Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Several Pictures Accompanied by Long-Winded Explanations

So I got a little busy over Christmas. So sue me. I'm here now, and I'm posting photos, much to your surprise, since I often say I will and then I don't.

Without giving you an entire rundown on the whole holiday weekend, I'll just say it was fun but I didn't feel all that well. Christmas Eve Asian night was a big hit. The only thing that didn't work were the onion bhajis, which are fried onion fritters. I didn't cook them long enough, and the centers were still gooey. Bummer. Otherwise, it was good stuff.

Christmas Day dinner ended up being frozen burritos instead of ham and potatoes and Yorkshire puddings and roasted vegetables and gravy, and we still haven't had time to have the ham dinner yet. The day was great: nothing but lounging after the present opening session in the morning. My parents and brother came over for a couple hours in the later morning, but they left again to go to my sister's house, and they took Gabrielle and Elannah with them for an overnight. Strange how having only four kids in the house seemed so much quieter.

Sunday, or Boxing Day, if you're British like Husband, was when we went to my parents' house and had Mom's spaghetti for dinner, along with about a ton of treats she'd cooked up. Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate = a merry Christmas for me. I brought my cello and Sian brought her violin, and I, my mother (on violin), Sian, and my dad (on piano) played the Silent Night arrangement I'd made. My sister would have played her flute, but she'd already packed it for the big move to Wyoming the next day. Sophia got it all on her new flip video camera. I may post it, but I warn you that we hadn't warmed up. The first time I put bow to string and played was when it was my turn to come in. In my opinion, it was pretty rough.

We all took turns telling the others what present we had decided to give to Jesus this year, and the kids made paper ornaments with their gifts written on them for the tree. After all, it's HIS birthday party.

Here is the living room, complete with tree that does NOT lean in any fashion. I wonder how long it's been since we had a tree that didn't need to be tied to the ceiling to prevent a gradual decline? Anyway, after more than a year in this house, we are still holding on to the black, white, and red decorating scheme, but now I know what I really want to do. Walls, prepare. Your white days are numbered.

Below, you see the island in the kitchen. Husband found a couple tall chairs, so we finally can have kids sit up there and draw or eat while I cook. The cats also think they're great because now they have easy access to the countertop, where I am sure to be opening a can of tuna or getting some delicious kitty treat for them. That's what I'm there for, after all!

Husband very cleverly created one of the best Christmas presents ever -- at least for Joseph and Little Gary.

He created differently sized rectangles on all the pages so the kids, who are constantly drawing comics (especially in church meetings!) have a way to get really creative with them. Joseph's book is almost nearly filled up already.

The opening of presents commenced at about 8:30am on Christmas Day.

That's it for now. It's late and I'm tired. I have more photos for the next post, though.

I've been writing guest posts for blogs all day today. The idea is to write a posting about a certain subject that goes along with the blog's theme. The owner gives permission, and I write the post, inserting a keyword that will be linked to a client's website. All of these blogs I write for have advertising on them, so they welcome appropriately written postings, but the other day I wrote about axle scales, filling machines, and ways to defeat depression. It gets hard to be creative with my own blog.

P.S. If you read any blog posts about the Top 5 Business Opportunities of 2011 and it happens to be one I wrote, just know that I was coming up with stuff off the top of my head. I'm no expert in business, but that's what I had to write. Husband commented that people read these things and assume it's from some expert, so who knows if people looking for a good business opportunity for the New Year might decide to go into salvage because I said so? Or real estate (which was how I fit in the keyword)? Or reasonably priced services for Baby Boomers? Oh, the POWER! Buahahahahaha!

Friday, December 24, 2010

As Supreme Ruler of the Universe, I Declare There Shall be More Pie!

I had a truly surreal moment the other night. I mean, it was like Escher came and plopped down right into my head, and all it took was a comment from Husband.

See, for years now, I've been puzzled about something. You know how you say something or express an opinion and suddenly you start hearing it everywhere? I keep wondering if I'm just repeating something I heard somewhere else and just managed to get into the middle of some sort of fad. It's hard to imagine I am a true bellwether.

Anyway, the idea had been working itself into my subconscious that I am in this world in a sort of Matrix-style way. Alien intruders aside, I keep feeling like I am creating my reality, to the point that I can make anything happen that I choose to. Husband said something without even meaning to (and really, it would take way too long to tell you what it was and why it triggered this surreal event) and for the next couple hours I could not shake the feeling that I am creating reality like a candy maker creates taffy by stretching and pulling it.

I know this sounds extremely strange. I promise, I'm not certifiable. The feeling went away after a night's sleep, and it might all have been due to some MSG in my take-out and one too many late nights. I'm mostly back down to earth now, but it was such a heady feeling I'm not sure I don't miss it.

My other reality-creation happened today when all the kids pitched in to get their chores done and the house nice and tidy for when family comes over to dinner tonight. Mostly, things went smoothly, and the bathrooms are no longer war zones. Also, I have a few of the dishes for tonight's Asian-inspired Christmas Eve meal in preparation mode, so the cooking load will be a little lighter later on. I even remembered to refrigerate the onions for the onion bhajis. I always cry when I cut onions. I've become pretty good at chopping them with my eyes closed, but I'll have a LOT of onions to chop and I'd like to keep all my fingers, thank you. Refrigerating the onions makes them less tear-inducing.

I have taken tons of pictures already. Tomorrow, I will post some of them. Right now I'm ready for a nap.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Samosas, and Naan Bread, and Curry! Oh My!

For the love of Pete! I'm sick of writing.

And no, I'm not ancient and wrinkly, but sometimes I like to say "for the love of Pete!" just for fun. I never get to insert that particular phrase into any of the things I write -- any that pay, I mean. But wouldn't it be fun to get to write "For the love of Pete! When you plan your honeymoon trip to Florida, just promise me you won't get eaten by an alligator!" and have the client just rave about it? That would open up whole vistas I could explore.

It would never fly.

Since I am sick of working, I will attempt to accomplish something in the domestic arts area of my life. Today, that means cooking. More specifically, that means cooking Indian food.


During my last trip to The Big City, when Gabrielle kicked me and the kids out of the house in order to perform her science fair experiment on several unsuspecting friends (she said, "I don't need any extra variables," meaning me and her siblings. Aren't they cute when they talk all science-y like that, even when they're being snotty?), I dropped by my favorite Indian spice store to stock up on some things. I left the kids in the car with the car running and tried to hurry, but the proprietor of the shop regaled me for about 15 minutes with easy Indian recipes for curry, korma, and naan bread. I told him I should have written them all down, since they sounded so good, and he handed me his card so I can call him at any time to ask any questions. I might just do that, but me and Bal Arneson, the Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel, have been getting along pretty well lately, and she's also good at explaining things.

When I got back into the car, I smelled very strongly of incense, but I still remember that I can either cook a korma dry or add coconut milk to make the sauce. I'm pleased that my short-term memory sometimes kicks in when it's important.

The reason I'm putting together sweet potato cakes, Indian style, is because I'm gearing up for Christmas Eve. My brother, Aaron, recently listed as his favorite Christmas tradition the following: "My sister cooks Chinese food on Christmas Eve." I know he loves that, so on Sunday, when he and my parents and my sister and my nephew all came over to celebrate Sophia's 12th birthday (happy birthday, sweet, deep-thinking, hilarious, artistic, tender, and beautiful daughter!), I consulted with him. "Aaron," I said, "how would you feel about me including Indian food with the Chinese?"

Happily, he's all for it. The menu is now thus: Bulgogi (which is Korean, but who cares? It's delicious and it's Asian), chow mein, orange chicken, sweet potato cakes, naan bread, samosas, and some sort of curry. If I can find the mango chutney for the sweet potato cakes (which are, technically, yam cakes, since they're orange and not white), so much the better. I can't wait!

For the love of Pete! How did HE get in here?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Time Travel in the Form of a Brown Paper Accordian File

My mother found my accordian file. When she told me she had it and asked if I wanted it, I practically yelled, "YES, PLEASE!"
As you can see, it's stuffed full. I have to keep it in a box. What it holds are all the letters that were written to me from my late high school years until I finished my mission -- six years of correspondence from my friends and family. The manila envelope you see next to the file contains a packet of copies of letters that my dear friend and old college roommate put together for me. It contains all the letters we wrote to each other, from the time we found out we were to be freshman college roomies until 1995, when she was serving a mission and I was married and had my first baby. It's a good three inches thick.

If you wrote to me during that time, I have your letter. In fact, I took the letter out of the envelope and then stapled the letter and envelope together, filing both under the the first letter of your last name. I liked keeping both the envelopes and letters, and over the years, I have pulled out various wads of paper and felt a pang of nostalgia as I recognized the handwriting of one friend or another. They were written before the internet, before email and Facebook, before you could dash off a hurried digital message to someone halfway around the world and know they would receive it in seconds. These letters were highly anticipated, eagerly read, and joyfully responded to (hopefully they were responded to. If I didn't write you back, I apologize 1000 times!).

