Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eulogy to my double oven

I could start this with a massive political harangue, because I've been thinking about it, but I won't. My next book to read is Alexis DeToqueville's Democracy in America, however. I last read it in high school or college and I can't remember exactly what it said, but I know it was good and apropo to the times. If I could get through The Federalist Papers I would probably read that, too, but I'm not sure if reading in three- or four-minute segments allows for any deep understanding. By the time the kids are in bed at night my brain is shot. What I will really read, when given the choice between something staggeringly profound and something fun in the evenings when I have some free time, is something fun 60% of the time.
Okay, 70%
85%, tops.

I shouldn't have mentioned my wonderful double oven in a recent post: I jinxed myself. Child Four was swinging a heavy A&W glass mug in a carefree way in the kitchen and accidentally knocked the glass on the oven door, which broke into thousands of pieces and slid all over the kitchen floor. From where I was sitting it sounded like an avalanche of marbles, and I couldn't figure out what we had that would make that sound. Husband, who was nearby, banished the kids so they wouldn't cut their feet and spent the next half-hour sweeping and vacuuming glass fragments. Good-bye, second oven. I loved you for your ability to cook pies while I also cooked dinner in the top oven at the same time. I loved you for allowing me to get all the meal components on the table, simultaneously hot and on time (which is still somewhere around 8 pm. It takes a lot to make me want to cook in the evenings these days). Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were so simple with you, dear oven, even when cooking for 15 or 20. At least, beloved oven, you weren't the oven with convection cooking. Still, I will miss you.
Well, it gives Husband something to look for with his Magical Bargain Eyes. I think he bought that oven second-hand for about $50 and it served us well for a long time. After that: an induction cooktop.

Oldest Child is at camp this week. She gets home tomorrow and it will be nice to see her big blue eyes again. She already has a babysitting job for tomorrow night, should she choose to accept it.

That's all I got. Oh, except that Four took Six downstairs without his diaper after we got home from swimming. As Six is only 11 months old, he isn't potty trained. I spent quite a while cleaning up a poopy mess out of the carpet before I wrote this. Aren't you glad I told you? I'm just pointing out some more nasty messes mothers must be inured to in order to fulfill the job. Yeah, I'm tough.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vomit Stories and Other Ramblings

Why is it that kids wait until the middle of the night to really start vomiting? Do they save it up?
Saturday night I heard Child Five groaning. As he hadn't yet caught the bug, I figured it would be good to watch him closely, so I told him to get his blanket and pillow and head for the living room. I grabbed the throw-up bowl and got him comfortable on the living room floor and put on a movie. After about 45 minutes he curled up in a ball and said, "My tummy really hurts." The bowl was under his face in .00007 seconds, just in time for the eruption. It's sad that I could feel so satisfied about that while my poor child had liquified chocolate cookie coming out of his nose.

After he finished and I wiped him up, I took the bowl into the kitchen to replace the plastic bag liner. As I walked into the dining room, Oldest Child came bolting up the stairs with her hand over her mouth. I shoved the bowl under her face and she let things go. "Watermelon?" I inquired as she stood gasping. She just nodded.

In the end, I had four of the six children in the living room in various states of discomfort. One movie ended and we started another and I lay on the floor wishing I could just leave them to it and go to bed, as I hadn't had much sleep the night before, either. Finally, Oldest Child, who had her own well-used throw-up bowl, said, "Mom, I can watch over Five. You go to bed." Bless her. It was after 2 am by that point. Five dragged his blanket and pillow down the hall about 20 minutes later and I put him back into bed. He suffered no more ill effects.
Of course nobody went to church on Sunday except me. I had to teach Relief Society at 1, so I left Six home with the girls and Husband right before my class started. I seem to have flown through this without more than a little queasiness, for which I am really grateful.

Some of you have asked me why my blog name is Eva Aurora. I can't remember if I answered this already on my blog, so I may be repeating myself: Eva Aurora is the name of one of my Swedish ancestors. I have always liked the name. I think it has a good meaning, kind of like "new dawning." I use it for privacy. Obviously I don't put any family names on here, either. I don't know it it's necessary or not to take that many precautions, but if you know me and my family I guess you can supply the names in your head. If you don't, well, these names are as good as any.

Child Four finally got to go swimming for the first time since her accident (for a description of the accident, see the post entitled "Terror in the Grass" in June's postings). She was so happy. We went and bought her some tight knit pants to cover her scars while she swims, as they can't be in the sunlight for a year, and she also slathered them with sunblock. Right now they look pretty ugly -- all red and new-looking. We'll give them some time. I had my appendix out when I was twelve and I can barely find the scar now.

I am writing my book again. I had quite a bit written before, but I decided to scrap a lot of it and start over. One of my mistakes was putting a flash-back almost within the first paragraph. Duh. There were a few other things I needed to change, plus more research to do, as the book is historical fiction. I have always loved the Old Testament with it's fantastic stories and amazing people. I remind myself over and over while reading any scriptures that the people in them were real people: complex, dynamic, flawed, human. People haven't changed that much in basic emotions and reactions to events in their lives, I think. Cultures may be different, technologies may be different, but the most basic things that make us human are the same. That's what I like exploring. Plus, there is plenty of room in the Old Testament to try and come up with reasons why the characters did what they did. You'll come across gaps of decades or centuries. Plenty of room to wiggle.

