Monday, December 26, 2011

Twenty Christmases together

  • 1992: Arrived home from BYU late on Christmas night. Met at the airport by my family and the recently returned missionary I hadn't seen since August 1990.
  • 1993: Married to that returned missionary, spent Christmas in Logan with my grandparents and other extended family. New husband promptly contracted chicken pox from my two little polka-dotted cousins.
  • 1994: Our first Christmas tree. I made ornaments out of salt dough and paper. My parents had moved to Salt Lake and we spent time with them in the condo where they were staying until they found the home they now live in.
  • 1995: We lived in Wymount Terrace. G gave me two zebra finches, whom we named Kirk (the chubby one) and Picard (the thin, cerebral one).
  • 1996: We visited Fairbanks for Christmas. I mainly remember his parents' dog as a hyperactive young thing, massive quantities of chocolate, and long, snowy walks and drives in the dark of Alaskan winter.
  • 1997: Arizona with G's family for Christmas. I got a beautiful brown velvet formal dress (still in my closet) and G's grandma said to me, "Where on earth are you going to wear that?" 
  • 1998: We spent Christmas in Colorado with more Shaws and experienced Pearl Street in Boulder as well as the Infamous Chinese Restaurant Centripetal Force Incident. (Think lazy susan.) I took care of a couple of adorable little nephews and some lights in my head turned on regarding adoption.
  • 1999: We lived in Minnesota with our four-month-old son, who loved the lights on the tree and would coo at them excitedly. We realized the guy G was working with in pursuit of a Ph.D. was an A-1 jerk and packed up and headed back to Utah.
  • 2000: First Christmas in our little pink house, a condo in Salt Lake City. After Christmas, we spent a few nights in a cabin in Escalante with my family, then visited G's extended family in Arizona.
  • 2001: We received a Christmas basket from our ward, which kind of perplexed us. I think it might have been because someone asked me about the costs of our two adoptions, I told them the honest answer, and they were flabbergasted, probably wondering how we could even afford to eat after spending that kind of money.
  • 2002: G's grandpa passed away in Arizona on Christmas Eve. We made a really insane trip down there for the funeral with two very small boys.
  • 2003: First Christmas in California, where G was again pursuing a Ph.D. We spent that whole December raking up yellow leaves from two huge mulberry trees and feeling a little homesick for snow country. G was struggling as the only sort-of grad student at UC Merced, which was so new he couldn't even be enrolled yet . Friends generously paid me $50 to sing at a Christmas party for their employees. We were pretty much desperately poor and needed every drop we could get.
  • 2004: I made UC Merced gingerbread men and excitedly gave gifts to my new co-workers. And had that embarrassing incident wishing my Jewish colleague a Merry Christmas. I also had daycare woes. G finally had some other grad students to keep him company.
  • 2005: S came up with some excellent Yuletide Funnies. I made a failure of pumpkin fudge, thereafter known as pumpkin sludge.
  • 2006: We got an artificial tree for the first time ever. Canceled an Arizona trip because we had a four-week old foster daughter who needed a court order to travel out of state. She played Baby Jesus in the family Nativity play. Joy.
  • 2007: We got a Wii and respiratory flu. The furnace broke and made us glad, momentarily, to be renters. We got the news that the county was going to try to take Z to an illegal extended-family placement after more than a year in our family. We were delighted by the recent verbal explosion of K, age 3, who had joined us in June of that year.
  • 2008: We still had four children, and after months in court we had a lot fewer worries. I enjoyed being back home with my kids after four years working for UC Merced. G and I started working on applying for jobs for him as a Ph.D. Z really enjoyed a cinnamon roll.
  • 2009: After the stress and chaos of our move to Montana, I almost didn't find my Christmas mojo in time for the big day. But we strung some lights and unpacked the decorations and rejoiced in being in our own home with a new job and four children all officially ours.
  • 2010: A beautiful and sacred Christmas at home. We'd had some tough things happen in the fall, but the upside of that is that our hearts were humble and open. I coordinated a donation for the homeless shelter from the church. G completed his first semester as a professor.
  • 2011: I planned a ward Christmas party, posted a Christmas song a day on Facebook, changed our gift focus from toys to family activities (snowshoes!), and made sugar cookies with my daughter for the first time. 
It's been twenty years since I spent a Christmas without the delightful, surprising, smart, hardworking, wonderful guy I love, the man I now call Dr. G. I hope I never have to. We have been up and down the roller coaster, for sure, but this Christmas I would say we are better than ever. We have a wild little family. We have stuff to work on. But we can do it. Bring on 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


And one flash-lit. Have a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why you might hear me say "Happy Holidays"

I am all about the Christ in Christmas. Nativity scenes, stories, songs, the family Nativity play, the church service. I believe Christ is the son of God and in his love for us chose to visit our world by experiencing life as we live it, starting as an infant in the most humble circumstances. Conceived before his mother's marriage,  carried in what we must assume was some shame, born in a stable and laid in a bed of straw. Then visited by rich and poor alike, recognized however momentarily as the promised Messiah, heralded by angels and a star in the sky. This is Christmas to me, and it moves me beyond description.

If I already know you have feelings about Christmas similar to mine, I will sure as shooting tell you, "Merry Christmas." Absolutely.

Otherwise, I find "Happy Holidays" to be a beautiful wish to give a friend, and I'll say that to you, instead. Here's why.

When I first started working in my university job seven years ago, I was so excited for Christmas. Well, that's not different from any other year. Anyway, as I left the office before we closed for the holiday, I bid a friend and co-worker farewell with my traditional "Merry Christmas" greeting. Gently she put her hand on my arm, and with a smile, said, "I'm Jewish."

Now, I know the bare bones of Jewish history and I'm also pretty well aware that in the culture I live in, even being a non-mainstream Christian puts me in a position of privilege. And although I never meant to exclude or insult anyone by sharing my Christmas cheer, I did give a greeting that emphasized difference rather than similarity, a vision that was not considerate and probably not appropriate for the workplace, at least with a colleague I did not yet know well. I felt like a jerk.

I don't really like feeling like a jerk. It's not fun. So sometimes now I don't use the holiday season as a chance to tell people I'm a Christian. While I am far from ashamed of my faith, sometimes that's not the way to build friendships and show respect for others.

