Friday, May 30, 2008

See that stick?

In eight or nine years I think we are going to have to use it to beat away suitors. Isn't our boy so handsome!?

He's also seven years old today.

I can hardly believe it was seven whole years ago that I walked the amazingly beautiful beach in Pine Knoll Shores, NC, waiting for news of his birth in nearby Morehead City. I picked up otherworldly translucent mother-of -pearl pieces, the remaining inner parts of shells, their rough outer parts beat away by the waves, and thought of his brave and beautiful birthmom - how she was being tried by her experience and how she was choosing of her own free will to hold on to what was most glowing and precious in her own self by doing what she felt was right for her son. Seven years later I am no less grateful for her choice, no less sure that she was guided by God's hand as she sought to be, no less in awe of her example of obeying the guidance she received.

That afternoon the social worker brought us a hospital card bearing the imprint of his tiny, wrinkled feet. He assured us that the baby had huge cheeks and was very, very cute. Ah, he was right. We learned when we met our little A two days later at the local chapel.

What a miracle.

Happy birthday to my big boy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I got what everybody wants

You know me. I'm a mother of four with a husband in the final throes of a Ph.D. I work at the nonprofit equivalent of a startup company. It makes life stressful sometimes. Pressure from all sides, for sure.

I am excited to say, though, that instead of waiting for life to get easier I have actually done something.

I requested a pay cut in return for some free time.

I'm cutting my work hours to 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. and taking a corresponding cut in pay. This will work ok because Dr. G.-to-be gets paid full time in the summer. I keep my benefits at the current level, and I continue to accrue vacation and sick leave at my current rate. My boss gets to trim her budget a bit (important for her right now) and I get basically a totally sweet deal.

I'm doing this at a time when I generally get to determine my own workload anyway. I have one big, exciting multimedia-type project to work on this summer, and that will be the main thrust of my 30 hours. The rest of the time, I fill in with little stuff like I normally do. And whatever I get done will be cool, and whatever I don't will go to the bargain-basement but quite-good freelancers my colleague and office mate was smart enough to find.

See how great this is?

I've read pundits who believe that this is the kind of flexibility that allows moms to continue in satisfying careers while their children are young. I am so happy and grateful that my employer is allowing it. I totally believe it should be more widely available. It is going to make a huge difference for us while the kids are out of school for the summer and G finishes up his dissertation.

This arrangement starts Monday. I am so excited. The prospect of two hours each day where I can either pick up my kids and hang with them - because I WANT to - or leave them where they are and get a haircut or go work out or do the grocery shopping ... well, it's what every real woman wants - to have it all, in manageable doses. Forget glamorous shoes and bags a la Sex and the City. We want time. We want fulfillment. We want freedom. We want life. That's what I say.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I do still read

It has been basically forever since I did a book post. I have been reading! Honest!

I will say that one book I read was one I am not going to tell people I read - it was basically a cross between Brigadoon and a Harlequin novel. I am embarrassed that I read that thing!

Actually I have been reading as Z settles in at night, so she will know I am nearby, but I am not actively singing to her and babying her so much. It's a good time to just be and read and enjoy some peace. A rare commodity indeed. And I've finished two really good books in the last little while.

Tonight I'm only writing about one because it's fresh in my mind and it was mind-blowingly awesome, especially compared to Brigadoon-with-sex. But I think it would be awesome compared to most books. (You would think my vocabulary would be more impressive after reading such an - um - awesome book.)

I'm speaking of "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" by Louise Erdrich.

I was going through her catalog at the end of the book tonight and I think I have pretty much read all her novels, starting with "Tracks" in AP English in high school. Yet another habit for which I can thank Ms. Stitham. The last one was "The Master Butcher's Singing Club" - read on our trip to Alaska last summer. Gorgeous.

