Friday, December 24, 2010


My heart has been right up on the surface for this whole Christmas season. Everything makes me cry. Everything seems precious, holy.

It's partly because I've been through some difficult times this year. I've been humbled a little.

It's partly because I've dived into Christmas like I think I never have before. Music, decorating, baking, I have been into every bit of it, ever since we came back from our Thanksgiving trip to Utah. It's my first whole Christmas season in my own home (it took us almost the whole season last year just to unpack an settle in). I love it.

It's also partly because I have really been focused on improving my spirituality. I'm studying every day for the first time in a while - not just reading but studying, writing about my thoughts and feelings. I'm praying in a different way. I'm trying to do something more each day to bring the Spirit into my life, too - listening to a conference talk while I work out, sacred music in the car, reading from a Church magazine, serving someone. This stuff makes a big difference. I'm trying to choose faith every day. It changes who I am. Not that I don't still have a long way to go - I am still impatient and demanding and difficult sometimes. But I have different thoughts when I am making this kind of effort. I like it better.

Here are some things I have been thinking about Christmas.

How many poets and composers have tried to imagine Mary's lullaby to the infant Christ? We feel sure she sang, although the books we have don't record it. I feel it, because I, too, sing to children of God.

Holy days, these days when my kids are young and excited and still learning and all together under our roof. Just being together is so sacred.

I was blessed with the opportunity to coordinate a donation from the Bishop's Storehouse to our local homeless shelter. We also collected new pillows and various paper goods for them from the members of our ward. When I spoke with the director near the beginning of this month to determine their needs, she told me one of their residents had a three week old baby girl, born while her parents were living in the shelter. My heart broke. I understood the plight of the Christ Child in a new way. How blessed I am to have a clean, safe, secure place for my children. Earlier this week when we delivered the food donation, I saw the baby in her car seat, tiny and shell-pink and perfect, just beautiful. She was on her way out with her parents to move into a new apartment that very day. Christmas miracle. Also that very day, the shelter had made up 70 food baskets for families in need, effectively emptying their pantry. We were able to restock their shelves. I am so grateful to have been even just an intermediary in that process.

Merry Christmas. Holy Day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow pics

And good things to do on snowy days.


Bury your grudges ... or the person you have a grudge against?

Play with your dog.

Play inside. With a hat, you can be like a grown up lady.

Get ready for the big day.

Curl up with a quilt and a good book. (Pictured: "The Queen of Style")

Cuddle up in your crate with ... a mirror? Well, this dog lives with a little diva; what can we say?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I've created a monster

My K has been a Michael Jackson fan ever since he first came to our house at age 3. He immediately found and loved the movie Free Willy, previously forgotten in our collection of VHS tapes. You could read a lot into that because of the story about the kid in foster care and everything, and maybe it's all true, I don't know for sure. But the thing he loved most was the MJ video at the beginning. Heaven forbid you should fail to rewind the thing all the way and miss that video.

He doesn't watch it so much now. Which is fine. But we did introduce the kids to the long-form "Thriller" on Halloween. K wants to watch it every few days. So I showed him how to find a collection of MJ videos on our Blu-Ray player. (We love that thing and its streaming Netflix. Joy.)

Since then, it's almost nonstop. The kids find MJ weird and fascinating, just like all of us. Especially the changes in his appearance. But they love the long-form videos for "Bad" and "Black or White" with their simple, didactic stories. A keeps trying to imitate the dance moves, which is certainly something to see.

I have to say, I wasn't a huge MJ fan in my youth. Never owned a cassette, even. Mostly I was too young when he was really huge - fourth grade when "Thriller" was everywhere. But that's it; it was everywhere. I remember a kid playing it on a boom box in the school bus on the way to my rural Oklahoma elementary. It was part of what I marinated in during my childhood. And now it's part of me, and I do think the guy was kind of a genius with the infectious beats and the feel-good messages

So I pass it on to my kids. That's all right, isn't it?

Saturday, November 06, 2010


As you can see, we made a decision about becoming a dog-companioned family. This is Heidi Irina. She's a young, small-size German Shepherd/cowdog cross. She is calm and sweet and just a love. She came from Montana German Shepherd Dog Rescue in Hamilton. She's kind of lazy and mostly wants to be snuggled. Lucky for Z.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Two of my kids were placed for adoption voluntarily by their birthmoms. I am always amazed by their selfless choice. If ever I know I need to do something but feel it is just too difficult for me, I think of them. Because of my experience as a foster parent, I know what it's like to say goodbye to a baby you love with no guarantee you'll ever meet again. It's one of the most lonely and desolate feelings I've encountered. It takes amazing strength to endure that voluntarily in the best interest of your child. These birthparents are phenomenal.

My other two kids joined our family through the foster care system. Their birthparents wouldn't have chosen to give them up. They were removed for their best interest by a system that, although imperfect, employs many good people who do truly want to keep children safe and help them find good, loving, permanent families. These adoption workers can be angels on earth.