I have to go make dinner. I hope the kids' stomachs are back to normal because I'm cooking Indian tonight.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

If yer gonna spew, spew into this

When I woke up this morning I felt distinctly queasy. Of course the kids didn't sleep in at all. That would have been too nice after three of them kept me hopping all night. Child Five needed something at what seemed like O'Dark Thirty and I stumbled out of bed to get it and felt really queasy. When I went back to my bed to lie down, Husband moaned and said something about never eating Devilled Eggs again.
Later, still lying around feeling nauseated, I told Husband that this was what morning sickness was like. Not that I am pregnant (I'll just nip any rumors in the bud here)! Husband sort of mumbled something indistinct and I didn't get the satisfaction of knowing if he really understands now what I went through six times with six kids. I thought, oh, I'll use this as an excuse to stay in bed and watch movies.
Turns out several of my other children woke up queasy, and with them not being stoic about it, I heard the moaning and groaning (and occasional vomiting) all day. I figured if I couldn't play hookey I would just put all the queasy in a little box in my head and get on with being mom. Husband obviously had a much worse case than I did (and I don't think it was my Devilled Eggs. If it was food poisoning we'd be wishing we were dead and lying on the floor of the bathroom with a pillow and a blanket for company), so I took the kids to IKEA again to see if they still had this marvelous microwave with a built in extractor to put over the stove, which I had seen in the As-Is room for 40% off, thus solving my microwave-on-the-counter dilemma (the microwave went onto the counter when Husband bought and installed a double oven, which I love, but which took up all space for the microwave). It was gone, of course.
Some of the kids were hungry so I got them the 50 cent hot dogs. Ugh. We all felt like pulling over to the side of the road in about five minutes.
Husband was going to force himself to come with us and even got up and got dressed, but when I was sitting in the car waiting for him, he sent out Child Three with the message that he had decided not to. I was surprised. He hates sitting around. He doesn't count being sick as a valid excuse for watching movies in the middle of the day (whereas I can always make up a reason to watch a movie.), so in between yelling at himself for wasting his time, he read. After I got home from IKEA and Walmart, I convinced him that the best distraction for extreme nausea is watching a movie. He agreed and I got to watch some Stargate-Atlantis in the middle of the day with him. The sick kids moaned and groaned and I sympathized the best I could, and now they are all finally asleep with throw-up bowls by their heads, just in case. If there's one thing I hate doing in the middle of the night, it's cleaning up vomit in the dark while holding your breath and trying not to wake up all the other kids by hurling every last thing you've ever eaten (including carrots). When someone moans, "I'm going to throw up!" I yell, "The BOWL! The BOWL!" Quietly, of course. But with emphasis.

Stupid In School

This is comedian Brian Regan. I loved this, but I have to ignore the Sonic the Hedgehog stuff. What's up with that?

Friday, July 25, 2008

International Relations

I met a very nice girl named Hillary from Estonia the other day. She knocked on my door and I invited her in where she unsuccessfully tried to sell me some very expensive study guides for my kids. Despite the fact that I didn't want what she was selling, we had a good chat. She asked me if I knew where Estonia was, and when I told her her jaw dropped. She said, "How did you know that?" (I assume most people don't know where it is if that was her reaction) and I said, lamely, "Uh, I looked on a map once." I wished her luck. She was a very good saleswoman and spoke excellent English (oh, how I wish our kids learned foreign languages in elementary school!) and I told her Americans love accents.
I myself married a lovely British accent in my husband, but he's been here too long. I need to send him back to England for an accent booster. Still, when we go through drive-through restaurants he has to use his exaggerated American accent to make himself understood, especially when asking for water. The one recurring problem I have with Husband's accent is that when he tells me he's been to the pawn shop looking for good bargains, I always hear "porn" shop. My head snaps around and I say, "Where??" before I figure it out. It's good for a weak laugh.
Yesterday being the 24th, Pioneer Day here in Utah, Husband had a day off and we took Oldest and Children Five and Six to IKEA. I love that store. If Six didn't decide about half-way through that he has had enough, I could probably spend a solid day in there making notes and dreaming. We looked at the things I had written on my list for the kitchen re-do, then we came home and started looking at my paint color fans. It was fun for me. I think even he had a good time. He drew a mock-up of our top floor on Google Sketchup and we played with paint colors for a while. He's not so scared about my desire for chocolate brown walls in the dining room now. Yay!

My friend, J, had a scare this morning. Her husband called early and asked if I could watch their kids again because J was gushing blood and they had had to take her quickly to labor and delivery. He just came back, hours later, to pick up the kids and told me that mom and the baby are fine. The placenta seperated, and if she hadn't been in the hospital already they probably would have lost the baby. Although the little one is just over five pounds and six weeks early, she's breathing on her own and sucking hard on a pacifier. What a relief!

In honor of Hillary, who gushed about American cookies (according to her, European cookies are thin and hard), I have put in one of my favorite cookie recipes, doctored up by me. This one is for you, Hillary.

Double Chocolate Orange Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 - 4 tsp orange extract, depending on taste (or almond is good, too. Okay, vanilla is also good, but we use vanilla extract in everything. Live a little)
1 1/3 cups (1 x 10 oz. package) chocolate chips. If you have really good bar chocolate (something the Europeans do much, much better than we do), chop it up into small pieces.

1. Heat oven to 350 deg. Farenheit (180 deg. Celsius, or gas mark4. It sure helps to have international cookbooks)
2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and orange extract; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 - 9 minutes (do not over-cook; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling). Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
Cool completely.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Heart is Breaking

The kids absolutely loved the torrential downpour we experienced today. They ran outside and stood in it until they were soaked and dripping, then came in and peeled out of their clothes, tossing the wet clothes into the bathroom I had just cleaned. It just proves my theory: when you clean one mess, natural law states that seven other messes are being created. Nature abhors a vacuum. That's why the kids keep tracking in the pine needles, just to foil that vacuum. Ha ha. Bad pun day.

I had several extra kids over at the house all day. Their mother, a woman in my ward I'll call "J," ended up in the hospital when she started leaking amniotic fluid. She's not full-term yet, but the baby is already 6 pounds, so there's every chance the baby will be just fine. Baby Girl is getting medicine to hurry along the development of her lungs and will be removed via C-section next week. The house is a mess (the parts I didn't clean, and even parts that I did), but at least I could help out.