So, Happy Holidays to you all. I hope they shine, and I hope they offer you closeness with friends old and new, friends who share your faith and friends who differ. I think Jesus would approve.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making Christmas

After the ward party, I kind of feel like I've already done Christmas and want to lie around in my pajamas and play Scrabble-clone games on the computer. It's not going to work.

There are three sick kids in the house. The Christmas cold is a severely under-reported holiday tradition. We eat sugar, we stay up late, we mingle with people, we get sick. It makes perfect sense, actually.

Although my shopping is done, I still have a package to send and lots of wrapping and baking to do. Those are fun jobs, and when I find my energy I'm sure I'll accomplish them, no problem.

I seem to have misplaced a large stack of addressed, stamped Christmas cards. Dear friends, you might get your card a little late this year. I suspect they might be at the church where I was frantically covering cakes with whipped cream on Friday afternoon.

We have three different Christmas programs to attend this week - one at the preschool, one at the elementary school, and one for the Young Musicians' Club where A plays guitar. Fa la la!

Do you ever wonder what would happen to holidays if the mom didn't do the work? Sometimes I do. Not complaining. Just trying to find my motivation.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ward party plans

Through a convoluted series of events, I ended up planning the ward Christmas party that took place last night. Twice. Thankfully I had to execute only one of these plans, the second one and with lots and lots of help. The first one was vetoed by people who, I think, weren't too sure the food would be satisfying. Whatever, I am not going to get all offended by that. I still think it was an awesome plan, so I'm going to post both here fore the benefit of others who may be looking for ideas. I found a dearth of simple, doable ideas when I was searching online, and you know, I always like to share my outstanding ideas.

Ward Christmas Party Plan 1: All On a Christmas Morning

Decor: stock Christmas items (garland, poinsettias) from closet; plastic tablecloths; red and green balloons in a row lengthwise down the center of each rectangular table. Each balloon has candy inside and is tied to a wooden skewer to avoid having to use helium. Skewers are anchored in long boards from quilt frames or other drilled boards placed under the plastic-sheeting tablecloths.

Food: Breakfast for dinner - cinnamon rolls made by YW; breakfast casseroles made by RS; fruit salad; juice and milk; hot cocoa bar with marshmallows and candy canes

Activities: Devotional from bishop, followed by food. After eating, children get to pop the balloons and keep the candy. Ward members may choose to come in pajamas and participate in a PJ fashion show. Prizes awarded for best adult, best teen, best child, and best family PJs. Carol singing with pre-designated leader and pianist. Visit from Santa Claus in foyer with photographer on hand.

Ward Christmas Party Plan 2: Together at Christmas

Decor: stock Christmas items (garland, poinsettias) from closet; plastic tablecloths; artificial tree; runner for serving table only. One poinsettia on each dining table.

Food: Prime rib with jus and horseradish cream sauce (cooked by culinary wizard ward member); garlic mashed potatoes and raspberry-pretzel jello salad (prepared by RS members from distributed recipes); green beans cooked from frozen in church kitchen. Candy-cane cakes prepared by RS presidency (purchased angel food cakes covered with whipped cream and crushed candy canes).

Activities: Devotional from bishop, followed by dinner. After eating, slide show of ward activities from the year just passed, with Christmas music. Then, decorating graham-cracker gingerbread houses pre-assembled (this could be done by the Primary, but in our case was done by the RS presidency). We made 25 graham cracker houses to be decorated by about 125 people. Families and friends worked in teams. As this winds down, start carol singing with pre-designated leader and pianist. Focus on kids' favorite Christmas songs - often the secular ones they learn in school, because this is about fun! Visit from Santa Claus in foyer with photographer on hand.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas lit for kids

Because I am a little bit of an information and media junkie all year 'round, I guess it's no surprise that at Christmas some of the things I love most are the music and books and movies and TV specials and ... what else could we fit in there?

I've done posts in the past about Christmas music. And while I am not one to pull it out the day after Halloween (unless I'm in a really sad mood and need a pick-me-up that badly) I listen to Christmas solid from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. That's not changing.

But I've never written about this other Christmas thing that is absolutely vital for me: kids' books. I have a growing stack of kids' Christmas books. They come out with the decorations and litter the living room for the entire season. The kids really read them, I think because it feels so special to have some different books for just a few weeks out of the year. And it's always special to snuggle up by a lighted tree or a cozy fire to read a story together.

Here are a few favorites. I make no claim that it's a comprehensive list, or anything.

The Nativity by Francesca Crespi is a beautiful pop-up book. I don't normally buy pop-ups, because you can imagine what happens to them in a household like mine. Destroyed! But this one survives, probably because it's only out for a limited time. And it's worth having; it's just lovely. The illustrations are reminiscent of eastern European religious icons, with gold accents and simple, strategic moving parts, and the story of Christ's birth is sweetly told.

Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco is a guaranteed heart-warmer. A child who is bullied at school becomes friends with the school janitor, and gains insights into Christmas spirit that are absolutely unparalleled. Anything by Polacco is worth adding to your library, but this is one of my absolute favorites.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck can't be beat! The writing shines, and the illustrations by Mark Buehner in this edition draw you in and make you almost feel you've lived the story. It helps, I guess, that the nighttime mountains you see all covered with snow look a little like southwest Montana to me. Oh, and I cry in this story. Without fail. It's a good cry, real, not button-pushing. Beautiful.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner (more illustrations by Mark Buehner) is pure fun, a peek at how your snowman celebrates when you're not looking. And if you don't already have it, you had probably better add Snowmen at Night to your list, as well.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. All right, confession. I don't have this book in my hot little hands yet. I just ordered it. But it's way down deep in my soul. This book was the one my dad made us sit through every Christmas Eve before we opened our one present (my family's tradition). I grew up before I realized that it was poetry, not torture. But now it's so full of memories, and I can't wait to bring this edition home this Christmas. I try to add a book a year, and this seems like the perfect choice.

The Polar Express. Come on, do I even need to say anything?

The Nutcracker, as illustrated by the incomparable Maurice Sendak. I cannot imagine a better illustrator to riff on the disturbing fantasia that is this traditional holiday favorite. I've never been a big Nutcracker fan, but I am a huge Sendak fan. And, OK, it's more for me than for the kids.

Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson tells a sweet story about a mouse who learns to make room for the Savior in the little stable he stole from the nativity scene belonging to the family in whose house he lives. Mice are gross, but when they're cartoonish and cute I don't mind them. My kids really enjoy this one.

