Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For All You Halloween Moms Out There...

On your blog you have posted, your neighbors you've "ghosted"
With goodies that you made from scratch.
The candy--you tried it, forgetting your diet--
And you went picking at the old pumpkin patch.
The jack-o-lanterns you carved, but your kids didn't starve
'Cause you made them their favorite chili.
The classroom fun's ready, the games you'll hold steady,
Looking chic in a costume that's silly.
You'll go to the parties, you'll give out the Smarties.
You'll hang spider webs and light candles, too.
Tho' you might feel a bit batty, don't say anything catty...
Just be glad your li'l pumpkins love you!
At 5:30 everything will start to come all apart--
But you'll fix and you'll patch and you'll stitch,
And if kids start complaining or the weather starts raining
Don't let this Halloween turn you into witch!

Here's wishing you all a headache free holiday!!
Love, Gab-lin

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gee, Thanks!

Me, to my 3-year-old, after his bath: "Mmmmmmm! You smell so fresh and clean!"

3-yr-old, after sniffing me back: "Mmmmmm! You smell so nice and ...BROWN!"

(I was wearing a brown sweater. I hope that's what he meant...)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Annual Halloween Feast

The Menu:
Chips, Salsa, Crudites and Pistachios
Spooky Spider Punch (apple juice with plastic spiders frozen into the ice cubes)

Strawberry Spinach Salad & Rolls
Bug-infested Jello (more plastic flies and spiders...hopefully "unleaded"!)

Dinner in a Pumpkin
Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes

The Decor:

Anything plastic, orange or black from the dollar store
Let kids get creative!

The Guests:

Our own little goblins
Some frightfully delightful cousins from Telford!

Dinner in a Pumpkin:

Brown 1 lb. ground beef with half a diced onion, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. garlic salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh pepper. Stir in 1 large can tomato sauce and 2 cups cooked rice. Pour into hollow pumpkin shell, top with pumpkin "lid" and bake on a cookie sheet for 1 1/2 hours at 350.

**Note...this is NOT my favorite meal in the world. But my kids just love eating out of a pumpkin (except Sam...he was grossed out). And at least I didn't serve Halloweenies!

Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes:

Bake favorite cake in a 9x13 pan. Frost with white frosting. (I like spice cake with cream cheese frosting.) Draw a ghost on top. Use two half eggshells to hold the eyes. Soak two sugar cubes with lemon extract, place in shells and then light with a match. Very cool and very spooky!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Let's Do Lunch

I am wishing we could all just meet up for Mexican today at noon. My mom, my sistas, inlaws, cousins, aunts, friends and all you super-cyber-blog-buddies out there! We are all so witty and pretty and fun on our you think we could actually be friends for real? Would we really get along? What would we discuss? Would we even recognize each other?

You might not recognize me because I'm a lot taller on my blog. In real life, I am short...not petite, tiny and adorable like Kelly Ripa (who I saw on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ once....she has the body of a nine-year-old boy). I am just short. A regular body on stumpy legs. This makes clothes shopping difficult. Grocery shopping, too. (Just last week, I had to hoist my youngest up onto my shoulders to reach the stainless steel wipes on the tippy top shelf in the cleaning aisle!)

I would probably be wearing my favorite jeans, long-sleeved Old Navy tee, and a hoodie or corduroy jacket...depending on my mood and water-retention level. I have hoodies and corduroy jackets in almost every color. I think they are flattering for us buxom types. Currently, the red one is my favorite. I wear a lot of red.

Since the weather is getting chilly, I'd probably put on my favorite brown cowboy boots, which--although scuffed--add almost a full inch to my stature. You might notice I'm not much of a jewelry person...maybe silver hoops, the heirloom diamond from my husband's grandmother on a chain around my neck, my anniversary band & mother's ring on my left hand, and a silver Citizen watch. And, if you think I smell good, chances are it's Ysatis. My signature scent since high school. I wear it to feel young, I guess.

Being the great friends you are, you would not comment upon the huge, unsightly blemish blazing proudly on my chin. Instead, you'd compliment me on my French manicure. Thank you. Yes, they are my own nails and I did them myself in bed last night. Once I stopped biting them, I realized I'd inherited my mother's super-strong claws, and now I take great pride in hand grooming. Maybe I'll be a model, ala George Costanza, someday.

