Thursday, March 25, 2010

Historical impulse

All through our Revolution and Constitution homeschool lessons, S and I both have yearned to go and see the places where our history took place. He especially wants to visit Monticello. Man, would that be fun!

Today, thanks to the incomparable architect of that place, our American History text brought our yearnings basically right to our doorstep. Well, compared with Monticello.

And it was in the high 50s today in southwest Montana. Not a day to stay indoors.

So we impulsively packed everybody up, threw some raisins and almonds and bread in the back of the car in case we got hungry, and headed for Missouri Headwaters State Park, near Three Forks, Montana. Here's where Lewis and Clark (and York and Sacagawea!) named the Jefferson and Madison rivers, realized they had no idea where to find the headwaters of the Columbia and perhaps began to clue in that there was no Northwest Passage. But wow, what a beautiful spot! And they were there in July instead of March ... I bet it was even more amazing.

We are so lucky to live in this awesome place!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sweet pickles

This is a bit of a catch-up post.

For St. Patrick's Day last week (biggest holiday of the year here in Butte), we decided to try home-corned beef instead of buying a pre-pickled brisket. Mainly because I had a beef roast in the freezer, and I had the pickling spice, and I had a recipe in this cookbook.

When Dr. G's grandparents - pillars of business and social life in this town from the 1940s to the 1960s or so - passed away several years ago, we received a couple barrels of just ... stuff. Some of it, we couldn't use. Some of it was treasure. This was treasure. Great historical recipes, with a few handwritten notes from Grandma.

Here's the corned beef recipe.

We didn't have any saltpeter. Have you ever tried to find that? Yeah, good luck. We went looking for some once, for a science experiment S wanted to do. Unfound.

Also, we didn't pickle our beef for 12 days. Kinda hard to imagine doing that, honestly. We just soaked it for one day. So maybe what we were making was just corned-flavor marinated beef. That's ok. Maybe better.

I had a great helper.

Here's how the beef looked while marinating. I don't provide a lot of gross-out pictures on this blog; this might be my first, actually.

And this is really disappointing: I didn't take pictures of the finished product. It also looked kind of sick; boiled meat is never going to win in the plate-appeal category. But it did taste yummy.

Happy belated St. Paddy's day from the St. Paddy's capital of the Western U.S. We had fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Only dreaming

I've been working on our tax return. Because we were pretty much poorhouse material last year but still managed to buy a house in December, and because of economic stimulus tax credits, it's looking pretty good for us.

So I am dreaming about remodeling our kitchen. Maybe even this summer. More like, staying up all night, googling pictures and obsessing.

Want a peek into my dreams?

Pale blue glass mosaic tile backsplash. Super pretty, lots of light reflection, so pale it's pretty much neutral but will still make a nice contrast with the other materials I'm thinking about.

Copper countertop. I know I want copper in this kitchen - I like the idea of a coppery kitchen in the Copper City! Plus I love that it provides a sterilizable surface comparable to stainless steel, but with a warmer, less industrial look. I like it that you are SUPPOSED to let it show evidence of your work in the kitchen - ring marks and stuff are part of the patina.

The kind of faucet that turns on when you touch it with your elbow. This one is from Delta. I want that bad!

Medium-toned cabinets with integrated handles or possibly no handles. These are from IKEA but I'm not married to that. I like them.

More to come, I hope.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My kind of prize

Looky here! It's a blog prize where the reward is making a list of 10 things I love. Is this perfect for me? Thanks to Angela, my Idaho twin at Dilettantish. She and I have the same birthday and the same roll recipe. Our husbands' names rhyme. And we love a lot of the same things, so I'll try to think of original ones. You all already know I love my family and Lord of the Rings, anyway. Fun stuff.

1. I love the moment when my four children are all safely tucked in bed, read to, kissed and hugged, told of my love for them, and I sign off mommy duty for the day. Good night!

2. I love sunshine on a fresh snowfall, when everything is so, so bright, and the dark, pine-covered mountains look misty gray under a brilliant blue sky. I didn't think I missed winter while I lived in California, and maybe I really didn't. But I am enjoying it now that I am here.

3. I love an honest three-year-old who uses her amazing verbal skills to say things like, "Your pants are falling down. Maybe you should wear a belt," or "You smell like eggs," or (while I am trying to take stickers off a new set of plastic tumblers from Dollar Tree) "Why do they make this so hard?"

