Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hands on

Have I told you my S has the best teacher in the world this year?

He really does. She is the teacher from that story you may have heard told by Michael Wilcox - the one who finally sees the good in him and only the good - the one who remains unflappable in the face of his antics - the one who knows that teaching is not about testing, but about learning.

She knows they have to do the tests, so she designed an accommodation for my ADHD darling. He has an assistant sitting with him to make sure he fills in the bubbles correctly. She explained to him that she just wants to make sure the computer understands his answers, and she knows he will be able to answer all the questions correctly. Hallelujah for a teacher who knows that filling in bubbles is a giant obstacle for a bright boy with attention issues!

She is not in this picture. She took this picture. It's my S with a wildlife manager, putting a band on a baby owl.

They're also planting an organic garden.

Seriously! Could a third-grade teacher possibly be any cooler?

And can we move her up to fourth grade next year?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Presenting all six of us

I'm gonna try leaving these up for a while and see what happens.

What have I learned?

It is really, really hard to get six people looking good in a picture. But I still would rather do it myself than haul this circus train into Sears for a family portrait.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The birthday report

Lake. Steak. Cake. All with my dear dear Sally and her fam. Who could ask for anything more?

But there was more. Here it is, with links to make it fun for you:
  • jewelry I gave myself made by Dana - the April Bracelet of the Month. Watch for it!
  • jewelry I got from my in-laws - a jade-and-silver dragonfly and cool green pearl drop earrings. They know I love green
  • a birthday card from the ward Relief Society
  • Thai food with my co-workers
  • an Obama birthday card from G (Headline: Baracky, with Obama in a "Rocky" victory pose - I LOVE IT!)
  • the new R.E.M. CD from G and permission to buy the new Breeders CD if I can find it (we live in funny little town that does not seem to have a lot of Breeders fans - I will probably just download it from Amazon)
  • an gift certificate (and you know I am all Amazonny) that I used to get a cute watch and a DVD
  • lots of snuggling with Z
  • watching The Martian Child with G. It had John Cusack and a happy adoption story - I'm a sucker for that
  • a very loud burp from the solitary boy in my Primary class. It took the class about ten minutes to recover fully from their giggles after that
  • new episodes of Ugly Betty and The Office to make me laugh
  • new issues of Sunset and Everyday Food to make me drool
  • Corn muffins from the aforementioned new issue of Everyday Food. ("Some chicken and a corn muffin well that feels more like love" - Paul Simon)
Really, it was awesome, and I don't mind at all being older than Jesus (I am now 34).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I told you more was coming

K: Mom, can I have my canna-lope?
Me: We don't have any cantaloupe.
K: [holds up toy]
Me: Oh, that's a catapult.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Funny conversations

G: I'm not getting you anything for your birthday.
Me: That's ok.
G: You haven't told me anything you want, and time is running out. Am I supposed to read your mind?
Me: Go for it. There's nothing there.


K's teacher, calling roll: K----- F-----?
K: I'm not K----- F-----, I'm K----- S---!

(S--- being our last name, and no, it's not the bad "sh" word, although maybe it should be.)
(I guess maybe he does understand that he is about to be adopted!)


More to come, I'm quite sure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One, two ...

Three, four. Thought you might need help there.

What's the significance of this series?

34 is the age I will be this Saturday! I am going to the temple in the morning with the stake Relief Society. Then in the afternoon/evening, Sally and her tribe are coming down to help me celebrate. She is even making me a cake! Any birthday where you don't make your own cake is a great birthday in my book!

The forecast is 81 degrees, partly cloudy. Could it possibly be lovelier?

I need help deciding what we should do!

1. Hassle-free: picnic in the park. Food by Port Of Subs. Kids playing. Adults chilling. No structure.

2. Harder but funner: Barbecue at the lake. Steaks for the bigs, dogs for the littles. Kids in the freakin' freezing water. Adults lounging on the grass, playing cards and gabbing.

3. Stressful but spectacular: Exploratorium in San Francisco. Leaving as soon as I get back from Fresno at noon. Lunch would be pb&j on the road. Dinner at In-n-Out. This would put me on the road for a total of 6 hours on my birthday, and that does somewhat suck. But the Exploratorium is mega cool and I have been dying to go with Sal and her kids.