You would notice I play with my hair a lot and kind of glance around during conversations. I don't mean to. These are just nervous habits and, although I think I'm pretty self-confident, deep down I'm sort of shy and might be just a bit overwhelmed by such a dynamic crowd of ladies.

You might need to remind me to slow down on the chips and salsa, too.

I would definitely order shrimp fajitas with double beans, no rice. Something diet to drink. And I would let you have my guacamole.

I'd probably ask you lots of questions, because I like to listen. But if you got me started on books, music, movies or my children, I could talk your ear off. I have also been known to give my share of opinions and advice...solicited or otherwise.

You guys would need to figure out the bill and tip and all that good stuff, because I am not too hot at math. But I would give you all a great big hug and we'd have a hearty laugh and promise to get together again soon.

Darn, it's already past noon. Oh well. Dinner, anyone?

p.s. Please RSVP and let me know what you'd be wearing and ordering and discussing...see you there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why We Can't Get to Bed Before 9:00 pm in Words and Pictures

Back in the good old days, I was proudly known as the SLEEP NAZI. Babywise, Healthy Sleep Habits--Happy Child and The Seven O'Clock Bedtime Book were my bibles. Everyone knew that I had my kids in bed by 7:00 pm, if not earlier. Hey, I was with the crew all day long and they couldn't tell time and it got dark very early. So, why not?

Putting my kids down early was a source of great pride and joy. By 7:30, I had a clean house and a sleeping foursome. I could enjoy my favorite TV programming, a good book, and--on the rare occasions my husband was in town and not at a church meeting--some adult conversation. I could get a babysitter and shop at Target, completely kid-free. I was very smug. I was a great mom and I knew it. And, geez, why wasn't everyone else doing the same thing?

Well, I shoulda known.

Nothing lasts forever, especially with growing kids around. So, using the above photo collage as my visual aid, I'll give you the lo-down and maybe you can write in with your suggestions.


1. The kids were playing beautifully in the yard together. I find that the more dangerous or messy the activity, the less they fight. So, when they decided to pull all my dead lily-branch-thingies and tie them together to make boats, I was okay with it. Better than watching Nickelodeon, right?

2. The boats were SOOO cool, they had to walk through the deep dark woods to the stream behind our house and see if they would float. A little nature and exercise, fine.

3. Dad came home and grilled our dinner. We HAD to eat outside on the patio. Great...the family meal, very important.

4. Dad made everyone clean up the mess outside. (He's the it!) Plus, someone had to do the dishes...and I think we can all guess who. At this point, everyone was begging for cookies and ice cream. Actually, I wanted some too, so we all sat down for ANOTHER meal at the formerly clean kitchen counter. Yeah...yeah..yeah...more bonding time, great!

5. In theory, this would be the time when one parent bathed the twins while another parent assisted with homework. (You may be wondering why we don't do homework right after school. Well, we just don't. My kids are hyper little critters and need to be outside while the sun shines.) During this study/bath/bonding time, there were several phone calls and a couple of naked people just running around the house. The (3rd grade) homework proved too difficult for the on-duty parent (even though she had at one time been a 3rd grade super-student and even a 3rd grade teacher...hello!). So a mid-stream parent switch was necessary. More screaming, more phone calls, more get the picture.

6. Once the twins were finally wrestled into bed and the homework was completed...including the always-painful read aloud and writing in the dreaded reading log, kid #2 reminded me of PICTURE DAY. This meant extra-thorough showering, toothbrushing, clothing selection and rolling her hair in rag curlers...because even though she is adopted, she somehow inherited my stick straight hair. OK, we were slowly inching our way closer to bedtime.

7. Just as we had their heads on the pillow, ready for prayers and lullabies...KNOCK! KNOCK! Who's there? The neighborhood BOO, that's who! OHHHHHH the inhumanity! Everyone was out of bed, tussling over the candy, fighting over the bucket, crying about who got to tape the ghost to the door, eating more than their allotted single piece, running back to the bathroom to re-brush, needing drinks of water. Gee, thanks, neighbor. Next time why don't you just throw a brick through the window? It'd be less hassle and mess...

So...that is why I am cranky today. And that is why no one got to bed before 9:00 pm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two Years Ago

This photo was taken in 2005. My darling mother-in-law made these fall outfits for the cuties. She is a saint. That has not changed. Jake enjoyed making goofy faces. That has not changed either.

