Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am and hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." To that, I say "amen." Except for my junior high years (heaven help me when my daughter is 13 years old), I have always wanted to be like my mother when I grew up. I was imitating her as a toddler, mothering my sister and brothers from the time they were born. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a mother first and foremost (much to the disgust and disappointment of my senior English teacher.) This would simply not have been the case if my mother had not been an example of love and service and joy to me. She isn't perfect and I'm sure that she made some mistakes along the way--not that I can remember any, but I tell myself that she surely made some mistakes along the way so that I feel better, knowing that I surely have and do. (Note: most of the pictures in this post were taken by my dad. I can tell when I look back at them how much he loved taking pictures of her--and how much he loved her. Sometimes it means more to know who is behind the camera when looking at a photo.)

My mom taught me how to make bread, how to do housework, how to read. She taught me to love reading and learning by exposing me to great literature from an early age and by taking an active interest in what I was reading. If I ever read a book that she hadn't already read, Mom read it, too, so that we could talk about it together. My mother taught me (at a very young age, I might add), how to diaper a baby, how to rock him to sleep, how to comfort his cries. My mother taught me to love the Lord and how to gain my own testimony that He lives. She taught me that keeping His commandments brings happiness in life, even though it does not mean that we will not have trials.

My mother has lived a life of faith and sacrifice. As I have gotten older, I am better able to appreciate the trials that she has endured so well. By the time she was seven years older than I am today, she had lost both parents to cancer, her husband, and a five week old son. She raised six kids to adulthood, which I now understand is a trial as much as it is a blessing!:)

When my father was killed, she was our pillar even though her world seemed to be falling apart. We followed her example to forgive; she decided immediately that it would not be productive or healthy to dwell on the manner of his death (he was murdered) or to seek out justice for the perpetrators. She knew that to do so would only lengthen the darkness and misery that we felt. Instead, she told us that she would lean on the Lord and trust Him to care for us, to heal our hearts, to make us whole again. We needed to save our energy to make it through. I know that there had to have been many days when she did not want to get out of bed and get back to her new life without him, where she was not only the mother but the breadwinner; where the responsibility of parenting these children rested solely on her. But she never did stay in bed and let the day go by without her. She got on her knees and asked the Lord to help her get through one more day. And He always did.

I know that I would not be the same person I am today if my mother had responded to that trial differently. I would venture to say the same for my siblings. We drew from her strength and faith and we learned for ourselves how to rely on the Lord. My father's death and my mother's reaction to it were defining experiences in our lives. It was in that year that I learned the most about myself, when I solidified my faith, when I learned that with the Lord's help I can endure anything He asks of me. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn these things while in my youth, even if I could never have willingly submitted to such an experience.

My father's passing also strengthened my friendship with my mom. I'm sure that this would have happened by the time I got married, at least, but we needed each other without him there. We began talking on the phone most days and continue to do so now. When she's not teaching, it's not unusual for us to talk three times in a day. She is one of my best friends today. I refuse to consider what my life will be like without her one day.

It has been fun spending these past few days with her. Allison and I came down with our kids for Mom's birthday, and we have just enjoyed being together. We always have a list a mile long of things that we want to do when we're together, but we're also content to just cook together, play a card game, or read to the kids. I hope that we get to do lots more of the things we love to do together, since she plans to retire this year and move nearer to Alli and me. But I know that we will need to expect that she will spend much of her time in service--in her calling, in the temple, on a mission, helping someone in need . . . and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can only hope and pray that I will one day be more like my mother--that her good works and faith will continue to rub off on me for as long as I live.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Introducing . . .

Prudence PennywiseLadies and Gentlemen (are there at least two of you boys out there?), I am pleased to introduce Prudence Pennywise, the alter ego and blog of one of my dearest friends, former roommates, and cooking mentors. She just launched this amazing blog featuring delicious food for a great price. I will vouch for each and every recipe, even if I haven't tried them yet. But I will be getting busy to make some of the Nantucket Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies as soon as I locate the ingredients (I'm at my mom's, whose pantry is not as prepared for spur-of-the-moment cookie baking.)
You simply must check out Prudy, leave her a comment telling her I sent you (so she knows who loves her best,) and try a recipe today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Thank you to those of you who commented last time (instead of clicking somewhere more cheerful and leaving me behind in my pathetic dust,) with words of encouragement and understanding. I am feeling much better now. Here's how my list is coming:

  • van purchased: check (what a huge relief, inspite of being sick about spending any more money on something that will just beg to be fed with gas on a twice monthly basis.)
  • house picked up for the housekeeper: check (She never came. Called and said she was sick. Argh. I am trying to bribe my children to vacuum and do bathrooms today so I can move on to other things on my list.)
  • date night with Henry: check (Kimball lost the chance to come due to some unfortunate punching of his brother in the stomach. It was very sad for him and I really wanted to relent, but we knew that he needed to learn the lesson. Henry was so fun to be with. He kept thinking about Kimball and asking, "Can we take some of this home to Kimball?" We did the Mother-Son sports night, which was sponsored by Henry's school, then had a little treat of Cold Stone and chips from Chipotle. We brought some chips home for Kimball to enjoy for breakfast. Then, Henry accompanied me to the grocery store.)
  • get some food in the house for Jared to eat while we're gone: check. (See above note after date night with Henry.)
  • make Amish Friendship Bread: check. (One of my friends, Stephanie, gave us this fun starter 11 days ago, which made yesterday Day 10. You mostly just babysit the starter for the first 9 days, stirring it and sometimes adding flour, milk, and sugar. Day 10 is when you actually make the bread. So when we got home from our night out and I put away the groceries, I decided that I'd better make the Amish bread. The kids had lots of fun helping me with the starter over the 10 days leading up to this, and they had fun eating it for breakfast, so I don't feel too badly that they didn't get to help make the bread at 10pm. We'll take a couple of loaves to friends today, along with some starter for them to make their own. It baked while Jared and I caught up on the week's TiVo (Office, Lost, Dancing with the Stars).)
  • water the garden: check. (Oops. The past two days were so crazy that we hadn't done it. And it's been quite sunny and warm. So we got out there this morning and discovered some new blossoms! Yeah! Lest this sound too idyllic, I should mention that Bronwen alternated between trying to eat the compost pile and washing her hair in the very dirty rain water basin while we did this.)
  • park day with my friends: check. (I'm glad we went, even if the day was busy. It was nice to catch up and let the kids play somewhere other than our yard. Since most of Thursday was spent with me trying to keep them busy without actually having to pay any attention to them, this activity on Friday was a nice break for everyone.)
  • library. check. (We have lots of great books to read this week while we're out of town.)
Here is what still needs to happen before midnight:
  • buy organic fertilizer and fertilize those plants. Especially the tomatoes. I'm dreaming about home grown tomatoes. I also want to get the last plants for our garden, the fall raspberries, and get them planted. Perhaps I can sweet talk Jared into this errand.
  • get another pair of wireless headphones for the road trip so that Ian can actually hear the movies on the new DVD player. Sounds like another honey-do.
  • wash several loads of laundry, fold them, and put them away.
  • pack for five people.
  • grind wheat (honey-do) and bake bread. We decided to combine this with a science lesson on yeast, gluten, and whole wheat.
  • deliver the loaves and starter from the friendship bread.
  • take a shower (ideally) before heading off to the autism charity event. Avoid using the word "just" to describe my full-time job as mother all night to people who have sexier careers. I'm proud of my job and get irritated at myself when I find myself downplaying that.
  • post our weekly report on the homeschool blog. Or at least have the pictures taken so that I can post from my mom's.
So I guess I'd better get away from this computer and get going!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Rantings of a Deranged Mind

I am exhausted. This has been a busy week. And it's not over yet. I just got home an hour ago from a wedding for which I made and served the cheesecakes. And even though we made the cheesecakes a month ago and froze them, I still spent most of today and yesterday making sauces, ganaches, lemon curd, etc. to garnish said cheesecakes. My sis got some great photos, so I'll bug her to post them. She did a fabulous job dressing up one of the cheesecakes with some buttery-yellow fondant and chocolate brown ribbons as the wedding cake. If it weren't so much dadgum work, we'd go into business together. But I like what little free time I have and am not anxious to surrender it.

Anyhow, I'm obviously addicted to blogging because when I got home I just wanted to go to bed, but I sat down at the computer "just to check my email" and here I sit an hour later, starting a post. After reading a dozen of my favorite blogs. Crazy, foolish girl.

In the next two days I need to get caught up on housework and laundry, take my kids to the library before we rack up fines, get ready to take the kids on a four day roadtrip to Nana's, attend a charity event, meet my girlfriends for Park Day, take the two oldest boys to Mother/Son Sports Night, . . . oh, and haggle a car dealer down to a price that we're willing to spend before the lease is up on our van--this weekend. Because it would be pretty hard to take a roadtrip to my mom's (or even just get everyone to church) if we don't have a van. The whole car thing has been giving me fits this week. As in realizing-in-the-middle-of-the-night-that-I've-been-clenching-my- teeth-and-now-have-a-most-heinous-headache kind of fits. I'm tired of having all of my conversations with my husband focus on which van, how much we can really afford, do we really need the 8th seat that I love having, can we find one without a DVD player, do we WANT one without a DVD player, have I looked at xyz website yet or called abc dealer? I'm tired of smooth-talking sales guys and even more tired of the sales guys that don't seem to be listening to me and ask me the same questions over and over. I've now decided that the worst thing about a lease is that when it ends you are forced to make a decision whether you want to or not. I'd be thrilled to just keep my van and keep paying the same payments, but they aren't offering to extend our lease and our buyout is more than the van is worth. Anyway, why am I rambling on and boring all of you? I'll just be glad when it's Sunday night and we are at my mom's (assuming that we actually bought a van) and this will all be behind us.

And I don't want to look at cheesecake again for a long time. Blech.

Wow, what an uplifting post! I guess I needed to vent.

On the bright side, my wonderful husband took the four kids to pack meeting tonight without me (I was at a wedding reception, remember?) and didn't even complain about it. When I came home tired and obviously cranky, based on the rantings above, they were all sleeping peacefully. Sigh. What would I do without him?

Monday, April 21, 2008

No Slacking!

If you read my other blog, you already know that on Friday I was feeling burned out, tired, and moody. Thankfully, I was able to spend much of the weekend rejuvenating my spirit (plus I figured out that some of the aforementioned emotional state was probably PMS.) Friday evening, Myrna Mom (my MIL) let us go on a spur-of-the-moment temple date. (LDS temples are not used for Sunday worship. They are a special place where we make covenants and have the privelige of helping our ancestors receive the blessings of the gospel. Read more about it here.)