What would you choose for your 34th birthday?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Speeding train

The TPR hearing for K this morning was successful. The biological mom did not show up and had not contacted her attorney or social worker. The judge proceeded in her absence. It went very quickly!

Back in January when everything looked so scary with Z's case, I was of course praying my guts out and had - I don't want to say a vision, that sounds a little grandiose - but a mental movie that I knew was associated with this situation. A train track curved through the countryside toward houses in the distance. The grass was green, and a white fence ran beside the track. On the track sat a rusted-out old 1940s pickup truck. Heavy. Ugly. Scary. Not moving, not movable. A passenger train (think the Blue Streak Express from Lois Lenski's "The Little Train") sped toward it. Impending doom! Then the train ran right through the truck as if it were not even there.

Four months later we are in the clear to adopt both our foster kids! How great to be a speeding train.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lessons from Alaska

Dora at the Exponent Blog is in France. Jealous much? No, I'm just planning to use her experiences when I plan my trip!

She did ask for experiences from other cultures and places. I've never traveled outside the U.S., but I have spent quite a lot of time in one very unusual place.

Lessons from Alaska

For two weeks in September the world is on fire. Birches and cottonwoods blaze yellow. There's a feeling of imminent disaster. It's so beautiful.
Open your eyes.

Sometimes there's a big storm, and everybody is going to be late - they just are, and there's nothing anybody can do, so you might as well relax. And when the forces of nature are this strong, people are going to wear bunny boots to formal events.

You will be so much happier if you just learn to roll with it.

School will not be cancelled unless it is 60 below with ice fog. Go from your heated house to your heated garage, drive to your destination, plug in your car and run like heck before the insides of your nostrils freeze. Do not go out with a wet head. You may end up breaking off a haircicle. Dress for the weather.

Find ways to cope with the day-to-day realities of life.

In the dead of winter if you dare to venture outside, there is enchantment. The only colors of nature on the ground are black and white. The gangly youths among cottonwoods and birches bend under the weight of snow, forming archways over roads and paths. Stunted black spruce in the permafrost take on human characteristics, knobby and twisted and charming. Go out at noonday for a long creep of melded dawn and dusk with muted light in pink and lavender. Go out at midnight and lie down in the snow - ignore the cold - to watch the aurora borealis in green and purple and red, waves and lines of light tripping through a clear, starry, dark sky.

Sometimes it takes bravery and pain to find beautiful moments.

After it has been double digits below zero for five months or so, when the snow is so deep you have had to shovel the roof off to avoid collapse and pulling into your driveway is like driving into a roofless tunnel of ice and dirt, when you think you will die if you don't see the sun soon, when you haven't shaved your legs since September because why bother, then spring comes. Zero degrees is shorts weather. Mud is beautiful. Dandelions are reason to shout for joy.

After bitter, you taste sweet where you never noticed it before.

In the summer, pray you are a student or a teacher or a bum, because there is no time to waste working. Absorb every minute of light and warmth. Early morning is best for blueberry picking or working in your garden. You should pick up a sandwich at the trailer on the corner and eat it sitting at a cable-spool table. Ride your bike along Farmer's Loop in the afternoon. Eat on the patio, vegetables from the garden grown with sun that never stops. Go to the fair, or an outdoor concert, or a backyard party. At midnight, drop your canoe in the river and float as the sun skims the horizon, threatening to set but never having the heart to do it; it was gone for so long.

There is balance in the universe. If you felt forgotten for a while, wait. Bounty is coming.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

To help me get more done?

Is anybody else feeling a little haunted by this General Conference quote?
Avoid any kind of substance abuse, mistakenly thinking that it will help you accomplish more.
-Elder Ballard
Anyway, the Diet Pepsi in the machine costs $1.25. I dug $1.15 out of my purse, mostly in dimes and nickels.

