Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All Packed Up

I've looked forward to this week since January! I'm all packed up and ready to head back to my alma mater for a little inspiration and relaxation. Will spend a little quality time with all the women in the family. (Can't wait to hear Mom's talk.) And the icing on the cake will be meeting some of my favorite online friends in real life! (Hope it lives up to the fantasy version...)

Thanks to Brad for making the entire trip possible. Thanks to my children for being extra difficult makes it a whole lot easier to leave. (But I'll still miss you...)

My only question: What will I look forward to now?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dear Twinkies, Part IV--The Final Installment

Dear Luke and Dear Sam,

So two weeks/three separate hospital release dates/one obnoxious and terrifying sleep apnea monitor/and many thousands of dollars in medical fees later, we were finally all home together.

Believe it or not, I did not look like this...

I looked like this...

On a good day.

It was Mother's Day when Luke was finally released from the hospital and we were all home as a family.

Naive at the time, I thought it would be all downhill from there.

Thank goodness for your sainted grandmothers who flew cross-country to help out. I don't know how I would have made it without their help. Or your cute aunties and cousins. Or good neighbors and friends. It really takes a village to raise twins.

Your first year is a blur of formula, diapers, spit-up, doctor visits, laundry and tears. I don't know who cried two or me. (Don't feel bad, cute boys always make me cry...)

But, somewhere between then...

And now...

you two learned to talk, walk, digest your food, sing, unscrew all the electrical plates in the house, use the toilet, read "No David", count to 30, speak a little Dora-dialect Spanish, crack eggs with no shells and sign your name. On the walls. With Wite-Out.

And you still can make me cry.

I love you, twinks! Happy happy birthday,

Love, Mom

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dear Twinkies: Part III--The Delivery

Dear Sam & Dear Luke,

It was a hot, sticky April afternoon. Jake and Emmie and I were playing across the cul-de-sac with friends. You two were wiggling around inside me. Dad was on a business trip and I was feeling exhausted at the prospect of getting everyone fed, bathed and tucked into bed.

As I sat in a lawn chair, a neighbor came over with a baby gift--although my C-section wasn't scheduled for another three weeks--I was starting to get a few presents. She brought some cute summer outfits for you two and this book for the big brother and sister...

I remember thinking, "Oh I wish this were the night before the new babies would come!" I was sooooo uncomfortable, but there was still so much to do. Jake was superstar at preschool the next day and there was a birthday party, too. That meant a big trip to Target for snacks and a present. The house was a mess. My bags were not packed. The nursery was not ready. I needed a few more weeks to get organized.

But tonight I was just too tired. So I read the kids their new book, tucked them in and got myself ready for bed.

At 5:00 am, I awoke after dreaming I had wet the bed. Weird. I tried to get comfortable and sneak another hour or two of sleep, when I realized this wasn't a dream. My water had broken.

Oh my goodness.

I went in the bathroom and tried to think. I was in no pain. Just shock. And I had no emergency birth plan.

After 45 minutes of frantic phone calls, kid-juggling and suitcase-packing, I was sitting on a beach towel in the front seat of a minivan and being driven to the hospital by the nicest birthing partner you could ever ask for. His name was Doug...a friend from church...and he was so chatty and considerate that I didn't feel COMPLETELY awkward.

Meanwhile, Dad was frantically hailing a cab, jumping on a train, and speeding to the hospital.

He got there just as the doctor was wheeling me into the delivery room.

Within 15 minutes, you two had arrived.

I have to confess--the whole experience was different than I expected. No labor pains...but no precious bonding afterward, either.

You guys weren't quite ready to be born, and so instead of holding you, I watched the NICU doctors whisk you away. It would be a few hours before I got to see you and when I did, you looked like this...

Luke--one day old

Sam--One day old

It was a long haul in the hospital. I had to get better and so did you. I learned how wonderful neonatologists and their nurses can be. I learned to depend completely on Dad. I learned that I had to be healthy before I could take care of anybody else. I learned to be patient while I waited to hold you both in my arms.

Three days old, finally together and finally in my arms!

You were here and I couldn't wait to get you home!

More later...

