Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Warm Dinner for a Snowy Night

It's not actually snowing. Technically, we just have flurries, but "warm dinner for flurries" sounded dumb. That, plus, I'm sure this would still be a perfect meal if it were snowing, which it's not.

Now that we are clear on the facts, here's what we had for dinner. You should try it, too: Kale, Lentil & Sausage Soup and the world's best breadsticks. Tasty, and very healthy, too.

Do you regularly eat kale? If not, you should start, because it's so good for you. I looked it up, and this is what I learned:

  • Kale reduces your risk of cancer, specifically cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate.
  • Kale is key in your body's natural detoxification efforts.
  • Kale helps your body avoid chronic inflamation and oxidative stress. I'm not sure what oxidative stress is, but it sounds bad, so I'm glad to be avoiding it.
  • Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around. It is off-the-charts high in vitamins K and A, and has nearly 90% your daily dosage of vitamin C. Pretty impressive. That, plus it is high in manganese, calcium, fiber, and iron, and some other stuff, too.
  • Kale has cholesterol lowering properties.

If you don't really care about the health benefits, that's fine, too, because you can still enjoy the soup purely from a tasty standpoint. Here's the recipie.

Kale, Lentil, and Sausage Soup (from Everyday Living)
2 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. hot italian sausage
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c. lentils
6 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. water
1/2 lb. kale, stems removed, leaves broken up
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in hot oil. Add celery and onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then partly cover, reduce heat, and cook until lentils are tender (about 25 minutes). Add kale, and cook until it wilts, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. I also like to top it with parmesean cheese...

You should try the breadsticks, too, even though they don't offer the health benefits of kale. Or of anything else, really...except they're really, really good.


Best-Ever Breadsticks (from my kitchen cafe)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
3 T. butter, melted

Mix all ingredients (except melted butter) in a large bowl or electric mixer and knead for three minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread melted butter onto an 11X17-inch baking sheet. Roll out the breadstick dough about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick and cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Twist slightly if desired and place about 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic salt, herbs of choice (I vary this depending on my mood but it usually consists of rosemary, basil, or thyme in some form and crushed finely) and parmesan cheese. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes. Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Second "B"

"B" is for Bunkbeds.

Bug and Lu share a bedroom. When Bug outgrew the crib three years ago, I was excited for the next step: a bunkbed.

I had a bunkbed growing up. It was super fun. I slept on the top. I would hang my head over the side and talk with my little brother. We found all different ways to get on (and off) the top bunk, very few of which involved the ladder. Some methods were safer than others, but we lived to adulthood, so all's well there. We had lots of room to play on the floor, since it was unencumbered by an extra bed. We set up Playmobile villages. Life was beautiful.

Clearly, a bunkbed was a great idea for my own daughters, if not an important childhood rite. Not to mention, all my friends' kids had bunkbeds. Now, if all my friends told me to jump off a bridge, I wouldn't. Really. But knowing my intelligent, helpful, and more experienced friends also took the double-decker bed route, helped the decision to be even more of a no-brainer: everyone was doing it.

Friends - why didn't you tell me?
Bunkbeds stink.

There are a few fundamental flaws of bunkbeds which no one felt necessary to mention:
  1. They are heavy and hard to move. It's worse if they're on top of carpet. If you ever want your kids to clean under the bed, you might be out of luck. They'll get some of it. Maybe even most of it. But they will never get it all.
  2. Mattresses. Bunkbeds don't fit normal mattresses. Sure, you can get them onto the bed, but if you would like your child to have sheets on the bed, dream on. The fit is so blasted tight that your fingers lose circulation trying to make the bed. Of course, this is not a problem if you don't make the bed...but as you know by now, I consider an unmade bed pure torture - and would feel abusive as a parent to not insist upon the luxury of a made bed for my children (of course, they're responsible for actually doing the making...someday they'll thank me). So, you pick - buy a "bunky board" mattress and add it to your growing collection, along with their crib mattress and future twin or full-size, or do you just feel the pain each time you try to sheet the bed?
  3. Speaking of making the bed: the whining. Every. Day. Because it's hard to make a bed with railings on the side. It would almost be better to let them roll out a few times and break an arm or two, than to deal with the constant whining. I said almost.
  4. They are dangerous. Okay, no personal experience with this one - except for seeing stars after being knocked upside the head after climbing up to the top bunk for something and forgetting to turn of the ceiling fan - but I'm in the mood to find faults, and 'people' have said it, so I'll add it to the list.
  5. But here's the real kicker: changing the sheets. Those of you who knew me when I was pregnant with #3 are aware that I was literally stuck, lying on my back, under the bottom bunk when trying to change the sheets, at 37 weeks pregnant. That's a whole other story, but nearly 2 1/2 years later, I still haven't recovered from the terror of wondering if I would give birth all alone under a bed with no one to hear my cries. I am not pregnant, but continue to dread changing the sheets. That's Tuesday's chore, by the way. I am nearly always grumpy on Tuesdays, and I doubt it's a coincidence. If not lying under the bottom bed, trying to yank sheets under, then I've found it necessary to balance the bunk bed on my head while pulling sheets underneath. I am grateful for the strength of my neck, and yet, I fear it might snap sometime. Bunkbeds are dangerous beasts, I tell you.