I think what I love about Erdrich's novels is the mess. Everything is too messy to be clear about, too complicated to be didactic in the least. Even as I say that I am tempted to start a list of dichotomies that swirl around in these books - this book - and it's impossible to do. You can start with magic and miracle, pagan and Christian, but in the middle of it all there are devils and curses and human failings and wonders of nature, love and lust, repercussions of abuses and illnesses, vengeance, forgiveness, music.

This all fits, in "Little No Horse," into a story about a sincere but deceptive Catholic missionary among the Ojibwe, really a gifted female pianist, who started as a nun and became a passionate lover and very nearly a murder victim before finding her priestly vocation - and her struggle with secrets and realities and the complex web of reservation life. Sister Leopolda, a late nun from the res, is up for sainthood, and this pianist/priest, Agnes/Father Damien Modeste, has information about her life that will affect her candidacy. But you can't understand Leopolda without knowing about a hundred other stories and people - many of whom are familiar from Erdrich's other novels. Familiar enough - remember, when I read "Tracks" for the first time it was 16 years ago or so - that I kept turning to the family tree printed at the front of the book, remembering all the connections among these familiar names - Pillager, Nanapush, Kashpaw, Morrissey, Lazarre.

Here are some ideas I loved - not spoilers, I hope.

(Really, even knowing the ending could not spoil this book. It is so much more than a plot. You probably know by now I am a darned sucker for a good story no matter what, but I am an absolute fool for a good story with great ideas.)

Appalling realities might disqualify one person from sainthood, but they don't undo miracles that occurred. And some people who might seem inherently unqualified when you're in the lucky position of an omniscient reader might be saints in spite of it all.

From Father Damien's Sermon to the Snakes:
What is the question we spend our entire lives asking? Our question is this: Are we loved? I don't mean by one another. Are we loved by the one who made us? Constantly, we look for evidence. In the gifts we are given - children, good weather, money, a happy marriage perhaps - we find assurance. In contrast, our pains, illnesses, the deaths of those we love, our poverty, our innocent misfortunes - those we take as signs that God has somehow turned away. But, my friends, what exactly is love here? How to define it? Does God's love have anything at all to do with the lack or plethora of good fortune at work in our lives? Or is God's love, perhaps, something very different from what we think we know?

Divine love may be so large it cannot see us.

Or it may be so infinitely tiny that it works on a level where it directs us like an unknown substance buried in our blood.

Or it may be transparent, an invisible screen, a filter through which we see and hear all that is created. ...

Like you, I poise alertly and open my senses to try to read the air, the clouds, the sun's slant, the little movements of the animals, all in the hope I will learn the secret of whether I am loved.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fost-adopt tips

A reader wrote in asking for information about foster-to-adopt and whether the program works. (Hi, LN!) I e-mailed her in response. And I have to be honest, I was so impressed with my answer that I thought I'd share it with the blog audience (yes, all ten of you) too.

That's a hard question to answer. For us, it is working - finally. I told this reader there are no guarantees in this system that you will adopt any particular child placed in your home. But here are the tips I can offer to increase the odds you will be able to adopt successfully from the foster care system:

  • Work directly with the county or state, not with a private agency. This will most likely allow you to take placements of kids from your local area so you do not have to travel for visits and court dates.
  • Do everything they ask of you - the paperwork and classes and appointments can be overwhelming but you have to stay on top of it to stay in good graces with everybody.
  • Make it clear from the outset that you are interested in adopting and not in a succession of temporary foster placements. Repeat as necessary with EVERY social worker you come in contact with. Write it down and send it to them and ask that it be placed in the file.
  • Tell them you want to take placement of children whose parents are being denied services or who are most likely to become available for adoption.
  • Be open to older kids, special needs kids, drug-exposed kids, abused kids, whatever you feel you can handle. The more open you can be, the faster you will be successful. But don't bite off more than you can chew. Not everybody is cut out for every kind of kid.
  • Once a child has been in your home 6 months, hire an attorney and petition for de facto parent status and prospective adoptive parent status designated by the court. You can do these things yourself but a knowledgeable family law attorney will offer you the benefit of connections and knowledge that you could not possibly have on your own. They will also help you keep from making stupid mistakes. If you can manage it, think now about getting legal insurance. Ours is through ARAG.
  • Get a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the child as soon as you can. This is not available in our county (which is scandalous!) but it is an awesome program that can really inject a good dose of common sense into the CPS/court system.
  • At the same time try to create good relationships with biological parents, with clear boundaries. Be cooperative and friendly at visits. Get to know them. You will be amazed how fast you develop understanding and sympathy in situations with which you might have previously had no patience at all.
  • If you experience anything negative with a social worker, set up a meeting with the director of the foster agency and explain what has happened (calmly and nicely of course). If things go really wrong, request that your case undergo administrative review.
  • Always remember that the first goal of a foster agency is reunification with the biological parents. They are not primarily there to help you adopt. There is nobody who is paid to be on your side. (Another great reason to hire an attorney!) You will be treated as a babysitter. It takes a lot of strength to do this. You have to be very prepared to stand up and fight for yourself and for the kids in your home.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Commencement was today. It's always a lift - a reminder of one very big reason I do what I do, working as a higher ed staffer.

It was also inspiring for Z. There were cookies. And balloons. Bliss.

And for G. One of his friends got a Ph.D. We're going there!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Baby mine

I mentioned I've been working from home for a few days with Z. What a precious time. I am not really complaining. It has been so fun.

She will be 18 months old next week. It really is a developmental corner for her. She is turning from a baby into a little girl.

She is learning to express what she loves. She toddles around singing to herself all day. No words, but I can always recognize her songs. Mostly the Imperial Death March and I Am a Child of God. Put a little music on (currently, "Raising Sand" by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant) and she stops whatever she's doing to dance.

She is learning to take an active role to make sure her needs are met. She tells me (by pointing at her little bum) when she needs a diaper change. When she is tired, she lies down on the floor, or climbs up on the new couch, and goes to sleep. She calls me Mama now. When she cries, it's a word, "Nah! Nah!" General expression of unhappiness.

She is learning to be brave. In this wind, she doesn't hide. She turns her face to the gale and lets it blow the hair out of her eyes. And squints, and smiles. She likes to run away from me. Last night at the elementary school open house, I chased her down the sidewalk three different times while trying to talk to S's teacher about whose class he should be in for (gulp!) fourth grade.

She's getting down my emotional connection with food. She enjoys a lot of string cheese at lunchtime. When she's in trouble (for example, when she started throwing the pears off her high chair tray after her string cheese was gone and I took it away and gave her a pretty stern "no") she does this adorably manipulative fishy-style "kiss me" face. I can't resist it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


If there is one little everyday thing I hate and fear, it is this.

Calling someone on the telephone and asking them to do something.

Reminder calls to the Young Women got easier with time. But soliciting somebody to bring a plate of brownies to some function or other will still virtually send me into a cold sweat.

Calling around for a backup babysitter for Z when our regular sitter is sick or has something to do with her kids (she is also a foster mom so life is about as busy for her as it is for me) is paralyzing. I am well aware that stay-at-home moms have a lot to do. And although I consider the women around here to be my friends, let's face facts: we do not get together for pedicures or bunco. I do not have time. So when I call them, they know I am looking for a favor. Even if it is a favor for which I will pay, it makes me feel like a heel. There are several people I am not even comfortable calling anymore. They have said no frequently enough that I just am not going to ask anymore. I can take a hint, see?

So, I have been working from home with Z for the last two days, thanks to the stomach flu in the sitter's house. Looks like I am doing it again tomorrow, unless I can convince G that one day is not going to throw off his dissertation. It's fun, I love it, don't get me wrong. But I can't get squat done, and I have a Friday deadline. Sigh.