It was so nice to go and I really felt my spirits lift as we drove up onto Temple Hill. The sun was just setting and it felt like we were entering a magical world. We spotted three does grazing and a flock of wild turkeys and geese. Jared & I walked for few minutes under the oaks with my camera, trying to catch a good shot of the turkeys, before we went into the temple. No luck on the turkeys, but I did get a shot of the temple with the gorgeous oak out front. I am so infatuated with oak trees. Each one has so much character and is so beautiful and majestic.

As always, I left the temple feeling renewed and with my perspective back in place. Then, Saturday night we had the opportunity to attend a meeting at Church just for the adult members who live in our city (called stake conference if you want to know the lingo.) The talks all focused on strengthening families, building up a righteous posterity, etc. Again, I was uplifted, inspired, and we came home with things to talk about regarding ways that we want to improve in our family.

One quote really stuck out to me, especially because of the burnout that I'd been struggling with. It's from the Doctrine & Covenants, which are scripture revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr. I've read it and heard it many times before, but this was the first time that it occurred to me that the scripture applies to motherhood.
Wherefore, be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33)
I cannot allow myself to get burned out on doing the things that are most important in my life and to my family. Naturally, we all get tired sometimes, and it was okay for me to take the kids to the park instead of get in one more math lesson last week. But when it comes to the most important things, including: daily scripture study, personal & family prayer, Family Home Evening, temple attendance, serving where needed, showing love to my husband and children; in these things, I cannot afford to get burned out. They are the things that not only rejuvenate me, but are also "laying the foundation of a great work"--my family. What we do as parents today, tomorrow, and every day of our children's youth will have an immense impact on the people that they become. As a mother, and in teaching my children who they are and why they are here, I am doing the Lord's work. And he hasn't given me permission to slack off. What he has offered is lots of help to do His work.

I feel so blessed to have the kind of counsel and wisdom available to me through the scriptures and the words of God's servants on the earth. Heavenly Father knew what I needed to hear this weekend and touched my heart so that I would hear it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Feeling Earthy

My children consider themselves to be environmentalists. They have never heard of Al Gore (thank goodness--I'm not a fan,) but I believe that doing our part to care for the world we live in is not a political issue. Legislating environmentalism is what makes it political. And I'm not here to talk politics. With Earth Day fast approaching, and inspired by Seattle Mom Blogs, I thought I'd share what we do around here to live a little "greener." (Pardon the expression. Green is so trendy now that I'm sure you are almost as sick of hearing it as I am. I'm thrilled that our social consciousness has embraced caring for the earth and it's creatures, but it now just seems like a bandwagon that everyone is jumping onto to see how they can profit from said consciousness. Including Al Gore and his carbon footprint. But I wasn't going to wax political.) This earth is a gift from Father in Heaven for us, his children. He has given us dominion over the earth and everything on it. Dominion is not the right to abuse and be wasteful--it means that it is our responsibility to care for it, but also to use what it has to offer as we have need of it.

So, we are trying to do our part in our family to not be wasteful and to make choices (when they make sense) that are good for the earth and for us. For instance, we frequent farmer's markets for our produce. Buying locally grown produce not only supports agriculture in our area, but also reduces the fuel, etc, used to get it to market.
When the price is not astronomical, I buy organic rather than toxin-filled. :) A year or two ago I bought some organic pears. Henry was skeptical about the bruises on them, and I explained that organic fruit didn't always look as nice. That seemed to do it for him; since then, anytime a piece of fruit looks less than perfect, he always tells the others, "It's okay. It's organic." (I don't correct him when it's not.)
Although we buy some processed foods, we try to mostly eat whole foods and to make things from scratch. These choices are all better for us and for the environment.

This year, we worked together to plant a garden. Instead of going to the nursery or Home Depot to get compost or fertilizer, we got (FREE!) horse manure from a local rancher and bought our compost through our city's recycling program. We have also started our own compost pile, to which we add our daily vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, and the grass clippings from our lawn. The kids think this is so fun and I love that making our own compost is economical, healthier, and a way that we can reduce waste in our family. Hopefully we'll have a good yield on our garden and will be eating fresh, organic, homegrown vegetables all summer and sharing them with our neighbors.

When I find a "green" product on the market that is reasonably priced, I try it out. Sometimes it works just as well as the traditional product (like our Seventh Generation dish soap, which I LOVE,) and I continue to buy it. Sometimes it doesn't work well at all (like the EOS laundry detergent I got at Costco that made all of our clothes dingy.) In that situation, I think it makes more sense to go back to buying Tide--it means fewer washings to get out stains (saves energy & water) and longer life of the clothes (saves me from buying more). But the point is that we are trying. I especially like looking for natural products that are not only better for the earth, but are better for us. I really believe that reducing our exposure to chemicals and synthetics is important to us and impacts our health for the better.

As I mentioned on our homeschool blog, we always pick up trash/litter when we are out on walks. This teaches the kids to care about what our community looks like, but they are even more concerned about how littering effects marine life and wild life. They have read so many books on the subject that they are far better experts than I am and have taught me about the many ways that litter and pollution hurt animals.