On our journey to build our family we have been blessed with good and supportive friendships with other adoptive families. We were part of a group that uncertainly entered adoptive-parent education classes together in the fall of 1998 at LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City and continued to meet and socialize together for several years as gradually children joined our families. I have relied on advice and support from a diverse group of women from the Adoptive Parents bulletin board that began at around that time (now we congregate on a private board). Blog friends have offered kind words. And we have met people through church and other avenues who have been wonderful examples and thoughtful friends. I think you will understand that it is not vanity and I am not necessarily referring to us when I say that adoptive parents make up a generally awesome group that we are humbled to be part of.

One last party. Last but not least. Those kids. They are beautiful, fun, smart, quirky, challenging. They come with their own spirits and personalities. They have experienced loss. They are affected by the lives they had before they came to us. They are resilient and strong. They are the stars of the show. They are why we are all doing what we do. They are the super-fantastic, always interesting, sacred and special children of adoption.

November is National Adoption Month. I am a mom through adoption. I am so grateful I have the chance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

All Hallow's Read

Author Neil Gaiman suggests a new Halloween tradition: give a scary book. I'm a sucker for book gifts, so even though I wonder how much this new holiday tradition will benefit this author of the scary books I love, I will promote it and possibly even hit the used book shop tomorrow (payday ain't 'till Monday, folks, and we've had an expensive month, not that I'm complaining as I type happily on my shiny, red laptop).

So here are some of my favorite literary creepies.

First, "Satan and Sam Shay," a 1940s short story by Robert Arthur. I don't know of any instances of this story currently in print. I grew up with it in an anthology called The Looking Glass Book of Short Stories. I found a copy in another anthology called Out of This World, edited by Julius Fast. It has been published in other anthologies as well. I actually  entered my 11-year-old's pit of a bedroom to find our copy and get the title and editor. That tells you three things: (1) I love you enough to get this information for you; (2) I love this story enough to get that information for you; (3) It appeals to an 11-year-old enough that he squirrels it away in his pit of a bedroom. (It's not that terrible. The main problem is the LEGOs on the floor. Like a minefield.) The story tells how the clever Sam Shay outwits the devil after a deal that seems certain to lose him his soul.  Naturally, the man who can cheat Lucifer starts up an insurance agency in the end. I don't think that's a spoiler. Hat tip to my dad for selling me on this story in my youth.

For out-of-this-world sci-fi creepiness and disturb-o factor, along with another level that makes you think about being human and religious and cultural judgments, The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. The plot involves a Catholic missionary expedition to an alien world with (maybe this is too obvious) completely different mores than those of Earth - and all the aftermath of that contact.

These two were mind-changing books for me, with the added benefit of being total page-turners. That meant I had to read them twice each to absorb the ideas after my initial plot binge, and I almost never do that unless the second round is a read-aloud to my kids. These books are not for kids. For real.

But if you are an Orson Scott Card fan ready to go a new place, consider this trip. (There were some parallels with, for example, Children of the Mind.)

For a chilling dose of what's creepy in the type of people you meet on a daily basis, try Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. At first you won't see what's creepy about it. If I tell you much more, it will be a spoiler. But it's not a horror book. It's a oh-man-is-the-human-race-in-trouble book. Sometimes that's far scarier than ghosts and ghouls.

There is a movie coming up with a lot of stylish young stars in it. So if you want to read the book first (and if you see these kinds of movies), hustle. It is worth it. As for me, I see grown-ups' films so infrequently that it's probably more realistic to say I'll flip through the book again for my human-nature shivers.

Finally, ok, pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman. My friend Miriam is to blame for recommending his books. I've talked about them before. Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, American Gods (which made me wonder if Rick Riordan read it before he wrote Percy Jackson) Good Omens ... you can start where you like. Make sure there's someplace you can get some sunshine when you've finished. Otherwise ... ooooh, creepy.

Happy All Hallow's Read.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

MLB, fall and Halloween

Just some season-associated randoms tonight.
  • Facebook makes it amusing, right now, to have friends in NorCal and in Texas. I have to say if I had to pick a side I would choose the Giants. But I have never watched a MLB game in my entire life, so my endorsement could not be more meaningless.
  • I love everybody's kids in their Halloween costumes. I think I may be getting over my years as the Scrooge of Halloween. Is it the chill in the air? The bare branches and snow-silvered slopes? The fabulously feathered faux ravens I found at K-mart? The fact that when we have a family pumpkin-carving activity I am no longer the only one actually doing anything?
  • Speaking of the weather, today K entered the house complaining that it was too hot. The thermometer on my back porch read 50 degrees. I guess he's acclimated.
  • I am really weary of homeschooling right now, 2.5 months into the school year. Here's hoping I find a rejuvenating factor, and pronto. 
  • Z and I made the most delicious cupcakes for the preschool Halloween party. From cake mix and canned frosting with Reese's Pieces on top. I am not my pastry-chef sister (and I do not pretend my cupcakes compare with hers). I am not Martha Stewart or Family Fun. I am not here to impress you. I got the cupcakes done, darn it.
  • On that topic. You do not have to make Halloween costumes. All you people who are staying up late tonight doing that, you know, it must be because you love doing it. Right?
  • Halloween on Sunday. Big topic for Mormons. We have decided not to trick-or-treat that day, but I can understand why others would make a different choice. The great thing is that we had a party for preschool today, as I mentioned; the elementary school kids have parties and a parade tomorrow; we can trick or treat around several businesses in town tomorrow; and there's a church trunk-or treat Saturday night. So really we have three days of Halloween celebrations, and that's pretty good restitution for missing out on a Sabbath-day candy spree.
  • We went to Big Hole National Battlefield last week in conjunction with S's homeschool history unit on the Indian wars in our region. The drive there (we went the Anaconda route) was supernally gorgeous, with golden leaves on the slopes and red willows by the creeks. The Pioneer Range is astounding. Dr. G's grandpa was born in the little town of Wisdom, Montana, so I talked that up for the kids. But of course the piercing, heartbreaking aspect of the day was the tragic battle that happened in that place - standing on the ground where Chief Joseph stood - amazing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In memory of a good dog