Guess I am not abusing today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Feeling rich - help me choose

I finished the taxes. Nothing like the last minute for a nice little adrenaline rush. In reality I was done a few weeks ago, but I had to make some calls to get Tax IDs from childcare providers and stuff, and just didn't get all the pieces put together until tonight.

So we are going to be feeling kinda rich in a few weeks, methinks. One part of the plan is a nice, kidless vacation for G and me after he defends the mountain hydrology masterpiece of a dissertation sometime later this year.

We are going to have our 15th wedding anniversary this August and this trip will be a combined celebration of that along with the Ph.D. and (we think) the fam being complete. Lots to celebrate! Plus, our original honeymoon in 1993 comprised 3 days in Park City. Not to complain about that, but it is time to do it up right.

Here's what we want: Something warm, probably with a beach, quiet, romantic, not too touristy but with amenities - we don't want to feel like we're camping.

Here are the contenders:
  • We went to Hawaii 12 years ago, to the Big Island and Oahu. Loved it, would totally go again. Might want to explore another island. Suggestions welcome.
  • A long time ago when I worked at WordPerfect Magazine someone mentioned Ixtapa. I was interested. I'm still interested. Somewhere on the Mexican Riviera might be great.
  • Somewhere Caribbean might also be fun, but I think it would cost us more since we are straight up West Coastin'.
  • Possibly, for a wild card, some funky beach location in Southeast Asia, Australia, or New Zealand. Again, cost is a concern, but you know, maybe we could find a deal!
So where would you go with your husband?

The photo, by the way, is Playa Linda in Ixtapa. Looks nice, huh? Good dream fuel.

I am also squirreling away some money for my own dream vacation when I turn 35 next year. By then of course I will be totally fit and strong and hot stuff and fighting off Parisian men with my chic little umbrella. And I'm not talking about Paris, Idaho, although I love it there, too.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heaven is in a cloud

of words.


This weekend I went to Time Out for Women in Fresno.

Yep, I did. A whole weekend of full-on Deseret Bookness with cheese on top. I even paid for it, but not very much, because I was offered a generous pay-what-you-can "scholarship" for the event. (I guess there are some benefits to being married to a grad student, even when you do work full time and make a perfectly reasonable salary.)

Springing for stuff like this does not come naturally to me. It takes up my money and time. It sometimes feels a little priestcrafty. It sometimes grates on my inner snob.

But I am learning not to be proud of that last one. What's the use, after all? Maybe if I get disgusted enough with that snob she will finally beat it.

I think I managed to kick her out for the weekend. I really enjoyed the whole thing. Well, except for one whispery-sweet musical group. I don't wanna be mean, but everything doesn't have to be my style, does it?

It was so nice to go and just be fed - not chase kids, not distribute Cheerios, not sing in the choir, not remind a Primary class that we are talking about the Holy Ghost instead of the dead mouse you found at the lake. I really did come back with a renewed spirit and determination to do some things better.

Specifically, the Sabbath. Not that anyone really talked about that much, except a brief mention from Sharon G. Larsen about how she negotiated that in the early days of her marriage. It's just something I felt like I could work on and improve. And yesterday, we had such a sweet, peaceful day, just because I said no to Star Wars and video games. Simple, yes?

And G gave a talk in sacrament meeting, and I sang in the choir, and I walked the halls with Z. S and A talked in Primary, and G taught Elders' Quorum while his friends entertained Z in the classroom. I told my 7-year-olds about the time the Spirit told me to slow down to 55 mph in the Nevada desert and I coasted into the gas station in Fernley with literally nothing left in the tank.

When I was at Time Out, sitting in a darkened auditorium listening to dynamic speakers and contemporary-inspirational music, it felt a lot like the time I visited the local non-denominational megachurch with a woman whom we were helping our missionaries to teach. Not a bad experience. There was a good feeling there. It was focused on the Savior. I think the Spirit was present. But it would have been the same without me. It required nothing of me but my money.

I'm glad the Church is not Time Out for Women. When it seems hard, I will remember that.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Um, hi out there

Folks, my google analytics numbers are through the roof (I had a low roof), and it's all about that Oprah's Church post.