We take care to recycle what can be recycled. A lot of the time we use reusable bags, although I sometimes forget to bring them with me. We never ask for a box at Costco to pack all our stuff into. And here's something I do now that I used to laugh at old ladies for: when I have glass jar or plastic tub (like from a quart of yogurt or a pint of sour cream), I run it through the dishwasher and use it several more times before disposing of it--basically, till it can't hold up to washing anymore. Those tubs are great for keeping leftovers in, for sending food to a friend's, etc. For a while I was buying those disposable/reusable containers that Ziploc makes until I realized that I already buy plenty of that stuff with food in it. Instead of being clear, it says "Nancy's organic vanilla yogurt" on it (my personal fave). Big deal. (A hidden benefit to this is that if I keep leftover chocolate frosting in a sour cream tub, I often forget that it's not sour cream and therefore do not return to it repeatedly throughout the afternoon with a spoon. See what I mean? Good for me, good for the environment.;)

This year we are also striving to consume less. I will confess that a large motivation to do this is financial, but it is also more earth friendly. Hopefully with enough practice, it will become a part of our lifestyle and we really will live the simpler life that we imagine.

Anyway, I know that none of these things are that big, but even doing little things like these every day makes a difference. There are plenty of ways that we could improve, (when are they going to come out with a hybrid minivan? Toyota-- my van of choice-- has had one in Japan for years now. I am so tired of paying almost $4 a gallon!) and hopefully we'll keep working on it until we've made even more significant lifestyle changes.

What earth loving things are your family doing? Share your ideas--maybe we'll adopt some of your habits as our own!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Local Wildlife

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get the heck away from Bronwen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Works for Me Thursday??

Rocks in My Dryer hosts a Works for Me Wednesday blog carnival, where bloggers share an idea that they are using in their lives. Well I can never remember on Wednesday to do one, so just pretend, ok?

After countless conference talks about singing the hymns in our home, and having a testimony myself that if you have hymns and scriptures memorized, the Holy Ghost can use them to prompt you, we have finally come up with a good way to help our children memorize the hymns. We had always tried singing hymns and Primary songs as a family, but it was tedious and time-consuming to teach a new one as often as we wanted them to learn new songs. Nearly a year ago, we started a new tradition in our home--the Hymn of the Week.

Now on either Sunday evening or Monday at Family Home Evening, we choose a hymn for that week. We take time then to repeat it a few times, explaining what the words mean and answering any questions that the kids may have. Then, all week long we sing it before family prayer morning and night. We don't worry about it if the first couple of days Jared & I are the only ones singing. By the end of the week, even the youngest singers know the words. Often, we'll let them perform a little solo at the end of the week to show us what they've learned.

This is especially helpful in sacrament meeting. They get excited when we sing a hymn that we know (and by now, they know around 50, so it happens pretty often.) Even though Kimball is the only one who can read efficiently enough to sing along while reading, the other boys can sing any hymn that we already know. (Ok, truth be told, sometimes they couldn't care less if it's a hymn they know--some days are just like that. But SOMETIMES they choose to sing along when it's one they know!)

I have always loved the hymns. They speak peace to me in troubled times, they teach the principles of the gospel, and they always bring the spirit. Now I feel like we are helping my children have that influence in their lives as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thoughts on Motherhood

Since this blog is supposed to be about motherhood, I thought I would share a recent favorite quote on motherhood with you. The source is M. Russell Ballard, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and was given at the recent General Conference (when we gather as a church to be instructed and uplifted. It is always so inspiring.) His talk was completely dedicated to mothers, particularly to mothers with children at home. This is one of the things that he said:

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."
I think that it is so easy for us to be passionate about the way that we mother. We feel strongly that it is the right way--and it may be the right way for our family. But as he said, each mother is different and each child is different. This does not change absolute truth, but it means that discipline styles, family rules and practices, and the things that a mother focuses on can be very different from family to family. AND THAT'S OK. Sometimes we think that if our way is right, then another's must be wrong. Or if we see someone whom we admire, doing things a certain way, that our way must be wrong. In reality, it is our responsibility to study out for ourselves and pray for the Lord's guidance in determining what is best in our situations for our families. And then to reach out and support other women in their efforts to do the same, even if their way is different from ours.

I am grateful for this wise and inspired counsel.

Come and Visit Us

. . . at our new blog dedicated to homeschool. I found myself wanting to post more and more about our homeschool experience and yet didn't want to alienate 75% of my readers who are not homeschoolers. Add to that fact that my boys have been begging to start a blog of their own, and we decided to do a joint effort that focuses on what we are learning together. It's still pretty basic, but we plan to add lots of things.

Also, I am moving my link list of fellow homeschoolers to that site, and deleting my children's books recommendations soon (so if you've been meaning to take a closer look, now's the time). We are going to do a series of posts on the HS blog dedicated to books we love and books that are facilitating our learning.

Now, when am I supposed to find time to post on 2 blogs?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let Me Love You With Food

Here's a quick recipe post, at Ice Cream's request. These are absolutely delicious and melt in your mouth. They are essentially a lemon bar with raspberries added, but having a good recipe that gets the shortbread and the custardy filling right is essential. Just don't blame me if you are up a pound or two after eating these hand over fist (Ice Cream, I'm sure that your doctor would approve, since she's soooo nice.)

After tasting these this weekend, Jared's assistant, Alex, suggested that I leave Jared and she and I run away together! I thought it might be easier to share the recipe.

Deluxe Raspberry Lemon Bars

  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ c. sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups raspberries
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel (I like twice that much. I love zest!)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (use freshly squeezed unless you are desperate. It will only take one or two large lemons, and it's worth it.)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and beat until combined. Beat in the 2 c. flour until crumbly. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13x2 inch pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon juice. Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the egg mixture, along with the shredded lemon peel. When crust has baked, sprinkle raspberries over the crust, then pour filling over the top. Arrange berries with a spoon, if needed, to spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes more, until set.

Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar.