Em was sporting her "I-did-it-myself" pixie 'do. She went through an intensive six-month independent study barbering course. Actually I think she did Jake's too. Thankfully that has changed. Now she has enrolled in the "Customize Your White-Painted Furniture with Black Sharpie" home decorating course.

Luke was looking sad because I had taken away his blankie for the photo. The blankie-love has not changed either. Actually it seems to have become more intense as the blanket gets greyer and smellier.

Sam was holding his leg straight because he had just finished wearing a full-length cast for six weeks. He had broken his femur and wore a bright blue spica-type plaster thing all along his leg and around his stomach. Of course, he was not potty-trained at this point which meant that the whole thing was an E-coli breeding ground. Thankfully, this has changed, too.

Sometimes you need to look back to realize how far you have come...and that you never want to go back again!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Growing up, my family lived the Fourth Commandment. On Sundays, we never went shopping or to movies or restaurants. We went to church each week, which took monumental effort.

After all, seven kids=14 individual Sunday shoes which would inevitably be lost or too tight on Sunday mornings. Plus there were four daughters, which meant four heads of hair to be "done." From an early age, I was chief hairstylist and my sisters still show me their scars from the curling iron. And, I say now what I said then...."Tough luck, ladies! Beauty is pain!"

Mom always got us looking fairly presentable. But she REALLY went all out getting herself ready. I remember watching her lay her clothes and accessories out on the bed. She was (and still is) always so stylish. She'd shut herself in the bedroom and emerge (usually while Dad was honking the horn) looking so glamorous with her silk scarves and stockings and high heels and smelling delicious. I was always so proud to have such a beautiful mother.

We wiggled and giggled our way through the three-hour block and then drove home. Mom usually had a post-Sacrament-Meeting-meltdown and then Dad would have his post-meltdown-meltdown. Then everyone would go crying to their rooms for naps and we'd all wake up a few hours later feeling much better.

Sunday dinner was non-traditional in our household. Thinnies (Swedish pancakes) or waffles were a favorite. Also, malts and cinnamon toast. We knew Mom was at the point-of-no-return when we had a Heidi supper which meant ham, cheese, crackers and fruit served on a paper towel. Mom and Dad tried to make it sound romantic by telling us that it was just what storybook Heidi ate in the Alps. We were skeptical, but gobbled it down anyway. Especially when Dad got out the sunflower seeds, scattered them on the table and allowed us to "peck" at them with our beaks. (Look, Ma, no hands!)

Usually, Sunday evenings, we would have some kind of family devotional. Mom would read us a story from a church magazine or the scriptures. Or the kids would put on a break-dancing demonstration. Our favorite Sunday devotionals were when Dad got out the slide projector and we watched carousel after carousel of old family photos.

I especially liked the slide shows. Being the oldest, there were at least 4,000 slides of adorable Baby Me in my stylin' bell-bottoms and stripey sundresses. With each child there were significantly less baby photos. Poor #7 had only 2 or 3 to call her own. Fortunately, she looked enough like me that Mom and Dad could tell her that, yes, she had also worn bell-bottoms and stripey-sundresses and wasn't it funny how she seemed like an only-child in all her baby pix?

Sundays were fun days.

These days I'm trying to carry on the tradition. Sundays can be the biggest challenge of my week. Church is a lot of work--before, during and after. But I love the spiritual boost it gives me. Also, I enjoy having all four of my kids clean and shiny at the same time.

Some people might think it's restrictive to keep the Sabbath holy. But, as a mom, I love having one day a week that is playdate/ballgame/birthday party/homework free. I love that I don't have to feel guilty about not cleaning or shopping or taking my kids to the zoo. I love trying to keep the day special and different from the rest of the week. It feels very restful and gives me the energy I need to take on Monday mornings.

Ugh. Monday morning...a few short hours away. Must go and soak up the last snatches of Sunday.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home

Life is so much better when Dad is back in town. Just today, he:

  • made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast

  • cleaned out the whole garage

  • replaced all dead light bulbs (of which there were many)

  • fertilized the lawn

  • restocked the wood pile

  • took all boys on traditional Saturday Home Depot/Taco Bell run so the girls could work out

  • fixed my hope chest which the twins have been using as their life-size jack-in-a-box toy

  • made pizzas on the grill for dinner

  • supervised bath/story/bedtime so that all little people were in bed by 7 pm

No wonder we miss him so much!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another Great Read

I have a very dear friend named Karen. She and I met at a playgroup about 7 1/2 years ago. We have a lot in common. Our firstborn sons share the same name and a lot of the same challenges in life. Through the years, I have sometimes felt like Karen is one of the only people who understands my particular trials as a mother.

