

The drum major of the high school band was a young man with a distinctly Southeast Asian appearance, likely Hmong. Many people his age came to our region as refugees when they were only babies or toddlers, or perhaps their parents came here shortly before they were born.

The university where I work made a big splash with athletes in uniform for the first time, cheerleaders, and a dance troupe. A couple of churches participated - including ours, with the Cub Scout presence. The Girl Scouts had a huge crowd of mothers and daughters marching together, reminding my husband when he shouted "We love your cookies!" that he could stock up again in January. PFLAG's group was small - and poignant, right now, in our red town in a blue state.

A lone Hispanic Navy veteran who appeared to be in his 80s waved an American flag all the way down the parade route. I cried again. How many times, during his service, do you imagine he was called some racial epithet? I know it's just my imagination. But it makes sense to see him as someone who has ridden the roller coaster of freedom his whole life - because we do indeed have ups and downs - and never given up.

In my country, all these people live side by side. We dissent and disagree and struggle, but we unite under the common dream that living in peace with those who are different from us is not only possible, but enriching and wonderful. That is freedom worth fighting for.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chocolate cake

No clever title needed. This cake rocks, and you will be amazed how simple it is. Recipe from my sister M1. She told me she got it from someone else, but I can't remember who. Maybe she will be kind enough to clarify.

Chocolate Cake
1 c. water
1/2 c. cocoa (preferably dutch processed)

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Boil water, turn off and add cocoa powder. Stir to combine. Cool. (I did this step in the microwave.)

Mix dry ingredients in your mixer with the whip attachment. Mix liquids in separate vessel, except for water and cocoa mixture. Scrape and mix on low for 2 minutes. Add cocoa mixture and mix to combine. Let batter rest for 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees in two lightly greased, parchment-lined 9-inch pans, about 45 minutes.

Note from M1: This batter is very liquid. Don't worry, it works!

Note from me: After I let the batter rest I found it had a foam on top. I just stirred it in. No biggie.

You can double the recipe to make it in 2 10-inch pans.

I was out of confectioner's sugar. So we just had this with pastry cream in the middle and on top. Oh yeah. I am not that much of a frosting girl, anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How a couple of black kids feel tonight

A lot of my friends might not have immediate access to the responses of the elementary-school-age African American demographic without me, so I thought I'd help you out tonight.

A, biracial, age 7, praying:

"Thank you for giving us a good blessing and letting Barack Obama be the president. Bless John McCain that he won't feel too bad, because he's a good man and he tried really hard."

S, full African-American, age 9, listening to the victory speech:

"Martin Luther King is alive again."

From the polls


G and I voted at about 8:15 this morning. There was no line to speak of at our polling place. Fifty-seven people had voted before we did. A short line began to form as we left.

Everything went without a hitch for us. Our ballots are paper, with an optical scanner at the polling station. From everything I have read, this seems to be the best system - it keeps lines moving faster because there are fewer machines to break down, and it creates a paper trail in case of questions.

One woman was there who had requested and then lost an absentee ballot. She was allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Remember this is an option for you if there's any question about your eligibility to vote.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Deficiency

A, looking through our small remaining stack of vinyl albums:

"Look, Mom! It's Bill Cosby, the man who sang "Buffalo Soldier."

We have some work to do. Methinks we better not wait for Black History Month on this one.

I'm off to Rhapsody to find some classic Cos monologues. And I wonder if I can find the famously besweatered dad of my favorite '80s sitcom streaming online somewhere?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

On my own

My employer has finally found and hired a replacement for me. She starts Nov. 17. That means my last day is Nov. 14 and as of the following day I will be officially self-employed. So I did what any good 21st-century girl would do. I made a Web site.

http://sites.google.com/site/ananelsonshaw/Home


Your constructive criticisms are welcomed.

Also your hints about navigating our wreck of a healthcare system without the safety of an employer-provided insurance plan.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Flexaroni

Something I am obsessive about: menu planning. I did the dinner menus for November tonight. I thought, maybe my international blog audience would like to know about this. So here you go.

By the way, we are part-time vegetarians. It is cheap and healthy and eco-responsible. Obviously we aren't doing this because we have any kind of qualms about eating animal flesh. We love animal flesh. Just not so much of it. I'll bold the veggie nights so you can see them easily in case you're flexis like us or full-time veggies.

There are also some links in here for you.

F - 10/31: onion and pepper omelets, toast, cantaloupe
Sa - 11/1: red lentil dal, green bean and tomato curry, rice, cucumber raita
Su - 11/2: grilled pork chops with rosemary and garlic, polenta with sweet corn, green salad, chocolate cake
M - 11/3: tortellini salad with roasted orange peppers and peas; snickerdoodles
T - 11/4: bean burritos, limeade
W - 11/5: crockpot cranberry-apple chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Th - 11/6: sloppy joes, roasted potatoes, green salad
F - 11/7: lentil soup with squash, oatmeal muffins
S - 11/8: chicken and apple sausages, bread, spinach, fruit salad
Su - 11/9: chicken tortellini soup, bread, pear-ginger-maple pie
M - 11/10: margarita red lentil salad, roasted tomatoes, milkshakes
T - 11/11: meatloaf burgers, cucumber vinaigrette salad
W - 11/12: veggie chili, corn muffins, salad
Th - 11/13: chicken and broccoli stir fry, rice
F - 11/14: pancakes, bananas, yogurt
Sa - 11/15: turkey and avocado subs, Sun Chips, carrot sticks
Su - 11/16: zucchini and corn enchiladas, green salad, pumpkin ice cream
M - 11/17: leftover enchiladas, caramel popcorn

That's my whole November. The afternoon of the 18th I head for my mommy's house until the end of the month. It really makes my menu planning easier!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eight is great

Marta tagged me for this. Well, technically, she tagged anybody who needs an easy blog post. That would be me.

8 T.V. Shows I love to watch:
1. Heroes
2. The Office
3. Ugly Betty
4. House M.D.
5. American Idol
6. Super Nanny
7. Extreme Makeover Home Edition
8. Mystery!

8 Favorite Restaurants:
1. Thai Cuisine or Thai Cuisine II (Merced)
2. Bombay House (Salt Lake)
3. In-n-Out Burger
4. Jamba Juice
5. Formosa Garden (Fresno) for dim sum
6. Snake Creek Grill (Heber)
7. La Hacienda I or II (Merced)
8. Bun on the Run (Fairbanks)

8 Things That Happened Yesterday:
1. Z got a Halloween treat bag at the gym
2. The babysitter let me know that recovery from her breast biopsy was not going as well as she hoped and she couldn't take Z for the afternoon
3. We had a picnic with G on campus
4. G took Z to his lab
5. I met with my boss to plan the transition to my replacement
6. I picked up all the kids and took them to pack meeting (for this I deserve a medal, no false humility here)
7. I gave up and got Little Caesar's Hot-n-Ready for dinner
8. Helped S with homework, bathed the littles, put everyone to bed.