The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Oh, so sad. Sometimes you need a good cry at Christmas time, don't you? And my kids have been fascinated with it this year. It's given us a good opening to talk about poverty and helping others - so important.

A New Star in Heaven by Val Chadwick Bagley. This is a wonderful hands-on nativity book with a definite Mormon twist. I recommend reading it to one child at a time. If you have a kid on each side, they may be liable to fight over who gets to lift the flaps. Really, I love the way the story is told, and most importantly, the kids love to get involved with the book the way they do in this one.

What are your favorite reads at Christmas time? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


As of tomorrow, I will have had this blog for seven years. Dude, that is a long time. In 2004 blogging was new and trendy and kind of underground, and not a lot of people had blogs. Now everybody has a blog and some people are professional bloggers.

Originally I was going to have this be a group blog of Mormon moms working outside the home. I soon found out that my friends who were in work situations like mine didn't really have time to blog, so the group thing fell by the wayside. I made time because I needed to clear my brain of my mommy stress, food obsessions, religious musings, kid worries, adoption plans, and other stuff to be able to work effectively. It was actually not a bad work strategy.

Two days before Thanksgiving in 2006 we welcomed our first foster baby, little tiny 6-pound Joseph, who only stayed with us for one day. Little did we know that the following week we would meet the baby diva who changed our lives, our Z.  (I can't believe she's about to turn 5. I'm getting her zebra-stripes-and-Minnie-Mouse birthday party ready for Monday.) Just seven months later we met our K, who fit right in and caused total chaos and upheaval, somehow both at the same time.

After giving it a year's worth of my best shot, I realized that a full-time job was not going to jive with being a mother of four (particularly in the foster-adopt process and with some kids with special quirks and needs). So it was about three years ago that I quit my job. Since then I have needed the blog less than before, I guess, and that's why it's tapered off some.

But I was just remembering my first post, a Thanksgiving menu and some disjointed wanderings of the mind. Typical!

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm quitting. I'm not quitting. Just reminiscing at the season of my blogiversary.

In that spirit, here's our menu for this year. You can see that since 2004 I have become, if possible, even more obsessed with food.

cheese plate with stilton, brie and Irish cheddar
butternut squash bisque with sage pesto swirl
fruit cup with berries and pomegranate seeds

orange and rosemary roasted turkey
sourdough stuffing
mashed potatoes (I have learned how to make them without such gluey results!)
pan gravy
steamed and buttered brussels sprouts
green salad in the style of Toni's Courtyard Cafe (with fruit, nuts, dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette)
broccoli salad (our friends are making this)
roasted yams and pineapple
out-of-this-world rolls
cranberry and ginger ale punch

pumpkin pie
dutch apple pie
chocolate cream pie
carrot pudding with rum hard sauce

herbal tea

So, I should get cooking, huh? I'll be in the kitchen, if you want to wish me a happy blogiversary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Last year on Facebook, I wrote something I was grateful for every day for the whole month of November. It was a great thing to do; it opened up my heart and prepared me so well to have a really meaningful and spiritual Christmas season. This year I am pleased to see many friends doing the same thing.

But I haven't been doing it. I don't know if this is a mistake or not. I won't lie to you, the month started out with me struggling to just keep my head above water emotionally and although I still was and still am grateful for the many good things in my life, I didn't really feel like I had the energy to summon up the personal graciousness to declare it every day. I was also having trouble with other people's declarations of "I'm so blessed" and "I'm so grateful," because sometimes it seems like bragging. I've griped about that some, which I know has flummoxed some friends. I know that might not seem like the most mature way to handle a tough spot in your life. But we feel what we feel, and we do what we need to do to get through.

As long as in the meantime we are doing the work we need to do to make life a little better, I think that's ok. Sometimes that just means hanging on until the day looks brighter. Sometimes it means digging deep in your relationships and your approaches to life's problems until you find something you can change. Probably most often it's a little of both.

And that's what's coloring my view of gratitude and grace and graciousness and greatness this Thanksgiving season. I am grateful for forgiveness of my failures to be gentle and kind and understanding when what was really needed from me was so much more than what I gave. I am grateful for the chance to catch up when I have fallen behind. I am grateful for reminders about what's really important. I'm grateful for people who are willing to turn over the rocks and clean out what's underneath with me, and for those who see a need and quietly fill it. I'm grateful for the chances to immerse myself in music or work or exercise or worship during the whole process to allow my mind and heart a little bit of rest. I'm grateful for how words comfort. I'm grateful for how time heals. I'm grateful for blessings I don't deserve.

Life is never going to be all fixed and perfect, that's my conclusion. But there really is an awful lot to thank God for along the way.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

In general

The longer I don't write, the harder it becomes to write. I build up such a backlog of material that I don't know where to start. Or else I get so out of practice that I don't know how.

My sister M2 did a general-purpose update on her blog, which I liked. I didn't know that she was going to Hawaii for Christmas, for example, so I'm glad she blogged it. I had a great trip to Hawaii with my husband when I was exactly her age. It seems like a long time ago, and I guess it pretty much was. We're fifteen years apart but seem to be getting closer as sisters recently. I love it.

Anyway, back on topic. General purpose update. I thought maybe I could go down the line, person by person, Christmas letter style. I'm not sure I'll be writing a Christmas letter this year, anyway. Sometimes it gets hard for me to walk the line between keeping it real and oversharing, and the Christmas letter seems kinda high pressure in a year when things have been a little more real than I'd like at times.

I'll start with myself. I'm riding the frost heaves all right. Lots of up and down. I find I am easily dragged down when my plans are frustrated or when other people are not feeling good. Trying to keep taking care of myself. I think I mostly have the exercise thing down; I know too well how it affects my mood and emotions if I skip. You would never know it to look at me, which is kind of depressing, but I am trying not to be all about how I look, The day the lights go on in my head about controlling what I eat (I seem to have a faulty switch) I will really have it all together. Considering everything going on, some of which I will refrain from writing about (that oversharing thing) I think I am actually doing pretty well.

I am doing a lot of driving these days. Driving to the gym, driving to preschool, driving to drop of somebody's lunch money, driving to guitar lessons. And trying to keep up with people's homework and keep on top of the housework. It is never all done.

