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!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Devoid of strife

Today we sang "Gently Raise the Sacred Strain" in sacrament meeting. I love that hymn - beautiful melody, inspiring words about the sabbath and the sacrament. And what a blessing, we have had a holy day (mostly) devoid of strife. I thought I better write it down, because that doesn't happen too often. We are sort of a high-drama family sometimes.

The kids all got ready for church basically on time. I had to leave about 20 minutes before church started instead of our usual 10 (we are spoiled, aren't we!?) to get the room prepared for the Sunday School lesson I was teaching, so G brought S who had not yet finished breakfast. By some miracle (probably the miracle called Patient Daddy) the kid managed to get out of bed at 8:20 and still be at church, appropriately dressed, fed, and unstinky, by 9. With no screaming or fighting.

My friend Angie and her family spoke in sacrament meeting about families. They did a beautiful job focusing on the positive. As her husband spoke about the family he grew up in I had to fight off my usual pang of envy and bristle of resentment for the low-drama type families; it sounds like he grew up in a wonderful environment (I did, too) and has a great relationship with his family (there are spots where this is harder). He spoke about how his siblings voted to forgo Christmas one year so that his parents could pay for an expensive brace he needed in order to continue playing football, which was really important to him. I wish for peaceful and giving relationships like that. And then I tried to apply my work of the last year about acceptance and priorities and doing my best and letting go the rest. And it helped. And that allowed me to see past my issues and find the things I needed to apply from the talks today. Not easy stuff. Worthwhile stuff, though.

I taught my lesson, which was about three miracles from the Savior's ministry - the healing at the pool of Bethesda, the feeding of the 5,000, and Christ walking on the water. It was so up my alley, lots of talk about symbolism and grace. Or maybe I just made it that way. Anyway the class seemed reasonably engaged and it was a good experience for me. I do love how teaching or speaking seems to focus my study and prayer.

Relief Society was also lovely, and not just because the teacher brought us Cadbury Mini Eggs. Yeah, I've admitted it to my sister and a couple of friends - I am off the wagon with Mr. Sugar. I will try again. Anyway the lesson was about the Word of Wisdom and I was really pleased at how the ladies kept it understanding and non-judgmental. (Irony anyone? W of W lesson while sucking down the most addictive candy on earth?)

We had soup and sandwiches for lunch, then a lovely nap, interrupted only a couple of times by my enthusiastic Ms. Z. I made quiche and a big, yummy salad and talked to my parents on the phone while G and Z took Heidi the dog for a walk, and then after we ate the kids went outside to play with G while I ... did this. Blogging and facebooking. The fireplace is on, the clouds are layered high and feathery, and I have a lemon meringue pie in the fridge. What better dessert for a pie-type dinner than pie? Right?

Lovely Sunday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Birthday Fairy

Dear Birthday Fairy,

In just more than a month I will be turning 37. Unmistakably closer to 40 than 30. I feel I should get some recognition for making it through the last year. Since you see me when I'm sleeping and know when I'm awake (that's you, right?) we don't have to go into details here.

Right now we have committed significant resources to medical stuff, and I'm grateful we can do that, but it's not exactly satisfying to shop for a kidney stone removal, hernia repair, or neurofeedback therapy. And it all leaves me no room to do real shopping. So what I'm going to do instead is make a wish list and turn it over to you. Then clap my hands three times and wish real hard.

We will start with a dress that reminds me of my 1970s childhood. It's my favorite color, green, with hippie embroidery. It looks so comfortable and pretty and perfect for a Montana summer.

This dress comes from Sahalie. I have a couple of other dresses bought on clearance from this place. They are easy to wear and always look good. I got them for like $20 each. This one, uh, costs a little more. Hey, if it were cheap I would just sneak it in to the monthly expenses.

While you are there at Sahalie, dear birthday fairy, I could use one of these for my wild hair. Have I mentioned how my post-35 hair bends in all kind of funky directions, which is disconcerting for a girl whose hair used to be stick-straight? And how I hate styling my hair? It's so boring. It takes up so much time that I would rather spend on other things. And yet I hate how it looks when I don't do anything.