It's good, I suppose, to be clear about my reasons for not trying to move into the better-paying, better-dressed fundraising wing of my office. Can you imagine me doing "the ask" for a cool million? I'd be puking on the cool millionaire's shoes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Assemble, please

Random crap from my brain, it is now time to assemble yourself in an orderly list.
  • It is time to find a new babysitter. The current sitter - I love her, and I hope we will stay friends. But she is sick about once a week. And she asks for days off so she can photograph someone's wedding. I hate to pull Z out of her home because I know for a fact there is love there. But I seriously need more dependability. Seriously.
  • I think I ran over a bunny this morning. I could cry. There was really nothing I could have done differently, but dang it, I love the bunnies on campus. They make me think about Watership Down all the time. I wonder if someday they, and the red winged blackbirds, and the egrets and hawks and herons, will be only memories. I look at our development plans and I think they will. It makes me really sad. But the alternative is unacceptable. When it comes right down to it I still really believe in what we are doing.
  • I would take a fast forward button for my life right now if I could find out where G is going to get a job. But then I would want a rewind button because other than the crazy-making of not knowing the future, we are doing great.
  • I am not writing about my husband's career. But he has applied to a few more faculty jobs. I am trying not to spend too much time browsing real estate in the selected locations and dreaming about the beginning of my real life. That is all.
  • Our new adoptions worker, assigned to both cases, is a Mormon guy who grew up attending our current ward. It almost goes without saying that this is a big improvement over the Wicked Witch of the West who was previously un-helping our kids. I really hope we helped get her fired. But I guess we will never know.
  • I said no to an 18mo foster child who needed a home yesterday. The agency apparently thinks I am crazy. Crazy enough to have two 18mos, three other kids, and a full time job. Maybe they subscribe to the "what's one more" theory. To which I do not subscribe. Every time I have added just one more, it has jacked me up. No regrets on that; there are definitely rewards that make it worthwhile, but I cannot jack up my life right now. I am barely hanging on for the most part. It seems strange to me that I didn't feel at all bad about turning down this placement. But I really didn't.
  • My dad said he thinks I am ready to write my own stuff full time. This had such a big effect on me. This and other things in the last week have made me realize that although I have worked hard to care less about what other people think, there are some people whose opinions will always matter a lot. That leaves me vulnerable in a lot of ways but it's also what gives our relationships weight and meaning.
  • About the writing - I want to do it so much. See list item above about G getting a job. Health insurance is such a ball and chain!
  • We took a big step over the weekend. We got a real couch. It was - well, I won't be crass and post the price, but it was about 20% of its original price on eBay and in very near new condition. Tan leather, quite large. We did fit it in the minivan, though, to bring it home from Modesto. Barely. Cross one thing off my weirdo list. I now own a couch. I can now veg in front of the TV like a real American. Next I have to get an antenna that works so I can watch TV again. Actually I probably will not do that. I am back to relishing the control over our viewing that occurs when there is nothing being broadcast to our set.
  • I also spent my birthday money on a new stereo for my van. Recommence crying over NPR stories on the way to work. The earthquake. God help us. I know it's probably not true but it sure feels like there is more terrible stuff in the world than there ever has been before.
  • The veggie garden is doing quite well. We have some first blossoms already on the Early Girl tomato plant. The sunflowers have all sprouted and I saw the shoots of one onion last night. Nothing lost to snails or ants yet. This is because I chickened out and did not go completely organic. I have ant stakes and snail pellets. The ants and snails in our yard are extremely aggressive! I think it's because all our neighbors spray and so we are the most chemical-free zone. At least there is nothing being sprayed on our plants.
Back to work. Y'all are so patient with my occasional brain puke. I do appreciate it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Roasty toasty

Here's the menu from Sunday dinner last night. Every recipe has two strong flavors and plenty of roasted goodness. It is already really too hot to be doing this. I've gotta quit soon and get my grill going instead.

