Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wedding Pictures!

You wanted pictures, I finally have pictures. Thought I'd share some of my favorites of Sian, her new husband and my new son-in-law, Nathan, and the family.

Before you look, yes, I'm fat. I started seriously gaining pounds after Husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, when I literally felt my adrenal glands break from the stress. The weight piled on after that. I hate it, but there it is.

So now that my vanity has made this all about me, try to enjoy the pictures of that wonderful, poignant, joyful, amazing day.

The newly minted couple exit the temple annex doors to cheers and applause.

In front of the east doors.

In front of the Salt Lake City Temple
I call this one "Loving Look"

This is just cute. Also, it shows off Nathan's boutonniere, which my mother-in-law made.

Left to Right: My MIL, Sian, my mother's mother (she's 92!), me, and my mother.

It's like they're walking down a hallway of flowers with the temple in the background. It was a lovely (though windy) day.

I want to frame this one. My little girl is so beautiful. Sigh. Also, it showcases the amazing bouquet that my MIL and SIL put together in Sian's wedding colors.

Sian and her brothers. Left to Right: Little Gary (10), Sian, and Joseph (13)

All my daughters together. What you don't see is that Elannah was trying to push Sophia's head down from behind, so they were busy giggling the whole time. Left to Right: Sophia (18), Elannah (16), Sian (22), and Gabrielle (20)

I just love this one. I will frame this one, as well. All the time when my daughters were little and squabbling with each other, I reminded them that they needed to watch what they said to each other so that they could all be friends when they got older. Now they're all friends, and every time they get together, there's lots of laughter and joking.

Our family with the happy couple. Left to Right: Elannah, me, Little Gary (in front of me), Sophia, Sian, Nathan, Gabrielle, Husband, and Joseph

The extended family with the happy couple. We were really happy that Husband's sister's family travel plans from Wales coincided with Sian's wedding, so the British contingent of the family were well represented. My brothers are also there, as were my next oldest brother's wife and their children. 

She's still our baby, and we still get to kiss her.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pork Chile Verde Recipe

I tried Taerell's pork chile verde recipe and it worked out really, really well. We feasted yesterday! I brought some of it to my neighbors, who just had a baby, so the new parents wouldn't have to cook dinner.

This isn't spicy unless you use a very hot chile verde sauce and/or red chile flakes. I didn't because I have kids who would refuse to eat it. I used medium heat sauce, and it was just enough to give your tongue a tiny tingle.

I played with the recipe Tay gave me by adding some cumin. If you don't like cumin, it tastes just fine without it. If you really want to play, try adding ground coriander, as well, and then topping it off with fresh cilantro to serve.

Pork Chile Verde

Ingredient portions are based on a 4-lb roast. Use less if your roast is smaller.

1 (4-lb) pork roast (size doesn't necessarily matter, although using a 4-lb roast will yield plenty for a crowd of 10 to 12, or leftovers for freezing or sharing)
1 1/2 cups of your favorite chile verde sauce per pound of meat
1 large white onion, diced
1 Tbsp Garlic powder or minced garlic, or to taste
1 Tbsp cumin, or to taste
1 Tbsp lime juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp red chile flakes, if you like your food spicy

1. Place diced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker. Place the roast on top.

2. Mix chile verde sauce with garlic powder (or minced garlic), cumin, lime juice, and red chile flakes (if using). Pour over roast.

3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or overnight. Remove meat and shred with two forks. Return meat to the sauce, mix, and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use for burritos, taco salads, over rice, or in soup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Who's the Man?

I don't always appreciate music videos. If there's a strong storyline in them, I'm not always happy with the way the band or artist interprets the music--which just sounds selfish, right? I generally prefer to make up my own interpretation to other peoples' music.

But The Killers are an exception. They make some really good music and videos, and nothing beats "The Man." So well done. Plus, it's such a catchy tune that I find myself singing it at the top of my lungs even if I am very much not a man. When I first heard it on the radio last summer, the DJ declared he liked it so much he was going to play it again--and he did. It was the perfect call.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

My previous substitute bus attendant, Jessica, selfishly decided to go ahead and get her CDL and become a driver herself. Good. Fine. I'm happy for her and all that.

I'm not really bitter. I just miss her. We got to be pretty good friends, even if she is 20 years younger than I am.

My new substitute attendant is a guy named Tay (pronounced "Ty," and short for Taerell). He's an interesting fellow.

How do I describe him? He is the first politically conservative gay pagan Tae Kwon Do black belt I've met. He's also passionate about Shakespeare.

If he hadn't told me he was gay, I would not have guessed. He actually looks like a guy who plays Dungeons & Dragons and smokes marijuana and got beat up in high school for being a total geek. He neither plays D&D nor smokes marijuana (or takes any other illegal drugs, for that matter), but he was beat up a lot in high school.

