Thursday, January 31, 2008

Five months

Some serious drool; she's definitely teething.

Just last week Audrey hit another big milestone. Watch, and she'll show you.

Ready, set...

...flip! Still a bit surprised by her new talent.

Those eyes look like they're gonna stay blue!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Forget those girls in white dresses (with blue satin sashes)

Just for fun (and because I'm up way past my bedtime), let's count down Jimmy's ten favorite things...

#10: "Tiger" cheese

#9: Trucks

#8: Scrambled Eggs Super! by Dr. Seuss

#7: Trains

#6: Spiderman

#5: Sprinklers

#4: Ice cream

#3: Kitties

#2: Anything Star Wars, but in particular Lego Star Wars for Wii

and finally, #1 ...

It's great to be four, to be young and easily satisfied. (Oh, and #7 may explain why Jimmy thinks "train" is the magic word, because "please" does not appear anywhere in his top ten.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Grown cold, embers pale
ashen husks separate
then scatter with

a breath, a touch

gently fans one
faltering flame to fervent
all-consuming fever.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What's in a name?

Let's take a little journey back in time. Back to long before Jim and I were even expecting, back to one of those times where I was supposed to be working hard at my job but was, instead, sticking it to the man by daydreaming about baby names and surfing the endless proliferation of baby namer websites. (Shh! That can just be our little secret, okay?)

One of my searches turned up a hit for the Utah Baby Namer website. Pure gold. Not that I would ever name my own kids any of those names, but I couldn't stop laughing, especially when I read "The Cream of the Crop" list. I lived in Utah, and could swear I have actually met some of the people with those names.

So, if you're searching for more evidence to add to the pile that Mormons are way too weird for the Oval Office, or if you just want a good laugh, check it out. Turns out "Mitt" is pretty normal compared to some of the things other Mormons name their kids. (Oh, and Mitt's first name is actually Willard. I think I'd go by "Mitt", too.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Goodbye, President Hinckley

A few minutes ago we got a phone call from Jim's sister Anna, who lives in Salt Lake City, to let us know President Hinckley passed away earlier this evening. (For my non-Mormon readers, Gordon B. Hinckley was the president and prophet for the Mormon church from 1995 to 2008.)

While I've never met him face-to-face, I have fond memories of him.

Shortly before Jim and I married, I got a job working in the motor pool at the Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. At the time I was living in Provo and going to school in Orem, but I could make better money in the city, so I commuted sixty miles on the bus every day. My favorite memory of the motor pool job was when President Hinckley's bodyguard showed up one cold January morning in my office, down on the lowest level of the underground parking garage.

During the winter months, I had a standing order to keep three of our SUVs on reserve for the members of the First Presidency, of which President Hinckley was the first counselor at the time, so the leaders could get around safely in the inclement driving conditions. Our three newest SUVs were all Ford Explorers, and the newest of those was a freshly minted dark green model. We also had a red one and a blue one, both a few years older but nicely maintained and perfectly serviceable. When weather got nasty, security staff for each of the First Presidency would come down and pick up their keys; I always handed them out without any thought as to who got which vehicle.

That particular morning, President Hinckley's bodyguard stood in front of my desk, smiled affably, and pleasantly asked me if the green Explorer was available. It was. He then explained (in the meekest manner imaginable) that while President Hinckley in no way expected preferential treatment, the green Explorer was his favorite, and he wondered if it would be possible to reserve it for him for the remainder of the winter.

It was, and I did.

Thank you for all your humility, humor, and hard work, President Hinckley. You will be missed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Mercifully, not me. Since Monday, after I finally got a full night of sleep, I've been on the mend.

No, I'm talking about my son. Just moments ago I was sitting here at our dining room table, checking my email on the laptop and I heard a springy sort of noise behind me. I turned around and caught Jimmy in mid-jump above our couch. He was looking in the other direction at first, but then turned, looked me right in the eye, and kept on jumping. So. Flagrantly. Defiant. In a quietly deliberate how-far-can-I-push-this sort of way.

Granted, our couch is no prize. In a far distant past, it was textured tone-on-tone beige (in spite of my best efforts to persuade Jim to not buy a white couch, he prevailed). Countless juice stains and dirty footprints later, Jim calls it our "ghetto couch". When we get our tax return in a couple weeks, the full amount is earmarked to buy... wait for it... a new couch. The main justification for our furniture-jumping ban is that our home's hardwood floors, built-in woodwork with sharp corners, and cast-iron wood burning stove with brick hearth all create a rather hostile environment for young would-be acrobats.