Today, Dr. G's parents had to have their Australian Shepherd Dog, Katydid, put down. In memory of Katy, I write about dogs.

I didn't grow up with animals, really. We had sporadic experiences with pet hamsters, a couple of different cats for short periods of time, and once, a turtle that we caught on our rural Oklahoma road. There were times we had chickens and ducks, and even pigs, but those weren't pets. They were experiments in self-sufficiency.

For two weeks we once had a black lab mix named Lizabelle. My mom realized quickly that she was going to be the one to have to take care of it. Lizabelle went back to the pound. Guess my mom felt four children (numbers five and six had not yet made their entrances) constituted enough responsibility for one woman.

I waffle. Sometimes I think I don't need any more responsibilities. Sometimes I think my kids need a dog.

Here are the points that make me consider dog ownership.
  • I am always a little nervous around animals. I don't want my kids to feel that way. From the photo above, you can see that currently they don't.
  • We lived in Salt Lake at the time Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. I actually saw her at Liberty Park once, during her ordeal, without knowing it was her. (If you remember, her face was covered when she was out in public.) I have always thought there would be a good chance that horrible thing never would have happened to her if there'd been a dog sleeping at the foot of her bed.
  • I would like someone to go with me to help me feel secure and protected if I feel like going on a walk in the dark. Or to go with me up a mountain trail. Or to camp with my family in bear country.
  • I am horribly allergic to cats. Heh.
On the other hand, I have two kids with ADHD and two with asthma. I'm a homeschooling mom. I am trying to maintain a freelance writing and editing business. I am trying to get the bare bones basics done in terms of exercise and spiritual practice. I am already neglecting my own personal and creative needs far more than I think is healthy. My husband is a first-year professor. I see him usually between 7 and 10 p.m. I am lucky he still cleans up after dinner. I don't think I could count on much help from him with a new canine companion. As for my kids, let's get real. I can barely get them to take care of their own bodily needs and physical surroundings in an appropriate way. Do I really want to fight the go-out-and-shovel-poop battle?

I look at pictures of dogs on the shelter web site now, wistfully, in the same way I used to look at photo listings of waiting children when I felt strongly we were meant to have more children in our family. Sometimes I tell myself it's time to pee or get off the pot. I have been thinking about this ever since we bought our house. That's almost a year. A long time to think.

Katy was a good dog. But she got her name because she was such a naughty puppy. If anything was chewed, peed on, or ruined in some other way, my in-laws could be pretty certain Katy did it, so she was named Katydid. She was so funny as a young dog, super smart and charming in a very breed-specific way. I remember her playing sock tug-o-war with my husband and herding us on our walks.

This summer when we visited Alaska, my little puppy-loving Z got to know Katy in her twilight. Katy was hurting, tired, old. Z was enthusiastic, loving, silly. Katy's patience was superb. She let Z read her stories, lead her around, use her as a canine pillow. She was a good, good dog.

Run fast in doggie heaven, Katydid.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oooh, shiny

Look what I got. For work purposes. Ostensibly.
I'll call it reinvesting in my business. There you go.
It's super pretty.
Z named it "Sparkle."  She asked what our old computer was named. I told her, "Home PC." She said, "That's not a very cute name."

Monday, October 18, 2010

School pics

Just a quick post for these since I am on a facebook break. School pictures for A and K. What a rip off. If I had been in a portrait studio and/or with a real photographer for these, I would have been saying no for so many reasons. A is making a funny face. K was supposed to wear his fleece pullover over his by-now-vintage Hogle Zoo tee.

And yet, they are so, so cute, funny smiles and all.

I'm going to have to take S and Z into JCPenney or (gulp) WalMart or something to get fall portraits, I think. I meant to do that last year, but never did. Even with what those cost, I bet I will save money over the stupid school picture package. I am a sucker.


We are heavy on the Greeks this year in homeschool. We have the first volume of Joy Hakim's fabulous Story of Science. We have myths in our literature work using the D'Aulaires' gorgeous book, well remembered from my childhood. So, you know, why not bring it all the way around?

