Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't Drop Dead With Shock

I have batteries for the camera! I knew if I waited long enough I would find an amazing deal on batteries and be very happy I kept forgetting to buy batteries. Sure enough, good things come to those who procrastinate or have a Swiss-cheese memory.

Now ask me if I've gone around and taken pictures of the house.
Go on.

no.

But I will tonight because -- cue the angelic trumpets -- all the kids did their chores and the house is in an almost completely tidy state. That was before dinner, of course, so you will have to excuse the kitchen. It is what it is. Just know that I did have it shining and spotless for whole minutes earlier today.

I'll post the pictures tomorrow. Tonight it's bedtime for the children 'cause I'm tired.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unorganized Ramblings During the Holiday Corridor

Goodbye, Thanksgiving. Hello, Christmas.

Time sure does fly. I call this the Holiday Corridor, which starts with Halloween and goes frantically until the end of the year. Because I tend to visualize most things, this time of year is a visual of a big mess in my head. There is a feeling of frantic energy, of mopping things up before the new year starts, of hoping to accomplish a gazillion things and only accomplishing a few.

I do, of course, understand the Reason for the Season, and I enjoy spending time with my family on the holidays, as well as quiet reflection on the blessings I have. But I can't get rid of the overall impression this time of year has always had on me.

For those of you not my friends on Facebook (are there any? Does anyone even read this anymore, what with my long absences?), here's the latest news:

I got a job as a free-lance writer for a web design company. It's part-time and allows me to work from home. Aside from the necessity of phoning clients during business hours, I have a very flexible schedule. It's the ideal job. I get to wrack my brains (and heat up the thesaurus) coming up with inviting text and keywords (to optimize search-engine searches, of course. Ha! Kind of a steep learning curve there.) for clients whose companies and services have never been the same twice. I know a lot more about private labeling of dietary supplements or what exactly a party bus is for, for instance, than I used to. I have been doing pretty well at it, figuring out how to organize myself to be efficient. All but one of my clients have liked me and my work.

The first couple weeks were quite stressful. It's not like I am taking something out of my duties; I am simply adding more to them. For a while I was walking around unconsciously wringing my hands and feeling my stomach churn in unpleasant rhythms, trying to prioritize work, kids, housework, cooking, church calling, etc., etc. It was a little overwhelming. Also, not having an office to go to is hard. I can close and lock the door when I need to make a phone call, but the kids find that an invitation to knock long and loudly if they need anything -- anything at all. I've had to explain to a couple clients that I work from home because of that. I wouldn't want them thinking I'm in a construction zone or that the boss is yelling at me and having a temper tantrum. Fortunately, those clients have been very understanding.

Other than the kids still getting used to me not being available all the time, I am very, very happy to have this job. We need the extra income and I can still be Mom.

I have been called as the 1st Counselor in our ward Relief Society. (The Relief Society is the LDS church's organization for women, and it's the largest women's organization in the world. Our motto is: Charity Never Faileth.) So far, I haven't had to be running here and there too much, but I have to get to know a new ward's worth of women and figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. I have never served in a RS presidency before.

I burst a tire driving into a curb while successfully avoiding a collision and we spent some Christmas money on two new tires for the van. Merry Christmas to the van! No one was hurt, thankfully. Husband and I waited three hours for a tow-truck (we chose to call it a "date," since we got to sit and talk without any interruption whatsoever because the kids were safely and warmly with my parents and brother) and spent the weekend at my parents' house in the Big City because no tire stores were open by that point on Saturday night. I think that was the first time I've really thought of this house as HOME. It was nice to spend time at my parents' house (the kids were very happy about it, as it was the first home for most of them), but after a couple days without a change of clothes, deodorant, or a toothbrush, it was a relief to get home. Once we have a piano, I will never need to leave this house.

[Insert Murphy's Law jokes about extra money and cars suddenly needing fixing here:]

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shameless Choir Performance Plug

For the last nine weeks I have been attending rehearsals for a choir. This choir, 340+ women strong, will sing on November 28 on Temple Square in Salt Lake in the Tabernacle. Our songs have a Christmas theme and there will be bells and a harp accompanying, as well as that famous Tabernacle Organ.

Mostly I just love it because I love that sense of being part of something bigger than myself. I've always been a Big Picture Gal, and being one 2nd Alto among 340 women and hearing all the pieces and parts working together is magic. Plus, I love choirs because a person who does not have a solo voice (me) can still have all the fun of singing and performing.

I signed up to be in this choir sometime last spring, and by the time rehearsals started in September we had barely moved to a new city 45 miles away. Since the rehearsals happen to be in our old neighborhood (at my old Stake Center, no less!), the commute got a lot longer all of a sudden. The thing is, I wouldn't miss any rehearsal for any reason other than a dire emergency. Every Sunday night I drive into town, belting along with the practice CD. After the two-hour rehearsal, I visit my parents for a few minutes and then drive home, happy and full of the spirit.

Some of you may be familiar with Merilee Webb, the director of the choir. She was actually featured briefly in an issue of the LDS News. If you've ever had a chance to meet her or sing under her direction, you'll know that rehearsals are two parts singing to one part laughing so hard snot is coming out your nose. Last night we also made leis to wear in the concert. They involve a couple skeins of Fun Fur yarn, a McDonald's straw -- has to be from McDonald's! -- a ribbon and some tape. If anyone is interested, tell me and I'll buy cameral batteries (ha ha) and show you how. They're fun crafts for the kids.(Merilee spent years in Hawaii teaching at BYU-Hawaii and starts each rehearsal with a Hawaiian chant and a big "ALOHA!")

Just thought I'd share that. If you want to come, get free tickets online at www.lds.org/events. I'd love to see you there.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cows, mice and horses in the country air.

And so time and times have passed. Where did it go?

I still haven't taken pictures. At some things I procrastinate badly, usually when I'm taking care of the other things I'd LIKE to procrastinate on but can't. I haven't even bought new batteries for the camera. But it's silly just not writing, isn't it?

We have settled into our new home pretty nicely. Because we didn't bring all our stuff with us, there is a lot less of it around the house to create a mess. In fact, I still have a lot of boxes I haven't unpacked simply because I don't know where to put it and am reluctant to just put it somewhere. I would rather have a specific place, in a specific container, to create organization. This means, of course, that I'm constantly tapping my forehead trying to remember which box something is in and if it's here or if it's still at the old house.

Since we've been here, we have gone through quite a time with illness. I don't know if it's the place or just the season, but the kids keep coming down with stuff. It seems like every week someone has a new symptom, so I've been joking that we're getting the flu in bits and pieces. We've had a couple asthma scares and had to get steroids for the afflicted child, but that seems to have passed, thank goodness.

So, other than that and the mice that have moved into the back of the cupboards in the kitchen, we are loving this place.

The kids run around with a gazillion kids in the neighborhood. Elannah has three friends either across the street or around the corner a couple houses. The same goes for Sophia as well as Joseph. After school the house is filled with the tromping of neighbor children and all the cups are dirty by the end of the day.

I've made a few friends, myself, which has been nice. I've never been one to just hang out with a girlfriend for hours on end, but it's nice to know some people around me. A house a few doors down caught on fire the other day and all the neighbors were out watching the fire trucks and firemen running around hooking up hoses and taking care of business. It wasn't a serious fire, thank goodness. The owner of the house had actually managed to extinguish the fire in a back bedroom by spraying a hose through the window and was quite upset when the firemen showed up and bodily removed her so they could douse the entire room with water. She said they caused more damage with the water than the fire did. But all of us offered our help to clean up, and it felt good to be part of a neighborhood again.

With all the kids around here, trick-or-treating on Halloween was a blast. Little Gary is still talking about it. We'll walk outside and he'll see a lingering jack o'lantern on someone's doorstep and say, "Trick-or-treating fun, huh, Mama?"

Husband's commute has been fine. He uses the time to listen to the scriptures in the morning and books on tape in the evening.

The wind is fierce out here. When it blows, it sounds like a hurricane trying to tear the house down. I'll lie in bed at night listening to the howling and then hear the freight train passing by on the tracks across the field and think that at least it isn't sirens. When you hear a police siren out here, it's big news. Very unusual.

Because of the mouse problem, we retrieved one of the cats from my parents' house. He happens to be my favorite cat of all time, so it wasn't hard to want him out here. Plus, my dad said Myles (the cat) was getting depressed. He would walk through all the rooms we have vacated, looking for the kids to pet him. Since we brought Myles out here, though, he has not been the fierce hunter he was. I think our backyard is another cat's territory, so Myles will barely step off the back deck into the yard. When I do go out into the yard and leave the back door open, Myles often comes out to get me and bring me safely inside again, meowing earnestly at me until I close the door. Maybe there's something much worse than a territorial tom prowling around, but I haven't seen it yet. He's started venturing out a little more now, but he's still very, very skittish. He does, however, hear those little mousy feet scampering behind the oven and he very much wants to play with a mouse.