8 Things I look Forward to:
1. Having a Ph.D. husband (with a job, the really scary caveat)
2. Finalizing adoptions for our little kids and taking them to the temple
3. Finding the place where we will settle down and live for the rest of our lives and never move again
4. Seeing my parents & family for Thanksgiving
5. Taking a trip with G to celebrate the Ph.D. (maybe in January? I'll schedule it after he schedules his dissertation defense. We have settled on the Mexican Riviera.)
6. Having all my kids in school
7. Going to grad school
8. The peace in the house when the kids are asleep, things are tidied up and the dishwasher is running

8 Things I love about Fall:
1. Cool temps and occasional rain
2. Our AWESOME pumpkin patch
3. Finding things like quince and pomegranates at 99c Only
4. Soccer season
5. Hot comfort foods
6. Wearing a hoodie
7. Dahlias and chrysanthemums in my yard
8. Chinese pistache trees turning brilliant red all down my street

8 Things On My Wish List:
1. Culinary torch for making creme brulee
2. Donna Karan Gold perfume
3. A Trader Joe's and a TJMaxx in my town
4. Trip to Mexico
5. New laptop
6. Massage for my poor neck and shoulders
7. Tsubo Aerias (black, size 10)
8. Barack Obama in the White House

People I Tag:
Anybody who wants to be tagged.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Roundup

Roundup kills weeds. If this kills you I am not accepting responsibility.

I can't be the only one thinking about the presidential election all the time.
  • Wired says blogs are oh-so-passe. Can I just pull a Palin and call them haters? Or should I recognize that they may have put a finger on why I just don't feel much like blogging lately?
  • John, meet Skippyjon. Seven-year-old A describes McCain as follows: "He's a good person, but his ideas are CRAZY LOCO!"
  • Yes, we've been indoctrinating our children. I bet you do the same.
  • A's class had a mock election yesterday. It's going to be really interesting to see who wins in my kids' very ethnically diverse, working-class school in our red town within a blue state. What influence will triumph? That's the big question for the whole shebang.
  • Did you hear the SNL guy on Fresh Air today talking about all the candidates and stuff? I listened at the gym. It helped me not worry about what FOX News was thrusting in my face as I sweated my stress out on the elliptical machine. It was awesome.
It's autumn time! Here's what we've been eating lately.
  • Roasted chicken with winter vegetables. Salt and pepper a whole chicken. Stuff loosely with lemons and herbs from your garden. Place in roasting pan surrounded by turnips and butternut squash. Roast at 350 for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
  • Open-the-can chili with veggies. Cook carrots, onions, celery and jalapenos in olive oil. Add 1 tbsp each of chili powder and cumin. Stir until fragrant. Optional: add hamburger or other meat and brown. Not optional: add 1 can each of kidney beans, tomatoes, corn and a good, organic tomato soup - not the sugary kind with the Warhol label (I used Roundy's, which I got at 99c Only, of course). Simmer until thickened. Good with rice, polenta or even (gasp!) spaghetti.
  • Winter sausage spaghetti, inspired by Everyday Food. Cook 1 onion in olive oil with two links of sweet sausage, like the chicken and apple kind you get at Costco. Add salt and pepper, a pinch of thyme, 1 chopped apple and half a head of cabbage. Wilt. Stir into cooked spaghetti noodles. Serve with apple cider vinegar and salty cheese.
  • Lest you think my entire repertoire is earthy, hot food: Banana frozen yogurt. Puree1 c banana yogurt, 1 banana, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and enough whole milk or half and half to make 5 cups, in your blender until very smooth. Remove 1 cup of mixture. Heat to boiling (doing this in the microwave is fine). Slowly pour half of hot mixture into a bowl with 1 well-beaten egg. Return egg mixture to hot mixture. Return hot mixture to blender and process. Chill at least 2 hours. Process in ice cream freezer. Nice with dark chocolate.
Was that like a recipe jackpot, or what?

Reading: Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Why did this take me so long? It's awesome. Harry Potter fans or disgruntled, resentful Twilight readers who are yearning for fantasy with more maturity, complexity, darkness, wit and literary quality will love this series.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Snapshot

K is home from school. I missed his appointment for a physical last week and we cannot get another one until Nov. 4. He cannot go to school until I get his physical form turned in. Working on a solution ...

The babysitter is sick. I was supposed to go into the office today. Now I have to figure out how to accomplish a 12 noon phone interview and a 1 PM staff meeting (calling in) while getting two kids fed and put down for naps.

K and Z are playing in the backyard. Idyllic. They have removed all their clothing.

The phone just rang. Abe needs lunch money. Right now.

Hope you have enjoyed this slice of my reality.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reunion


I've been waiting for the picture on this one. Saturday I took Z on a girls' day trip to San Francisco t0 meet my high school friend Carrie and her friend Margo. They were there for the Nike Women's Half Marathon - brave girls!

Carrie and I moved to Alaska at the same time - she from Savannah, I from Pittsburgh. We clicked as friends pretty much immediately - we had very similar tastes and sensibilities. She was the first one to know when I got smooched by the boy who is now my husband of 15 years. Thinking back, I think it was the guy she eventually married who introduced me to her - he was in student government and so was the girl from church who was showing me around my new high school. Apparently he recognized two peas in a pod.

It still felt that way. We have been in contact on Facebook recently but there are few joys to compare with the fun of picking up with an old friend and feeling almost like you were never apart. It's so fun.

We went to Muir Woods and then to Ghirardelli Square. There wasn't time for much more. There's so much in San Francisco; you can never ever do all the things you want to. But the most important thing was being together.

Here's to old friends and a fun reunion after 19 years apart.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You can't buy these laughs

Z loves gum.

But she can't say the word quite exactly right.

And she primarily prefers to unwrap a whole package and stuff it in her mouth.

So if you happen upon her with your purse beside her, an empty package in her chubby little paw, the scent of Melon Mint in the air and Orbit wrappers strewn all around, you can just expect to hear a delighted, muffled explanation:

"Bum!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I want that

Quilt.

Imagine

Every once in a while I do something that actually works for FHE and want to share it. Last night, somehow, it all came together.

Imagination
A Family Home Evening plan

Opening Song: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

Attention Getter:
What holiday is coming up? (Halloween)
What is Halloween about? (allow answers from kids - candy, costumes, etc.)