S is assigned this week to write his own Greek myth, his own hero's quest. I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

The prompt I wrote for him, I realized, makes a decent writing tool for grownup writers, too, because the elements of the quest get into the heart of conflict in such a simple way. That's hard for me. I can write characters with aplomb. Not to brag or anything. Writing conflict is whoa, hard. So, I thought I would share.

Who will be the main character? What is special about him or her?

What is his or her goal?

Who will help?

What will be the obstacles to the goal?




How will they be overcome?




What lesson is learned in the story?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Montana love

A year ago I wrote a list of things I loved about California. I still get homesick for California. Sometimes if you could peek into my head you might think I was a whiny little wimp Californian. Of course, I really am not. We have been in Montana for 10 months and I do love it. So, here is the first edition of ...

Things I Love About Montana

  • Uncrowdedness
  • Unhurriedness
  • Unspoiledness
  • Golden aspens in the sun
  • Pines in the rain
  • Evening thunderstorms
  • Rainbows on the East Ridge
  • Big Sky - they're not kidding about that
  • Amazing and plentiful state parks
  • Mining history
  • Cowboy history
  • Sacagawea/Lewis and Clark history
  • Native American history
  • Never being too hot
  • Alpine wildflowers
  • Rivers running through it
  • Pork Chop John's
  • Pasties (they're MEAT PIES, you perverts)
  • Fabulous 1890-1950 architecture
  • Lilacs
  • Yellow floribunda roses
  • Petunias in hanging baskets
  • Hot springs
  • Only 6 hours from my family
  • Local-flavored public radio
  • Local, independent pop music radio
  • Mennonites and Hmong at the Farmer's Market (sort of like California, only just in summer)
  • Summer festivals
  • Keeping garbage cans in the alley
  • No bugs or spiders in the house - winter kills 'em off
  • Wearing boots and sweaters and scarves and hats
  • Welcoming and wonderful neighbors and friends
  • A happy husband with a good job

Thursday, October 14, 2010


My great-grandparents lived in Park City, Utah, before it was a chi-chi movie star haven. When my grandpa was unsure whether he wanted to go to college, his mother arranged a job for him underground. He went to college, the first generation in our family. (If you went to high school in Logan or Preston, there's a pretty good chance he was your band teacher.)

I live now in Butte, Montana, where every day we look at the gigantic toxic scar that represents a good share of the copper that electrified the country and won wars and supplied technology throughout the 20th century. Similar to the big Kennecott mine in the SW Salt Lake Valley, but in a smaller context and filled with poisonous water. I think it's kind of like having to hunt for your protein. You can eat the meat, but you have to think about where it came from. We can turn on our lights in Butte, but it's with a keen awareness of the price paid.

My husband's parents grew up here. His grandfather ran a machinery company that supplied the mines. It completely changed the fortunes of his family.

My dad is a mining engineering professor. He works to make mining safer and to automate dangerous processes. His work has taken him all over the world.

My husband is a groundwater hydrology professor. He's just getting into studying mine water problems. It's possible that some of the damage we've done can be remediated, if it can first be better understood.

All this to say, mining is way down deep in my blood. And it's full of ugliness and tragedy and big mistakes. But it is different in many ways from how it used to be. I can see its blessings really clearly along with all the problems. I know I still need it, and I depend on it every day. It is kind of a leap of faith, but I believe overall it's for the greater good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Last night Dr. G and I were laughing about people who say process-eez instead of processes. Science types, specifically. I wonder where that comes from? Is there an accent that pronounces a simple plural like that? Or do they just want to rhyme with fancy words like "isosceles?" Probably they see it as a social marker that means, "I am smart." But to me it makes no sense.

Another thing I see scientists do - engineers, too -  is use the word "novel" to mean new. Which is correct and fine. But I think it is another way of saying, "I am a smarty smart smart scientist." Well, today I am co-opting it.

My parents are staying for a week at a timeshare condo near here. We are having a good ol' time. We went to the hot springs, which has pools and hot tubs both indoor and out. Even the regular pools are like 95 degrees, so it's pleasant to swim even in the chilly October weather. Also there is a giant waterslide. If the littles wear life jackets they are allowed to go down by themselves. They quite wore themselves out. Wonderful.

Last night my parents came and took my homeschooler and my preschooler to spend the night at the condo. Which means that after getting A&K off to the neighborhood elementary this morning, I am utterly alone with no one to dress, feed, teach, or placate.


I can see how a person could stay completely sane.

What I will do is turn on some loud Indigo Girls, take my time in the shower, and then get going on my smarty smart smart freelance work about agenda setting in the U.S. Senate (a copy edit), study abroad in China (a story), mining methods in Chile (another copy edit) and churchy stuff (volunteer work for the LDS Church's Web site).

That's how the smart people party.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Today I went to my class at the Y, as I do most Mondays. I arrived a few minutes late, as I often do (I have Responsibilities). My classmates, whom I know pretty well by now, were running sprints. Something seemed off. I squinted a bit, because I don't wear my glasses to work out. I'm a sweaty person, like, more than normal, and they slip. Thus, squinting. I'm sure it was very cute.

