Thursday, January 31, 2008

Highly Recommended

True confession: I picked up this book at Barnes & Noble to give to a friend. But as I sat in the Children's Book Section, thumbing through while the twins played at the train table, I knew I would have to find her another gift. I was hooked.

Peace Like a River is probably being massacred by high school English teachers and Freshman Reading TA's everywhere, because it is full of symbolism and themes and motifs. Leif Enger writes like a poet. Every sentence is a song. And, if you're like me, and just reading for pleasure instead of your GPA, you notice and enjoy the depth but don't have to pay much attention. The story of two motherless children, their miraculous father and their search for an outlaw older brother is captivating enough.

And now, I'm going to tie a ribbon around it and deliver it to my friend. A few days late for her birthday, but still a really great gift.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Being Short Could Be Considered a Disability

  1. You don't glide or float. You waddle. (See photo)
  2. One-third of your kitchen cabinet space is completely useless.
  3. Your choices: shop in the petite section, pay big $$$ for alterations, or learn to sew.
  4. No one ever takes you seriously.
  5. Your "ideal" weight = anorexic 8th grader.
  6. Your neck gets very sore kissing tall boys.
  7. Your younger siblings look down on you.
  8. It's hard to sit like a lady when your feet don't touch the floor.
  9. You have to rely on strangers to reach the Cracklin' Oat Bran in the cereal aisle.
  10. Wearing all black and 3 inch heels doesn't really fool anyone.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Truly Presidential

Until yesterday, the Mormon getting the most press coverage was this guy...

and, although there is debate among my family and friends about Mitt's chances for the presidency,

there is NO debate about this man...

President Gordon B. Hinckley


He led with dignity, humor and love.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seven Questions...On Being Smart

Annie was my first official blog friend. I met her through the generous Stie, who has been very gracious about letting me become part of her social blogland and real life. I love reading Annie's thoughtful posts and catching little glimpses of her charming home and family life.

I feel that we are kindred spirits...probably because we are the same age and both enjoy books and blogs. Annie is also fulfilling one of my secret dreams, returning to grad school and getting her PhD! She is funny and friendly and smart and wise. The perfect choice for my next interview.

Here are Annie's thoughts about life and learning:

1. What are your favorite ways to stay intellectually active and aware?

-Reading, reading, reading! Newspapers, novels, magazine articles, cereal boxes, blogs. I think if you are a curious person, you stay intellectually active and aware; reading is one of the best ways to satisfy that curiosity. Also writing.
-Learning something new. I think our brains love breaking new ground for new learnin'. If you're intrigued by something--a language, photography, upholstery, astronomy, film making--there are classes for that. I went the structured route and signed up for a whole grad program (once my kids were a little older and I had more time) but that's not necessary to keep your brain excited and engaged. Follow what you love.
-Good old fashioned discussions. There's nothing like a long deep conversation about everything and nothing to spark my brain cells. I come from an extended family of great talkers and have sweet memories of listening to rich debates and witty banter around the big oval dining table at my grandparents' house (and also at my own house growing up). I love hearing fresh perspectives and a new set of stories, don't you?

2. What are your top three suggestions for balancing family needs with personal goals?

- Know your priorities and let your standards on other things slip sometimes. At least that's what I do. Sometimes the laundry fairy may not make her rounds as frequently as she used to. The car might be dirty longer. But I decided that I'd take the trade off on some things so I can focus on my family and do some things that keep me excited and engaged and passionate.

- Be optimistic. I decided at one point that I could be a "this will never work" person or a "there are ways to do this" person. The second way is infinitely more empowering. You can find ways to do what's important to you personally and to be there for your family and their needs. Luckily, I have a really supportive husband who is the first person to pick me up and dust me off when I've stumbled or to give me a pep talk. So, I guess I would also suggest surrounding yourself with other optimistic people for when your own optimism lags.

- Check in with yourself and your family and be flexible & adjust when needed. For instance, I really felt that my family needed more of my time right now (& I felt too spread thin) so this semester I'm taking a break and not doing classes. There's a time for everything, right?

3. Do you have a personal workspace? How do you keep it organized?

I love personal workspaces! Up until about 6 months ago, I had to carve out a place on the dining room table or in a corner of the kitchen (and at one place we put up an old door between two filing cabinets at the end of a hallway). I'm a big believer in women having spaces of their own. Now I have a real desk where I can actually leave my things out and they'll still be there. Joy! I am addicted to puttering and pens and paper and funky containers so I'm always rearranging and pruning my desktop. It definitely reflects my mood and mindset at any given time.