Discussion:
I used to think Halloween was just about fun and not about anything important. But when you guys started to enjoy Halloween I learned that it is really a holiday about imagination, and imagination is really important. Imagination helps us have fun and enjoy stories and pretending.
Imagination also helps us understand the gospel and strengthen our testimonies. Do you remember the part about imagination in the song we just sang? There is a line that says, "I can imagine his blessings resting on me." You can imagine yourself being with Jesus and being hugged and blessed and loved by Him. How does that make you feel? Does it strengthen your testimony?
What other stories from the scriptures do you like to imagine?
Here we had A share a picture I had him draw while S was at soccer, showing his favorite scripture story, which is of course Ammon cutting off the arms of the robbers.
How do you think you came to have an imagination? Do you think it is a gift from Heavenly Father?

Activity: Ghost lanterns - I had the kids pencil their faces on their jugs first, then I helped the littler ones with the Sharpies

Treat: Chocolate chip bar cookies (this is not on-theme, but it was easy! Make your favorite dough for about 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies. Instead of scooping it out, press it in a 9x13 pan and bake at only 300 degrees for about 40 minutes or until uniformly golden. Cut into bars to serve.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Greatness

Tonight I sing the praises of our best babysitter.

L has her own little siblings aplenty - she's smack in the middle of a 10-kid family - so our kids don't overwhelm her. She is perfectly even-keeled and usually available. And she lives just a couple of blocks away.

Today we came home from our four-hour CPR and First Aid class (ugh, at least it's over for another year) and found her on the floor, "playing" Battleship with 4yo K and 2yo Z. Yeah, that takes some serious patience.

She is growing up. Someday maybe she will not want to babysit anymore. Today her growing beauty and maturity really struck me. Sad for me. Glad for her.

I wish I could pay her $20/hour. Love this girl.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Club

Not all of you were weird growing up. That's ok. We can be friends even if you used to be normal and popular.

I was a little weird. To many of you this is no big shock to hear. I was the new kid in school every couple of years. I was brainy and bossy and kind of a snob. I was the oldest in a big, Mormon family - normal in Utah, weird everywhere else - that was slightly short on money and un-slightly long on ideas. Not poor-me here, I'm not that ungrateful - just not Guess and Esprit and new subdivisions and unembarrassing transportation.

It was kind of relief to get to the age (high school, basically) where there were enough weird kids to be a group-o'-weird. A rejects' club. We sat outside the art room to eat our lunch. We hung out at the university on weekends. We felt like we were in a John Hughes movie. That was very validating, very normal, considering. And as you know, I met Dr. G-to-be in this very inclusive cohort of weirdos in 1989. So there's one more awesome thing about it.

About twelve years later a different group of friends sat in my living room. They all came from the university married student ward we'd moved away from. One couple had lost a daughter an hour after her birth. Another friend had left her abusive husband, and the divorce process had sent her reeling emotionally and spiritually. And there we were, with our wonderful, beautiful adopted black baby. Someone wondered aloud why we all felt so bonded to each other while most of the rest of our former ward was less important to us. (Sally, we would've invited you but you ran away to California.)

I told them, it's because we've survived all the things everyone else was terrified of. There we were: the bereaved, the abused, the divorced, the infertile. We could talk with each other about what mattered most, without fear of being thought weak or unfaithful or wallowing.

I am starting to realize that pretty much everybody belongs in this club. We just don't always know it because we are too concerned about maintaining appearances and fitting in. It's the equivalent of the Esprit shirt and Swatch watch we got for our thirteenth birthday - the ones we thought would change everything and really made no difference at all. (Oh, that didn't happen to you?)

Who might need to know your story?

Do you dare open up?

My dad does. I am humbled by him, proud of him.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

On Sunday

My great-grandmother Alice (whose childhood tithing story is in this month's issue of the Friend Magazine, how exciting!) had a saying about the Sabbath:

"Every stitch you sew on Sunday, you have to pick out with your nose when you get to heaven."

I think this is a charming and memorable warning, but I don't exactly take it for gospel truth.

Sewing, baking, and crocheting are not really work for me. They're recreation. They're peace and creativity and accomplishment. They're remembering my foremothers. Even the preparation of Sunday dinner, to which I am pretty darn devoted, is more meditation and service than it is labor. If I somehow have to undo this stuff in a funny Mormon great-grandma purgatory, I think it might be worth while.

Today I am baking bread with Feminist Mormon Housewives. My puffy loaf, enriched with home-ground wheat flour and a little corn meal, is in the oven.

Later on I am going to be making cookies, and blackened salmon and red beans and rice. Maybe some greens on the side, and some corn on the cob. Later on I might even work on a crochet project I dreamed up, while catching up on the Conference sessions I should have watched yesterday, but missed because I was living in the moment with my kids (thank you, President Monson!)

Sabbath, feast day.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Shot through the heart

One of my bullets is bound to get you. It's nifty stuff. It's a cute baby girl who is growing up, up, up. It's all good.
  • I am feeling like Santa Claus today. October is a great time to start holiday shopping. I do not enjoy holiday shopping during the holiday shopping season. Not even online. October is pretty much the last possible minute for me if I do not want to lose my mind. Three boxes from Amazon have arrived in the last two days. We are talking about a stuffed-animal (not real!!) puppy in a pink purse, a spring-action lightsaber, a darling Latina babydoll, cute wooden play food, and a moving dinosaur. Legos and football gear still to come. In case you are wondering, I want a culinary torch (for creme brulee, of course) and some new Donna Karan Gold perfume, and any books you think I should be reading.
  • You know you want a secret stash of high quality chocolate like me. Green & Black's has been on the aisle-end clearance shelves lately down at the Target. When see it there I know I am meant to have it. It is my destiny. Plus, I am working out almost every day now, so I deserve it. And I'm quite sure I need the antioxidants.
  • At my favorite place, 99c Only, I found a cool drink called Switch! My kids think it is soda pop. I know it is 100% juice. They drank a ton of it in Fruit Punch flavor with our Mountain Mike's pizza last night. Yeah yeah, I know, kids are not supposed to have a lot of juice, either. But you know it is better than soda. And you need something fizzy with your pizza.
  • Z now has bangs. Just light straight-across bangs. She looks more than ever like Dora the Explorer. Appropriate, because the whole theme of her just-begun potty training experience is Dora. She has a Dora potty and Dora panties and a new Dora dolly. So far this week we are up to 4 poops and 1 pee in the Dora potty. Pretty good, I think. We favor the Kimya Dawson "Peepee in the Potty" song. My brother J tried to turn us on to Kimya years ago. Why didn't I listen? She is fabulously funny, with enough potty humor even for my big boys. Including G.
  • I think Z thinks she actually Dora. Evidence: she calls Dora "Wohwa." She also calls herself "Wohwa." Today she was going down for a nap with her two stuffed bunnies - "my nunny," she calls each one of them. I said, "Two bunnies are going to sleep!" She said, "An Wohwa!" She was planning to go to sleep with them. Awww.
  • Z also is very in tune with things going on above her. For the first time in several months, we have had clouds in the sky this week. Every time we go outside, she halts and points in wonder, often yelling, "Mom!" When I acknowledge and name the clouds, she is satisfied. I don't think most kids would do this. I know we all think our kids are special. But doesn't this seem special to you?
  • Speaking of special, K told me about a dream he had. He has really vivid dreams right now and usually ends up sleeping on the floor beside my bed. (I have turned mean and don't let kids in my bed anymore. I'm still down with the idea of the family bed, but these days I just wanna sleep.) Anyway here was the dream. "I was in a dark room. It was scary. A lot of kids were there. They were scared. I was the leader and I told them, 'It's going to be OK.'" See, special.
  • I am finally finding some success again in dressing G. I used to be able to get him vaguely outdoorsy stuff from Sierra Trading Post or whatever and he was satisfied. Now I think he thinks he is a little more urban or something. Anyway, the most successful thing right now appears to be lots of Levis stuff (Loose Straight jeans combined with modified cowboy shirts and tattoo-print Ts). You might wonder, shouldn't a 37 year old Ph.D.-to-be dress himself? Well, you would think so. But what he does when faced with the daunting challenge of Shopping is this: Prefer to wear rags.
  • Remember my broken camera? I found the replacement policy that my in-laws bought for me when they bought it for me. Hallelujah for nice in-laws who know my kids are destructive and, rather than trying to tell me how to change the kids, just provide for the contingencies that follow. I'm a lucky lady.
  • New work project now on the rotisserie. It will be a slow roast; I have a faculty committee to report to. But it is a fun one anyway and I am optimistic about persuading them to do some innovative stuff.
  • I am loving the 20-hours-from-home work week. They are hiring my replacement pretty soon, and after than I will probably continue on a similar schedule, just as a freelancer. I have been lucky to be able to continue with benefits as long as I have. The benefit of freelancing is, I can raise my pay myself when it's appropriate.
  • Holy heck, I think my kids are watching Flight of the Conchords. I better go. Not that it's that inappropriate from what I've seen so far, but it ain't no kids' show.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Transported

