Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gang of Four


I received this game from a friend this year for Christmas and I want to play it all the time. Alas, it calls for three to four players and my kids are not quite sophisticated enough to play it(--at least if I want it to be fun for me.) Luckily, my Mom and brother Evan are headed our way to spend a few days and ring in the New Year. They voiced that they were ready for some laid back days after a hectic holiday season, and I can't think of a better way to hang out and relax with them then playing Gang of Four until we drop from exhaustion. I hope that the kids are ready to fend for themselves for a few days! I'm going to be busy!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Fun?

One of my favorite parts of Tiger Academy (the kids' favorite parts, as well) is Science Friday. It is one of my favorites because Jared is the teacher and my participation is often not required. (Not that I don't love the other days, but it is so nice to have a break!) It is the boys' favorite because they learn cool stuff and usually go on a field trip. So far, Jared has taken them horseback riding, to see the salmon run at the local fish hatchery, to tour a print shop, and today we took a family outing to the zoo. Yes, even after what happened this week in San Francisco. (Although I did get pretty nervous when the air raid sirens went off for two minutes. It turns out that the city of Sacramento tests their air raid sirens on the last Friday of the month. Seems like someone should have told me, because I was looking for a spot to hide my babies from the tiger on the loose.)
Now this sounds like a great thing to do as a family on a Friday morning, and we told the kids last night about our plan. Jared would first give them a science lesson about kingdom-phyllum-class-order-family-genus-species and then we'd all go together. Neither of us considered checking the weather report before giving our children such exciting news.
So, we bundled up and went to the zoo in the 40 degree rain. I'm sure that if you live in upstate New York, Winnepeg, or Yekaterinburg you don't think that is cold. But we Californians are a bit wimpy about such things. In fact, by the time we got back to the car, I was convinced that my feet hadn't been that cold since I walked the streets of Yekaterinburg (look it up here) in the winter, talking to people about my church. There were about three other families in the entire zoo who were as crazy (or foolish) as we. The kids seemed to have a great time (except Bronwen, who did not enjoy herself beyond the first ten minutes, when I managed to get this picture!). The three one-year-old Sumatran tigers (brothers) thought it was pretty cold too. We found them all huddled up together trying to keep warm. It's funny how you can watch three tigers who are brothers and think that you are seeing your own three sons! Poor little tropical guys, living in such a frigid, foreign environment. Oh well, at least they have each other.
In the hour that we spent there before we headed for the warm car, we got to see our favorites: the tigers, lemurs, and penguins, plus a few others; so I guess it wasn't a total loss. Plus, we get to count today as a school day! That means that some sunny, lovely day in May when you are all huddled over homework with your kids, we'll be at the pool!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

I walked into the hall bathroom the other day to discover that Kimball had been busy with the window markers:
I guess that no one needs to teach this kid about the law of attraction!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Our Christmas Eve in Pictures

The Prime Rib

The table setting--Kimball made our placecards


Dinner was Standing Rib Roast with Zinfandel Gravy, Potatoes with Mushrooms and Shallots, Glazed Baby Carrots, Roasted Winter Squash, Dinner Rolls, and Red Raspberry Sour Cream Jello.


video
Shepherds, Abiding in the Field (one scene from our nativity reenactment)

The Christmas Tree just before we went to bed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours!
video

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O, Spritz-mas Tree!


Growing up in my family, Christmas couldn't come without 8-10 different kinds of Christmas cookies being made in the days leading up to Christmas. We would all work to make them, rolling out, icing, decorating, mixing, "spritzing" them (as we called using the cookie press). There are several recipes that are required every year, and then we always tried some new ones or some that we hadn't had in a long time.
One of the cookies that is and was an absolute must is the Spritz. We always color ours green and make trees, wreaths, and stars. We decorate them with red hots and sprinkles and colored sugar. And we eat them three at a time. (Gulp.) They're little, ok? Spritz are great because one batch makes a lot, they look so festive, and who doesn't love a butter cookie? I made a batch earlier this week when my cousin Bec and her husband were visiting for the day, and sent a tinful to the preschool Christmas party. So now I may need to make some more before Christmas!
Today is going to be spent mostly in the kitchen, baking cookies and making candy. I have turned into a candy maker in the past 8 years or so, and love to make fudge, toffee, peanut brittle, and caramel for Christmas. Come to think of it, I'd better hit the gym this morning before I start in the kitchen! See ya!
Note: You need a cookie press to make these delectable Christmas cookies. So go get one!
Spritz
  • 1 1/2 cups butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
Beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and baking powder and mix until well combined. Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat in as much flour as you can--stir remaining flour if your mixer can't take it!
Force UNCHILLED dough through a cookie press onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate with colored sugars, red hots, and/or sprinkles. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are almost browning on the edges. (You'll have to bake a few batches before you know what that looks like. Sorry. The good news is that even if they are a little brown or even downright burned, these still taste great. You just can't give them away to your friends.) Keep them in a Christmasy cookie tin like we do, or in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Great Moment