I actually caught a mouse myself, horribly enough. When I say "caught" I mean I accidentally picked up a mouse carcass that had drowned in a pot of water I was soaking. I guess that's a good mousetrap, but I don't necessarily want my cooking pots to be mousetraps. Ew. And also yuck. I will have to call an exterminator. There are two drawers that the mice have been getting into and I've cleared out all the cooking utensils from those drawers, of course, and I keep them closed all the time. I don't know how that mouse got on the countertop. They're sneaky little things. I don't want to use poison because I don't want rotting mouse carcasses where I can't get at them.

Since being here, we realize that although we tried our best to find a house within our budget, we are very house poor. This means we need more income. This means I have found a job I can do at home on a part-time basis. I am now a freelance writer for a company that develops websites for businesses. I get paid by the word and a few other things that I have to do with the clients, but it means I can work on a flexible schedule and still be Mom all day. I'm very happy about it. Our goal is to become debt free (see Dave Ramsey's books) as soon as possible, and have a good savings. And, of course, a full stocked food storage, which I think is better than cash (especially if the dollar becomes next to worthless) or gold. You can't eat gold. You can trade and bargain with salt, however.

That's enough rambling for even the most die-hard reader. I will definitely try to be more consistent in my reportings. We'll see how that goes, what with my job and all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Government Can!

I thought this was hilarious, so I'm sharing it with you today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seat 16 But Break Your Back

Hello, friends! I'm baaaack!

Now that you've breathed that sigh of relief (ha ha), get a mug of your hot beverage of choice and sit back to read the fascinating adventures I've been through in the last little while.

We've set up the house now with electricity, water, sewage, garbage pick-up, gas, etc., etc. of course, and should even be getting our mail delivered to our mailbox that I had to repeatedly assure the nice post office lady IS INDEED still out front of the house (I even put our name in sticky letters over the previous owner's name. I got quite a thrill out of that.).

Little Gary has found and locked himself into the two bedrooms that had key-lock entries, prompting two seperate calls to the same locksmith because the previous owners (from now on to be referred to as "the PO"), when consulted, admitted that the keys had been lost years ago. Sure, I tried to credit card the locks as well as explain to a two-year-old how to turn the little button in the doorknob that would release him from his prison -- and before you ask, the hinges were on the side of the door containing said two-year-old -- but only a locksmith could get him out in the end. We (me and the locksmith) are now best friends. He was a little disappointed that we fixed all the key-lock doorknobs after that and he won't be making more money off that particular problem, but he was a lovely, grandfatherly type with gray hair and a gray beard who told me funny stories about his own children.

One toilet has been blocked up and I bought the inaugural plunger to fix the problem (it got fixed); my friend, Shanna, lent us a microwave until I can buy the under-cabinet microwave I want (THANK YOU, SHANNA!); and we had an interesting design and decorating issue with a table we bought from the school district auction. It's one of those school lunch tables that fold up in the middle. This one has 16 blue stools for seats, which we thought would be great because not only will it seat our family and extended family, but we could fold it up and store it against the wall when not in use. Let me just share a picture of it with you.



Also, let me assure you that it weighed upward of a gazillion tons (I know because Husband and I had to unfold it, tip it on its side, and LIFT it to get it into the house), and while I may be a strong and sturdy woman, I simply could not open and close that behemoth by myself. Plus, as you'll notice, it pretty much takes over the whole main floor and changes the dynamic of the serene and comfortable decorating style I hope to implement. It was a great idea, though. It's a great idea we have up for sale at the moment. (Another quick thank-you to Shanna for the use of her truck to pick it up from the warehouse.)If we had a patio instead of a deck, we'd use it outside for family functions.

On a side note, some guy is trying to scam me out of the table. Even I, a trusting girl, can see that.
Stupid idiot.
Him, I mean.
Not me.

This neighborhood is full of children. They run about like little ants as soon as school is out, all over the place. My kids, coming from a neighborhood much more elderly and sedate, are not yet used to the idea that they can run around outside and play all evening (after homework, of course). It will take them a while to adjust. Little Gary is loving the fully fenced and grassy back-yard, meanwhile. That kid would live outside like a cute infant wild animal if I let him.

Many of the neighbors have stopped by to welcome us. Our next-door neighbor brought us a big bag of her home-grown tomatoes that were perfect and sweet and amazing and which were completely and utterly eaten. I'm trying to compose a thank-you note that doesn't sound like a desperate plea for more.

I'll have pictures next time. I have to remember to buy batteries yet again for our camera, but then I will give you a photo tour of the entire house. Just keep in mind that I haven't painted yet. We also have many fewer possessions than previously (woo-hoo!). Things are a little sparse at the moment, which is a very good thing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thoughts on Moving

For an awful moment there it looked like the appraisal of the house would cause us to have to renegotiate the whole thing. The appraisal was coming in too low. Somehow it got fixed. We're still booked to close on the 27th.

That meant today was probably the last time we attended our ward before moving. Next week is the dedication of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple and our stake has suspended regular church meetings in order to allow people to attend the dedication. It wasn't something I'd realized before Husband got up to announce it in Sacrament Meeting, that this was kind of "it." My friend, Andrea, has been praying fervently and steadfastly that somehow we would not move. She's very upset with me at the moment. With all the other good-byes and well-wishes I got today, I nearly cried and wanted to back out of the whole thing.

Nearly.

There's still that thrill of new beginnings, of a change and a new challenge. Admittedly, I'm not fourteen, like Sian, and don't have to start attending a new high school and make new friends. The kids are having definite second thoughts these days, now that it's all coming to the point of no return. But I can't help but be quite excited, despite my sadness to leave behind family and friends. We're only 40 minutes away. It's not like we're moving to a new state or even a new country.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Conspiracy (?)

Joseph's head is healing just fine, but will leave a little scar. Gabrielle's mystery picture remains a mystery. The house buying continues. The sellers are building a new house and may need to rent the house from us for a little while as their new house is being finished, so now I'm in a quandry about whether or not to enroll the kids in the new school district and then drive them up and back (70 mile round trip every day) until we officially move. I need more information in order to make that decision.

My brother sent me this via email.



Hubby and I watched it last night. It's long (nearly two hours) but very interesting. I suggest you get some popcorn and settle in. Yes, it's a political piece. And yes, I happen to agree with the premise. I don't even think I'm necessarily a right-wing wacko involved in some sort of collaborative Republican underground movement.

Okay, I actually KNOW I'm not Republican -- or Democrat. I'm not registered with either, although I am fiscally and socially conservative. I am an at-home mom with six kids and some college education. I don't own a gun (yet) and I haven't even considered running for any office. I don't have a membership in any political organization, I allow my kids to go to public school -- although I have tried home-schooling twice -- and I've never lived on an encampment in northern Idaho with other people who think the government's out to get them.

In other words, I'm pretty normal. Average, even. But I read. I read and I read. I think any person with average intelligence and a desire to do some research will come to the conclusion that people in power wish to stay in power. People with money wish to keep the money and the power it brings; and not only do they want to keep the money and power, they want to expand. Some other people, who may or may not also have money and power, think they are smarter than everyone else and should tell the rest of us what to do. When these two groups get together, one group uses the other to further its dreams for ultimate rule. That's not too far-fetched, is it? It's only happened over and over throughout history. A little reading will show you that.

So when I can believe in a massive global conspiracy to rule the economy of the world and exploit the general population as animal resources -- along with the other natural resources, I think I have sufficient basis to do so. Most people poo-poo this particular conspiracy theory. The argument is that if such a conspiracy existed, it would be too massive to keep a secret; therefore, since they haven't heard anything about it, it's a product of the paranoid mind.

Newsflash: the people who want to rule the world have been very open about it for decades. They've written books and papers, left memos behind, funded very nasty people like Stalin, Lenin and Hitler, bragged about it. It's all there. You just have to dig a little. Also, you just have to have an objective view of all politics and politicians. If you go in with the opinion that career politicians sooner or later become corrupted (sooner, usually), you won't be often disappointed. Also, if you assume that most of the power players in Washington are bought and paid for by the shadow government, the group that wants to rule the world economy, you also won't be often disappointed.

Cynical? I don't know. But read the Book of Mormon, for instance. Firstly, it's a book that gives hope because it's another testament that Jesus Christ truly is in charge and is the actual and literal Son of God. Secondly, it's a warning. Why did Mormon include pages and pages of politics? Because, as he states openly, what happened to the Nephites is exactly what happens to any nation that forgets God. Also, it's a warning specifically to us, who live on this continent. Read Ether 8, where the clever, beautiful and very nasty daughter of Jared (not, of course, the original Jared, who was good, kind, and wise) re-introduces the awful secret combination that has been around since Cain killed Abel. That secret combination eventually brought down the Jaredite nation. One single person of that mighty empire survived the unspeakable slaughter of millions, and then he died an ignoble death amongst the new group of people who arrived on the South American continent.

The Gadianton robbers resurrected that same secret combination amongst the Nephites and infiltrated every level of government and society. In the end, that's what brought down the mighty Nephite nation.