I made this up! I'm not sure where it transported us to, but it was somewhere exotic with delicious food. Seriously, the best stir fry I've ever made. Mei Qing Choy is exquisite, with tender stalks and a very delicate citrusy flavor.

Mei Qing Choy and Tofu Stir Fry with Macadamia Nuts

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. extra firm tofu, frozen and then thawed
2 heads mei qing choy (a variety of baby bok choy with green stalks, or substitute regular baby bok choy or cabbage of your choice)
2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal.
1 small onion, diced in 1/2" pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 tsp. dried ginger (or 1 in. fresh ginger, peeled and minced)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1 tbsp. corn starch

1 sm. package macadamia nut pieces

Drain tofu and press between two plates to remove water. (Place a heavy can on top of the top plate.) Dice in 1/2" pieces. Set aside.

Cut out stems of bok choy. Dice and set aside. Dice leaves. Set aside separately from stems.

Mix together ginger, cayenne, soy sauce, water and corn starch. Set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large pan. Stir fry onion and carrots 1-2 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add bok choy stems and garlic. Stir until beginning to soften. Add leaves and stir again.

Add liquid mixture and stir until clear. Taste; add more soy sauce or salt if needed. Stir in tofu very gently. Heat through. Add macadamia nuts just before serving over rice.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crisp comfort

Dessert last night, topped with the easiest ever homemade vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crisp
8 c. tart apples, pared, cored and diced
Butter for pan
2/3 c. butter softened
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
pinch salt if your butter is unsalted

Heat oven to 375. Butter a 9x13" pan. Place apples in pan.

In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients to a streusel consistency. Spread over apples in pan.

Bake about 35-40 minutes.

Hurry, you still have time to do this for Family Night tonight!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Imagined

Remember when I did that crazy tutu project? Two and a half years ago. I had no concept then that this much later all the little tutu sets would be in a Rubbermaid tote in my garage.

Also no concept that when I got them out today - because a friend may want one - my little Z would pull out every one, delighted, and wear every piece on a different part of her body, as she sets up a little bed for her dolly with her pillow with the flip-flop print sheets and a pink towel.

My life is such a miracle, I think.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thanks

My friend Crysty shared this with me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and get the same peace. I think I will be watching it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overheard

S to G: I like your hair longer. It makes you look more like Elvis Presley.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still here

I'm not chained to the computer all day anymore and so ... things are different. I don't need a blog as a break from science writing and university politics anymore, I guess.

Home life proceeds; soccer's going on. We had two social worker visits last week. It's busy times, but I'll get back to you all soon, I promise.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bzzzzzzt

Sometimes when I find something amazingly appalling or horribly wrong I get a sort of buzz in my head that drowns out everything but my shock.

I don't want to tell you what your response should be when you read this. But that was mine.

And this is the New York Times, folks. It's not a joke.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Girl power

I'm here in Heber, Utah with a group of about 20 girlfriends. It is estrogen central, baby. It is outlet shopping, jewelry making, game playing, walk taking, gabbity gabbing, food eating, zip lining, hot tubbing fun.

In the entry of our rented "cabin" (at least 4000 square feet, isn't that quaint?) there is an interesting chair. I use the word interesting here meaning ugly, and I realize that's a bit of a Lemony Snicket construction. That's one of the main things I've been reading lately - out loud, to the kids.

Anyway this chair is made of a big old gnarled log hollowed out in chair shape. The funny thing about it is that because of the shape of the log, there's kind of no back half of the seat. Just a hole. We have one friend who is seven months pregnant and we got a great photo of her in the chair pretending to do Lamaze breathing.

Which brings me to the other main thing I've read lately. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. The story follows Joan, a 9th century woman who dressed as a man following her brother's death and entered a monastery, possibly eventually becoming the pope. This story is disputed by the Catholic church and I'm willing to entertain it as either fiction or fact, but it was a fascinating story with well researched insights into the medieval church, the power dynamics of gender, and the politics of the time.

Anyway, in the back of the book there's a picture of a pope-checking chair with a hole in the seat. Some claim, apparently, that it was used to check the sex of incoming popes after Joan.

And that brings us full circle, back to the goofy chair in our entryway. I think this one is meant as art. No pope-checking going on here in Heber, I'm pretty sure.

We're all packing up our girl power and heading back to our responsibilities later today. Our pregnant friend will be staying with a Utahn friend for a couple of more days - her home is in the Houston area and the airport is still closed. Another friend lives near Galveston and could not leave; she's a nurse in a children's hospital. Remember them today if you can.

The book was good. And yes, this will pass for a book review in my food-stuffed, sleep-deprived state. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Excuse for an easy post

Sally tagged me ...