Karen and I get together at least once a month for dinner or dessert, saving our husbands thousands of dollars in therapy bills, as we share problems and solutions and lots of laughs..

Recently, Karen told me about Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. Tammet is an autistic savant (think Rainman) with Asperger's Syndrome who shares his story of growing up in a large family in London, dealing with his differentness and finding his place in the world.

This has been a fascinating look into an autistic mind. And although Tammet's story is very different than my child's, I appreciate the reminder that every mind is unique and that, to be effective in parenting, it is essential to try and see the world through your child's lenses once in a while. Two thumbs up!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dear Little Sister,

Thanks so much for coming to my rescue this week! Ten days of single-parenthood would have really thrown me into a psychotic state. However, your talent for seeing beauty in the ordinary and humor in the everyday kept me looking at the bright side of life.

You are Mary Poppins, Rachael Ray, Claire Daines and Oprah all rolled up into one adorable package!

Please do not let anything you saw here this week discourage you from having children of your own. I honestly believe that your offspring will NOT throw tantrums, make messes with the sofa cushions or poop. They will certainly not be as loud and boisterous as my crazy gang. I think your future children will probably be very sedate and docile. You their dad.

(Besides, you won't have four kids all at once anyway. You'll kind of ease into it. Babies usually just come one at a time--unless you hit the old 'twin jackpot' as two of your three sisters have done--and what are the odds of that happening?!)

You have taught me so much this week. Thanks for kicking the old gabblog up a notch with your tech-know-how. Thanks for introducing me to ramekins. Thanks for making this dessert in the ramekins. It is truly amazing that I have lived 37 years without ramekins in my life. You've made my home a better place.

Thanks for the laughs and late-nights, the stories and sing-a-longs, the hugs and the heart-to-hearts.

Just remember, "I'm peanut butter and you are jelly and we're so happy on our little piece of bread!"

Come back soon!

Love, Your Crazy Older Sister

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


"I used to wonder why all the mommy bloggers had so many posts about poop. Now I understand..." Auntie Min, after dealing with one "Underwear-Blowout" and one "Didn't-Make-it-To-the-Bathroom-Carpet-Drop" within 15 minutes.

"Mom, why is there a cat running around in our house?" Kid #1, after leaving all four outside doors wide open. Following this question, he grabbed a broom and a bowl of cold chicken, and chased the stray into the backyard while also trying to tame her for a pet.

"I want my hands dirty!" Kid #3, throwing a hysterical fit because I had washed his hands for him. He wanted to do it himseff. In a hysterical fit of my own, I grabbed a handful of leftover chocolate cake and rubbed it all over him so he could practice the independence he so desperately craves.

"Mom, can I have a Tums? This dinner makes my tummy hurt." Kid #2, always a pleasure to feed.

"Mac and cheese! Mac and cheese! MAC AND CHEESE!" Kid #4, enthusiastically demanding his dinner choice, after realizing it wasn't on the menu.

"Yeah, I'm really getting sick of restaurant food. I'm so tired of sitting around for all these long meals." Husband, long-distance from LA. It was hard to hear most of his side of the conversation...due to all the broom-swinging, cat-chasing, tantrum-throwing and food-dissing going down on the homefront. Hopefully, I managed to sound sympathetic. Restaurant food and sitting down for meals does sound really tedious.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Carrying on the Tradition

My first grader has discovered reading in bed. Every night she begs me to leave the light on for just "one more story..." I try to look stern, "All right...just one more." But inside my heart bursts into song...Hallelujah! I've won her over to my side.

Can't wait to share with her some of my childhood favorites: The Boxcar Children, Trixie Belden, Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, Little House on the Prairie, Ramona and Beezus, The All-of-a-Kind Family, The Little Princess, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Shel Silverstein & Jack Prelutsky poems. The list goes on and on...