That secret combination is what Mormon was warning us about. He tells us that we have to be always vigilant about finding and rooting it out, and that this secret combination isn't going away. It's Satan's plan. It's Satan's counterfeit of God's plan. It's been around since Adam and Eve. It's not going away. Yet.

Anyway, enough said. I do tend to rant. Sorry.

Just think about it. That's all I'm asking.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

House Hunting

Hello, friends. It's been a while. I've been busy. How? I'll tell you.

We've been house-hunting.

When we had prayed about it before, we always got the answer "No, stay where you are." Then suddenly, one day, it was, "Okay. Time to move. Now." We weren't bothering the Lord about it, honestly. The answer just changed one day. But, as anyone who can read the news knows, it is an excellent time to buy a house -- especially if you're not also trying to sell one.

Our house-hunting began with the help of our neighbor, former bishop and real estate agent, Carlos. Husband would look up houses on the MLS listings, send the MLS numbers to Carlos, and then we'd see five or six houses in a day. It was exhausting, and none of the houses presented everything we wanted. Most of them in our price range were quite worn out and needed some serious TLC before being acceptable.

Then we got the bright idea of looking outside our city. We concentrated on a group of three smaller cities -- towns, really -- about 25 to 35 miles north and west of where we live now. A whole new vista of possibilites opened up for us immediately. Homes that were new or nearly new -- or, if we wanted, not even built yet -- were well within what we could afford. We have now selected a lovely home that was built in 2000 and has five bedrooms and a huge backyard with plenty of space for a garden, and we are under contract. Husband's commute will be longer, of course, and the kids will be an entirely new school district, but it's a great area and the house is big enough, in great condition, and beautiful. We don't have anything to do to make the house perfectly acceptable. The owners, who were living in the house, had it so immaculately put together and staged that it was very easy to walk through the house and imagine ourselves living in it. It even has fruit trees! And a hot tub!

Note to self for the future, if we ever sell the house: Keep the house immaculately tidy for showings or move out before selling. We saw so many houses being sold privately that were so messy that it was hard to envision living in the house. Also, don't lock key doors, such as the master bedroom and storage rooms. That makes prospective buyers (people like us) very suspicious.



The front of the house. It has a very nice front yard, which is perfect for someone like me. I can weed and mow, but having to come up with landscaping ideas is beyond me.




View into the kitchen from the living room. There isn't much room for dining, so with eight of us eating dinner, we're going to have to get creative with seating.




Part of the backyard. At the end of the long yard (which is fully fenced, yay!), is a dirt area that will be a garden. It even has a gate in the fence so we can dump lumber and dirt for the square-foot-gardening frames right into the yard from the street and not have to carry it through from the front yard.

In other news, Little Gary dropped a large pot on his prone and unsuspecting older brother. The rim of the pot hit Joseph on the forehead and gashed it open a little. He doesn't need stitches, but we had to put a butterfly bandage on it and there was lots of crying.

As Husband was searching the internet for trampolines and doing some research, he went to a website for Aeroball tramps. Lo and behold, there was a picture of our own Gabrielle in the advertisement. I kid you not! She's on the right, the second to last picture from the bottom. We had no idea her picture had been taken and used in someone's advertisement. Isn't that illegal or something? Apparently, it happened while she was with a friend and his mother playing Aeroball at some sports center or other. That was about two years ago. At least her name, age, address and phone number are completely lacking. I don't know how her picture got on an ad for an Arizona company.

Little Gary's new favorite song is "I Can Sing a Rainbow." Argh. Sian loved that song when she was that age, as well. She used to scream in the car until we sang it over and over and over. And over. She can now sing it in sign language and she's not so fanatical about it at fourteen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three Offerings on the Weird Side

Remember "Weird Al" Yankovic? Wasn't his music a guilty pleasure back in the '80's? Or was it just my nerdy self?

Anyway, my nephew showed me this. I offer it now to you.



This one is just for the weird factor.



Your kids probably sing this one. If they don't, be grateful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WARNING: The following may make you sick, throw up.

I've been on vacation!

That's not something I have been able to say often in my married life, mostly because we have always talked ourselves out of spending the money on something frivolous while there were serious things to spend it on; also, the thought of driving hours and hours in the car with small children frightened us too much.

This year, however, we spent the money and weathered the drive. It wasn't a long drive -- just four or so hours -- but it was the longest we've ever gone with six kids in one van. Before we started we stocked up at Costco: red vines licorice, fruit snacks, and M&Ms. Sugar, sugar and sugar. Take note of that because it will come up later. Literally.

I drove because Husband had just found out that his pulled wisdom tooth had developed into dry socket. He, therefore, was not having much fun and was on heavy painkillers, which are not conducive to operating heavy machinery. Being chronically sleep deprived (mostly because I don't go to bed when I should), I took a little mental break for a while between Malad, Idaho, and Pocatello, but through the process of slapping my face and pinching my cheeks, I avoided killing us all. Husband woke up and put in his new Carpenters CD and that woke me up. I know that it should really have put me to sleep for real, but being able to sing along helped immensely.

A side note about the music: I grew up listening to classical music because that's what my parents listened to and played. I missed out on all the disco and smooth groove music of the '70s that Husband grew up listening to. For him, The Carpenters is nostalgic and sentimental and evokes happy childhood memories. For me, it was mostly new stuff, although I did recognize and know some of the songs. Who doesn't recognize and know at least some of their music, I'd like to know?

Meanwhile, in the back seats, our children watched DVDs and ate the aforementioned sugar. Little Gary ate a great deal of the sugary snacks, more than I knew, happily fed by his sisters.

When we had arrived at my brother's house, we settled in and I changed Little Gary's diaper. "Sick. Throw up," he said, matter-of-factly, but since he didn't look ill or exhibit greenness around the gills after making that statement, I just thought he'd get over it as he cooled down. A couple hours later we were getting dinner on the table and I picked him up. With no warning whatsoever he was sick and threw up. Twice. With volume and emphasis. I then realized how much licorice he'd consumed. Little Gary got a bath and I got a shower before dinner.

My brother was worried we'd brought some dire illness into the house, I could tell. I think I had just mentioned that our neighbor and Relief Society president was still recovering from Swine Flu and subsequent pneumonia when Gary heaved all over the kitchen and the white(!) living room rug. Fortunately, once he'd relieved himself of extra baggage, Gary was fine. No one else exhibited flu-like symptoms and the vacation passed peacefully. (And the rug cleaned up just fine.)

Husband, however, is still suffering from dry socket, although he is now able to cut out the heavy narcotic pain-killers and rely on ibuprofen alone. If you don't know exactly what dry socket is (which I didn't), imagine a scab forming in a dome over the hole in the gum, rather than directly on the wound, as it should. Under the scab an air pocket is formed, and the air presses down on the gum wound and causes amazingly great pain. You can either have the dentist scrape it out and let it bleed again or you can take painkillers and wait for it to heal on its own. Husband opted for taking pain-killers, probably not realizing just how long it would take to heal.

By the way, I bought some Mountain Dew for the drive home and had no mental lapses, despite a very long detour to drop Sian and Gabrielle off at camp. In fact, I'm still wired.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dumpster Day

Today was Dumpster Day, that eagerly anticipated day in summer when the county puts dumpsters up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Without regaling you with a list of junk we shoved in there, just know our house is about 20 tons lighter. I got my workout in (skipped it this morning) and got a lot of Vitamin D from the sunshine.

Last night we finally got Joseph's bed into his room and Husband dismantled Little Gary's crib. Gary inherited Joseph's toddler bed. Of course, Gary took a long, late nap while I was at a baptism last night, so by the time bedtime rolled around, not only was he not tired but he figured out very quickly that he could get up and come out of his room. Finally, tired of sitting futilely by his bed and holding his hand in an effort to get him to sleep, I brought him into my room. Husband promptly took his pillow to the couch in the living room so he could get some sleep, and I tried to keep my eyes open during a viewing of "Ice Age." It wasn't until 1 AM that Gary decided he was ready to go to bed. Of course, he woke up on the floor this morning. It takes a while to get used to a bed that doesn't have bars.

That's why I skipped my workout. Too tired. Moving like mud. No motivation.

Now we're off to listen to Sian's orchestra perform in the park. We'll have a picnic dinner and the kids can play for a couple hours in the cool of the evening.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What's For Dinner? And What Am I Listening To?

On Sunday, because of my lack of planning, I had to cobble dinner together out of whatever I could find in refrigerator and cupboard. I ended up concocting a dish of fried sausages, apples, and onions with a marsala chutney glaze, and cheesy grits -- I mean polenta -- on the side. It was a little too exotic for half the family; mostly the half that hasn't reached adulthood. Otherwise, it was a big hit.

Yesterday I bought some pizza shells from Papa Murphy's and made pizzas. I hate making the dough, so it's worth it to me to spend $2 a crust to save myself the time.

Now I have yet another meal to plan. I have quite a few cans of butter beans in the cupboard. What can I make that is delicious and filling? I am so sick of coming up with meal plans these days.

Any ideas?

In other "ME!" news, I loved listening to my music when I was a teenager. I had lots of tapes, mostly given to me by people who thought I would like something they liked, which I generally did. Somehow, I need a recommendation to buy an album -- or what are the kids calling it these days? Is it still an album or CD if you buy it on iTunes?