(For big events, I double the recipe and make it in a large jelly roll pan.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Catching You Up

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I haven't had as much time as I'd like to post on my blog or to visit everyone else's blogs. Here is a glimpse at what I've been doing instead of blogging.

The kids and I spent a day researching plants, compost, etc, and mapped out a garden. We have about half of it planted now--tomatoes, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, leeks, and various herbs. We hope to get the rest of our plants and seeds this next week and get it finished. They have really enjoyed the daily ritual of taking out the bowl of peelings to the compost pile and watering the little plants.

I've been learning (or trying to learn) how to do little girl hair. To be honest, Jared is the better hairdresser around here, but he's not usually around during the week when it's time to do hair. These piggy tails are her first--the boys said she looks just like a bug with antennae!

I also gave Bronwen her first pedicure. Ok, so really it was just her first polish, since I didn't do anything else. She was fascinated and kept wanting to grab the nail polish. And I picked such a pale pink that you can't even tell in the picture. I'm not ready to put lipstick red on her toes yet, even if it is on mine!

We saw Henry receive a Good Citizen Award in kindergarten for the middle trimester. He was very proud, and so were we. In kindergarten this year Henry has been developing his social and leadership skills, and is coming out of his shell. Here he is with his principal.

Henry also recently completed 19 laps at his school Jog-a-thon. The activity has been so popular with our family in the years that my kids have attended public school that I'm thinking about hosting our own next year at Tiger Academy.

I created this cake for Jared's birthday, which turned out to be too rich. I didn't think that was possible--I've never had anything chocolaty before that was too rich. I did four layers of chocolate-chocolate chip pound cake with two layers of whipped ganache filling and one layer of chocolate mousse filling, chocolate ganache frosting, and toffee pieces all around. So either I've finally proved my theory wrong about there being no such thing as too much chocolate, or I've turned a big corner when it comes to food. I was actually sick to my stomach for 36 hours after I at a piece of this--and I didn't even eat the whole piece. After we celebrated with our family, I took the rest of the cake and gave it away.

I've been reading (and enjoying) this book. Sadly, it has taken me a few weeks to finish, since I have had so many other things going on. A good read.

While folding laundry the other night, I caught a bit of "I Can Make You Thin" on TLC. It plays a lot like an infomercial, but I tried out a couple of the techniques and they seem to work. So if you can tolerate the feeling that you are being sold something, you might want to check it out. I'm sure he's doing the show to sell his books, but it's not actually an infomercial. I watched the episode on cravings and found it to be very effective in giving me control over chocolate. Perhaps it has something to do with why Jared's birthday cake made me sick?

Today was Patient Appreciation Day in Jared's office. We do this event twice yearly; existing patients are treated to a free adjustment and 10 minute massage, new patients get an exam and x-ray for free. I do a food spread to keep everyone happy while they are waiting their turn. This time I decided to not go overboard--I generally have ridiculous amounts of leftovers. We ordered sandwiches from Costco, had a veggie platter, lots of fresh fruit, and some homemade desserts. I was so proud of myself for not overdoing it. Then we had our best turnout ever and I had to send someone to Costco at noon for more sandwiches! Still, that is good.
I made Lemon Raspberry Bars,

Mint Brownies,
Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies (which you must try if you haven't yet),

and a new twist on my CCP Cookies, with some added 1 c. coconut, 2 c. oatmeal (I reduced the flour by 1 1/2 cups), and 1 c. semi-sweet chips (I reduced the milk chips to 2 cups). Amazingly, although I made all that food this week, I did very little picking at it as I baked. And I was down 2.4 lbs at my Wednesday weigh-in! Yeah! Here's hoping that will be true next week, too.

I do not have a picture of the mountains of laundry that I have done in the past couple of weeks with the stomach flu running rampant through our house yet again (this has not been a good year for that,) and my decision to stop buying pull-ups for some bedwetters in the house. Enough said on that subject. If you are a mother, you feel my pain!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Love of My Life

Yesterday was Jared's birthday. I had planned to post this meme all about him and us, but between piano lessons, a funeral luncheon that I was in charge of, karate, car pool, and other mommy craziness, I didn't even look at blogs. He also got an MP3 player for his birthday, so when he was home, he was monopolizing the computer--and how could I say, "Would you stop doing what you want to do on your birthday so that I can pay homage to you on my blog that you don't read (very often)?" I couldn't. So I'm a day late. And since he won't read this for two weeks, that probably doesn't matter much.