When I look at that file, I realize how many friends I have lost contact with. On the other hand, I am in contact with many of them, in that casual, "I don't know what you're doing every second of your life, but I'm sure glad I can ask any time" sort of Facebook way. Even if I don't get or send actual paper missives through the post anymore, I love knowing these people are still in my life, if only as a picture and a few status reports.

When I got the file from Mom, Husband laughed. "You're not going to descend into another letter-reading binge, are you?" The last binge I went on took two days and resulted in me getting really quiet and thoughtful as I relived those times. I don't believe I even felt like cooking (although that could also be due to the fact that I haven't felt like cooking for a few years now). I've been careful not to get too sucked in this time. I think, however, it's only a matter of when, not if.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa's Reindeer are Actually Named UPS, FedEx, and USPS

Update on Husband: Fortunately, there's nothing to say here. Husband's blood levels are still steadily increasing, he feels great, and he's getting 1 1/2 weeks off for Christmas vacation.

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That's it! I'm revamping my blog. One does get so very tired of the same colors all the time, and I am nothing if not a woman who enjoys safe changes.

Tonight is the second-to-last of the Christmas performances my family is involved in. Sian is playing in The Big City with her chamber orchestra, so I will be taking her and Gabrielle out of school a little early in order to get Sian to her venue in time. Gabrielle will be babysitting the boys (Joseph is home with asthma problems today), and I told Sophia and Elannah to prepare to walk home.

GASP! Walk HOME? All 3/4 of a mile? Yes. Take your boots and a coat, for goodness' sake. The snow is deep and you have to walk through the field because I don't want you on the side of the road waiting to get hit by inattentive car drivers.

Anyway, Sian was busy working on her page for the school paper one day and did not hear the announcement that all chamber orchestra players would need to submit their $10 for dinner at one of the nicer Big City downtown restaurants, so the only options she would have had would have been to either sit and watch everyone else eat or wander off looking for her own grub. Or, I guess she could have shelled out the $30 undiscounted price for her meal, but she simply does not have as many babysitting jobs as she used to and couldn't afford it. Instead, I will drive her there and then she and I will go out to dinner -- just the two of us -- before heading back at a steady pace of exactly 63 mph (the van is desperate for a tune-up and simply refuses to go any faster). While we bonded a couple days ago when I drove in a bunch of young men and young women to visit Temple Square and then got separated and lost from them for a good 90 minutes, I was so busy grumbling about how I didn't have a cell phone with me and even if I did, I didn't have anyone's numbers, that it was not as relaxed and congenial a bonding moment as it could have been. Temple Square was pretty with all the lit trees, and we got to talk to a couple pairs of sister missionaries in the South Visitor's Center, but it was still stressful to have no idea where everyone else had scarpered off to. At least I was comforted by the fact that no one was going home without me.

Tonight should be much more relaxed. Sian is growing up into such a wonderful young lady, so I am happy to get a chance to sit and talk to her without being distracted.

Our last Christmas performance of the year will be on Sunday at church. I will be singing with the ward choir, and Sian and I and three other musicians in our congregation will be playing the Silent Night arrangement. Is it bad to be relieved that there will be no more rehearsals for anything for a while?

Husband, who is the absolute best gift shopper in the universe, has relieved me of any burden in finding Christmas presents for the kids. One by one, boxes have arrived at our door bearing gifts ordered from all over the country. Husband doesn't even need to step foot into a store, which is one of the greatest perks of all, and, yet, the gifts he chooses are so perfect for each child. I can't wait to see their expressions when they unwrap them.

I really shouldn't be writing this. I have a gazillion pages of web text to finish before leaving this afternoon, and my three-year-old has run out of diapers, necessitating a trip to the store. Either that or I drop everything and potty train him at last. Hmmm. Maybe next weekend would be a good time to get him off the diaper habit. That would be a great gift. Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 13, 2010

When the Battery Charger Arrives from Hong Kong, YOU Get to See Pictures

I've got some pictures.

I know. Try to contain yourselves. Please. It's embarrassing how you're carrying on about this. It's just a few pictures.


Way back on Thanksgiving Day, I took a test shot of the kitchen island covered in our traditional all-day goodies. We don't eat Thanksgiving dinner until nighttime, and during the day, we just have a spread of fatty, sugary, and completely bad-for-you foods for snacking. After this picture was taken, Husband became disgusted with the distinct lack of sweet snacks and ran to the store for cookies, candy, and other tooth rotting material. Some of it was put into a spare jar I had in the cupboard, which was the inspiration for Joseph's little container in his previous drawing (see last post).


This is Joseph, age 6. He's got a lot of my side of the family in him.

And this is Little Gary, age 3. He looks a lot like his daddy, and he's just as much of a character.

Saturday morning, our church held a Breakfast with Santa in the gym. Gabrielle, left, wore her pajamas not because it was so early but because her cat, Lincoln, pee-ed all over her other pairs of jeans while we were taking an emergency trip to the vet's the night before. Lincoln had some battle wounds, which were infected and causing a high fever, and I told the vet to just go ahead and neuter him while he was under anesthetic. Poor cat. Anyway, Gabrielle, Joseph, Little Gary, and Elannah wanted to go see Santa and have breakfast at the church. Sophia and Sian elected to stay home, but Husband grabbed a couple extra candy canes for them, too.

Everything is better when there's bacon.

That night was my last choir concert of the season.

 Husband in the front at the microphone. He was the announcer for both the Friday and Saturday concerts, and both nights he made us all laugh hard. On Friday, Husband was cracking everyone up and one of the basses looked at me and said, "Where did you find this guy?"

I wore my heels the second night, though they made my feet numb, because I was always stuck at the back and couldn't see the director very well. I figured with heels, I would add a couple inches to my height and maybe have a better view. It worked pretty well. You'll also be happy to learn that I didn't mess up too badly on my small duet.

Our last song was "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which is kind of like the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" type of song for the holidays. It just keeps going, and going, and going...

Our version lasted 10 whole minutes. Husband told the audience that the concert was now half over and we would be singing our final song, which took a minute for some people to get but made the choir start laughing immediately. Unfortunately, it was a terrible song for the autistic child in the audience. His mom was telling me that he, as many autistics do, like to know what's going to be happening, so when it was announced that Twelve Days was the last song and then kept going, and going, and going, he got quite upset.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Must They Grow Up?

I was tidying my room the other day when I found this:

Joseph obviously drew this one day while crouching on the floor of my room, where I later found it while tidying up.  I laughed so hard I couldn't see. The caption says: "I told you to eat dinner frst!" (Joseph's spelling).

A happy little guy FINALLY gets hold of the candy jar, and triumph is his. Make note of the smear of chocolate around his ecstatically smiling mouth.

Angry eyebrows, hands on hips, hair all on one side of the head. Yup, it's me. Now you know for sure I don't use Botox.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kerfluffle

I started a Twitter account, but I know I will not have the same addiction that I did with Facebook. Really, it's just too much, and I'm only following about seven things? groups? Twitterers? (I have yet to learn the terminology. Where's some of those young, hip folks when I need them?) I've only tweeted twice, and both of them sound like Facebook statuses. Statusi?

There are five big yams roasting in the oven downstairs. Who wants to come over and smell my house?

I've lost 13 pounds on the HCG diet, and the only reason I didn't lose more was because I started the diet right before Thanksgiving and succumbed to temptation. Don't ask me what I was thinking, because I couldn't tell you. Still, 13 pounds is a good start, and now I've got incentive to continue the healthful and slimming benefits of not stuffing my face with delicious but oh, so calorific junk. Thus, roasted yams, which are nature's candy. PLEASE, people, if you are going to be merrily generous and bring over plates of goodies for Christmas, either give them to my kids (which guarantees I won't get any) or make them appear much less gooey, sinfully rich, and festively tasty than they currently look. My slimmer self thanks you. But maybe I can just take a nibble of that fudge...

Our friend, the master mechanic, can't figure out the blinker malfunction on the van. If HE can't figure it out, Husband will feel a little better about not being able to fix it, either. Unfortunately, we can't get the vehicle registered until the blinker is fixed, and I'm now driving on very expired tags. Is it the multi-function switch itself? Or will the wiring have to be McGuyvered? Stay tuned!

I got a much larger paycheck than I expected. I must have done my math wrong. I like it when it's wrong in that direction.

These random pieces of information have been brought to you by the letter C (for "crunchy") and the number 4x (for those currently undergoing the rigors of learning algebra), but only because I'm in such a very odd mood.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Tale of Floss

There once was a couple who liked to floss and brush their teeth every night before bed. The husband flossed his teeth before brushing and the wife flossed after. Each of them had their opinion about which was more effective, and one day, they shared those opinions with each other.

