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.