Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Parties

We always have Christmas parties with our extended families.  This year, we had one with my mother's family (descendants of her parents), one with my family (my dad, my brothers and their families), one with Trent's family (his folks, siblings, and their families, and a January party with some of Trent's cousins.

The best party, though, is Trent's family's adult party.  No offense to any of the other parties, or to the idea of partying with my own children.  Love you all.

This party is restricted to Trent's folks, and their children and spouses.  Each of the eight couples writes a story - something from family history, something about childhood in the family, something that happened to our family this year, whatever - and buys a gift to go with the story.  We take turns to pick a random gift, hear the giver read the story, and go home with something fun and copies of all the stories.  Over the years, it has made for an impressive collection of family tidbits.  We laugh so hard, and we all love it.  Here is the picture from this year.

And here is Trent, who almost made it to his seat before the automatic timer went off.  Cute dance, honey.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Too Late

Just how late is too late for teenagers to come home?  And is a murderous glare grounds for Division of Family Services intervention?

I'm fascinated with the blend of near-blinding anger and frightfully strong worry. And too tired to do anything but think of scathing retorts to the arguments I know I'll get.

Must calm down, must sleep, must (not) kill sons.

Eating German

My dad's parents both came to America from Germany.  To this day, I stop when I hear a German accent because it reminds me of my beloved Opa and Oma.  Because we were taking my dad on our Christmas vacation, one of my goals was to make it as much like the German Christmases of his childhood as I could.

A huge part of a German Christmas is the food.  My Oma was an excellent homemaker and cook.  I wish I could learn more from her.  I talked to my dad and read German cookbooks to get the menu ideas I needed.    Here is what we planned (and mostly what we ate):

Day 1
snack: AIR-POPPED POPCORN (to eat, and to let a big bowl of it sit overnight so it would be soft enough to string and put on the tree)  We didn't get there early enough to do this.
dinner: PIZZA (from scratch, like we always make it.  It's not German, but I thought it would be easy to put together as we were arriving.  We were so late... we just got pizza and ate it on the trip.  Dinner fail.)

Day 2
breakfast: SAUSAGE AND GREEN PEPPER OMELETS (with fruit.  Trent is a big breakfast person, so he gets up for the morning cooking.  I think these turned into scrambled eggs without a good omelet pan.)
lunch: CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP & SPAM SANDWICHES (Dad loves fried Spam sandwiches.  Don't know why we didn't do this - maybe this was the day I was most miserable?)
snack: DOUGHNUTS* (*recipe at end.  We still need to make this one, as we didn't get to it.)
dinner: HAM DINNER (with pickled beets, rolls, German Potato Salad*, cooked veggies, and Schaum Torte*.  The cake was heavenly, and definitely a keeper!)

Day 3
breakfast: PANCAKES, EGGS & SAUSAGE (we topped the pancakes with syrup and applesauce)
lunch: PEANUT BUTTER & JAM SANDWICHES (We are so good at this one!)
snack: LEBKUCHEN* (German gingerbread-like cookie.  It isn't Christmas unless I make these!)
dinner: GERMAN MEATLOAF* (with rolls, baked potatoes, sauerkraut, and veggies)

Day 4
breakfast: EGGS AND CHEESY-HAM TOAST* (and fruit)
dinner: CHICKEN SCHNITZEL* with green salad and Spaetzel* and red cabbage (I forgot the chicken in the freezer at home, so I think we had spaghetti instead.  It's yummy, though)

Day 5
breakfast: OATMEAL BAR (with nuts, raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, sprinkles, apple chunks...)
snack: COOKIES (chocolate chip and almond balls*)
dinner: TACOS (so not German, but Sunday tacos is our family tradition - everyone helps!)

Day 6
breakfast: FRIED EGGS & HASHBROWNS with fruit
lunch: CHRISTMAS EVE TURKEY DINNER (cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered carrots, sweet potatoes, and jello salad)
snack: APPLE STREUSEL* with ice cream, of course

Day 7
lunch: LEFTOVER SOUP (one of my favorite post-holiday dinner meals!)

This is why I stayed sick.  I couldn't rest because I had to cook.  But it was worth it.  Dad also loves rouladin, and wanted a fruitcake.  Next time.  We all loved the good food.  And at the end of the trip, and several times during, my dad said his stomach was satisfied.  He said he loved eating good food that was familiar to him.  Mission: accomplished.


2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 T melted butter
2 T cream
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream together eggs, sugar, cream, butter, and lemon extract.  Add milk and dry ingredients.  Pat out on floured board and cut into doughnuts.  Fry between 350 and 375 in deep fat until brown.

3 pounds small red potatoes, washed well
10 slices bacon (1/2 pound), cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 T cider vinegar
3/4 cup beef broth
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until just tender, about 20 minutes.  Cook bacon strips in large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Drain potatoes and let cool until you can handle them.  Cut potatoes into eighths, combine with bacon.  Cover mixture and keep warm.

Pour off all but 3 T fat from skillet and saute onion over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add sugar, vinegar, and broth.  Simmer 2 minutes.  Add onion mixture to warm potatoes.  Add parsley and toss gently.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

1 cup cold egg whites
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 pint whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg whites, vinegar, and cream of tartar until very stiff.  While mixing on high speed, slowly add sugar.  Drop into 2 well-buttered pyrex pie plates.  Bake at 300 for 10 minutes, then 250 for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and let cool in oven.

Take out of pie dish and put on  serving platter.  Lift off top crust - it will break - fill with 1/2 of whipped-stiff whipped cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Put fruit(fresh or frozen berries, peaches, cooked sour cherries, etc.) on cream, and put the top back on.  Amazing!


2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground pork (we used breakfast sausage!)
1 large chopped onion
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 T onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 T majoram
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
4 strips of bacon

Mix all but the bacon, and pack into 2 loaf pans.  Put 2 strips of bacon on each loaf.  Bake at 300 or 325 for an hour.  Let meatloaf rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

EGGS AND CHEESY-HAM TOAST (an awkward name for Egg McMuffins on toast instead of English muffins)
layer a fried egg, a slice of ham, and some cheese between two slices of bread.  Put sandwiches on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes - or fry up individually in a frying pan.

SOFT PRETZELS (My recipe is handwritten, in German.  Love it!)
1 T (small package) yeast
1 1/2 cup milk or water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
4 cups flour

Mix.  Roll into snakes and shape.  Bake 15 minutes at 425.

2 pounds veal stake or cutlets, or pork tenderloin or chicken sliced
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1 T salt
1/4 teaspoon majoram
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups bread crumbs

Cut meat 1/4 inch thick and then into nice sized portions.  Dip meat in batter of eggs, milk, flour, and seasonings.  Roll in bread crumbs.  Let sit in fridge for an hour or two (helps crumbs stay on better).

Fry in 1/2 inch of melted butter or oil or shortening.  Brown on both sides at 350 to 400 about 10 to 15 minutes.

1 cup milk
1 T salt
5 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups flour

Beat well, let rest for 15 minutes.  Bring 5 or 6 quarts water and 2 T salt to a boil in a large kettle.  Put part of dough through spaetzel machine and drop in water (or roll out thin, cut into strips, and drop in water).  Let boil 1 or 2 minutes.  Take out with strainer and put in cold water.  Drain.

To serve, put in bowl and mix in 1/4 cup melted butter.  Put in baking dish or double boiler.  Heat or bake for 20-30 minutes at 300.

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut up fine
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cups chopped celery
3 or 4 sprigs parsley
2 quarts water
2 pounds beef bone
1 T salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 rosemary
1/4 teaspoon basil

Cook all together for 1 1/2 hours.  Blend until smooth.