Several months later, the couple noticed that they had both switched their flossing patterns. The husband now flossed after brushing and the wife flossed before. When they asked each other why, both of them admitted that the argument of the other had been so persuasive they had changed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's All About the Music. Seriously. The Whole Thing.

Update on Husband: Blood levels up for the fourth week in a row (if I'm counting correctly, which might be asking too much). The only thing that dipped were his platelets. They blamed the chemo, Cladribine, again, but I think Husband is just being lazy.

Ha ha ha.

No, all kidding aside, he's feeling better than he's felt in a year. The doc couldn't find his spleen, despite all the palpating she did (palpating: good word for parties!), so it's nicely tucked up under his rib cage right where it should be.

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I've been a singing, musical fool lately. My choir has been performing parts of our Christmas program all over the place. Last week, we sang at Temple Square in Salt Lake City in both the Assembly Hall and the North Visitors' Center. My parents and my brother showed up and were extremely enthusiastic. My parents leaped up at the end of our performance in the Visitors' Center and yelled "Encore!," which prompted the director to have us sing another song. Sure, I may have goaded them into doing it before the performance, but does it really matter?

We also performed for a Santa Parade and during a United Methodist Sunday service. I've never been to a Methodist church service before, so it was both fun and informative. They even invited us to lunch afterward, which was very nice of them, though I couldn't stay.

This week, we sing for some Master Gardeners and then we have our two big performances on Friday and Saturday nights here in my little town. Our entire program of 14 songs will probably take about 45 minutes to an hour. One of the soloists can't be there on Saturday night, so she asked me to take her place in one of the songs. It's a duet of three or four measures during a very ramped-up version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's short, but it's still enough to make me sweat;at least it's the last song and my voice will be fully warmed up by then. I have to hit a high E, which for my decidedly alto voice can sometimes sound squeaky.

I did finally get the Silent Night arrangement finished, and my dad performed his magic and got it printed for me. I've been playing my cello a lot lately, both for fun and to get myself in gear for this, and now my left index fingertip is smarting and stinging with overuse. It's okay. It will callus up harder and I'll have my tough fingers back again.

I achieved musical Nirvana two days ago when I played for three solid hours. If any of you musicians have ever achieved musical Nirvana, you know what I'm talking about. Suddenly, your world is only about the notes, the sounds, the phrases, and there is nothing else. The music begins to tell you stories and you are transported out of this world and into another. I used to get that all the time when I would borrow my dad's church keys and go play the grand piano in the church's chapel in the middle of the night for hours. I would only stop when I was so tired I couldn't see straight anymore, but by then, I would have reached that alternate state of consciousness where I forgot everything but the music. You don't think in words anymore. You only think in sounds and sensations. My kids will talk to me and I'll look at them blankly. I can't process language. I have to switch back to my left brain again with a conscious, wrenching effort.

Anyhoo, enough about me and music. In fact, I better quit altogether and go make dinner. Husband and I went grocery shopping at our favorite grocery discount store today, and now I've got lots to play with. Will it be sloppy joes and fries with a veggie? Will it be homemade pizza? Or will it be fried ham slices, honey-mustard carrots, and rolls? And since I'm asking questions, could one of you please come over and make it for me?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy (GASP) Thanksgiving (COUGH) To All! (GASP)

Update on Husband: Things still look good. Although we didn't end up getting his blood results before Thanksgiving hit, he still went to church yesterday. I didn't even wake him up, figuring he was going to stay home until he knew for sure if he still had an immune system, but when I came back to my room after rousting the kids out of bed and feeding them breakfast, there he was all dressed in his Sunday best and combing his hair. It was very nice to sit next to him in the chapel.

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It was a lovely week, all around. Despite all of my kids, who were hacking and coughing and having sore throats, Thanksgiving and post-Thanksgiving Friday were wonderful. We had family over on Thursday (yummy, juicy turkey), and on Friday we went to my parents' house to see the family members who couldn't make it Thursday. I got to hold my new little niece, who is beautiful and delightful and so, so intelligent (like her parents and her siblings. And her favorite aunt, of course.)

Pictures, you ask? I promised pictures? Remind me not to do that again. I jinxed the camera and the battery died. The battery charger hasn't arrived yet, so all I have are a few test shots of the kitchen island, which I will post since I don't have anything else. I will post them when the battery charger arrives, of course, because the camera won't turn on otherwise. (Do I do the same thing to cameras that I do to watches? Is it me??)

Friday night, we forgot to take the asthma inhaler with us. We didn't remember that we'd forgotten until it was too late to turn around. By dinner time, poor Sophia was gasping and her back hurt from the tension of trying to breathe. We put her into the bathroom and turned on the hot shower to steam things up while my sister ran to 7-11 to get her a cup of coffee. Sophia sat in the steamy bathroom and sipped old, bitter coffee for a while before we left to take her home. Being LDS, we don't drink coffee, of course, and this worried the other children tremendously. Husband explained that the coffee was being used medicinally in this case, just like there is alcohol in cough syrup ("There's alcohol in cough syrup??" exclaimed Elannah. "Good or bad alcohol?" Um, well, alcohol is just alcohol, dear. It's all in how you use it, although there are certainly alcohols you wouldn't want to drink recreationally or medicinally. Which reminds me of a story of our tour guide in Italy...).

Anyway, halfway home, Sophia was fine again. She got to quit drinking the coffee, which she said tasted awful, and it was Joseph who ended up needing the nebulizer when we arrived back at our house. He was okay after taking the breathing medicine, and I slathered Vic's Vapo-Rub all over the soles of his feet to calm his cough. We didn't end up missing dessert after all because my mother sent us home with one of her home-made pumpkin pies.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Day Turkey Brining Ruminations

Update on Husband: For two weeks in a row, Husband's blood numbers have increased, which is a very good thing. He just had his blood drawn yesterday and we should hear the results today. If the levels are up again, he has decided he will start attending church on Sundays once again. I am very excited about that, although I had lots of practice getting all the kids ready and going by myself when he was a bishop. It will be very nice to sit next to him.

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You know how life gets all busy and crazy and you have a million things to remember to do, so you're happy to simply remember at least some of them, but that prevents you from thinking very deeply because living on the surface is just about all you have the energy and time for?

I feel almost frantic these days, and it isn't one of those feelings I enjoy. I mentioned that before in this blog. I like to have time to sit and ponder things a bit, and I don't like being so busy with a to-do list that I can never catch up.

The good news is this: I have made great inroads to completing the arrangement of Silent Night for piano, cello, two violins, and a flute. I went over to my parents' house on Monday morning, and my dad gave me a crash course in Finale, a music writing software program. He also let me borrow his laptop that has Finale on it so I could come home and carefully and slowly insert notes for each instrument and hear how things sound all together.

Today, I brine the turkey. Fortunately, once it's in the brine bath I don't have to do anything -- just let it sit and soak up salt and water. It's nice when things get done and you don't even have to be there to keep them going. I won't cook an un-brined turkey anymore. Once I found out how juicy and flavorful turkey breast tastes after 24 hours in a salt bath with vegetables and seasonings, I was spoiled. I use a big cooler, an entire box of Kosher salt, some raw carrots, onion wedges, celery leaves, pepper, and other seasonings. It works wonders. You can't do the table presentation of a marvelously golden-brown turkey surrounded by stuffing and garnishes, but wonderfully golden-brown turkey usually means the breast meat is dry. I'll take taste over presentation when it comes to turkey. You're going to have a lot of it (I bought a 20 pound turkey this year), so it had better be fit for eating day after day.

This year, there will be pictures of Thanksgiving and family. I finally have the batteries (no battery charger, yet, but the batteries I got are fully charged) for the camera, so I can take pictures of everything.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Troubled

I am troubled. I don't have my food storage completed and this is very troubling to me. I think it's very, very important that every one of us have a full year's supply of food, and I don't have it done. It's keeping me up at night.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Invasion of the "Huns"

I really like living in a small town. One big advantage is that a traffic jam consists of seven cars. It's also nice that you can reach any destination in my town within 10 minutes. Our town is not so small that you could possibly know everyone, but I often see familiar cars driving around, even if I do not know their owners.

One odd habit of small town dwellers, however, is that so many people call you "hun." For you non-native English speakers, "hun" is short for "honey," which is a term of endearment between spouses or parents and children. In the movies, it's the middle aged waitress in the dingy diner who calls you Hun in a raspy smoker's voice while she smacks her gum and gets her order pad out.

"What can I getcha, Hun?"

I don't mind middle aged waitresses calling me Hun. That's fine. They've earned it. But the other day, I was at the drive-through line for a burger and the order taker, who looked like she was no older than 18, kept calling me Hun. And she repeated it at the end of every sentence, as if she had a record to break for the number of times she said it.