Orange-ginger glazed pork loin roast with sauteed spring onions
Red pepper and parmesan roasted broccoli and cauliflower
Rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes

Recipes below!

And I am going to start photographing my food. Any day now. I have a new camera, thanks to my wonderful in-laws, and there's no excuse. Life does move fast, but I spend too much time and effort on food to let it lapse into nothingness once it is eaten and the day is past. And I sincerely regret having no pictures of this dinner from last night.

Orange-ginger glazed pork loin roast with sauteed spring onions
1 tsp butter
2 spring onions, sliced, or one bunch of scallions, sliced (white and green parts)

1 2-lb. pork loin roast (I buy a 6-lb. roast at Costco and it makes us three Sunday dinners)
Salt and pepper

juice and zest of one orange
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. orange marmalade
1 inch fresh ginger root, pressed through a garlic press or peeled and minced

Heat oven to 350.

Melt butter on medium-high heat in a dutch oven. Saute onions until the green color brightens. Remove from pan and set aside.

Rinse pork roast and pat dry Salt and pepper it, then brown it in the same pan. Cover and place in oven to roast for 1 hour.

Meantime, mix all the ingredients for the glaze. Brush over roast every 15 minutes.

When roast is done, remove from pan. Pour remaining glaze into pan with drippings and boil until thickened. Serve as a sauce with sliced pork roast, garnished with onions.

Red pepper and parmesan roasted broccoli and cauliflower
1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
large pinch salt

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into baking pan and cover with foil. Roast alongside pork loin (at 350 degrees) for 40 minutes. Uncover for last 10 minutes.

Rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes
8 medium red potatoes, cut in 1" pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into baking pan and roast, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I first got wind of this on the twangy-good "Trek" CD I got at Time Out for Women. But it's special to me because its author, Sarah Pea Rich, is my ancestor.

Here's the full text of her 1891 autobiography, addressed to her children. I think it is not too presumptuous of me to consider myself one of them.

And then here's the part that's been running through my mind ever since I heard it.

I know, dear children, that the principles of Mormonism, as it is called, are true. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. How do I know it you may ask? I know it by hearing him prophesy what was coming, and have lived to see the things prophesied about come to pass. I have seen the sick healed by his administration; and in answer to his prayers, I have seen many miracles performed in this Church; have been nigh unto death myself, and have been healed by the power of the priesthood. I have seen some of you, my children, raised as it were, from death's door, by the power of the priesthood, by the laying on of hands by those who were in authority.

The Lord has established His work and His Church on the earth now in the last days never to be taken from the earth until He comes Himself to dwell with the Saints.

I want all of my children to do right and to keep the laws of God as revealed through those of His servants holding the power of communing with God our Heavenly Father. Never deny any of the principles of this the Latter-day work; live humble before the Lord; ask him for His Holy Spirit to teach you what is right and to keep you in the faith of this His latter-day work. Go forth and help to build up the kingdom of God on the earth. You, my dear children, if you do right, may live to see the wickedness swept off the earth and the laws of God set up in the land, never more to be torn down. Live so that you may gain favor in the eyes of our Heavenly Father; seek the salvation of your souls; and then live to help save others. This is the wish and constant prayer of your aged mother. ...

I pray for you daily and ask the Lord that you may all do right and be saved with your father in the kingdom of God. I have watched over and cared for you ... in all, my desire has been to see you all engaged in the work of the Lord. I have been a true believer in the principles taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and all the leading men of this church, I embraced that doctrine over fifty-six years ago. I still love those principles and know they are true. I know the Lord will bear off his kingdom triumphant in spite of all those who are opposed to his work.

Bless this woman! What did she endure for her faith? Persecution, financial losses, personal losses, polygamy, hardscrabble frontier living.

Shame on me if I can't weather a few bumps and a little confusion.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay marriage in Cali today

So you have probably heard that today California's Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. My lesbian co-worker came in all excited about the news, and what could I say but "congratulations!" I am really happy for her and everyone who has wanted this to happen.