4. Who was your favorite teacher of all time? What did you learn from him/her?

Kathy Johnson, absolutely. I've had some pretty amazing teachers all the way along, from kindergarten to grad school, but I would go with Kathy every time you asked. She was my AP European History teacher my senior year in high school. She was absolutely charming and engaging, told great stories (sometimes inspiring, sometimes colorful--about her own life or about history), and was completely passionate about history. I can picture her standing in front of the class, hands clasped in front of her, telling us the story of Joan of Arc with tears streaming down her face. I learned critical thinking and writing, absorbed her enthusiasm, & soaked up history's lessons. She was also one of the first people to tell me I could write (or at least the first person I believed). I took that little gem of a compliment, tucked it inside and polished it for years.

5. How do you teach your children (especially your daughters) that being smart is cool?

I'm not really sure! Each child is so different but I've always tried to meet their interests and give them what they needed to follow their own curiosity. We all love reading & I'm not sure we even gave any of them a choice about that :). We try to send the message that learning--in and out of school--is important and exciting. We ask lots of questions (and encourage theirs) and try to really listen and appreciate their thinking. More than anything, I want them to think of themselves as explorers and questioners.

6. What have you learned from traveling? What is your favorite destination?

My favorite places away from home are London, Copenhagen, and Greece. I had done a little traveling before college but my world opened up when I did Study Abroad in London for six months. I think I discovered who I was (or wanted to be) there. I love traveling for the perspective it gives me on my own life and the window it gives me to others' lives. And it's just fun!

7. What inspires you?

Engaging people who are passionate about what they do--mothers, writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, teachers. New, unconsidered ideas. The persistence of babies in trying to master something inspires me and makes me want to rediscover that tenacity and curiosity. Music. Mountains. Sometimes procrastination or necessity inspires me to get things finally done!

Thanks Annie!

To read Annie's blog, BASIC JOY, click here.

Also, check out her new project...Letters to a Parent...write in with a letter of your own!

Friday, January 25, 2008


The Heartbreak Kid and Me...this morning
Does every mom have a Heartbreak Kid? Mine is 4'3" and about 65 lbs. He is barely nine and still has more baby teeth than permanent.
The first time his cries broke my heart happened the night we brought him home. His two-day-old fingernails looked a little long and scratchy, so I got out my gleaming new pair of baby clippers and, feeling very motherly, started to snip. Of course, I got a little overconfident by the third finger, trimmed a little too close and drew blood. I had been his mom for less than 12 hours and already I'd made him cry. Heartbreaking.
Having a kid with special needs means letting your heart get broken over and over again. The first time you notice a difference. The first time the school calls home. The first and second and third time someone points a finger on the playground.
Today my heart broke a little at a meeting with the school. I'd had high hopes for placement in a "typical" classroom next year. And, while nothing has officially been decided, the staff gently, kindly let me know this might not be the best option. Maybe I had been overly optimistic. And, even though I'm a big believer in the power of positive thinking, there are times when looking on the bright side doesn't solve the problem at hand.
All I know is that when the Lord sent me my H.B. Kid, He also poured an extra portion of motherlove into my heart. The problem is that sometimes there are troubles even a double-dose of motherlove can't fix.
And now there is a permanent hole in my heart.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shocked & Appalled

I am outraged by two things today and feel the need to post:

1. My third grader came home and let me know that a boy his age was taking pictures with his cell phone. At school. In the boys' lavatory.

Is this the new-tech version of giving someone a swirlie or throwing their backpack in the bathroom of the opposite gender? Because it seems much worse to me. I had not yet given the "If someone tries to take your photo in the bathroom" lecture...

2. My adorable little sister--who has the WORLD's BEST BLOG and puts it together in her "spare time" when she is not working two jobs, putting her husband through law school, babysitting, teaching Sunday school or creating crafty boutique offerings--has had some experience with plagiarism. People taking her online stuff and calling it their own. (To read more about this problem, click here.)

GRRRR! All I can say is watch out plagiarists...she now has a lawyer for a husband. Not to mention a very deadly oldest sister.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Build Your Curriculum Vitae--The Mommy Way

I'd been wondering why this motherhood job hadn't gotten any easier. Then it hit's not that I'm not doing my job well. It's just that the job description keeps changing. And with each new stage comes a whole new set of skills I need to master.

Here is the job manual I wish I'd received. It would've helped a lot...

