Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?

I am a recovering black thumb. Before 2008, I killed everything I grew--and in short order. Herbs in the window? They lasted a couple of weeks at best. When I did plant things outside, they withered and died as soon as they dried out a week later! A houseplant? Forget about it.

My dad always loved having us work in the garden--and it was my least favorite Saturday chore. I wasn't a kid who enjoyed dirt, let alone spiders and worms. I wanted to be inside with my book. But he'd drag us out to the garden plot and as we'd work he'd sermonize on why gardening was so good for us. I rolled my eyes and did the bare minimum until I could get away with going back inside. I did not get my dad's love for gardening and figured it was just a hold-on from his boyhood days in Idaho.

But last year, motivated by a desire to be more self-reliant and the need to teach my children the many lessons that can be learned in the garden, we decided to plant a garden as a family. We had a lot of fun working together on it (at least until September, when no one wanted to go water or even harvest half the time,) and we really enjoyed eating the fruits (and veggies) of our labors. The boys learned a lot about the principles of sewing what you reap, tending your garden, and searching out and eradicating the evils that threatened our garden. And my black thumb? Well, the peppers never really did anything until October, but our cherry tomato plant nearly took over the entire garden and produced tomatoes through Thanksgiving weekend.

Last month, as soon as we were past the frost, we planted a few crops that were new to us: raddichio, romaine, spinach, bush beans, sugar snap peas, strawberries, and a few varieties of onions. We've been enjoying the lettuce and spinach for a month now, and are anxiously awaiting the other foods to be ready for eating.

It's time for us to plant our summer/fall harvest stuff now. Our backyard is still under construction--I have my fingers crossed that our new concrete will be poured sometime in the next week. I am hesitant to plant all our tender veggies and berries so near where the workers will be tromping around, pouring and stamping our new patio. Anyhow, this year we are more ambitious. Besides planting the tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, and herbs that we did last year, we are going to add a few melons, blackberries (or boysenberries if we can find them), peppers, and more herbs. And this year we want to do enough tomatoes to be able to can some. I think last year's spot got less sun than we needed for maximum production, so we have picked a new spot this year for the sun-loving beauties.

What is your favorite thing to grow? Is your thumb black or green? When do you get to start planting in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Caution: Wide Load

It's baby number five and *SURPRISE* I am showing earlier and bigger than ever before. Yesterday I hit a pregnancy milestone that in previous pregnancies hasn't hit until month 7 at least: I misjudged the size of my round belly and bumped into something. I did this not once, but twice.

As I entered the building to my ob/gyn's office yesterday, I took the corner too quickly and bumped my belly right into the side of the sliding glass doors. Quickly, I looked around to see if anyone had seen my clumsiness. Thankfully, the only person in the lobby was a woman busy trying to keep her two year old from climbing in the elevator, and she took no notice of me. I thought to myself, "Already? This is happening to me already?"

Then, only a few minutes later, after leaving a special little something behind in a cup for the medical assistant to inspect, I exited the office's bathroom and bonked my belly with the door. Really? Twice in an hour? This is getting embarrassing.

And with a little more than 3 months to go, hopefully I'll still fit behind the steering wheel in month 9. Anyone interested in shuttling my kids to swimming lessons this June?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Scream

Some people have kids who sleep-walk or sleep-talk. Ian is one of those kids, but more often than not, Ian prefers to sleep-scream. Suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, he screams out as if someone were ripping him limb from limb.

Most of the time I go running in, only to find him sound asleep. Sometimes, however, he is fitfully sleeping, crying for five or ten-minute stretches or longer, completely inconsolable unless we can manage to wake him up, which is no small feat, I assure you.

Inconveniently, this pattern repeats itself over and over for most of the night, particularly when he is overtired or sick. And I just can't ignore it, even if I know that he'll likely be sound asleep when I get in there. What if this time, something terrible is happening? What if this time, someone is snatching him from his bed? What if he's laying in a pool of his own body fluids, crying out for his mommy to help him? What if he has somehow trapped his arm underneath Henry's bed (as Ian's is trundled under Henry's lower bunk) and is in danger of breaking it? What if the house is on fire and he's the only one who has noticed?

On nights like the past two nights, I have stumbled out of bed at least a dozen times, responding to the scream, only to find him sleeping when I get into his room. I have no idea if the screams subside after 4:00 am, or if by then I am just too exhausted to hear them, but I seem to get my best sleep between 4:00 and 7:00, regardless of the alarm clocks and dressing husband in my very own room during those times.