A lot of my fellow Mormons are not so happy. So I thought I would blog my thoughts a little bit and maybe it will provide some insight why I approach it a little differently from other people who believe most all the same things I believe.

First of all, if you have read Watch Out for Mama or known me personally for any length of time, you know I have some family connections - two gay brothers, to be precise. I blunder around a lot of the time and I know I hurt feelings sometimes just because I am ignorant or have lingering prejudices or maybe I am just still figuring out what I think and feel. I never intend to hurt feelings. I love my brothers and want them to be happy. I think each of them is best qualified to judge what is needed for his own happiness. If they want to be married to pursue happiness (and yes, that is intentionally constitutional language) then - I don't think it's my business to say, "no, you can't do that." Nor would I want to.

So I think the government has to do something about this from a civil rights and equality standpoint, just out of respect for individuals and their natural rights. Admittedly, my preferred solution would be to make the state recognize only civil unions for both gay and straight couples, and leave marriage up to churches to confer according to their beliefs. I think that would be most fair to everyone and still provide religious freedom. But that is not the way the winds have blown. Plus, I am certainly no legal scholar and there's probably some insurmountable impediment that keeps the problem from being solved that way. I mean, why else wouldn't the world adopt my brilliant idea?

California has a state constitutional amendment probably coming up this fall to define marriage as man/woman only. But the amendment as currently constituted has no language to annul marriages that take place between now and the time it is or is not passed. And as I have said before, that is not a political initiative that I will be participating in except to cast my personal vote when the time comes.

So it looks like lots of people are going to be having weddings this summer. Weddings are happy no matter what. Does God recognize anything about these unions? Who am I to say? For us I think is only to love and support those we know.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't let me be like that

I am spending my morning listening to a webcast of important people who know how important they are getting ready to make an important decision. It's for work. They know what they're doing to do, but they are spending the morning talking about it, anyway. They like the sound of their own voices.

I can see aspects of that in my personality. When it gets to this level, I don't like it one little bit.

Just don't appoint me to any important positions.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I think S may have had a panic attack last night - rapid mouth breathing and racing heart, crying, feeling very very scared with no identifiable source.

I think we will be talking to his pediatrician about it ... but I kind of do not want him on another medication so I wanna go in armed with info if possible!

Do you have experience with this? How about your kids? Do you have a good place online to read about it?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

700 club

Happy Mother's Day! See past MD posts here and here. I don't have anything new to say about it at this point. Maybe after tomorrow when I have had time to think about it. That makes it not very timely, I know.

We have decided for MD and FD this year we are going to go see REM and Moby in the next couple of months. Fewer things, more experiences. I am down with that! Someone warned us not to expect anything approaching the coolness of the U2 concert we saw in 2006. OK. But it will still be fun. And I am finally seeing REM ... 19 years after being jerked away from the civilized world before getting to see the Green tour. I did meet G in Alaska the same month my friends back in Pittsburgh were watching Stipe & co. singing "Stand," etc. on stage. So, you know, life makes up for things. And now I will see a much more, um, mature version of the band with a wider repertoire and I am thinking (having heard them on Fresh Air a few weeks ago) probably not so much heroin. Just a guess.

This is the 700th post on Watch Out for Mama! Do you think at some point I will find something better to do with my time?

I have been
  • writing
  • planting
  • snuggling
  • singing
  • shopping
  • listening
  • planning
Life's pretty good.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I feel a list coming on