Stage One: Indentured Servant

During your first four months in the Mother 'Hood, the only goal is to keep Baby from crying. Period. Sleep, cleanliness, personal hygiene, food and social life are all sacrificial lambs on the altar of peace and quiet. Your main responsibilities are rocking, burping, feeding, and singing lullabies. Stock up on ponytail holders and comfy pajama pants.

Stage Two: Mommy-razzi

After weeks of watching your little Lump sleep, eat and cry, you'll be ready for some excitement. Just wait. In the next few months, you'll have oodles. Smiling! Rolling over! Pulling up! Solid foods! Crawling! Walking! Running! Climbing! Your job is to capture it all with the camera. And then crop, mount, and journal all about it in an acid-free scrapbook while LoveBug naps. Or post online. Or send 8x10 glossies to your 145 closest friends. They will be thrilled.

Stage Three: Lifeguard

Once toddlerhood hits, your kid will go kamikaze. Put down the camera. Now your days will be spent slathering sunscreen, fastening helmets, inflating water wings and filling prescriptions for antibiotics. Your job is to keep Junior and the gang alive. Prepare to be exhausted.

Stage Four: Cruise Director

Remember Julie from the Love Boat? She kept the passengers happy onboard with Bingo, Shuffleboard, black tie galas. You will be doing the same thing...for the preschool set. Playdo on the Lido deck anyone? Fishsticks and french fries at the Captain's table? Candyland Tournament in the Lounge? And don't forget Mom & Me class, playdates, trips to the zoo and storytime. Unlike Julie, you will not be floating miles off the shores of civilization. It will just feel like it sometimes.

Stage Five: Bus-stop Babe

Hooray for school! Someone else will be in charge for a few hours. But don't plan on relaxing. Your Little Einstein will be on her best behavior all day (or not...) for Teacher and then come home for a complete meltdown. Keep lots of individual snack-size goodies on hand. Join the PTO. Volunteer in the classroom often. Spend one-third of the household budget on fundraisers. Spend the other two-thirds on soccer, ballet, piano, Brownies and Cub Scouts, gymnastics and swim team. All free time will be spent cleaning out the car and buying more individual snack-sized goodies.

Stage Six: Didja Master

Little Pumpkin is ready for independence and responsibility. Perfect your Didja. (As in: "Didja do your homework?" "Didja put all the DVD's away?" "Didja brush your teeth?" "Didja practice?" etc.) Consider investing in a polygraph machine and/or a cattle-prod.

That's as far as my manual goes...I know stages 7, 8, and 9 are coming soon and I am completely unprepared. If memory of my adolescence is an indicator, I think my future roles include: chauffeur, guidance counselor, motivational speaker and prison warden.

Anyone with a more complete manual, please advise. Thank you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fresh Produce

Is there anything worse than hustling & bustling your four kids through morning chores, bundling up to face sub-zero temperatures, driving in busy 3-day-weekend traffic, navigating through a dangerous parking lot and standing in line to see a bunch of singing vegetables?

Yes. Hustling and bustling your four kids through morning chores, bundling up to face sub-zero temperatures, driving in busy 3-day-weekend traffic, navigating through a dangerous parking lot and standing in line to see a bunch of singing vegetables...only to be told:

We're all SOLD OUT!

Bummer...guess I wasn't the only one with this idea today.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Seven Questions...Movin' On

About 14 years ago, my husband and I hosted a Halloween party for some of our favorite couples. My younger brother, Josh, was an attractive and eligible bachelor at the time. So we invited him and told him to bring a hot date.

Well, he showed up with a cute girl and I was thrilled. Except for the fact that he talked non-stop about another woman the whole evening! He had just spent a weekend down at Snow College, had loved every minute and could not say enough about the fun and crazy girl he'd met. Everything reminded him of something they had done and, quite frankly, it was pretty embarassing for me --not to mention the cute date.

I pulled him into the kitchen and told him that it was very bad form to wax poetic like this in another female's presence. But anyone who knows Josh knows that he isn't all that concerned with subtle social nuances, and besides, he was ga-ga-GONE.

Needless to say, I never saw the cute date again. But the red-hot firecracker from Snow College became my sister-in-law in record time. And, once I forgave the Halloween party awkwardness, I fell in love with her too.
Christie is all that and a bag of chips. She is gorgeous, funny, smart, talented and very opinionated. She bakes, she sews, she decorates and she types faster than anyone I know. She parents beautifully, volunteers at church and school, trains for marathons and organizes like nobody's business...and all the while her husband is usually out of town.