How do your precious ones torture you in the middle of the night?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Clones and Kids

Kimball had a Star Wars-nerd Birthday campout last night. I don't have any photos because I sent along a camera but it never left the backpack. Rumor has it that the boys dueled with lightsabers and took turns with the Clone Trooper helmet the entire time, breaking only for food. (I highly recommend birthday parties that involve dads and boys camping and moms staying home!) I do have a photo of these cupcakes that Alli and I threw together. I think this is my fourth Star Wars themed birthday cake, and that isn't counting Kimball and Jared's lightsaber cake for Cub Scouts last year. Time for our family to get a new obsession, methinks.

Also, I just updated our homeschool blog with a couple of posts if you'd like to see what we've been learning.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Buffet Faux Pas and Tom Hanks

Do you remember the scene from You've Got Mail when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) scrapes the caviar off the sides of the brie? Kathleen (Meg Ryan) indignantly scolds him, "That caviar is a GARNISH!" (I couldn't find a clip that showed the entire scene, but this trailer has part of it--but I warn you that it will make you want to drop everything and watch the movie again.)

Well, I have been wondering lately if I am doing my children a disservice with our family's buffet rule: the kids wait while the parents fill a plate for them. Now, I fear that they may never learn proper buffet etiquette, for I have observed some disturbing behavior in grown adults that makes me wonder how they can possibly not know better.

We have this strict policy because it grosses us both out to see little kids with hands and fingers in the food in buffet lines at weddings, parties, and other events. If I go down a buffet line after a child, there is a very good chance that I'll opt to skip eating rather than choose among the rolls that have been touched repeatedly as the child finds just the right one. Is anyone else like this? Am I crazy? Don't answer that.

Recently I watched a woman pull a Joe Fox. Along with a multitude of desserts and other foods, there was a smallish tray filled with See's Candies. They were clearly meant to be just a little something, not an entire course. And yet, she literally filled her plate--her DINNER plate-- with Sees Candies. I was flabbergasted! I know it may be hard to choose when all of your favorite chocolates are before you, but honestly, she walked out with nearly a pound of candy and didn't act remotely embarrassed--in fact, she announced on the way out that "they had all my favorites!" Maybe her mom never let her go through the buffet and thus, she never learned the rules of self-restraint?

Another common buffet faux pas that gets to me is the person who says, "I'm not hungry; I'm not going to eat," and then proceeds to stand over the food, munching away, instead of taking a plate. Don't they know that they are leaving their crumbs (or worse) behind on everyone else's food?

Of course, there is always someone who decides to use their fork to take half portions 0f pre-portioned items, leaving behind a forlorn half piece that looks like it has been mangled by who-knows-what. I understand that you may not want the entire piece of cheesecake, but what makes you think that a stranger who happens along 10 minutes later might want the remains of yours? Just take the whole peice and eat half of it!

Last but not least is the person who, after eating themselves sick at said buffet, fills another plate to take home for later. I am not talking about food they paid for, folks. I'm talking about food at a party or other event where they have been the guests. I guess the thought is, "If getting a free lunch is good, taking home extras for dinner is better!" And I shake my head and think, "if my kid ever does that . . . "

So, I guess we need to add a new course of study at our little homeschool. My kids may be teenagers before they are allowed to go through a buffet line unattended, but it's never too early to ingrain in them appropriate behavior when faced with free food all laid out on a table before them. How To Eat At a Buffet Without Embarrassing Your Mother 101 must be added to our curriculum post haste, or they'll be the next one scraping the caviar garnish from the cheese platter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Over the Hill

If you want to feel great about how gracefully you are aging; if you want to believe that there is nothing scary or old about getting closer to 40 with every birthday; if you want to be able to live on less than 10 hours of sleep a night without turning into the Wicked Witch of the East, I highly recommend that you reconsider having a baby after you've turned 35.

I'm not saying that I would have done it differently, but I was unprepared for being treated like a senior citizen by my doctor's office. I should have seen it coming; certainly I've read all the pregnancy books several times over (during my first 3 pregnancies--I'm not even sure where they are now). I knew that having a baby after 35 pushed you into the high risk category. But somehow I thought that number just meant that the farther past 35 a woman was, the more . . . what? More likely yukky things can happen to you like gestational diabetes, preenclampsia, and a ridiculously huge belly compared to the 24 year olds!

I started catching on when I called my doctor's office to set up my first prenatal appointment. Not only do I abhor making phone calls that involve committing to something else on the calendar, but I also didn't want this pregnancy to seem like it was taking forever, so I didn't get around to calling them until I was 8 weeks pregnant. Okay, 8 1/2 weeks. But since I have typically not been seen until 11 or 12 weeks, I wasn't concerned.