1/4 pound butter
2 T sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup almonds, chopped fine
1 cup flour

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together.  Mix in nuts and flour.  Roll out into small balls and bake at 200-250 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  Cool.  Roll in powdered sugar.


1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs,flour, and baking powder.  Pat out dough to about 1/2 inch thick in a greased pie dish.  Can bake first, then add fruit, or the fruit can be baked with the crust.  (We poured apple pie filling into the unbaked crust, sprinkle with streusel topping, then baked.)

STREUSEL (crumb topping)
1/4 pound butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 cup flour
1 teaspoon almond extract

Crumble together and put on top of fruit.  Bake at 350 to 375 for 35 to 40 minutes.

Getting Ready for a Christmas Trip

I am a list-maker.  Especially when something big is coming up.  Like Christmas.  Or a vacation.  And especially a vacation and Christmas together.  I make lists of things to pack, things to do, things to buy, things to wrap, things to eat...  I might even need to make lists of my lists so I'm not as discombobulated with all my loose paper lists like I was this year.  I'm cleaning out my black bag- my brain when we are out - and I came across all my lists.

Packing for a one-week trip over Christmas:

  • 3 sets of clothes (with a washer and dryer, this was plenty of clothing)
  • snow gear (didn't really need since we were sick)
  • Sunday clothes (worked well to pack this in its own garment bag)
  • nativity bag (dress-ups for putting on the nativity - scrapped as I got too crazy)
  • bathroom bag (wipes, medicines, bandaids, toothpaste, and all that bathroom stuff)
  • activities bag (things for the kids to do)
  • Christmas bag (decorations for the tree, stockings, lights, tinsel, wrapping paper)
  • presents (boxes and boxes packed tightly with already-wrapped presents)
  • kitchen supplies (pizza pans, bread pans, turkey cooker, other things I didn't know if they would have)
  • food (lots and lots and lots)
The only category I got totally wrong was the food.  Maybe it was because we were sick, but we took way too much food.  I guess it's better to take too much than too little, but when there is  grocery store within 30 minutes, it might be worth it to not pack just everything.  On the other hand, I'd rather not spend vacation time grocery shopping.  

It makes me crazy to get ready and pack up to go somewhere.  I'm nearly good with getting ready for church, almost.  Anywhere else - get ready for a breakdown or two.  My listing helps me see that I am making progress and that there is really not an unending sea of things to do.

And maybe next time, the first thing on my first list will be this:


Friday, December 28, 2012

O Tannenbaum

We have a fake Christmas tree.  It is nice enough and does the job, then folds up and hides under our stairs for the rest of the year.  The kids put lights and ornaments on it and it looks good.  I have given up on the idea of a perfect magazine-looking Christmas tree.  We raise kids around here, not home designers.

But to me, there is the quiet appeal of a real Christmas tree, calling to me.  I've only had a read tree two or three times, but I long for it.  I love the feel of real branches, the chill of picking out one just-right, the gummy excitement of setting it straight in the stand, the delectable smell of crushed pine needles in the vacuum.

This year, I decided, we will get a real tree.  We're going on a holiday vacation anyway, so we'll set up our regular tree for at home, then have a real tree for there.  I thought we'd just stop by a Christmas tree lot on the way out of town, strap it to the top of the tree, and away we go!

I was all prepared.  I had popcorn to pop and needles and string make garlands of popcorn.  I had white paper and scissors to cut real, six-pointed snowflakes.  I hunted down a package of tinsel so we could individually place the silvery strands "just so" like my dad's mother did.  I packed a few strings of the colored lights my boys prefer over the more calming white ones.  I purchased a tree stand and even a tree body bag for when it was time to go home.  All set?  You bet.

Of course, no plan goes exactly right.  At least none of mine do.  We go started too late in the day to stop by a tree stand.  The next day, we had to take a bunch of time to drive to town, inquire after real Christmas trees, and then drive to the next town to find one.  They were more expensive than the ones I saw at home.  And once we actually got the biggest little tree I could bear to pay that much for and lugged it home, we couldn't find the tree stand.  I had intentionally placed it between the front seats in the van so it wouldn't get lost.

After scouring the cabin and both vans (we don't have a van we all fit in so we have to drive tandem), we came to the disheartening conclusion that we had left the tree stand home.  I was too sick to go any further, so Trent went back into town to locate another stand for our poor tree.  He found one at the third place he stopped, and reluctantly paid double for it.  We have a hard time parting with our money, I guess.

As he left the hardware store, he got a flash of inspiration.  Why buy a tree stand when you can make one?  He went dumpster diving, found a bucket, and came home with it and a pile of rocks.  Where he found rocks when everything was covered by a foot of snow is beyond me.  We stuck the tree in the bucket, tried to secure it with rocks, and ended up tying the tree to both sides of the cabinet behind it.  It's a good thing we had green twine!  It had a nice, back-woodsy, Charlie Brown Christmas tree feel.

And we found the tree stand in our driveway when we got back.  Just so you don't worry, we've returned both of them.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Home for the Holidays?

We drove for long time to get to the cabin in the mountains where we spent Christmas this year.  I've been itching to have a family vacation before James leaves on his mission.  It's our last!  The last family vacation with our family as we know it!  After this it's all different.  <mother sigh>  So we left over Christmas.  It was nothing fancy - just a place where we could hunker down and be together.  And we took my dad, for the first Christmas without my mom.

It was different to not celebrate at home.  It was fun to do some different things, and nice to be away from some of our normal daily distractions.  Cooking and laundry, however, we took with us.  A little less home-y, but still fun.  To me, it's more about being together.

Twenty-five years ago, my family went to Disneyland for Christmas.  We (er, my Mom) plotted and planned for an entire year to pull the trip off.  She pulled strings, called in favors, and hunted for good deals.  We were let in on the secret during the summer, and we were all for it.  We were ok with spending our Christmas money (and presents!) on Disneyland.  I have fond memories of that trip, and the fun things we did together with our family.

Seven years ago, Jay died just before Christmas.  The next year, I pulled off a monumental surprise and whisked the boys away for the holidays - to Disneyland.  That way, we didn't have to celebrate at home - with the big hole of him not there.  It was a good trip, made possible by many good folks.  Again, fun memories.

I'm glad we went this year, and made some new memories.  Even if we were all sick.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blogging Break

I'm back.  We went on a Christmas trip, and I didn't blog.  Part of me was enjoying the break.  Part of me was writing stories in my head and thinking "I need to jot this down so I'll remember it" and itching to write. Part of me was reveling in just enjoying my family and not worrying about anything else.  And part of me was dog-sick with the flu.  We were all sick at one point, and due to it being the flu, most of the time most of us were sick.

All I wanted for Christmas this year:
And I have some funny stories that I must jot down before I forget them.  If I can stop coughing, I will. <hack, sneeze>

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Marriage Bells - 1992

Twenty Years Ago today, I was a new bride.

We were the 52nd marriage in the Salt Lake Temple that day.  Every corner we rounded would be manned by the sweetest old ladies you have ever seen.  Clutching a white clipboard, one would ask for our names, and we always responded "Number fifty-two."  They cutely chastised us, lovingly reassuring that we were people, not numbers, but we did it again the next time.  Jay loved the reaction.

We waited for a while in the gorgeous Celestial Room, where I remember slumping down in the couch to look at the decorations on the ceiling.  We both slumped down and stared up, aware of other people's furtive glances upward to see what we were looking at.  We giggled a bit.

We were married in a large room on the northeast corner of the annex.  I loved wearing the white dress I had designed, having Jay's strong arm around me, and being surrounded by the people I loved most in the world.  It was a happy time.  At the end of the ceremony, the sealer gave my mother the marriage certificate, "because the bride might lose it in the hustle of the day."  And then Mom lost her purse.  Silly Mom.