20 years ago…
1. Falling desperately and sort of pathetically in 14-year-old love with a long-haired piano player. (Who was 15, by the way.) I was so fatal about it, although I did somehow manage to avoid boiling any bunnies! Good thing I moved away the next year and met G instead and had gotten just the tiniest bit more mature so I didn't scare him too much. Aw, it's all kind of a sweet memory now.
2. Acting in the school production of a funny, silly little play called FAUGH. Dyed my hair red for this. It was supposed to be temporary. It turned out to be the beginning of 20 years of hair dye.
3. Going to early morning seminary at Sara's house for New Testament study. Food after seminary every single day. Feast upon the word, and the bagels.

10 years ago…
1. New to PR, working for a little software company in Salt Lake, planning our participation in a big Chicago trade show for that November.
2. Undergoing infertility treatments at the University of Utah Medical Center.
3. Sally was my visiting teacher in our U of U student ward (G was getting a Master's in geological engineering).

5 years ago…
1. New to California, not a friend in the accessible world except Sally, mercifully only an hour away from us. She totally saved my life!
2. Living in a horrible house with horrible green shag carpet. But it had three bedrooms and its own fenced back yard with a huge shade tree. And it was only $800/month.
3. Thanking God on my knees every night for free universal preschool in Cali. Otherwise my oldest child might not have survived the month of September. He was driving me that crazy. And I really was that grateful.

3 years ago…
1. Recovering from the Sept. 5 Grand Opening of the university where I work. It was like the day after Christmas for a long time, except I was more tired and burned out. And there was still perpetually tons of work to do.
2. Trying to figure out where my next child or children were going to come from and how to convince G they were indeed coming. Got him to agree to make a decision the following January.
3. Other stuff documented for posterity here.

1 year ago…
1. A year ago tomorrow is the day baby Z came back to us after a month of upside-down horrible confusing wrongness. I am still amazed every day at this miracle!
2. Read "No More Goodbyes" by Carol Lynn Pearson and had a FHE lesson about it for my elementary school aged kids.
3. Taught the sex lessons in YW. That was fun! Little did I know I only had a couple months left in that calling. Well, actually I sort of did know, somehow.

This year so far…
1. Amazing, blessed victories in our fost-adopt cases. Both little kids set to be finalized by the end of the year.
2. Fun vacation in Utah with brave me and four kids, and my saintly mother helping a ton. Bear Lake, Cascade Spring, BYU, Lagoon and of course the DI were among the highlights.
3. After lots of juggling and adjusting, returned to making mommyhood priority number one by threatening to quit and ending up with a half-time schedule, mostly from home. At least for a while. I am lucky, lucky!

Yesterday…
1. Didn't get out of my PJs until after dinner. I rock! Biggest drama: trying to get the baby to take a nap. Yessir, back to the good old days.
2. Made Indian for dinner. One kid actually tried masoor dal and liked it! This is major! I also made bhindi masala. I have no idea how to spell that and I am not getting the cookbook out now. But it is an okra dish. First time I have ever cooked okra.
3. Spent a lot of time, and I mean a lot, working on a Facebook page. It was real work though. I'm gonna get paid for it.

Today…
1. Childcare woes, woof.
2. Baby in the office, woof.
3. Still have to pack for my weekend trip.

Tomorrow…
1. Leavin' on a jet plane!
2. Trying to squeeze in 4 hours of work somewhere in the middle of it all.
3. Trying not to be too gleeful about G left home with all the crazies. I will certainly have my share of it as he starts interview trips later this fall, so it would behoove me to be gracious and grateful that he is so supportive of my taking breaks like this.

Next year…
1. Mainly a mystery, because of my husband's stage in life (set to finish a Ph.D. this December/January).
2. My baby will be in her 3rd year. I don't think I will be getting baby hungry again. I'm full!
3. Cuter, thinner, organizeder, spiritualler, capabler. Or maybe just one of those, even that would be good. I will be 35 next year, after all! Old enough to run for president as someone reminded me last week!

I tag…
1. you
2. you
3. you (purposeful ambiguity)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Seasonal treat

Lucy asked me not to delay my cobbler recipe, and I'm happy to oblige. We had this for our Family Home Evening treat last night.

September is, of course, the time to eat peach cobbler. My parents have a tree that grows huge, delicious peaches. I remember being there in September a couple of times when my younger siblings were still in school and my parents went out of town - and it fell to me to pick peaches. Not a bad task.

Peaches are somehow easier to get into jams and cobblers and other things like that than strawberries are, for me. They're big enough that you can't really just sit and absentmindedly eat a quart of them.

Anyway, this is the cobbler recipe I've been using since about 2000. I like it because it's kind of pure tasting - just butter, vanilla and fruit flavors. And it's easy and not overly sweet. The fruit is really the star of the show.

It's also versatile; you can use just about any fruit you want. I particularly like to use the three-berry blend from Costco, or a mix of pears and fresh cranberries in the wintertime.

But like I said, September is all about the peaches.

Peach Cobbler
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. white flour
1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (I used 6 peaches for this. A little more fruit than the recipe states is not a bad thing!)

Heat oven to 350. Place butter in 9x13 baking pan. Set in oven to melt.

Whisk together all dry ingredients. Mix in milk and vanilla.

Pour batter over melted butter in pan. Do not mix or stir.

Spoon fruit, with any juice, over the batter. Do not mix or stir.

Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.

Serve with sweetened vanilla whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Plus side

Our old friend Braden not only tagged me for this but said really nice thing about me and G in his answer (it was not our Christmas tree, just a Christmas tree, though!), so of course I have to play the meme. Plus it is a really nice one - all about the brighter side of life.

If every job paid $50,000 a year, and you had no physical or mental limitations, what would you do?

I would be a kick-a SAHM with a housekeeper and a chef doing the hard jobs, each of them of course miraculously making $50k/year. And I would write novels at night.

What is your current church calling and what do you like about it?

Teaching the 7-8 year olds in Primary. I like the focus on the basics of the gospel through the life and teachings of the Savior. Also the jokes told by the kids, and the baptisms.

Name a person you regularly encounter (outside your family) who brightens your day.

Ellen R. from my ward. She's also my VT companion, lucky me! She is amazing because I know she has a lot going on and yet she manages to keep up with my little dramas and check up on me to see how I'm doing. Plus happy, talented, down-to-earth and fun!

In twenty years, what do you think you will miss most about your life now?

I was going to say little kid snuggles ... but you know, I could potentially have a couple of little grandkids by that time (weird) ... I dunno, I think I will still be happy and relishing where I am at that time, whatever it is I am doing.

What’s something you appreciate about your spouse?

Deep down goodness and absolute trustworthiness. Also being a good housekeeper - him, not me.

What is your favorite routine, household chore?