Oh. No teacher.

So guess what we did? People took turns teaching. We had sprints. We had laps with weights. We had step. And then it was time for our normal strength portion of the class. Guess who taught yoga and Pilates for 20 whole minutes? Me!

Guess all those years of sweating to the DVDs paid off.

I will put that on the list of things I never thought I'd do. But guess what? It was kind of fun!

Wednesday our teacher is going to be gone again. I am already thinking of ideas for a resistance ball workout.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


As you know, we've been eating homemade bread lately. Not just yeast bread, either.

I found a fabulous cornbread recipe called Yankee Cornbread in the book at left (great book!) and sweetened it up a bit, making it reminiscent of the ultra sweet and soft cornbread we used to get at a restaurant called Frontier Pies. Sometimes we called it Frontier Cow Pies, but we did like the cornbread.

Sweet and Soft Cornbread

2 c all-purpose flour
2 c yellow corn meal
1 c sugar
8 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 425.

Place all dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk together until evenly mixed.

Add wet ingredients and stir just until everything is incorporated.

Pour batter into 9x13" pan and spread evenly. Bake in 450 oven for 30-35 minutes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Z was in the shower with me while I shaved my legs this morning. This was a landmark occurrence, being a weekday. But I accidentally wore capris to my class at the Y and oh, embarrassing. Thus I shaved in shame. Anyway, Z was pretending to shave, too, using a little bit of my Aveeno shaving foam. And then I heard,

"I don't know why they call this cream. It doesn't taste very good."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


So over the weekend I made a decision to follow my sister M2's wise decision, a decision I realized I perceived as way too momentous, to step away from Facebook for a while.

I stink at controlling my use of that colossal timesuck. I get too emotionally involved in things that are none of my business or not that important or out of my hands. I play time-wasting games and resent my kids' interrupting my turn at Scrabble (really Lexulous, but you know, whatever). I look at blackmail-worthy high school photos over and over again. It's just not right for me to be there all day, every day.

I posted about it yesterday (so yeah, I'm an attention whore a little bit, I wanted all the "I'll miss you" comments) and this morning, deactivated the account.

It's more a symbolic gesture than anything else. All I have to do is log in again, and everything will be right there. But I've said I'm taking a break, and I'm taking a break. I would feel too stupid showing up again just a couple of days after my dramatic exit. Ah, pride.

I felt a little lost today. I wanted to post the funny things the kids said, like Kimori explaining to his friend that we moved away from California because we were all just way too hot there. And there were more, but I forgot them because I didn't have a place to post them in hit-and-run fashion as I am accustomed to doing. Maybe I will have to start keeping a notebook.

In between homework time and dinner prep time, I kind of wandered around wondering what I was supposed to do. And then I got out my planner and mapped out the next couple of days. I emailed some folks. Hey, productivity!

Tomorrow I am probably going to have to actually clean the house, or tackle some crazy thing like mending or filing. Ugh. No wonder I love facebook. Maybe once I get the piles down, I'll go back.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

To-tofu, T-To-To F-Fu-Fu

Just thought I would send September out with a Veggie Tales silly song title and a recipe for the yummy salad we had tonight.

Baked Tofu Salad

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 inch fresh ginger root, minced or pressed in garlic press
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup

2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
2 inches fresh ginger root, minced or pressed in garlic press
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sriracha hot sauce to taste

1 lb extra firm light tofu, drained and pressed between two plates with a heavy can on top
4 c salad greens, washed and dried
1 c snow peas, trimmed
1 cucumber, sliced
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c chopped almonds

Whisk together ingredients for marinade in a small bowl. Dice tofu in 1/2 inch dice. Pour marinade over tofu. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet and place in 400 degree oven.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Use the same small bowl. Set aside.

Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until lightly brown.

Take the cookie sheet  out. Turn the tofu over. Put it back in.

Mix vegetables and oranges in a large salad bowl.

When tofu is golden and slightly crusty and all marinade is absorbed, take it out of the oven. Add to salad. Sprinkle with almonds and add dressing. Toss lightly.

Steamed rice on the side for this. So nice for our beautiful Indian summer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Start using to manage your money today!

"OK, so I want to win the iPad they're giving away at But would not recommend it to you if I did not find it truly awesome. Dr. G and I have been using since January. The Ph.D. is done. The job is landed. We've kind of realized that nothing is going to happen to make all our financial worries suddenly evaporate. The scenario we have now is pretty much the scenario we will have for the next 30 years or so.

Of course, if any long-lost millionaire relatives suddenly show up, we can work that into our budget, no problem."
With Mint, you can:

* Get set up in minutes
* See all your accounts in one place
* Set and track your budgets & achieve your goals
* Find hundreds of dollars in personalized savings
* Stay safe and secure...and it's free!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Little blue

This week has been one long uphill.

Sunday night as I was falling asleep I suddenly realized I was not breathing right; no air was getting in through my nose. I slept only fitfully, Monday morning Dr. G. left for work and I realized I had that special hit-by-a-Mac-truck feeling. Headache, weakness, congestion.