Outside the temple, we posed for pictures.  It was a beautifully clear December day, but still chilly.  Our families and friends wore their coats, and Jay had on his tuxedo jacket, but I got colder and colder.  Jay's always-kind-hearted mission president loaned me his overcoat between shots so I wouldn't freeze.  It's interesting how a small amount of kindness can be so long remembered.

It was a wonderful day, full of sunshine and real joy.

Years later, after Jay was terminally ill with cancer, I was asked if I would have married him if I had known he'd leave so soon.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cleaning and Prepping - 1992

Twenty Years Ago today, we were cleaning our apartment.  Small apartments were scarce in the university town, and we knew it would be all but impossible to find one in the middle of the year.  At the end of the summer, when we found a nice one-bedroom apartment in a brand-new complex, we signed up quick.  I still lived at home, but Jay and his brother stayed in the apartment during fall semester.  After finals, I wanted to clean up the bachelor pad and get it ready for newly-wed living.

It really wasn't as bad as I just implied it was, but it's always nice to start out clean.  We spent the day helping Jeff pack up, tidying, putting my dishes in the kitchen cupboards, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.  It was exciting.

When we were mostly done, it was time to have the wedding dinner and a chance for our families to really meet each other.  It was a small dinner at an historic home turned into a bed-and-breakfast.  It was a lovely evening, filled with delicious food and lots of dinging on the goblets by Jay's dad to get us to kiss.  Didn't mind that one at first, but after a while...  ;-)

When the dinner was done, we ran back to the apartment to finish up the last little bit.  My mother had invited Jay to stay overnight with our family (gasp!), so we packed his bag and headed off to my last night at home.  When we got there, the house was strangely silent.  We sat on the couch and visited, full of plans and ideas, waiting for my family to get home.  It didn't take long to get uncomfortable.  Where was my family?  Where was my mother?  She had done such a good job of chaperoning me with boys - and now she's leaving us alone?

I couldn't wait any longer.  I had to shower.  My hair was thick and long - about down to my waist.  I was putting it up in rollers for the big day, and I knew it would take a while.  I came out with dripping hair, and my family was still gone.  Jay was the one who helped me roll the locks up in the plastic tubing I got at the hardware store, to make spiral curls.  Still no family.

Finally, finally!  They came home.  It was nearing midnight, and they had all been out!  With my little brothers!  Jon was only 9, and Mom never allowed him to stay out until anything that even resembled late, and here it was, in the middle of the night!

And where have you been...?  At the church, decorating for your reception.  ...oh...  ...oops... didn't even think about that.

When we got engaged, nine months earlier, we had agreed to a night-before-the-wedding plan.  If either of us got cold feet, we would call the other, sneak out and talk it over with a Slurpee.  Jay loved 7-11 Slurpees.  I guess we didn't have to do it, since we spent half the night rolling up my hair instead.  And he didn't even get a shower!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meeting the In-laws - 1992

Yup, melancholy.  One day I will write about what happened after I took that college tree down and moved back home.  It involves Christmas with the family, boring plans for New Year's, an unexpected visitor, Trent's party, and meeting Jay.  And the next Christmas, Jay and I were getting married.

Twenty Years Ago today, I was meeting my in-laws for the first time.  They lived thousands of miles away, and flew in for our wedding.  I had talked to them on the phone a few times, and I was learning more about them.  They were so nice, I couldn't help but to like them.  Besides, they were Jay's parents.  Anyone who had raised such an amazing son would have to be pretty amazing themselves.

One little detail worried me, however.  On the phone, Jays' dad had said that he would be expecting a big hug from his daughter-in-law to  be at the airport.  And he meant a BIG hug.  My family was not physically demonstrative.  I didn't really hug my brothers or my own parents.  How could I be expected to be part of a bear hug with a grown man I didn't really know?  I was slightly freaked out, but I managed to cooperate, and it made him happy.  That's the important part.  I did want him to feel loved and welcomed.  My first father-in-law passed away about two years ago, and I still miss him.  I'm glad I gave him the uncomfortable hug.

After picking them up at the airport, we went to a bridal shower that my aunts had planned for me.  I remember that it was at Aunt Beverly's sweet house, and that, although I was embarrassed to be the center of attention, I felt very loved.  I also loved that Jay picked me up from the shower (so they could all meet him), and took me home.  We had to park somewhere under the full moon so he could kiss all the bows out of my hair.

Happy memories, and a little melancholy.  I have a smile on, though, and it feels warm.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

When I Take the Tree Down - 21 Years Ago

I was musing over moving Alec back home, and thinking that I could be starting on the path to a very melancholy holiday.  21 years ago, I was staying in my little off-campus apartment with five other girls.  At the end of the semester, they all caught rides home for Christmas.  I remained for a few days, alone.

I had finished my two-year Associate's Degree in a year and a half (thanks to some high school AP classes), and I was moving back home.  There were no graduation ceremonies held in December - no pomp or recognition.   Just me by myself for a few days, while I waited for my folks to make the drive to collect me and my stuff.

My first year at college, we found - of all things - a tumbleweed rolling across campus.  We dragged it to our dorm and hung it in the corner of the living room.  For Christmas, we festooned it with cut-paper snowflakes and maybe some tinsel.  The second year, we girls pooled our money and bought a real tree.  It was so comforting to have a bit of homey Christmas tradition in our drab apartment.  The local old folks home was collecting decorated Christmas trees from the college kids, so it went to a good use when we went home.

But that last night, alone with my thoughts and our tree, I got waves of blue.  I had just heard Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols, and had fallen in love with it.  One song in particular, I Cry the Day I Take the Tree Down, was stuck in my head.  Just close your eyes and listen - doesn't it make you feel melancholy?

My time at the small, friendly college was over, and I would be transferring to the big university near my home.  I knew I'd feel lost and have a hard time fitting in.  I've never been blessed with an abundance of social graces.  I was already missing my friends and the familiar places I had grown to love.  I was a bit scared, too.  I didn't know how I'd find my way around, or if I'd make any friends.

Yeah, I remember that feeling well.  But I didn't know what was around the corner.  Before the next semester would even start, I would meet the amazing man who would ask me to marry him.

I didn't know, and in my dismal state, I couldn't even guess that anything good was coming.  Isn't that how it goes sometimes?

Friday, December 14, 2012

21 Years Ago

I'm sitting at a desk in a college dorm.  Haven't done this for a while.  I didn't even have a computer when I was in college.  Yes, they were invented then.  We just had to use the computer lab with everyone else.  It was mostly empty in the mornings - jammed at night and at the end of the semester.

I'm bringing Alec home.  He's gone to a semester of college, and now he is coming home.  It reminds me so much of when I left college at Christmastime - and all my friends were staying there.  It was sad, and I remember it vividly.

Even though he might not understand that I understand, I do.

Welcome home, buddy.  Glad to have you, but sad you leave.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pretty Mom

No, I'm not being vain.  You should see my type here in my sweats, with no makeup on, and dirty hair.  I'm still pretty, just so you know.  God made us that way.

But I wanted to show you a couple of pictures that I finally got of my pretty mother.

Dad says she is "a looker."  I love her smile, and her beautiful skin.  I wonder if I could get my hair to do that?  :-)  She was in college, I think getting ready to go live with her brother in Germany when this photo was taken.  And I think I've seen that brooch lately (like in the past 10 years).  Gonna have to go looking for it.

Don't know how old she was in this picture, but I recognize the bangs.  Mom always cut mine like this throughout my elementary school years.

Here is her high school graduation picture, where all the girls had to wear the same black drape top, and the pearl necklace.  I think she's just gorgeous.