"Can I take your order, Hun?"
"What kind of soda did you want, Hun?"
"Ice, Hun?"
"Ketchup or fry sauce, Hun?"
That'll be $5.20, Hun."
"Here's your change, Hun."
"Your food will be right out, Hun."
"Here you go, Hun."

I figure the middle age waitresses must start somewhere with the habit, but I never realized that they started out as young order takers in fast food restaurants. And the way this girl said it was like it was foreign to her, as if she were just starting the habit and continuing through force of will. Maybe someone told her that's what you say in a small town restaurant or the customers get miffed.

It happens at the grocery store, too. There, the Hun-ners are closer to my age, and they seem comfortable with the word, not finding it necessary to end every sentence with it. It still throws me off a bit, but I can accept it.

I'll accept it from the skinny young girl at the fast food restaurant, too, because those burgers are to die for.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yo! I Ate Your Plums. Cold. But Good. Thanks. And Sorry.

Update on Husband: This week's blood results are in! Neutrophils are down to 1.1 (when they fall below 1.0, we have to worry), platelets are slightly up, and hemoglobin is the same. While Husband has enjoyed going back to work this week, it wears him out. Every day after he gets home he crashes for a nap. Still, he's enjoying teaching again, and the kids in his class seem to really like his book. He's been reading a little bit out loud to them every day.

................

On Sunday night, my brother, Aaron, came over for dinner. After dinner, the kids pulled out a book of poetry and began reading it out loud, which is usually enough of a reason for Sophia to start laughing so hard she gets wheezy and needs to take her asthma medicine. This night was no exception.

Either I'm really, really uneducated when it comes to what makes good poetry or I'm extremely picky. To me, poetry is probably one of the hardest things to get right. When it's really good, it is a thing of sheer beauty. But when it's bad...

And poetry is so often bad.

For instance, the girls read one poem that sounded like it had been written on a post-it note and stuck to a fridge somewhere:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


~William Carlos Williams

Now, most of you reading that poem would probably sigh in delight and think about the wonderful image it paints. After all, it came from a book entitled The Best Poems Ever: a collection of poetry's greatest voices, edited by Edric S. Mesmer.

Even I can see that the poem looks and sounds lovely in its printed form. I, however, first heard it read out loud by a sarcastic 15 year old and I couldn't help thinking that I could have written that post-it (although I would not be likely to eat cold plums. I have sensitive teeth, you see.)That's how much of a Philistine I am. To make matters worse, I've corrupted most of my children, apparently.

Sian actually happens to be a poet, and she is shaping up to be a very good one. She's not only a natural poet, she works hard at it. As soon as she posts her latest, I will provide a link to it here.

I decided to try and come up with a poem, but since I have no faith in my abilities, the poem would, of necessity, be pretty awful. I already have the title: Amateur Mushroom Hunter. I'll post it when I finish it. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Or something like that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another of My Endless Theories

Update on Husband: I noticed a couple days ago that my blog was mentioned in the Neighborhood News of my former ward as the place to get updates on Husband's condition. Therefore, I welcome any friends who may be checking up on how things are going. Yes, you are in the right spot. I use a pseudonym for myself, Husband, and the kids, but you're in the right place.

Summary: Things are going quite well, thank you. Husband is going back to work tomorrow. His class will be back on track. He's feeling pretty good, if still tired (low hemoglobin), and he's been fixing things up in the yard and the house. Today he made sure the kitchen was so tidy I couldn't help but be inspired to make cookies and other baked goodies. Smart man.

...................

Here's my theory, developed long, long ago, on the real reason people hate talking to salesmen:

They are afraid they'll get sold something they don't really want.

Admit it! Deep inside, you're afraid you'll somehow buy something you didn't want; that, somehow, some mysterious hypnotism will overcome you and the next thing you know, you're waking up with a roomful of encyclopedias and a checking account that's $2000 lighter. Or, even more frightening, that you've recently converted to a different religion.

I know people say it's because pushy salesmen are so annoying, or religious fanatics knocking at their door right during dinner or TV time is just the height of bad manners, but a little investigation will prove that it's really about fear.

The reason I even set about forming this theory was because I had to explain why so many people slammed the door in my face when I was a missionary, though I was ever so polite and non-confrontational. Yes, I know that having someone come to your door or approach you in the street to talk about religion is the quintessential no-no, but I knew it was much more than mere botheration that caused so much anger.

Once I figured it out (and I may have only figured it out for us passive-aggressive types), I am much less worried about talking in a friendly manner to people at my door. Whether they are trying to sell me something or share their beliefs, I am willing to hear them out, and I'm not worried that I'll somehow end up with the encyclopedias or the vacuum or joining a different church because I was overcome with charm or charisma. (I am still wary with people over the phone, however. They like to talk fast and sell immediately, and I have no interest in buying something I haven't had a chance to look over, thank you very much.)

Through experience, I also know when to politely stop a sales rep with a firm "no, thank you." And I just don't answer the door when the Kirby Vacuum people come around. They never leave once they get in the door. Never. In fact, I believe we must have brought one with us when we moved here. Sometimes there's a strange knocking sound from one of the boxes in the garage...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Memories of My Killer Brain

Update on Husband: Good news yesterday! Husband's white blood cell count doubled, which puts him well into the "I have an immune system" Club range. Although his platelets fell again for the third week in a row (which even his doctor admitted was weird), he can go to work with just a little less worry. He has decided to station a table with three large hand sanitizer pumps outside his classroom door and require anyone who leaves to sanitize upon entering. This might cut down on absences in his class, as well, if the kids aren't getting as sick. Today he went to work to begin preparations for next week, when his class comes back on track.

.....................

I spent a very short time, during my pregnancy with Sian, being addicted to soap operas. I got over it when I realized that a) the plots never moved along, and b) those characters were all deeply insane. What person in their right mind would hang out at a hospital all day, plotting and scheming fantastically unwise plans for revenge that never, EVER work out quite the way they expect?

I know, of course, that all those characters are completely fictitious, so you don't need to worry that I had a break with reality or anything. Nevertheless, I am addicted to a soap opera again. This time, it's the South Korean soap, Cinderella's Sister, and it doesn't even faze me that I have to read subtitles. (I'm used to that with my fascination for Bollywood films.)

Also, Lyn said something in a comment on my last post that reminded me of another time when my brain has tried to kill me. I already told you about the time during pregnancy when I would find myself walking into the kitchen to get a spoon to eat dirt from the backyard (and which horrible craving was solved by taking an iron supplement). At times, when I was severely sleep deprived, I would be driving around running errands. If I had a book in the passenger seat for those inevitable waits in doctor's offices, the DMV, or if I grabbed lunch out, I would have to fight a very enticing urge to just pick up the book and start reading. My brain didn't even care to make me wait until I was at a red light! I had to constantly remind myself that reading while driving was a huge no-no. Over and over I would have to stop myself from reaching over and grabbing the book. To fight the terrible desire to read myself to death, I had to turn on the radio and sing very loudly, concentrating on the words. When I started getting more sleep, the urge went away.

Funny things, these bodies.

It's been hard to get posts written lately. Busy, busy, busy. Halloween was fun, sort of. The kids were each given $10 to spend on costumes with the promise that they could keep whatever they didn't spend. Suddenly, they were a lot more frugal about what they wanted to buy. All of them managed to come up with something to wear except Little Gary, who refused any costume or makeup help and declared that he was "just Gary!" I kind of dressed up for the first time in years, myself. I was Cleopatra with an Egyptian headdress and the whole heavy eyeliner thing, but I couldn't find a tunic I was willing to spend gobs of money on, so I was Cleo only from the neck up. Next year, I'll make myself a costume and be Cleo from head to toe.

I voted today. A very earnest man from the Democrat Party called me and reminded me to vote (not that I'd forgotten or anything), but I had to confess that I had no intentions of voting for any Democrats, though I am also skeptical of most Republicans, as well. He thanked me for being nice to him, though.

I promise more pictures soon. I'm just waiting for the battery and battery charger to arrive in the mail, and then my camera will be ready to be tested and played with.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Staring of the Calves

Update on Husband: Sadly, I have to update here. Things seemed to be going oh, so well, until two weeks ago when Husband's blood results came back. Everything had dropped. In particular, his neutrophils had dropped so low that he was again neutropenic, which means that his immune system was pretty much non-functional. He had to go back to his low microbial diet (no raw foods) and stay away from everyone. We waited all week for his next blood test, hoping the results would be better; but, no. This week is the same.

Obviously, it's discouraging. The doctor says that it sometimes takes the particular chemotherapy he had (Cladribine) a while to work, and his blood may be up and down for a few months. Husband can work if he is on an antibiotic, and he's feeling fairly well despite his lack of hemoglobin and platelets. The problem is that he's BORED!!!

......................