Sometimes you just have to let it all out. Here is more stuff I am liking lately. Remember, nobody pays me for this. It is straight from the heart, kids. Me and my love for weird, sometimes stupid stuff.
  • Music downloads from Amazon. I told you I was all Amazonny. Now I am even more that way. Every week they have songs that are free, and they are cool. Like, this week, you can get Dolly Parton (I love Dolly, OK?) and Nick Lowe songs. Free. The album downloads are also pretty cheap and they do not have the crappy DRM or whatever encoding that iTunes and Rhapsody have, assuming we are all criminals. Therefore I have recently added the Breeders (yay), Carole King, Gnarls Barkley, the Juno soundtrack and some other fun things to my library.
  • To go with that: Sony headphones that wrap around my ears. Mine are pink, not green. They were cheaper that way. These are good for me because I tend to swing my arms around wildly while on the treadmill. I have been known to send headphones flying.
  • Close your ears, squeamish boys: Tampax Pearl tampons. These are theeee best. Cool, functional packaging plus design innovations to the actual product. They work better and are easier to use. I will not get all graphic on you. That is all.
  • Two cute adoption movies: Juno. Martian Child. Get thee to thy Netflix queue and add. (That list item was worth it just for the fun experience of typing the word queue.)
  • Spega yogurt. This is fancy Italian yogurt sold in adorable glass jars. I found it, of course, at the dollar store, two jars of cinnamon-ginger flavor for 99 cents. But I might pay more for it if I saw it elsewhere, because I am in love with the cute jars and I want to collect them. These are going to be recycled as little vases in my house. They look like short, chubby milk bottles. If I were a regular milk bottle, Z would be a Spega yogurt jar. (I previously mistakenly thought this yogurt was called Riga. I apparently had Latvia on the brain for some strange reason. Enjoy the spiffy Italian Web site and drool over the cute jars!)
  • Raley's TableTalk. Great coupons every week. I don't do my regular shopping at Raley's. It is too expensive for me. But it is kind of between home and work, and I occasionally stop there for a jug of milk or a sandwich from their deli or something. With the coupons I can usually get something free along with it. This week: flowers. Free flowers! Heck yes!
  • My favorite Facebook applications: (Lil) Green Patch and Pieces of Flair. Why do these things suck me in? Cute plants with cartoon baby faces. Cute buttony ways to show off photos and distribute clever sayings. I am just a sucker for this stuff, in spite of the inexplicable parentheses.
  • Online TV. We are philosophically opposed to paying for cable or satellite, at least most of the time. Our antenna got broken a while ago. We do not really miss it at all, thanks to full episodes online. Now that nobody's striking, every weekend we have a little TV party (sing the Dead Milkmen song with me - yes, I have younger brothers) to catch up on The Office and Ugly Betty. On Mondays while I complete certain boring aspects of my job I can watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition or maybe a little Hell's Kitchen. (How's that for polar opposites of reality TV?) The only thing we sadly can't see that way is American Idol. However, my inability to access that favorite show is saving me an awful lot of time this year. I mean, it's on twice a week!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


My oldest child weighs 83 freaking pounds as of this morning's medication check at the doctor's office.

No wonder the piggyback rides have been hurting.

Good news: He is still fine on his current dose of Adderall XR. No need for more speed at this point.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Before it is jam

It was just strawberry season, backbreaking pickers in the patches
Everything's burning down to ashes and down to the ground
- Indigo Girls

We keep eating all the strawberries before they become jam.

I aim, gentle readers, to introduce you vicariously to the glories of strawberries from Yang's Produce, a roadside stand conveniently located between my home and my workplace.

Some people around here call them Hmongberries, but one of the Hmong-speaking missionaries told us yesterday over our dining-room-table burrito bar that there actually is no word in Hmong for strawberry. I also have some questions about whether it is cool to call them Hmongberries. Although they definitely are special and they definitely are predominantly raised by Hmong farmers in this region.

You walk up to Yang's and the scent of the berries almost overwhelms you, especially if the weather's warm. They're displayed on an astroturf-covered counter attended by smiling teenagers. Down the line there are rutabagas, snap peas, yellow and green baby pattypan squash, Thai basil, purple spring onions. Boysenberries will arrive next month sometime. Then peaches later in the summer.

But the strawberries are the stars. You buy half a flat for $8.50. They are perfect, glossy and red with fresh green tops - picked today from the field just behind the stand.