Please bring it in pink. And if you want to bring me a black one and a white one, that would also be excellent. See, that could so be me, with the dangly earrings and the sun-kissed cheeks and the cute thing on my head.

Especially when I am in California this summer. Have I mentioned I am going to California this summer? I'm super excited.

One more fabulous item from Sahalie. This is a dream item. I will most likely still be dreaming of it next Christmas.

But look at these boots.

I got black Martino boots for Christmas from my thoughtful husband (after I thoughtfully sent him the link and let him know that these would be required in order for me to have a satisfying holiday). They do not disappoint. They fit like a dream and even accommodate my, ahem, more than athletic calves.

I need brown for other outfits. I was straitly trained by my father, no less, that one should not wear black shoes with brown clothing. It's ingrained in me. Way down deep. So this is a need, not a want. Maybe it will go on sale with summer coming? I could wear boots all summer long in Montana.

All right, moving on. I also need an Amazon gift card, because there is all kinds of new music that I urgently need.

First of all, a new album from Ari Hest, about whom I am still embarrassingly crushy.Did I tell you that when G and I went to see him live in Berkeley I was so crushy I couldn't really talk to him? And he talks to people at his shows.  Yeah, I'm a dork.

Ari has previewed a lot of music from this album on YouTube if you want to check it out.

He's also touring this spring. If he's close to you, dear Birthday Fairy, I really think you should go. In spite of my shyness, I'm awfully glad we drove from Merced to Berkeley for his show in November 2009. Unfortunately a Montana date does not appear to be on the list (shocker) and since I can't even afford to download MP3s this spring I'm sure you can understand I can't quite manage a trip to Denver (this weekend - sniff sniff!) or Seattle.

Guess who else has a new album? My other guitar-boy crush, Lenny Kravitz. Lenny, why is your new album not on Amazon? Will you get on that? I don't like downloading from iTunes. I think they're communists, which is how my husband's family tends to describe successful capitalists or anyone else who wants their money, especially if they don't provide a particularly satisfying product. (I still have a cheap Sansa mp3 player that works great, and iTunes won't sync to it, plus I resent digital rights management. I'm no criminal.)

Moving entirely out of the crush category (trust me) but more than securely in the we-are-not-worthy musical amazingness category, Paul Simon has a new album that will be out two weeks before my big day. I will need to be getting that.

The first single, "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" came out before the holidays. Those smart marketing people. It's not really a Christmas song, exactly, but it's really good. You can hear it here on YouTube.

Seriously, though, you should not even need to hear a single to know that a new Paul Simon album is going to be worth your music buck. It's Paul freaking Simon. Who has never made a bad song. That is all you need to know.

I also need some lumber and supplies to build cold frames for my garden.

And I need my piano tuned and my dog groomed.

That will do. Thank you, birthday fairy.

I wish you were real.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The latest

A short time ago I heard from a dear friend, our next door neighbor in our married-student-housing days at BYU. She expressed happiness to have found my blog, and I thought, oh, dear. I am not a very good blogger these days. Most of my thoughts go directly to facebook, posted in drive-by style, without too much thought. Also, that leaves out any broad view of what's happening in our family. So for my dear friend Patricia, and anybody else reading, here is the skinny.

Dr. G is in his second semester as a professor. He is working hard but not as busy as the first semester. His department intentionally gave him a lighter load to allow him to work on course development and research. This was very kind. It also allows him a little more family time, and we're all grateful for that. The first semester was really hard on everyone. He has won four small grants so far this year, as I posted earlier, and is working on a new research project on Georgetown Lake, Montana. That's where he is all week this week. At least it's in the 40s outside, not any colder. Maybe we're starting to feel just the edge of the aura of spring.