I was talking to my neighbor, D, last night and I remembered why I thank Heavenly Father that my life is predictable and routine. D has had a bad month. She is filing separation papers against her emotionally and verbally abusive husband who left and hasn't bothered to pay child support (and she has a number of kids). Her mother had cancer sugery, which went well, fortunately. Her daughter's best friend was hit by a car and died, which has been very hard for the whole family. And, finally, someone called DCFS on her. She homeschools her kids and she has given birth to several of them at home, two red flags that DCFS thinks contribute to bad parenting. If the government can't control what's being put into your kids' minds or bodies, they suspect you of being abusive and/or neglectful (exhibit #1: Parker Jensen). I know D quite well and I know for a fact that she is neither neglectful nor abusive. She is a good, Christian woman who believes in family and God. Her house is neat and tidy, she feeds her kids well. Her kids come over to play and they are educated, polite and outgoing. As a single mom, the last thing she needs is some overzealous busybody with nothing else to do siccing the government on her, a government that tends to take the kids first and ask questions later.

I was up a long time last night sick with fear. D told me of one of her fellow homeschooler friends who had lost her kids to DCFS because the parents failed to correctly file the papers one year out of three for homeschooling. Then DCFS found out that the parents had stopped giving one of their children Ritalin. They took the kids on the grounds of educational and medical neglect. The parents ended up having their parental rights terminated. It made me so upset I cried in anguish for that family. I can't imagine losing my kids like that.

I am not a Republican or Democrat. I guess I lean more toward Libertarian, but I wouldn't call myself a card-carrying member of any political organization. I'm a somewhat cynical Gen-Xer, I suppose. The more I read about what's going on the more I feel sick to my stomach. Our country is heading down a dangerous slope, in my opinion. Look what happened to Argentina in the 70's, 80's and 90's: the politicians and the big companies who could get away with it financially raped the country, leaving many of the people in abject poverty, without access to even the most basic human needs. Sure, everyone accepts corruption as par for the course in Latin American countries, right? In the U.S. they couldn't get away with it, at least not as brazenly and boldly as they did in Argentina. I don't kid myself that the same thing isn't happening here, only just a little more quietly. It's all there.

I don't feel humorous today. I'm worried for my friend, D. She's stressed nearly to the breaking point. I told her if she needed a glowing character reference to send the DCFS agents over to me. The only other thing I can do for her is offer to keep her kids at my house so she can concentrate on the numerous legal papers she's trying to negotiate through. And I can pray. I slept very little last night because I was praying. Pray for D and her family. Pray for all of us, that we can be guided in our choices of political leaders, that those leaders will be concerned with doing what is right before God, and not the god of money.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Danger Dreams

I have this recurring dream: I have been called to serve a proselyting mission again. The destination changes, the Missionary Training Center changes, my current situation changes, but the things that stay the same are that I am a) surprised; b) not sure that I can do it again because of the physical labor involved or the fact that I don't know the language; and c) almost completely unprepared in some major way. In the last iteration of the dream, I was going to Bogota, Columbia, and I didn't have any skirts to wear, only torn jeans. I was also stressed that I was leaving in just a few moments and I didn't know a word of Spanish.

My friend, Shanna (I'll use her name since she has made enough comments on here that her name is no longer a mystery. Hi, Shanna!), whom I selfishly forced to analyze my dreams while she was in the throes of a migraine, stated the obvious: I am feeling unprepared about something. Strangely, it was kind of an epiphany for me. I had only put together the fact that I was having the recurring dream a few days before. When I am waking up several times in the night to take care of various children (and the occasional cat who wants to go outside), I remember more of my dreams. I noticed the missionary dream kept popping up.

So what am I unprepared for? I don't know. I am unprepared to answer that question. I won't go into my lengthy self-analysis here (for which you should kneel and give thanks that I save that for my journal. Sure, I put a lot of my psyche on here, intentionally or not, but I do keep the really juicy stuff for myself), but I think it's sort of a general feeling. I can't pin down the exact problem.

I was just reading Psychology Today (motto: psychology in sound bites) and one of the articles talked of a man's theory that dreams are the practice arena for acting on danger. We dream so that we can practice our response to what our brain perceives as real and potential threats. For instance, I did have a dream a few nights ago that I needed to use a gun against someone, but I didn't know how to turn the safety off. I don't actually know how to use a gun in real life. My only experience with shooting guns is a shotgun when I was, maybe, seven or eight. Some neighbors let me shoot at a can but didn't warn me about the kickback. My shoulder hurt for days. All I know about handguns I have seen on TV, so I have no idea if what I have seen is even true. I just know there's a safety that has to be turned off if you want to shoot. And in my dream, that was the problem. I really needed to shoot a guy and I couldn't.

I don't know if my recurring mission dream has anything to do with perceived danger, unless my body is remembering the fact that I biked or walked approximately 20 miles a day and knows I am in no condition to do that in my current state.

Most of my dreams, however, are usually just mundane on one hand and bizarre on the other. Subconscious diarrhea.

In family news, we had a ward party at the neighborhood pool last night. It was potluck, so I saw my chance to off-load a container of strawberry cream salad (with marshmallows) that I knew we weren't going to be able to finish. I dumped a container of cottage cheese into it and away we went.

I didn't even bother getting into my swimming suit as I knew I would spend my time following Child Six around while he investigated various substances, known and unknown, to stuff into his mouth. Husband and the other kids went swimming, but Husband came back after a while carrying Child Five, who looked pale and wan. "He just went white and looked like he was going to faint, " said Husband as he wrapped Five in a towel and rubbed him on the back. "Maybe he was really cold. The water is freezing." The water boiler has broken, one of many things that need funding at the pool, and quite a few of the kids who came were blue-lipped and shivering violently despite the warmth of the day (in the 90's). Five recovered quickly, ate a brownie, and went back to playing. I did find him later, though, sitting in the big pool on the steps. I scolded him soundly for that, as he can not yet swim, and made him promise never to get into the big pool without one of his parents. (Hey, I remember a dream where I kept having to pull Five out of pools of water. Danger dream.). The rest of the party was uneventful and I ended up taking Five and Six home to get them ready for bed. The rest arrived home not long after. It was hard getting them all into bed as I was so tired.