  • How long have you been married? 10 1/2 years. Wow. Time flies.
  • How long did you date? We knew each other for over two years before we started dating. Once we admitted that we wanted to be more than friends, we only dated for about four months before we got engaged. We were engaged for four months, then married.
  • How old is he? 33. And he'll be quick to tell you that he is younger than I.:)
  • Who eats more sweets? I have a much bigger sweet tooth than he does. If he ever eats more sweets than I, it is usually because he is trying to "save me from them." But there is no contest who craves sweets more.
  • Who is taller? He is. Even when I wear my favorite 4 inch heels.
  • Who is smarter? He will tell you that I am, but I say that we are just a different kind of smart. He has such a clear understanding of scientific principles, the human body, and other things that are mostly gibberish to me. He has a gift for teaching complex ideas in a way that is understandable to others. It is something that makes him a good doctor--he can help his patients truly understand what is going on in their bodies and why chiropractic aids healing and health.
  • Who does the laundry? These days, I do most of it, although he will help me fold it if I ask. When we were newlyweds, I was the breadwinner and he was the full-time student and house-husband. He did all of our laundry. At the laundromat. And he got there on his bike. I would usually pick him up on my way home from work after he'd been there for a good chunk of the afternoon, and he'd have all of our laundry folded and clean, except for half of my stuff that was not supposed to be dried in the dryer. I'm high maintenance like that, but Jared is all about taking care of our things, so he was willing to accommodate my wishes when it came to caring for my clothes. Now almost everything goes into the dryer--because it's a lot of jeans and knit shirts!:) I don't miss my office job, but I do miss the clothes sometimes. And the lunches out with the girls in the office.
  • Who pays the bills? I do. Always.
  • Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? If you mean as opposed to the wrong side (where all the kids come in the middle of the night,) then Jared sleeps on the right side of the bed.
  • Who mows the lawn? Usually one of his patients that is trading services. But when there is no one else, he does it. He is pretty allergic to the grass and spends a lot of time sneezing after the fact.
  • Who makes dinner? It's generally my job, but he will take over when asked. He does all the barbecuing, which means most of the food we eat in the summer. He also makes the weekend breakfasts and whips up wonderful waffles, perfect pancakes, and outrageous omelets . And he makes certain holiday foods--in the photo he is making our New Year's Eve Monte Cristos. Some years he deep fries a turkey for Thanksgiving to supplement my roasted bird. And he loves to pull out the deep fryer once or twice a year and invite future heart attacks.
  • Who drives? He does. It pains him to have anyone else drive. We're both sure it's a control thing, but I've decided that I don't like driving well enough to battle it out. So he does, nearly always.
  • Who is more stubborn? I'm too stubborn to admit that it's me!
  • Who asked who out on the first date? That would be me. Although at the time, my intentions were not to get something started between us. Some girlfriends and I had purchased Les Miserables tickets at the beginning of the summer for the fall, when it was coming to SLC (I was in my last year at BYU.) We had each bought two tickets and planned to take dates. When the time came for me to invite someone, I was very conflicted. There was the boy that I had a mad crush on (but did I really want to betray my undying love?), the boy in my ward who was funny and well-dressed, but a big flirt (I knew that we'd have a great time but that would be the end of it,) and Jared. We had been good friends as missionaries and I remembered that he loved the music of Les Miserables and had never seen it. But I also knew that he would probably freak out a little bit (or a lot) at the prospect of going on a date with a former sister missionary. Did I really want to freak him out? I did kind of like him, but honestly didn't think we'd ever date, and I didn't know if he'd be too scared to be friends if I asked him out. Now that I look back on it, I deliberated this way too much, but it seemed like a major decision at the time. The night I decided to make my decision and ask someone, he and a friend dropped by my apartment (which was a bit out of the way, since he lived in Salt Lake) and I took it as a sign and asked him. He was definitely freaked out but he couldn't resist the prospect of seeing Les Mis. We had a good time, but he was also pretty tense through most of it. Oh well--it turned out well in the end, I guess.
  • Who said "I love you" first? No clue. If I remember correctly, we both said it for the first time in our Valentine's Day cards. But that could be wrong. I should consult my journal, but then I'll get trapped reading and never get this posted.
  • Who proposed? He did. But I knew it was coming. We had already picked out the ring and named the date. I guess it was a pretty mutual decision that he would propose. Isn't that how it often is? I guess some people (like this) are completely floored. But I knew it was coming and already had my answer ready.
  • Who has more siblings? I do, at least officially. I have six and he has three. But his parents helped raise several foster Native American kids, so if you count all of them . . . .
  • Who wears the pants? I think that we are equally yoked. He gives in a lot to my way but every once in a while he feels strongly about something, and we usually go with that. And he never wears skirts, just for the record!
Now that I finish up this meme, I realize that it's more about us as a couple than it is about him. So I want to add a couple of things that I adore about my husband.

  • His sense of humor. It is dry and smart and out of the ordinary.
  • His compassion. When he first opened his practice, it really bothered me that he treated so many people for little or no payment. After all, we had to eat and pay our mortgage. But he told me then that he had become a doctor in order to help people. And he has faith that if he does what he can to help those who need it, that the Lord will take care of us. I love that he feels that way now.
  • His baritone singing voice. I love sitting next to him in church (in those moments when we are actually both sitting in the chapel, rather than out with a fussy baby who is missing her naptime.)
  • His willingness to do things that he doesn't love because I love them. Like play games with his parents at least once a week. Or go to parties. Or go out to eat. Or scrub the shower (which he does because I hate it.) He still doesn't watch chick flicks, though. I guess I can't have everything.
  • His organizational skills. He regularly organizes and declutters our house. I know that it is important to him, but it also improves the quality of my life.
  • His love for the scriptures and his dedication to the gospel. Because I knew him first as a missionary, then as a friend, then as a boyfriend, etc. etc, I got a chance to see him before he was trying to impress me. I got to see what a hard worker he was, how obedient he was to the mission rules, what a good leader he was. This was very important to me in the man that I married. I am so grateful that we are on the same page in our willingness to serve in the kingdom of God. That is a huge blessing in my life.
  • His perpetual optimism. People who know us might not realize that although I am more cheerful and he more grumpy, he is the optimist and I, the more negative thinker. He always sees the best case scenario. He never believes that anyone is being dishonest with him or has any ulterior motive. I am much more skeptical and paranoid. So he balances me well and keeps me from hiding in my bedroom, sucking my thumb in the fetal position.
This may be a day too late for his birthday, but he never was one who got excited about his birthday anyway (not like me. Now that his birthday is over, it's time to start planning for mine, which is only 11 weeks away!)