Folding laundry. Don't laugh. Everything is already clean, there's nothing gross about it, and you can watch TV or listen to This American Life on your MP3 player at the same time.

What’s a book you return to occasionally (besides the scriptures)?

Jane Eyre and Orson Scott Card's Ender books are the only books I reread, and those only every 4-5 years or maybe even less. There's too much out there for a lot of repeating.

Favorite small pleasure?

Dark, dark chocolate.

Favorite time of the day?

The quiet in the car after the kids are dropped off in the morning.

Name a person who performed what they thought was a small act of service, but ended up being a big deal to you:

Sally Lou calls me and texts me and is my friend even when I am clueless and disconnected. She does this little thing over and over. I am so grateful!

Name someone who somehow changed your life.

I will have to choose, on that one, two birthmoms who chose our family for their sons, and the director of the county child services agency who intervened when a case was going wrong. (I have trouble narrowing down lists like this!)

Consider what you do each day. Think of one attribute or trait that you bring to your daily work that is a strength—what is something you do really well? No false modesty!

I have put my priorities where they belong, at last, and I am accomplishing the things that truly need to be done each day - both in my family and in my professional work.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Le weekend

I remember when I was a senior in high school and I had choir, drama, AP classes and two jobs. Yes, I was that psychotic overachiever girl, terrified that someone would find out I was not actually perfect and running myself ragged to avoid that happening. Anyway, it leads to things like your mom having to confiscate your day planner because it is making you hyperventilate in a Choir Boosters meeting, and you calling up your boss's office in the middle of the night so you won't have to talk to him but can just leave a message saying, "I won't be in tomorrow, or ever again." It was just the movie theater, but still, not my classiest-ever departure.

I did a lot better quitting my current job, so it's nice I've made some progress in the last 17 years.

But it's true I won't be in the office tomorrow, so there will be no one to ask me the time-honored office question, "So, what did you do over the weekend?"

Therefore I thought I would tell you instead.
  • Friday night, watched some Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD with G while I finished up my work-from-home hours for the week. Pricelessly cheesy, with lots of memories of watching it every night in syndication while we were in college.
  • Saturday morning: S's first soccer game of the season. I spent the duration chasing Z around while she chased every canine in the park. She sooooo needs a puppy. She loves them like crazy. I am thinking we will get some kind of German Shepherd mix so she can love it like crazy and also be well guarded. And no worries, I am firmly committed to getting a pound pup. This will be after we buy a house, of course, so who knows ... it could be 3 years in the future, depending on what career path G takes.
  • Saturday afternoon: Shopping with K. That child is a major crackup. I need to take some video so you can see his hilarious, animated facial expressions. And when I say animated, I mean he is a little bit like a cartoon. G took A to his soccer game while I stayed home with the napping littles and computering S.
  • Saturday evening: BBQ with Z's former babysitter and her husband and 4 kids - 1 bio, 3 a sibling group soon to be adopted. They have definitely ridden this fost-adopt roller coaster in parallel with us. TPR has finally, finally happened and I am so glad for them! But just imagine 8 kids in our echoey house - as much as I sing the praises of hard floors, there are in fact times when I would like big thick carpets! My head is still kinda ringing!
  • Saturday night: folded a giant mountain of laundry - 2 weeks' worth - while watching August Rush. It was a cute movie but beyond unbelievable. I mean, a white American infant relinquished at birth was placed in an orphanage? Also, if you watch this movie, please skip the deleted scenes. There was a really horribly cheesy final confrontation scene between the kid and the Robin Williams character that I can definitely see why they cut, and if I were involved in this movie I would have never let it see the light of day.
  • Sunday morning: thought I was getting sick, but it was just allergies and exhaustion. So I got up and prepped my Primary lesson and got the fam to church - with tons of help from G - just a few minutes late. Testimony meeting was actually not all about Prop 8 and was very sweet, with testimonies from 3 recent converts. My Primary class was great and silly as usual. My cute persistent-negative-outlook girl has started telling me a joke every week. This week it was, "What did the seal wear to the big dance? Glass flippers!" I love her.
  • Sunday afternoon: Broke my fast early so I could take two Advil without getting sick (I have to have it with food). Then napped. For three hours! I so urgently needed that! Made salmon with a pesto aioli and pasta salad for dinner. Had a pillow-and-blanket book party in the living room. We are working on Book 4 of Lemony Snicket. We love it!
Now I've put the kids to bed and made it through all my nerdly stuff online. Funny how I am not tired since I slept the whole freakin' day. Heh. Tomorrow comes early.

This week will be my first one with only Z at home - K had no school this past week, so it was a little tricky to get my work-at-home hours sometimes. The main thing I learned was that he has
to take a nap! No exceptions!

Coming up on the blog this week:
  • Book reviews - Pope Joan and The Audacity of Hope
  • Recipes - peach cobbler, and whatever else I get a wild hair to make
  • Probably more political ravings, I'll be honest with you. I am soooo worked up over this election, in case you couldn't tell.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Opinionated

An adoption board where I participate is having political discussions. Fun, right? Normally we keep it off the board. Today someone asked what we thought about the most important issues for the presidential election, and I felt like getting on my soapbox. Here's what I wrote. You know I've always been opinionated. Buckle up, buttercup.

1. Energy and environmental policy. We absolutely must decrease our dependence on foreign oil - all oil, in fact. Drilling offshore and in ANWR will only pass the problem to our grandchildren or further down the line. They will not thank us for that choice. We need to use government incentives to steer entrepreneurs toward renewable energy, including biofuels on marginal ag land, solar and wind. (Note absence of nuclear and water power - I think those are too problematic for the environment in other ways.) We need to improve technology in our homes, cars and businesses so that we just use less. We need to change our culture and policies to encourage less driving and less sprawl. We also need to fund science that will examine the effects of our cavalier attitude toward energy and global warming so far and recommend how we can mitigate for the changes we are in for.

2. Related issue: foreign policy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need to acknowledge that the Iraq war is based on lies and corporate ties (big oil and defense industries) to the current administration, and that it has distracted us from the goal of capturing Al Qaeda leadership and stopping extremist terrorism. We need to get out of Iraq as soon as we can without further damage to the people of that country. We need to ramp up our efforts in Afghanistan, get the job done ASAP and get out. We cannot continue to pretend that we can do all this while simultaneously cutting taxes, by the way. And we cannot continue to be proud of our ideals and our liberty while we are condoning torture and kangaroo courts for those who aren't lucky enough to have citizenship in our country. If liberty and justice are what we stand for, we have to stand for them for everyone. What we have done for the last seven years in this regard is absolutely immoral and embarrassing. We can never let it happen again.