The girl on the other end of the phone practically went into hysterics. Apparently since I was now of "Advanced Maternal Age," they wanted to see me much earlier. At 8 1/2 weeks, in fact. Did I expect them to fit me in that day or something? I assured her that I did not and that I had no desire to put their office into a tailspin with the terrible news of my pregnancy.

After talking her down off the ledge, I figured out that this very important appointment that HAD to be done at 8 1/2 weeks if we wanted to avoid a nuclear holocaust was an appointment with the geneticist. Basically, it is standard procedure to check for all sorts of genetic abnormalities at this time, just in case. I knew that just in case meant just in case I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, so I assured her that I didn't need to have this particular test-- that we would not be taking any action in the event of a genetic abnormality anyway, so why waste everybody's time?

Although my doctor continues to act as cool as a cucumber about the entire thing, the rest of his staff continue to try to force extra testing on me, all the while shaking their heads and wondering why anyone would take such crazy risks, especially when we already have four kids at home.

The real reason that I think it stinks to be pregnant and 35? There are exactly 8 women in my ward (congregation) who are pregnant this spring. One of them is due long past me, also with her 5th. The others? They are all young, cute, petite 20-somethings having their first or second baby. They look adorable, radiant, and tiny with a little baby bump. I'm sure they won't agree, but they do. Oh yeah, and they are mostly due BEFORE me--but you'd never guess it in a line-up!

But at the same time, it struck me the other day how blessed I am to be taking part with Heavenly Father in the creation of one of His children; that it is a great privilege to sacrifice my comforts to give life and a family and opportunity to a sweet little girl who will call me Mommy.

Yes, motherhood (and pregnancy) requires lots of work, sacrifice, and sleep-deprivation, often with little thanks. But it is all worth it. It is a HUGE part of why we are here and of how He intends to help us become like Him. And in spite of the aches, pains, nausea, fatigue, extra tests, and looks of shock on people's faces when they realize that I'm pregnant AGAIN, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Overheard At Our House

Kimball: Mom, I just read in this book that if you want to live to be 100 years old, you'd better stop eating blueberries!

Me: Really? I thought they were supposed to be so good for you! (In fact, I only eat them for that reason. I don't love a blueberry unless it involves a muffin or scone.)

Kimball: Yes, it says that blueberries prevent the aging process-- so you'll never get to 100 if you eat them, I guess!

This photo was found on a great blog about growing your own blueberries--just in case you don't want to see 100!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dinner Dilemma-- Solved

If you've been reading my blog for a while (or are a mother to less-than-perfect children), you know how frustrating dinner time can be for me. Take this post or this one as examples of what I go through regularly. Every night we have to coax, beg, and threaten to get at least one if not all of our boys to eat their dinner. The exception is when I get Little Caesar's, which I obviously can't do more often without lots of guilt, and yet it feels so nice to just have everyone eat.

Last night after dinner, I decided that instead of turning into Hot n Ready junkies, we are going to pretend that we live in Mexico every. Single. Night. And I don't mean eating-in-a-Mexican- restaurant kind of food. If we have enchiladas, chilis rellenos, tamales, or anything remotely exciting, we have the same ordeal as usual.

But if I serve pinto beans, rice, corn tortillas, salsa, cheese, some fruit, and a vegetable, there is almost complete silence at the table (once everyone's food has been plated, that is.) Sheer bliss. I wonder how long it would take for Jared and me to get tired of that every night, what with the silence and all. I think I could eat beans and rice for a long, long time. At least it's more nutritious than pepperoni pizza!

What would your family eat every night?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Final Moments With Tamara

(Edit: Ahhh! I used "brainchild" incorrectly. How embarrassing. I've fixed it now.)

If you haven't checked in for a few days, you might want to read Part I and Part II of my interview with Tamara Duricka, whose brainchild 31 Dates in 31 Days has captured our interest. And now, the answers to the questions you've all been dying to hear:

Tamara, did you feel like Good Morning America portrayed your date with Evan accurately?

I don’t really know. Our date was an extravaganza. Poor Evan, he’s such a good soul. I was so tired, I basically didn’t sleep the night before because I was having a meltdown about who to take on date 31. And I really feel like I don’t know how I fared on the date—my brain was not functioning. I was all over the place. Part of me was working as the TV producer, trying to be normal and enjoy myself, part of me was so glad it was over, and then part of me was trying to figure out what was going on in Evan’s head, AND trying to play it all cool. (How many parts did I just say?) Man, I hope they didn’t portray it accurately.

If you’ll tell us, who were the runners-up for the 2nd date?