On Tuesday night, which is Taxi Mom night for me, I had to go to the church several times in order to drop off kids for various activities. The church is right across the street from a very small ranch, and there are often cows or horses in the pens beside the road or walking on the circular exerciser. The smell of manure wafts through the air on a Sunday morning.

Anyway, on Tuesday, the large pen was filled with calves. The first time I drove by, all the calves were standing alertly at attention. They were all pointing in the same direction, watching some men trim the trees that grow in the grassy margin alongside the church building. When I came back a little later, all the calves were again alertly at attention and pointing in the same direction, only this time they were looking toward the horse pens. I don't know what was so fascinating about the horse pens, but by golly! it was interesting enough to stand and watch closely.

I don't know much about calves. The closest I've ever gotten to a cow was -- okay, I have milked a cow, which is pretty dang close. But I'm not familiar with cow behavior. I just thought it was funny.

And if I had my NEW DIGITAL SLR CAMERA that Husband ordered for my birthday, I would have taken pictures of calves standing alertly at attention and posted them here for you to see. That's right! My battery-eating Kodak Easyshare is being relegated to becoming a toy for children once I have my new Canon in my hot little fists. I will also have a polarizing lens to play with. I'm so very excited!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Of Footwear and Vessles and Authenticate Increase, of Cruciferous Vegetables and Reigning Monarchs

It was my birthday on Wednesday. I turned 39. I decided to take stock of myself.

A few more wrinkles: check
Three gray hairs: check
The need to diet: check
Life satisfaction: check, check, and CHECK!

I am very happy with my life, which is a good thing to know as I speed through that last year before hitting middle age squarely in the tush. Therefore, I made some goals for me to reach before my next birthday.

  • Reach my ideal weight for health reasons (and telling myself it isn't in any way connected to my vanity, which I know to be a complete falsehood, but at least I know I'm lying to myself)
  •  Play my cello much more often
  • Hang out with my kids as much as possible
  • Take a vacation with Husband
As I was driving home from the library on Wednesday (it WAS my birthday and that IS one of my favorite places), Gabrielle asked how old I was. Then she said, "Wow! You don't look 39. You look 25."

Ah, that kid. I laughed until the tears came out of my eyes.

"No, Mom, it's true!" she protested. Then she was quiet for a moment while I continued to chuckle fondly. "Okay," she said, "You at least don't look any older than 30."

I think she's my favorite.

I got a wonderful birthday gift the day before my birthday. A friend I've know since my first area on my mission (who happens to be a follower of this blog) had a layover in The Big City during a business trip to an exotic South American country. Husband and I drove to the airport to pick him up and he treated us to lunch. It was fun to catch up.

Sian had a high school orchestra concert on Tuesday night. All the players wore their Halloween costumes, and my darling girl wore her Snow White costume I made for her last year because she looks just like Snow White. I did insist she put on more red lipstick for the "lips as red as a red, red rose" look, though.


Since my razzle grappling trashbiting camera doesn't work very well, my dad took her picture and emailed it to me. Ain't she purty?

Her chamber orchestra did very well, and the combined high school orchestra also sounded quite nice. My favorite piece was "Concerto for Three Kazoos and an Orchestra." Especially when the kazoos tuned up.

Today I have been working on editing a number of websites that were written by people whose first language is not English. That would be fine and all, since many people both speak and write English very well as a second language, but these particular writers are only shyly acquainted with our national language. They also use a thesaurus like many people use humor: indiscriminately and with blunt force. The results are often unintentionally hilarious. Who wouldn't want to read something entitled "A Favorite Pastime: Passion Ideas You Will Like"? Sadly, it was only about hobbies, however. Still, among the surprising ideas contained within was this one: "Individuals who live in a nation sometimes turn into fascinated with elevating decorative chickens, pigeons, or pheasants." Further encouraging the reader to take up raising birds as a hobby, the author noted, "...you can even increase some prize winners!"

See if you can spot the misuse of a thesaurus in this sentence: "Pastime bicyclists have gotten more and more widespread to see cycling alongside lesser traveled highways seeing the countryside up shut and personal."

I laugh at these, but I would never attempt to write an article in another language. I don't know enough of another language to be even a little dangerous, much less only slightly comprehensible. At least they get paid for their unintentional hilarity.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Those Salty Vacuum Manufacturers!

Yesterday, I was helping to clean up after a particularly enjoyable Super Saturday at the chapel and I went to the janitor's closet for a vacuum. I noticed an old carpet sweeper shoved into a corner, and printed on top of it in fancy factory letters was the name, "The Shagger." You can bet I did not in any way make any comments or juvenile jokes about it. At all. To anyone who might have laughed until her face turned red and I had to quit talking just to let her breathe. No. That would have been completely inappropriate.

Ahem.

In non-naughty vacuum news: A few weeks back, Husband went right ahead and published his own book. He wasn't getting anything but rejection notes from the various publishers and agents he's sent it to, but so many people have asked to read it that he figured it was easier to pass it around in book form than as a massive 3-ring binder. He designed a cover and had three softcover books printed by a reputable printing company he found online. It only cost about $12 per book, which is very reasonable, considering he couldn't in any way claim a mass production discount. He's using one to edit again (still finding a few mistakes!) and he got permission to read the book to his class because it isn't published and he can't be accused of promoting sales to the children in his classroom. The people who have read it so far have loved it, and not all of them are close family members! (Ha ha ha. I hope you found the humor in that last sentence.) But, seriously, most people who are reading it find that they can't put it down. One reader (a colleague of Husband's) reported reading it all day and staying up into the wee hours to finish because he just had to know what happened next. He's begging for the sequel. I'd say that's a good sign.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Slammin' Farzle Rabbit Cramulation on a STICK!

When I went, last Saturday, to Sophia's play in which she had the part of Sleeping Beauty (the younger), I found two new batteries for our crappy, battery-eating camera. I handed the camera and brand new batteries to Gabrielle as we were climbing into the car on our way to the performance and told her to carefully insert them for the purpose of taking blurry, unsatisfying pictures in a show of solidarity for Sophia. Gabrielle did insert the new batteries, but forgot to turn off the camera; by the time I went to take pictures, the batteries had been completely drained.

The only reason I refrained from saying really awful words is my sense of decorum, the fact that there were many, many children surrounding me, and my friend, M, who was sitting next to me in order to watch her daughter, who played a fairy.

I was thinking I need some good "swear" words. Sian used to say "bucket!" quite a lot, until I pointed out that it's just a little too close to another obscenity for comfort. Now she says "pickles." I don't think that can be misunderstood.

The point of uttering an obscenity is to be able to say something harsh and release emotion without having to think too much. Thinking too much about what you're saying distracts you from feeling properly angry, which is why the tried-but-true obscenities will always be popular; they're shocking, they have become unthinking habit, and they convey the desired attitude of disgust or anger or surprise. For the very practiced, they also substitute for other words of more descriptive substance, which is when a person starts to sound very ignorant. It's a short and slippery slope from an occasional utterance to lethargic reliance.

I've often used the word "expletive," but I've always loved the grace and elegance of Booth Tarkington's put-upon father, Mr. Little, in Tarkington's book, The Fighting Littles. Mr. Little was expert in swearing without actually saying anything offensive. "Job jab the dob dab bastinadoed Hellespont!" Husband and I frequently shout "Black enameled bath plug!," but that's only when we want to make each other laugh by using a phrase Husband grew up hearing from his father. More often, I say "crap," which is a truly awful thing to hear echoed from the mouth of your cherub three year old. I gotta quit that.

What word(s) do you use, if you don't desire to truly offend with the normal list of obscenities? I am very interested to know. Please comment on that.

And, by the way, M took many pictures of Sophia for me on her camera, which she said she will email to me. When she does, I'll post them here so you can see my sweet Sleeping Beauty (the younger).

What's That Smell? Oh, it's Just My Blog Post.

I've been plowing through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. All 1066 pages of it. I'm down to the last few pages, and all I can say is wow! that woman had a brilliant mind!

You thought you were going to get a book review, didn't you? Not this time. You're welcome. I like to keep my readers pleasantly surprised, at least once in a while. I won't review that book unless someone really wants me to.

Anyone?

(Cricket chirps. Wolf howls in the distance.)

Right.

So here is where I share some random thoughts that have been floating through my head.

Random thoughts (in no particular order):

I have to compose a version of Silent Night involving two violins, a cello, a piano, and possibly a flute. It has to be done soon so we can practice for a Christmas performance. No stress. Nope, no stress whatsoever.

Pure science and pure religion are one and the same.

I never, ever will get over pie. I love pie. I must accept this and quit fighting it.

Why is it that the smells of autumn remind me so much of new beginnings? Sure, I know it's all about the start of a new school year that's so ingrained in me, but just the wafting scent of old leaves makes me want to jump with excitement.

Go to bed already, you idiot! (that wasn't random at all.)