Stie introduced me to the computer age. Back in the early '90s, she taught me about e-mail and, last year, after reading her witty mommy-blog for a few months, I got inspired to create my own. She is techno-gifted.

With our family all long-distance, Stie & Co. have most often been our closest geographic kin and we've appreciated their willingness to drive long distances to meet for Thanksgiving or a cousin reunion or to help with newborn twins. Christie's children are adorable and my kids' favorite relatives!

In the years I've known her, Christie has lived in six different states across the country. She makes friends wherever she goes and quickly finds herself knowing the territory like a native.

That's why I decided to ask her seven questions about starting over someplace new. How to live through relocation and thrive. Here are her thoughts...

1. You have lived in so many different places. What is your secret for making a new house feel like home?
The first step is a good coat of paint in every room. I actually feel like I need to "mark my territory," so to speak, before it feels like mine. I need to see my own personality in the decor and color is the fastest and cheapest way to do that.

2. What do you say to yourself when you walk into a room full of strangers?
I actually have to give myself a huge pep-talk before doing this. Even though we have moved all around the country and had to make friends so many times, I still revert to this shy, awkward person inside and worry that I won't be good enough. Extra deodorant also helps because I am always sweating a lot during times like these.

3. What are your top three suggestions for someone who is moving to a brand new city?
The first thing I would tell anyone is to go to church and get phone numbers of people who you think look like someone you'd get along with. Don't wait for people to invite you over - be proactive. People want to remember the new family, but (as we all know) life gets busy and sometimes things like that slip through the cracks. You have to go out and find your own friends. Don't wait for them to find you. Another great way to get to know a lot of people at once is to have a party or luncheon at your new home. Invite a whole diverse group and you will be so surprised at how quickly these ladies will become your new best friends. I think that's more than three...oh well.

4. How do you help your kids settle in to a new hometown?
I do the same thing for my kids that I do for myself. At church or at school, I am stalking the mothers and getting phone numbers. I take my kids to their new class and introduce them to any and all children I can get my hands on. Kids are more shy and reserved and will wait for the friends to reach out. But by letting everyone know that my kids are new, and "Oh, what's your name? This is McKay. He just moved here. What do you like to do? McKay likes baseball." It helps tremendously. Then, you have to actively engage the kids in playdates.

5. How do you keep in touch with old friends once you've moved on?
The best way (up until now) has been email, but the blog has brought so many close friends back into my everyday life. I love it! If your old friends don't have a blog, keep emailing them. Let them know what you've been up to and find out how life is going for them. Another great trick has been a once-a-year trip where a group of my old friends from Boston meet up in New York. I'm usually the instigator on it, and we've always had such a good time. You have to plan to keep people in your life, otherwise it's easy to drift apart.

6. What are some of your favorite ways to stay organized as you go through the upheaval of a cross-country move?
Your best friend in a move will be the garbage man. Go through EVERYTHING before you pack it up in a box and throw out tons of it. My rule is, if it hasn't been used in the last year, it's gone (except super sentimental stuff, of course). But hanging on to those old wedding presents or outdated clothes will only become cumbersome in a move because you've got to carry it in a box. Even if we've been settled in one place for a few years (WHICH HAS HAPPENED to us, believe it or not), I like to pretend we're moving once a year and go through everything and purge as much of it as I can.

7. How do you always seem to find a great circle of friends wherever you go?
The trick here is to not get stuck with the crazy lady of the neighborhood as your new best friend. Be nice to everyone, but hand-pick the people you think you'd like to get along with and invite them over. Call a few girls and go to a movie. Whatever you do, you have to make the effort. Waiting for people to come to you will leave you lonely and miserable in your new city. Get over any shyness and realize that people WANT new friends. People are always excited when you call and invite them over. Don't be afraid - JUST DO IT!

Great advice, Stie! Love you...

To read more of Stie's thoughts, check out her amazing blog. This post is dedicated to our li'l sis, Min, who has a new horizon on her horizon. Good luck, babe!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mixed Reviews

I loved this post about reading the other day. Jessica and I are kindred book spirits--a bit like Houghton and Mifflin or Barnes and Noble. She wrote what I feel.

Whenever someone asks me where in the world I find time to read, I am flabbergasted. Because not reading is just not an option in my life. I think I have read for pleasure every day of my life since first grade. It is my love language. It is my soul food. It is music for my mind.