I'm editing a big mining textbook that was translated from Spanish. I do not speak Spanish. I speak French, because when I was 13 my mother thought I should take Spanish. So I took French. See how I am? The edit has been hard, and I've made liberal use of Google Translate and moved embarrassingly slowly, but it's also been pretty educational. By the end of the project I predict I will be able to read Spanish pretty passably and also be able to pass about two years of mining engineering courses without too much trouble, should I have the desire. I've finally given myself a deadline and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately the client is my dad and he's almost superhumanly patient. I'm also still writing the occasional story for my former employer, work that is easy and fun. I love it. And I learned from my bishop that the Friend magazine will probably be publishing another one of my stories next June. I don't know which one. I guess they check with the bish before they go too far in the editorial process to make sure their authors haven't gone off the deep end. Probably smart.

I'm stuck on Pinterest and want to do all the cool projects I see there. So many excellent ideas. I try to pick up one every now and then. Often crochet, or upcycling, or something to cook or bake, or an organizing type thing. It always feels good to do work that stays done (as opposed to laundry or dishes).

Dr. G continues to be even more awesome than he thinks he is (haha). He is working so hard at everything and has gigantic expectations for himself. He has gotten a pretty extraordinary amount of research money for a young professor at a small teaching-oriented university and is pursuing a big NASA grant. He just got back from a trip to visit a mining company that is funding one of his projects. They love him, of course. He is in charge of the boys ages 12-18 at church and puts in a tremendous amount of time with them. And he is still committed to quality and quantity time with our kids. They have been fishing and having a great time together. I am sure I don't say it enough but I am pretty much crazy about my husband. He's had a bumpy road himself the last couple of months, managing all this stuff and the stress that comes with it. My wish for him - just that he could understand that nobody's perfect but he is pretty dang close.

S has made great progress since the last time I wrote about him in my "Dumps" post. It really was a rough start to junior high. Since then we have had two meetings with G and me and all S's teachers and counselors together, plus I've gone to parent-teacher conferences. It has been a relief to see the teachers start to understand him, and him start to understand how to work within the system at school. All the teachers say he has done the proverbial 180. He has become significantly less stressed and better behaved. His grades are coming up, and he is in the Rocket Club. He launched his rocket yesterday. It was a huge success, shooting way up into the clouds before landing in the field next to the school. I went to watch it with my littles, and we were all impressed. S has wonderful friends in church and Scouts, something I'm really grateful for. He is happy in that environment and doing well.

A is my rock, which I worry is unfair to say about a child but he really is just the kid I can count on to help out and be good and sweet almost all the time. Everyone loves him, especially little girls, and we seem to see girls he knows everywhere we go. His only struggle is finishing his work in class, because he's just too interested in the people around him. I know I should hate that but I kind of love it. His heart is so good and I know it will serve him well in life. If we can just keep up with the math, too, we'll be golden. He read the book "Holes" for school and really enjoyed that. But he's always reading something; it's getting hard for me to even keep track. Luckily I am a book hound so it would be pretty hard for him to run out of material. Last month he sang a duet with a friend in the Primary program at church. It was absolutely beautiful. I know it is hard for him to live with some non-typical siblings. It stresses him out sometimes. We understand each other in that way! It's easy to forget he's just a kid, but I try to let him know how much I appreciate him.

K is still so stinking cute at age 7. I remember thinking that my older boys were getting kind of big and gangly and less cute (more handsome and of course still lovable) at this age, so how is it that K is still my adorable little guy? I guess that's the advantage of being a younger child and small for his age (his brothers are both on the big side). He is hilarious and delights in that - pretty much a ham. His little rubberface expressions just kill me. He is struggling with his ADHD a little bit right now; it's not affecting his behavior so much as his concentration and attention, especially in the classroom, and so we are looking at adjusting his meds. Very often I finish my dinner, for example, and look over to find he hasn't even taken a bite yet. He's just way too distracted by everything else going on. Good thing he's adorable because this inattentive business is pretty crazy-making. He has a couple of good friends at school and church but really prefers his brothers over all other company. Pretty cute.

Z is really blossoming in preschool. It's amazing to see her so engaged with learning letters and numbers, days and months, and skills like buttoning her own buttons, which she now insists on doing. She loves her teacher and her little friends. Back in September G took a morning off work to teach her how to ride her little bike without training wheels, and she's so proud of that. She's also great about wearing her helmet (yeah!) maybe because we got a cute one with flowers. It's so interesting to me how different she is from me in her tastes and proclivities. For instance, she would choose hot pink and zebra stripes over my preferred earth tones and natural materials any day of the week. So I think we are going to be having a zebra-stripe Minnie Mouse birthday party at the end of this month. I'm amazed that my baby is about to turn five. On the other hand, little girl can sing. I love to hear her singing to herself or her dolls throughout the day. Girl after my own heart.

Heidi the dog still mostly just wants a few things in life: love, cheese, and long walks. Sounds pretty good, right? We've had her a whole year now and although we go through more vacuum bags than before (German Shepherds shed) she is a wonderful addition to our household. Most mellow dog I have ever met. It might be because she's mentally challenged but that's fine by me. A smart dog would probably be more than I could handle.

Montana is getting cold. I am buckling down for the long winter. Maybe with the weather getting crappy and the general-purpose update behind me, I'll write some more for you. We'll see.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Open up

We have this kind of unusual situation in the ward (church congregation) here. There are a lot of people on the rolls who, as newbies of two years, we don't know. Never met 'em. OK, that's not so unusual. The thing is that here, a stunningly high percentage of these folks are on the far end of elderly. So we tend to have a funeral at the church every couple of weeks for a person we don't know.

I am working in the Relief Society (church women's organization) and also happen to be one of the people in the ward who sings and leads music fairly comfortably. So one way or the other I end up being tapped to help out with a lot of these funerals. Which I don't mind a bit, truly. It is a privilege to do some small thing for people, even strangers, who have lost a dear one, whether it's making brownies or serving food or standing up at the front of the chapel waving my arms around.

And I have some experience being involved with funerals. In California, we cherished our friendship with a couple where the wife was a wonderful singer and the husband was a funeral director. When the wife couldn't be there for a funeral that needed music, I sometimes stepped in with "Ave Maria" or something. For a beloved mother whose funeral was thronged with her family ... or a man who died of AIDS-related causes whose family would not even attend his memorial service. It always gave me cause for thought, compassion, humility.