What were your favorite "past-bedtime" reads? I'll add them to the list!

p.s. If you are my children's grandparent (or just really, really bored) and want to see more adorable shots of my children, taken by their artistic aunt, click here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Apple Crisp 101

My Mother-in-Law's DELICIOUS Apple Crisp:
5 cups sliced, peeled apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Layer in 8 inch square pan.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. each soda, baking powder and salt
1/4 cup soft butter

Mix and sprinkle over apples. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Picking


44 lbs: Jake's pumpkin
25 lbs: weight gained eating Marta's cookies
5 lbs: golden delicious apples picked
1 lb: butter in apple crisp recipe
20 lbs: weight gained eating apple crisp

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Four Generation Chicken Noodle Soup

Cover a whole chicken with water and simmer with:
salt & pepper
1 whole onion
1 rib of celery
1 carrot
2 or 3 bay leaves
Simmer for 2 hours. Cool chicken, skin and cut into bite sized pieces. Discard vegetables and bay leaves, skim fat. Season broth with garlic salt, table salt and pepper to taste. Add bite-sized chicken pieces, freshly chopped celery and carrots and noodles.
Homemade noodles:
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
Enough cream (or milk) to fill 1/2 an eggshell.
Beat egg slightly with a fork. Add cream and stir. Stir in flour and salt. Knead gently; roll out on floured surface. Cut into thin strips with pizza cutter. (The noodles will expand as they thin strips are best!) Add to soup and cook at least 45 minutes.
**Note: I usually double or triple the noodles...they are the best part!
**In a pinch...use canned chicken broth and stewed chicken pieces. Throw in chopped vegetables and homemade noodles. No one needs to know you didn't make your own chicken stock!

Quick Sis Fix

The good news is Marta is here! We are staying up late every night so she can teach this old dog some new tricks on the PC (see photo collage below). My kids love her because she plays with them and listens to their piano pieces enthusiastically. She also stays on their beds with them until they fall asleep. What devotion!

The bad news is that I do not have much time to blog. Yesterday we ran on the track while the twins had gymnastics. (Well, mostly we walked and talked but then threw ourselves into running for a few desperate brownie-burning laps.) Today we are hitting the road and shopping. Min wants to go to H&M and Trader Joe's...and I have some GAP money burning a hole in my wallet.

In the can read our story or hop on a plane and come join the fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chicken Soup for my Soul

My son is crying this morning as he boards the school bus. We've had a rough start today and he doesn't want to go to school. I assure him everything will be fine and then burst into tears myself as the bus pulls away.

I kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for a ten-day business trip and feel the loneliness set in as soon as he backs out of the driveway.

The sky looks gray and gives me an unsettled feeling. A dear friend's little boy just broke his leg. And another sweet friend is having a double mastectomy tomorrow. I want to help without too much hovering.

Yet, there are happy things to look forward to as well. My cute younger sister flies in tonight for a week of fall festivities. The air is turning crisp and the leaves are starting to fall. A package with Halloween costumes arrives in the mail.

What can I do to nourish my children and comfort myself? Help my friends in their trials? Welcome a favorite guest? Celebrate the beginning of a wonderful new season?

I know just the thing...a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. The soup that has nourished and comforted and welcomed and celebrated for at least four generations in our family.

Tradition has it that my great-grandmother, Adelilah, worked all day plucking poultry during the Depression so that she could bring home a chicken for her own family at the end of the day. I picture her stirring it on the stove as her little ones slide on the hardwood floors in their hollow living room. Empty, because the bank had just come to take away the family's pretty new furniture.

In those days, I'm sure Great-grandma wasn't too worried about calories or carbs. Probably just wanted to stretch the soup as far as it would go. I've heard she was a wonderful baker and picture her tenderly baking loaves of fresh bread to go with the hot soup.

I wonder if Great-grandma served chicken noodle soup to her oldest son when he got sick. Did her tears salt the broth after his funeral? Or when her younger two sons went off to war? I'll bet the soldier boys missed her cooking and felt that all was well when they could finally come home and eat a bowl of chicken soup at the family table.

Great-grandma passed the recipe on to her new daughter-in-law, my Grama June. I picture Grama stirring the pot in her yellow kitchen while the kids watched "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" after school.

I'm sure Grama served the soup in exquisite blue and white china bowls, with a crisp side salad and some kind of fancy seeded roll. Martha Stewart could've learned a thing or two from Grama June.