Then, after my mission, where I was severely restricted in what types of music I could listen to, all my tapes sat and gathered dust. I just wasn't all that interested anymore. I didn't even have the desire to turn off all the lights on a Sunday night and have a sensory deprivation moment (except for hearing, of course) with NPR's Pipe Dreams and Music From the Hearts of Space, which was a forum for playing with synthesizers, since they were so new at the time. Gosh, I'm old.

Of course, I was married pretty quickly after I got home from my mission, and then I was puking my guts out with Sian (thank goodness she turned out so well!) so sitting in the dark watching random images from my brain on the back of my eyelids was often interupted by the need to slap my hand over my mouth and run for the bathroom.

There followed a long, long hiatus on the music-listening scene, punctuated only by my love for playing the piano and my wonderful, wonderful cello. I would occasionally find something I liked and listen to it a bit, but only half-heartedly. I would barely notice when Husband stole all the best CDs and took them to work.

Now I think I'm becoming obsessed again. I have found enough new stuff that I like to listen to it over and over. I'm walking around with earphones in my ears and have to pull them out to allow the children to say something to me. There are those of you far more versed in the music scene than I am (I'm thinking of MKShelley and David S., for instance, and Allyson always has a song stuck in her head) but I'm finding some good stuff with the help of pandora.com, iTunes, and, of course, friend recommendations.

As long as you're giving me dinner ideas, why not throw in some music recommendations? It doesn't matter if you don't know what I like. I only really dislike heavy metal and hard-core rap. Everything else, including opera, is fair game. C'mon. Tell me what you love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Unnatural Pairing



From this...




To this!
A friend emailed this to me. I'm going to try it. A little cheese sauce and lunch is made!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dream Interpretations "R" Us

It's been a while. Mea culpa, shame on me and all that. The thing is, I often compose really great blog posts in my head while doing other things -- mostly things that require I distract myself just so I don't scream, like dishes or cleaning the toilet or pondering the state of the back yard. In my head I'm hilarious and articulate. When faced with a blank white box to fill with little black letters, not so much.

But there's nothing like getting something done like getting it done. (Yes, you can use that quote freely. You're welcome.)

I recently had lunch with a former mission companion. She and I had a great visit while munching on delicious Mimi's Cafe fare for a couple hours. I mentioned that I will go back and finish my education and she asked me what I would study. In that moment I experienced a moment of utter clarity. When I said I would study architecture, specifically so I can design houses that utilize resources within a particular environment (not that I'm an activist for green building in the sense that I HEART Al Gore, 'cause I don't, but what is wrong with using resources wisely?) the very air gelled around me and I felt that gut reaction of YES! Does that ever happen to you? I also get that feeling when I've reached a correct interpretation of my dreams. The spirit within knows.

When Husband and I had a chat about interpreting dreams last night, he had himself a good laugh about that gut reaction that I tried to describe. When he laughs I always have to laugh, of course (it's infectious), but I think he finally understood what I was trying to say. When I didn't have six kids, a husband, and a household to run, I had time to write down and ponder my dreams. I got very good at figuring out what my brain was rehashing throughout the night and learned to recognize that inner sense of...rightness...that accompanies a correct interpretation. That's why those dream dictionaries you buy at a bookstore are a load of hooey. No one else can interpret your dreams for you. It's not just the visual part of the dream that's important, it's the thought process and the feelings accompanying the visual symbols. And while the interpretation might be nothing more complicated than, "I was thinking about this movie I watched and this is how I felt about it," there's usually more going on.

Not that I am trying to get all esoteric on everyone here, but I just have one more thing to say on the subject, and then I'm done with it.

The fact that Joseph of Egypt could interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, or Daniel could interpret King Nebechadnezzar's (which is the best I can spell it without actually looking it up) dreams could only be a product of divine intervention. Why did Pharaoh and King Neb get disgusted with the interpretations offered by their advisers and soothsayers? Because they could tell, inside, that those interpretations were incorrect. They didn't get that gut feeling because the advisers didn't know all the thoughts and feelings that went along with the visuals. Only God could have known, and only through that revelation from God could Joseph and Daniel offer the correct interpretation, the one that hit Pharaoh's and King Neb's guts with a satisfying clunk.

Anyway, since I've already gone on long enough, here's a short list of recent events:

* Our big orange cat, Babe, got himself hit by a car and had all the fur ripped out of his tail. No broken bones, no internal damage, thank goodness; but his tail looks like a rat's. A rat who doesn't respect himself very much. Poor cat.

* Husband finished the entire first draft of his book, about 150,000 words! I couldn't be more proud. Now he's going back and revising, but after the first day of revising he came home absolutely disgusted. "It's like re-writing the whole thing!" he said. "The first chapters are awful! The flow is bad and I had such awkward sentence structure." Hey, I thought his first chapters were pretty good, but I did tell him as he went on that his writing was getting smoother and better. Practice makes perfect.

* Despite the inclement weather for the past month, the girls have gone to the neighborhood pool, which is outdoors, nearly every day . Sure, they come home in the stages of pre-hypothermia, but they have determined blue lips. Finally, yesterday, we had a sunny day and the pool heater was fixed. Hallelujah. The girls also came home very burnt, as they forgot to apply sunblock. Ouch. But now I can take the boys, since they won't freeze to death.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Heading Sweatily into Summer

We've been getting what seems to be more than the usual amount of rain (or "moisture," as the natives call it. Husband and I can't help but giggle whenever they say that) this year. Those in the know are telling us that this is actually normal rainfall when we're not having a drought. I am not minding it at all. If we can put off the seriously hot, dry days that I know are coming, I'm that much happier with life.

The girls are nearly done with school. Sophia, my Child Three, has worked very hard to reach completion in her homeschooling studies, as has Sian, Oldest Child. Sophia has done more in a day than she thought was possible, proving to herself that she will be happy when summer comes.

I, on the other hand, have the usual mixed feelings about summer. Not only is it a hot and sweaty time, but the kids spend an inordinate amount of time being bored. I've written about this before, so I'm not going to belabor the point any more, but you know what I mean. A columnist in the Deseret News wrote about how sad it is that he doesn't see kids playing outside any more. He attributed it to the fact that kids are now so involved in scheduled and structured play activities, such as sports leagues and lessons of all kinds, that they don't get to just play and be kids. I can guarantee that's not the case with my kids. I'm just afraid to let them run unsupervised outside.

When I was a kid, I ran all over the neighborhood and even the city. My hometown in Northern Minnesota is not in any way comparable in size to Salt Lake, but we still lived in a city. I would be gone for hours: playing at the park, skipping stones in the creek, taking the bus to the library, forming detective agencies and doing investigative work. We went home when we got hungry or when it got dark. We were wary of strangers, but we weren't scared.

Since then the crazies have emerged. Now that we are parents, we're scared to let our kids run free outside because of that possibility, remote as it may be, that some unscrupulous person will snatch one of them. The thought of it sends horrors through all of us. A teenage girl from our church congregation was walking home the three blocks from the main road to the road on which she lives, in our neighborhood. She was followed by a strange man who harrassed her right up to her doorstep. She was so flustered she didn't know what to do, but after she told her father, the police were called. There have been a couple attempted abductions at the junior high right around the corner from our house, a man or men in a truck who tried to force girls into their cars. This is a decent neighborhood, not a slum. Why are these things happening?

Don't answer that. I think we all know the answer is complicated and sad. I just had to spout off for a minute.

In other news, Elannah, who had that nasty accident with the glass-embedded hill last summer, has seen great improvement in the appearance of her scars. They have gone from an angry red to a light pink. They are hardly visible any more, which I really never thought was possible, given the sheer largeness of them. After the year mark she will be able to wear shorts and swimsuits without also putting on leggings, a fact she is still trying to come to grips with.

Husband is almost done with his book. He also still has a job, for which we are very, very thankful. He will be teaching all four tracks at the same time next year at his year-round school. This year he was teaching two tracks at the same time, so at least he's had some practice in scheduling. Because he has all four tracks, he will have only a couple weeks off this summer. My in-laws are visiting for part of it and we are thinking of actually taking a vacation to Somewhere Else during the other part, even though Gabrielle and Sian will be at Girls' Camp.

That's the news. Other than the fact that I've been studying near-death experiences and reading that awful -- yet compelling -- book that MKShelley sent me, that's what's going on in a nutshell.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"MOM! I just don't get it. Waaaaahh..."

This week and next I will be concentrating on getting my homeschooled children to pass their current grades. When I check their progress, I realize that we have about 8 school days to get them fully up to date.

Stress!

My 10-year-old will now be working a full 8 hour day. Wish her luck. It's not like we haven't been doing the lessons and getting stuff done, but there's just so much to do. And we don't have the luxury of taking many breaks during the day. Somehow, the public school system says all this stuff has to be crammed into their heads by June 8.

This is why I leave being a school teacher to my husband. I don't know how he does what he does. Yes, there are different methods of homeschooling, but I am stuck in this one for the rest of this school year.