On the outside, I am a very social and outgoing person. I love to be with friends and family, to talk and laugh. But being alone with a good book is the only way I know to recharge my batteries, to transport my thoughts to another time or place.

When we were first married, my husband sometimes didn't understand my need to sequester myself between the pages. (I was reading Presumed Innocent on our honeymoon. Scott Turow was a bit of a third wheel...) But now, Brad knows me well enough to realize that those moments I spend with my nose in a book make me a happier, smarter and more interesting person. And he can watch sports while I do it!

Now that I've discovered blogging, I have another creative, solitary outlet. And when you combine books with blogs you have one happy Gab. I love to hear your book suggestions and share my favorites with you.

Usually I just post my recommendations...but today I thought I'd post three near-misses. Books that let me down.

It's ok if you don't agree with my non-favorites. We can still be friends.

My mom and dad sent me this book for it seems very ungrateful to rip on it. The truth is, I LOVED the first 200 pages. It takes place in medieval England and the historic details are fabulous. I stopped reading because it is very "earthy." In an R-rated way. According to Ken Follett, the people during this time period only had one thing on their mind. Including the monks, nuns, and friars. And he describes it in great detail. I just couldn't handle it.

It is still sitting on my nightstand, because I can't throw away a hardback book, but I don't want to pass it on. Email me if you want it and I will send it to you in a brown paper wrapper. No offense to my parents.

This book is also on my nightstand and I have been reading it off and on for the past four months. It's the story of a murder in a Utah Mormon town. Written by a non-Mormon. It is not an anti-LDS book, but I think in some cases Jacquelyn Mitchard has Mormons confused with the Amish. Still, that is not the reason I don't like this book, I just happen to think the writing is slow and boring. I don't find the characters very believable either.

It's one of those books that I feel obligated to finish. And who needs that? I have enough obligations already.

My bookclub selection for this month. The movie is being filmed in our neck of the woods. In fact, one bookclub member's husband is an extra on the set! However the book was a real downer.

I actually read it a few years ago when it was hot off the presses and found it quite depressing. It's not that I don't like to read murder mysteries. I do. But this one is about a young girl and hits just a little too close to home.

I will still go to bookclub...because differing opinions are what makes the discussion fun! (Not to mention the killer desserts...)

What are your thoughts? Please discuss.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Target: It's Like Preschool, But It's Free...sort of...

Opting to save the double tuition and feeling stressed about meeting the requisite September potty-training deadline, I decided to keep the twins out of preschool this year. Instead of schlepping them off to fingerpaint, eat raisins and have circle time, I choose to make each day a learning adventure with Mom.
I am especially good at field trips.
Today's destination: Target.
Learning objective: Children will identify and understand principles of basic mechanical engineering.
To meet this objective, I drove past our boring-old-everyday-non-field-trip Target and pulled into the fancy Target 45 minutes away. My boys are quite enamored of this particular store since it has "magic stairs"...not just a regular escalator for people...

...but also a groovy "carts only" escalator!

They spent a good 25 minutes watching this. If Target ever wants to make even more money from poor unsuspecting moms like me, all they have to do is make a DVD of the cart escalator. Guaranteed bestseller with the under-5 male demographic.

Learning Objective: Children will practice independent hygiene skills.


(We haven't quite mastered the use-less-paper-save-the-earth objective...)

Learning Objective: Children will blend primary colors to make secondary colors.

Red ICEE plus white ICEE makes pink ICEE. Check.

Learning Objective: Children will practice table manners and sharing.

The boys did nicely sharing one ICEE and one pretzel between themselves.

Mom, however, showed signs of immaturity when asked for a sip of her soda. Maybe she needs more field trips...

Learning Objective: Children will demonstrate an ability to take turns and stand in line.

...and learn patience with the trainee cashier, and not throw tantrums when denied gum and packs of batteries, and not bash the woman in front of us (and her 2,800 coupons) with our bright red shopping cart...

Check. (Sort of)

Learning Objective: Children will learn math facts.

One trip to Target + one mom + two boys = a smaller bank balance

(But it's still cheaper than double tuition!!!)

Next week's learning adventure: TJ MAXX

Monday, January 14, 2008

Seven Questions...On Being a Mom

Welcome to blog's newest feature!

In the tradition of my cute sister, Marta and her "On the Spot" interviews...I have decided to chat with some of my favorite people about their areas of expertise. I always learn so much from my friends.

Up first is my mom, Marty.

Remember when you lived at home and blah, blah, blah...your mom was full of the most helpful advice? You couldn't wait to be a grown up and figure out all the answers on your own.