Despite its questionable success in real life, we operate by the "three strikes" principle at our house. After the third strike, Jimmy gets a four-minute break (basically the same thing as a "time-out") to help him calm down and get ready to behave appropriately again. Unless we are away from home, he stands in a corner of the small hallway between our dining room and the first floor bathroom with his nose to the wall. I had reminded him of our "no jumping on the furniture" rule at least twice already today, and so to the corner he went.

I know, what kind of mean mom am I, with no special "time out" chair? Me and Jim are kind of old-school when it comes to discipline. The hall corner is an ideal spot because it's out of sight from most of the action and with no visual stimulation but bare white walls and ugly green carpet, it's bo-ring. Busy kid that he is, lack of stimulation is an extremely effective discipline for Jimmy.

Most of the time. I've got to admit: I remember the thrill of a good, springy couch myself, and the four year-old me would have put my son to shame as an instigator for rule-breaking. Sometimes it's worth the cost to ask forgiveness rather than permission. But don't tell Jimmy I said that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Calling in sick

My nose is dripping like the leaky faucet in our downstairs bathtub. I feel like I'm breathing under water, and I can't stop sniffling and sneezing. My throat feels like it was shredded. For the last few nights I've been waking up coughing at three in the morning and can't get back to sleep again. I look like death nuked on high for two minutes, then forgotten in the microwave for a few hours.

I'm just grateful my kids already had this and I have a sweet husband who ran to Taco Del Mar and got me fish tacos last night when I was too wiped out to make dinner. Jim, you're my hero.

Can I go back to bed now?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He's not heavy, he's my brother

It's true. Lee got all the skinny genes in the family, but we still love him anyway. And since today is his birthday, here's a shout out to my little brother.

I have so many great pictures of him (the one from our trip to Mazatlan with the iguana on his head? the one of him doing his dishes in his bathtub in St. Petersburg? the one of the "train wreck" on his tongue at my mission farewell party?) but if I had to choose just one, it would be one of us together, above. This was at the Salt Lake airport, circa 1993, less than a year after I got home from my mission, and as he was leaving to Russia for his. I was so proud of him.

Lee is one cool dude. He's laid back, funny, and loyal. He's a pilot and a runner. He loves U2, Ren and Stimpy, and Calvin and Hobbes. He's a wonderful dad and husband. We've had to share a bedroom twice (right before I left on my mission, and right before he left on his), and we still get along (even after that one time I rearranged the furniture while he was working at Domino's and he got home at three in the morning and tripped over everything in the dark).

Back in the day before our family got so big we had to share a room, we had this weird arrangement where he had to go through my bedroom in order to get to his. But he was always considerate and respected my privacy (except for that one time his best friend was over and they came barrelling up the stairs while I was dressed only in a towel). On Saturday nights, we'd run to the supermarket down the street, get a two liter bottle of Cherry 7-Up and a bag of Doritos, and hole up in his room watching SNL on a 13" black and white TV with rabbit-ears antennae. Good times.

Now he lives in Utah, works out of Wyoming, and we haven't watched SNL together in decades. That's okay, because SNL isn't as funny as it used to be.

Happy birthday, bro!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I'm leaving home today
I've packed safely away
each possession, some to take with me
and some that have to stay.
Boxes full of treasure
memories to measure
from childhood, so long ago
some full of pain, some pleasure
heirlooms of my youth passed by
each is laid (with a sigh)
gently in its place until
the box is full; then I
begin to pack the things I'll take
hopes I cherish, plans I make
as I sail toward future dreams, leaving
the memories in my wake.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sad but true

It's pathetic, I know: as of 7:50 a.m. today, I still have not taken down my Christmas tree. Unfortunately, I can no longer use the excuse of being too busy taking care of sick kids because neither of my kids have been sick for a few days now. Jimmy and I did get the ornaments put away on Thursday, and I promise I will get to the tree.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Anyone can cook

Yesterday afternoon we fired up the popcorn popper, slipped our latest shipment from Netflix in the DVD player, curled up as a family on the couch, and watched Ratatouille, the animated feature about a rat named Remy with aspirations to become a chef. The story was cute, the dialogue clever, the computer animation absolutely amazing. What stuck with me, though, was the message conveyed in the famous chef Gusteau's cookbook title: "Anyone can cook." Although the movie takes this idea in a specific direction (a rat can be a superlative chef who takes a great recipe and makes inspired improvements rendering it brilliant), I've been thinking about it on a slightly different vein while making dinner this evening.