Anyway, I probably won't be posting for a while, just so I can deal with the work. I also have to deal with the horrific guilt that occasionally threatens to overwhelm me because I am sending all the kids back to public school next year. It's my fault for thinking too much about the state of public education and the liberal agenda of the government and the NEA. No big.

In parting, I leave you with this:

Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say #5: "This had better be mud smeared all over the bathroom floor!!" (Shouted Sunday, May 17, 2009)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Coupons Were Used in the Making of this Posting

As many of you know, a coupon craze has hit Utah moms. All of a sudden there are newspaper articles, TV spots and all kinds of hints and tips being passed around by wide-eyed and earnestly well-dressed women in Mommy Outfits (solid T or polo shirt with capris and sandals, and very cute A-line bobs). For a while I was thinking I was missing out. I mean, when you check out some of the blog postings and find out how much people are saving, you start thinking you should get yourself ON this bandwagon already.

I am frugal. I don't like paying lots of money for stuff. I am mostly okay with generic brands. I usually cook stuff from scratch (hence my love/hate relationship with cooking after a solid 14 years of being a domestic goddess (*snort*). How many meals is that? Hmmm. About 15,330, give or take a few when we got takeout.). And I have found places to grocery shop where I save a dime.

But am I not as righteous and frugal as I should be?

Then I read this posting and laughed and laughed. So I thought I would share with all of you my own amazing savings. And I did it all without coupons!!




(Above photo): I payed $60.85 cents for this stuff. I got grapes, pasta salads, broccoli florets, Danimals smoothies, Go-gurts, mushrooms, cookies, 4 dozen eggs, instant pudding, butter, lactose-free milk, Cool Whip, crackers, 20 pounds of apples, salsa, eggroll wrappers, lunch meat, cereal, parsley, and some Gouda cheese.

This is the part where you fall down in astonishment and wonder at my brilliance. Aw, gosh. But I admit that because I am the primary grocery shopper in the house, I know the prices of things inside and out, so I can spot a bargain at ten paces. The place where I bought this stuff is a discount grocery outlet. Sometimes they have great prices on certain items. I don't buy the stuff that isn't a good price. For instance, you wouldn't ever catch me buying pre-packaged pasta salad or Go-Gurts at retail price. Not worth it. The Go-Gurts are gone in approximately 2 seconds unless I stand in front of the refrigerator in the kitchen with a rolling-pin at the ready. There is some careful rationing involved there.




On the other hand, I spent about $20 for these two items from Costco. I use them all the time. But I did pay retail. Yurgh.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Worst Movie Ever: Junior High School

MKShelley found the worst book ever. She's kindly sending it to me so I can have my own eyeballs seared out of my head with bad writing. To return the favor, I'm posting some clips of the worst movie ever made: Junior High School.

Filmed in 1978, this musical stars P. David Ebersol as Jerry, a new 7th grader who falls in love with Lori, the prettiest blond haired, bad actress, no-bra-wearing girl at school. Jerry wants to ask Lori to the big party (which is being thrown by none other than a teenage Paula Abdul!), but is having a hard time popping the question.

This movie was the source of much entertainment and hilarity during my teen years. Whole nights were dedicated to mocking it. I know that when you watch these clips you will want the DVD. I don't know if you can get the DVD. I do know that you can buy the VHS tape for $295.00 from Amazon.com. Sigh. I should have kept my copy.

"Party" clip (starring Paula!)




"Do As I Say" Clip. Jerry's best friend gives Jerry some sound advice. I especially love the part at the end of the song where they stand and only arouse the attention of the teacher. In this clip you will meet Lori.



Get ready to do a hoe-down! And ooooh, don't you just want to smack that Vicki?



Jock strap instructions, and Paula does jumping jacks.



Legalized torture.




"Shhhh" Clip.



Poor Jerry. Just hang on, little guy. Good news will come. (Try not to throw up at the suspense here.)



The Finale. Didn't every junior high school drama end up so nicely when you were that age? And Keith finally gets what's coming to him! (Sophia, Child Three, made me rewind and watch Keith's reaction about 10 times just so she could laugh hard enough to stop breathing.)



Hope you enjoyed that. Don't worry: you're eyeballs will be back to normal in about 48 hours.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Back in Black

On Saturday, surprised to find myself alone in the car while running errands, I decided to stop at the mall and find myself a black shirt. See, me and Leslie Sansone have been power walking and firming for a while now. She marches away, spouting all kinds of wonderfully optimistic and upbeat praise for the fact that I've made the first good decision of the day by getting in a workout, and I smile and nod as the sweat pours off me. After 30 minutes of power walking and 30 minutes of firming and toning, I turn off the DVD feeling righteous and uplifted.

It helps that I've lost a lot of inches. Within the first couple weeks my clothes started getting looser. Now I can't even wear one of my skirts to church because it slides right off of me. Even my favorite jeans can be pulled off with a firm tug. It's enough to make a girl giddy, except for the fact that I'm not losing the lbs. I tell myself that it took a lot of years to put on the baby weight, it will take a while to get it off.

Meanwhile, I've got a waist again. Since my only usable church skirt is not a solid, neutral black, I needed something to wear with it that didn't also sit like a tent on me. And so I found myself walking briskly into J.C. Penney and perusing their offering of black blouses. I found one that looked likely and went to the dressing room, knowing in my heart of hearts that it just wouldn't fit, that I would look in the mirror and shudder in horror. But, surprise of surprises, not only did it fit over my trouble spots but I looked SKINNY! I was so sure that I was looking into a trick mirror designed to make you look skinnier (and I seriously wouldn't put it past them. Think of the increased sales!) that I kept dodging around and trying to find the spot that showed the real frumpy me. Finally, I just accepted it, walked out and bought the blouse (which happened to be be 50% off. I mean, how much good luck can a girl have in one day??). With a bounce in my step, I went back to my car and finished my errands.

The question burning in your minds is this: so was it a trick mirror? When you got home, did you try on the blouse and realize that whatever vision of thin you saw in the mirror at the store was not, in fact, representational of the real you? The answer is: no. Whoo-hoo!

I'm no supermodel. Okay, I never was; but I'm happy to see that exercising is not actually a meaningless torture. I feel good and it sure is nice to drop a size or two. Now if I could just stick to eating healthful foods in reasonable quantities... My downfall is portion control. Sigh. I'm getting there.

I just had to share that moment of triumph.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I would have failed as a 1950's TV wife.

I was lamenting the ethereal nature of finished housework to a friend today and realized once again that housework would be so much easier if I didn't have any stuff. Can you imagine how clean I could keep things without the papers, the books, the dishes, the toys, the gadgets, the furniture, the clothes?

In fact, my parents lived a lot like that for a while when they were in Central Minnesota (motto: "Watery and full of mosquitos. But pretty. You betcha.") They had bought a double-wide trailer in a very rural area because that was where their jobs were, and for some reason just never got around to getting furniture. Well, they had beds -- I can't think of a reason anyone would willingly sleep on the floor in a state known for cold drafts -- and they had a dining table and some chairs, but that was pretty much it. No living room furniture, no bookshelves full of books, a few clothes, no TV for a while.

And they liked it.

For a couple years they didn't change the furniture situation. When we visited, there were some mattresses for us on the floor in the living room. It was roomy, I'll say that much. And it was also easy to keep clean. Of course, by then there were no small children, and that always helps.

When my parents bought this house after deciding to move to Utah, it was also pristinely non-furnitured for a long time. The carpet always seemed to have vacuum marks in it because no one ever walked on it. That was before we moved in, of course.

We brought with us beds and books and kids' clothes, dressers and bookshelves. And, of course, books. Loads and loads of books. We brought small children, as well, and added to them over the years, ensuring a constant crop of crumbs on the floor, dirty smears on the walls, and nose smudges on the windows. With us came the need for more than three or four plates. In fact, we apparently need about 100 plates, cups and bowls, all of which are dirty at any given time no matter how many children have been assigned to dish duty. Ditto the silverware. Especially the spoons.

Eventually a dining table and chairs were added. Someone brought up the crazy idea of living room furniture, and it was all downhill from there. The years have brought with them the detritus of pre-school, school age and finally teen-age kids. When I get energetic and ambitious enough, I try to cull our papers and books and toys and...stuff. But more keeps coming in.

It also doesn't help that I'm lazy. I hate the mundane day-to-day maintenence. HATE it. I know I have to, and sometimes I get all excited about getting rid of everything extra and keeping this place clean by merely putting in a couple hours a day. (Ha!) It's just getting there.

And I'm so easily distracted by more interesting things.

Ah, well. It's all part of the struggle. Husband is very understanding; he also loathes dishes. But we all enjoy a clean and tidy house, so it's a struggle worth continuing. I also have learned not to equate my self-worth with my lack of innate cleaning ambitions.