I distinctly remember being told as a kid, "Most of the work of this world is done by people who aren't feeling well." Even five years ago I probably would have forced myself to get up and shower, dosed up on DayQuil, and gone about my day.

I don't do that anymore. Maybe it's just that I'm older, or maybe it's because DayQuil doesn't work like it used to (thanks a million, meth epidemic) but these days the old muscle-through approach does not produce good results for me anymore. These days when a bug gets me I do my best to get in bed and stay there for a day or two, armed solely with tissue and fluids. And maybe still DayQuil, because it is nice to breathe.

Rest doesn't come easy when you're responsible for the care, feeding and education of four other people who are distinctly not sick or tired in any way and not particularly sympathetic.

Even better, Dr. G had to leave midafternoon Monday for a week-long training trip (you have to learn GIS before you teach it to the undergrads, I suppose).  Nobody to baby me, not even in the evening hours. Nobody to whine to. Nobody to pick up the slack. I know I could live this way all the time, if I had to. I know people do it. I really never, never want to.

So I did get up and shower. I put on some roomy lounge pants and a big t-shirt. I didn't want to be wearing my actual purple-striped pajamas when I schlepped around picking up kids with my sickie self. I figured a moderate trailer trash look would work, and I could collapse easily back into bed as soon as I had the kids safely deposited back in front of the TV.

 After picking up my first grader I also got my sorry self to Safeway for medicine and chicken soup. I thought I'd try one of these Vicks Inhalers and whoa, good stuff. I also got my favorite cough drops and some Airborne, even though I know it doesn't work all miracle-style like I used to think. It still makes another type of liquid to drink and I need all I can get.

I think I rested pretty successfully. I felt about halfway better by Tuesday and have improved a little every day since then. We've managed some of our responsibilities and let some others slide (A missed his guitar lesson Monday when I was flattened, and nobody felt like making the trek to scouts on Wednesday.) Pardon me while I congratulate myself on choosing my battles.

However, the house still looks like I've been in bed all week and I am so tired of being sick  I just want another rest day. Dr. G should be home tomorrow around midday. I think I can almost see over the top of the hill. Not soon enough. But I think I can, I think I can.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Loving lately

It has been a good long time since I made a list of stuff I love.
  • Garden lettuce. Next year maybe I will just plant all lettuce and peas. They are the only things that have really thrived. The zucchini, beans and tomatoes got some frost damage earlier this week. Next year I will get some frames built to protect them better. But the lettuce is still so, so good. 
  • Bite-size Heath bars. Large potential for overindulgence. They're so little and easy to eat. So, so yummy.
  • Pound cake. I use the Betty Crocker recipe and put vanilla glaze on it. Double the vanilla. It soaks in some, crusts over some. 
  • Dr. G made a Pandora station based on the Smiths. It just played for me, in a row, "Reel Around the Fountain" (amazing lyrics), "Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies, and "Pretty in Pink" by the Psychedelic Furs. Pandora is the bomb. I also have an Indigo Girls station, well loved and used.
  • New music from Ari Hest and Rosi Golan performing together as The Open Sea, coming soon. Free preview on myspace. So perfect for a chilly autumn.
  • New music from Mindy Gledhill. I just got it today - it's very clever, light and fun. I want to go back to hearing more of her depth and strength, though, too. Vocally, I mean. I think the content on Anchor has plenty to think about. I just want that powerful voice that wowed me when I first heard her sing in Fresno. Next album, Mindy?
  • My flower/herb beds out front. Red petunias, sedum, phlox, marigolds, mums, salvia, pansies, nasturtiums, mint, sage, and parsley have all played so nicely together all summer. Tonight I bought some bulbs - crocuses, grape hyacinths and white daffodils. I think they'll be so pretty! And I think tomorrow will be a great day for planting.
  • Speaking of the garden, look at Sustainable Seed Company for heritage organic seeds. I know I'm not the only person already thinking about next year!
  • Forest Born by Shannon Hale. I'm right in the middle of it, so I can't do a real true review just yet. But oh, I think this might be my favorite one of all the Bayern books. I love the themes about guilt and healing. I love how adeptly the author uses little linguistic cues to accentuate the cultural differences among her characters - the different regions and nations they come from. And of course I am inhaling the story like the rainy, piney Montana air. Anybody who needs a good world to get lost in after finishing Mockingjay - this is a good one. Start with The Goose Girl. Four good books in a row - have fun!
Now, some homeschool stuff:
  • This is the new incarnation of what used to be eSpindle. We use it for homeschool spelling. Love it. Slightly tempted to start using it for myself and learn all kinds of esoteric vocab.
  • Books by Joy Hakim. We are using the A History of Us series for American History and the first volume of The Story of Science to guide our science studies and squeeze in some world history at the same time. Her voice is so enjoyable. I am getting a pretty good education/re-education working with Sam on these.
  • Teaching Textbooks for math. I love the friendly voice and the fact that S can do it completely on his own. I also like the mixed review right now, at the beginning of the school year. S is acing everything!
  • The Trumpet of the Swan. Our first literature unit this year, and it had me on the brink of tears almost daily. So beautiful.
  • Drawing with Ed Emberley. Thanks to Grandma Judy for introducing S to this. It makes art very accessible to a guy who still struggles with hand-eye coordination, and as a bonus, it also motivates him to write stories! He has three Ed Emberley books now and wants the rest for Christmas. Santa, take notice!