I love you, honey, and I'm glad that you're mine.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Remembering Daddy

Today is my father's birthday. If he were still alive, he would be 59 years old. I have been thinking about him even more than usual in the past couple of months. Leap Day marked the 16th anniversary of the day my uncle came to tell me that he had been killed. I was a freshman at BYU, far away from home. But that's a post for another day. A post that I have been meaning to write for sometime but haven't allowed myself to write something that will be so filled with raw emotions and memories that I generally stifle.

Today, rather than mourning his passing, I want to celebrate his life. I know that I cannot capture it all in one post, but I don't want that to stop me from remembering him in this way. Although he only lived for 42 years, he had a tremendous impact on many, many people. He was a dedicated husband and father, a loyal friend, a determined missionary, and a man who sought out those who needed help and did all he could for them. There were over 1,000 people at his funeral; some had come from across the country, one had even traveled from Japan. He was beloved by many because of the life that he lived.

My dad, Raymon Kim Johnson, was a fool for babies. He loved babies, and once his seven children were no longer babies, he was always making eyes at someone else's, hoping that he'd get to hold them. As the oldest, I remember him playing with my younger baby siblings. He made up a game called "Bombs Away!" in which he would lie on the floor. The other kids would lie on either side of him, flanking him, sometimes several bodies deep. Then he would lift the drooling baby over his head and pretend that they were a jet airplane--a bomber, aiming at the towns down below. As the bomb would drop, we would squeal with delight and hope that someone else got hit, wriggling away, but always coming back for more. His magnetism and fun-loving ways were too much for us to resist, even if being bombarded with baby spit was the price we had to pay.

I also remember his bedtime stories. When my sister and I were little, he would make up stories for us each night. My mom says that sometimes she got impatient as he whiled away his time in our room, delighting us with his tales. Often, if he had baby Martin or Tyler in his arms, he would make them the evil villain, who would often be dumped in the trashcan or flushed down the toilet by the end of the story. Our favorite character was Muzzy Mazoolah from the Land of Sawin' Logs. Later, the stories changed to meet the more rough and tumble adventurous needs of my younger brothers. Their stories were about Cowboy Raymon (which was also Tyler's first name) and came complete with little songs.

We would listen for my dad's car each night to know that he had arrived home. For most of the years that I can remember, it was a Peugeot 505 Diesel, which meant that we could hear him from a block away. We would all rush out to him and maul the poor man. Then he would come into the kitchen where Mom was usually making dinner, and kiss her or dance around the kitchen with her. The house was always more fun when he was there.

My dad loved literature and was always reading a good book. He was a student of the scriptures and was dedicated to studying them each day. We were still very young when he began teaching us to memorize verses from the scriptures. I can still remember them and they come to my mind at just the time I need them, a gift from him all those years ago. He was always trying to learn more. I remember him taking a speed reading class. He had a little crisis when he realized that he couldn't help me with my math anymore and took a class to brush up on that as well! He was very proud of our academic accomplishments. When I received an academic scholarship to BYU, he made such a big deal about it. But I was used to that by then, as he'd always praised us and bragged about our achievements.

Another thing he enjoyed immensely was music. He had played the trumpet (quite well) in high school and college. He had also taught himself to play the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, and auto harp. He had picked up a set of bagpipes somewhere and practiced them in the room over the garage (which was his home office), as they were too noisy to be allowed in the house. We spent many nights together sitting around in the living room, singing while he played the guitar. He taught us to sing in harmony and paraded us around like the Von Trapp family singers; I was nearly five years old before I figured out that you didn't have to sing for a treat on Halloween (we'd only go to neighbors and to elderly members of our congregation; we'd sing a few songs for them and they'd always give me a treat, which thrilled me. Then one of the little old men took me to their next door neighbor's, and I found out that all I had to do was say "trick or treat" for my chocolate!) We all learned to play at least one instrument, and all of us dabble in guitar, although my brothers have become quite good. (Daddy must have taught me how to play "Where Have All The Flowers Gone on the guitar every year for four or five years before I finally stuck with it!) He fell in love with the music of Les Miserables and took us to see it many times. It is a bittersweet experience to listen to it now, and for a while it was just too emotional. But now I love that I can listen to it and remember how much we loved it as a family, how much Daddy was passionate about it.

Daddy had this amazing sense of humor. He used to say, "anything for a joke." Sometimes that motto would get him in trouble, but mostly it kept people around him laughing and merry. He taught me songs like Nose Job (which can be downloaded here), Dead Skunk, The Eggplant that Ate Chicago, and Junk Food Junkie, songs that never failed to make people laugh. Here's a couple of music videos I found on YouTube for Dead Skunk and Junk Food Junkie. If my dad had lived to the YouTube age, he would definitely be spending some of his spare time making silly videos like these!

Daddy was a dedicated home teacher. (In the LDS Church, we strive to take care of each other and watch over the needs of one another. Even people who are baptized members but who are no longer attending church have a home teacher assigned to them, unless they ask to not have one.) He often took the assignments for the elderly or for those who were tough to get in to see. He also was a zealous missionary, sharing the gospel that he loved so much with all he met. At his funeral, many people who came through the receiving line told of how they were active members of the church in part because of my dad's influence on them.