But just to be on the safe side, please call before you come. Thank you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bee-Stung Headbutts and iTunes Temptations

You know that bee-stung look that is so popular with women they will have their lips injected with collagen to plump them up (and gee, it doesn't look obvious or anything!)? I got that for free this morning when Little Gary headbutted me on the upper lip. He does that sometimes, just suddenly smacks his head into whatever facial feature of mine is closest and most unlucky. There's no such thing as an attractive bee-stung nose look. Ditto with the eyes and cheekbones. But this morning, for about sixty minutes, my mouth looked really pouty, full, and kissable. I was just disappointed that it was wasted on the clean laundry. Why couldn't he do that just before I have to go grocery shopping?

This evening I went to a meeting outside the neighborhood pool. It's in danger of being taken by the IRS for overdue property taxes, so the board members sent out flyers and got together the meeting in a last-ditch effort to save the pool. The demographic of our community has changed in the last 40 years -- since this neighborhood and the community pool were built -- from young families with lots and lots of kids to grandparents with no kids around as the kids grew up and moved out. Now we have lots of seniors (lots!) and few young families. Because of that, membership at the pool has gone down, and with dwindling membership has come decreased revenue for fixing stuff. The water heater needs replacing, the pool needs resurfacing (my kids come home with bleeding toes because the floor of the pool is so rough), things have to be brought up to the new code, etc., etc. Our problem is to somehow find $22,000 to keep the pool going for the year, plus another $8000 to pay off the property taxes that have accumulated over the last three or four years. I'm stymied. Hopefully we'll all come up with something.

Joseph (Child Five) came up to me today intensely pleased with himself.
"Mom!" he said, his face incredulous and happy. "Mom! I just beat the whole entire Lego Batman game!"
I gave him a high five and some high praise while considering my culpability in the fact that my four-year-old is allowed enough time to get really good at video games.
"I think I'm going to fall over now," he said then, pausing dramatically to sway from side to side before falling elegantly to the floor in a swoon. I laughed for a long time.

Husband just bought himself a new toy: an iPod Touch, which is a little computer/MP3 player. As he got a great deal and because the MP3 player he recently bought is not working very well (and will be returned to the store from whence it came!), and also because he wisely (though not happily) had to deny himself a much more expensive toy a month ago, I was happy. He uses his commutes, like many do, to fill his head with knowledge. He downloads the podcasts from writingexcuses.com, which come in convenient little 15 minute segments and listens to those a lot. He also listens to old General Conference talks. Sometimes I almost wish I had to commute somewhere so I could do that. My car rides are mostly filled with children's questions and comments while I attempt to also listen to NPR. (Lyn, you and Addie might be interested in those podcasts, by the way, as aspiring writers.) I am using the slightly annoying MP3 player he had until I get around to returning it and may be forced to rack up a large bill at iTunes.

Okay, not forced. But mightily tempted.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eva Aurora: Diary of a Soft-Living Woman

I think my list idea is all played out. I am pretty much done with that now, so I'm going to move on to another format. I may break from it, of course. It's my blog, after all.

I was reading a book called Emily: Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman. It's the actual diary of a woman who was 47 in the year 1890. She had eight children, most of them grown, and was newly divorced and living in Colorado. The diary details her struggles to survive as a single woman with no other income provider than herself. She worked at whatever honest work she could find, mostly cleaning other people's homes (some of whom were nearly as poor as herself) and helping her neighbors when she could. She usually worked 12 to 16 hour days, earning just enough to survive; often she had to take goods in lieu of money. She writes of her belief in God and often asks Him why her life has to be so hard, but she is also grateful for what she does have.

After finishing that book, I sat back and looked at my life. I have a vacuum, a dishwasher, an electric oven and a heated, comfortable house. I have never gone hungry. I can read all the books I want to. My children are healthy and I've never lost any of them to sickness or accident. I have a husband who loves me and our children and who works hard. I have what Emily longed for so much in that year of 1890.

So, in honor of Emily French, I am going to do some diary-style entries. We'll see what format I go with when I'm tired of a diary.

Monday, April 13, 2009

List #19: A Very Scary Quote

1. "Beginning with March 1, 1919, the right to possess women between the ages of 17 and 32 is abolished...this decree, however, not being applicable to women who have five children...By virtue of the present decree no woman can any longer be considered as private property and all women become the property of the nation...The distribution and maintenance of nationlized women, in conformity with the decision of responsible organizations, are the prerogative of the group of Saralof anarchists...All women thus put at the disposition of the nation must, within three days after the publication of the present decree, present themselves in person at the address indicated and provide all necessary information...Any man who wishes to make use of a nationalized woman must hold a certificate issued by the administrative Council of a professional union, or by the Soviet of workers, soldiers or peasants, attesting that he belongs to the working class...Every worker is required to turn in 2% of his salary to the fund...Male citizens not belonging to the working class may enjoy the same rights provided they pay a sum equivalent to 250 French francs, which will be turned over to the public fund...Any woman by virtue of the present decree will be declared national property will receive from the public fund a salary equivalent to 575 French francs a month...Any pregnant woman will be dispensed of her duties for four months before and three months after the birth of the child...One month after birth, children will be placed in an institution entrusted to their care and education. They will remain there to complete their instruction and education at the expense of the national fund until they reach the age of 17...All those who refuse to recognize the present decree and to cooperate with the authorities shall be declared enemies of the people, anti-anarchists, and shall suffer the consequences." (From a decree issued in the Soviet of Saralof, quoted by Gabriel M. Roschini in his article, "Contradictions Concerning the Status of Women in Soviet Russia," which appears in "The Philosophy of Communism," by Giorgio La Pira and others, Fordham University Press, New York, 1952, pp. 97 - 98)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Thoughts

I am breaking from my list format for a day just to write some thoughts I have had about Easter.

The LDS people hold the atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane to be the single most important act performed in the history of the universe. Somehow, in some way we cannot fully comprehend, Christ paid the horrible price for all our sins. He descended into the pits of hell in order to buy us and to allow us to be able to repent of our mistakes. For three or four hours, He suffered agonies so great that He bled great drops of blood from every pore. When it was over, He then was arrested and eventually crucified. As He hung on the cross, near the end of his torment, his Father, who had been with Him all the time, left Him completely alone, withdrawing His spirit so that Jesus could complete the atonement.

During the atonement process in the Garden, Christ descended below all of us in pain and anguish -- physical, mental and emotional. When the Father withdrew His spirit while Christ hung on the cross, Christ descended below all of us in a spiritual agony so great he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

I can't understand it. I can't comprehend what it took for Christ to do what He did for me and everyone else in the world. Because of Him, I can be resurrected -- everyone in the world will live again with a perfect body, never to die again. Because of Him, I can repent and have those sins and mistakes wiped away. Because of Him, I have a chance of eternal life. Nothing I could ever do on my own would merit me an eternity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I can not be good enough or work hard enough, though I have to try every day to be obedient to His commandments. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ, who paid that awful price for me, that I have a chance.

I love Him. I am so grateful to Him. Easter is a day to be especially grateful, but that feeling is something I try to keep in my heart every day of the year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

List #18: Things I am Happy About

1. Using all-vegetable shortening (just a dab!) as eye makeup remover is the best use for shortening I've ever found. It works better than any eye makeup remover I've ever bought for more $$$.

2. I'm going to the temple tonight with Husband.

3. The weather was lovely today and we took a field-trip to the zoo.

4. And best of all: MY BROTHER, MIKE, WHO WAS LOST, IS FOUND! He was just living his life in Minnesota, working and living at a friend's house. Maybe he got stuck in a time warp and didn't realize he hadn't phoned home in months and months and that we didn't have any address or phone number. My mother cried when she found out he was found.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

List #17: How to Store Wheat and Other Grains

I'm writing this list because it's been so much part of my life recently. I am on the Emergency Preparedness Committee in my ward, and we decided to do hands-on training for people who have no clue what to do. It's one thing to hear a lecture. It's another to get on your knees and pour wheat into a bucket. When you do it, you know it. We've been putting our 2400+ pounds of wheat into permanent storage. The kids are helping and loving it, and I'm so glad they're involved.

1. Buy buckets. We bought ours used for $1/each from a lady who had hundreds. They had to be washed, as they had previously contained sugared egg whites (though they had been pretty well rinsed out before we bought them). They are 4-gallon buckets and they are sqaure. You can also buy new 5-gallon buckets that are round for about $5/each. Buy two or three of those handy screw-top lids as well as the regular lids. Then you don't have to lever that nail-breaking lid off each time you need to fill your pantry container with grain.

2. You can also buy cans and lids from the LDS Cannery. Each stake usually has a canner you can borrow to put the lids on, or you can borrow one from the cannery for free. There are advantages and disadvantages to both buckets and cans, but it's probably good to have some of both.

3. Choose your method of keeping out the bugs. We have used two methods: diatomaceous earth and bay leaves. My parents have used bay leaves effectively for years and years with nary a problem; however, if you live in a very hot, humid environment (such as the southern US), you may want to go with the diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth will actually kill insects by absorbing the "lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate." [from Widipedia, Diatomaceous Earth]. There is food-grade as well as industrial-grade diatomaceous earth, so be sure you're ordering food-grade. It isn't that expensive, and a little goes a long way. You can buy bulk bay leaves from places like San Francisco Herb Company for a very good price. As you only need 9 - 12 per bucket, depending on size, a little goes a long way again.