I'm sure this sounds odd right after I posted about the drudgery of meal planning, but I think cooking has a very Zen side to it—kind of like golf—in that you don't have to be good at it to enjoy it. Anyone can cook, and anyone can enjoy cooking. It's all up to the individual to decide how much time to invest learning new skills, practicing, perfecting your game.

I cooked another new recipe tonight: chicken pot pie. Sometimes trying unfamiliar recipes is risky (no breading on the chicken cacciatore, please!); this one had the benefit of a previous test drive. The week I got out of the hospital after Audrey was born, women from our ward brought dinner to us each night, including Susan, our bishop's wife. She made us a chicken pot pie that far outstripped my own recipe. She even cut out a cute little chicken shape from crust and put it on top. While the golden-brown pie looked wonderful, it tasted even better: a savory filling overflowing with chicken and vegetables, and an unbelievably light, flaky, seasoned crust (it was the crust that made me have to have the recipe).

At first I hesitated to ask. Within our little church community, Susan is a famously accomplished cook. At ward potlucks whatever she brings is gone within the first five minutes. Sometimes people who are good cooks are highly secretive and won't share their recipes—or if they do, they purposely omit or change the amounts of ingredients to maintain their reputation as the only person who can make it "just so". We have one friend who makes this amazing dish, which elicits raves from anyone who eats it, and we were only able to get the recipe through completely nefarious means because s/he wouldn't share it with anyone who asked for it. (I cannot reveal any particulars of the dish and person or s/he would know we have the recipe, and while it was absolutely worth the shady means employed to obtain it, if I told you, I would have to kill you.)

Fortunately, Susan has no such scruples and when I asked, she freely shared her recipe with me. I found out the secrets of the delectable flaky crust: shortening (I usually use butter) and celery seed. Who knew? So while my pie wasn't anywhere as cute as hers (no chicken cut out), it had the same flavor. And I know with practice, I'll be able to perfect the presentation.

While I was rolling out the crust, I started to think about what makes people so stingy with their talents. Recently I had big wake-up call when I volunteered to make a pie for Thanksgiving. I had been gloating because I make a really tender, flaky pie crust and usually my apple pie is (and I say this in all humility) pretty terrific, but for some reason this year it went all wrong. Actually, I know exactly what went awry: I sliced the apples too thick because I was in a hurry. They were so thick they didn't cook through and it ruined the whole pie. That's what I get for being smug about my pies; it just goes to show I can't afford to get cocky (or rush myself), even when I'm good at something. So as an inner penance, I offered to teach one of my sisters-in-law (a young wife who is still learning to cook) how to make pies.

I think if you have a talent, you should share it. After all, I wouldn't have any cooking know-how if my mom and many other teachers hadn't shared their knowledge and abilities with me. Teaching someone else skills does not diminish your own skills, right? If anything, it guards against the culinary hubris of "super-secret recipes" and spreads the wealth of good food and good times making that food.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Take it or leave it

Last night we tried a new dish: chicken cacciatore. The recipe I used called for dredging the chicken in flour before browning it and Jimmy was not a fan of the breading. He refused to comply with our "try-two-bites-and-then-you-can-have-something-else" rule until Jim scraped it off. Then he took his two obligatory bites and requested cheap mac 'n' cheese (which I had in a Servin' Saver in the fridge, awaiting just such a culinary crisis).

While I enjoy cooking, I find the compulsory nature of having to make dinner every night for a potentially critical audience drains me of most of the creative stimulation or actual enjoyment I might get out of it. I discovered early in my married life that Jim was little help when it came to meal planning. His perennial suggestion if I ask what he'd like to have for dinner is, "Spaghetti. And garlic bread." To save myself from the tedium of spaghetti every night (not to mention major carbo-overload) within the first month of connubial bliss I came up with a weekly meal plan, which I also used to create my grocery list. This provided some much-needed variety in our meals while helping me save money by not impulse-shopping at the supermarket.

Three years ago, in an attempt to change things up and add even more variety (because spaghetti once a week is still a bit much if you ask me), I started to plan my meals a month at a time. I made a list of our favorite meals, created a calendar with my desktop publishing program, and populated it with dinner selections. Then I printed and posted it in the kitchen. From time to time, I add new dishes and get rid of the ones we don't like as much. I also vary it with more salads and grilled foods in the summer.