So now you know: bunkbeds are NOT the innocent space-saving, happy furniture they appear. My condolences if you have one already. And if not...you are very lucky to have read this post.

I think that's enough now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Secrets of "B's", Part 1

In the information-era in which we live, it's rare to truly be surprised anymore. Seriously - how many times have you really been taken aback, thinking, "I had no idea"? I can think of only two instances in my life in which I felt over-whelmingly neglectfully uninformed of what I was getting into, and they both start with "b." In the interest of full-disclosure, I think someone, somewhere, needs to tell the real stories, because I can honestly say that I was not prepared for either one. It would have been nice for someone to tell me, before the fact, "I know what you've decided to do. There are many good reasons for your decision. But be prepared for the brutal reality about to set in." I would have appreciated it. I really would have. But no one told me. Did they tell you?

My First "B": Breastfeeding
I'll preface by saying that I have three children, all of whom were breastfed exclusively for 6+ months. I'm glad I did it. I think it's a good thing. I'd do it again (...but won't, because that would mean another child - have you met my youngest? She has taught me to recognize my limits: her). There are lots of nice articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm not going to mention those benefits, because you already know all about them. If you didn't learn them in your high school health class, surely you've had the lesson with your OB-GYN, pediatrician, mom's club, or stranger at the park. I totally agree: said benefits make it worth it. But...it seems to me, there's a conspiracy of sorts out there in which no one dares tell you the other side:
  1. It's not natural. The milk might be, but the experience will not come naturally to you or to your child. It is something awkward and must be learned by mom and baby both. Your child might refuse to open their mouth. Or scream, or sleep - through each attempt. You will find the position awkward at best, at least initially, and your shoulders and neck muscles will throb. It does not begin as the picturesque scene of tranquil ease depicted in parenting magazines.
  2. It hurts. A lot. Thankfully, it gets a lot better as time goes on, but the first few weeks can be brutal. You might bleed, and then stick to your bra as the blood dries, finally tearing off the scab when you try to feed again. And then there's the uterine cramps. I labored stoically with three kids sans medication, but I cried when nursing.
  3. It's work. It will make you tired. It will make you thirsty (can't imagine being more parched on the Kalahari).
  4. If you don't show up for work, there's hell to pay. You might pay off the baby with a bottle, but you will lament the decision for the next 2 hours, unable to raise your arms/ elbows more than an inch, until you come to your senses and relieve the pressure, begging your baby to eat way more than she's actually hungry for, which results in volumnous, projectile spit-up - but you'll feel better, so it's worth it.
  5. Breast infections. I'd rather have ingrown toenails.
  6. Milk. Everywhere. In the shower. In your bed. Squirting across the room. Spraying your baby in the face like a sprinkler on steroids. Dripping down your shirt. When you cry, when you laugh, when you sleep, when you...you know. Embarrassing.

This is all sounding very traumatic, and I didn't even go into the emotional/mental stress of constantly thinking you're probably starving your kid. I'm wondering if it was really that bad? Is my representation accurate? Thinking... Kind of. It's like childbirth - it hurts, it's hard, but you get something pretty great out of it in the end, which makes it all worth it, at least it did for me. But, unlike childbirth, for which you prepare for months with classes, books, and showers - the hard part of breastfeeding seems to go undiscussed until after the baby is born and new moms are in tears. Then, all of a sudden, everyone groans and says, "Oh, yea - I remember that!" at which point they wince and cross their arms over their chests. Shouldn't we be clueing each other in?

So what do you think? Were you prepared? Was I the only one with my head in the sand when this information was disseminated? Or is that the responsibility of a sister (curse the fact I only have brothers)? Am I the only one to wince at the memories? Funny, now...almost, but not really. Pondering how to incorporate this wisdom into general knowledge... :)

Stay tuned for my next "B": Bunkbeds (shudder)...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Search for Happiness

I read somewhere a couple weeks ago that people report greater happiness when their thermostats are set to 66 degrees overnight. No joke: the secret to happiness resides in your thermostat. Not one to overlook an opportunity for happiness, I immediately reset my thermostat. For the past two weeks, I report that I have felt chilly. I have slept, huddled in a ball, shivering. I'm not sure if I'm extra happy, or not, because I'm awake most of the night trying to warm up - which makes me groggy all day. I'm afraid the study might be flawed.