Did Grama roll her eyes across the table as her oldest daughter and son tormented the littlest sister about the imaginary orange spot on the back of her head? I'm sure being a dutiful daughter-in-law she followed the recipe perfectly. But, knowing Grampa, he probably teased her about "not quite measuring up" to his mother's version and would have shaken in a whole lot of extra salt.

June's tormenting oldest daughter grew up to be my mom, Marty. I remember Mom making chicken noodle soup for company, for birthday celebrations and to take to sick friends. Watching her, I learned to measure the cream in half an eggshell and roll the noodles with a pizza cutter.

The smell of Mom's chicken soup warmed up any house and made it a home. When our family had moved to another country far away and were feeling homesick and lonely, Mom lit the gas range in that funny, damp kitchen and stirred up her magic potion. Looking back, I think she must have been as comforted making the soup as we all were eating it.

I tried my hand at soup making as a new bride. Surprisingly, it was not as easy as Mom always made it look! I learned that one cannot make a rich, delicious chicken stock by simply boiling boneless, skinless breasts. And I learned not to get my feelings hurt when my new husband sacreligiously crushed a whole sleeve of saltines in the bowl and proceeded to eat the whole thing with a (gasp) fork!

After a few years' trial and error, I have made my own (healthier) adjustments to the family recipe. I use skim milk instead of cream and add a whole bunch of chopped carrots and celery so my kids get an extra serving of vegetables. Sometimes, in a pinch, I use canned chicken broth and chop up those skinless, boneless breasts. But I always make the noodles from scratch and I always serve myself a big mugful before dinnertime. Just to make sure it tastes ok.

The phone rings. It's Jake's teacher. She got my message about our rough morning and is just calling to say that he's doing fine and the day is going very well. Wow! Such a great teacher. How can I thank her for all that she does? Hmmm...maybe a Gladware bowl of homemade chicken soup!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Great Weekend!

Yesterday, my sweet hubby watched the kids all day so I could meet my sis-in-law, Christie and some of her friends in NYC. Stie is such a fun and welcoming person. I can honestly say we would be great friends, even if she hadn't married my little brother. I also got to meet one of my internet buddies, Annie, whose blog is one of my favorites. Turns out, she is even better in person. All the ladies were so nice and very welcoming. I love making new friends!!

I really was in the Big Apple for only a few hours...but had fun riding in one of these bike rickshaws...

...and LOVED seeing this play! If you haven't heard of The Drowsy Chaperone, don't feel bad...I hadn't either. However, if you get the chance to see it, GO! It is a great play-within-a-play. Singing, tapdancing, rollerskating, wacky humor, clever staging, great costumes. I just wanted to watch the whole thing all over again as soon as the curtain went down. I love Broadway!!

I hopped on the train as soon as it was over so I could get back home for the other great part of my weekend. General Conference...a meeting our church holds twice a year and broadcasts throughout the world. It's filled with inspiring messages from our wonderful leaders and, thanks to TiVo and the satellite dish, I watched every minute in the comfort of my own pj's, on the couch, with a big bowl of this for company! I love General Conference!!

And, whenever the kids got a chance, they were outside...playing in our newly fallen leaves. Although it still feels like summer, it is starting to look like autumn.

A great weekend was had by all!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Making the Grade

Some of my long-time readers will remember that during the hazy, hot summer months, I did my fair share of complaining. In fact, you could say I was pretty anxious for school to start again.

Now we're into October, and the honeymoon is over. It's time to check in on the public school system and see how things are going.

You got card time! Here goes...

You have done a nice job getting my two elementary kids to two different schools on time. It was a bit of a rocky start, when my 8-year-old was getting on that bus at 8:00 am and not delivered home until 4:45 pm. Thanks for fixing that. I also appreciate the very cheerful bus driver, Bob, who compliments my lawn and lets me know if my lights are on. However, my son could have done without the big bite on his arm from his kindergarten seatmate, "Fang."

I appreciate the effort you put into feeding the masses. My kids especially enjoy the creative "theme" days. This month they are looking forward to "Wizard Day"...especially the banana wands. Unfortunately, they don't seem too excited to try the "Halloweenies" offered on the 31st. Thanks, anyway.

The A is for my son's sweet, patient, positive Special Ed teacher. She deserves a raise, a company car, and a massage chair in her classroom.