Monday, September 06, 2010


I remember my first experiments with making bread, sometime in the first couple of years after getting married. My main response: All this work, just to eat it? I thought of all the women in the world who spent, who still spend, so much time making bread, and of those who eat it without much thought. It's just bread, right? And although now most people agree that good homemade bread is a very big deal, there was a time in our culture when it was pretty well taken for granted. And in some parts of the world the daily work of making bread still is very routine.

Fast forward. I obtained a bread machine for $20 on eBay and experimented with it. I was less than impressed. I gave it away. I tried different recipes, some good and some iffy. I still mostly bought bread at the grocery store.

Then, early this summer, weirdness. My lip suddenly swelled up like a botched collagen job after eating a ham sandwich with watermelon for lunch. What was I allergic to? The ham, the watermelon? After more experiments (with varying results that have me looking like a Simpsons character from time to time), I have determined that the answer is this: I am allergic to some kind of preservative or something found in prepared bread products, including cereal and tortillas.

You can imagine I don't so much take bread for granted anymore. I eat less of it. I enjoy it more when I do. I think about the bread broken by Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand or the Last Supper. I think about the bread kneaded and baked by pioneer women. I savor the sandwich buns made by my grandma when I encounter them on a picnic.

We do have a Great Harvest bakery in town, and I'm a fan. However, not every week can I plunk down $5 per loaf. I've found a recipe that works very well, doesn't feel like an overwhelming amount of work, keeps well in the fridge, makes good toast, and is eagerly eaten by my kids. It's Farm Journal. If you've read this blog, you know about the Farm Journal advice I got from my grandma - same one who makes the fabulous sandwich buns - if you see a Farm Journal cookbook, buy it. Good advice. Here's the recipe, with my notes.

Easy Mixer Bread

2 1/2 c. warm water (hot out of the tap works fine for me, but the book says 110-115 degrees F)
4 1/2 tsp. (2 packages) active dry yeast
1/2 c. instant nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. salt (I like to use kosher salt for this)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
7 to 7 1/2 c. flour - use AT LEAST half BREAD FLOUR for best results! You can do half bread flour and half all purpose, or half bread flour and half whole wheat flour

Pour warm water into large mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top. Add dry milk, sugar, salt, oil, and 3 c. flour. Blend well on low speed using whisk attachment, scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Gradually add remaining flour to make a stiff dough. In my experience stick closer to 7 c. of flour if you're using whole wheat, closer to 7 1/2 if it's all white. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Toss dough on a floured surface until no longer sticky. Knead until smooth - about 1 minute. Divide in half. Use rolling pin to flatten each half to a rectangle about 12x6". Roll up like a jelly roll, tucking edges to make a smooth loaf shape. Place, seam side down, in well greased loaf pans.

Cover (I use plastic wrap sprayed with PAM) and let rise in a warm place, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. My wheat bread usually needs to rise longer than my white bread.

Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush crust with butter to soften (and make it YUMMY). Set on side of loaf to cool on wire racks. Don't slice it until it's cool. It will still be fabulous.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


You've probably noticed, I haven't felt much like blogging. I blame facebook, and also laziness. They complement each other. But I think I should discipline myself to do more writing, real writing, and this is a little start.

Lucy is inspiring me this week with her snippets. They're so fun to read, really what a personal blog should be like if you ask me. I don't know if I'll do the same thing exactly, but I do want to write more about my life. Exercise the writing muscles.

I need to do more sorting out of my thoughts. I feel like I have racing brain syndrome a lot of the time lately, and I'm pretty sure it would be more productive to think through all these thoughts through rather than playing Lexulous all the time and ignoring them. Because they don't go away. They just come back even crazier.

Dr. G. is so happy in his new job. The stress I saw in him as a grad student and even in his last job as a research scientist seems to have melted away. He thrives on teaching and still gets to do some research - well, theoretically. Maybe not so much this year while he is developing his courses and writing papers based on his previous research. I'm super happy for him. He really has found the perfect fit.

This makes me think - as I so often do - I should be doing what makes me super happy for myself. A lot of times I am. I'm reading children's lit. I am cooking and baking, hurray for that. No escaping those pursuits when you are a mother of four, so it's good that I like them, huh?

But as always, I yearn to do more creative work.

I had an interesting experience last month in Utah at a family reunion, singing some Gershwin with my uncle Tom who is a jazz pianist in New York. He was so complimentary that I really started feeling like I need and want to do more. What I imagine is finding a good local pianist who loves standards and can really swing, and just starting to make music and maybe working up to performances after several months of working together. Performances where, though? Bars? I think no. And what pianist? And with what time? Obstacles are many.