You might be aware that I have, what some people (John) may call "bed issues." In order to sleep well, the following must be strictly adhered to:
  1. The bed must be made before climbing in, even if that means making the bed at 10:30pm.
  2. The sheets must be aligned straight in the bed. All. Night. Long. The whole bed, not just my side.
  3. There must be just the right balance of sheet/blanket weight on the bed. There is no scientific formula to determine this weight - I alone know the right balance.
  4. Jersey sheets are not permitted, as they are not sleep conducive. They stretch.
  5. Fleece sheets are not permitted either. They bunch.
  6. No touching when sleeping. There are four corners to a bed. Pick one and stay there.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been rather cold lately, in my quest for happiness. As you can see from rules 3, 4, 5, and 6, there are several impediments that can make it difficult to stay warm. But - I am happy to report, I found the solution at Costco yesterday. My thermostat is still set at 66, but I am now sleeping warm and cozy all night long.

ODE TO FLANNEL SHEETS
Cozy, warm, pilling
I love my flannel sheet
My feet don't freeze
My hands aren't numb
A sleep inducing treat

Gentle luxury surrounds
Under and over me, too
Rules no more
Chill-zones be gone
At last, happiness is true.

I'll report back and let you know how my happiness grows now that my thermostat is properly set and I have my flannel sheets. I'm anticipating greatness. What about you - what makes you happy?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spinach & Chicken Pasta Salad

I have a secret. There's this blog that I LOVE. The woman who writes it is sheer genius in both the kitchen and creative-juices departments. So, it's fitting that I would look to her for inspiration when seeking out the perfect recipie for...anything. Here's yourhomebasedmom's suggestion for feeding a crowd: Spinach & Chicken Pasta Salad (aka: dinner for 100 ladies). I've hesitated to share this blog with you all, because she really is such an inspiration to me. I borrow her recipies, decorating, craft ideas...all the time. And once you check her out, you will realize that I am a major copycat. I suppose I couldn't keep it a secret forever. Here you go!

SPINACH & CHICKEN PASTA SALAD

16 oz. bow tie pasta, cooked al dente

Dressing:
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup teriyaki sauce
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Salad consists of:
20 oz. bag of spinach
1 6 oz. bag craisins
3 cans mandarin oranges, drained
2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup parsley chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
6 oz. peanuts
2 cups chicken, cut into pieces.

Blend dressing in blender. Mix dressing and pasta and marinade for 2 hours (in a ziploc bag). Combine rest and add pasta and dressing and toss.

This recipie serves 10. You can stretch it easily by doubling the spinach (now it serves 20!). I always double the chicken, no matter how many batches I need, but that might be because I'm accustomed to cooking for a carnivore deeply disturbed by girly (ie: not very meaty) food.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Now I Know My ABC's

Little Camryn should be getting a package in the mail TODAY. When her mom opens it up, this is what she'll see:


I'm pretty pleased. So pleased, in fact, I considered keeping it. I think I would have, too, except that I couldn't figure out what I'd DO with it, as no one in my house is baby-sized or looking for a sweet quilt to hang on their wall. Nevertheless, it tore my heart out to send it away. Its been in various pieces and stages around my house for quite some time now.

For now, I have no quilt hanging over me, begging to be finished, and life is quieter and less guilt ladden. Hopefully Camryn will like it. If not, that's okay, too. As much as I made it for her, I did it for me, too. I needed a challenge: something longer-term to sweat over and create. It's not the quilt I love so much, as the fun of planning, designing and making it come together. I can do it again. Maybe.

Next project? Purging burp cloths, bibs, and newborn socks from my 2-year-old's room. I'm a little behind. Truthfully? I think I'd rather work on the quilt.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Few Good Days

Its been awhile. I've had intentions of updating, I really have...and I've even had lots of profound thoughts. Unfortuntely, they're over now and I've forgotten. You'll have to settle for a few highlights from our mundane lives:

July


Booster officially hit the terrible twos. Lucky for us, she's an accelerated child, so its been more of the same. We celebrated with our favorite 17 year old, who shares the same birthday.

We were worried Cody might not appreciate a rainbow themed party, but he was a good sport.

At the end of the month, John and I hit our 10 year anniversary. I'd love to discuss our bliss, but you might gag. I might, too. To celebrate, we went on a long bike ride without the kids, then out for a sub-par meal (we had a coupon). While our love has surely blossomed over the years, the effects of our blossoming waistlines were also noted: it was confirmed that we aren't in the same shape we were in 10 years ago. Apparently some things have changed, and not for the better...but all in all, we think we're doing pretty well.