We had a moment here on Monday evening that you can probably only appreciate if you love someone on the autistic spectrum. Kimball, who has Asperger's Syndrome, has difficulty standing still at all, but especially when singing, reciting, or performing in any way. He typically spins, sways, and walks around while performing, no matter how many times we might encourage him to stand still. It is a form of self stimulation that is fairly common among kids with autism.
Last night at our weekly Family Home Evening, we had the boys perform solos for us of the "hymn of the week" that we had learned over the previous week. This is a regular part of our FHE routine. Kimball always does great with remembering the words (since his memory is incredible,) but it is usually so difficult to watch him because he is moving so constantly. Last night, without even being reminded by us, he stood still, arms to his side, and sang every word of "O Come, All Ye Faithful." There were tears in my eyes by the end as I realized what he had just done. He knew it, too. He excitedly announced as we were praising his performance, "I didn't even sway or anything!" So not only was he able to stand still, but he was really self aware.
This exciting bit of progress we attribute to the many sessions he has been having in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber over the past couple of months. Up until now, the changes we have noticed have been a willingness to try new foods and an increased awareness in social situations. Last night was a powerful moment for us. I am so grateful for this sweet little boy who teaches us so much and through whom we are able to see the Lord's blessings.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Are Mormons Christians and other Questions


Having a member of my church run for president again has brought a lot of media attention to the LDS church lately. Some of the reports have been fairly accurate, and some articles have chosen to propagate misconceptions about the Church that have been around for years. I know that many of my readers share my faith, but for those who do not, I wanted to add my voice to the dialogue and answer some common questions and misconceptions about "Mormons."
  • Are Mormons Christians?--This question is asked frequently, to which we answer a resounding "Yes!" The name of our church is not "The Mormon Church," but "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." We revere Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of mankind, and as divine. We worship Him and strive to follow His example and His teachings in our everyday lives. We believe the Bible to be the word of God, just as other Christian faiths.
  • Do we believe, as Mike Huckabee insinuated, that Jesus and Satan are brothers?--This is a common teaching from those who wish to defame Mormons and show that they are not true Christians. We believe that God the Father is the spiritual father of all creation, including Christ, Lucifer, and us. We also believe that Christ is the only begotten of the Father in the flesh, whereas Satan was not born to mortality, and we have our own mortal parents. I think it would be more accurate to say that we believe that Lucifer was a spirit child of God, who fell from Heaven, as it records in the Bible. In no way to we believe Satan and Christ to be equals or physical brothers.
  • Do we believe that people of other faiths will go to hell?--No. We believe that the afterlife is more complex than heaven and hell. "Heaven" is made up of three different degrees of glory, which can be compared to the sun, the moon, and the stars (and Paul does compare them in an epistle to the Corinthians.) God loves all of his children, and He has prepared a place for them that is glorious and wonderful. People of other faiths, even those who do not believe in Christ, will still experience immortality in a place far greater than this life. We do believe that in order to gain the highest level of eternal life and all that God offers us, we must gain access to Christ's atonement through His Church, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  • Do we worship Joseph Smith?--No. We revere him as a prophet, much like Moses or Noah. We believe that through Joseph Smith, Christ restored the same church that He had established on the earth when He lived on the earth 2000 years ago. We do not believe that Joseph Smith was perfect, but we do believe that he was called of God and inspired to do His will.
  • Do we believe in the Bible--Absolutely. One thing that differentiates us from most other Christians is that we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. It does not replace the Bible, but acts as "Another Testament of Jesus Christ," confirming the truths of the Bible and making many biblical doctrines clearer. It is the record of an ancient people, just as the Bible is, who were led by God out of the Holy Land and to the Americas during Old Testament times. The Book of Mormon does not contradict the Bible, and members of the Church study both as books of scripture, given by God.
  • Do Mormons believe in the Trinity?--No. We do not accept the Trinity, which is not a Biblical teaching, but is accepted by many Christians today as a result of a decision made at the council of Nicea in 325 AD. Here is an article that explains it in detail, including the origins of the Trinity doctrine. We believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings, and that God the Father and Christ have bodies of flesh and bones--immortal, glorified bodies, but bodies nevertheless. The Bible is full of references to the body of God and Christ and also says that man was created in God's image. The article linked above includes some Biblical references to the physical body of Christ.
I could go on, but should really spend some time today on other things. If you have more questions, feel free to post a comment, or go to www.mormon.org, which is designed to give answers to people wanting to know more. And please, if you hear something about Mormons that is negative or hard to believe, please ask someone you know who is LDS about it, or go to the mormon.org website for clarification. There is much out there that is untrue and confusing about our faith.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Quiz

I got this email from my friend Jana, then I decided to copy Rebecca's idea (I'd link you to her blog, but it's private) and post it here. I'll tag a few of you at the end, so get ready to come up with your own answers. If you don't get tagged, please leave a comment answering at least one question!