The B goes to my daughter's long-term substitute. She is not the real teacher, but has done a fairly decent job starting the year off right. I have noticed she sometimes tends to yell. I don't appreciate other people yelling at my kids. They get enough of that at home.

You are organized and efficient, but can you at least pretend to enjoy young children and sympathize with their understandably-frazzled parents? Just a suggestion...

Thank you for planning the back-to-school picnic, the ice cream social, the pizza dinner and outdoor movie night. And why don't I just give you the PIN number for my checking account, then you can help yourselves to whatever funds you would like? That way I don't have to buy $10 rolls of gift wrap and $45 magazine subscriptions all year long! See? Win-win.

Truly, I don't know if there is such a thing as scheduling superviser. But if there is, please ask him-- if it's not too much trouble--to please let my kids have PE on the same day, library on the same day, school store on the same day, soft pretzels on the same day, Johnny Appleseed awareness on the same day, spirit day on the same day, etc. etc.

Every morning I work myself into a tizzy, frantically hoping I have put the $1.50/library book/sliced-peeled-cored-red-apple/book order money/art smock/pirate hat in the appropriate backpack. Heaven forbid I put one kid in her "Wacky Wednesday" outfit, only to discover it was picture day at her school and why was her brother subjected to hair gel and a comb when everyone else wore mismatched shoes? I think you get my point.

My daughter informed me yesterday that three girls in her class have lice. She also let me know that you checked her head with a stick. Thank you.

For your information, this grade would have been much higher, if you had not sent my son home with this....


Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Back in the mid-80s, when I was this cool 15 year old (note: pegged jeans, asymetrical hair and white socks with loafers), Dad & Mom thought it would be fun to move the whole family to England for a year.

Well, if there's anything an insecure teenager loves--it's moving to a different country, skipping her first year of high school to attend an all-girls' English school (complete with uniform!), leaving all friends and living in a cold, damp climate for 12 months. Woohoo!

It turned out to be a very amazing experience, of course, and truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And ever since we returned to the States...I have been dying to return.

Brad at the Tower of London

A year ago this week, my dream finally came true. Brad and I ditched the kids with Nana, boarded a flight to Gatwick and had a fantastic British getaway!

Since the gab blog was not even a twinkle in my eye back then, I decided to post my favorite photos and relive a wonderful vacation.

We spent the first days in London and loved the energy of the city. Did all the touristy things, saw Wicked in the West End, ate fish & chips, rode the Tube everywhere.

Then we traveled 2 hours north to York, the beautiful walled city where our family lived all those years ago.

Mom, Dad, me & Pete at the University of York

Here we met up with my parents, my brother, Pete, & sister, Amy, and their spouses for a few days. It was fun to see our old house, schools and shops. We loved eating Cornish pasties and all the delicious English sweets, visiting old friends and meeting at Betty's Tea Shop every evening for dinner!

Dad's 60th birthday inspired the trip and he was great at showing us all the historical sites. We went to an evening service at the York Minster (below)...very beautiful. Then birthday cake at Betty's!



The remainder of our trip was spent in the Cotswolds at an old, very, very out-of-the-way inn called The Falkland Arms in Oxfordshire. It was really the middle of nowhere. But, when you're with the love of your life (and no kids...), who really cares where you are?!

Great memories...wish I was there right now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Birthday Gifts

Someone very special is having a birthday this week. He was my first boyfriend, my lifelong cheerleader, my eternal teacher and friend. Yep, my dad!

I am so blessed to have had this man in my life. As I wondered what gift to send him this year, I couldn't help but think of all the gifts he has given me throughout my life. Here are a few:
  • The gift of love--They say the best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. Dad personifies this truth. His love for my mom is so pure, deep and constant. Their storybook romance and happily-ever-after marriage is the best example I could ask for. I think it is very telling that each of my 3 sisters and I married extremely wonderful men. We were just looking for guys like our dad! And, as much as I hate to admit it, each of my 3 brothers are outstanding men, husbands and fathers. They are just trying to be like Dad!
  • The gift of learning--Dad is constantly reading. Not just reading...studying. He studies the scriptures, the New York Times, biographies, histories, scholarly texts. Dad knows something about everything. He always says, "If you want to know about can learn it from a book." My love of learning comes from Dad.
  • The gift of adventure-- You have to love adventure if you're going to have 7 kids before you're 35! He went back to graduate school and started his own business while raising a houseful of children. He's also a big traveler, who sees the world as one big campus. If you want to find a cool museum, neat old cemetary or an out-of-the-way historical monument, just follow Dad.
  • The gift of endurance--Dad has cheated death quite a few times. His health has always been fragile and I know he must be quite uncomfortable most of the time. Still, he has hung on and hung around so he could be there for our graduations, missions, weddings, and other special days. Now that he has 18 grandkids, a whole new generation is blessed by his influence. Thanks for sticking around, Dad!
  • The gift of faith--I am so thankful I had a Dad who taught me to pray, to follow the Lord, to live a clean life and to do the right thing even when it's hard. He teaches me by word and by example. The strength in our family comes from having an honorable dad.