We get along fine, although he tends to talk a great deal. Jessica knew and appreciated golden moments of silence, but Tay keeps up a steady stream of chat for most of the time we're on the bus. I quit going to the library during our break because he just talks in normal voice while we're there, and that is one of my pet peeves. He doesn't really enjoy reading because he is dyslexic, but rather than sit quietly messing with his phone or something, he just keeps the conversation going--even while I hold a book or magazine prominently in front of my face. So rather than get mad at him, I just changed plans, and we've been heading to the Maverick gas station to sit outside between runs and soak up the warm rays of mild fall sunshine.

At least at the Maverick I'm not agonizing about him chatting away while people studying nearby are shooting us dirty looks. We share funny YouTube videos and discuss various conspiracy theories. It helps that I'm still a total geek at heart.

While he's pagan and I'm Christian, there haven't been any arguments about faith and belief. He tells me what he believes, and I listen. I'll ask him questions about it, too, which he appreciates. His beliefs are the gentle pagan precepts that call for a oneness with nature and a deep respect for all living things. I'm not surprised by that, as he really is a gentle, compassionate soul. As the frequent victim of bullying and abuse from various stepfathers and classmates throughout his life, he could be hard and bitter and unkind; but he still chooses to be an advocate for the ones who get picked on, and his heart is still tender.

Today he brought me a homemade chile verde burrito. It was massive. I ate half of it on the way home, and it was so good--better than any TexMex restaurant could have produced. I gave the other half to Joseph, who declared that I must get the recipe. So I texted Tay and thanked him profusely and got the recipe. I'll be trying it out in the next couple days.

One Last, Cute Story

Today I took Joseph and Little Gary to McDonalds for the first time since they reopened after weeks and weeks of renovation. They were interested in the new play place.

While I was standing in line, this adorable little three-year-old girl looked down and exclaimed in her piping little voice, "Oh, I love your pretty red shoes!' and bent over to get a good, close-up look at them.

I told her I loved her sparkly flower barrette. We were best friends after that.

Have I mentioned that I am very excited to be a grandmother? I'm not making an announcement or anything, but all my girls know that when the time is right and they have children, I will be the happiest, most devoted grandmother in the world.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

No More a Stranger, Nor a Guest, but Like a Child at Home

I was scheduled to attend a suicide prevention workshop this morning, but I had to miss it for a very sadly ironic reason: to sing at the funeral of a young lady who committed suicide after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. 

This young lady, who was 24 when she deliberately overdosed, is the daughter of one of the couples in our choir. While I didn't know her personally, I know her incredible parents and one of her sisters. Her parents and several of her siblings stood at the podium and talked about her brilliant mind and creative ability. Though she battled demons, she loved her family and her friends fiercely. Friends and family were reassured that nothing they said or failed to say would have changed the outcome; but despite the grief expressed, the overall feeling in the room--though there were plenty of tears--was one of hope and faith.

We sang Mack Wilberg's beautiful arrangement of "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." Below, you can hear the song as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with the lyrics. 

My favorite lyrics in this song speak of the Lord's heavenly home, where it says, "There would I find a settled rest while others go and come; no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."

We've sung at several funerals this year--mostly for choir members' parents, who have lived good, long lives--but it's really hard to sing for young people's funerals. As a parent, I just can't imagine the feeling of losing one of my children. To sing in that situation, I have to keep my thoughts very light and distracted. When the tears well up, I imagine someone sitting on a cactus, which helps for some reason. Otherwise, my throat closes up and I make these gulping, croaking sort of noises, which sounds awful during performances.

After we're done singing, we can let the tears flow, of course. I snagged a box of tissues before the funeral started, so I was ready for the emotion.

This beautiful young woman is not lost. As her parents said, she died of complications of mental illness, just as some die of complications of heart disease or cancer. Though she went through a great deal of pain in this world, Jesus Christ descended below all of it to satisfy the demands of justice. 

How grateful I am for the Savior's atonement. How grateful I am.

Monday, October 2, 2017

End of Summer

Summer is over. This crazy, crazy summer is finally over.

My oldest is happily married to her wonderful new husband. All of my kids have started back to school--whether it's college, high school, junior high, or elementary. Finally, things have settled into a predictable routine.

I'm still freelance writing, but with the start of school, I started back up with bus driving, as well.

I was given my own bus route a little over a week ago, and that made me very happy. Being a route driver has advantages over being a sub: less stress because you know where you're going and when; a slight pay raise; and the ability to bid on other routes when they become available. There are people who love being substitute bus drivers because they don't have to drive in the same circle every day, but I didn't like never knowing where or when I'm driving. When a bus route became available and I was the next person on the seniority list, they gave me a call.