Here’s the thing. One of the guys someone kept sending votes from the same IP address, so he was in the top 3 of the polls, but someone rigged his votes. We won’t say his name. Jonathan was the other guy (besides Evan) who did really well in the polls. He’s the kind of guy you have to swoon a little when you say his name. He’s perfect. He’s great. Jared, the wedding ring guy, was also popular in the polls. Lots of people voted for Nick, the actor and lots of people liked Adam. And Tyson. And people told me that they would have voted for Tyler, the doctor, but he wasn’t on the list because he wasn’t available for the second date.

I don’t know that I really had a top 5. I would definitely go out again with most of them.

Have you been communicating with any of the guys besides Evan? Gone on any other 2nd dates?

I’ve communicated with a lot of them. Most of them were so cool about me going out on V-day with the 2nd date. Some of them have asked me out on 2nd dates, but I haven’t gone out with any of them. I haven’t committed either way; I guess I'm stalling.

Did any of the guys get a good night kiss? If not, did you want some of them to kiss you?

There was one guy who was all over me, which I was not going for. He was really trying to lay it on thick the whole night. I almost want to send him an email and give him some hints on what not to do on a first date. He’s a nice guy and I’m friendly with him but I don’t want to have to carry mace on my dates. The other dates were all G-rated, which was how I wanted it to be.

Are you bored now that you don’t have a date every night?

YES! (Laughter) And in fact, on day 30, I had a daytime date, and so I was home on Friday night, feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t on a date. I knew it was ridiculous, but it was true.

Now, tell us as much about Evan as you can without getting into trouble. How are things “heating up” with you two? Have you been on more dates with him? What do you think of him?

What’s crazy is, when I talk to people now, they don’t ask how I’m doing—they just ask how Evan is and when I’m seeing him next. And I’m like, “What about me? Don’t you care about me?” Everyone at work is always asking about him because they got to meet him and know about the project, so after our 3rd date, I went into work and got grilled.

I think it's pretty safe to say that I think Evan is the bee's knees. I feel my best self when I'm around him, I have the utmost respect for him, and I blush like a school girl when I talk about him. So I think those are good signs. I think he's pretty incredible. He's so caring, down-to-earth, funny, smart, and he's real. I dig that. And yeah, I just really dig him.

Even after spending the whole day with him, he'll leave and I'll think, "Oh no! Why did that have to end so quickly?"

I'm at a great point in my life where I'm being extremely active in deciding what I want to do and who I want to date without being influenced by other people's opinions. That feels really empowering. And I really like Evan. And no matter how things end up with us, I really like the fact that I know my feelings about him and for him are genuine and not fearful. That's almost as great a feeling as it is just being around him.

Wow. Dear readers, wasn't that great? Is your heart going pitter-pat like mine? Evan, we know you're reading! Please leave a comment!:) We'd love to hear from you again.

Thank you to Tamara for sharing so much with us on this little old blog and for daring to follow through on a great idea. You have provided not only great entertainment, but have taught us about hope, courage, love, romance, living in the moment, looking for the good in everyone, and chasing your dreams.We hope you really do find what you are looking for.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tamara Part II

Yesterday, I posted the first part of my interview with Tamara Duricka, the girl who dreamed up, planned out, and took on the challenge of going on 30 first dates and 1 second date in 31 consecutive days. Today, that report continues, and Tamara talks more to us about how she got herself into this!

Tamara, when did you first come up with the idea of 31 Dates in 31 Days?

Last summer, I had just gone through my second break up in a year. I wasn’t distraught over the guy—I didn’t think I would marry him anyway; it was one of those that I should have bailed on a long time before it ended. But I realized that I had some similar patterns in my dating relationships, and I didn’t understand how I kept repeating myself with guys who were so different. I would consistently get into relationships and find myself trying so much harder to make it work than the guy ever did.

At first I decided to retire from relationships. I was very vocal about this. I wasn't going to give up dating, just spending time and energy in relationships. I decided to give a guy 2 dates and that was it—because I was tired of investing in relationships. I said that a guy was going to have to figure out in 2 dates if he wanted to marry me because that was all I was willing to invest.

But—be careful what you wish for. One of the guys in the singles ward who was there for the summer selling pest control asked me out, and we went out once and then twice. He went home to Utah, and then called. Guess what? After 2 dates, he had decided that he wanted to marry me. Crazy! So I was forced to eat my words. I resolved to just date but not invest, not really let myself care too much.

I really went through this identity crisis. I felt successful in so many areas in my life, but I kept repeating my mistakes in relationship after relationship. I really wanted to figure that out, and I put a lot of time and energy into myself, trying to figure out me. Why did I keep putting so much effort into relationships that were clearly uneven or dying?