This is my dad's favorite shot of her.  It was taken in a friend's backyard when they were dating.  I believe it wasn't long after this that they were engaged.  She rocks the headband.  I am jealous of the ruffled three-quarter sleeves.  And how fun are the red shoes?

This is only two years ago.  Same great smile.  I'm glad to see my mother's smile again.  Love you, Pretty Mom!

Oil Spill

I said something about the stomach flu we had last weekend.  I have to add another part to that story.

After the second or third bout of child retching (I won't dwell on that part, I promise!), I remembered the essential oils Trent had recently picked up at a trade show.  His mom and a bunch of other people I know just swear by them, so I thought I'd give them a try.

Little Angel was so miserable, and her "tummy was so owie."  I looked at the tiny vials of essential oils, sqinting to read the microscopic print in the dim light.  I found two that were labeled for "disgestion" and "nausea."  I took off the tops, carefully measured about three drops into my hand, and recapped the bottles.  I had heard that the oils are potent, so I was careful to just take a drop or two of each.

Angel lay on the floor, and I started rubbing the oils into her belly.  At first, she liked it and calmed down.  She said the rubbing felt nice.

But soon she started to cry, and then scream.  The skin on her abdomen darkened to pink... and bright red.

Water doesn't wash off oil, just so you know.  Neither do baby wipes.  The poor girl had to have a full-blown bath in the middle of the night to soap the oil off her poor skin.  It took a while, but we got the poor sick girl cleaned up, dried off, warmed up, and tucked in.

I learned my lesson.  Don't mess with stuff you know nothing about.

Now I know that you have to add the oils to another oil to dilute them before you rub it on your skin.  And some oils are stronger and more irritating than others.

I thought about my own inadequacies as a mother as I laid in bed that night.  I sure make a lot of mistakes.  They haven't yet proven to be fatal, but I'm sure good at making people uncomfortable sometimes.  I'm sorry, little Angel.  My stinging hands were nothing compared to the soft skin of your tummy.

But didn't the cinnamon smell nice?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mother as Sports Spectator

I went to Ben's basketball game tonight.  I mean, WE went to his game.  I, as a lone adult, took six children to a basketball game.  And that was right after we went to the Scout Court of Honor where Chris got the last merit badge he needs to get the last rank he needs before he can work on his Eagle.  It's been a busy night.

It's hard for me to go to my kids' games.  I love going to support them, and I like watching basketball, but when this is my boy, things get personal.  Don't know how to be calm during a game.

So tell me... how do you watch your child's sports game and remain supportive and model good sportsmanship when THEY are messing up MY flesh and blood?

The short of tonight's game is that Ben's team lost in overtime.  But the scorekeepers, more than once during the regular game, got distracted by their ipods (we were sitting behind them), and gave points to the wrong team.  David was good about bringing the mistake to their attention, and they usually fixed it.  But one basket (just a couple of minutes before regulation time ended) was not scored - even when we commented on it - and that sent the game into a tie and overtime.  Otherwise, our team would have won.  My boy would have won.

And it's not always as obvious a problem as this was.  It might be a coach who won't play my kid.  Or someone who had a chip on their shoulder.  Or another player who is verbally abusive.  Or bad referees.  Or a kid on the opposing team who puts more shoulder or hit into my child than is warranted.  We all run into these at one time or another.

Do I complain to the athletic center about their distracted teenaged scorekeepers?  Do I ask to see the paper score sheet?  Do I smile and remind my boys that life rolls like that sometimes, and we need to remember that it's just a game?  Our children look to our actions to learn how to respond to life's curveballs.

Maybe next time I'll just keep score myself.  Then I'll know that the score was 33 to 35 before Brad's shot, which should have brought the score to 33 to 37 before the other team's final score... but didn't.

Yeah, right.  Like I can do that while I wrangle six kids on the bleachers.  <sigh>

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Masterpiece

Just in case you wanted to see the results of my recent dabbling in artistic automobile design...

The door does seal, so no water will leak in.  That's the good part.

The bad parts are that it doesn't engage the "turn off the overhead light" button.  Oh, and it won't lock.  Drat.  Now how will I lock the car so no one steals it?

Found: One Beloved Wallet

It's true that you don't know exactly how much something is worth to you until you lose it.  I was lost without my wallet.  I learned that it defines my identity.  Isn't that trite - and crazy at the same time?

The wallet itself isn't that interesting.  It is a FlyLady special, and I like it because it is thin and (unlike most women's wallets) built to stick in your pocket.  It's longer than a regular wallet, which ultimately led to its loss  last week when it squished out of my too-shallow-to-be-anything-but-decorative-but-what-woman-wants-practical-clothes-anyway jeans pocket.  Shall I give a commentary about the general shallowness of women's clothing?  I shouldn't at this hour.

When my first husband, Jay, passed away, I took all the things out of his wallet and put them in his memory book.  I thought it was interesting to see what was important enough to him to carry around with him.  It really is a part of who you are.

For me, I had my driver's license, and my credit card.  Those were the two I was most nervous about losing.   Most precious to me is my temple recommend.  I also carry around my library card, two insurance cards, and an Old Navy gift card that might still have some credit on it so I can't yet throw it away.  In the back pocket I have a few (as in ONE dollars) bills, a spare car key, and my most recent receipts.  It's not very exciting, but those things are important to me.

And I was so grateful to have that nice couple show up at my door on Saturday afternoon with my lost wallet.  It's nice to know there are honest folks in the world.

The Lost Purse

Watch this video about a lost purse.  I would hope that we all could be as honest about who we really are, even in the privacy of our own purses and wallets.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Don't Ask

Yeah, I know.  Don't ask what the next thing coming is.

For us, it was stomach flu.  First Trent had it, and was doubled up all night.  The next night he felt mostly better, but I was up all night with Angel and Freddie.  Throwing up, diarrhea, the works.  There was one funny - Freddy threw up in bed right next to George.  Within minutes, and before I could get Freddie cleaned up in the bathroom, Angel threw up on the other side of George - and all over his blanket.  Didn't seem to bother him.

After I got the two sickies cleaned up, I pulled out fresh bedding.  I unhooked the sheets from the corners on one side of the bed, and rolled them up - with all their nasties - until I got to Georgie.  Then I pulled on the clean sheets and smoothed them out to where Sleeping Beauty was still sleeping.  I gently lifted him over the dirty sheets, rolled him onto the clean part... and he stayed asleep the whole time.  I finishued rolling off the dirty sheets and blankets, threw them in the wash, and finished pulling on the clean sheets.  I tucked everyone back in bed, and Georgie was still sleeping.  He snores.  It's adorable.

Next time, I won't ask.  Really.  (But we're all feeling much better, thank you.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And if That Wasn't Enough I did lose one of my children.  And I wrecked the car.

Alec invited Ben to spend some time with him at college.  The invitation was generous, unexpected, and made a mom happy.  I love that my kids like to be together!  So we packed Ben, his homework, an overnight bag, and random other stuff off to the bus station.  He has never ridden public transit before, and was a little bit nervous.  Alec, an old pro, emailed Ben the schedule and how to get exactly where he needed to be.  There were three legs to the trip, and Ben had to successfully navigate the bus transfers to get to the station where Alec would pick him up.

Alec called.  He wanted to know where Ben was.  Ben didn't have the archaic family cell phone turned on.  Then Ben called, but the reception failed before we could find out where he was.  Then Alec texted.  Still can't find his brother.  After much mother-worry, and much more time than was anticipated, the brothers found each other.  I  understand they were in close proximity the whole time, but just didn't see each other.  Glad my lost boy was found.