Today I bought some Floradix, an iron supplement in liquid, vegetarian form. It doesn't, you know, stop up the works like regular iron supplement pills based from meat. I hope it works. I am starting to feel really abnormal with how tired I am, like I could sleep for days at any given point. I mean, really tired. I can not stress how tired I am. Tired.

I also bought a basil plant. I love basil. When we got home I made grilled two-cheese sandwiches with fresh basil. Yum.

I am including the recipe for one of my favorite side-dishes that showed up at the potluck last night. It was a big hit with my kids, too. Six was walking around with two fistfuls of it that he had swiped from an unguarded plate.

Shantel's Pasta Salad

2 eggs
1 cup vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2--4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 to 1 onion, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 Tbl. horseradish
1 package cooked vermicelli
1/2 - 1 cups chopped celery

Mix together the eggs, sugar, vinegar, horseradish, and salt in a saucepan. Cook until it boils and thickens. Cool. Mix remaining ingredients into the sauce. Chill.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Depletion of Resources

Today's posting is about a serious problem that, I think, affects us all -- or at least all of us with pre-teen girls in their homes. Still, as you will see in the following video, the ramifications are global and could be disastrous for all of us if we continue to ignore this horrific issue. If you would like to help, please send me money. I know that would sure help me.

Entertainment Scientists Warn Miley Cyrus Will Be Depleted by 2013

Monday, July 14, 2008

Does this blog make my butt look big?

I showed Husband a picture of a kitchen backsplash that had caught my eye and my fancy in one of my shelter magazines. He looked at it for a minute or so while I gushed about it's beauty, and then, when I asked him what he thought, he said carefully, "Some people are connoisseurs because they become so familiar with something, like food. You know, they enjoy things regular people don't because they can appreciate the beauty and taste of something new, something regular people wouldn't understand."
I looked at him and said, "Is this your way of telling me you don't like the backsplash?"
"You, for instance, like classical music that isn't in the norm because you grew up listening to it. I like the tried and true classical music, but you like the weirder stuff now," he went on.
By this time I was laughing. Okay, so he doesn't like the backsplash, but good way to tell me and flatter my vanity at the same time. That's one of the reasons I married him: his wit and intelligence.
I laughed out loud recently at a Real Life comic (by Lance Aldrich and Gary Wise) where the woman is trying on a pair of pants. "Do these pants make my butt look bigger?" she asks her husband. Her husband replies, "They neither maximize nor minimize the area in question." The wife shoots back, "What's that supposed to mean?" I'm not sure I got all the words exactly correct, but that was the gist. Men are constantly at a disadvantage where unself-assured women are concerned. What do they say that isn't going to hurt feelings or cause anger or get them generally in the doghouse? It can be tricky. I try not to corner Husband like that because I'd rather not be gently lied to if he may be afraid to tell me the truth.
On the other hand, sometimes a gentle lie or complete omission of the truth can be desirable. When we were first married I was convinced I couldn't cook, so I set out to learn the art and skill of cookery with a stack of cookbooks and dim memories of Mom's advice. Everytime I tried something new we'd see how we liked it and if it should be repeated. Husband, thinking that I was, at that point, self-assured and able to take any critique with complete objectivity, would sometimes comment negatively on something that had taken me hours to prepare. It would rankle, though I tried not to let it and just take it for the objective comment that it was meant to be.
One day, though, I had spent some time making dinner and I was tired. He didn't like it and said something about it (and keep in mind that Husband is not in the habit of being critical of me. I don't want you to get the wrong impression. He honestly thought I meant it when I asked him how he liked it and was just responding in an honest way) and I kind of blew up. Since I'm fairly passive-aggressive, it was one of those tense moments of great and unpleasant surprise. He apologized and then, for years, never said a critical word about my cooking.
Years later I made beef stroganoff one night and noticed he wasn't eating much. By this time I was much less thin-skinned about my cooking and I asked him if he was okay. He very tentatively told me that stroganoff wasn't his favorite food. When I pressed him further, he admitted that he really didn't like it at all.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, "I didn't know that."
He said, "I was kind of afraid to tell you because I didn't want to be critical of your cooking."
The poor man had spent years afraid of me blowing up again because of his honest opinion. Since I like beef stroganoff I had made it quite often, so he had had to suffer through it fairly regularly. We had a good laugh about it and I don't make it all that much anymore. It's more of a "what can I make out of the things in the cupboard" sort of dish these days. I try to make it when I know he won't be eating at home. Then we're both happy.
One of the other things Husband has to put up with is my addiction to magazines. I love magazines. They're shiny, they're new and they come every month to fill up my mailbox with fabulous ideas and pictures I can think and dream about for months and years down the road. I love back- issues of my magazines, which is why I have an overload of them stacked on my floor. Child Six likes to climb up the stack, ripping the covers and spreading them all over the place. Still I have them, battered as they are, full of my hopes and ambitions. They aren't fashion magazines and they aren't celebrity magazines, both of which I think of as a waste of paper; nor are they the girly-chat, let's talk about families and kids and what some celebrity has to say about marriage and losing weight (although, I admit, if I'm offered one or see one in the doctor's office I'll happily devour it. I just don't subscribe to them.). They are shelter magazines -- magazines full of beautiful rooms and homes, decorated with upmost taste and (usually) lots of money. They are the magazines of crown moldings, subway tiles and beadboard, mullioned windows and impeccable gardens, shiny floors and multi-colored walls.
I think I am a connoisseur in that respect. I know very much what I don't like in home decoration, and I have so many likes it would be hard to nail it down, but I think I can now tell the difference between well decorated and blech. My only problem is that I've never done anything with my home education, not really. It only takes money. And when I can rip out this nasty mauve carpet (it went well with the former owners' gray, pink and black 80's theme) I will slather chocolate colored paint on the walls. Or maybe robin's egg blue. Or maybe...the most ethereal French gray. But at least there will be tons more bookcases, which I will paint to look like built-ins. And the table in the dining room will be sanded down and laquered black. And I could go on and on, which I won't do because I realize not everyone is as obsessed as I am. That's why I only asked Husband about the one kitchen backsplash. If he wants to discuss home decoration voluntarily I'll happily comply. I just don't want to drive him insane. And I can take his honest opinion about what he likes better now. I've grown up a little in 14 years, I hope.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saving money with ginger and laundry soap

I'm all about saving money, especially as I have none. I thought for today's post I would share a couple tips that I use to save some $$$. If you have tips, please share them with me. Together we can save the world.

