Monday, March 31, 2008

I love you and that's no lie

Strawberry shortcake, huckleberry pie
I love you and that's no lie

Sundays are dessert days. A lot of times G makes one and I make one. So yesterday we had some really decadent Scharffen Berger brownies, and also this, because it is spring. It's a little premature, because our local strawberry stand is not yet open. That should be coming in a couple of weeks. But I just couldn't wait.

Strawberry shortcake
4 c sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 c granulated sugar

1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chilled butter
2/3 c. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
additional sugar for sprinkling - coarse baker's sugar would be great for this if you have it

1 c whipping cream
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Set aside to macerate while you do the rest of this.

Combine dry ingredients with a wire whisk, or sift together if you like. Cut in butter with a pastry blender. (I have the Pampered Chef one now, and although I had high hopes for it, I will just say that I am still on the hunt for a pastry blender that will not bend when I am working with really cold butter.) When you are finished, the mixture should look like pea-sized crumbs. Add milk and gently blend just until there are no dry spots left.

Drop dough in 8 spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 15 minutes, until golden and crusty.

Meanwhile, beat cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

To serve, cut cakes in half. Place strawberries inside, like a sandwich. Close and top with more strawberries, and then cream.

(Why do you think I am failing to lose weight?)

Reminder: court tomorrow

Tomorrow morning we will be back in the county courthouse for a trailed hearing for termination of parental rights for our sweet little K.

His biological mother is contesting the TPR. It is ludicrous considering that if things had been properly done (instead of her placing him with gang/drug/prostitute friends) she would have lost him 2 years ago if not sooner. We need to hope and pray the judge is not feeling particularly compassionate toward her tomorrow. The compassion needs to be directed at a cute little boy who has made us his home and his family in the last 8 months.

Yep, today is our 8 month anniversary with K and our 16 month anniversary with Z. What a ride!

Please keep K in your thoughts and prayers today.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

When they call you to teach Primary

I don't think they're anticipating that you will play play play all day on Saturday and then stay up until the wee hours making a giant paper doll missionary and pages for a book about Ammon and the arms (favorite scripture story of every video-game-loving boy) that the kids can illustrate.

I have too many ideas; that's my problem.

Good night!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Something to do

I dare you.

Go into a restaurant. A nice restaurant. It doesn't have to be expensive, but someplace where you have to be seated and order your food. And not a chain. Please.

Ask for a pleasant table. Or a seat at the window, that will do.

Order yourself a salad and an entree, and a drink if you like.

Eat by yourself. Think about your food. Watch people go by. You can wear headphones and listen to music, or read a book, if you want. But the main point of this is to be by yourself.

It's kind of scary. But its also kind of empowering.

Don't hurry. Don't be embarrassed. Don't apologize.

This is what I did tonight. I had roasted beet salad with orange vinaigrette, feta cheese and almonds, and peppery Spanish-style chicken canalone at Chez Shea in Half Moon Bay. Aside from some decidedly pink-not-red March tomatoes (chef: slice up some oranges, instead! It ain't summer yet!) it was quite perfect.

Then I went to watch the sunset at Poplar Beach. I walked a bit and the waves quickly erased any trace of me.

All by myself. I like it a lot.

Tomorrow: back to the crazy house. I like that, too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I never breathe

One thing I do for my job is creating little announcements podcasts every week. Well, mostly every week. Today I got to make a PSA announcing an event to distribute to local radio. It was like a trip back in time, back to when I used to do the weather for K101 FM in Fairbanks.

The difference, of course, is that now it's digital. It is super easy to edit my voice. I use Audacity, which is a nice little open-source application that my brilliant intern from last year found.

So in order to get my PSAs down to 30 and 60 seconds, one of the things I did was to just delete all my breaths. Now I sound oh-so smooth, and everything is done in the properly required amount of time.

It occurs to me that it would be useful to have a similar application to use in my life.

Doesn't seem likely, though.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good thing you know so much

Tonight's title reflects what I used to say to S when he fed me a line of little kid BS. He had a lot of it. Sometimes he still has some. But he also has a lot of accurate information.

S likes to read science books. My dad and mom send them by the box, culled from their own collection or found at Deseret Industries.

The cute thing is that he reads these big words but has never heard them pronounced. So he does the best he can. I remember when my brother M used to do the same thing. There was probably a time when I did it, too. We are a bookwormy family; what can I say?