Another option is the local symphony chorale. It's not exactly what I would choose to do with my voice in an ideal world. But it would be easier. My friend Christine sings there and has kindly encouraged me to join up. But I am torn about the rehearsal time - Monday nights. Boo. Possibly we could have it a different night now - but what about in a couple of years when sports and other activities are competing for our family time?

I sacrificed music on purpose, a long time ago. I knew soon after I got married in 1993 that the kind of musical life I would want would be pretty tough to combine with the kind of family life I would want. Sometimes I've thought I might have been wrong about that. But really, I probably was right. Especially considering how challenging and consuming it's been for us just to get our kids, let alone raise them. And I do still think the family life is more important. The key now is not to resent the choice I made.

The creative thing I can do without depending on others' schedules or cutting way into family time is writing. So that sort of brings me back where I started.

I thought it was going to get easier this year - my plan was to get S back in public school and Z in preschool. But I was increasingly uncomfortable with the public school idea over the summer, and after a lot of prayer decided to homeschool S again. He just learns better when he's not facing the constant distractions and poor-behavior temptations of a regular classroom. And it's been good for our relationship, there's no denying. Then it made more sense, if I was going to have S at home again, to wait one more year before paying for preschool for Z. So she will do the co-op preschool two days a week with a group of moms and kids from church, and save formal preschool for next year. She can't go to kindergarten until Fall 2012 anyway, thanks to her November birthday.

All this just means I have to be disciplined and organized if I am going to get any good writing time. And probably get a good laptop so I can work while S is occupied with computer learning.

That's doable, right?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Wife brag

This will only take a minute.

My husband's going to be a tenure-track professor at his grandpa's alma mater.

Isn't that cool?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Personal review

I'll be the first to say, I couldn't be objective about this book if I tried.  Dr. G and I knew Braden and his family when we were at BYU in the mid-90s. We had his two oldest kids in our nursery class at church. This was when we wanted our own babies and couldn't have them, and D and S were kind of our special favorites. We committed all their funny little sayings to memory, and I can still picture their earnest and funny  little toddler and preschool faces. I understand from Braden's family blog that as big teenagers they don't particularly like to be blogged about, so I won't relate their amusing pasts, I guess.

Anyway, when we first knew Braden, he was sick. Dr. G was one of the home teachers who helped bring the sacrament to him each week when he was bedridden. We participated with church members, friends and family in the massive fast that helped turn his illness around. A couple of very special times I have shared what I know of his story in lessons about fasting or miracles at church and felt the Spirit witness what an absolute miracle it is that he went on, after that debilitating battle, to complete a graduate degree, excel in a career he loves, and serve as a bishop (similar in some ways to a pastor or priest in other faiths).

So when Braden writes about pain and sadness, I know he's not imagining. When he writes about healing and miracles, it comes from a real place.

But I've read fiction by other dear friends before, friends whose experiences I know something of and with whom I sympathize. I don't always like their work, even when I like them a lot.

Braden's book, I liked. His writing doesn't call attention to itself, a quality I love. Instead of being show-offish, it's a vehicle for story. The characters felt natural and honest. Every one of them, I thought, seemed to have a little bit of the author's heart in him or her. (And maybe a little bit of me, too.) The experiences were forthrightly told, nothing hidden, nothing shied away from. There's humor that appeals to someone like me who was brought up to be a little bit of a snob when it comes to the arts, and there's sincerity that reminds me it's much more important to be a disciple of Christ.

The story brings together the members of a diverse congregation who have a range of spiritual problems: Depression, pride, illness, addiction, even just feeling like an outsider. The book presents all its characters unvarnished and yet all lovable. And the balm for every wound - in this book as in life - is the Atonement of Christ.

Wholeheartedly recommended. Thanks for your work, Braden.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oh, happy day

As of last Thursday, we have a new six-year-old in the house. With new river gear (goggles, inner tube and fishing pole) and a special quilt from Grandma, he was spoiled in the morning.

That night he played his first ever soccer game. (I am his coach. Yeah, scary.) We lost 2-0 but K played with gusto. I think he will have fun with this.

The following evening we had a party at the local pizza/arcade/blow your money type place. It actually turns out to be a good deal and very easy to do. So grateful our wonderful new Montana friends came out to wish K a happy birthday! He had an awesome time!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Around uptown

I took some pictures around Uptown Butte after my Saturday shift at the Folk Fest. It's pretty obvious what I like: patina. It is not in short supply.

National Folk Festival

The National Folk Festival enjoyed its third year in Butte. I was a volunteer for Friday and Saturday nights, taking around a big bucket and asking people for money. Never thought of myself as a fundraiser but it turns out I am not too shabby at "The Ask." Helped that I got to listen to some amazing zydeco from Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie while I bopped around saying, "Would you like to help support the festival tonight?"

We took the kids back the next day to dance to this band. Because I really wanted to, and it was hard to dance with the big red bucket in hand!

I also got to hear some bluegrass and honky tonk, but honestly Geno is my new hero.

You can check him out on Amazon. Yes, indeedy.