3. Unity in America. The dividing lines have never been clearer between rich and poor. We (those of us who are lucky enough to be educated and stable) cannot continue to selfishly look after our own interests only. We have to care for those who are in need. If we do not we see their needs increase and become a greater burden on our society. Not to mention the fact that callousness toward these people changes who we are as a nation. We need a realistic immigration program that acknowledges our need for labor from our southern neighbors and offers citizenship in an attainable way for those who want to build lives here and contribute to our society.

4. Taxes and economy. We cannot continue to cut breaks for the super-rich and corporations while the working people of America continue to bear the nation on their backs. Doing so for the last eight years while pursuing an expensive and unnecessary war has earned us a gigantic deficit that threatens our economic stability and will burden our children in the future. If you and I operated our households this way - slashing our income while increasing our spending - we would end up on the street. We should be ashamed of this. In a similar vein, deregulation in an effort to appease big business has given us Enron, skyrocketing gas prices and a mortgage crisis. We cannot afford this as a nation!

Things I see as non issues that everyone seems to want to talk about:

Abortion. I am anti-abortion and pro-choice. Abortion should be reduced to a state where it is used only in cases of rape or incest, danger to the mother's life, or extreme danger to her health or future childbearing capability. However for those cases it needs to be available without hoop-jumping or danger to the mother's privacy. I don't see how that can happen if regulation interferes. The real answer is realistic education for young men and women and effective birth control easily available for those who choose it.

Gay marriage. It is a state-by-state issue. Both candidates agree.

The mommy wars. Give me a freaking break.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Evidence

Cleaned out of my minivan on Labor Day, 2008: French fries. Candy wrappers. Legos, most of which I think I saved from the shop vac. Beach sand, probably measurable by the pound if someone thought of a way to do it. Goldfish crackers bought by Grandma. Books and notebooks. Horsetail reeds from Cascade Spring, intended for whistles but then forgotten in the presence of cousins and Wii games. A clam that was alive two days ago. The top of a shoe box, discarded by a boy eager for his new skateboarder shoes. Pennies. The helmet of a Playmobil knight. Nerds (the candy). A lot of memories.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where we stand

Our family is united for hope, change, optimism, respect and honorable government.

So excited for tonight's speech from Future President Barack Obama, occurring on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. What could be more perfect?



In case you were wondering, this is what an Obama-Biden enthusiast family looks like. I don't want to be too grandiose, but I also think it's a little bit like what America looks like. And a little bit like what God's family looks like. At least that is what we aspire to be.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All about the easy

High school meme (answering for the school where I graduated, not the school where I started):

1. Did you date anyone from your high school? Yes, three that I can think of, for three or four months each. All good guys.

2. What kind of car did you drive? I didn't drive until right around my 18th birthday. Then I drove a 1987 Honda Civic for a few months, until I wrecked it. This was sad. It was a very cute little car, white with a burgundy interior.

3. Were you a party animal? Not really. The parties were usually really alcoholic, and I was basically a really good Mormon kid. What I went wild for were dances, usually held by friends in a rented hall in town. I am sure people were drinking/using there, too, but I didn't really see it and there was something to do there besides sit around and get hammered.

4. Were you considered a flirt? I really tried to be! I loooooooooooved boys and had a lot of fun with guy friends, usually pretty flirtatious. In high school this was pretty harmless. Immediately afterward I tried it on a guy friend at a summer job and was accused of being a tease. I sobered up pretty fast.

5. Were you in band, orchestra or choir? Yep, total choir nerd. Concert Choir president my senior year.

6. Were you a nerd? Pretty much yes. Choir, drama, AP classes.

7. Were you on any varsity teams? I did letter in drama and choir. But I don't think most people would consider those to be teams.

8. Did you ever get suspended or expelled? Nope. Reference the really good Mormon kid answer above.

9. Can you still sing the fight song? Did we have one? I wanted it to be "Purple Toupee" by They Might Be Giants, because our school colors were purple and gold.

10. Who were your favorite teachers? Choir and drama teachers. AP English teacher.

11. Where did you sit for lunch? Outside the art room with my alterna-friends!

12. What was your school’s full name? Austin E. Lathrop High School

13. What was your mascot? Malemute. And until I moved there, I didn't know what that was. (It's a sled dog.)

14. If you could go back and do it again, would you? Nope. I would change some things about the first experience if I could, but I wouldn't repeat it.

15. What do you remember most about graduation? Listening to "Right Here, Right Now" by Jesus Jones in the car on the way there. Regretting not joining NHS because I wanted that cord. Partying with the exchange students at the Fairbanks Athletic Club all night and realizing that I just wasn't that close to most people in my graduating class, which was kind of melancholy.

16. Where did you go on Senior Skip Day? I don't recall having one day for it. I kind of just skipped sporadically when I felt like it, but by my senior year I had so many responsibilities at school it was kind of hard to do.

17. Were you in any clubs? Drama club, Forensics. That's all I can think of.

18. Have you gained weight since then? If I say I don't want to talk about it, that probably gives away the answer.

19. Who was your prom date? Sophomore year, 2 days after my 16th birthday: A German exchange student who was a good friend. We went in a group of 5 people. Junior year: the boy from my ward who had played Sid to my Babe in The Pajama Game. We'd kissed so much in the show (7 kisses for each performance, plus rehearsals!) it was only decent to date for a while. Nice kid, broke my heart a little a couple months later. Senior year: I don't think I went to prom. My Senior Ball date was a kind of withdrawn, quiet but very good looking guy who I asked to go with me because I thought he would look good in the photos. Bad move. Bad date. But the photos are great.

20. Are you planning on going to your 10 year reunion? Too late! I graduated 16 years ago. I'll consider the 20, maybe. But Alaska is pretty far to travel for that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Half of me

Why not take half of me ... that sounds a lot more painful than "all of me," doesn't it? I hope that doesn't turn out to be true.

To ease the transition on both ends (for me and my employer) I am now planning to spend a couple of months working 51 percent time from home. That's 51 instead of 50 so I can keep my benefits. Nice, yes? Seriously, that's a huge blessing. It's supposed to be just until a new person is hired - 6 weeks to 3 months. If it were longer, I'd be thrilled.

The freelancing idea is turning out to be a lot more complicated than I expected. We operate in startup mode so much here that it's almost easy to forget that we work for a gigantic, frustrating (or "festerating" as K would say) unwieldy bureaucracy. Some of these policies ... I'm sure the intentions were good when they were written. But they just make things really, really difficult.

We do have a new president of the system who says he's going to fix some of this stuff. Maybe I ought to write him a letter. Hmmmm. I am the queen of the impulsive, fired-off complaint letter. Just because I'm quitting my job certainly doesn't mean I have to quit that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My town in the NYT

Sad.

And crazy that now that I could actually buy a house here, the timing is all over the place wrong.