I'm now driving a preschool route with three runs. Between runs, I have enough time to drive back home and check on Joseph (13) and see how his schoolwork is coming along. I managed to get him into the middle school's Homebound program due to his crippling anxiety at being in crowds, and it's been really good for him. He has an outside authority to whom he has to answer, but the work is not overwhelming. His teacher is really great, actually.

I've written probably a dozen drafts over the summer, but they were all long. I couldn't be bothered to edit, so I just didn't publish them. The summary of all of those posts is that lots of stuff happened (mainly getting ready for Sian's wedding) and I was very busy, which is not a state I enjoy being in. Fortunately, we have all survived, the reception went off smoothly, and nothing seriously bad happened.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

It's Been Quite a Week

I've survived the last week. Barely.

Joseph turned 13, and he was very happy to be our fifth child to have aged into teenager-hood. But his birthday wasn't the problem.

On Joseph's birthday, Elannah had her tonsils out.

She's been wanting them out for months, and they have become increasingly more bothersome. Tonsil stones, multiple canker sores at the same time, and bad throat pain every time she sings or acts made her eager to set a tonsillectomy date.

Now, she says, "I'm never doing that again!" Fair enough.

Along with the pain of having her huge tonsils sliced out of her throat came her desire to have her mother with her at all times. I was very flattered to have my 16-year-old want my presence in her time of need, but I should have taken a page of advice from when I had little babies: sleep when the baby is sleeping. The worst times for Elannah were at night, and the Lortab did nothing for her pain until three days in. Therefore, I was up all day and then all night with her for several days in a row. I'm an old woman. This is hard for me to do now.

I am always simmering at the chronic fatigue level just before Crying Tired, so staying up with Elannah knocked me hard into the Stupid Tired stage of sleep deprivation pretty quickly. It was during that stage that I put my water kefir into a bottle in the fridge for its second ferment--the first time I've done this process.

By the second night of little sleep, I had descended into the Seeing Things Out of the Corners of My Eyes that Aren't There stage. I did nothing but sit in stupefaction watching "The Office" episodes, one after the other, while Elannah either slept fitfully on the couch, holding my hand, or cried silently and wrote me notes of desperation and regret. Occasionally, I jerked when I thought a bug was coming at me from my peripherals.

By the third night, the Lortab finally started doing some good. Elannah and I are similar in that Lortab does little or nothing for our pain. I have to have Percocet when I have acute pain (like the pain from a tooth infection) or I'm writhing. But, finally, the Lortab did something, and Elannah went from agony to blissful, pain-free euphoria. She could finally talk a little, too, and she broke her days-long silence with a long monologue on how happy she was to be pain-free and how she would never, ever do something like this again. Hindsight.

She finally agreed to try to sleep, though I had to talk her into it (it was somewhere around 2 am when this happened). She was worried she would waste this pain-free time and wake up in agony, but she finally slept. I crawled up the stairs and collapsed into bed. Around 5 am, she texted me to ask me to come sit with her again because she was dizzy and starting to hurt again. I dragged myself back downstairs.

I convinced her after that night that she wasn't going to wake up dead, and that I really, really needed to get some sleep before I had a breakdown. She was apologetic for keeping me up, and she let me get some sleep the next couple nights, though she kept me up late and asked for me early in the mornings. I ascended back to the Stupid Tired stage of sleep deprivation, and it felt pretty good.

That was when I tested my refrigerated water kefir and realized it had not developed any carbonation at all. After a long, slow, and confused think, I remembered that refrigeration slows down the fermenting process. I should have left the bottle on the counter. So I took the bottle out of the fridge and set it on the counter, the lid tightly screwed on. I figured two days should do the trick.

Two days later, Elannah was still in a great deal of pain, and I was still in Stupid Tired sleep deprivation when I decided to "burp" the water kefir and let a little of the pressure out.

I'm happy to report my decision to let it ferment on the counter was correct, because the kefir was fully carbonated. The moment I wrestled the cap off, the liquid inside, which was under a massive amount of pressure, shot straight up in a column of bubbles and pieces of ginger. It hit the ceiling so hard that is created an umbrella spray effect, and within seconds, everything in the kitchen (including me) was drenched. I whooped so loudly in surprise that family members came running to see if I was hurt.

Fortunately, the glass bottle didn't shatter, so other than some mopping up and finding pieces of ginger is the strangest of places, no damage was done. And I learned a lesson.

I now have another batch of water kefir on its second ferment (but not sealed too tightly), and a third batch on its first ferment. There was just enough kefir left after the explosion that Husband, Sian, and I got to have a taste. Sian, who made water kefir during her mission in Ukraine, pronounced it perfect, and she liked the added flavor of the ginger I put in.

Elannah is up and around now. She keeps thanking me for being there for her and taking care of her. I keep telling her that she is always my baby no matter how old she gets. And I have been able to get some more sleep at night, putting me back into the Exhausted but Functioning stage of sleep deprivation/chronic fatigue syndrome.

It's been quite a week.