August
Lu turned 8!

It was the birthday that NEVER ended, celebrated three times: on her birthday at home, with my family in Oregon, and then again in September. She said eight times would have been more appropriate. We're glad she knows how to dream big.



The whole family went to Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon and met up with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephew. It had been too long since we were all together, and it was great, complete with biking, swimming, games, and a frantic call to the Search and Rescue. Let it be known: Bodmers know how to keep life exciting.

We came home and school started.

I have a third grader and a kindergartener, and only ONE home in the afternoon. I'm occasionally somewhat nostalgic about having two gone in the day, but then I remember that they're GONE, and I get over it. Lovely, I tell you. I highly recommend it.

September
Lu was baptized the beginning of the month. I'd show you a picture of how sweet she looked, but while I remembered flowers, cookies, and programs, I did not remember a camera. You can draw one: her hair is brown and really curly, and the dress was white. See? Don't you feel like you were there now? Anyhow, in spite of the lack of tangible memories, it was a good day. She wore the dress I wore when I was baptized. The service was great, complete with Booster's loud, running commentary. My parents and John's family joined us. I fed them.

This is a picture of my fridge:

This ia a picture of my fridge on steroids:
Any questions?

This weekend I planned and prepared food to feed 100 women for the Relief Society Broadcast (thanks so much to everyone who helped; cheesy though it sounds, I really could NOT have done it without you). It takes a lot of food to feed 100. I'm still shaking from the experience. My fridge is now bare, the dishes are done, and I'm thinking of how to improve for next time. The good news: I see no next time in the foreseeable future. The bad news: I don't think I'll find any motivation to cook anything other than oatmeal for the next month. Lucky for me, my kids like oatmeal.

Other stuff you might care about?
We had a painter/handyman come out and take a look at a few things as we prepare the house to go on the market next spring. He informed me that our outside color scheme was sub-par. As we needed the shutters and some of the siding painted anyway, I let him convince me to change things up a bit...and I have since discovered he was right. It looks so much better (and to think - I didn't even know it was bad...). Anyway, I love it - and the kids loved him. Seriously, they cried on his last day. It was as if he became part of the family for the days he was here. If you find you need a handyman or painter, let me know.

Yesterday, my brother's first baby was born. Welcome, Camryn! I've been making her a quilt for the past five months, which I hope to finish sometime before she can sing her ABC's. I confess to praying Danielle would be the first human woman pregnant for over a year, so I might finish the quilt before Camryn was born. Alas, all prayers are not answered as I hope. Camryn is here; the quilt is in pieces.

It's a design I always wanted to make but never did because I thought it would be more work than I'd be motivated to finish. I should have listened to my inner-wisdom.

In conclusion
We're doing well. We're boring, but flying by the seat of our pants because things have been so busy. Still not sure how that works. If I figure it out, I'll get back to you. Until then - catch you again in another 3-4 months??

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

He Matched!


Today we found out that John matched for his fellowship training. That means that in July 2011, he'll begin his final three years of specialization. He matched at Ohio State in Columbus. I'm still trying to process it all; I can't decide how I feel.

I know I'm happy that John gets to train where he really wanted to - an excellent program and super personality match for him. Yea for John; he finally gets to be a real Buckeye! And I really like Columbus - it has an awesome zoo (I love zoos!) and an affordable major airport, a temple, great park system, is close to Hocking Hills...it's a terrific city.

Another part of me feels really sad. Change and me are not good bedfellows. I thrive in a very boring, predicable, controlled environment. Several months ago, I (mostly) accepted it was most likely that we'd be moving for fellowship (NOT the original plan, mind you). But accepting the change, now that it's official, seems to be another matter, made more difficult by the fact that it's an entire year away (too early to actually plan for or do anything about the move, other than anticipate what it might, or might not, be like).

I hate to say goodbye to good friends (again), change schools (I can't say enough good things about our schools here), find somewhere new to live (buy? rent? and WHERE exactly?)...moving is hard on so many levels: new doctors, hair stylists, parks to find, friends to seek out, children to console as they, too, have to start over.

Then I remember that THIS IS IT - the final stretch in his training, and I remember that I should be very excited that we're this close to the end - and get to do it in such an exciting place - and I'm grateful.

Now you know. That's where we're going, and that's how I feel about it. So you decide - congrats or condolences?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Leftovers, Anyone?