Ben and I nearly didn't make it to the bus stop on time, anyway.  Trent parked our fabulously reliable little car behind the van when he came in this evening.  I didn't see it there, and in my hurry I backed into it.  Hard.     The car's name is Squishy, since Trent bought it (for a dollar!) after it had been squished in a wreck and totalled.  He fixed it up, and although it wouldn't win any beauty awards, it has been such a good little car.  Now it looks even worse, and if we are even able to replace the front passenger door, it will be one of those two-tone redneck lovelies.

My wallet, my boy, my car.  What's on for tomorrow?

I ask in jest.  I don't want to know.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Losing and Temper Tantrums

"Losing it" and "temper tantrums" go very nicely together, don't they?  Today, a temper tantrum made me lose something else - amazingly enough, it wasn't my temper.

We took the kids to see the lights today.  It was gorgeous.  I love seeing giant trees decorated with a bazillion lights.  And they had free Christmas concerts, too.  The first concert we went to was an institute choir.  They did a really good job.  I know, I'm biased because Alec was singing with them.  Moms are supposed to be biased.  But they did sound good, and I loved watching Alec's concentration and intensity, and his enjoyment of singing.  That makes me happy.

After that concert, we met Alec and a few of his friends, hugged, saw some more lights, and then went back for the second concert.  This one was the top choir in Ben's school.  We got a sneak peek at their songs last night at the high school choir concert, where Ben did an amazing job.  Did I say that I love listening to my boys sing?  Love it.

After sitting (somewhat) still for two (somewhat short) concerts, the little ones were done.  They'd had it.  Especially Freddie.  He could not sit still for anything.  Outside was better, but there was such a crowd of people walking that I was sure we would lose someone.  Trent had Freddie, Ben had the Angel, David and Eddie were buddies, and Georgie was riding on Chris's shoulders.  I did head counts about every two minutes, and was always so relieved that no children were yet missing.

We went into a building to rest and see the exquisite interior.  I am not exaggerating.  The old hotel is a masterpiece, and when it is all decked out for Christmas - wow.  I ducked into a little cafe and bought a few cookies to validate our parking.  The little ones were quite edgy by the time I got back.  I broke one of the large cookies in half to give to the twins.

Freddie saw the half-cookie I was offering to him and smiled, but then saw the whole cookie in my other hand.  He started to scream.  Right there in the manicured hallway of the beautiful building, with nicely-dressed people bustling past.  I held up the cookie again, trying to soothe him, but he would have nothing of it.  He took the cookie, pitched it across the hallway, threw himself on the floor, and proceeded to have a full-blown, creaming, kicking tantrum.  It was a doozy.

I bent down and tried to quiet him, but it was too late.  I finally scooped him up, crying and kicking, and hauled him outside so at least it wouldn't echo as much.  I tried not to make eye contact with anyone in the holiday crowd.  Tantrums happen.

We walked half a block and got out to the street corner when I realized I was missing my wallet.  When I changed into clean jeans just before loading everyone up in the van, I realized that my non-mommy jeans had very short pockets.  I wouldn't be taking a purse, and I knew I'd have to be careful with my wallet sticking out of those cute but impractical pockets.  I even had a little prompting to just take my credit card and leave the wallet home.  I should have listened.

Coming out of the cafe, I was balancing a stack of cookies, the validated parking ticket, my receipt, and the wallet.  I had shoved the wallet into my (even shorter) front pocket to free up my hands.  When I crouched down to deal with the temper tantrum, it must have been squeezed out of my pocket and onto the floor.

Yes, I went back and looked for it.  Yes, I prayed about it (and so have the boys).  I talked to the people at the cafe, and the help desk.  I gave them my phone number and a description of the wallet.  I got the number for security, which I will call in the morning.  I have done everything I could.

Except avoiding the problem in the first place by following that little prompting.

I lost my wallet, not my children, and not my temper.  I'd like to lose the tantrums, though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Baby Cow...

While I was getting the Angel ready for bed tonight, she stopped and had to ask me a Very Important Question.  I understand that these things take time to formulate and consider.

"Mom?"  she asked, her brow furrowing in thought.  I paused and gave her my full attention.

"What if we saw..."  I waited.

"A... baby cow's... butt?"

Well.  I told her I supposed it would look different from hers, but something similar to a big cow's behind.

"I think it would be cute," she grinned.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making Dollies

Angel loves her dollies.  She is often found carrying one around the house, wrapped in a scarf or a blanket, wearing whatever meager doll clothing we have - or not.  In a household of lots of boys, we're big on blocks and trucks and a bit short on doll paraphernalia.

And no matter how much her brothers mock or turn up their noses, I encourage her dollies.  I want her to play and imagine and learn to nurture.  It's part of her nature.  Of course, I must insert that these strapping fine lads of mine each had a (boy) dolly when they were little.  It was a good way to prepare them for the next baby, and give them a little one to hold and cuddle while Mom was busy with the real baby.  And yes, they did play with their dollies.  Just not as much as the Angel does.

Two years ago, when Angel was in the hospital after her fall, the nurses gave her a dolly.  It's more of a stuffed cloth gingerbread man, really.  They had a basic cotton body, no face, no clothes.  The kids would get to pick a hospital gown for the dolly, so it was half clothed.  They let the children color a face on the dolly, and then practice different procedures on the dolly so it wouldn't be so frightening for the children.  Put a bandage on the dolly, have the dolly wear an anesthesia mask, give the dolly a shot; then it was easier to work with the children.  Oh, and they did the same for siblings of patients, as well.

As a result, we have four gingerbread dollies (and three hospital gowns).

You can see the remains of a face on one of them.  The rest of the marker-drawn face came off in the wash. Seeing these naked nymphs around the house gave me an idea.  I'll fix them into real dollies for Angel's Christmas presents.

First stop: identity.  There are four dollies, so I decided to model them after Angel's four great-grandmothers.  I did some research and found out when they were all born, and what their coloring was.  I really enjoyed learning about them, and I hope that Angel will feel connected to these good ladies.

Second step: faces.  I really wanted to embroider them, but I realize that I'd spend way too much time.  And these are hospital dollies.  One day I'll make lovely, homemade dolls.  But for today, it's all about fabric paint.

I humbly present (from left to right, in order of birthdate): Fern, Helene, Virginia, and Amy.  Blue eyes, brown eyes, brown-hazel, and green-hazel.  I could get so carried away here.  Basic.  Think basic.  I don't have much time to work on them when Angel is not around, so it's gotta be quick and easy and simple.

Next, we grow hair.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Love the Girl

I just read this article called "Rules for Mothers of Daughters."  Read it.  It is wonderful

I hope it does not make anyone feel guilty.  Perhaps we should call it "Great Ideas for Mothers of Daughters."  I think the only "rules" should be these:

  1. Love your daughter, no matter what.  Even when she doesn't want you to, and especially when you don't want to.
  2. Teach her about her infinite worth and royal heritage.  She will need this undergirding to get through what life has to throw at her.
  3. Show her how to love.
  4. Teach her that life is bigger than she is, and help guide her towards the best paths to become what God has set out for her.
  5. Keep loving her.  You both need it.
That's all.  But I think I'll go collect a hug now.  And maybe tomorrow we'll paint our toenails.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Not happy today.

After a few years of pulling teeth and general wrangling about the importance of schoolwork, Chris has decided that he could get good grades if he wanted to.  Better yet, he has decided to want to.  First term went so much better than last year, but he's slid back into some of his old, lackadaisical habits recently.

Today was parent/teacher conferences at Chris's school.  We looked at his grades together.  To his credit, they are mostly As.  Three, however, are considerably lower than that.  One was caused by just not turning in things he had done.  Easily remedied in that class.  The other two will be tougher.