So, today. I got called to open up the church for the mortuary staff, then lead the music and sing "Be Still, My Soul." All good. The thing was, I was singing almost as much a solo during the hymns with arm-waving as the hymn without. I think I saw one person in the congregation whose mouth was moving. And it was not a small group. This woman's family obviously loved her and remembered her with a lot of humor and affection. But whoa, man, once the organ kicked in, stony-faced silence. They were anti-music or maybe anti-Mormon or something.

And I can roll with that. Sure, it's awkward for the lady in the front with the music stand. But of course it's not about that.

Just, when I kick the bucket someday in the far future, please open up your mouths and sing at my funeral.

Monday, September 12, 2011


  1. I did not sleep well. I have a lot of problems with racing brain syndrome. When I take melatonin I have dreams where I am screaming at people. Usually they are pretty telling dreams and I really cannot deal with that right now.
  2. I have a kid who needs a dosage increase but is already at the maximum dosage for his medication. ADHD parents have some clue what I'm talking about. He is grounded until Wednesday and has detention for the next three days for yelling in the hallway at school. We have already spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on therapy this year. I'm not sure where else to go from this point. I am grateful that he is more functional than some other kids I know. I am not grateful that his issues are invisible and often people (including me) have unreasonable expectations of him. I am confused about what my expectations should be. I am not feeling very confident as a mom lately.
  3. Said kid flooded the basement storage room over the weekend by sticking the backyard hose in the dryer vent pipe. I am grateful that my dryer still works but not grateful to be washing every towel I own today. And I am trying hard not to think about mold.
  4. When I go to class at the Y I am more the speed of the 50-somethings than the other 30-somethings. Any 30-somethings in the same kind of shape as me want to go and start being my class buddy? I'm getting a bad inferiority complex.
  5. Speaking of age, as I approach the next decade my chin has decided it would be fun to start growing whiskers. I called an electrolysis lady. She told me to stop plucking and call her back in a couple of weeks. So now I shave, like a man, and am working myself up to another embarrassing phone call. Did I mention I have telephonophobia anyway?
  6. Montana is smoking. You cannot see the mountains. The air is gray. My throat hurts. My nose is bleeding a couple times a day. I worry a great deal about my two asthmatic kids. I don't even have the energy to worry about the poor firefighters. I am tired of this.
  7. My preschooler still has not started preschool. We pay for the whole month of September but she doesn't get to go until this Thursday. She is so bored when all her brothers are in school and she has no one to bug but me and our slightly mentally challenged but sweet and sainted dog. It is tantrum city around here. All three of us need preschool in a bad way.
I thought I might get to ten reasons why today sucks, but past seven I would be scraping. And when you already have seven things to complain about, why scrape for more?

On the bright side, it's my girls' weekend in Park City this weekend. I hope it's not smoky.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bite the bullets

Random thoughts for tonight.
  • I am not at all pleased about this. (Administrators from our school district are striking for more pay, and our schools are closed as of 6 p.m. today because of course, teachers will not cross picket lines.) I appreciate school principals and know they work hard. The new principal at our neighborhood elementary is particularly impressive, and I wouldn't put him down. I also absolutely believe in collective bargaining rights for public employees. However, I have a hard time seeing principals and other administrators as labor-side rather than management-side. And I think they and the district could have tried harder to come to an agreement before striking. Shame on both sides for not giving just a little more to keep our kids in school. What is it that people in today's world do not understand about "meet in the middle?" 
  • Yes, Washington D.C., I am talking about you, too. I am appalled that the president (whom I support) is criticized by his own party for a simple courtesy like rescheduling a speech to accommodate the other party's presidential primary debate, for example. Seriously? Can't you all just act normal?
  • Also, how can one principal per school really create a picket line? Wouldn't that be a picket point? And how would you cross it even if you tried?
  • Pinterest. Trouble on a stick. Just saying.
  • I understand capes are in fashion this fall. In a fortunate coincidence, I happen to own a vintage navy blue wool cape. (Thank you, Miriam!) What would you wear with a vintage navy blue wool cape? Slim pants (almost an oxymoron for me, rather a big-legged mama) and boots seem to be de rigeur. Are black and navy OK together now? Or do I have an excuse to spring for some brown boots? What answer do you think I want?
  • Guess how long it took me this morning to fold the laundry after a Scout camping trip in which half my family participated. Go ahead. Give up? Four hours. I need a wife, right?
  • We have taken up fishing. Rather, Dr. G has taken up fishing and brings with him three willing boys, a reluctant wife with her camera and current novel, and a small daughter who thinks she would like to fish but mostly ends up throwing tantrums. So far: four trips. Two small rainbow trout. We will try to value the family time over the protein. At least they do taste good. I told G there's a reason people call it a fishing expedition when they are undertaking a venture that offers no guarantee of any results at all.
  • Z rides a bike without training wheels, as of last Friday. It almost breaks my heart. Not that I want a baby, or that I want her to stay a baby, but that she is just not going to be small for very much longer. She is overjoyed.
  • If these bullet points were peanut butter M&Ms I really would bite them. Even if I hypothetically found them on the floor of the minivan, left over from several weeks ago. Hypothetically.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer Into

It's the last day of August. When I was a teenager in Alaska I wrote a song about how that feels. It wasn't a particularly good song, but I remember it, and I remember trying to capture that feeling. It's ominous, the ending of a northern summer, because you know it's not coming back for a good, long time. But it also gives you new beginnings as an academic year starts, and a lot to look forward to if you like coziness and white Christmases and sleds and firelight.

The temperature has dropped from 90 (we think that's hot in Montana, and give us a break, nobody here has air conditioning!) to 71. Clouds are rolling in as I type. I can't sleep with the window open anymore, lest I feel like I'm camping. That feeling has its place, and it's not in my bedroom.

I am wearing my comfy white cropped cargo pants and yellow block-print-floral t-shirt for probably the last time this year. I've given myself a final self-administered summer pedicure in Snappy Sorbet. (Definitely my favorite color of the summer - coral with a little pearliness to it.) I'm on the lookout for a cute, new fall color to which I can treat myself. Anybody got suggestions? I'm thinking maybe something in the tan-to-taupe range.

Fall seems like the time to curl up with a quilt and a book, like Jo in Little Women. I got a Louise Erdrich book to read. I realized that it was twenty years ago I first met this phenomenal author. I read Tracks in my high school A.P. English class. Twenty years is a long time to love one writer. I still love this one. I'm just about a third of the way through Shadow Tag. So far it is as vivid, complicated and moving as any previous books I've read from Erdrich (a lot of them). It's early for this, but I'd already say you might want to pick it up.