Tonight for dinner I spent a fair amount of time preparing a meal I was certain would not only be tasty, but balanced and attractive (laugh all you want, but I get excited about color, shape, and texture variety on the plates...):
  • Meatloaf with dipping sauce
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Spinach Salad with blueberries and bleu cheese

You should understand, that John hates meatloaf. I'm not sure what his mom put in his growing up, but the mere mention of the word makes his skin crawl. I didn't know this fact the first time I made meatloaf after we were married. That was an all out disaster - I thought it would be "fun" to go grocery shopping together, so off we went to Smith's. John and I argued about nearly every purchase - he thought I was making too-expensive selections, so I finally let him call the shots. He bought 70% lean ground beef. A few days later, I made what was supposed to have been meatloaf, but really it was just a small submarine patty of beef, floating in an ocean-pan of grease. The memory has cured me of the meatloaf itch for many years now. That, and the desire to ever grocery shop with my husband again.

Tonight John is working late (I knew he'd miss dinner), and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make meatloaf again. It can be hard to come up with things to eat every night, and I was anxious to find something new to add to the dinner rotation.

Stupid, stupid, Erin.

I liked it (the meatloaf). That's one vote out of five. I am also the only one who ate any of it. The meatloaf had gross sauce (any sauce to Bug is gross) and was too meaty, according to Lu. Booster just threw it on the floor. I'm sure she would have liked it, had she given it a try. The potatoes, I was informed, would have been tasty - without the garlic flavor, and the salad was ruined because of something stinky. I can only assume they meant the cheese?

Now I have a complete dinner which is nearly untouched. I don't mind meatloaf, but I really don't need to eat 2 lbs. of beef by myself. What in the world am I supposed to do with it? Why didn't someone tell me that if I wanted to eat something other than macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, or chicken nuggets, that I should never have had children (or a husband, for that matter...)?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ethics 101

Is it really wrong to tell your kids that you saw a sick baby bird's mom come find the baby, then watched them fly away together, singing, and happily reunited forever?

What I really saw, was the stupid bird jump out the box, then onto the deck, finally into the grass, then across the lawn. The process took hours (afterall, the bird was too young to fly, and its leg was broken...). I assume a snake ate it last night, as it sat, exposed, in the middle of my backyard. I thought about saving it, but then I decided that once was enough. If it was on a suicide mission, who was I to interfere?

I know honesty is the best policy, but really...which version would you tell your kids?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Margalo


The girls and I have been reading Stuart Little lately. We just read the part where Stuart's family rescues the hurt bird, Margalo. What a great story, to nurse a bird back to health: a childhood dream for many, I'm sure.

So, you won't believe what happened tonight. I was walking across the backyard when a gray blob jumped across my path. Upon closer examination, I discovered it was (drumroll, please...) a hurt baby bird: our very own Margalo! Further back in the yard, I found a nest, so it appears this bird was rock-a-bye-bird-ing in the treetops...it has never been my favorite nursery rhyme.

I fixed a little bed in a cardboard box, borrowed some birdseed from a neighbor, and put water in a small plastic lid, then called the girls to come meet their new (and only) pet. I warned them that he is hurt, so he might die anyhow, but that we'd do our best to help. Lu, my sensitive boob, began to cry at the thought of the bird dying. I was very sympathetic, and threatened to put the bird back out in the yard for a raccoon or cat to snack on tonight, if she didn't stop crying. She stopped. That probably wasn't very nice of me.

Anyhow, now we have a bird. In the book, they put it in a fern, on the top of a bookshelf, and the bird gets better quickly, then flies away. Do you think it'll be that simple? I'm realizing I might be in over my head, because,

1. I'm really not much of an animal person,
2. I know even less about birds,
3. We've never had a pet aside from a fish (which died), and
4. I don't know anything about being a nurse, even to humans.

All that aside, we're going to try to nurse Margalo back to health. Anyone ever done this before? E.B. White doesn't exactly give a step-by-step tutorial...do you have any tips???

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Whiney Reflections: A Pit Stop


Have you read “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper? After confronting skeptics, overcoming self-doubt, and a long, hard journey, the Little Engine successfully pulls the train cars over the mountain to the good little boys and girls on the other side, who, thanks to his perseverance, will have toys to play with and good food to eat. The story concludes, “And the Little Blue Engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. ‘I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could...’”

Next month, John finishes up his residency. Sort of. I mean, he still has four more years of training, but officially, the residency portion will be complete. Someone asked me today how long his schooling and training will take him, starting with high school graduation. Funny, but I’d never added it up before: 16 years (not including the two years he worked before starting med school).

When we got engaged and people heard John wanted to be a doctor (we were both still in the process of finishing up our undergraduate degrees) a frequent comment was, “You know, you have a long road ahead of you.” At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, emotionally or physically. I had no idea that meant 16 years.