Y'all know I write this blog for myself, don't you? It's the only way I can explain why I write what I do. I've always written my journals as if I was writing to someone -- some fuzzy idea of a future descendant who would be reading about me from a dusty, faded notebook. This isn't exactly as revealing as my journal, of course, but I like knowing you're out there, whether I know you or not.

I'm going to bed before I really stink up this post even worse than I have.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pipes

I tried out for a one of those very rare alto solo parts in the choir (alto solos are rare in any choir, really). I told myself to do it because it's not one of those things I want to regret for the rest of my life. I've become a lot more bold in my "old" age, realizing that life should be lived and not feared.

I didn't get the part, but when I found out the results, I was pleased that the only pang of disappointment I felt was the selfish disappointment that I don't have a wonderful natural singing voice without having to put in any effort. I wasn't jealous of the two who did get the parts because, frankly, I would have made the same choices, were I director. My voice was inferior to both of theirs.

My kids, thinking I would feel badly, kept telling me I have a wonderful voice. I wonder if all this "everyone is equally great" crap they teach in schools makes them worried that I will think less of myself for not getting a solo. I told them that I know that I didn't have the best audition and I didn't have the pipes for it, but at least I tried. I know I have a good voice for a choir. I blend well, I have pretty good pitch, I am good at sight-reading, and I love the challenge of the music our director chooses. I love singing in that choir. When I have made it a priority to spend the time and money on getting voice lessons and improving the sound and quality of my voice, I'll try again for a solo. Until then, I still enjoy singing in the choir, at home, in the car, in the shower, and even in my head.

In other news, Husband is itchy. He had a terrific drug reaction to one of the three antibiotics he was taking, so the other day we spent hours at the Huntsman clinic making sure the rash he developed all over wasn't dangerous. His doctor gave him the Best Rash of the Day award and sent us to the dermatologist, who validated the award and told us it wasn't anything to be worried about since the blood results indicated the liver hasn't been damaged. The rash is disappearing, but the itching is driving him crazy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stink Bugs Make for Excellent Distractions

A note: Today's Blog of Note on Blogger is this one: http://johnfinnemore.blogspot.com

I suggest you take a look. I laughed particularly heartily at the post entitled "Just the one, Mrs. Wembley?," but I'm not going to give you the link to it just so you have to read a bit. This is how I wish I sounded, but since I'm not a British comedian, I have totally missed the mark.

Yesterday, during Relief Society, I was sitting at the front with M, S, and A (the other members of the presidency), when S spotted a crawly thing on the floor and pointed excitedly. I narrowed my eyes and saw it was a huge black stink bug, so I turned around, grabbed a tissue, and whisked the offensive insect from the floor. Not about to crush it (ew!), I took it quietly outside and set it loose in the grass. When I got back in the room and sat down, some horrible juvenile impulse caused me to catch M's eye and make a gesture like I was eating the stink bug out of the tissue, which was still in my hand. I even made a little crunching sound, tiny enough to only be heard by her. She nearly snorted out loud and then spent about five minutes trying to control the kind of helpless laughter you only suffer from when you should be grown up and sitting quietly and attentively listening to a very solemn and spiritual lesson about repentance. It made things worse that we were in full view of all the rest of the women and I couldn't help but laugh at her laughing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why the Old Testament is a Good Read

Today was my first day in a while that I was able to attend all my church meetings, including the after-church meeting for the Relief Society Presidency. Plus visits to various women in our ward. Some people complain about one hour at church. I spent six there today.

And, oh, what a feast it was.

I was thinking during the last lesson, which was on repentance, how so many people have read the Old Testament and completely misunderstood the nature of God. When a person reads the Old Testament (which, yes, can be a bit of a slog at times during the "begats" and listings of various specific layout dimensions for the Temple of Solomon and the sometimes obscure laws of the Law of Moses) and comes out thinking that God is vengeful, spiteful, and violent, he or she has not read deeply enough. In fact, just the opposite is true.

A person who thinks God is unnecessarily harsh has never read with wonder the words of Isaiah as he talked about the coming Savior (who was the Jehovah of the Old Testament). Isaiah loved Jehovah to the point of poetry, and even if what he says takes some deciphering, once it is deciphered, you cannot come out at the other end of the Book of Isaiah without -- at the very least -- a profound respect for the personage who would come to save the world because of his unimaginably great love for us.

A person who rails against God's punishments has missed the fact that Heavenly Father promised Amos (Amos 3:7) the He, God, would do nothing "but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Therefore, we as people are always warned or enlightened through a prophet on the earth who receives guidance and direction for the whole world from Jesus Christ. Nothing happened to the ancient Israelites and other peoples without years and years of warning. And if, as it states in the Bible, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He still warns us through a prophet. Are we any less loved and important to the Father of us all than the people of ancient scripture?

Most importantly, a person who despises God has never had a personal relationship with Him. Through prayer and quiet ponderings, I have learned that Heavenly Father carries a love for me so deep and unutterably exquisite that I absolutely know my life, though a tiny little speck in relation to the vastness of the cosmos, is important to Him. My needs, my desires, my struggles and triumphs -- He asks me to tell Him every day and then guides me through his Holy Spirit. I feel joy underlying all my ups and downs through mortal life. I love my Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, and when I read the Old Testament, I understand how much they love all of us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Need Your Opinion as Long as It's the Correct Opinion

Update on Husband: I think this might be my last update for a while. Things are looking very, very good. Today, we went into The Big City for a doctor's follow-up visit, and learned that his blood counts are improving. His platelets leaped up by 30,000, though his hemoglobin remained the same and his white blood cell count actually dropped. The reason it dropped is because we finished the shots of Neupogen, which were inspiring his bone marrow to produce white blood cells far faster than it would have if left to its own devices. Now that the bone marrow is on its own, it will begin finding that natural balance again. The count is still high enough that the doctor told Husband to quit taking the two antibiotics he's been on.


Su-WEET!


......................

I was wearing one of my favorite necklaces today. I love necklaces. I could probably spend thousands of dollars on necklaces. I don't wear watches, bracelets, or earrings (my ears aren't pierced. I know! What century do I live in??), but I loves me a great necklace. I prefer necklaces that are shorter, as I don't find the long dangly kind all that flattering on me. Shorter necklaces draw the eyes up.


Anyway, while we were sitting in the lobby, waiting for Husband's doctor appointment, Husband jokingly told me that my necklace looked like someone had slashed my throat and I was bleeding silver blood.

I ask you this: should I have hit him right there in full view of various cancer patients or is he right? Personally, I like wearing the necklace because it's sparkly. I'm like a monkey or a raccoon that way.

[Author's Note: Husband was joking, honestly. I feel I need to point that out just so no one thinks he's some kind of jerk. He tells me every day that he thinks I'm beautiful and how lucky he is to be married to me. Poor, sweet, deluded man.]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sleeping Beauty Never Had to Put Up With Chocolate That Tastes Like Wax

Update on Husband: Big news today! Husband has an immune system! He's got enough white blood cells to fight off most stuff and he can eat raw foods again. The raw foods thing won't really affect his diet all that much, as he wasn't actually craving a salad or an orange. He's not into popping edamame like peanuts, either. Still, this means I can relax my vigilant recipe scouring for anything not cooked enough.

The kids have delighted in giving him hugs at long last. Little Gary got to snuggle up while his daddy read Chikka Chikka Boom Boom to him this morning.

I gave Husband his last Neupogen shot today. Dang! I was just starting to get good at those.

..........................



I have to say it: American chocolate is awful -- at least the stuff you buy in the grocery store. I know there are a couple American chocolate companies that are producing a quality product on par with Europe, but it ain't Hersheys. Eating a Hershey's Special Dark bar is like eating a chocolate-flavored candle. Even when I slather it in peanut butter I can't get over the feeling that I could stick a wick in it and light it on fire. That's probably for the best, however, as I certainly don't need any extra empty calories. I packed on five or six pounds of stress over the last few weeks, and I'll need all my superpowers to overcome and lose them.

To that end, I went on a walk after the kids left for school. It's been a while, but I have been craving the exercise. I even ran a bit, although I practiced landing on the balls of my feet and not my heels in order to reduce the impact on my knees and back. Still, I'm ouchy this afternoon, sore and stiff. Good. Bring it on.

Last night, I took Sophia, Elannah, and Joseph to auditions for the play "Sleeping Beauty." It's not a professional play with a big production; the rehearsals only last a week and there are two performances on Saturday. I was surprised Joseph wanted to try out, but he gamely stood with the other 70 or so kids and spoke up when it was his turn. He had to run over to me for a few kisses of assurance at first, but as time dragged on and on, he started running over to me with complaints about his hungry tummy. Finally, the hunger grew too great and he decided to go home and get something to eat, unconcerned by then that he would not be in the play. Sophia and Elannah, however, stuck it out. Sophia landed the lead role as Sleeping Beauty, but Elannah did not receive a part. Like the last time this sort of thing happened, there was both elation and tears.  Sophia quietly pointed out to Elannah that Elannah's last play had been a much grander production, spanning several months of intense rehearsal. I told Elannah that tears of disappointment were okay, but there would be no jealousy or whining, just as I had told Sophia months before. Fortunately, Elannah is happily philosophical today. Sophia is ecstatic.