Dad, there is no gift on earth I could give to thank you for the wonderful gifts you've given me. Your life's example is a constant source of hope and strength to our family! Happy Birthday, I love you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Has It Really Been 10 Years?

Ten years ago, my husband and I left the Rocky Mountains for the Atlantic Seaboard. We were young and ready for adventure. Brad got a great job offer and was excited to move up the corporate ladder. I had just finished five years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, including a very painful and expensive failed attempted at IVF. For both of us, this cross-country move was just the change we were looking for.

Of course, if you had told us ten years ago that we would still be living here, working for the same company and the proud parents of four, we would have laughed. We were just having an adventure, not settling down...

But, we've put down some roots and found a place that feels like home. It's been a wonderful place for us these past ten years! To celebrate, I'm posting ten photos of my favorite things around here. Hopefully, it will make you want to come visit!

This is the local pond. I drive by almost every day. During the spring we feed the baby ducks, in the summer you can see people fishing, the gorgeous autumn colors are reflected each fall and in wintertime it twinkles with lights. When we get really lucky and have a cold winter, people come out with skates and hockey sticks!
I love New York! And it's only a little over an hour by train! The first summer we lived here, when I had no kids and lots of out of town company, I went to NYC almost every week...seeing a different Broadway play and visiting different tourist spots each time. Heaven!

These days we don't go nearly as often...but try to see a show at least a couple times a year. Nothing is more fun...

The local food is delish. Soft pretzels are a biggie. Lots of Italians means there are lots of great little Italian places. Yummy pizza. Delis, bakeries, and water ice stands offer all kinds of delicious treats. Everyone loves hoagies and, of course, cheesesteaks. I'm not a huge cheesesteak gal myself. But I love the great restaurants around here!

Sesame Place is the top tourist spot in our neck of the woods. It is a waterpark geared for the preschool set...but my older kids love it too. I love their "Rock Around the Block" parade. It's very cute, clean and almost Disney-esque. We used to get season passes every summer until the year I lost my oldest child there. I have not completely recovered. But Sesame Place is still a happy place!

The architecture here is sooo quaint and charming. Lots and lots of stone houses. Historical homes are preserved beautifully. Tradition and history are everywhere. Of course, there is not a gas station or McDonalds on every corner...but a little inconvenience is so worth the beauty I enjoy each day.

Growing up in a land-locked state, I never thought I was much of a beach person...boy, was I wrong! I could spend days on the beach (or "down the shore" as the natives say). The Atlantic Ocean is very warm and swim-friendly in the summer months. Plus, the cute seaside towns have great boardwalk amusements, charming shops and fun restaurants. The above photo is in Cape May, favorite beachtown here!

The spot where we live is close to the city, but also close to the country. In fact, we have the best of both worlds. I love to drive by all the local farm stands and past old covered bridges. Lancaster County is just an hour away. We like to go and see the Amish farms and stuff ourselves silly at the Good & Plenty!

Philadelphia itself has a lot to offer. No matter how many times I see the Liberty Bridge or tour Independence Hall, I learn something new about our country's history. It is fun to walk the old cobblestone streets, visit Ben Franklin's house and eat at the Old City Tavern. A great way to travel back in time!

Of course, it would be wrong to not mention the shopping is fabulous! King of Prussia mall...need I say more? This is another aspect of life I enjoyed much more in my pre-kid life. But just knowing it's there...that's enough for now.
**Hope you enjoyed your tour of my hometown today! Truly, the best thing about this place is the group of amazing friends who have become our East Coast family. They have helped us so much and continue to provide support and love. We always are ready for company, call us when you're in town. We'll leave the light on for ya!

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