So far, its been 12. People were right: the road has been long. Most of the time I haven’t complained. The medical labyrinth of school, training, fees, debt, exams, travelling (or staying home while someone else does the travelling), sleep deprivation, and lonely times is a path we chose for ourselves, hoping it would be worth it in the end. I’ve worked hard to both survive and even find joy in the journey. I’ve kept my eye on the prize, and focused on my blessings. I’ve mostly succeeded. Until now.

The past four months have been especially grueling. It has been intense and exhausting and downright horrible. I’ll spare you the details; I’m really not hosting a pity party – just sharing my thoughts as I struggle to understand them. We all have our trials and coping mechanisms. Suffice it to say, lately, I think I’ve reached far closer to the end of my limits than in the past – which brings me back to our Blue Engine Friend.

I’ve always loved the message of the story – persevere to the end, no matter how hard the journey, and you WILL make it, and will bless the lives of so many people along the way! I’ve desired and happily anticipated the sense of accomplishment the Engine exhibits as it puffs happily home, “I thought I could…”

So, here I am – admittedly not at the end, but I told myself it would be okay, and I could consider it a pretty great “rest stop” if I could just make it to April 29, when John’s schedule would change drastically and things would get better. They have. We’ve seen John. Today he folded laundry. Yesterday he cheered the girls at their soccer games. On Friday we barbequed as a family in the backyard. Its been great. But I don’t feel like the Little Engine. I feel horrible.

My stomach aches and I feel nauseated. I’m soooo tired. I am exceedingly emotional and I’m snappy. I am not chugging down the mountain, pleased with my milestone. Rather, I’m looking for a cave, and sobbing because I can’t find it fast enough. What’s wrong with me? (no - I'm NOT pregnant). I am supposed to be a happy blue train!

This is the part where I tell you my epiphany and you are impressed with my insight.

(Insert wisdom here).

Maybe it’ll be better once residency actually ends next month, or maybe it’ll be better once he finally finishes all his training, or maybe – I don’t finish the race well. I set out strong, and work and sweat, and grind my teeth through all kinds of CRAP – and then quit. That’s my fear. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Is it possible that I get just to the edge of the top of the mountain, see the waiting boys and girls at the end, and then lie down? Am I – gasp – a quitter? Surely the Little Engine chugged the last ¼ mile. Why can’t I?

A friend today suggested that she thinks Heavenly Father supports and compensates for when we truly can’t walk it alone – and then sets us down to walk alongside us once we are ready again. Um, hello – do I look ready?? (I’ll answer that, just in case you’re not sure – NO).

…but I think she might be right. I’ve had the strength when it felt like it all depended on me. And now, I have a partner again (at least sometimes, anyway) and the Lord is graciously allowing us relearn to collaborate, parent, communicate, and live together. He’s still there, but expects us now to reclaim our strength as a team. Don’t get me wrong – I know we still need, and can rely on, the hand of the Lord in our lives – but he gave us each other for a reason, and he’s now giving me the “space” now to utilize that gift.

Hmmm…gotta think that one over. I’d still rather bury my head in a dark hole than face the future right now, no matter how brightly it might be shining. Because the truth of the matter is that I still have to walk by faith, and faith is hard. Faith that it’ll get better, that this road we’ve chosen is worth it, and that I have the strength to complete the journey. I’m not always sure about any of that, especially now when I’m so - …tired. I’m surrounded by women facing far greater struggles than I. I admire and love women who serve amidst trial and fatigue. Why can’t I?

I’m not the Little Engine. I’m just me, doing the best I can – and sometimes, that’s not so very good. I can “should” on myself all day long about how I should be and should feel, but the reality is that sometimes, it’s just plain hard, and I’m not as strong as I’d like (insert growl here). I guess I’m at a rest area after all – and who likes rest stops? Seriously? No matter how clean and fresh the toilets appear, they’re just somewhere to stretch our legs, make sure we’re on the right track, assess and meet everyone’s personal needs – and then hit the road again, full speed ahead.

Will you think I’m a whiner if I tell you that today I think I hate this road?

Thanks, I appreciate that. I’ll be better tomorrow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

If You Give a Pig a Party


I have a daughter who loves pigs. This year she requested a pig party. It has been soooo much fun to plan. Part of it is her – five-year-olds are easily excited, and very rewarding. The other part is just the fun of planning something I never considered before.

Most of the time, when I post, I’m just having a fun time laughing at myself, my children, my life. But today, I am tooting my own horn loud and clear. Are these not the cutest EVER?! Toot, toot, baby!