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends! Here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE! Change all the answers so that they apply to you.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I love making the wrap beautiful. I am very picky about wrapping paper and buy the gorgeous wired ribbon that they sell at Costco because it will dress up anything. I am actually guilty of adding ribbons to presents that arrive in the mail bare. I leave the gift bags to Jared!:) The rest of the year, I'm all about the gift bags!
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial..I miss having a real tree, but I love that we can put the tree up sooner and that I don't have to vacuum under the tree every day. This year we let Kimball and Henry get a real tree for their bedroom. It has improved the smell in there dramatically!
3. When do you put up the tree? I like to put it up on the day or two after Thanksgiving. But it really goes up whenever Jared gets around to it. I sometimes let it be for a week or more with just the lights before adding the ornaments--that gives me less time that I have to re-decorate the tree with a baby around who loves to undecorate.

4. When do you take the tree down? January 1st.
5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, the low-fat variety. Unspiked, of course.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? I still remember the year that I got a Cabbage Patch Kid.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. Several. I'd love to have more.
8. Hardest person to buy for? Jared.
9. Easiest person to buy for? This year, Kimball. I have found too many things for him and probably need to make some returns.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Hmm. I like gifts. I don't think there is such a thing as a bad one (unless you are trying to make it bad.--That wasn't a dare, Jared!:)
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. I'm still working on mine, but they are going out this year before Christmas. Last year, I did a New Year's card.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Meet Me in St. Louis
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually in September at the latest. This year I started in early November. I do a lot online--it's easier than navigating the stores with kids.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? You'll never know!;)

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Want a list? Homemade cookies, toffee, caramel, fudge, peanut brittle, Sees Candy, Moose Munch. Oh, I adore Moose Munch! Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? I'll spend the last four days before Christmas baking and making candy.
16. White lights or colored on the tree? White lights, but I love a tree with colored lights as well. It's cozier. Since our tree has white lights on it, we don't really have a choice.
17. Favorite Christmas song? I love Christmas carols. I hate the Christmas Shoes song because it makes me cry even though I know it's just trying to play me emotionally. I don't love "original" Christmas songs very much. I love my Mo Tab Sing Choirs of Angels CD. I also love Emmy Lou Harris' Beautiful Star of Bethlehem. And, like Jana, I like Wham's Last Christmas. Just because I was in love with George Michaels in sixth grade.

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home? We definitely like to be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I like to travel to my mom's sometime during Christmastime.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.
20. Angel on the treetop or a star? I wish that I could find an angel that I loved that was in my price range. I have a star there now, but am always looking for the right angel.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas morning. Definitely.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Being overscheduled. And having to take a plate of cookies to everything!
23. What I love most about Christmas? Christmas morning, when the running around is done, the baking and cooking is done, and I'm not trying to get caught up on laundry, to find one last gift, and whatever didn't get done on the list can be forgotten. I love spending that time enjoying our family, watching my kids drink in Christmas. Jared makes a huge breakfast and the rest of the day we munch on leftovers (and candy--see question number 15.)

Tag to Mahina, Macy, and Erika. I can't wait to read your posts!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bewitched


Remember how Samantha on Bewitched could freeze time for everyone except herself? Hiro Nakamura and Peter Petrelli on Heroes have that same ability, and I want it. I'm officially putting it on my Christmas list. Think of all the things I could accomplish if I could stop time. My laundry would all be caught up. My Christmas cards would have been done a long time ago, and the large pile of presents in my bedroom which are cleverly covered with a queen size blanket, would have been wrapped and stashed a week ago. I would be posting every day with new things to enlighten, uplift, and entertain you.

Amidst the craziness of Christmas time, the disasters in western Washington put it all into perspective. How blessed I am to have clothes that need to be washed, dried, folded and put away, instead of just hauled to the dumpster because they have been destroyed by muddy flood waters. How blessed am I to have a bedroom floor, even if it has presents that need wrapping--still. How blessed am I to have a computer, from which I can occasionally post to my blog. So many people have lost everything.
Daring Young Mom has been working to mobilize people to help. Although I have never met her, I have long enjoyed her blog. I recently discovered as well that she is a former roommate of my sister-in-law, Erika. So I believe her to be completely trustworthy. Anyway, if you are interested in seeing more about what can be done to help, check out this link. She encourages us to donate through her blog or through the Red Cross. It is really humbling to see what the people in the path of destruction are dealing with. And if you want to do something for people closer to home, look around you. I guarantee that you will find people in need, people for whom you can make a difference this Christmas.
I just hope Santa brings me what I want--super powers. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Need a Chill Pill