I am always finding myself with more brilliant ideas than I have capacity to follow through on. I'm trying hard to focus on what's really essential: caring for myself in mind, body and spirit; supporting the kids' education; helping others when I can. Then comes freelance work. Not saying I always succeed at making these my priorities - facebook wins way too often, and some days I feel like I'm failing at everything. But, I get back up again and usually things click along ok. I am enjoying a new church job, organizing activities for the Relief Society every other month and serving in the presidency of that organization. I miss the Primary kids but also love getting to know the adult women a lot better.

S is homeschooling still - it's hard to stay motivated at this time of year, but we keep going on the essentials and try to grab the occasional extracurricular educational experience when we can. Recently we loved an anti-tobacco presentation by Victor DeNoble. Great speaker with a very important message! He even showed monkey brains, real ones, which S termed "disgusting, but interesting." Yes, that about sums up monkey brains. S has been working with a new doctor and undergoing neurofeedback training to strengthen some of his challenging areas and prepare for seventh grade in public school this fall. It's a big commitment for us financially and time-wise, but G and I have felt really good about it as well as very grateful that we actually have the resources to do this for S. We think of it like braces for the brain! Of course he will probably need braces for his teeth sometime in the next few years, as well ... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! He is huge (5'4", 120 pounds) and still loves Legos, video games, and Scouts.

A is so close to finishing fourth grade, he can almost taste it! He has had a wonderful and supportive teacher this year (I love it when my kids get the more experienced teachers - they may not love them the most but I can tell there's a benefit to having done your job for a while!) and really enjoys being with his classmates and friends. All the little girls love him; he's so handsome and charming. He has an eye for one in particular, and fortunately is open with me about it; I constantly remind him that they should just be friends and not worry about "love stuff" right now! I am getting my big stick ready for the teen years. He is learning (from his mistakes) about homework habits and organization. Thank goodness we still have a couple months before the end of the year for him to prove himself and get ready for the next grade. Fourth is really a change and a challenge - that has been true for both my kids who have been there so far. A is taking guitar lessons, which he really enjoys, and loves to play sports and read novels. He's also active in Cub Scouts.

K has made a great breakthrough this year on reading. It's one of my favorite stages - when the kid is so excited to read that they read everything. Super cute. And then they realize that once they know how to put the pieces together, they can read anything - even big chapter books! So he's working on that, now. I have to give a little credit to Concerta. It has made a great difference for my bouncy little boy and let us see his true potential. He has a good little group of school friends with whom he plays after school. Darling little boys. K remains my skinny, scrawny one - still in a size 6. He's the only one of my kids to wear his age (as a clothing size) consistently. Will we get to size 7 by this summer? Seems unlikely at the moment. His favorite things are playing with his friends (Legos, action figures, you name it) video games, and dawdling in the mornings. Sorry, I just could not resist that. It's a bit of a crazy-maker for me. Love my little K. One of my favorite things is his habit of sitting on my lap at church. He used to have to do that or he could not sit. Now he is just used to it and I like it. It keeps me warm when the heat in the chapel is wonky (which is a lot).

Z is my joy and my challenge - such a wonderful snuggler, clever comedienne, cute little mommy to her dolls and the dog, and basically bored out of her mind with only two days of preschool a week. It is hard to keep up with how much input she needs, and she is pretty nasty about it when she's not getting what she needs! We try to have friends over frequently to help take the pressure off me, and get to the YMCA as much as possible so she can play with her friends  in the daycare there. Her hair is finally growing out from her self-inflicted pixie cut last summer. She is so cute. Really. This fall she will go to 4-day-a-week preschool. Is it evil to say I can't wait?

That leaves the dog. Well, she is a love mooch, and that is alternately cute and annoying. She is also a cheese mooch, literally obsessed with cheese, and that's only annoying. I still love taking her for walks, and I'm glad I can do it again after that kidney stone debacle. She stinks like dog, sheds like a maniac and needs her claws clipped. I feel like I don't know how to do the bathing or clipping, and G doesn't have time. I am thinking maybe next month I will take her to a groomer and watch how they do things. (I always think I am going to have spare money next month. Hahahaha.) She is a good doggie. We love her.

There you have it, a snapshot of our family as of today. Now I feel a little less guilty.