Cupcakes


Place setting

As Bug would say, "Pigs are great, pigs are good-" don't you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter Eggs



I'm not naturally a crafty-sort-of-girl. I don't seek out crafts. In fact, I normally hide from them. Unfortunately for me, I have two daughters who think they have touched Heaven when presented with crafts. I'm praying the third daughter will prefer reading a book in bed during a rainstorm. I totally get that.

I diverge. Anyhow, because I DO love my daughters, when a friend emailed me a fun Easter egg craft which didn't look especially complicated, I decided to brave my way into the crafting world. She didn't mention in her email, by the way, that SHE DIDN'T TRY THE CRAFT. SHE DIDN'T PLAN TO MAKE IT WITH HER KIDS BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE A NIGHTMARE. I guess she just thought that I,the un-crafty one should be the guinea pig. Would have been nice to know, don't you think?! So, anyways, in naivety, I figuratively cut out and pasted a large construction paper smile on my face, then announced to the kids that I had a special surprise for them after dinner.

It looked/sounded simple enough. The idea was to glue little strips of fabric all over plastic Easter eggs. Nothing could break, stain, or require intricate alignment. Perfect!

See! Here we are:


And here:


What you don't see in the pictures, is me, covered in glue, trying to keep Booster out of the glue, and contorting my body in strange ways to take a picture without spreading said glue all over camera, while maintaining camera at arms-length in order to keep it out of gluey toddler fingers. Does that sound complicated? It should. It was very challenging.

And so, I resorted to bribery. Even little people know that chocolate is always better than glue.


Unfortunately, chocolate doesn't last forever. And gluing fabric on eggs is harder than it looks. Seriously. The kids had glue dripping from their elbows. The newspaper was sticking to them, and everytime they touched the eggs to add a new square of fabric, they pulled off three formerly adhered pieces with their stickier-than-glue fingers.

Being the generous soul that I am, I told them it was okay to quit if they were getting discouraged. My kids are not known for their desires to endure in the face of opposition - and yet, they persevered. I could have cried.

Did I mention the chocolate was eaten too quickly? And decoupage is NOT as easy as it looks? And I wanted to quit? Finally, after an hour, and three eggs each, Lu and Bug called it a night. I pretended to look disappointed. I might have fooled them, but I probably didn't; I lept for joy.

I tucked them in bed. I kissed their sweet heads, then I spent the next two hours on the remaining dozen eggs. Lucky, lucky me.

If you come to visit, this is what you'll see on top of my piano:


I'm not entirely sure if I like my Easter eggs, but I'm pretty sure that's beside the point. We made them, and up they go. So, if you have a great craft that you think my family should try, please let me know. I'm open to all (tried and true) suggestions. Remember, I am not your average crafter: I am far, far, FAR below average. I am sub-par.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to take advantage of the rainy day...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mom of the Year?

Yep, it's official. I am not going to win the Mother of the Year award. I was pretty sure I was going to win, you know, because I'm just so great - but my kids have just informed me that I.AM.A.LOSER.

Last night, as I was cleaning up dinner, Bug came into the kitchen. "Guess what, Mom? You are the Number 2 Mom," she informed me. I could tell I was supposed to be really excited about the accolade, but all I could think was, "Number 2, as in Runner-up, as in LOSER."

"Wanna know who's Number 1?"

"Humor me," I said.

Then she told me about my friend, who, she reports, has let her watch a movie everytime she has been over there (twice?) and who once gave her a popsicle and fruit snacks, all in the same day. Don't get me wrong - I really like my friend, and I think she's a great mom, though for different reasons.

"But don't worry Mom," she finished, "you're still Number 2."

Thank Heavens for that, because today as I was contemplating my strategy to regain my Number 1 status (brownies with Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups and ice cream for breakfast?) Lu informed me (through tears and wails, which I'm sure reached record-level decibles) that I AM THE WORST MOTHER. EVER.

So count me out of that contest; I guess I won't enter afterall - which is really too bad. My talent portion was going to be really good... and don't even get me started on the 3-kids worth of love handles swimsuit competition. I tell you what - I've got skills.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Learning the Facts of Life

Never trust a quiet 18 month old. Even if you're vaccuming and you can't tell it's quiet, you should still worry.

This is what I found when I brought the vaccuum upstairs.



Do you think she's trying to tell me something?
1. We need to begin "that talk" much, much younger.
2. She'd like a younger sibling.
3. I'm an idiot for trying to clean my house while she was awake.