I'm reading more because I'm mostly trying to follow the no-screens-on-weekdays rule I've imposed on the rest of my family. (Folding laundry doesn't count.) That's necessary because the kids are back in school, three days' worth. We've taken the back-to-school snapshots. We even have a filing system for papers. Each school kid got a three-compartment file organizer. I labeled them with names, and then "Keep/File," "Work to Do" and "Return to School." After school we sort each backpack out and do homework. In the morning, they can just grab their completed work and signed papers (so many of those papers for Mom to sign the first week of school!) and go. Under each file organizer will hang a backpack hook. I've bought them, but I haven't put them up yet. I'm also hoping to get a big tray for the boots. But we haven't gotten to boot season yet.

Still, I urgently want some Bogs. They're waterproof, insulated, and super cute. You have your choice of colors. I have seen them worn to church, with a dress. I love it. This is the kind of place where you basically flip off any fashion rules you want, anyway. Almost like in Alaska where Sorels and the symphony go perfectly well together. I have shopped around for the Bogs I want, and Amazon's price is the best one I've seen. Just saying. I have cute boots, thanks to my cute professor, but they are not the kind of boots you want to wear in mud and slush. These boots could handle it. If we get the kind of freeze/thaw this winter that we got last winter, that's going to be pretty important.

The storm has hit now, mostly moved on, given everything a fast drenching in big drops. A few rumbles of thunder have been and gone. The sun's shining on the wet streets as the last drops land on my patio roof. My kids need help with their homework. Here comes fall.

Monday, August 22, 2011


When I was about 10, my mom taught me how to make macaroni and cheese. Not the kind from a box. Homemade, with a white-sauce-based cheese sauce. Not baked. Just soft, creamy, cheesy goodness all the way through.

I strayed for a while. I bought the blue boxes. They seemed cheap and easy. Eventually I realized that while my kids asked for these boxes and thought they liked the resulting goo (known to some as the Yellow Death), they never actually ate it. That's no bargain.

I switched back this summer to the recipe I learned as a kid. I might kick it up a little more than I did 27 years ago. But the idea's the same, and it's always a hit. Today I made it for nine little people. It was gone before I could get a picture.

This is not a diet recipe. All my kids are skinny and need to pork up, in my opinion. You can lighten it by using less butter, lowfat milk, and less or lowfat cheese. If you're using less cheese, try a sharper flavor. Maybe some sharp cheddar or parmesan. My mom made some recently using really good Irish cheddar. It was divine.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound dry pasta - any stubby variety will do. Today we used rotelle.

4 tbsp. butter or butterlike substance. Today, Brummel and Brown spread. Even olive oil works, in a pinch.
3-4 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk (skim or 1% is fine; use whole if you really want to fatten up those children so you can eat them later.)
1 c. grated medium cheddar cheese. More or less will still work. Other kinds will also work.

Seasonings to taste:
salt (a pinch is enough; milk and cheese are salty things!)
white pepper (I use about 3 good shakes)
dry mustard (half a teaspoon does me fine)
turmeric (tiny bit, for color only)

Boil pasta in salted water until done. Drain in a colander.

In the same pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir to make a paste. Cook about 1 minute to get rid of the floury taste. Add milk. Whisk constantly until smooth and thickened. Stir in cheese and seasonings. Taste and adjust.

Add pasta and stir to coat.

Serve to cute-faced people. Grapes are great on the side and perfectly in season right now, at the end of one fun summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Last night I dreamed of my friend Mimi, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2007. In my dream, I was a middle schooler, and she saved me from a long walk in high heels by giving me a lift in her car. It was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She let me drive.

I think I'm going to be happy all day.

Monday, August 08, 2011


August is a really wonderful time to be in a northern clime. I always got homesick for Fairbanks about this time of year when I lived in hot places. Now that I am in Montana, it's almost like being there. In some ways, possibly even nicer.

The days are warm, but almost never uncomfortable. (Never too hot to bake if you fancy, for example, a banana cake with penuche frosting after you go over to volunteer at the food bank with a bunch of church people and the director is desperately trying to give out black bananas because what food bank director could stand to waste bananas?) It's in the 80s Fahrenheit. Like a perfect May day in California, except with no pollution. The air is as clear as a polished window. Clearer.

A thunderstorm may or may not roll through in the late afternoon or early evening. Big drops splash on the roof of my patio and make a lot of wonderful noise. Afterward I can smell the spruce trees in the backyard mixing with that clean rain smell and it's pretty near heaven. The birds sing up in those trees and I wish I could see them better. My K, who is now 7, says he can see a nest.

Flowers are tumbling gloriously everywhere, from hanging baskets and beds and anyplace people can put them. It's going to be white and gray here for a long time. Like in Alaska, people in Montana know how to enjoy color and scent in summer. My garden is pretty shabby this year because I was gone so long. Just some salvia and sage blossoms and nasturtiums. Petrovskia struggling along and not blooming. But the nasturtiums are only starting to get good and I sure do love them and look forward to them. My strawberry patch is thriving.

Speaking of berries, let's change the topic to cherries. My sweet 90-something across-the-street neighbor, Louise, called me over after I brought the kids back from swimming at the YMCA this afternoon. She gave me a huge bowl of cherries, and they are not just any old cherries. These sweet, burgundy-black beauties are from the Flathead Valley. They are the best I've had since I was a little girl on a ladder, picking cherries from a huge, overgrown tree in the yard of a hundred-year-old house in Ogden where my family lived for a couple of years. The cherries I ate tonight were picked this morning. You can't beat that.

We went for a family hike tonight up Maud S Canyon which is so convenient to town and amazingly beautiful. It has been a wet year and a lot of plants are still green that would be dried out in a normal year, all nestled in around the big boulders on the mountainside. And there are tons of sweet little flowers, thistle and baby's breath and different kinds of clovers and fireweed and cowslip and other things I don't know how to identify yet. It was pretty spectacular, and to top it off  we got the most amazing sunset.

We traveled a lot this summer. We had a wonderful time. It is good to be home.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Teaching is giving

A short story from Grandpa Tom, who taught band for many years in a couple of different high schools in northern Utah and far southeastern Idaho, told in his voice if not his exact words. (My dad and brother have worked to record many of Grandpa's stories on video, but I just had my leaky old brain with me this weekend, no fancy equipment.)