You can also buy oxygen absorbers if you want, or try the dry-ice method of canning or bucketing grain. Dry-ice is a little too much work for me. I like the bay leaves and diatomaceous earth.

4. Time to bucket the grain. Find the string on the top of the grain bag and pull. If you get the right end, it should just unravel all the way across, leaving you with a perfectly open bag.

5. To use the Diatomaceous Earth (DE): You only need 1/4 cup of DE per 50-pound bag of grain (a 5-gallon bucket will hold almost 50 pounds; you'll need 1 1/2 4-gallon buckets per 50-pound bag of grain, and 1 TBSP of DE per 4-gallon bucket). Using a bowl or container, scoop in grain to fill 1/4 to 1/3 of the bucket or can. Spinkle a little DE onto the wheat and mix it around with your hands. You might want to wear a dust mask for this.

Add more grain and sprinkle on more DE, mixing it thoroughly. Continue until the bucket is full and the DE is all used up. Put a lid on it.

6. To use bay leaves: You'll need 9 bay leaves for a 4-gallon bucket and 12 bay leaves for a 5-gallon bucket. For the 4-gallon bucket, pour in grain to 1/3 full, lay on 3 bay leaves. Repeat twice more. Put on a lid.

For a 5-gallon bucket, pour in grain to 1/4 full and lay on 3 bay leaves. Repeat three more times. Put on a lid.

For #10 cans, you need 4 - 6 bay leaves.

7. Make sure you label your buckets and cans clearly. Store buckets off a cement floor by putting them on a pallet or laying down several boards so the bottom of the buckets are not touching the cement. Cans are really easy to locate and move when they are in cases. You can buy the boxes fairly inexpesively from the cannery.

Happy bucketing and canning! I'd love to hear your comments and/or questions. If I don't have the answer, I know people who do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

List #16: List of Things I Can't Wait to Get Rid of When I Leave

This list was written on March 8, 1994, while I was serving a mission in England. At the time, I had recently transferred to a suburb of Birmingham called Sheldon. I had been on my mission for almost 15 months of my 18-month mission.

1. wax jackets [it's actually waxed jackets, as the outer canvas layer of the jacket is infused with wax to repel the incessant spitting rain of England; it is not a jacket made of wax.]

2. my bike

3. half my skirts

4. some blouses

5. tights

6. elders [I was a little bitter about some things at this point. Really, not all the elders bugged me. Just most of them.]

7. dinner appointments involving blancmange [a horrid, nasty pudding, pronounced "blah-mawnzh'", with that soft French zh sound.]

8. all the junk I've picked up

9. church music [not, of course, hymns or anything -- I was talking about the recorded church music that we were allowed to listen to, like Afterglow. I hate Afterglow with a passion but all my companions seemed to love it.]

10. white pepper

Sunday, March 22, 2009

List #15: Stuff I've Done in the Last 24 Hours

1. Did my final preparations for my Gospel Doctrine lesson ("The Field Is White, Already to Harvest")
2. While preparing, I started thinking about what it was like to get my mission call, so I got on YouTube and, lo and behold, there are dozens of videos of prospective missionaries opening their mission calls. It was a lot of fun to watch them, although I don't know any of those kids. Click here to see a typical example.
3. Struggled through Sacrament Meeting with the kids, who were all in a fighting mood today. Five spent the meeting (and the hour after I taught the Gospel Doctrine class) lying on my lap with a fever I hadn't known about before church.
4. Found some eggplant recipes online because Sunflower Farmers Market is having a sale (77 cents each!) and I wanted to try some different recipes.
5. Went to the Draper Utah Temple dedication ceremony at the Stake Center. It was a really good meeting, but as soon as the lights went down (so we could watch the live broadcast from the temple), I started involuntarily dropping off and having these odd little dreams. I caught most of the dedication, though.
6. Last night, Husband and I watched a couple of online episodes of "Legend of the Seeker," which is a fun little show. If you're a Terry Goodkind fan, this show merely gives a nod to the Sword of Truth series, but if you quit obsessing about the differences, it's a fun show.
7. Our hometeachers are here. Off I go.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

List #14: Funny Quotes From Movies or TV Shows

These are from movies and TV shows that I have watched. I didn't go to the internet for random quotes. You have to be impressed that I could recall as many of these as I have, as I can think of something and then wonder what that thing was about 5 seconds later.

1. "Radiation has made me an enemy to society, eh." (Strange Brew)
2. "That's what they all say. They all say d'oh." (Chief Wiggum of The Simpsons, when he is arresting Homer. The first time I heard that I think I laughed for half an hour straight. It just struck me as hilarious the way Chief Wiggum said it so calmly.)
3. "Phew! What smells like big business?" (Spongebob in the Spongebob Squarepants episode (I believe it's called "Jellyfish Jam" from Season 1) where the elusive blue jellyfish kidnaps Spongebob in order to expose Mr. Krabs' evil plan. In context, it's a riot.)
4. "I want my two dollars!!" (Classic line from Better Off Dead.)
5. Agent 23: We don't follow the rules then what are we?
The Chief: We're not people who jam staples into other peoples' heads. That's CIA crap. (From Get Smart, the movie)


Sorry, folks. That's all the time I have for now. Add your own favorite funny quotes in the comments.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

List #13: Reasons I Skipped a Couple Days of Lists

1. After four of the kids caught the prevailing chest cold, we had four separate asthma emergencies.
2. I spent the nights and days giving kids albuterol nebulizer treatments, forcing a couple of them (Three and Six) to take steroids, and cuddling with Six, who likes nothing better when sick than to make sure I do not leave his side.
3. After the emergency was over (and we didn't end up in the emergency room with anyone, fortunately), the house was in a mess. I couldn't make the kids exert themselves to do their chores while they were coughing and wheezing.
4. I did some necessary house maintainence. Things are now mopped, vacuumed, washed and folded enough to hold back the filth.
5. Because I had the Emergency Preparedness Committee coming over Wednesday night to help me put all the wheat in buckets, I had to wash 100 buckets. I calculated it took me 2 minutes per bucket, and with everything going on, I only managed to wash 40 buckets. In the end, no one showed up. I may have missed the cancellation memo, but it doesn't bother me 'cause I got 40 buckets washed. I wouldn't have taken the time otherwise if I wasn't under a deadline.

List #13A: Other Stuff That Happened
1. Husband wrote another chapter in his book. He's now written 25 chapters. 87,000 words. I'm impressed.
2. Husband found a great place to buy new mattresses, as all the girls have mattresses that are at least 10 years old. Three of them now have lovely new soft mattresses with pillow-tops -- or, in Oldest Child's case, a Tempurpedic -- and Child Two will get hers next week.
3. After talking with my parents, we have arranged to rearrange the household so that we'll only have two children per room. At the moment, we have 5 in one room and 1 in the other. My dad is giving up his office because it's another bedroom. We will re-establish his office in the family room, using the lovely large bookcases (of which we still have 9 in the garage) as walls. Then he has shelf space galore as well as a fairly quiet office. In order to get the bookcases in, we have to bucket and move the wheat, and in order to do that, I have to finish washing all the buckets. I don't need the Emergency Preparedness Committe to fill the buckets, of course, but I'll ask them if they still want to come. The point was to give people a hands-on experience so they know how easy it is to do. The kids are thrilled.
4. The Crispy Black Bean Tacos were such a hit I made them again tonight. So easy. Next time I'm using fish fillets either with or instead of the beans.
5. Child Two announced after she got home from school that her big concert was tonight. I had not received prior notification, of course. That announcement meant rounding up all the kids, washing faces, combing hair, shoes on, rush to the practice and then watch the concert. It went well, but I'm exhausted.
6. Good night.

Thanks, by the way, to Lyn for this idea. We're old friends who hardly ever get to see each other anymore, but today she came over and we talked and laughed while she knitted a sock and I did some half-hearted kitchen cleaning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

List #12: A Recipe

A recipe is a list, right? And since I just had to share the recipe I made tonight, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. I got this recipe off the internet yesterday while looking for a recipe for brown sugar fudge (I think this recipe was from www.epicurious.com). It's fast, it's easy, and the ingredients are pretty inexpensive (the best price for the feta is at Costco, by the way). Husband made the brown sugar fudge, which was divine.

Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw

Yields: 4
Time: 25 minutes

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 cups coleslaw mix (don't add the sauce!)
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
4 white or yellow corn tortillas
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Bottled chipotle hot sauce or other hot sauce

Place beans in a small bowl; partially mash. Mix 2 tsp olive oil and the lime juice in medium bowl; add coleslaw, green onions and cilantro and toss to coat. Season slaw with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortillas in single layer. Spoon 1/4 of bean mixture onto half of each tortilla; cook 1 minute. fold tacos in half. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Fill tacos with feta and add slaw. Pass hot sauce alongside.