I want to say welcome to the folks who are new here and thanks for the respectful tone from the couple of new commenters who happen to disagree with some things I said. (My friends are allowed to disagree disrespectfully ... to a point!)

There are a couple of things I want to say, given the idea that more people than I thought may be reading that post - people who don't know me. Just wanna be clear.
  1. In addition to several evangelical Christians who have scared me, I have known several who were kind and good examples of the faith. I don't want to paint with a broad brush when I shouldn't. I know there are good and bad "apples" in every denomination - certainly including my own, sadly enough.
  2. If anybody shows up to tell me that I'm going to hell, please just don't. The comments so far have been passionate but respectful. Let's keep it that way.
  3. If anybody's thinking about telling their neighbor they're going to hell for whatever thing they do (being Mormon like me, or watching Oprah, or whatever) please just don't. Your neighbor is likely to be a lot like me in that I tend to tune out that kind of warning and lose respect for the messenger.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Think SD

Do you love San Diego? I have food for you.

I got some freshwater bass from the local Rancho San Miguel Market, which is a distinctly Chicano store. It is the best fish I have bought in this town. Soooooo fresh and light and yummy. Considering its origins (well, its store anyway) I had to make it into tacos.

They make some amazing fresh corn tortillas at Rancho, as we have now affectionately termed the purple-and-orange grocery store with the brilliant yellow shopping bags.

Digression: Have I ever told you about the time I wanted a hot pink lining in the bolero my mom was making to cover the turquoise spaghetti-strap circle-skirt dress I'd bought on deep, deep discount ($5, ok?) for my senior ball? Mom said it would be "so Mexican." Well ... yeah, she was kinda right. I love the brazen colors under the California sun. In Alaska, I'll confess, it may not have seemed so fitting. But I did get the pink lining I wanted.

Back to the taco swoon, now. I also had radishes and avocados from the local flea market. So cheap, so divine. Thanks to Daravanh who turned me on to this, I am never buying produce anywhere else ever again.

Except for the CSA. I still like that, too. Without it I would probably never remember to buy chard. Mmmmm, chard. But that's a recipe for another day. This is the recipe for today.

Fish tacos my way

4 basa filets (freshwater bass, or you could substitute any light-textured, white fish)
chili powder
2 tsp. vegetable oil

sliced radishes
sliced avocados
pico de gallo
sour cream or full-fat plain yogurt

Corn tortillas

Season fish on both sides with salt, pepper and chili powder. Heat oil in skillet. Cook fish 2-3 min. on each side (I cook only 2 fillets at a time). Break into taco-size pieces with the spatula.

Warm tortillas in skillet (same one, different one - whatever makes you happy). Fill with fish and veggies and yummies.

Makes about 4 servings of 3-4 tacos each.

Oh my gosh. Just now while I was looking for a link to put in above, I discovered that Rancho is a Food4Less store. Shocking because the meat and fish I've gotten at F4L have never been satisfactory. What's the diff? How mysterious!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Here are some things that bug!
  • People who think they can do the work of a communications professional when their expertise is clearly elsewhere
  • Falling rapidly through three layers of backup childcare givers who decline to be with my baby all day when I wish, only wish, I could do that myself (Their excuses? Emergency oral surgery, a sick baby, and ... a concert? OK, whatever!)
  • This insane desire for peanut M&Ms when the office chocolate supplier is out of town and his usually-dependable candy jar is mournfully empty
  • Uncertain future
  • Not knowing where to start on my task list at 4 PM. What the crap can I do in an hour? Oh, I know. Blog.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sorry if you thought you were my best friend

It's really this.

It shuts up the parts of my body that are whining so loud I can't hear my brain. I won't mention which parts because I know some people are uncomfortable with the word uterus.


In other news, here is Z's vocabulary:
  • Hi
  • Hat
  • Hot
  • Daddy
  • Baba (bottle)
  • Mom
That's six words.

Here are the songs she sings, without lyrics but with near-perfect rhythm and pitch:
  • "Z-- is a Baby" (this is a proprietary family composition; I'm pretty sure you don't know it)
  • "High and Low" from the Little People airplane
  • "Patty-cake, Patty-cake, Baker's Man"
  • "The Eensy-Weensy Spider"
So she almost knows more songs than words. She walks around singing all the time.