Love, Mom

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dear Twinkies, Part II--The Beginning

Dear Luke and Dear Sam,

So this is how your story a lab. Without getting too technical, I'll just say that the doctors took a little bit of me and a little bit of Dad and mixed them both together and hoped you would grow.

As you get older, you will realize that this whole procedure involves a lot of money, drugs, needles, and pain. (And a little embarassment, since I was the only patient at the fertility clinic chasing around a wild 4-year-old and his hyper little 2-year-old sis!) You will also learn someday that most babies don't actually start in a lab. (Wait'll you hear that one, you won't believe it!)

Trust me, however, when I say that all this hassle and heartache was worth it once I got the phone call telling me I was expecting you! Remember--I had NEVER been pregnant before and had almost given up hope...and when they told me a few weeks later that there were two of you inside, I almost fell off the table. (You guys have always been full of surprises!)

The pregnancy went smoothly...for the most part. In the beginning, you two were a little particular about foods and smells and I spent a lot of extra mornings (and evenings) in the bathroom. One of you REALLY liked barbecue potato chips, so I ate a lot of those.

As you got bigger and more ready to make your appearance, I felt big and uncomfortable. With your four legs and four arms wiggling around all day I felt like I had an octopus inside me! It seemed like there just wasn't enough room for you two and the air I needed to breathe. My biggest fear was that I would pass out while driving. And though I was supposed to be eating for three, one of you seemed to be squishing my stomach. I never wanted to eat. There was just no room for food. The doctors begged me to gain weight and told me to stop exercising. (This was a first!)

I remember the day I found out you two were both boys. I came home and told Jake he was going to have two little brothers and did he have any good ideas for names? Yes! He did...Batman & Superman. When I suggested maybe we could choose names from the scriptures, he had two more good ones...Laman & Lemuel!

You two were very sweet and cooperative even before you were born. I was very worried that I'd have to go on bedrest...since twins are notorious for arriving early. With no family close by to watch your brother and sister, and your daddy's traveling schedule, I didn't know how I would be able to do it all alone. You must've heard my prayers, though, because you stayed all bundled up tight inside and didn't cause me a moment's trouble.

I was able to stay up and moving throughout the entire pregnancy. And Dad kept up his business traveling right up until the end. In fact, he almost didn't make it to the hospital in time for your arrival.

But that's another letter...

Love, Mom

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dear Twinkies, Part I--The Apology

Dear Sam & Dear Luke,

I know you have seen the collection of big archival-quality binders on the family room bookshelf. Those are the family scrapbooks. The green ones include photos of fun family trips, outings and vacations (before your time, of course). The pink book documents Emily's first year of life--all with a red, white and pink Valentine's Day theme. Cute, huh? The blue volumes are a minute-by-minute account of Jake's first two years...including the box top of his first Gerber rice cereal meal. What can I say? He's the oldest.

Well, you know those two big manila envelopes sitting at the bottom of the hall closet? The ones all dog-eared and stuffed with random diaper coupons, immunization charts and scraps of blue wrapping paper sitting under a pile of old magazines and last year's science fair poster? Those are your scrapbooks, my darlings.

Please, don't feel unloved. I have had every good intention of making you each your own acid-free book of recognition. I have "it's a boy!" stickers and sailor-suit paper yellowing away in a drawer somewhere. But now that your 4th birthday is approaching, I am realizing that the scrapbooks are just not going to happen. Ever. Somehow, life has not slowed down the way I thought it would and when it does, the last thing I'm gonna do is pull out the scallop-edged scissors and page protectors.

I think you would rather have a happy, drug-free mother than your own silly scrapbook anyway, right?

So, this is my plan. I am going to put all your supplies into beautiful acid-free boxes. Then I am going to put them in a safe place--probably the top shelf of my closet. Then, someday, when the two Ms. Rights come along (and wouldn't it be fun if they were twin sisters named Lucy and Samantha?), I am going to give them each a hug and hand over your precious box of treasures. Trust me, they'll love 'em.

In the meantime, over the next few days, I will write down as many memories as I can of your miraculous and hysterical first year of life. You will have your own cyber baby book to prove that your mother really DID care.