Gems from S:

"Do you know what the Hawaiian Islands are made from? Obsdan. (Obsidian. -ed.) It comes in lots of colors."

"Maggots are baby flies. They eat whatever they are born on. Even your flesh."

Dumb Donald he ain't. Whatever it may look like.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why pie

My Grandpa Irvine taught me how to dribble a ball and throw a Frisbee. He paid me a dollar to learn the "Books in the New Testament" song. He let me feed the baby goats with a bottle and eat all the strawberries I wanted, dusty and warm with sun, straight out of the patch.

He had a sailboat that was most excellent for all kinds of pretend games and a hill in the backyard made for rolling races. He cut a playhouse from a dishwasher box. He taught my sister how to pull her ears while sucking in a long piece of spaghetti, creating quite an amusing effect - even before the little girl's earlobes turned orange with marinara sauce.

He fed the neighborhood cats on his back deck, to the irritation of my grandma.

He served in a bishopric at the Utah State Penitentiary. A story: once at the prison, he left his meetings to find his car would not start. He prayed for help. The car started. He said this was the first time he experienced direct, unmistakable assistance as an answer to prayer. He was in his 60s. Yet there he was in a bishopric. (What did he survive on before that? That's what faith is, if you ever need a definition that does not involve a seed.)

When I was almost seventeen, Grandma and Grandpa visited us in Alaska for Christmas. It was one of those times where I was aware that everything was about to change. This Christmas and one more, I was thinking to myself, and then I will leave home and grow up. It was nearly the end of my life as I knew it. So I paid attention. The kitchen steamed with the combined cooking talents of Grandma and my mom. We sang carols. We rode over snowy roads to eat at the Old FE Mining Company, sitting on rough-hewn logs and drinking from jelly jars. The whole time, I thought to myself, "This time is precious. I have to remember this."

I was taking voice lessons that winter from a crazy lady with four dogs, two cats, six birds, a rabbit, and a live-in lesbian lover she described as merely the person who cared for the animals. She could identify all my vocal bad habits, but couldn't describe to me how to correct them. (Only years later when I took lessons from a voice teacher at BYU did I start to understand what she meant when she told me in her affected genteel accent that I was "impinging upon" myself.) And for some reason she was teaching me arias from Messiah.

I sang "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" for my grandparents. Grandpa's response didn't surprise me. He asked me to sing it at his funeral.

This used to drive me nuts about my maternal grandparents. They talked all the time about dying. It was morbid, weird and scary. Death was mostly an abstraction for me - I had lost great-grandparents I didn't know well, and I vaguely knew a couple of kids from school who had died in accidents or by suicide. But I had never lost someone very close to me. Thinking about it was alarming. I would have preferred not to. I didn't know why they kept bringing it up.

I did have some idea of manners and respect, and so I told my grandpa that I would sing "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" for him. I also told him I didn't expect to have to do it for many years.

It was three and a a half years later. I had married - young and happy. I was going to Girls' Camp on a June morning when I heard from my mom: Grandma and Grandpa were in a car accident. They hit a horse in Sardine Canyon. It landed on Grandpa's head.

I almost didn't go up to camp. I thought it might be time to brush up the song. But it wasn't. Grandpa survived that accident, which you would think would be something to be grateful for. If you have lived with someone with a severe head injury, you know it is more complicated than that. It was five more years before he left his body. During that time, it slowly changed, shrunk, lost abilities, decayed. One moment he was delusional and frightened and mean, and the next he was just sweet and slow and forgetful. It was a long, long, confusing goodbye. It was exhausting for Grandma, most of all.

When he died it was February 1999. The day it happened, my mom called in the morning. We had all expected it so long, I didn't know what to feel. I went to work and spent the day interviewing customers and writing profiles - the same work my grandpa did as a newspaper reporter his entire career, I realized on my drive home. Suddenly there was a giant hole somewhere in me, where the bond that tied me to him on earth had broken, and I wept with abandon.

He had written, profiles like the ones I was working on, news stories, editorials, humor columns that left people (ok, mainly my mom) shaking in silent, uncontrollable laughter. He had written letters - long, affectionate, typed epistles to his grandchildren, sometimes as a group and sometimes individually, before his decline began. When he died, I was working on an adoption application, the notorious 52 questions on the old LDS Social Services packet, dreaming of the long-awaited arrival of my first baby. I took my three days of funeral leave, thinking my mom would need my help. She didn't. And so the last thing he gave me was time to write, time to move the family forward, as I answered all those questions. I wrote some, and then I sang along with my Messiah CD, and I cried, and wondered how on earth I was going to hit that high G through my tears.