Someday this girl will be a famous singer and I will be telling this story to reporters, or maybe an extremely aged Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy. (What's Randy's last name? I forgot. I don't have TV right now and have missed this whole season.)

Anyway, yet another evidence (along with the fondness for very dark chocolate) that she is my girl.

Friday, April 04, 2008

That "Oprah's Church" video

Have you gotten a link in your e-mail to that YouTube video about the new church of Oprah? I've seen it linked three times now from different sources. I'm not linking here. Honestly, you can find it on your own. I just can't bring myself to make a connection.

As some of you know, I enjoy the sound of my own voice, can't keep my mouth shut and think I know everything. And it's even worse when I'm typing instead of talking. So I had to respond when the video popped up on the Yahoo group that serves as a connector among local LDS moms here.

Here's what I said. I tried really hard to be nice.

I agree that Oprah mixes a lot of truth with misinformation about spiritual things. I don't watch the show. I think it's a time-waster and for me, not constructive.

However, she does a lot of good in the world, too, and I hate to see someone judged on a personal level when they are trying to look for truth the best way they can (and maximize their TV ratings because that's their job).

I am also really concerned about the widespread dissemination of that YouTube video among Latter-day Saints. I saw it from three different sources yesterday. The makers of the video clearly have a political agenda. Maybe you agree with that agenda, and of course that is fine.
But make your decision about that without the far-fetched connections that are made at the end of the video.

I would be interested to see what the makers of that video have to say about the restored gospel and members of the Church. I have met many far-right Evangelicals who think we're as scary and Satanistic as Oprah. It makes me less inclined to get on their side and believe their propaganda.

Your thoughts? Oprah? Obama? YouTube? Evangelicals? Come on, get into it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Early morning, April 4

Below are some YouTube slideshows set to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech, the "Mountaintop" speech.

Just commemorating the anniversary of his assassination, tomorrow. Don't just listen to U2. (Although of course as a 30-something white girl, I still love U2!) Listen to Dr. King.

What is your mountaintop? Have you been? Are you going? If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you be able to say you have done enough?

I've Been To The MountainTop 2/2 (Dr. Martin Luther King )

I've Been To The MountainTop 1/2 (Dr. Martin Luther King)


"If Obama were in any sense mediocre, he would be forgotten by now. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. We look at him, as we looked at them, and are glad to be of our species. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change America must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves."
- Alice Walker

The whole article is here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Kid prayers

So, K is almost 4 now. He makes sure to remind me of this at least once a day. Sometimes this means he's big (i.e., big enough to drive the car) and sometimes it means he's little (i.e., little enough to be wrapped up in a towel and carried like a baby after he gets out of the bathtub). It all depends on what he wants at the time.

This is also the age when I do completion-style prayers with the kids as they learn how to say their own prayers. Meaning, I start with "I'm thankful for" or "Please bless" and they say what they want to say.

Here's K's prayer from last night.

"I'm thankful for dinosaurs. I'm thankful for my class. I'm thankful for [unintelligible]. Please help me to kill all the spiders when I get big. Please help me to climb up a ladder with daddy.
Please help me to get my butt clean when I poop."

He's pretty much got all the bases covered, don't you think?

On another branch of the same topic, Z has learned to fold her arms and bow her head through the prayer. So dang cute!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ding-dong, the witch is dead (no foolin')

They trailed the hearing again because the bio mother was not able to get permission to travel from her probation officer, and she does have a legal right to be present.

That is the only issue, though, and we are looking forward to a successful TPR on April 21!

In other news:

Instead of the scary mean social worker -- the one who told me that if I made waves I would never see Z again and never have another baby placed with me again and that when she moves kids she just gives them a toy and "they're fine" -- someone else was there, the social worker who taught our foster parent training class in Sept-Oct '06. We asked what she was doing and she said that the witchy SW quit - she was essentially forced out!

That made me almost as happy as a successful TPR! She will not be intimidating any more people or treating any more kids callously in that job, thank heavens!