Plus, my birthday was coming up, and I knew I was approaching Old Maid status (Tamara giggles) and getting kicked out of my singles ward. My friend Amy and I had talked about setting up a friend on 32 dates for her 32nd birthday, and Amy suggested I do something like that for myself.

I wanted a creative outlet for writing and wanted to get over men and dating. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking going into it. I am a hopeless romantic who had really lost a lot of hope. I tried to go into this being as open minded as possible, and I was trying to regain some hope. I hoped I would learn something about myself and maybe about dating. I knew it would be something totally different. I wanted to get hope back, not just in love, but in myself, and hope in general.

I thought it was a really dumb idea, my dumbest ever, and I’ve come up with some dumb ones. I was dating-ish another dead-end guy and almost used this as an excuse to not do this. My friends tried to talk me into it doing it, but I also deep down, liked the idea and pushed myself to do it, even though it was way risky.

Did you realize before you started how logistically trying this might be?

No. (Laughter)

Did you ever consider scrapping the project?

Are you kidding? Every day. When I started out, I had 3 dates set up. It was ridiculous. People would ask me if I thought that I could really get 30 guys to do it? And I’d say, Yes I do. Then they'd act like I was so full of myself, but that wasn't it. It wasn’t overconfidence, I needed to believe that it would work out. I really believe in miracles—in all areas of my life; miracles are just very easy for me to believe in. So any time I thought that it wasn’t going to work out, I just decided to let the miracle happen and not stress about it.

I had a total breakdown halfway through. I called my mom one night and told her I wanted to cry. I felt like the whole thing was stupid; I didn’t know if anyone liked it--the guys, the readers--and it was really wiping me out. My mom pointed out that no one was making me do this, but that later I would regret bailing out. Her suggestion? “Why don’t you just go to bed?” So I went to bed. I woke up still stressed, but I felt a bit better after sleeping. I still thought about dumping it. Even with 4 dates to go, I was tempted to quit. I was just so vulnerable and tired of putting myself out there, wondering if anyone really cared or was getting anything out of it.

It was fun, though. It really was exciting. I was just so tired. I got at most 5 hours of sleep at night, some nights as little as three.

Setting aside the guys themselves, which date activity was the most fun?

I really liked going rock wall climbing because it was outside my comfort zone. Those dates were the best—the things that I wouldn’t normally do. One date was at FAO Shwartz and we played in the store all day and rode on the carousel at Central Park—that was really fun. It was great because it was something that I wouldn’t have done without this project. I also liked going to the zoo and the petting zoo for the same reasons.

How organized were you ahead of time? Were you constantly running behind, or did you feel on top of things?

Sometimes I felt on top of things. The last week was scary because on Sunday night of the very last week, I didn’t have a date for Monday, Wednesday, or Friday set up. I made my friends take me to a fireside on Sunday night and pimp me out—get me some dates. So my friends set me up, just grabbing guys. “Hey, do you watch Good Morning America? Want to go out with the girl who was just on about this little project. . ." And it worked out.

One of the things I loved was learning that “it’s just a first date.” So I learned to relax and have that attitude. It wasn’t a marriage commitment, it was just about getting to know someone and letting them get to know me. I think people stress too much about first dates and first impressions. And yet, if what you really want to do is get to know someone and let them get to know you, you need to relax. It’s hard not to get jittery and weird, but going on so many first dates in a row helped me to have that perspective.

Did you expect that you would get media coverage? Did you send out a press release or anything like that?

I knew what kind of stories I had done in the past, so I assumed that someone would at some point be interested in covering my story. I told the people at GMA ahead of time and they weren’t interested in covering it. The scariest moment was emailing Diane Sawyer about it because she intimidates me. She's so serious and good at what she does. I needed to cover my bases and give them a chance to cover it in case another news org wanted it, which would have gotten me in trouble if I hadn’t given first shot to my own show. Diane did really like the idea and convinced GMA to cover it.

Did you think about a book/movie deal before the project started?

Um, no. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t really think it would be about this. I thought it would be about something way more intelligent and high brow. But once I started doing this and seeing the many layers, the reactions, and the way it changed me, then I knew there was something there. It was after Date 5, when I was trying to fit in a marathon date into a succinct story that I had a moment where I really started feeling like a writer working on a good story. I’m not saying that I felt like a good writer, but I felt like a real writer with a good story to tell.

Coming tomorrow, Tamara dishes about the guys, the 2nd date with Evan, and good night kisses. (See how well her pre-commercial teasing is rubbing off on me?)