If you can keep from eating one, unwashed, in the car, I admire you. If you can manage to save enough for this recipe you are very lucky. If you can save enough for jam, I would like to know your secret and may possibly pay for the privilege.

Strawberry Pie


1/2 c. cold butter
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until lumps are the size of small peas. Add water and stir gently. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough can be gathered into a ball.

Roll flat and place in pie tin. Shape edge and prick all over with a fork. Bake at 410 for 8-10 minutes.


3 pts. strawberries, cut to make 4 c sliced berries and 1 c. berries for the blender (The blender is where you use your ugly berries if you don't buy them at Yang's)
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. corn starch

Place sliced berries in baked pie crust.

Blend together 1 c. berries and water until smooth.

Whisk together sugar and corn starch in a medium saucepan. Add berry puree. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until it thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute.

Pour over berries in crust. Chill 2 hours before serving. With whipped cream, if you know what's good.

The missionaries thought this dessert rocked!

I am going to have to buy some more berries for jam, though.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Just this

You probably have pretty much no idea how crazy we are about this girl.

But since Sally tagged me, I will tell you 10 things about here that make me, personally, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about her.
  1. She wakes up singing "Patty Cake" - no words, but perfect pitch and rhythm.
  2. Her limited communication skills make it a fun (usually) guessing game to find out what she wants. When you get it right, she claps and smiles.
  3. If I pick her up, she hugs me. Tight. Same favor for her daddy. She also willingly distributes kisses.
  4. She likes me to lie beside her and let her pull my hair until she falls asleep at night.
  5. She appreciates dark chocolate and snap peas.
  6. She has The Cheeks.
  7. She is so soft, all over. So much that her nickname is Squishy. When she was in a biting phase last summer it was Squishy Love With the Sharp Part.
  8. One time she bit my argumentative brother-in-law's toe.
  9. She is a good little listener for story time. And she folds her arms Sunbeam-style for prayers.
  10. She loves the wind. When you take her outside in the wind she squints and smiles
I don't like calling people out. But if you want to do this about someone you love, well, consider yourself tagged!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Keeping up with the box

So I am quite enjoying the CSA. Every Tuesday we (my office mate and I) get a big box of yum and divide it up. The biggest difference I notice is greens. There's always a big bunch of chard, collard greens, spinach, or something dark and leafy that I don't usually think about buying at the grocery store. Great chopped up in pasta or soup, or just braised with some onions as a side veggie.

But between the CSA box and the flea market, I sometimes overbuy just a bit. It reminds me of when I was a newlywed in Utah, after several years in Alaska. I was so exuberant about the low prices of produce - and so unused to the quantities it took to feed a household of only two people - that I stuffed the fridge and had things go bad a couple weeks in a row. I learned.

Now I am just trying more consciously to use the veggies. It's one of the best ways I have found to stay satisfied while sticking with my Weight Watchers points. Almost all veggies are free in that regard! So, for example, I have a little Ziploc bag full of asparagus, bell peppers and radishes to eat with my lunch today.

And, for example, this salad, which I wanted to eat all night long and almost did. The color was divine. The flavor was amazing.

Who else loved it? Z. Cutest thing ever to watch her gnaw on a broccoli floret. My girl.

Asian-style Spring Broccoli Salad with Chicken

1 head broccoli, florets cut thin, stem julienned
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thin
5-6 radishes, sliced thin
2 c. snap peas or snow peas, strings removed
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
2 sweet carrots, sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

2 chicken breast halves, grilled or broiled, sliced
1/2 c. roasted peanuts (or cashews would also be excellent)

about 1/2 c of your favorite Asian-style sesame dressing, or whisk together:
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. rice vinegar

Stir it all together. I would say this would be about 6 servings if you were not using the "veggies are free, eat all you want" mentality.

If you are using that mentality ... 2 servings. Enjoy.