Lest you think I'm some kind of compulsive organizational freak (which I'm not; just look at the disgusting state of my upstairs bathroom!) I cannot stress enough this isn't a "set in stone" kind of thing. My world and identity as I know them do not implode if the schedule isn't followed with precision. Some nights I don't feel like eating what's planned for that evening, and I switch it around. Some nights I just don't feel like cooking and we eat out. Some nights I ask Jim to cook and we eat whatever he wants to make. But the beauty of the meal calendar is this: just ten well-spent minutes of planning each month saves me from the weekly boredom of spaghetti and the aggravation of aimlessly wandering grocery aisles trying to figure out what's for dinner.

Tonight was home-made pizza. Mmmmm.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

After dinner conversation

I took the kids grocery shopping this afternoon and while we were on the frozen foods aisle, I let Jimmy pick out dessert. A boy after my own heart, he chose Blue Bunny's Bunny Tracks ice cream (they also make a sugar-free version—yay!) Now, ordinarily Jimmy has pretty good table manners (for being four), but tonight after dinner...

Jimmy: "Mom, I'm ready for dessert."
(Prolonged pause, in which I cup my hand up to my ear and look at him expectantly.)
Me: (finally) "I need to hear you say something else before I get your ice cream."
(Jimmy looks puzzled.)
Jim: "I think Mom is waiting to hear you say the magic word."
Jimmy: "The magic word?"
Jim: "You know, the magic word you should say when you want something..."
Jimmy: (thinking hard) "Uh... train!"
Jim: (unsuccessfully stifling laughter) "No, that would be please."
Jimmy: "Oh! Mom, may I please have some of that bunny crack ice cream?"

Yeah, Jim and I both lost it at that point.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

(Reluctantly) in love

After all the times love has
walked out on me
slammed the door in my face
stabbed me through the heart
(giving the knife a good twist)
stood me up
cheated me
cheated on me
sweet talked me
and then
taken me for all I have
I should be cynical—
face the fact “love” is an alias
for some nameless, selfish manipulation
and I, a victim of my own poor judgment—
but even after all this
some naïve, disobedient corner of my heart
that escaped the twist of the knife
jumps out of my chest
to throw itself at you . . .
and I watch you lace up your cleated shoes
hoping it means you have an excellent track record
and not that you plan to use them on
the foolish part of my heart
I’ve given to you.

(Note: This is a "vintage" piece I wrote a little over 13 years ago, right before I came up to Ellensburg for Thanksgiving to meet Jim's parents. The prompt at Writers Island for today was "Over the Horizon" and I thought this poem appropriate, as it is about heading over that final horizon of love.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Conversation on a Park Bench, by Jack Riddle

Usually I keep my posts pretty light, but today I find myself feeling introspective. Those who know me best know I'm prone to holding grudges. Maybe "hold" is too mild. Cherish grudges, keep score, harbor resentments, believe fervently revenge is a dish best served at any temperature... well, okay, I'm not that bad. I've never put out a hit on anyone (even one ex-boyfriend who really deserved it).

Lately reconciliation has been on my mind. The Sunday before Christmas I was assigned to give a talk in our sacrament meeting. Right away I knew I should focus my talk on a line from "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing":

Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

In researching, I found something interesting. Reconciliation is a compound of three Latin roots: re, meaning “again”; con, meaning “with”; and sella, meaning “seat.” Quite literally, reconciliation means “to sit again with.”

In church, I talked about how earlier last year I had resolved to put aside the assorted resentments towards acquaintances, friends and particularly family members I'd been carrying around over the years. In the months following my decision, I found forgiveness challenging. (Note the subtle tone of understatement.) Some of those grudges were longstanding, but I began to realize being willing was enough for the change to start to take place. When I prayed for help, the Lord made up the difference for my shortcomings and as I became open, chances to forgive came to me.

Much of what happened is too personal to share on the internet except in the most general terms, but I profoundly appreciate these lessons I'm learning and those who've graciously forgiven my flaws. I'm so very grateful I can again sit comfortably together with family and friends because life is too short, too fragile, for me to waste time feeling hurt, self-righteous, and estranged.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I ♥ my treadmill

Not that we're picking out china or anything. But having time to myself to run for a half hour this morning is the one thing that has kept me going all day, as I've been taking care of my (still) sick kids and trying desperately to get caught up on the laundry.

Way back in the dawn of time (read: before I had kids) I talked Jim into letting me get a used treadmill just like the model above except it has a heart rate monitor. It was a bargain at $75, but we had to go pick it up from the home of my co-worker, whose wife had been using it as a glorified coat rack. Jim was convinced (as he eloquently expressed while we moved it in and out of the bed of his truck and carried it down two flights of stairs to our old basement apartment) it was just going to be a coat rack at our home. I'm happy to say I proved him wrong, even before we had to move it up three flights of stairs to a new apartment, and then two years later into and out of a moving van, and down another flight of stairs at the Big Red House into the basement room where it now resides.