Mostly on band trips things went pretty well. I don't think we ever had a boy and girl get together, that I knew of. Just the worry about it. Sometimes the boys did a little drinking. But usually there was not much trouble.

One time I took a group of kids to Disneyland. A girl came up to me and said, "Mr. N-----, so-and-so needs you." I asked her what for. She said, "She's taken a bottle of perfume and they won't release her until somebody pays a $300 fine in cash."

Well, cash! I never carried cash. But for some reason this time I had put a thousand dollars in my wallet. So I went and paid the fine. Oh, was she glad to see me.

Here I said, "I sure hope her parents paid you back." Grandpa quickly replied.

Oh, they couldn't have. Her dad had been in an accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. He tried to do some substitute teaching, and the kids were good to him, but it was never enough. They couldn't have paid that fine. But I think she learned something.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Here I am, returning to Watch Out for Mama after what I think is my longest ever hiatus. Two months. I'm doing this because I've returned to another place, severed from many of my responsibilities and holed up in a cool house on a beyond-hot day in a hot place.

In case you haven't guessed, I am definitely not in Montana at the moment. Although I've heard it's what passes for hot there today - 90 degrees.

I'm here in California. Subletting a furnished house in my six-year hometown while Dr. G does contract work in Fresno, reuniting with old friends, and remembering how it feels to stand under the AC vent and try to suck the coolness into my body when it's 105 degrees outside.

It is kind of surreal. Kind of like I never left. I still turn the wheel of my van around familiar corners very nearly on autopilot. Cruise the aisles of the stores and know where to find things. Pick out my strawberries and baby pattypan squash at the roadside stand and feel a little lifted by the smiles of the cute Hmong teenagers who work there.

We went to our old ward today and hugged and hugged and hugged again, dear people who saw me through the early Watch Out for Mama years when I was so unbelievably overextended and trying to convince myself and prove to the world all the time that I could handle it, really! People who watched my kids when I was working, some on a regular basis and some as backups. Who showed up when I got a new foster baby (remember little one-day Joseph?) or lost one. Visiting teaching contacts who let me sit on their sofas for hours and learn from them, or companions who called and made sure things got done when I didn't have that kind of time anymore, or who averted their eyes from my dusty corners on regular visits and then showed up when I really needed help. Sisters who taught me by their example how to serve - to choose helpers whose strengths compensated for my weaknesses, to sit by a stranger and ask her questions about herself, to go without fear on God's errands.

We have still to visit the campus where I worked. That was also hard to leave. But now there is a brick there with our family name on it - my gift to Dr. G on his graduation. And I do still work with my colleagues there. It's a joy for me to be in touch with them and to keep getting to know the staff and alumni of that school. Does my heart good, every time. This week I get to visit my old haunt in the university's downtown office to interview a new employee there. It should be fun. Just fun. Not too bittersweet, I don't think.

This town was a unique kind of training ground for me. I can't say I implement all its lessons very well sometimes. But I did learn and I am better than I was before I came here. I wonder if I will cry again when I leave. Maybe not. I have a new home and dear friends in Montana now; I won't be leaping into the unknown like I was at the end of 2009. But returning to California has reminded me how dear it is to my heart.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


S started neurofeedback training in March to help with his ADHD symptoms and some other issues. We’re doing everything we can to help him get ready to go to middle school this fall. It’s a little bit nerve wracking because, well, middle school sucks for most kids. And for a non-typical kid coming from a homeschool environment there will probably be even more challenges. But we feel like it’s time. The district has good professionals who are offering lots of support already. They can do things that truthfully I, untrained in education and child development, probably can’t do. Not to mention, I urgently need a break.

Anyway, neurofeedback. Two sessions each week. This means I have spent a lot of time in the waiting room. Reading more magazines than normal. 

Celebrities are not my hobby. I don’t consider myself a gossip hound, but stuck in a row of chairs with nothing to do and given the choice between People and Sports Illustrated, I will choose People every time. I’d never buy it myself, but it does pass the time while S trains his brain. 

Same with fluff women’s magazines – Good Housekeeping, Redbook, whatever. I am willingly and easily sucked right in. It is shocking how much I have read lately about ways to have your best body, dress fashionably, decorate my home, wear good makeup and emulate various celebrities.

This may explain why I dreamed about being Kate Middleton on a honeymoon in Alaska and being so thrilled and in love that I had to write all my grievances about social injustice on my hand in ballpoint pen so I would remember to tell my new husband about them instead of just swooning every time I saw him. Or about taking all my kids to see the Breeders in concert at a restaurant where we had great seats, but it turned out that there were a lot more sisters in the band these days, not just Kim and Kelly Deal. And they looked a lot more … Kardashian-like, a la the cover of the May 2011 Redbook.

I know you wanted that peek inside my brain today.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


One of the benefits of being married to a first-year professor is this: He may come home late, but he comes home, usually. He's so wrapped up in course preparation and academic writing that he doesn't have time to travel, and he's not yet connected enough to have a lot of things to travel to. I see my husband almost every night.

A lot of women I know are not that lucky. It's something I remind myself about when the paycheck barely makes it to the end of the month and I feel a little envy for families whose primary breadwinner's profession of choice took less sacrifice and preparation and/or pays more money. ("Why did I become a professor?" Dr. G asked one day recently. "Well, it wasn't for the money!" replied cranky I.)

But this week he is paying dues with a solid networking-type connection, delivering a talk at the workplace of a grad school buddy. Staying in a hotel and eating in restaurants, working out when he chooses without worrying about childcare, receiving adulation for the work he does, and enjoying some California sunshine. All alone.

I am mothering four children in a Montana springtime; each day we seem to get some sun, some bitter and nasty wind, and some blowsy, non-sticking snow. I am schlepping A, who has pneumonia, to the doctor every day for lung-listening checks and oxygen checks and antibiotics shots. (Thank heavens the doctor is trying to keep him out of the hospital and so far succeeding as he begins to recover.) I am greeting the efficient and smiling women at my favorite pharmacy, yet again. I am administering oxygen and inhalers and nebulizer treatments and prednisone and Zithromax. I am hounding kids to do the dishes. I am breaking up fights. I am worrying about walking the dog and not walking the dog. I am hanging tough through my final few weeks of homeschooling S. I am trying hard to stay on top of parent-teacher communications. I am folding pile after pile after pile of laundry. I am refusing to get anxious about all the crap that certain people have piled up in the yard and certain dogs have piled up in the back. I am preparing to trek to Missoula for neurofeedback tomorrow with not two but three kids in tow, because pneumonia boy is not cleared for school attendance yet. Getting ready to spend my birthday money on gas for the trip, and hoping the van doesn't have any problems, because it is overdue for scheduled maintenance but seriously, when would it be ok for me to have a carless day?