Chris got angry, blaming his teachers for changing late-work policy and going over hard material too fast.  Then he complained that the classes were boring and not worth listening to.  He ramped up the rant by accusing me of not giving him any incentive to get good grades.  Other parents pay their children for good grades, or give big rewards.  I'm too stingy, to mean, and too uncaring, I know (he didn't actually say that, just so you know).

And for some reason, Chris did not want to go with me to talk with his teachers.  <sigh>

If you want consequences for grades, you have to accept the bad consequences, as well.  And that means going to an uncomfortable meeting with your teacher (who is unimpressed with your performance) and your mother (who is frustrated with your attitude and disappointed with your work ethic).

And part of growing up means taking accountability for your own actions, not shoving fault onto others around you.  It also means finding your incentive inside yourself instead of waiting for someone else to motivate you.  If you want a better environment, you have to put more into it.

Yes, I am listening to myself talk here.  And here are some ideas I found in this article today.  It talks about how to be happy at you job.  We all have jobs.

  1. Like your job. Employees who achieve great results care about what they do. They are always zealous and take an interest in all facets of their work, whether they are in the classroom, on an outreach program, in a fair booth or doing management tasks.
  2. If you are not happy with your work, find a way to make it interesting. Try increasing your job responsibilities or changing your outlook. Do not be scared to take on more responsibility. If you have the opposite problem and have too much on your plate, find out if you can delegate some of your responsibilities.
  3. Watch where you put blame. Where do you put the fault when you have a tough time with a supervisor? Blaming the other person will only cripple your attempt to change. We all have tough times at work. Some choose to complain, others choose to be productive and positive. Which kind are you?
  4. Ask for help from a boss or an HR representative, or ask a co- worker how he or she does a certain task so efficiently. Consider it a way of acquiring strength rather than exposing a weakness. Showing interest in your job is a positive step.
  5. Be a positive thinker. When you commit a mistake, tell yourself, “It's OK, I messed up, but I’ll do better next time.” Team players don’t waste time getting unduly upset about mistakes made. Instead, they gear up for the next opportunity.
  6. Be a team player. Top achievers share their knowledge, experience and time with others. They do not keep important information for themselves only. They do not act like only they can complete a task or are capable of completing an assignment correctly. A sign of a team player is that others on the team have the information to cover when one team member is out. Real team players are generous about their time and effort when it comes to contributing to the success of the team.
  7. Be cheerfully flexible. Plan on the fact that the unplanned will happen. Often we show our true mettle when a crises occurs and we have to deal with something unscheduled. Roll with the punches.
  8. When work is through, go home and do something. Walk around the block, or read a book. Work on a hobby or plant a flower. Make your home life as active as your work life. It will help you remember that work is only part of your life, and life is worth living. The more you do, the more you want to do. Your enthusiasm will motivate you and you will naturally achieve more — both at work and at home.

Yes, I made him go to parent/teacher conference with me.  And later we made up.  And now I'm having my own parent conference and finding some late work I need to redo and turn in.  I have some lackadaisical habits I need to get rid of, too.

And maybe tomorrow (or tomorrow's tomorrow) will be happier.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Lights

Yeah, we went to Big Box Mart and picked up a few strings of lights after all.  And wouldn't you know it, the same boys who have been begging to have our house all decked out in Christmas lights are the same boys who don't want to put them up?

So now, reluctantly, we have half the house lit.  Redneck, us.

To Bed!

I finally, finally got everyone to bed.  It's been one of those days.  The twins were all out of sorts, so I spent most of the morning sitting on the couch and reading stories to them.  They needed a lot of attention today, and threw countless screaming temper tantrums.  Naptime was brutal, and ended up with Georgie, Freddie, Angel, and Mom all passed out from exhaustion on the boys' bed.

We attempted to go to Cub Scout pack meeting, but after each little one had to go to the bathroom multiple times (score: Freddie 5, Georgie 4, Angel 2) AND change seats on the noisy folding chairs AND keep running to the door to hold it open indefinitely .. I gave up and packed up for home.  Trent was working this evening, and there just isn't enough of me to corral three tumultuous preschoolers during boring-to-them presentations.  By bedtime, I was a wreck.

By miraculous Heavenly intervention, they all went down to bed fairly easily.  This was good for my shot nerves.  Ben came back up and we visited for a few minutes.  I heard the rustle of twins getting up to go potty again, but they scampered back off when they saw that I saw them.

Ben said goodnight and I love you (!) and went downstairs to bed.  Momentarily, he was back up, holding a twin in each arm.  "Look who I found rummaging through my garbage can!"  He had thrown away some spice drops because they taste like the detestable black licorice that I like.  He put down the little thieves and they slowly inched towards me, proud of themselves, smiles tickling their lips and mischief dancing in their eyes.

As Freddie lifted his arms to hug me, I frowned and shook my head.  "Go back to bed!" I commanded.  "That was very naughty."  The smiles fell off their adorable faces as they turned in unison.  Single file, they shuffled slowly toward the bedroom with heads bowed and arms hanging dejectedly.  It was the saddest thing I've seen for a long time - and executed so precisely!  They must practice when I'm not looking.

Ben and I managed - barely - to stifle our laughter until they left the room.  Aren't twins fun after all?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lost Shirt

Think of it something like the prodigal shirt- so sad to lose it, and so happy to get it back.  I present to you today, the modern parable:  The Lost Shirt.

Ben has started playing on a basketball league.  He loves it, and I think he's tall enough.  Today was his first game, and he was anxious to get there early.  He was indeed prompt (probably because we didn't take him to the game).  He had fifteen minutes to warm up and get his new basketball jersey.  He's always happy when he can have an earlier pick on the reversible jerseys, and doesn't end up with the smallest one in the bunch.

Ben picked out number 23, close to his lucky number of 13.  He took off the t-shirt he wore today and pulled on the new-smelling jersey.  He took some practice shots and warmed up to play.

Unfortunately, his team lost.  That's what happens when you don't have a practice before the first game, and you have a new team.  But Ben enjoyed playing the game, and came home happy to have played a good game of ball (and they didn't lose by much).

After being home for a few minutes, Ben peeled off his sweatshirt to show me the new, big-enough-for-a-tall-boy jersey.  He looked down to the floor where he had placed his basketball, and got a funny look on his face.  "Mom," he said sheepishly, "I think... no, I did.  I left my shirt at the basketball game.  Can you take me back to get it?  I really have to have it because I only have six shirts and if I lose one then I will only have five and then I'll get ribbed about wearing the same shirt on the same school day.  Please, Mom?"

I made a deal with Trent, and stayed home where it was warm.  I've been so cold lately!  Trent took the three little ones on a ride with Ben, and the five of them high-tailed it back to the school where the game was held.

They pulled into the parking lot, worried that there was only one other car.  "Please, please, please," Ben pleaded, sprinting to the doors.  Locked.  Ben ran to the front doors, and was relieved to find them still open.  The gym, however, was locked.  He pounded on the doors until the custodian opened up.  "Did you see my gray t-shirt?"  Ben was hopeful.  Nope.  No one had noticed anything.  Ben dashed in and searched.  Success!  He ran back to the car with his triumphant gray banner flying overhead.  (Or maybe I'm taking creative license, but it would look good in a movie, wouldn't it?)

They came back home in a jolly mood, looking at festively decorated houses and listening to Angel's new song, "Christmas lights, Christmas lights, Christmas lights, Christmas lights.  Christmas lights, Christmas lights, Christmas lights, Christmas lights, I wish we had some on our house because I think they are so pretty.  Christmas lights, Christmas lights."  At the end of the song, Freddie and Georgie shout, "Yay!" and clap their hands enthusiastically.  They also do this at church.