It turned out that I didn't, and it turned out to be all right. The real standout on the program at that funeral was "O Mi Padre," reflecting my grandpa's two Spanish-speaking missions - once in the Southwest as a young man, and once in Mexico City with Grandma in the mid-'80s - and his faith. The Spirit whispered to me that the words of the last verse of that song described Grandpa's true present state.

With the benefit of years and with the raw and humbled heart left by loss, I saw why my grandpa could speak of death in almost-cavalier fashion. He had no fear of it; it had no sting for him. He knew that his Redeemer lives. And though worms, in a way, did destroy his body, the grim advance of dementia and disability did not dim his belief. And the quality (or lack thereof) of my rendition of Handel's lens on Job's testimony was not so important as the way Grandpa told me that it was also his testimony. And I think it was more than my sense of growing up that whispered to me that winter in 1990, "Pay attention. Remember this."

I told my kids this story today over Grandpa's favorite dessert. Thus the photo and the rhyming title. Happy Easter.

Banana Cream Pie

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cold butter
4-6 tbsp. cold water

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry cutter. Add water and toss lightly to combine. Start with 4 tbsp. and add more until the dough gathers into a ball. Roll out and place in pie tin. Prick with a fork. Bake at 410 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Remove and cool.

2 bananas

3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. corn starch
2 c. whole milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Slice 2 bananas into bottom of cooled crust.

Combine sugar and corn starch in medium saucepan. Gradually add milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add half of mixture into egg yolks and stir. Return egg mixture to pan. Bring to boil. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into crust. Cover with waxed paper and refrigerate to set.

1/2 pt. heavy cream
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 banana
1 oz dark chocolate for garnish (optional)

Beat cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

Slice remaining banana and arrange all but 8 slices on top of pudding filling. Spread whipped cream over the top. Garnish with remaining banana slices and curls of dark chocolate made with a vegetable peeler.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Women's history alive

It's Women's History Month all over the blogs, and I thought I'd say a little piece about an amazing history-maker I was lucky enough to see last year when she spoke on our campus.

Five years ago Dolores Huerta wouldn't have meant that much to me. I was just another white girl living on the east bench of the Wasatch in Salt Lake City. Sure, I had a couple of African-American kids, so I had spent some time educating myself about Black cultural history and civil rights. I know there were Spanish-speaking immigrants in my community. But I was isolated from them. Other than my mom's mission in Ecuador, I didn't have much of a connection to any Latino culture. And I really had no idea who was picking my grapes.

Moving to California, especially the Central Valley where I live, changed that in a hurry. Within a few months I was working with a cadre of beautiful, strong Chicanas in Young Women - our new ward has joint auxiliaries with the Spanish Branch in our town. I learned about their challenges, their joyful days, their ambitions, their discomforts and their triumphs. Mostly, though, I learned to love them.

Then I got a Chicana for a daughter. Well, technically she is probably only about a quarter Mexican, I learned last week. (The other quarter that I thought was Mexican is actually Central Valley Portuguese.) But she has a Mexican surname and some rocking awesome Frida Kahlo eyebrows. And I embarked on a new phase of cultural education. I totally believe it's my responsibility as a transracial, transcultural adoptive parent to learn enough myself to provide my children with connections to their birth heritages. And so, I learn.

I was lucky enough to see Dolores Huerta speak last fall. She was powerful and moving and true. She ain't no well-behaved woman. But she has made history. She is not free from controversy. But she has affected change. And because I have gained just a little knowledge, her history does mean a great deal to me.

I hope you will take the time to read about Huerta. I intend for my daughter to know her story. It's not every day that we see an inspiring history-maker who lives among us.

(Well, right now it is, because Obama's on the news every day. But normally.)

One more viva!

New things in life

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I enjoy having a girl

This print is in my dining room. I pretty much love it. Babies and chocolate, right? The two best things in the world?

It's right by Z's high chair. She loves it, too. She points at the babies and babbles. I respond with, "Babies and chocolate! Babies and chocolate!"

In the last two days, she has started with a new word of which I am very proud:


I have to give her a little bit of Scharffen Berger 82% cacao as a reward, and to make sure she gets the association.

She loves it. That's my girl.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This morning, some unabashedly mushy and probably horribly bad poetry. I am a little too close to it to tell for sure.