You see, for me the treadmill is an instrument of sanity. Most moms with small children have a limited window of time for working out, which is even more limited in the winter. But my treadmill cracks open that window of opportunity just a little wider. I can get up at 6 a.m. or stay up until 11 p.m. and run in a safe place while it's dark and freezing outside, no gym membership required. Or, I can queue up Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on the DVR for Jimmy while Audrey's taking her morning nap and run for a quick half hour.

I ♥ my treadmill because it's the place I can escape, burn off stress, get an endorphin rush, and jam out to "Black Devil Car"—all while keeping an eye on the baby monitor.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Snow day

When I woke up and came downstairs this morning, I saw the flakes falling thick and furious. This was the view from my front porch at about 8:30 a.m.

What a great day to call in sick to life, play nurse to my two babies (one just coming off a nasty cold and the other in the worst of it), and finish working on my latest snowing—er, sewing—project.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Addendum: style challenged

Baaa-aaa. Because I'm feeling a bit sheepish.

Here I was trying to have a little laugh at my own expense, but after reading my sister's comments on my "style challenged" post, clearly it backfired in a most unbecoming manner.

First, let me say that I in no way bear my stylish friends any ill will, nor do I covet their style. Maybe I covet the seeming effortlessness of their style, but I'm sure they actually put a lot of work into looking so great. I hope they will forgive me for being churlish.

Second, I'm deeply sorry for what appeared to be a blatant pity party. I'm not actually needing reassurance because I'm fully aware that the retro ghetto thing developed to serve certain needs: a) I'm a cheapskate with not a lot of time to shop; and b) what I do wear has to run the gamut from being spit up on to being covered in soot when I stoke the wood-burning stove. I think it's more what Dory said about changing things up: I see myself in the pajama pants and blah t-shirts or the gray sweatpants and sweatshirt that make me look like Rocky Balboa's less Italian twin and I'm hit with the realization that it's definitely time to change things up. Not to suit someone else's idea of style, per se, but to not feel so unfabulous because I'm making so little of an effort.

Does all that make sense?

Style challenged

I have friends with stunning personal style. Aubrey has this air of modern über-hipness permeating everything she wears, as well as the way she decorates her home. Dana, who always looks polished and posh, finds amazing designer clothes at thrift stores and garage sales, and sometimes sells them on eBay. Both of them have an innate ability to wear just the right thing and exude total hotness. Kind of like those figure skaters who make it look so easy you watch them and think, "I could do that." Yeah, and fall flat on my face trying.

In spite of the fact two of my favorite shows are What Not to Wear and Project Runway (which I love because I sew and for the drama), I personally operate in a mostly fashion-free zone. I have occasional moments of adequacy if I make a big effort, like when I dress up to go to church or out to dinner. For the most part, however, my personal style could best be described as retro ghetto chic.

What is retro ghetto chic? It's all about cheap function. At any given moment, my outfit will have at least one item puchased at a thrift store or at Costco, and may also include hand-me-downs or items purchased off the clearance rack at some not-haute retail outlet such as Fred Meyer. Right now I'm wearing pink sock monkey pajama pants (a gift), black shearling slippers (Costco), and a brown Old Navy t-shirt (lately from Value Village). In all fairness, I got up less than an hour ago and haven't showered yet, but the only likely change (besides clean underwear) after I shower will be swapping the jammy pants and slippers for some black pants (Value Village) and red sneakers (clearance rack at Marshall's).

But I don't want your pity. Because those red sneakers are Skechers.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wax on, wax off

We're about fifteen minutes away from 2008 as I start typing this post, and in my mind I'm waxing philosophical about what the new year holds in store for me (a triathlon, no more sugar until the triathlon, other goals)... and then my mind wanders onto the topic of waxing in general, which is never going to happen to any part of my body or my hardwood floors... and waxing gets me to thinking specifically about "Wax on, wax off" from The Karate Kid... and I start to imagine, wouldn't it be cool to have my own personal Mr. Miyagi to teach me special moves to prepare for all those personal battles in my own life (and to give me a sweet old hotrod)? At which point I get way existential and realize all I truly need is the Mr. Miyagi within, that inner sensei who knows me best: me. And that's how I'm going to accomplish all the goals I have in mind for this coming year. Cool.

The moral of this story is: too much chocolate+late night+blogging=80s/90s cinematic flashbacks that make no sense to anyone but me.

Wax on, wax off. Oh, and happy new year!