Trent pulled into the driveway, and Ben thanked him profusely.  Ben grabbed his treasured shirt, only to have the ultimate panic, "This.  Is not my shirt!"  His eyes were wild and Trent said he could hear Ben's heart screaming.  After three seconds of eternity, Trent said, "You're right.  That's the sweatshirt I left in the van.  Yours is over there."

Peace was restored.  Ben is funny.  The twins had a lovely drive with Daddy.  Trent is a good man for taking care of the kids when they panic.  And Angel may get some Christmas lights on our house.  I love this family!

The end.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Ultimate Career

I've been thinking a lot about being a mom.  I just have to say that I love it.  It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm learning to find joy even in the difficult parts.  I've been told that I need to "get away" or "take a break" or "make some time for yourself."  Yeah.  When I have eight kids and a husband and a household to manage... when is there time for anything?  If there was anything, I'd just want some sleep.

I do understand the need for me to recharge, to have a break.  But it is frustrating to think I have to do all that I have to do, PLUS take out time for me.  And time out for Mom often takes the lowest priority, you know.  

So I've been learning to take mini-breaks.  I can pray for an extra moment when I dash into the bathroom.  I can ponder and plan as I crawl out of bed.  I have been impressed with how much of a difference it makes when I just smile.  And I ask for and give hugs.  Lots of them.  Today I'm working on giving compliments, because it is a two-for-one bucket filler special!  Fills my bucket, fills someone else's, too.  What a bonus.  

I'm glad I get to be Mom.  I have thought of other jobs, other careers, but this is the best one.  C.S. Lewis knew it, too.  He said, 

"The homemaker is the ultimate career.  All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Learning Colors

Red.  Blue.  Black.  The twins are starting to notice that colors are different.  I'm glad, 'cuz their dad is a little bit colorblind.  We'll see how the little ones do.  The Angel has them all figured out, so she is a good coach.

When I start teaching new concepts, I try to incorporate it into as many ordinary things as I can.  "You want a drink of water?  Great!  You can have a drink in the RED cup, and Georgie can have a drink in the BLUE cup.  And Angel has the ORANGE cup.  You have red, Georgie has blue, and Angel has orange.  What color is your cup?"  We go over it enough times to make a non-toddler-mother nervous tics, because that is how they learn.

Georgie is starting to get the hang of red, blue, and green.  Freddie thinks everything is "lello."  We go through a single color and do identification.  "Here is a WHITE paper.  Look!  Your shirt is white.  What else is white?  Your milk?  Good job!  This envelope is white, and the cord is white, and this spoon is white."  Then I ask Freddie what color the spoon is.



 Everything good is lello.  It's such a cheerful color, and now I have a more cheerful name for it.  The marshmallows are my favorite.  It's such a cheerful color, and now I have a more cheerful name for it.  In honor of Freddie and one of the most cheerful people I haven't met yet, I'll call the color Maralello.

We all need a bit of cheer, don't we?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Toddler Naptime

It's a challenge to get a toddler to go to bed.  There are four phases:  wind down, get ready, placate, and whack-a-mole.

The wind-down phase begins just after all the hustle for the day is over.  For us, that's usually after dinner is cleaned up.  If I can keep the kids from running outside or having pillow fights or wrestling matches, I'm doing pretty well.  We read books and play quiet games.  At least that is the goal.  Usually life is somewhat subdued by then, but not always.  The biggest challenges lie in the fact that mother is tired at the end of the day, and sometimes relinquishes her role as schedule-keeper.  Then we all fall apart.

Getting ready is pretty self-explanatory.  We change into pajamas.  We brush our teeth.  We visit the bathroom.  If I'm feeling especially tired, I find that the kids change from day to night mindsets easier if I change into my pajamas, too.  We brush teeth assembly-style: line up Angel and the twins and just go down the line.  I sing a Barney song while I brush.  Yes, I will admit to having watched Barney on occasion.  He's not my favorite, but I really liked this song - or at least the first verse of it.  Here.  Watch.  You can thank me later.

If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, 
Oh what a rain that would be!
I'd be standing outside with my mouth open wide,
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!
If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, 
Oh what a rain that would be!

Of course, brushing is easier when the toddler is happily singing the "ah ah ah" part.  And it's just more fun.  They don't let me brush without singing now.  I have no idea how many times I've sung this song, or for how many years.  Another thing our family does in the "get ready" part is to gather together, read a chapter of scriptures, and say a family prayer.  It's just a nice way to end the day.

We give hugs and kisses all around, then lead the Angel off to bed.  Now it gets difficult.  She isn't ready yet.  She needs a drink of water.  Only Daddy can take her to bed tonight.  She wants three stories.  And two songs.  She can't sleep without the pink blanket Grandma made for her.  And her dolly is lost.  And can she sleep in someone else's room?  She might get nightmares if she can't sleep with someone else.  I tell her stories, let her recite the scripture she learned for Primary, say prayers with her ("bless me to have no bad dreams and only good dreams"), give her more kisses, and say goodnight.  I might get down the hall before she needs somethings else.  Usually I can do the whole process very briefly.  Daddy is more patient with his little girl.

The twins are a different story.  For a nap, I hold them on my lap and rock them while I tell quiet stories or sing gentle songs.  Sometimes Daddy will help, and we'll each hold one boy, rocking in the matched set of old, pink velvet upholstered rockers in their room.  Yes, pink.  They were a garage sale deal, and maybe one day I'll recover them.  Not any time soon.

When the twins have quieted down, I lay them down on the bed, and cover them with their blankets.  I often lay down between them to keep them from erupting.  I continue to sing, slower and more quietly, until Freddie starts to snore.  Sometimes I get a little nap in, too - until the snoring starts.

At night, we sometimes give them a cup of warm milk while we rock them.  The bedroom light is off, but the closet light has to be on, the door slightly ajar.  They will hop down and fix it just so if we did it wrong.  We always say prayers, with two little voices lisping every word after me.  Hugs and kisses for both - Georgie gives little kisses; Freddy's are strong and wet.  We don't lock them in anymore, just so you know.  I tiptoe out of the dark room, my mother-heart full of love for my babies.

On a good night - no, a wonderful night - that is the end of things.  I can read a book or take a bubble bath.  Let's be real.  I don't remember when I last took any kind of bath.  Usually, we begin to play whack-a-mole.  You know, the game where one thing pops up, and almost before you can respond, someone else has popped up?  Eddie gets up.  Daddy puts him back to bed.  The Angel needs something.  We escort her back to bed.  Freddie needs to go potty.  Now Eddie does, too.  Back to bed.  Up, down, up down.  I have a long history of playing the maddening nighttime game.

When Alec was about a year and a half, we had played this game with him for too long one night.  His daddy and I were trying to do taxes, and our patience was wearing thinner every time he got up.  I heard the tiny creak of his bedroom door, then the little shuffle of toddler feet.  Sighing, I turned away from the computer to get the little escape artist.  Our bedroom door slowly opened - two inches, six, a foot.  Unexpectedly, the head of a big black bear popped in the room.  Alec had his hand inside the stuffed animal puppet, and was making the most furious growling sounds he could muster.  It was all we could do to not laugh and encourage him.  I firmly took him back to bed, removed the toy, and left the room.  I did give him an extra squeeze, just because he makes me happy.

Being a mom makes me happy.  Even if I have to play whack-a-mole.

No children were harmed or whacked in the writing of this post.  Really.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Just in case any of my kidlets are reading this, I will say that we bought Christmas presents today.  Several of them.  And one is in a very large, flat box.  And one is jingly.  And one is dangerous.  And one is beautiful.  And a few are amazing.

And my bedroom is off-limits from now until Christmas morning.