Well, at least we can save a couple bucks.

Tip #1: Make your own laundry soap. I do this and I spend about 2 cents per load because we have a large capacity washer and dryer. If you have a normal washer you will spend about 1 cent per load. In England that translates to 1/2 pence. That's a good deal, is it not?
The difference between laundry soap and laundry detergent is this: during WWII when there was a lot of rationing of soap and other things, companies came up with a synthetic way of making detergent and it became the norm pretty quickly. Detergent has a lot of chemicals in it, so though it does clean your clothes, it's not that great for the water supply and isn't very biodegradable. Laundry soap, on the other hand, is natural and biodegradable, plus it cleans your clothes just fine. I love it. It's easy to make and only takes about 10 minutes. You can even scent it if you want to, but it smells really clean on its own. Plus, it is good for people who have sensitive skin and can't use detergent without getting rashes. What's not to like?
One thing, though; don't just start washing all your clothes in laundry soap without a little preparation, especially whites. Detergent leaves a film on your clothes and they will turn yellow if you don't get rid of the film. So...
Wash your clothes in 1/2 cup washing soda before you start using laundry soap. You don't have to do it again as long as you keep using the soap. Once is enough. But if you switch to detergent and then back to laundry soap, you have to prep your clothes again. Trust me! Your whites will never look so yellow if you don't follow this step! (Update 9/8/2008: I accidentally ran a load of whites without treating them first and they didn't yellow. I had included white vinegar in the load and maybe that took care of the problem.)

Laundry Soap Recipe
1/3 to a whole bar Fels Naptha or Ivory soap, grated finely. The Pampered Chef Deluxe Cheese Grater is excellent for grating soap. Otherwise, you can use another small-hole cheese grater.

1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (find this in a box in the laundry section of your local grocery store. This is NOT the same as baking soda!)

1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax (also in the laundry section of your local grocery store. If they don't have it, ask a manager or order it from

In a large pot, pour 6 cups hot water and add the grated Fels Naptha or Ivory soap. Heat until the soap dissolves.
Add the Washing Soda and the Borax, stir, and let them dissolve.
When the powders are dissolved, put 4 cups hot water into a small bucket that will hold 2 gallons. Add the soap mixture and stir. Now add another 1 gallon and 6 cups more of water. Stir. Add the scent now if you like. Cool and pour the soap into containers (you can use old detergent containers or even juice bottles. Just label clearly.) Add 1/2 cup to each load.

See? Easy as pie. The texture of the finished, cooled laundry soap will be strange, kind of half-gelled and liquidy. That's normal. I've seen it described as Egg Soup texture. Don't worry that it's not thick and smooth like detergent. It cleans your clothes just fine, and think of the money you're saving.

Use white vinegar in your fabric softener compartment and you're good to go. Some time I will devote a whole post to the wonderful uses of vinegar, but not today. Don't cry, gentle reader.

I have read of making laundry soap with castile soap, which is a natural soap made from vegetable oils. I haven't tried it yet, though I'm eager to start because it seems to have many uses beyond laundry. According to some people, you can use it as a shampoo as well as a general house cleaner. Let me know if you've used castile soap and how it's worked for you.

Tip #2: Make your own flavored milk. Husband loooooves flavored milk, but milk has become a bit of a luxury for us. Fortunately, we don't use a lot of milk anyway -- maybe 2 gallons a week if I don't buy cold cereal (which I only buy for $1 or less on clearance at a grocery outlet. I love that place.) My favorite is ginger milk. This is kind of nice at bedtime because you can heat the milk. You get the sleepy-soothing effects of warm milk with the stomach-soothing effects of ginger.
First make a ginger syrup:

Ginger Syrup
2 cups ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cups water
2 cups sugar or honey

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer for five minutes. Take off the heat and let it steep until the syrup is completely cooled. Remove the sliced ginger and save for making candied ginger.
Use about 1 Tbsp or more or less in a cup of warm or cold milk, to taste. I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine you could use the syrup when making homemade ice-cream or flavoring whipping cream. Make your own ginger ale by putting the syrup in club soda and adding a dash of lemon juice (I like that better than adding the traditional dash of apple cider vinegar).

Candied Ginger
Leftover ginger slices from making ginger syrup
Granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 deg. F.
Pour some sugar on a cookie sheet and roll the ginger slices in it until they are completely covered. Make sure the ginger is in a single layer and put the cookie sheet into the preheated oven.
Turn the oven off and leave the ginger in there with the door closed overnight, or about eight hours.
Store the candied ginger in an airtight container. It's great for upset tummys. I just like the ginger kick, but candied ginger got me through the morning sickness of my fifth pregnancy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Roger and the Vacation