* * *

For emptiness, confusion, false starts, stones and the need to search,
For promptings, promises, proxies, signs, coincidences, reminders,
For strength, sight, comfort and endurance
For pain preceding empathy, for angels on an errand
For dreams, pigtails, speeding trains
For a daughter

Glory and praise be to Almighty God.

Court report

We were in court from 8 until 11 AM (and then I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics for my sinus infection).

K's case was trailed again because his bio mom's attorney has not yet spoken with her about the case. This guy is a loser with a capital L - our attorney says he gets $70k/year from the county to represent people in the CPS system and basically blows it off. Same attorney who represents S on Z's case and caused all our cases to be trailed LAST week. Apparently his policy is "do no work until the case has been trailed three times." So we go in again for K on April 1.

Z's case was much more productive.

The judge heard "change of circumstance" petitions from the bio dad and from the cousin. The bio dad's came first and it was basically heard on the basis that he is now in rehab instead of jail, and denied because his "change of circumstance" is not complete - he is not done with his program and ready to take Z.

Then the mom's attorney pulled this shenanagan saying that our attorney had a conflict because she briefly represented S when her older kids were detained in 2005. They never met on the case and she never appeared for S in court. Nevertheless she excused herself for the purposes of the TPR hearing so that the case could proceed. That was fine because we are not in a position to say anything about TPR anyway.

S tried to say that the county had not offered relative placement earlier in the process, which is the opposite of what is stated in their court reports - they investigated options and found no suitable relatives to take Z a year ago and then again in September when Z came back into care. So the judge terminated all parental rights and at that point our lawyer was back on the case since her supposed conflict was no longer a party. So Miss Z officially has birthparents now ... not parents. Yet.

After that the judge heard the petition from the cousin, which was nerve wracking because he really listened carefully and the cousin's attorney was starting to make up stuff about us (saying that our older two kids were also adopted from the foster care system - trying to make us out to be some kind of child collectors). The judge assured us that he was not considering any of that and our attorney explained that he was just listening so that nobody can say they were not heard and have basis for appeal. Anyway at the end of it all our attorney corrected the misstatements about us and the petition was denied.

We are still the county's recommendation for adoptive placement. As long as there are no appeals we should be able to get this wrapped up in a few months time. WOOHOO!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A big family can get a lot sick

So far this morning we have had the following diagnosed:

  • 5 infected ears on 3 people
  • 1 infected set of bronchii on one of the same 3
  • potential pneumonia
Suspected ailments as yet undiagnosed:
  • 2 sinus infections (me and G)
  • 1 ear infection (G)
We are so ready to be not sick. When 6 people get a bug it settles in all kinds of awful ways.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Curses, trailed again

Tune in next Tuesday the 18th for some real news on both cases. I hope.

The same attorney who represents S? He also represents K's biological mom. Another S, so that's confusing. Anyway he is in a murder trial and didn't bother to find himself a sub. I hope he gets reamed. I am getting annoyed.

S (Z's bio mom) did show up today. Still pregnant, so what we heard Tuesday was not true.

Cousin's attorney is still deluding himself that he knows dependency law. Right. Our attorney, the county attorney, and the kids' attorneys ALL agree that we should be able to keep both kids - not just because it's morally right but because it is down in black and white in the 366.26 code. How nice that the law and the right thing coincide, huh?

I so hope this baby is born clean. I really really do.

In K's case, we got de facto parent status and prospective adoptive parent status before they trailed the TPR decision. So we are now in the same strong position for him as we are for Z. That's a very good thing.

I am not worried. I am just tired of waiting for this all to be resolved. And worried about taking yet another morning off work for court next week. And sick as a dog - cold sweats, sore throat, raw nose. Staying home in bed today in hopes of getting better before my mom and my sister and her husband arrive tomorrow.

Still fantasizing about G getting a job offer so I can blow off some key things. But the week is marching on with no word.

Funny how the dream job pales in comparison to the kids, though. It's all about perspective, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News from the TPR hearing

They trailed the hearing again because ... this is so great ...

S (Z's biological mother) is down in San Diego giving birth, so that our county will not detain the baby immediately. At least that is what the county human services agency's attorney said. I sure hope for her sake and the baby's that this baby is not born testing positive for meth ... it is the saddest thing ever.

Her attorney also did not show up, because if she had any representation they would have done the hearing without her. So all of us sat there for 2 hours waiting for her attorney to show up, and he never did. Our attorney thinks he is going to get censured for that because it really is disrespectful of everyone else's time. I can kind of see why he did it, though.