4. I love the gas fireplace in my bedroom. It is rock and roll. It is a perfect cozy place for homeschool reading, a toe toaster for watching movies at night. And romantic, yes.

5. I love stretching to the tune of a Beethoven piano sonata after Total Body Fitness with Holly at the YMCA on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, then chatting with Jenny and Renee for a few minutes before I either hop on the elliptical or head home.

6. I love vegetables roasted in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes. Piled on a baked potato for lunch or served beside whatever we are having for dinner. Yum, yum, yummy.

7. I love teaching my 5th grade, homeschooling son about the American Revolution and the Constitution. Frequently I get all teary. This has been a great experience!

8. I love music. I love my workout playlist, packed with Gnarls Barkley, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, The Breeders, Jupiter One, OK Go, Los Lonely Boys, and more stuff. Sometimes I also listen to it when I am cooking dinner. Very motivational. I love the local radio station that plays mostly 1980s - from Tom Petty to the Cure and sometimes even Indigo Girls and Elvis Costello. Even when they play stuff I hated in the 80s, I kind of love it, and I know all the words. I love the flavor of public radio here in Montana - it has less of the NPR headquarters programming and more local music shows - a folk show, a classical show, a children's show, a whatever-music-they-want-to-play show. Where else would I hear new music from Peter Gabriel? I am super excited for the national Folk Festival here in town in July. If you want to come, you should stay with me.We will make it a massive house party and I will cook for you. Wouldn't it be fun?

9. I love a good children's book, picture-illustrated or otherwise. Having kids is a great excuse for reading this stuff. Just finished "The Name of This Book is Secret." Excellent, fun, super. I love the public library. I love how everyone is all quiet in the car on the way home, perusing their new reading materials. I love books on CD; they are my new outstanding trick for driving with kids in the car. We listened to "Redwall" and "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull." Now we are working on "The Magician's Nephew."

10. I love my minivan (a 2002 Honda Odyssey). I love that there's enough room for four kids to sit without being on top of each other. I love how comfortable it is to drive. I love how easily it maneuvers into surprising spots. I love that it is shiny white with an Obama-Biden 2008 sticker. I love how the back seat folds down to accommodate my thrift-store furniture finds. A minivan is marvelous. And for the record, I was never someone who felt ambivalent about driving one. I was always cool with it.

So, clearly I have a lot of love, but not for tagging people. So if you like this consider yourself awarded with the "10 Things I Love" blog award. Otherwise, no big.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


A took a moment at dinner tonight to explain to Z how one progresses through Primary.

A: "First I was a Sunbeam like you, and then I was in the next class, and the next class, and the next class, and the next class, and now I'm a Valentine."

At least he didn't say "Violent." When newlywed G and I taught that class we called them the "Violent Bs." For good reason, too.

A is actually more of a sweetheart. And Valiant. That, too.

Friday, March 05, 2010


If you wake up feeling just as tired as when you went to bed ...

If your neck hurts like you've been carrying an anvil on top of your head all day ...

If you have kicked your own behind in your exercise attempts all week long ...

If the gym is closed today for a regional swim meet ...

If you have an adorable, chubby three-year-old to be your workout buddy ...

Also some ibuprofen. I mean, come on. Let's not be dumb.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


This is a post about volleyball. Its title certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I am almost through an eight-month project of watching the entire series of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer on DVD from Netflix.

Really. (I hope you appreciate my honesty. Some people might try to hide their nerdiness on their blogs, but not me. Oh, no. Next thing you know I will be sneaking in Star Trek references.)

On with the show.

In my new location, the thing the ladies get together and do for social time is playing volleyball. I have a lot of friends who play volleyball. They love it. They play it well. They are sometimes a little serious about it, which I can understand. I am sometimes a little serious about things I love and do well. But volleyball is not one of those things for me.

I've been invited to join the Thursday-night volleyball game. I have told them that I have basically some kind of disability when it comes to sports and that I would be a liability to any team I joined. They swear it is just for fun and I would be welcome.