Then you grew up and wondered how your mom suddenly got so smart?

That's why I wanted to talk to Mom. She raised seven kids, married them off fabulously and is now a world-famous Oma adored by 18 grandkids. All the while she has maintained her own hobbies and talents and cultivated a storybook romance with the man she married 38 years ago.

Here are her thoughts on being a mom:

Question One: What are your top three parenting suggestions for mothers of young children?

1. Take care of yourself. Do your hair and makeup, and have clothes that fit and make you feel cute. You'll be cheered up whenever you look in the mirror. This is your career, and you deserve respect and self-respect.
2. Lighten up on everyone, including yourself. Laugh every chance you get and try to see the humor in your life. Have your camera, blog, notebook or telephone handy to report on the crazy moments. It will help you see the funny side.
3. Rest Time. (This saved my sanity.) Have a time of day when everyone has to occupy themselves safely for an hour or so. The kids can take naps, read, watch TV, whatever. The point is to give yourself a break. You can straighten the room you'll be in, but you can't do any laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. Do something you love to do. Be very protective of this time.

Question Two: You rode on the teenage roller coaster seven times...but four times with girls, which must not have been easy. Yet you managed to maintain close relationships with all your daughters. How?

When adolescence hits, it feels like your daughter is rejecting you. It hurts. It's easy to get defensive and turn it into a battle of wills. I gradually learned that my daughter was just as confused by the changes in her personality as I was. Finally I backed off and gave her permission (in my own mind, and through my actions) to grow up. We'd already practiced for this when she was two. Sometimes she threw tantrums and had to do it herself, other times she wanted to be carried and cuddled like she was as a baby. The pre-teen and early teenage years are very similar to the terrible twos. When I learned to get out of her way, but stand close enough to catch her if she fell, she felt supported and loved. Then it felt like we were working together on a project: gently unpicking the apron strings instead of ripping them savagely from the seams!

Question Three: Do you have any mothering regrets?

If I'd had the wisdom I have now, I would have been a better mom. But I wouldn't have the wisdom if I'd done it any differently. Even though I made tons of mistakes, I don't have regrets. Some great advice I got when my kids were little was "Live each season of life to the fullest and don't wish it away. Then you won't have to wonder where it went." Of course there were lots of times I looked forward to the future with anticipation, but I searched hard for the joy I knew I was having!

Question Four: You write a lot about your mom. She must have been a big influence. In what ways were your parenting styles the same? Different?

My mom made being at home fun. Her family was her first priority. She encouraged and supported my activities, and was always involved as a Sunday School teacher, Brownie Scout leader or room mother. Mom welcomed my friends, and they all loved her. I was never embarrassed by her, but proud of how pretty and hospitable she was. These are some ways I tried to emulate her. Mom was very talented at sewing, interior design, refinishing furniture, flower arranging and other crafts. I fell short in these skills, and felt unsuccessful when she re-did my projects. I handled that in my own family by letting my kids have all the talent.

Question Five: And've gained seven new children: in-laws! What are your tips for being a good mother-in-law?

A mother-in-law is everybody's joke. It's pretty scary to become one! No matter the circumstances, I knew my kids loved me and put up with my idiosyncrasies. They were used to me. When new adults came into the family they were suddenly faced with peculiarities they hadn't experienced before. It's funny to know you've become a person your kids make fun of on their way home! I've loved receiving full grown kids who are already trustworthy and responsible with no effort on my part. I want each couple to feel that we support them and view them as their own family. I never want them to feel pressure from us that would cause stress on their marriages. We're happy to give advice, but we want them to depend on each other and the Lord. They are ALWAYS welcome, but they never have to explain or make excuses for why they couldn't come. I hope I'm not the reason for an argument. One time a friend of mine, also with young children, said she was praying for the mothers of the children that would marry hers. I took her suggestion and also prayed for the children themselves. It's interesting that she became my daughter's mother-in-law. We were praying for each other! Because I had prayed for my future in-law kids, I already had a great love for them when they joined our family. I think of them as my children, too.

Question Six: What was your all-time favorite parenting book?

I read everything I could find, but the two books that remained constant over thirty years were Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock, and Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs. A statement by Dr. Spock: "Trust yourself. Nobody knows your child as well as you do."

Question Seven: And your favorite book to read aloud to children?

What Does the Train Say? by Laura Richards. A friend had an old copy before I had kids. I couldn't find the book for myself, so I memorized the poem, and repeated it to all my kids when they were little. I finally found a new version and bought it about ten years ago.