I have missed him so much in the years since he left this earth. The first year was the hardest I've ever endured; just as people promised, it did get easier with time, but the void that he left is still there. I am still sad that he never met my husband, that my children will only know him through pictures and stories, and that my mom has spent so many years without him by her side. I take comfort in the promise of the resurrection and that of eternal families. I know that I will see my father again, that my husband and children will get the chance to know him, that he and my mother will continue their marriage throughout eternity. I may not understand why the Lord allowed him to be taken from us when we still needed him so much, but I do know and understand that He has a plan for us and hasn't left us alone in our trials. My family has been blessed so much by the Lord over the past 16 years that we cannot deny His love in our lives.

I love you, Daddy! Thanks for being such a wonderful example to me and an inspiration in my life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

40 Things To Do Before I'm 40

I'm turning 35 in a few months. Turning 30 didn't phase me, but somehow with 35, I sense that I'm not getting any younger. I know that 35 doesn't qualify as old age, but I'm pretty sure that I thought it was old when I was a newlywed 10 1/2 years ago! Anyhow, I was inspired recently at Notes From the Trenches' list of things to accomplish before she's 40. At first, it seemed funny to me, as if the premise was that life ends at 40. And then I thought, why not? It's basically just setting some goals to accomplish in the next 5 years. Since I'm a girl who operates best with a deadline, it's probably a good idea. I can always make a new list of things to do before I'm 50, right? (Wince) The suggestion that I might one day be 50 is now making me a bit squeamish. That's my mom's age (in my head, that is. She'll actually be 60 this year, but she's still 50ish to me.)
Well, the point is that there is no time like the present to compile my list. So here it goes, in no particular order. Forty things I'd like to do before I'm 40:

  1. Get under 150 pounds without having a limb amputated. Heck, I'd take under 160, but we'll say under 150.
  2. Scan all my photos that are pre-digital camera. (ugh. If someone else wants to do it for me, I won't mind taking this off the list!)
  3. Paint my kitchen cupboards. It's been on my to-do wish list since we bought the house four years ago. Sigh. Maybe I don't like the direction this list is taking. Let's try a different route.
  4. Use my passport again (which probably means I'm due for a new one.) My last passport-requiring trip was in spring of 1999.
  5. Brush up on my Russian so that I'm not too scared to speak Russian to the Russian-speakers that are everywhere around here, especially at Costco. Plus it may come in handy if #4 involves a Russian speaking country.
  6. Teach my kids Russian. It's ridiculous that we haven't done that, since Jared & I are both speakers (he more than I these days.)
  7. Read War and Peace.
  8. And The Brothers Karamazov. I'm ashamed of myself to say that even though some of my favorite books are by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I've never read these two.
  9. Learn to sew well enough to make something that I'll actually use. Okay, something better than an apron. This could be a dress for Bronwen, drapes for my house, etc. The said item will not be mostly made by my sister and/or mother as have my previous sewing projects!
  10. Win a cooking recipe contest. Ideally, one that involves a cash prize.:)
  11. Participate in a 5k for a good cause. I've been meaning to do Race for the Cure for years. Or The Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day.
  12. Run a 5k for a good cause! Since I'm not what you'd call a runner, this will be a big accomplishment.
  13. Learn to love hiking and expose my kids to the great hikes available near our home.
  14. Establish a family hobby of hiking.
  15. Plant a garden.
  16. Actually tend it, harvest, and eat what I grow. I'm hoping to do this this year, but haven't quite gotten the beds prepared yet. I'd better hurry--it's time.
  17. Have no consumer debt and be well on our way to out of debt completely.
  18. Have two months' living expenses in our savings' account. This must happen sooner than five years from now, but I still want it to be there then!:)
  19. Learn to love Isaiah. I read Isaiah because I'm obedient, but not because I enjoy it or take the time to decipher it.
  20. Learn to make cream puffs. Because I need more cream puffs in my life!:)
  21. Maybe 40 is too many things! This list already feels long. I'd better make a few easier ones, like: Turn 39.
  22. Have another baby. Maybe two. I'm just getting it out there now, so that people can quit asking me if we're "done," and to avoid having them ask me, "was this planned?" when they find out that I'm pregnant again. (It really is crazy how many people feel comfortable asking such questions, including perfect strangers. Aren't those kind of personal in nature?) Not that I'm pregnant again. But I plan to be before I'm 40, which is the point of this list.
  23. Write/keep another blog, entirely dedicated to food, recipes, and menu plans.
  24. Write/keep another blog, entirely dedicated to homeschooling.
  25. Get my master bedroom windows treated with something other than the metal blinds that were there when we moved in.
  26. Paint the master bedroom.
  27. Actually hang a wall of family pictures.
  28. Find something that I like AND can afford to hang on the dining room walls, which are blank.
  29. Memorize The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
  30. Start practicing the piano again with some regularity.
  31. Develop a healthier relationship with cake. (This has not been a good cake week for me.)
  32. Develop a habit of writing (and actually mailing) thank you cards. I am terrible at this, and yet I believe that it is so important. The paradox between ideals and reality is not fun!
  33. Help my children develop a habit of writing thank you cards.
  34. Mail the thank you cards that I teach my children to write!
  35. Re-read Shakespeare. Probably with my kids.
  36. Take an html class. (Are you reading this, Mindy?)
  37. Learn how to not accumulate things we don't need. This will not only save money, but will reduce the clutter around my house. This is a good blog to read for inspiration.
  38. This is harder than I thought, and most of you have probably stopped reading by now anyway, so I'll just leave it at 38. Maybe I'll come back and add something later. That's it--I'm just leaving room for a few more additions.
Whew! I'm exhausted. I'd better get off the computer and get to work! Do you think that five years will be enough time?