On a completely different note, someone left the garage freezer door wide open all night and probably most of yesterday. Everything in there was completely defrosted by the time Husband noticed this morning, so I had to scramble to pull out all the meat and get it cooked. I still have about 10 pounds of organic ground beef to fry up, but I picked the wrong day to stand around cooking for hours on end (see above about my sore legs). I have done the bulk of it, but the rest will have to wait until tomorrow. I've also cleaned up the blood on the garage floor, in the freezer, and the drips on the kitchen floor. It's enough to make me vegetarian.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm So Stuffed I Could Pop

Update on Husband: You get the guy out of the hospital and the hospital gets out of the guy. Or...wait. I'm not sure that's a real saying since I just made it up. What I mean is this: Take an ailing Husband home and within a couple days his color is coming back and he's got an appetite for home cookin'!

That's right! Blood levels are looking good, with an uptick in platelets and an increase in red blood cells. I am giving him daily injections of Neupogen, which is an extremely expensive drug that stimulates the production of white blood cells. It's all in the wrist. The injections that is, not the growth of white blood cells.

Around the house, Husband wears a mask and we have to keep Lysol wipes in strategic places to make sure things are wiped down and sterile. In our bedroom and in his office, he is the only one who is allowed to go in (besides me, of course). The kids can't hug him yet. A couple more weeks and his immune system will be strong enough for all these precautions to be set aside, which will be nice. Every day he feels stronger!

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I was taking the boys to the libry when Sian called for a ride. She had been playing with the Chamber Strings on a float during the high school Homecoming parade (HOW?? I don't know. Playing a stringed instrument on a rocking flatbed trailer has got to be tricky.), and as I had just pulled up to the intersection outside her school, I was there in 30 seconds.

She got in the car and said, "I'll make dinner tonight. I just decided."

Well! Never looking a gift horse in the mouth, I happily accepted.

"Let's get home, then," she said.

I told her I had been on my way to take the boys to the library, a place where she could easily spend hours and hours (like her mother, of course), but she seemed agitated about it. Odd. But we went nevertheless, and I had her watch the littlest boy play with the toys while I tracked down Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and one of those old crafting books from the '80s that so plentifully populate the shelves in the mid 700s. I thought the girls could get some inspiration for a project or two.

Joseph decided on an armful of Dr. Seuss books, Sian ran after Little Gary repeatedly, and I got us checked out.

When we pulled up at home, there were people waiting on the front porch. Sian seemed not at all surprised. In fact, she nodded knowingly and hauled Little Gary off down the street and around the corner, her sisters and Joseph in tow. The people on my front porch were three angels bearing gifts: a homemade dinner for two, complete with yellow rose in vase and candles with matches, and a BLUEBERRY Marie Callendar's pie (someone's been reading my blog!). The kids were taken care of for a couple hours so Husband and I could enjoy a Friday night date. Then I understood that Sian had been in the know and trying to get me home.

Now, a lot of people have done a lot of lovely things for us (for which I can't express enough appreciation), but I was never so surprised. What a perfectly beautiful gesture that was. Although Husband couldn't eat the lettuce or the dressing in the Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad with Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (he is on a reduced microbial diet, meaning he can't eat anything that isn't fully cooked), both of us happily munched away. When the kids came home, we let them have some pie.

Thank you, Linnea, Denise, Denise's husband, and Bro. and Sis. B. for putting that together. Husband and I appreciated the time alone to just enjoy our delicious meal and unwind a bit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Text R Us

Update on Husband: So far, he hasn't made it home yet. Every night Husband has developed a little fever, which means another 24 hours in the hospital and sometimes more blood cultures.

When I went up there yesterday, we had a lot of visitors from various departments come and speak to us. The guy who coordinates with the insurance companies was especially nice as he informed us that having a nurse come to our house to draw blood and administer the drug that promotes white blood cell growth is cheaper than coming all the way in to the clinic. He even said we have pretty good insurance, which is nice to know. At least our deductibles aren't so high that we would never have a prayer of paying them off. Each of those white blood cell promoting shots cost between $3000 and $6000. Cough, cough.

Husband managed to walk 12 laps around the floor he's on, which equals one mile. The nurses kept telling him that exercise is a great fatigue-buster and is much better than sitting around napping all day. Unfortunately, by the time I left last night, Husband felt pretty awful and had absolutely no appetite for his fish, onion rings, and apple pie he'd ordered. That's the chemo, which suppresses the appetite center in the brain.

It was thought I'd be taking Husband home today, but he developed yet another fever last night and he's feeling pretty awful today. I don't know if they'll keep him in or send him home.

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I mentioned a while ago that I might be getting a better job in the company I freelance for. I did get it. I will now be given some website text to write, which I've had a lot of experience doing. The pay is much better and there are fewer words per page, so that's a bonus. Plus, no contact with clients, which takes a lot of time. I imagine I will still take on the articles I already write, as well, so I can bring in some real money. (Ha ha ha ha! Real money from writing. That's too funny.). I am, however, considering offering my services to the world at large as an editor. That might bring in something as people realize that good content is crucial for internet search marketing and the search engine algorithms that companies like Google use.

I don't have much time these days, what with shuttling between home and hospital and getting stuff done in the cracks. I stay up way too late catching up. I'll try to be more interesting very soon. It will help when Husband is home!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Silver Lining

Update on Husband: After I finished my last post, I ended up taking Husband to the hospital. His temperature spiked, so I dutifully called the oncologist physician on call (who happened to be the one who did his bone marrow core samples) expecting to be told to give him a couple Tylenol. Instead, she immediately ordered me to take Husband to the Huntsman center in The Big City. Fevers in a compromised immune system can be swiftly deadly. As I was packing a quick overnight bag, she called back and said she'd changed her mind and that I should take him to our town's hospital, where she had instructed the ER physician to administer antibiotics immediately and then ship him to the Huntsman.

Five minutes after getting into the car we arrived at the hospital (ah, the joys of living in a small town!), but the ER physician didn't immediately give Husband the antibiotics. Instead, he ordered a chest X-ray and a blood test. Three hours later, he started the antibiotics when it was clear that Husband no longer had any white blood cells. Ooooh, that made our other doctor so mad.

Husband got a ride into The Big City around 3am in an ambulance. Because I had been up all night and didn't trust myself to drive the hour to the hospital, Husband and I agreed I should go home and sleep before coming to see him.

Husband is still at the Huntsman. He did get his last dose of chemo late last night, so that's done, but he had another fever when it was finished. They want to keep a close eye on him and finish the blood cultures. I slept overnight in his room last night to make sure I was there if he started feeling as awful as he had done on Thursday. Today, although he is ghostly pale and feels pretty poorly, he is doing all right. They might let him out tomorrow.

The silver lining is that the chemo is very effective. The doctor was astounded by Husband's response, which was sooner than anyone else she's treated. Now we just have to wait for his white blood cells to start growing again and his bone marrow to replenish itself. That might take weeks, but now it's healing time.

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First of all, let me welcome the new followers to my blog. Hi! Welcome. Please feel free to comment if you wish.

Secondly, my eyes are closing. I even have ice cream and the kids are all in bed. Dang.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Boy Joseph

Update on Husband: The chemo side effects are starting to kick in, and they are not all that fun so far. Husband went to bed as soon as we got home from his appointment today, and hasn't been out of the room since. He's feeling weak and as if he's coming down with the flu. We're watching his temperature closely because if he gets to 100.5 degrees F. the doctor instructed us to call her. I hate watching him go through this without being able to do anything about it.

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I'm a little stressed, so coming up with anything to blog about that is remotely coherent or even interesting is an impossible task at the moment.

Here is a note that Joseph's Primary (Sunday School for children) teacher wrote just before she moved. I thought it was funny.

I have enjoyed getting to know Joseph in my class. I appreciate as a teacher that he shows up almost every week. Joseph is a very smart boy. At first I thought he wasn't listening or didn't know very many answers. Then I realized he is a SMART kid! He was answering everything backwards of the right answer. He knows a lot of the scripture stories. His favorite ones are the fighting ones. He loves to participate and talk about his family. We had a lesson on repentance and he really thinks his sisters need to repent more. It made me laugh! I am going to miss him and his happy smile! I hope you like your new teacher.