Hello, all! We made it back from our vacation in one piece, no one was hurt and we didn't even end up killing each other.
The cabin was great. It was rustic (I could hear a nest of hungry baby birds in the eaves and something crawled in the walls after dark in my bedroom) but big enough for all of us. The view was absolutely breathtaking. We were up Mount Tabby, which is near Tabiona Springs in the Uintah Basin (about 7000 -- 8000 ft. altitude), and the cabin was situated in such a way that you could walk out on the deck and "see the whole world," as Child Five put it. We were surrounded by mountain desert plants and animals. It was so quiet -- no airplanes, cars, sirens, anything -- and that alone was amazing. I sat on the deck and just was for a while.
We did a little driving around, but there are only small towns out there. Duchesne (pronounced "Doo-shayne' " for all you non-Utahns) had an actual grocery store where we bought some bug juice for the kids. Roosevelt is a little bigger. It has some restaurants and a couple small movie theaters, but the kids found the drive a little tiring, especially Child Six, who hates his car seat. Child Three, whose turn it is to sit in the favored van seat, had a job keeping him occupied and happy. She did a great job. Husband felt she should be rewarded and bought her a little treat just for herself.
The scenery, though, was fantastic. I have been spoiled by living in the green North, but I did live in Southern Idaho for some years and I felt a forgotten love for the sagebrush and scrub plants, the big chunks of rocks and red-brown dirt. The valley where Tabiona is situated (town motto: if you blink you'll miss us) is green and lush, full of fields of hay and horses. There is one gas station with one pump, and that building is also the grocery store (four shelves), hotel and cafe. There is also a post office where people put up all kinds of notices because everyone collects their mail there. I saw a poster hailing the arrival of a baby girl that invited everyone in the town to the baby shower.
For the most part, we hung out at the cabin. Although there was no open place for the kids to play outside, except the deck, the cabin had a great kitchen, a loft with plenty of sleeping space, a living room, lots of board games and satellite TV. Husband and I refuse to pay for cable or satellite at home (what a waste of money for mostly junk), but we enjoyed watching some shows together up there. I have a real weakness for HGTV and the Food Network, myself, and the kids watched a couple hours of Spongebob one day. (We'd already seen them all, though.) We took walks up and down the road and saw some chipmunks, rabbits and deer. We listened to the woodpeckers tapping messages to each other across the mountainside. We met a couple of the other people who happened to be up at their cabins.
One of the ways we met some of these people is because we were found by a little lost puppy. Well, I say "little," but he was pretty big, about four or five months old. He came bounding up on the deck on Wednesday. He must have heard the kids talking out there. They came running in with the news and we all went outside to meet him. He was obviously a hunting dog, maybe Irish Setter, white with chocolate brown spots and floppy ears, 40 pounds of wriggling, tail-wagging, lick-your-face enthusiasm. He had no collar but he wasn't starving so we figured he must have slipped his leash only recently and gone on an adventure. We asked at whatever cabins and homes up and down the mountain where there were people, but no one owned him or could tell us who did. Meanwhile, we made the fatal mistake of naming him and falling in love with him. We named him Roger (from the book My Family and Other Animals, coincidentally) and the kids played with him constantly. He loved them and the attention until, being still a puppy, he flopped down and fell alseep as hard as a dog can.
The first night we put him in the garage because we were afraid he would run off and get lost again. He scratched and whined half the night and was so excited to see the kids in the morning that he must have licked every inch of exposed flesh on each of them. By the next night we figured he wouldn't run off, so he slept on the porch. I went out to say goodnight to him and I could tell he was a little scared being by himself. He scootched up onto my lap, lay his head on my leg, sighed with contentment and fell asleep. I hated to go back inside but we couldn't let him into the cabin. For one thing, we didn't know what he would chew on and it wasn't our cabin. For another, Child Five is allergic to dogs. He played with Roger but didn't touch him, and maybe it was because Roger was outside all the time or that he had very short hair, but Child Five never started wheezing or having his eyes swell up like he usually does. That was a blessing.
Still, the problem remained: what would we do with Roger if we couldn't find his owner? We went down on Thursday and put up "Found Dog" notices at the post office and the Sagebrush Cafe, but no one responded to them. By Friday, we were making plans of where he could live when we got back home. We couldn't keep him with Five's allergies (and the fact that we have very little backyard) but none of us could bear the thought of putting him in the animal shelter. Child Two made a plan to get my sister, who loves animals and already has three dogs and a cat, to fall in love with him and keep him. We thought of others who might take him temporarily until we could find him a permanent home. And through all of this we said several family prayers that we would find Roger's owner or find him a loving home before we left.
Friday morning we packed up and cleaned the cabin. Roger happily sat on Two's lap on the way down the mountain into Tabiona, where we decided to make one last stop at the post office and Sagebrush Cafe to see if anyone had asked about the dog. At the Sagebrush, a woman named Kitty was running the cafe and store, and when I asked her if anyone had asked for the dog, she said no. I sighed and told her we would have to take Roger back home with us because we couldn't find his owner. "I could keep him," she said with a smile. "My kids have been begging me for another dog. Let me call my mom to come and get him." She called her mom and then came out with me to the car ("I'll be back in a couple minutes," she told the two men sitting at the counter drinking coffee). I dragged Roger out of the back seat because he wasn't interested at all in losing his warm lap to nap on. "Oh," said Kitty when she saw him. "I think I know who you belong to, puppy." To me she said, "His owner is in and out of the hospital all the time and he loves to have a dog, but I've told him he can't take care of a pet when he's not there half the time. I'll take him home. I think I'll just tell his owner I'm keeping him."
I told the kids to come out and say goodbye to Roger. Two's face was so sad I nearly cried, but I was so happy Roger was going to a good home where kids would play with him and he'd have a field to run in. We all said goodbye and I thanked Kitty profusely. Then we drove out to US 40 and home.
On the way, Husband reminded the children that we had prayed Roger would find a good home before we left. He reminded them that it wasn't until the very last moment that we found someone to take Roger. Sometimes Heavenly Father tests us to see if we will do all we can do or keep having faith that we will find an answer. Sometimes the answer doesn't come until later, or until the last minute, as in our case. The point is, we have to keep being faithful in our efforts and keep believing that Heavenly Father hears our prayers and is mindful of us, dog and human alike.

Husband and Child Five in the living
room, setting up the Wii. Husband bought
Indiana Jones Lego for Five's birthday, because
Five turned four on Thursday.

On the way home we stopped at a
reservoir to swim. Children Two, Five
Oldest and Three constructed a mud
pie and a moat.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Finally, some photos!