Here's how I changed it a little: Firstly, I tripled the recipe for my family. Then, since I hate tasteless beans, I added salt and pepper and more cumin to the mashed black beans until they tasted good. I put about 1 or 2 Tbsp of the bean mixture onto each tortilla before setting it in the hot oil, spreading the beans over one half of the tortilla with a spoon (this kept me from plopping spoonfuls of beans directly into the oil by accident, and it also stretched the beans so I could make about 30 tacos instead of 12). I didn't have any slaw mix, but since I had a cabbage, I just shredded six cups of cabbage. I also added extra cilantro, as I looooove cilantro, and I cheated and used bottled lime juice (I never have much luck juicing limes). Then, since a neighbor had just given me a jar of his special salsa fresca, I set that out to add to the cooked tacos along with the other fillings. Better than a restaurant!

This is great party fare. You could make the tacos ahead of time and keep them warm in a slow oven, covered with foil. Just be sure to make the slaw right before serving, as it will begin to wilt after about 30 minutes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

List #11: Why I Loved Stake Conference Yesterday and Today

1. During both sessions I attended, I managed to snag one of the cushioned chairs in the overflow instead of the the surprisingly uncomfortable chapel pews or the obviously uncomfortable metal folding chairs behind the overflow in the gym. This allowed me to sit for the two two-hour sessions listening quietly and intently to the speakers instead of fighting the urge to stand up and jog in place just to relieve my aching muscles.
2. The Stake President, in a hilarious comparison of our stake to the City of Enoch, claimed that his wife could "post-up" the wife of Enoch. If you knew the Stake President's wife you would have to laugh, for although she is very, very fit and works as a personal trainer, she is the nicest and kindest person.
3. Child Two was pretty upset about having to attend the Youth Session alone on Saturday, as Oldest Child was ill and couldn't go with her. She was late because she didn't want to walk in, and kind of slunk to a row with no one in it. The Second Counselor in the Stake Presidency, seeing this, called her up to the front, introduced her to all the youth, and then made sure she sat next to his daughter, who is her age and in her class at school. It made her feel so welcomed and included.
4. We got to hear from one of the Jordan River Temple presidency (President Vassal) and one of the members of our mission presidency, the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission (President Molford). Both of them spoke powerfully and I felt the spirit very strongly. Pres. Vassal related a story of his family: his 6th great-grandfather had married a woman in France. They had 8 children, all of whom died hearbreakingly within the first two years of life. The eighth child died within just a few hours of birth, followed soon after by her mother. This man remarried and had three more children, the first of whom also died. The next two lived, the son becoming Pres. Vassal's 5th great-grandfather. Pres. Vassal told of going to the temple to seal this family to each other and the joy that he felt as he sat in proxy for his great-grandfathers as they became an eternal family after 200 years, no longer seperated by death. Pres. Molford spoke about the joy of watching others come to a knowledge of their Savior and enter the waters of baptism in order to go to the temple and receive all the saving ordinances.
5. I got to sit next to Husband. That doesn't happen on a Sunday because, as the bishop, he's up on the stand while I'm in the pews with six squirrely children. But today I got to sit next to him and hold his hand through the entire conference. That was reason enough to go. The rest was beautiful gravy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

List #10: Things of Strange Beauty

1. The red, wood-grainy look of beets when you're peeling them.

2. The raw sanding power of a new piece of 5 grit sandpaper on an oribital sander.

3. The first swipe of paint on the wall.

4. Hearing a familiar voice on the phone.

5. Watching a loose dog, happy in its unexpected freedom, sniffing its way down the street.

6. Coming home from work to the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies (Husband's contribution. When I reminded him that these are things of strange beauty and not obvious beauty, he retorted that it happens so very rarely that it is strange. Touche'.)

7. That feeling of unity that happens in a sports stadium when the spectators all cooperate in crowd-entertaining games.

8. A made bed.

9. The subtle striations of a wasp nest.

10. An old man's bushy eyebrows.

Friday, March 13, 2009

List #9: Great Recipes I've Wowed the Family With In the Last Little While

Let me preface this by saying that I did not make up any of these recipes. Other, more creative, people came up with these and I merely followed their directions.

1. Greek Pitas with Cucumber Sauce. I made these with both beef and chicken (I prefer the chicken). I also add lots of feta cheese.

2. Fettucini Alfredo, restaurant style. This is so not a low-calorie dinner, as the sauce uses cream cheese, parmesan, butter and cream. The kids love it.

3. Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, homemade. A friend sent me an e-cookbook that has reverse-engineered recipes for many popular restuarant dishes. I use it so much I just printed it all out (all 400+ pages of it). This pizza recipe is so good I could eat it every day, and it tastes just like Pizza Hut.

4. Eggrolls. Okay, this I did make up. I've made them so many times that I just throw stuff together without measuring and add seasonings and spices, throw the mixture into eggroll wrappers and deep fry them. There is much rejoicing when I make eggrolls.

5. Firehouse Roasted Chicken Pasta. This has penne pasta mixed with chicken and a wonderful white sauce, topped with mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, green onions and lots of cheese, roasted in the oven until the cheese melts. Husband even had thirds, and he doesn't usually do that with anything.

6. Sweet and Spicy Sesame Noodles with Shredded Jerk Chicken. When you jerk the chicken yourself, using your own ingredients, it's fantastic.

7. Mock Cafe Rio Pork Salad. I love Cafe Rio's pork barbacoa, and now I can make it whenever I want. I put this filling into tortillas and topped them with sour cream and that yummy Creamy Tomatillo Dressing. This was one of Husband's favorites.

8. Cheesy Ranch Potato Bake. This is really a side dish, and it's a riff on the classic Funeral Potatoes that are so popular in Utah. I prefer this dish by far. I made two pans of this and it was gone in 24 hours after people had leftovers the next day.

Along with these wonderful-tasting, time-consuming meals, my family also had to endure my lack of ambition in such meals as spaghetti with canned sauce, pork tenderloin with nothing else but cooked frozen broccoli, and things along that line. I wouldn't want you to think the family eat like kings every night of the week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

List #8: Instruments My Dad Can Play

It's my dad's birthday today, so in the spirit of my Month of Lists, I thought I would list one of his talents: music. My dad is pretty brilliant in the area of music. He's been playing and composing for a long time. One of my favorite CDs is one that he composed -- music that is relaxing, introspective and beautiful. He also composes music in many other styles, including using his computer as a co-composer, which produces some extremely interesting pieces. My favorite of those is one that sounds like a migraine feels. That sounds odd, but it so captures the intense pressing throb of a migraine that you almost get a migraine out of sympathy. Another of my favorites (this one composed without any extra help) is a piece -- or, rather, two pieces linked together -- called "Seattle Machine," inspired by a very large junk sculpture in the Seattle, Washington, airport. Because the entire sculpture was encased in glass to protect it, there were no sounds. Dad decided to provide the sounds. I absolutely love it. I am looking for a way to get his music onto the web somewhere so I can put a link to it so you can also hear it.

Child Six, who was a music lover from birth, often sits with my dad, listening intently to his music. They have a strong bond through music.

Without further ado, here's the list.

1. Piano
2. Organ (he's the church organist currently, and has been ever since I can remember, wherever we have lived)
3. Accordian (he took it downstairs into the basement and didn't come up until he had mastered it, which took about 12 hours)
4. Guitar
5. Cello
6. The computer. Dad writes programs that gives the computer parameters in which to compose, then gives it the sounds with which to create.
7. Keyboard/synthesizer
8. Learning the banjo

That's a pretty impressive list whoever you are. Happy Birthday, Dad! You're my hero and I love you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

List #6: Smells I Like; List #7: Smells I Don't Like

List #6: Smells I Like

1. Baking bread
2. Cookies
3. Roses
4. Lilacs; in fact, someday I'm going to create a lilac "room," and during that time when the lilacs are blooming, I will sit out there on my bench on a warm evening and just breathe.
5. Infant poop. I know that's just weird, but there you go. And it has to be a breast-fed infant when they still have that yellow poop. They can't be eating food yet.
6. Asian grocery stores (although one of the smells I really don't like is Fish Sauce. Blech.)
7. Lavender
8. Damp dirt
9. That first whiff when you walk into an Indian restaurant and you just know the pilau rice and naan bread are going to be heavenly.
10. Drying laundry
11. Husband
12. Freshly washed kids' hair
13. The soap they use in the women's bathroom at the Jordan River Temple. Pure almond delight.
14. Pizza
15. Pickled onions

List #7: Smells I Don't Like

1. Wet dog
2. Fish Sauce (already mentioned)
3. Wet washcloths that are a little too ripe
4. The Great Salt Lake when the wind wafts in the wrong direction -- it's like sulphur
5. The poopy diapers of older children
6. Moth balls
7. Fresh perm
8. Food I forgot to clean out of the fridge in a timely fashion
9. I can't decide if I like or don't like that green, somewhat sickly sweet smell of the Jordan River Walkway when you're going through the swampy areas.
10. New car
11. Heavy, exotic perfumes, like Opium. They make me feel sick to my stomach.
12. Incense
13. Cooking rice, although it's fine once it's done
14. Heavy chlorine