The good news is they trailed the hearing only until Thursday morning. And we have to be there for K that day, anyway.

Also good news: the cousin hired an attorney and he is a doofus. He doesn't know this type of law at all and basically doesn't have a leg to stand on because of the orders we gained at the last hearing (designating us as de facto parents and prospective adoptive parents).

From everything we are hearing the county is still going to recommend us as the adoptive placement, even though the social workers on the case wanted the cousin. Their bosses and their attorney are telling them it legally has to be us.

We met the county attorney and he is totally on our side. He is hilarious and has a bad attitude that will serve us well! He has very little patience for all the stall tactics and b.s. people have tried to pull. He really believes Z needs permanency and she needs it now. That's a very good thing.

So things are not resolved today but only a couple more days and I think at that point the judge will not have the patience to trail this case again.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I am sick. Z is sick. G is sick. S is sick.

Z's social worker is freaking me out. I got a copy of her report for next Tuesday's court hearing. It says the agency's recommendation for adoptive placement is "confidential." Our attorney confirmed this is not a good sign. It makes me want to throw up. Also to hide. I am trying to ignore this and shore up our defenses. This week we saw a family therapist in Modesto and secured her commitment to testify that moving Z at this point would create substantial risk for an attachment disorder.

I still feel like I am walking on eggshells at work. Whenever I take a day off, be it sick or vacation I feel worried. Things have changed. I just don't feel as comfortable as I used to. No one is rude or mean or harassing. But *I* know I have bitten off more than I can chew in the last year, and I am sure others do, too. It creates some pressure. And as my workplace grows, relationships are naturally less personal and casual. I miss that, and the new dynamic also creates more pressure for me.

I am tired of people saying to me, "I don't know how you do it." I don't know, either. Most of the time I feel like I don't do it, at least not well. I am just going to stop telling people I have four kids.

This pace is going to kill me.

I am getting all PMS bloated and crampy not to mention asthmatic, thanks to the amazing, beautiful valley in bloom. I have a new theory that if you catalogued all my whiny posts you would find them on a pretty reliable 29-day cycle.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Produce and productivity

If Austen were writing about my life today, maybe that would be a good title for her to use.


If we leave California, I am going to miss my friends and my job and the weather. And the beach. But I am really, really going to miss the produce.

I mentioned previously that I finally joined a CSA. I've gotten 2 weeks of boxes now. It is so cool. It brings me vegetables I don't normally buy, like chard (divine sauteed with cumin and cinnamon) and leeks and collard greens, and rapini (going to try it tonight alongside a mushroom omelet).

And then there was the old standby, broccoli. Something so hated by a member of the Bush family is right up there on my list of favorite things, just because of that fact.

Anyway, here was a nice little meal I put together last week using the CSA produce.

Pasta with leeks, greens and beans

1 box whole wheat spaghetti
1 lb mild Italian sausage
1 big leek, sliced and cleaned
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, chopped and cleaned
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 tbsp dried basil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Cook pasta while you do the rest of this.

In a large pot, cook the sausage. When it's mostly brown, add the leeks. Stir until they begin to turn transparent. Add the greens, beans, basil and tomatoes. Stir gently and cook on medium-low heat until the greens are wilted. Then stir in the pasta.

Just before serving, add the artichoke hearts. No need to stir; they might disintegrate. Also, lots of parmesan. Most pasta is a good excuse to eat lots of parmesan, and this is certainly no exception.

Have it with this:

Lemon roasted broccoli

1 large head broccoli, cut into long-stemmed florets
Juice and zest of one lemon
About 2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Toss it all together in a big bowl. Spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Cook it at 400 degrees until you see a little brown on it. This is an amazing counterpoint to the rich, complicated pasta.

After I made this meal, I went out of town and G ate all the leftovers. I know I shouldn't be mad. I mean, I left him alone with 4 kids for 4 days. He deserves all the pasta he wants. Really, he is the best. And I got hecka good food while I was gone. But dang, I wanted some more.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I keep my promises

I told you this was going on the blog ... a nephew funny from this past weekend:

Ana: So, N, what's your favorite song?
N (age almost-5): Oh, I don't know ... pretty much "Lady Banana."
Ana: What?
M (N's mom): You know, "Lady Banana, children at your feet, wonder how you manage to make ends meet ..." ?