A mother once said, "Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories."

The only thing I know for sure about motherhood is that it's worth it.

Thanks, Mom! You are inspiring.

To read more of her wisdom, click here. To see her speak at BYU Women's Conference, sign up here. To go to the after-party, check in here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The birthday boys wanted pie instead of cake this year. Jake ordered Key Lime...he's never had it before, but enjoys Yoplait Key Lime yogurt almost everyday. So I tried this recipe. Very good. Except next time I will not buy the teeny tiny key limes. Lots of squeezing. Little juice.

Brad only likes chocolate his was a no brainer. Chocolate Velvet Pie. It's his mom's recipe...of course. This is not a really creamy recipe, because it's made with gelatin instead of whipped cream and eggs. So, it's kinda like chocolate jello. Different, light and yummy.

Chocolate Velvet Pie
1/4 cup cold milk
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup hot milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 egg
1/4 c. sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla
8 or 9 ice cubes
pinch salt
chocolate or graham cracker crust
whipped cream for garnish

In blender, blend cold milk and gelatin, then add hot milk and blend 40 seconds until gelatin dissolves. Add chocolate chips and blend til melted. Add egg, sugar, salt, milk and vanilla, then ice cubes one or two at a time. Pour into crust and refrigerate. This sets up quickly (15-20 minutes).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Two Mothers

Forty years ago, a young woman gave birth to a strong, healthy baby boy. She held him close and kissed him and laughed and cried. She took him home to meet his big sister and proud father and later gave him a wild little brother to play with and two little sisters to tease.

She taught him to work hard and play fair. She gave him an appreciation for all things delicious and home-baked. She helped him with his homework and took him to the doctor and made him a cake in the shape of Idaho for a school project. She cheered at his games and folded his pajamas and sent homemade fudge when he lived in Peru.

Now her baby has grown taller than she and even has more grey in his hair. He is a good man, a great father and still likes all things delicious. Especially when they are baked just for him. By her. He is a son that would make any mother proud.
Nine years ago, another young woman gave birth to a strong, healthy baby boy. She held him close and kissed him and cried and cried. She would not be taking him home, but would place him in the arms of a strange woman to raise.

And because she did...

She gave him two parents who love each other and love her baby beyond words. She gave him a wild little sister to play with and two little brothers to tease. She gave him a home with a big backyard and a swingset and sixteen first cousins and four loving grandparents and maybe a dog. Someday.

She ensured that he would have someone to help him with his homework and take him to the doctor and fold his pajamas and cheer at his games. She trusted that someone else would teach him to work hard and play fair and make him something home-baked and delicious.

Her baby is growing taller. He is a good boy, a great son and would make her very proud.

Happy wishes to my two birthday boys. God bless the mothers who delivered them to me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January Thaw

Is it global warming? El Nino? Indian Summer? I don't care what it is but I love it!

It has been in the sixties for the past three days and we've been living like California beach bums.

The roofers are wearing shorts and t-shirts and big happy smiles.

(Can you imagine doing their job in the typical January chill?)

Yesterday, after dentists' appointments, I let the kids play hooky and took them to the park instead of back to school. It was just too beautiful to pass up the sunshine.

No coats. No jackets. Only rocks, water and dirt.

It was the perfect way to spend a sunny January afternoon!

Here's hoping the nice weather doesn't float away too soon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Brown Family

This would have been our family Christmas card this year...if the oldest had not been so obviously ill and the youngest not making secret gang signs at the photographer. Please feel free to print and frame. Merry Christmas!
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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Taken by Surprise

40th Birthday Surprise Party
  • a great Italian restaurant
  • wonderful friends
  • delicious food
  • happy memories
  • a genuinely surprised birthday boy

Many many happy returns! Love you...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hello, Mars? It's Venus Calling...

One of my biggest shocks as a 20-year-old bride was that my wonderful new husband did not want to sit around for hours discussing my favorite subject. Hair.

I mean, really. My mom, 3 sisters, countless girlfriends and roommates all thought it fascinating. We could talk for hours about perms, cuts, colors, and products. Not to mention the endless quest for body, shine and hold. Which salon? Curling iron, flat iron, crimp iron? Highlights or low lights? Permanent or semi? How about a warm chocolate brown, streaked with chunky caramel pieces and a butterscotch glaze? So many delicious possibilities.