Lesson learned: even things kept in the back of a top drawer are not safe from the inquisitive compulsions of my child. Ever.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meet George


This is George. He lives in our front yard. We made him today. Please notice his straight, spiky, hair. That's how you can tell he's a fake, and not my biological child. The girls in the photo, however, are my children. They're beginning to drive me crazy. We have made glittery valentines and chocolatey cookies, watched a movie, and played in the snow. I'm exhausted. I think we need to have school tomorrow, or they're going to have to spend the whole day creating George's cousins. All by themselves. That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chap Chee for you and me

I wasn't going to post today. I feel like I've been an over-zealous poster lately, and I'm feeling kind of embarrassed about it. But I made this really scrumptious dinner last night, and thought you all needed to try it. I was going to save face and NOT include the recipe on my blog. And then lunchtime rolled around, I ate the leftovers and lost all willpower. You just MUST know about Chap Chee. It would be too unkind and selfish for me not to share it.

The recipe comes from Allrecipes. It's kind of a Korean-style low mein type dish: noodles, beef, and vegetables, with lots of flavor. You can look it up there for the original version, or just try mine. I doubled the recipe, plus added a little more or a little less of a few things. You decide how you like it. I'd show you what it looks like, but I didn't take a picture. That would be nice, I know, but since I don't hardly ever take pictures of my kids, I worry how they would feel if they saw me taking a picture of noodles. Anyhow, here is the recipe which you must try:

CHAP CHEE
for marinade, combine:
2 T. soy sauce
3 T. sesame oil
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
3 t. sesame seeds
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. pepper

Add 1 lb. top sirloin, thinly sliced, to marinade.
Cover, and let sit in fridge for a hour or more, or on your counter for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare remaining ingredients:
1 c. carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. napa cabbage, chopped
4 c. spinach, chopped
6 oz. cellophane noodles, cooked (appear similar to fettuccini; found in Asian food section)

Then the sauce:
5 T. soy sauce
2 1/2 t. sugar
1 1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

In wok or large skillet, brown beef in a few tablespoons vegetable oil. When evenly brown, add vegetables and noodles, then sauce. Heat through until warm. Add red pepper to taste (none for the kids, lots on mine).

If you try it and like it, let me know, and I'll come visit you for lunch. And if you try it and don't like it, let me know so I can come remove the offending food from your house. I'd be happy to help like that, cause I'm just so helpful, and it's just that good.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I am Woman, See Me Create

Would you like to come over and use my bathroom? Please. Just in case you're wondering, before people come over I nearly always clean my bathroom. And in case you're wondering, NO ONE, my mother-in-law excepted, has asked to use my bathroom in the past two years. What's with you people? Don't you need to go? I can't last an hour without peeing!

It's really okay with me if you don't need to go - but not only are you missing out on that fine, Pine-sol clean smell, but you are missing all the hardwork I've put into redoing my bathroom. Its been a long road (still not done - the kids keep breaking the toilet paper roll out of the wall), but I'm pretty close now. The last detail that I was actively trying to finish was to figure out what to hang on the wall. I'm frugal and picky, which equals a rather daunting task when it comes to redecorating. But I did it!

A little while ago, my friend Emily posted about her kitchen remodel. She is so creative and fun, so I decided I must copy her. You can visit her blog to see what Emily did, and then look to see my in the bathroom.


I wish I had a before photo.

I love my bathroom now, and I really love my wall-mounted-art-square-things. But even more than I love my walls, I loved being creative. It was only cork board, staples, and fabric, but it's pretty, and I DID IT!

There is something so satisfying about creating. Elder Uchtdorf gave an address at the Relief Society women's broadcast a year (or two??) ago, talking about the innate need for women to create. I love having apostles on the earth who are inspired to know what we need to hear. He is so right!

I think that's lots of why I love holidays - it's a chance to be creative with baking, cooking, decorating. I enjoy quilting, and I think this blasted blog thing is great as I get to create with words. Creation makes me feel inspired, accomplished, and capable. Who doesn't need that boost?

Only problem, is that now I don't have a creative project. And most of the time, they're overwhelming to start, which is why I don't do them more often. Nevertheless, I need to come up with one.

So...what have you created lately that made you feel great? Any ideas for me?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alive. Barely.

Just thought you might want to know. I've been on kind of a blogging vacation. It hasn't been a real vacation. I still have been mopping and folding laundry, and trying to figure out what to make for lunch (I hate lunch). But I haven't been blogging. Because, well, I haven't had anything to say. None of us have been especially witty or insightful over here. So I took I hiatus. I think I'm back now, though still lacking in creativity. I'll work on it.

But I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciated your kind words. Yes, I am alive, and did survive my poisoning. Christmas came, and went, and I think it was probably great. I am surely a new person, after so-nearly tasting death.

Aren't the skies especially blue and beautiful today? I love you all!!!