I do find the fact that he likes to talk about his family just a wee bit ominous, as I have been in classes of that age group and have learned far more about their families than their parents ever wanted me to know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bean Soup is Not an Adhesive Product

Update on Husband: As I write this, I am sitting in one of the infusion rooms at the Huntsman center while Husband has his third dose of chemotherapy. I should be writing 1000 words on local search marketing, but I ran out of things to say after 500 words and I'm taking a break.

So far, Husband has not been feeling any side-effects, which is very nice. His hair is still sitting proudly on his head, and he's feeling tired but not nauseated or in any other way ill. Yay!

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I have a lot of beans in my pantry. I must have around 30 bags of mostly white beans stacked on one of the shelves (on the right side). The other day, I figured I better make use of these little nutrient-packed power players, though my heart wasn't really in it. Two bags of beans went into the crock pot with water and a little baking soda to soak overnight. The next day, I drained and refreshed the water, threw in a ham bone and some seasonings, and set them to cook for 10 hours. That night, the scent of bean soup welcomed us as we walked through the door after spending many hours in The Big City. I can't say Husband was all that excited.

As an experiment, I pureed the beans in the blender and added the leftover, chopped ham I'd saved. Bean glue. With ham. But the kids LOVED it! My parents also loved it, as that is the kind of thing my mom cooked all the time I was growing up (I ate a very healthy diet until I went off to college and began enjoying the easy energy of sugary carbs. Protest and rebellion? Well, if it was, it was the worst act of rebellion I went through.) So this bean soup I was sure would sit quietly molding away in my fridge is almost gone. I made so much it's fed us for several nights. The baking soda in the soaking water cut down on the...um...embarrassing aspect associated with eating beans, and I sit in amazement as even the pickiest of my eaters chows it down.

I would feel like the absolute best cook in the world except Husband has taken a pass on it every time since he choked down the first bowl on the first night. He said (and I quote directly),"It's like taking baked beans, mashing them up into a mush, and leaving out all the good tasting parts of it." Since he bruises so easily these days, I have refrained from hitting him. Too hard. He got porridge with a little butter, brown sugar, milk, and raisins last night, and he liked that fine.

Monday, September 20, 2010

After You Read This, You Will Awaken Completely Refreshed

Update on Husband: We drove into The Big City for Husband's first day of chemo early this morning. Of course we got stuck in traffic, but because we'd given ourselves enough time, we still got to the Huntsman Center on time. After they drew blood, we met with the doctor. Then it was off to the Infusion Room for two hours of a cladribine drip. We grabbed some lunch afterward, ran a couple errands, and then headed home, again getting stuck in stop-and-go traffic (only this time for much longer). Before we went home, we stopped to pick up his prescriptions for Valtrex and Bactium to prevent shingles and pneumonia while his immune system is suppressed.

Meanwhile, at home, my Mom the Superstar (along with my Dad the Magnificent), took care of everything and even had the kids get their chores done before we arrived at the house. Bless her. I don't know how she does it, 'cause I can't even remember to get my kids to get their chores done every day. Since the house was clean in the evening, I was able to sit and help Joseph with his homework, which he loved.

Even if the circumstances are not ideal, it was great to spend the day with Husband. He's exhausted, and we do this all over again for five more days, but hopefully this will work and he can recover quickly. He'll start feeling the effects of the chemotherapy within a day or so. I wonder if his hair will fall out? and if it does, what will it look like when it grows back?

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Here's a talent I didn't realize I had: I am very good at self-hypnosis. I can put myself into a trance very easily, and now that I better understand what that means (I've been reading, see), I understand that I've been doing it all my life. I wish I could claim that's unusual or something, but the truth is that most kids are very good at self-hypnosis. When you are transported into a world of your own creation, where everything external drops away and you are completely absorbed in your thoughts, that's self-hypnosis. Maybe I never grew up or something. When I was a teenager, I used to turn out all the lights in my room on a Sunday night and tune my radio to "Music From the Hearts of Space," followed by "Pipe Dreams." For the first hour, I was surrounded by ethereal, new age sounds. For the second hour, it was the organ (my dad has been the organ player in church for as long as I can remember, so it's an instrument with which I am very familiar and love).

During both those hours, with no other stimulus except for sound, I slipped away into a little fantasy world. Thoughts would come and go as they pleased. I just breathed and let my mind wander where it would. All my muscles were relaxed. Eventually, I would lose the music as well, going so deep that there was nothing outside of me. It wasn't sleep, exactly, and a lot of times I came out of it with interesting insights about myself and about life in general. Call it meditation. Call it self-hypnosis. Same thing. It was very refreshing.

I had forgotten to deliberately do this after I had kids. My trance sessions were more accidental than planned, as I grabbed a moment here or there to just space out in thought. Now I'm making time for it again, and when I put in my headphones and turn on my iPod to play the self-hypnosis tracks, I find I sleep really, really well. Whether it's relaxing music or the guy talking me into a trance, it doesn't matter. I am sorting things out in my head. I have a lot of things to sort out.

This is the most sloppy post ever. No matter. I must go to bed, so I'm not taking time to edit tonight. Tomorrow is another busy day. I did manage to get my exercise in today, although I had to wait until it was dark outside before I could take my 30 minute brisk walk. It feels good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm Not a Stepford Wife, and I Think That's a Good Thing

Update on Husband: As he is in generally good spirits and feeling pretty well, Husband and I had a date last night -- probably the last date night out for a long time. We got the kids a pizza to eat at home in front of a movie, and then the two of us snuck off to our favorite Chinese buffet, where Husband made wiser eating choices than usual (I, on the other hand, couldn't resist the honey shrimp and those wonton wrapper things full of cream cheese, crab, and spring onion). At the end of the meal, my fortune cookie delivered a pearl of timely advice: "This is a time for caution, but not for fear."

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I've decided to divide my blog posts this way, with an update on Husband's progress at the top so those who want to know how he's doing can do so easily without wading through the miasma of my own obscure observations on whatever pops into my head and tells me (however falsely) "THIS would make a good post!"

The last couple days have reminded me a lot of how I felt several years ago. I went through a depressing period of wanting to be a Stepford wife. Do you remember that movie? Sure, there's the more recent version with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick (hello, pre-teen crush!), but the older one was more frightening. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a brief synopsis: a couple move to the town of Stepford. They're somewhat in crisis, and the wife gets to know some of the other wives in town. She notices odd things after a while about the women. They all seem perfectly content, and from a male perspective, like model wives. It turns out the men of the town are getting rid of their pesky, individualized women and replacing them with robots, who are perfect in every way.

Now stop laughing so hard. Yes, that IS a movie.

So, anyway, I spent a while wishing that I could completely subsume my own desires and needs in order to feel no tension between what I wanted and what I needed to do for everyone else. If I could become a Stepford wife, I reasoned, conflict would vanish and I would be serenely content to see to everyone else's needs with no thought of my own. I set about to become this model woman.

AND FAILED MISERABLY!

Turns out, I can't turn myself into a robot. Who knew? But it was part of the path that led me to where I am, which is learning the art of balance and that I am just as important as everyone else.

The last few days, as I've pondered what it will take to be a caregiver and nurse to my husband as he undergoes chemotherapy and the subsequent recovery, mom to six children with somewhat hectic schedules, write the articles that bring extra and necessary income into the house, and keep our home as clean and sanitary as possible, I found myself wishing to become a robot again. The final straw landed on my back when I realized I'd now given over my blog, my precious little real estate of me, to updates about cancer. I don't resent keeping everyone informed, of course, but it occurred to me that I would end up resenting the idea that the only reason I could justify writing this was to have people read about Husband's cancer. I know, it's a horrifyingly selfish thought, but this time around, I am a little more wise. I examined the anger and guilt and identified the underlying cause. Then I set about again finding a balance between my needs and the needs of my family. I think I've come up with a schedule that will allow me to get my exercise (which I dearly love and which I've been missing) and accomplish just about everything else. There will definitely be days I don't get to make a check mark against everything on my list, but I'll try my best and forgive the rest.

My husband, bless his heart, doesn't want me to quit the choir I love so much, either. I look forward to those two hours every week with a passion I find surprising. I love the challenge of the music, the ability to blend my voice with others into a tapestry of sound. It's like getting eight hours of refreshing sleep to spend that time singing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

UPDATE: Good News in the End

Husband just got a call from his doctor at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The hematologists are finally ready to make a diagnosis of Atypical Hairy Cell Leukemia. That missing protein threw them for a while, but it wasn't looking like the hairy cell leukemia variant. Atypical hairy cell leukemia is even more rare than the variant, but the cases so far have responded as positively to treatment as classic hairy cell leukemia. Husband asked the doctor a couple times how sure they were about this diagnosis, and she said, considering doctors and hospitals from all over the world send blood samples to the Huntsman Institute for examination by the hematologists, she's pretty happy to back their diagnosis.

Imagine our relief!

Chemo starts Monday morning.