Silly about

When S was a baby, my mother in law once accused G and me of being "silly about" him. Well, we were. We waited a long time for that guy, and let's face it, he was extremely cute. I know at least I went through the same thing with baby A (G not so much, because A basically wouldn't have anything to do with his daddy until he was about 2). K was different, of course, because he didn't arrive until he was 3. But we definitely went through a falling-in-love time with him last year around this time.

We are, if possible, even more silly about Z than we have ever been before. Like you didn't know that by now!

Here's a little update on the development of her personality.
  • Big fan of : dogs, cats, balloons, pushing buttons, brushing her own teeth, yogurt, baths, lotion, songs with actions, playing outside, taking care of baby dolls, pretending to put on makeup, putting on her own pants, berries of any kind, swinging on swings, peas, cucumbers, her ruffled cherry-print swimming suit, reading by herself, baby quilts, climbing up on the toilet to get into the cabinet, washing things with a baby wipe
  • Not particularly fond of: being read to, riding in a car, being held in a swimming pool, riding in a stroller, diaper changes, having her hair fixed, hurrying, tomatoes, sharing the spotlight with any type of cousin, doors that are closed, bedtime, daycare
  • Says: mama, daddy, baby, please, sorry, crying, yay, no, cheese, drink, mine, owie, poopoo, loud, yummy, night-night, hi, bye, wow, grandma (sounds a lot like mama), grandpa, a few other names of people

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We have a chance

I know I'm not the only one who listens to Senator Barack Obama and thinks we as a country have gotten incredibly lucky, after a long, long series of screwups, to have another chance to live up to our ideals, to implement the dream of Dr. King, to reach the top of the mountain. I sincerely pray we don't blow it.

So it's another Obama song. I love 'em, OK? I'm aware politics is not realistically about lofty ideals worthy of song right now. But I think it ought to be.

GooooooooObama!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Through the mists of time


Can you see my future?
Where will I live a year from now?


Right here where I am now
Sacramento, California
Bay Area, California
Washington, D.C. area
Wisconsin
Utah
London, England
Adelaide, Australia
Portland, Oregon
Some other unknown place ...















This is, of course, just for fun.

And naturally I am not at all blogging about my husband's career or different places where he has applied for or is thinking about applying for jobs. I just chose random places. Ha.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ph.D.-to-be

Today is the 37th birthday of Dr. G-to-be.

Pretty soon he will be closer to 40 than 35. There are still 3 more years before he can tease me back with that particular statement. And by then, he will actually be 40. I love that!

Seriously, I have a fantastic husband, as I've tried to make clear before. I'm awfully glad he's around.

Happy birthday to G!

Good for the soul

Things I need to remind myself are good for me:
  • Taking a slightly longer route home to drive through my favorite tall-treed, shady neighborhood full of vintage Mission and Craftsman homes
  • Stopping for hugs and tickles before I jump into dinner prep after work
  • Feeding the kids kid food, putting them to bed, and making really luscious grownup food for G and me (last night: slow cooked beef roast; pan sauce with balsamic vinegar, garlic and basil; cheese polenta; peas)
  • A long lunch break to feel a little more caught up on errands, a little less panicked and loserish (worth the make-up time I will spend on the laptop tonight)
  • Telling G about the funny things the kids have done that he's missed, like K's very loud tick-tock noise when Grandma was singing him "Hickory, Dickory Dock," and agreeing on how cute our kids are
  • Asking G for an update on the dissertation (progress! it's good! very encouraging)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Number 9, number 9

Happy birthday to my big boy S. You wear me out, darling child.

But I am glad you got a Wii game and Legos and soccer cleats and a crystal growing set and a whipped cream cake and mint chip ice cream and Rice Krispy treats to hand out in class. I hope your 9th birthday was great for you.

You are great for me - my first baby, the boy who made my dreams come true and turned me into a mother.

I'm so proud of the way you are growing up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shake it up, baby

Are you ready?

I just gave my employer two weeks' notice.

This change - such a biggie - has been some time coming. My vacation gave me time (mostly on the road and late at night) to think and pray and really come to the conclusion that it is time to let go of this job I have loved for the last four years and go back to being "just a mom" ... even though of course we all know that no one, but no one, is "just" a mom.

This blog started out, shortly after I started my job, as a working moms' group blog with a few friends. Silly me, working moms do not have time to blog! So it quickly came down to just me. It has been a useful place to spew out all my brain garbage so that I can get on with my workday. I guess that may not actually change. The blog will certainly continue to exist. I think we may have some interesting times ahead as I make this transition.

I am full of plans and ideas about how I want things to be after I leave this desk where my behind has been glued eight hours a day for the last four years. I am trying to keep my feet on the ground about it. It's hard. Eight hours seems like a lot of time when you're glued to a chair. When you're chasing kids, I know it's not really that much.

Still, a major life change would not be complete for me without a bulleted list. Here are some things I want/need to do.
  • Freelance for my current employer 15-20 hours a week. This is a must, financially. I'm thankful that it is going to be possible.
  • Free up my husband to finish his dissertation and get us all on with our lives, by taking primary responsibility for the house and kids.
  • Take care of myself and my mental health by exercising daily. The last time I was doing this regularly was before Z was born. As much as I have tried, I cannot fit it in my current schedule. It has to be very high priority on the new schedule because of its stressbusting power. I won't lie, being a stay-at-home-mom stresses me out. I do remember that much.
  • Improve my kids' social opportunities. Have friends over. Go to play dates and stuff.
  • Write. My own stuff, fiction and essays, not press releases and brochures.
  • Make stuff homemade - you know, food and maybe some clothes - and be really thrifty. Again, not so much a want as a need. We are going from 1.5 incomes (my salary and G's grad student stipend) to maybe .75 incomes if we are lucky (the stipend plus whatever I can do as a freelancer).
  • Be a better friend, visiting teacher, and Primary teacher. I have been skimming by on all these things for the last four years. Thankfully I have had friends and companions and fellow church workers who have uncomplainingly picked up my slack. How did I get so lucky?
  • Brush up my math skills over the next three or four years and generally prepare so that when Z goes to school, I can, too. Graduate degree, here I come. Slowly.
There you go. It's not totally unrealistic, right? Maybe just a little bit?

How surprising is this, by the way? My boss said she knew it was coming. Has she been reading this blog?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rescue

My sister M1 works in a bakery supply store. Sometimes when packaging is damaged or other adverse circumstances occur, she can bring home products for use around here.

For instance, there are about 50 pounds of high quality milk chocolate pieces just sitting here. The store was getting rid of them and she was going to take them to the food bank, but one of her kids opened them and so they couldn't go there. Thus we must give them a good home.

Last night we were pulling pieces off a big block of caramel. We were fairly well behaved; after a couple pieces each we quit in favor of ice water and Mario Party 8. But I just had to share M1's quote:

"Some people rescue pets. I rescue candy."

I love my family!