Husband helped get all the pictures into the right format for me, so now I can post some family photos.
At the top, left, we have Oldest Child, age 13.
Next is Child Five, age 3 (almost 4).
Then we have Child Two, age 11.
Voila, Child Four, age 7.
Just left is Child Three at the piano, age 9.
Child Six's picture is already on the blog.
Child Two just lost a pesky loose molar today, much to her relief. It was definitely causing a cramp in her eating style.
We are leaving tomorrow for the cabin. We are very excited about it, and for once the kids did their chores without a lot of fuss, as I told them we weren't leaving the house in a mess and we'd just stay until it was all clean. Rather than spend half their day tomorrow getting them done, they just went ahead and did them today. They just needed a little incentive.
I may manage to get a blog posted in the next couple days by writing it this evening and setting it for tomorrow or the next day. I'm not promising anything, so don't get all excited and schedule your Blog Reading Party without checking first. I know I'm just that popular, but I don't want people getting all disappointed.
Before the end of this posting, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. (I'm just so excited that I can actually put photos on now!)

Superheros really do do household chores if you ask them nicely. Spidey was nice enough to help out with the vacuuming, but then we had to dust to get rid of the cobwebs. It's a little give and take.

Here's Husband when he graduated with his Masters in Elementary Education last August. I'm very proud of him and also very glad he finished finally. Even with him as a bishop I think he's around more now than when he was trying to work full-time and get all his homework and projects done.

You'll notice I didn't put in any photos of me. It's my prerogative, thank you very much, as it is my blog. When I find a picture of me I actually like (that wasn't taken back when I was much younger) then I'll put it in. Until then, tough cookies. I'm really vain, so get used to it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Those of you not in this country can just celebrate the fact that it is July 4th, cause, hey: it only comes once a year.
For today's post, I thought I would put in a piece Husband wrote for the neighborhood newsletter. Being British still, Husband sometimes feels a little awkward when he's asked to do such things as flag-raising ceremonies or talking about whose ancestors fought the Brits. He still loves and champions freedom, however. And he's getting his citizenship soon.
Without further ado, here is Husband:

July Bishopric Message

As a continuing element to the Neighborhood News the Bishopric of the 8th Ward will be providing a message each month. This month of July falls to me.
July has always been a period for celebrating freedom here in Utah: Freedom from the English domination of kings, freedom from the oppression of Eastern mobs, freedom to live and worship how we please without fear of subjugation and tyranny. How blessed we are to live in such a state. These victories belong to the past. The despot monarchs are long since dead; the ferocious mobs have disbanded decades ago and left us to ourselves. What have we done with our freedom?
I have no ancestors that crossed the plains; none that fought to gain the liberty of this nation. Indeed, coming from England as I do, my ancestors likely fought to keep liberty from this nation. Yet here I am, living in Utah and enjoying the fruits of freedom that were purchased at so bloody a price. I have been accepted here, my family welcomed as one of your own, my children play in your homes. Many of you are my close friends.
Yet there are others who have come from neighborhoods not so far distant as England, whose ancestors fought alongside yours to bleed this nation free to pursue life, liberty and religious autonomy, who do not feel at home here. We refer to these neighbors in terms such as: non-member, less-active, non-Mormon, as if we could define them by what they are not. The use of these terms distances us from potential friends and sets up imagined barriers which bear the fruit of a physical distancing from those who have different spiritual beliefs than we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have been guilty of this myself, when caught up in a world that has a sphere of influence that seldom extends beyond the church portion of the neighborhood. I hope to change this by looking beyond the labels which we give each other and finding that friendship can be based on more than a desire to share the gospel, or a feeling of duty to do so.
Please do not misunderstand me. Our baptismal covenant contains a sacred responsibility to share that which we have, but if we base all of our friendships contingent upon acceptance of the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be missing many a dear friendship which would have resulted if we had been genuinely interested in another individual for who they are, rather than for who we think they should be. Let us uphold freedom by recognizing the good in each other. This victory can, and should, belong to today.

Thanks, Husband. Good words. Thank goodness we have the freedom to worship as we please, to befriend whom we please, and say what we please. Those freedoms seem to get narrower and narrower as the government takes more upon itself in an effort to keep us "safe." I think of the Chinese, who do have many more freedoms than they used to, but still live under the constant heavy hand of a jealous government. Hopefully, someday, they will be free. Hopefully people all over the world will be truly free, ourselves included. LONG LIVE LIBERTY AND LONG LIVE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Brain Tries to Kill Me

I've been checking out more of my friends' blogs and I feel both deficient and technologically challenged to a great degree. They have these great pictures, YouTube videos, all kinds of stuff. Mine is just some writing. Well, I could change all that, I suppose. It's not like it's too hard to learn. Expect to see more updated and interesting posts from now on. Maybe.

Child Four sighed with pleasure and said, "I feel so free!" when her leg brace came off for the last time. She is still in the habit of walking with her right leg stiff, but she's been experimenting with bending her leg a little more each time and is happy with the result. The stitches came out with no problem. The wounds are healing nicely. She's going to have a great scar to show off when she's older. The nurse put some SteriStrips on her scar more for my sake than anything, because I keep imagining the gash popping open if Four bends her knee too far. The cut doesn't quite extend up and over her knee cap -- it runs right up to the outside of the knee cap -- so I should just be a little less worried.

I was remembering today how I nearly went crazy when I was pregnant with Child Five. I became obsessed with dirt. All the time, waking and sleeping, I had this nearly irresistible urge to get a spoon, go out back and eat dirt, lots of it. When I successfully resisted that, the urge changed to eating a rib of celery stuffed with dirt instead of peanut butter. It wasn't even what you would think of as good-looking dirt, either. Celery with dried, mud brown dirt inside, and oh, it looked delicious. It's the strangest mental feeling I've ever had, like my brain was trying to kill me and I had to fight it. I didn't hear any voices or anything, just saw this image and felt the desire.
I realized, of course, that I had Pica, which is the urge to eat non-edible food such as dirt and chalk or chew ice incessantly. It's caused by a deficiency of either folate or iron, and I had iron deficiency anemia. Health food stores actually cater to this and sell "clean" dirt. I know because Husband checked it out for me as I was struggling with it. Still, I didn't give in; I can't imagine what eating dirt would actually do to your intestines. Once I started taking an iron supplement (Floradix), the urge went away. What a relief. I thought I was seriously losing my mind.