I know I would embarrass myself horrifically. I am pretty sure that, despite their protestations that my utter ineptitude didn't matter, they would sort of wish I weren't there messing things up. Not to mention, the Thursday night when Dr. G gets home in time for me to make it to a 6:30 recreational hour is going to be a pretty rare beast. Hardworking, devoted man.

And I don't really want to play volleyball.

I do, however, really want to be friends.


Monday, March 01, 2010


It's probably pretty obvious to anybody with much life experience at all, but I'll say it anyway. When we experience major losses in our lives, we don't get over it all at once. It is a long, long process reconciling what we wanted with what we got, our dreams with our realities. Sometimes the process stalls and we forget about it or maybe even think we're done with it. And then it kicks up again and we grind through more days of feeling unsettled and trying to understand.

I do think that's probably just about universal. That's one reason why I wrote the "we" and the "us" there. The other reason is that loss is also extremely personal. It's hard to jump in and just say, "This is what I'm going through." First person plural kind of eases the entry.

For me, one big ongoing loss-adjustment process is (duh, surprise) infertility.

Really, after 15 years, yeah, it still is. Sorry. Not over it.

It is true that I no longer have that raw, horrible, need-a-baby, why-am-I-not-good-enough pain. Thank God. The adoption of my perfectly paradoxical, beautiful and challenging first son in 1999 cured that. Big step, big big big step.

I don't even have the exciting spur of baby hunger. I don't see babies and think there are more for me, somewhere in the world. A lot of times I'm not even dying to hold them. I mean, I will, and I like them. But I don't want more kids. Four is a great number for me. I am delighted with the family Dr. G. and I have labored to build. I love it that no one wears diapers at our house these days. I eagerly anticipate having all my kids in school and gaining a few precious hours of my own for writing or errands or maybe a Master's degree.

I am not often embittered now by the mystifying women's ritual of sharing (sometimes gory and horrible) birth stories. The stupid comments ("Do you run a group home?" or "Don't you ever wish you had your own kids?") roll off me. The nursing nazis don't really get to me anymore. Even intentional slights from people who think they know how to push my buttons -- not that there are a lot, but I have seen them -- meh. Maybe because I know I have walked through fire for my kids, I don't have adoption insecurity these days.

The thing that is under my skin now: I've thought a lot about it, and I think it is pure biological clock. I'll be 36 next month. Many, many women my age who have never given birth get this restlessness about it. Normal. It's just that a lot of them don't have four kids.

I have beautiful, amazing nieces and nephews who share bits of my genetic material, and they tug at my heart in a way that I never anticipated. The way my nephew's hair bends in the back just like mine, the creamy pink of his sister's cheek, the something about the eyes of my brother's daughter or the dark blonde color of her little pageboy -- these things just give me a twinge of longing. Some extended family members have been working on scanning old pictures, several from the 1970s. I was a really, really cute baby (and so was G) and it is a darned shame for the aesthetic quality of the general population of human children, for both of us to be the end of the genetic line.

When we decided to abandon infertility treatments in favor of adoption at the end of 1998, I decided that it just didn't matter if my kids looked like me, if I saw traces of my interests and talents in them. Well, maybe I was wrong. It matters, a little. Maybe it is ok for me to just say, it makes me kind of sad.

And I feel like I can say that without taking anything away from the amazing, beautiful, smart, funny, fun kids God has given me. I remember talking to my OB/GYN in Salt Lake when my big boys were little. She was having a baby at 41 and joked with me that that would probably happen to me. At the time, it sounded pretty good. I thought maybe I would have the gorgeous rainbow of kids I was starting to gather up, and still get the pregnancy, childbirth, genetic continuation thing, too -- just a little later.

But now I think my window is closing. Not that it has to. But if I had another child, if I used some of the advanced treatments I eschewed before, it would just be selfish. It wouldn't be because I want to give something to that child. It would be just my own wanting to have a certain experience, to see a little me. Not to mention, I most often feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew with my four, and I really would like to have my youngest be my little Z, graduating from high school when I am only in my early 50s and letting me explore and accomplish some other things.

So I am really thinking about purposefully saying we are done, getting off the roller coaster permanently, taking care of the issues that incapacitate me physically a couple of days each month and give me emotional problems for about 20% of my life. That is a lot of life to give up for a dream that isn't really happening. I think there's more for me to do than just cope.

And that's where I am in the process, 15 years later.