Would that be a Xanax? Do you think that chocolate chips will do it? Does anyone else out there get absolutely crazy like I do at the holidays? It was only a few years ago that I realized what a complete, anxiety-ridden nutcase I am when left to my own devices. Somehow, I believe that:
  • everything must be perfect in order for anyone to enjoy the holidays.
  • it is up to me to make sure that everything is perfect.
  • "perfect" means perfect. no room for error, a dirty bathroom, or a bad hair day.
  • the more people that I can convince to come to my house for the holidays, the better, even though it will send me into a frenzy trying to make everything perfect for them, too.
My darling husband pointed out a few years ago that our little family feeds on my anxiety. You've heard the phrase, "When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"? (Pardon the terrible grammar.) I realized then that in my efforts to make everything perfect so everyone would be happy and look on the holidays with fondness, I was actually making people around me miserable because my stress levels were so high. And yet, even though I now know this cerebrally, I still in my gut believe that everything must be perfect.
HELP!
Every year I think of some way that I am going to reduce and simplify our holidays so that I will be less crazy. And every year I am still crazy. What's a girl to do? Don't get me wrong, I love this time of year (although it's hard to imagine why!)
Anyhow, does anyone else have Christmas-makes-me-crazy-itis? Does anyone know a good cure? I am really focusing on exercise, scripture study, and prayer, which really helps some days. But not all the time.
Picture above is of the pies that we made the for Thanksgiving. With the pies brought by guests, we had 14 pies and 1 cheesecake. Yikes!

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Big Thank You


Wow! What an ego boost. I feel so loved and supported. Who knew that the best way to fish for compliments and validation is to be insulted by someone online?:) You guys are the best. I have had so many comments and emails from you that it's really touching. The next time I'm feeling down on myself, I'm just going to go back and read all your comments.
I realize that I haven't posted a recipe in a while, especially an original recipe instead of just linking you to my fave Cooking Light or Bon Appetit recipe. Here is one of my favorite good-for- you (mostly) comfort foods. It's a recipe that I came up with a few years ago when I was on a great weight loss jag (before having a couple more babies and gaining it all back again.) I like it because most vegetable lasagnes call for a cream sauce, but this one uses lighter marinara.
Even if the people at your house think they only like meat filled lasagnes, this is worth a try. My DH loves it and he is most definitely a carnivore.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow crook neck squash, sliced
  • 1-2 large red onion or sweet onion, sliced or diced
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 T. fresh minced garlic
  • about 4 cups marinara sauce (I like Trader Joe's in the green can)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced in ribbons and/or fresh spinach
  • no boil lasagne or whole wheat lasagne (about 1/2 package)
Spray a large jelly roll pan with olive oil spray (or put down foil, then spray.) Place all of the vegetables and garlic on the pan. Drizzle with a few tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Toss to coat. Place in 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables are nicely browned.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and the basil or spinach. Mix well.

Layer the lasagne thusly: marinara, pasta, half of the vegtables, half of the cheese mixture. Repeat. On top, add another layer of pasta and marinara, then top with remaining mozzarella. Bake in 350 oven for about 40 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with crusty bread or breadsticks and a green salad.
  • Note: If I were serving this at someone else's house, I'd put some crushed red pepper in as well. But, since I live here, I just add a sprinkle of it to my own serving.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Nursing My Wounds


After my last post, someone anonymously left me a hurtful and critical comment. When I read it, I was so stunned and hurt that I immediately deleted it. Later, I wondered if that was censoring something in order to paint a rosier picture of myself, which was not my intent. I just somehow hoped that if I deleted it, it couldn't hurt me anymore. Alas, the words have haunted me for two days now.
I will admit that part of it is that I want everyone to like me. Shameless, but true. So the fact that someone out there doesn't like me hurts, even though I think it's perfectly reasonable that everyone out there doesn't like everyone else.
But beyond that, I keep wondering if what they said was true? Do I come across as smug? I certainly don't mean to. What I am trying to achieve through this blog is:
  • to stand up for motherhood as a divine calling
  • to support other moms (and be supported by them) who are struggling with the same things I am
  • to find the humor and the joy in the everyday events of my life
  • to share our goings on with family and friends
  • to inspire others as well as myself to be a little better
I am not trying to put myself out there as someone you all should aspire to be like, nor to say that I am the ideal mother. I don't feel remotely smug, so I was bothered by the accusation and wonder if I am poorly communicating my true feelings. And struck by the irony of the comment, so recently after posting about how hurtful words can be.
In reality, I just need to get over it and stop caring if someone out there finds me smug or irritating. I have spent too much time since that comment thinking about myself and nursing my wounds. Time to look outside of myself and to lift someone else. Enough about me.