There's actually no point to my telling you that. Just mental diarrhea.

Here's some more random thoughts for you:
I heard a talk fairly recently in which the speaker challenged us to write down 100 things we want to do or accomplish in our lifetimes. The first 25 are pretty easy to figure out, but getting the whole one-hundred is quite a challenge. When you have the 100 things you are supposed to cross them off as you complete them and replace them with something new, so that you always have 100 things on your list. I can't even remember the point of all of that, but it kind of seems like fun because it would stretch your mind quite a bit and make you think of what your deepest desires are. I'm having a hard time getting through just my first 25 ideas.

1. Get an education -- probably in construction and/or architecture so I can become proficient in alternative forms of construction like dome houses, rammed earth and straw bale. Why? because I think there's going to be a big market for it in the near future, what with the rising cost of heating and cooling traditional timber frame houses. Also, I want to know how to use the earth to heat and cool houses. All of this fascinates me.
2. Get a big plot of land (at least 20 acres) and build different types of homes, including an underground home. I know that would cost $$$$$, but I'm dreaming here.
3. Write a book.
4. Decorate my home. My other passion is interior decoration, not that I have any real experience.
5. Be healthy: the right weight, eat the right foods, feel good and energetic.
6. Learn to garden and grow my own food.
7. Organize my house. Get rid of junk, pare down our possessions, and find a place for everything so everything can be in it's place once in a while.
8. Be at peace with myself and my shortcomings.
9. Archive all the family photos -- not just Husband and me and kids, but my parents'. I've already completed a great deal of that but I have quite a ways to go.
10. Help with family history. My parents have always been good about that, but I want to get more involved.
11. Complete more temple ordinances for family members.
12. Attend the temple at least twice a month, if not more.
13. Take cello lessons again.
14. Take piano lessons.
15. Serve a mission with Husband at some point.
16. Travel across the U.S.
17. Go to Corfu with Husband. Gerry Durrell's books paint such a lovely picture of it, although I'm sure it's changed a great deal since his writings.
18. Live in another country for a while.
19. Become fluent in another language.
20. Learn how to do more things with my blog, like putting in pictures and whatnot.
21. Keep in touch with old friends.
22. Keep making new ones.
23. Do what it takes to become a good photographer.
24. Become an expert at food storage and emergency planning.
25. Take singing lessons.

The first 25. More to come.

Six Word Memoir for the day:
Overcoming guilt and fear; accepting myself.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

180 Days and Walk the Plank

No one has strep throat, thank goodness. I took only Oldest Child to the doctor (though I had all the kids in tow), figuring that if she had strep then I could assume Child Three did as well. Oldest just has a virus that seems to mimic strep.

Today is the last day Husband has kids in class. They get out before lunch and then he's done with that class for the year. I asked him if he was glad to see them go and he said that most of them were okay. There were just a couple who caused problems. What I thought was funny (funny hmmm, not funny ha ha) was that the school district got really distressed about one girl who had switched tracks mid-year and had recieved her allotted 180 days of public education, though the school year wasn't over for her new track. They essentially kicked her out, told her to go home and not come back until next year. There were only two weeks left at that point. If I have a kid who has missed more than seven days in the entire school year I get the attendance police threatening me with charges of truancy and negligence, though my kids get straight A's in all their classes and it's obvious that I'm not keeping them home because I'm too lazy or whatever to send them to school. Well, that's government for you (motto: Waste, Want).

As today is the first of the month the kids are rotating chores. For some of them this causes great joy and eagerness to get their chores done when I ask (at least for the first couple days). For some there is weeping and wailing, especially for the one who ends up with dining room duty, which is considered the worst chore. We use our dining room all the time. I would love to pull all the carpet off the floor in the dining room (who puts carpet in a dining room, kitchen or bathroom and thinks it's going to stay clean, I wonder?). As we have three different floor types under the carpet, my mom doesn't want to pull it up until we have some means to homogenize the flooring. Until then, the dining room carpet looks like we let a bunch of incontinent dogs loose for several hours after feeding them Slim Jim Beef Sticks (the spicy kind). Thankfully it doesn't smell like that, but with six kids in the house (one a messy baby) it sure looks like it. So the dining room chore includes tidying up the toys and other things on the floor, tidying up the table, (which seats ten and is always covered in paper or dishes, though I yell and scream about cleaning up after yourself) and vacuuming the carpet and hallway. It takes a while. The upside is that the Dining Room person gets the best seat in the car during that month, the seat between Child Five's and Child Six's car seats in the middle row of the van. That seems to mollify the unlucky child somewhat, though I don't know why. The kids decided among themselves that that seat has high status ranking, the same way kids come up with status ranking for the cups and dishes they use at dinner. "I get the blue plate, I called it!" "I get that cup and fork! I already licked them!"

The easiest chore is probably downstairs in the family room. There's a toy box down there that only gets used by visitors, and since we had the TV off during much of June, it stayed pretty tidy most of the time. The only disadvantage is hauling the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs.

I really need to expand the chore list and give each of them two chores, as there are more things that need cleaning in heaven and earth, Horatio, then is ever thought of by mortal children.

Child Four gets her stitches out today and she is, in a word, ecstatic. I'm just hoping her wounds are healed enough that they don't split apart, as I have vivid mental images of them doing the moment she takes an incautious step and flexes her knee too far. I don't know if she will have to continue with the leg brace, but I imagine she'll need to start flexing that knee so her scar doesn't heal rigidly and prevent her from walking normally. It really was a hideous gash.