Whenever I ask "Hun, what should I DOOOOOO with this hair?", my better-half clicks the mute on ESPN and then says (usually without even glancing up!), "Babe, your hair always looks great, no matter how you do it!"

This is his PC way of telling me that he thinks my hair is an overwhelming, expensive project and that as long as it covers my head and doesn't frighten the neighbors, he wants to be left out of the whole situation.

OK...I am fine with that. Our marriage is strong. We don't have to share ALL the same interests.

And he is OK with the fact that I did not went to spend the better part of our evening poring over this last night...

Yep. Roofing shingles. He is getting a new roof for his birthday! Hooray!

And I will not let my feelings be hurt over the fact that he enjoyed the process of choosing between Shakerwood and Sierra Sunset much much more than he has ever enjoyed discussing "Gab's Hair: Bangs? Yes or No?"

But, he is from Mars and I am from Venus. And I secretly think the roof is just one big overwhelming, expensive project. And as long as it covers my head and doesn't frighten the neighbors, he can deliberate all he wants!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

You Might Be Living with Two 3-year-old Boys If...

  • have a ladybug living in Tupperware on your kitchen counter.
  • ...being stopped for 20 minutes by an enormous freight train is the highlight of your day.
  • had to break up a fistfight at the library check-out desk this morning.
  • know all the names of Bob the Builder's truck friends.
  • can recite "Curious George" in your sleep.
  • visited four public restrooms within two hours of errand-running.
  • are covered with prickly little hairs because someone was afraid of the barber chair.
  • just heard the words, "Mom, I had an axxxident!"

Oops! Gotta run...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I've spent the day putting away the Chris-mess and now I'm living in a whole new house. Although I love every inch of the December trimmings, it is nice to pare down in January. Everything seems bigger and newer and ready for a fresh start.

Brad entertained the kids all day and I did my favorite kind of housekeeping. I call it "puttering."

Puttering is the love-child of deepcleaning and decorating. I am not the best at either, but I do love to walk through each room in my house, tidy things up and then rearrange. You know...put new photos in the old frames, restack books on the shelf, shuffle the merchandise a little bit.

I redid my mantelplace.

Hung something different in the powder room.

Set the living room to rights.

Took out the Christmas dishes and brought back the blue & white.

And, best of all, made a new home for the gabtop! This is my kitchen desk and, now, Gabblog Central! I am sitting here right much better than Brad's den, which is always much too chilly and, shall we say, a little bit "masculine" for my taste.

Puttering is a no-cost makeover for my home and I usually get into a putter-mood when the seasons change. A few years ago, I bought the book, Use What You Have Decorating and I love what I learned...using professional decorators' secrets to make the most of stuff you already have. Because, although others might argue...I am deep-down a very frugal person!

(Don't get me wrong, I love to collect new things...but I also am quite sentimental and get great comfort from the fact that I have a piece of my mother's and grandmother's china in my dining room hutch and love seeing my nine-year-old's silver baby cup in my laundry room cabinet, holding loose change and pens.)

Some people might think puttering is a shallow hobby or a waste of time. But I don't think so. I think one of my jobs as a homemaker is making my home a clean, lovely and welcoming space. There is a difference between trying to create a showplace to outshine the neighbors and trying to make a gathering place where neighbors want to be. I choose the latter.

And, if you ever want to come for a're invited.

Now...for more January housekeeping:

  1. I have two special birthday boys to celebrate this month! My husband and oldest son(through a little tender mercy which still gives me a thrill of delight) share the same date of birth...31 years apart! Every year I moan over having two birthdays so soon after Christmas, when I am feeling my most close-fisted and non-festive. But the truth is, a little celebrating cures those post-holiday-January-blahs...and everything is on sale...and they don't even mind if I wrap their gifts in Christmas paper (although I try not to)!
  2. This is a benchmark birthday for my hubby. The big four-oh! And you know what that means? It means I have a 40-year-old boyfriend! Yikes. (He is probably less-than-thrilled with his 37-year-old sagging, wrinkled girlfriend...but there you go.) Actually, Brad makes 40 look good. Really good. I will try and get him something special this year...
  3. I have to brag about my mom! She was asked to speak at BYU Women's Conference this May! About? Staying connected to long-distance family using email and BLOGS! She is perfect for this assignment. Can you believe just a few years ago she bucked at the idea of using a computer? And now she is a cyber-star! I just booked my airline ticket to Utah so I can cheer her on...If any of you feel like meeting there, it would be a dream-come-true! I am so proud of you, Mom.

Happy Housekeeping!

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