Just so you know.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Poor Twinkie

Twinkie, my high school friend.  My dear, yellow-fluffy delight.  I pined for your creamy middle and your carbalicious sugary-ness.  As often as I could, I begged the cute boy to take me to the convenience store where I would buy a single cello-wrapped confection with my meager sofa-cushion-scrounged coins.  Driving in his old gray truck, I enjoyed every crumb and daintily licked my fingers.

I grew and moved on, but did not outgrow my love for you, Twinkie.  My husband loved your chocolatey brother.  In my youth I was also tempted to call my brothers ding dongs, but you had the fortitude to do so and be celebrated for it.  My dad called flighty girls by your more popular name.  You were part of my upbringing, my culture.  I was saddened to learn of your family's misfortune.

I need to go to the store and buy some Hostess to sadly introduce to my little children as we mourn.  Happy trails, Twinkie.  I will miss you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Recipes

We've been doing more apples.  I didn't realize that Trent had cheery-picked the best apples out, put them in boxes in the storage room, and left all the bruised ones in the kitchen.  It hasn't been cold enough yet to really keep them well, so... more applesauce and apple butter!  The kids (and their parents) have loved both.  For breakfast, I had whole-wheat pancakes with apple butter (and whipped cream, but that may cancel the otherwise healthiness.  Maybe?).

I've been asked for the recipes, so here you go, compliments of my lovely sisters-in-law Heidi and Julie.  We have made some modifications, so I'll just write out what we did.  Thanks, ladies!

Crock Pot Apple Butter

5 1/2 pounds apples (mixing different kinds makes yummier sauce, but use whatever you have),
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and nutmeg (which I totally would have used except I didn't have any so I put in a few dashes of ginger and allspice instead)

Cut the apples into halves or quarters.  I didn't peel or core the apples, just cut out the bad parts.  If you don't measure - like us - just fill up a 6 quart crockpot enough to still fit the lid on snugly.  Dump the sugar and spices over the apples in the crockpot and mix it up a bit.

Place the lid, turn it on low, and walk away.  I think we cooked the aromatic mess for 5-6 hours, until it is soft.  Take off the lid and continue cooking until it is the thickness you like (ours was another hour).

If it is too hot to handle, let it cool a bit, then run it through a Victorio strainer (you can skip this part if you peeled and cored the apples first - then you'd just have to use a blending stick or potato masher a bit, depending on how smooth you like it).  What comes out is delicious apple butter!  Ladle into hot jars and process like any other kind of jam.

Eat on pancakes, toast, biscuits, granola, or ice cream.

Crock Pot Applesauce

10 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh juice of one orange

Put all ingredients into crock pot.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours, or on high 4-5 hours.  Blend.

Again, we didn't peel or core because we the boys like to crank the strainer more than I like to peel, and I'm not sure we cooked it that long on low.  But it smells great, and it makes my mouth happy.

Happy crockery cooking!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Angel loves to have a story told or read to her.  Before she will take a nap, she needs to have a story.  Before she will go to bed at night, she wants to have three stories.  Now the twins like to have stories, too.  Come to think of it, all my kidlets have loved to have someone read to them.  We're a family of readers.

Recently, we came up with the brilliant idea to have her "read" stories to the twins.  They all love it.  Score.

The end.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Number Five

Happy Anniversary to the man I chose (and still choose) to spend my life with.  It's been an adventure, hasn't it?

And I do.  Still.  Even though.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Time Flies

I haven't written much.  Partly because I got burned out during October.  But mostly because I've just been loving being a mom.  Being a mom takes time - lots of it.  Forgive me if I enjoy making these memories more than  writing them down.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Juice Anxiety

I got some grapes.  A kind neighbor brought two boxes of small but deliciously tart purple grapes over.  The kids were beside themselves with excitement - until they found out there were seeds involved.  They were less than impressed with the "yucky parts."  I wanted to juice them, and maybe make some jelly.

I went down into the dungeon storage room and lugged out my mom's old graniteware steamer juicer.  I'd show you a picture, but my camera is not at home, and I can't even find a picture of the old thing on the internet anywhere!  It's that old.  It's like a big canning pot, except that there are three sections: the bottom one holds boiling water, the top holds fruit, and the steamed juice drips into the middle.  You get the juice through plastic tubing hooked onto a spout in the bottom of the middle pan.  

I washed all the grapes (with a lot of help and six little hands splashing in the kitchen sink), and loaded the top pan.  I made sure to fill the bottom pan with enough water, stacked all the pans, and carefully lifted the whole, heavy monster to the stove.  After simmering for a while, a rich, syrupy smell floated through the house.  It was heavenly.  

When enough juice collected in the middle pan, I was ready to unkink the hose and fill quart bottles with fresh grape juice.  And then I was paralyzed with childhood memories.  

When I was a little girl, my mom was doing a load of fruit... apples maybe?  I don't remember.  I do remember that she carefully poured a bit of hot juice into a cup and let me taste it as soon as it had cooled enough to not burn.  My young mouth was delighted, and as soon as she left the room, I wanted more.

I had seen how she unhooked the hose - and yummy juice came out!  I could do it, too.  I don't think I need to paint in too much detail the picture that followed.  Boiling juice all over me, the counters, gushing out the hose, pooling on the floor, my mother upset, little me crying...   I remember that it was a disaster and I certainly learned my lesson.

Decades later, I can't unhook the hose without worrying that I'll make such a colossal mess.  Isn't it interesting how memories can come flooding (bad pun, sorry) back when you least expect it?  Today I miss my mom, but with a smile on my face.  Thanks for not killing me, Mom!

And I successfully got a few quarts of really tasty grape juice to enjoy later!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Of Souls and Sauce

I've been making applesauce today.  Actually, I've been making applesauce for the past week or so.  With all my little helpers, it's been quite a process to work around little fingers, sharp knives, and boiling pans.

I haven't been saucing Red Delicious.  It was just the only apple left when I was done.  

Trent and the boys picked unwanted apples from two trees and brought me home boxes of sweet red Jonathans and crunchy yellow Golden Delicious apples.  Yum.  I made a few batches of applesauce on the stove, and then a few of apple butter in my crock pots.  Have to say I'm converted to the crock.  Again (thanks for the tip, Heidi!).

The process is time-consuming.  These were not great apples, but were bruised and full of worm holes.  I spent hours at the sink, sorting and washing and cutting out bad parts.  While I worked, I had plenty of time to think and learn.  There are many similarities between apples and people.

I learned that while there are occasional "flesh wounds," most blemishes are actually larger than they appear. We never know how deep a hurt goes.

I learned many people would throw away a badly bruised apple, but most of them, upon closer inspection, are at least 2/3 good.  Don't underestimate how much good there may be.  And don't judge too quickly.

I learned that knives cut.  I need to be careful with sharp things (my tongue, maybe?).

I learned that nobody is perfect, but there are all kinds of good.

I learned that when I find a flaw, it is to my best interest to cut it out quickly, and completely.  Letting it sit just increases the damage, and infects all the neighbors.

No one wants to look at the garbage, but we all have it!

I learned that I'd rather deal with an apple with one large bruise than a pretty apple riddled with wormholes.

I learned that I work better when I am standing on a soft rug.  I need to keep my feet comfortably grounded in good things to allow the rest of me to work without tiring.

I learned that good results take work.  And time.  Sometimes lots of both.

I learned that I should not procrastinate.  That only makes the job worse.  And bad apples make my whole house smell bad.

I leaned that I like being home.  Home.  Not just in my house, but fully engaged at being home.

And I learned that when I am blessed to be in the company of a truly beautiful apple, I should take my time and savor it.  Make the most of now, and enjoy it.

And cooking spiced apple butter in crocks makes the house smell delicious!