Am I envying the good doctor? Well, duh. Missing the days when I traveled for work and having fond memories of exploring Chicago, Las Vegas, San Antonio, L.A. on my own? Yes.

But unhappy? Surprisingly, not really. Because you know what, I am rocking this. I am actually getting this done. I am not breaking down. Did you hear me? I have not yet lost it!

And I am remembering all the time that if my husband were not so awesome at taking on his share and often more than his share of the work when he is home, I wouldn't notice it so much when he is gone. I am in fact very lucky.

I remember talking in some English-major type class in college about elements that are so glaringly absent - in this case, from a novel - that they become presences in that novel. The absent presence. Maybe that is what I will call Dr. G when he is traveling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


How long since we had a stuff post? Oh, long. I mean a stuff I have and love post ... not a stuff-I-wish-for post. So. Let's have a stuff I love post. I am doing this fancy Amazon thing now, and I do get paid if you click and buy, but I promise you I will not link any bad deals or any stuff that I don't sincerely love.

Are you using sunscreen? I am trying so hard to be better about this. I live at a high altitude. The air is actually clean. The air is cold. It's easy to get fooled and it's super, super easy to get sunburned. I do not want to have skin cancer, never never never. And I have been burned so much in my life, I know I am already at risk. You need to use sunscreen, too! Every day!

This Neutrogena moisturizer is my favorite sunscreen product for everyday for my face. I used it before I started using Proactiv for my delightful adult acne issues. I am using it again now in addition to the Proactiv routine. Works fine. Is not stinky. Has handy pump dispenser. Cheaper than the (also excellent) Proactiv products that do the same thing.

I still use a Proactiv SPF 30 product when I'm going to be outside all day long, by the way.

Pay attention, this is a two-pack. That makes it as cheap as it is at WalMart. Good deal.

You could not call me a trendy person, really. But I do like to pretend I am keeping up with something somewhat current in my appearance. Very often it is nail polish, because nail polish is cheap and, let's be honest, doesn't care if I need to lose a few pounds.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in the color Commander in Chic was my big fancy fashion splurge this winter. Heh.

I keep my toes painted even in winter now. Not what I would have thought would happen now that I live in the land of boots and sweaters and real winter parkas. But I go to class at the YMCA and spread out my yoga toes on the mat and we can't have them looking all gross and toe-ey, now, can we?

So Commander in Chic is gray, but it's sort of this multidimensional gray that changes hues in different light or with different clothing. When you wear brown with it, it looks taupe. When you wear it with brighter colors or pastels, it looks lavender. It's a great, great color.

This polish also has a really great rounded brush that makes it much easier to polish your nails without messing up. Also, price on Amazon about the same as Wal-Mart, so click up.

 Who loves perfume? Well, not everyone. But I do. What I love is really sweet perfume, really yummy smelling, usually with some gardenia somewhere in it.

Donna Karan is the lucky winner of my last two favorite-perfume titles. Her scent Gold was so fabulous; sadly for me it was discontinued, which left me using my remaining bottle only for special dates with Dr. G. Ahem.

Then I caught a whiff of Be Delicious. I had a hard time deciding between this version and the pink Fresh Blossom kind. Big surprise, in the end my favorite color won out. I used a Christmas gift card and my mailman brought it right to me! It is sweet and fruity and yummy. Today Z caught a whiff of it and tried to trade me for the water-filled body spray bottle I gave her a few months ago. Nice try, sweetie. And I appreciate that you have great taste. But N to the O.

And this perfume is being made as we speak, so I can wear it every single day except for when I am going to the doctor or a particular visiting teaching lady or to church where I know people are sensitive to it. So I can enjoy smelling myself almost all the time.

Do you remember the one singular thing I rock at as a mother? Hint: It is not speaking softly ... or keeping a clean house!

It is reading to my kids. We just finished Around the World in 100 days by Gary Blackwood, who also wrote The Shakespeare Stealer. He is a good, solid writer of historical novels - great teaching tools and lots of fun.

Around the World follows the adventures of Hari Fogg, son of the famous and fictional Phileas Fogg (how is that for alliteration?) who circumnavigated the globe in 80 days. Hari - more commonly known by his Anglicized name of Harry - does it all (except the oceans) in a steam-powered car with his best friend, a mechanical genius who suffers the effects of a head injury, an intrepid young woman reporter, and the annoying Charles Hardiman, who is the son of Hari's betting nemesis, railroad tycoon Julius Hardiman.

There's lots of great geography to learn. Lots of cultural fun, especially when Hari meets an Indian man who teaches him about that part of his own heritage. Sabotage, disaster and conflict plague them until the gripping finish. Very, very fun read. My A really identified with the dashing and adventurous biracial hero.

Once we finished "Harry," as my kids called the book, we jumped right into On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells.

Yes, that Rosemary Wells, Rosemary Wells of Max and Ruby fame, at least around here. Have you seen Zora reading Max's Chocolate Chicken? I can't believe that was a whole year ago. She is still a huge fan of Max and Ruby. Who wouldn't love Max and Ruby?

We are also loving Blue Comet. We just hit the big twist where it turns into more than a Depression-era coming-of-age story. I won't even tell you. Just the characters and the language will be enough to pull you in. You don't even need a twist, but what a great twist! Get the book!

Bonus: my oldest son who loves to call people "hobo" as a lighthearted insult is actually learning what a hobo was in that era and why people left their homes and rode the rails.

More stuff to love, no links:
  • The Kirkland dried cherries from Costco. I am supposed to eat less chocolate because it contributes to kidney stones. Boo on that. But the cherries are a nice, indulgent but healthy substitute.
  • Two dollars' worth of daffodils from Safeway. Bring an unreasonable amount of joy for a whole week if you buy them unopened and keep them watered.
  • Thrifting in Missoula. Holy fun thrift stores up there.
That's all for tonight!