More soon!

Love, Mom

Before & After

Remember, this?

One year later.

Happy Healiversary, Babe! You're better than ever...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's in a Name?

So there have been some questions about my name. I'm not surprised. There always are.

And really, the person with the unusual name should not have to be the one to explain it, spell it, laugh at the multiplicity of mispronunciations, and basically apologize to the world for being difficult.

You know who should have to?

These guys. The two young lovers who were so high on edelweiss and lederhosen that they thought giving their firstborn a German name would just be the epitome of wit and wunderbar.

I mean, please. The language responsible for Gesundheit, Volkswagen, and Oktoberfest should probably not be the one to shop around when choosing a name for your American baby girl.

Especially if you are planning to send her to public school.

But now that I've stuck with it for the past almost-38 years, my unusual name is part of who I am...just like my stubby fingers and my short bow legs. I don't always like it, but it's one of the unusual and exotic spices that make up my original recipe.

So here's the 411:

Gab--rhymes with slob, snob or get-a-job.

Diminiutive of Gabi--rhymes with blobby--which is what most everyone calls me.

My full name is Gabriele--which looks really beautiful on a wedding invitation, but which is frequently massacred by telemarketers, teachers and the people that announce your name at college graduation.

Don't worry. If we ever meet and you get it wrong, I probably won't even notice. Believe me. I'm used to it.

Any further questions should be directed to my mom's blog. Although she still doesn't really understand what I'm whining about.

After all, she changed to a German name the first chance she got.

Just call her Oma.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Foyled Again

I should know by now that my mom is ALWAYS right! When she (and my sister, Amy) told me all about the British Foyle's War series, it took me awhile to get into it. But now I am completely hooked. Every day I check my mailbox hoping for the flash of a red Netflix envelope bringing me my nightly fix.

Christopher Foyle & associates are great company if you have a big basket of laundry to fold. And getting lost in the WWII English countryside can help you feel less of a homebody while your husband's out of town on business. (Though if mine is around, he really enjoys watching too...mystery + history make this show a great his and hers combo!)

I may be the last person on earth to discover this little BBC gem (Why do all things British seem somehow just a bit more highly evolved?...). If you happened to miss it yourself, go find episode one and I guarantee, you'll be Foyled too! It's seriously better than anything on live tv.

Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


My camera has been stolen.

Along with a twenty dollar bill and maybe a couple of ones.

I can't really blame anyone but myself, of course. I mean, if you are dumb enough to leave your purse sitting in the front seat, with the doors unlocked and the windows down, you are practically begging some young guy to help himself to the contents of your minivan.

(I am assuming that the thief is a male, because any female crook worth her salt would have totally taken the bright red leather Coach bag and adorable Brighton wallet... oh! and the hot pink Razr phone.)

So, really, I am pretty lucky, as far as crime victims go.

Still, I am so so sad about my camera. It wasn't fancy or anything...but since I started blogging, it has become my constant companion. Always at the ready for a beautiful sunset or a silly smile. In fact, I had a whole buncha photos all ready to download and post on tonight's Weekend Wrapup.

You'll just have to use your imaginations...

This is a photo of me and the three boys staining the swingset.
This is a shot of the boys grinning & covered with stain. Looks like a bad self-tanning accident, huh?
Here's Brad building a fence around our woodpile. It's awesome! He's awesome!
This is Em playing goalie at her soccer game. Go Squeege!
Here I am looking very tall, slender, tanned and windblown under the crabapple tree. In case you are wondering, I did design and sew that cute Lilly Pulitzer-type sundress by myself. That is also a Martha Stewart 7-layer chocolate cake which I baked from scratch. And the cocker spaniel is the twins' early birthday present...we named her Pumpkin.
Just hope the camera bandit enjoys it...

Friday, April 18, 2008


Conversation at the breakfast table:
Me (in an effort to encourage appreciation & gratitude): You know, when I was a little girl, we didn't have cell phones or Wii games and we couldn't pause live tv.
Incredulous child: Did you have a computer? What about a GPS?
Know-it-all child: No, silly! They didn't even have paper back then.
Me: Actually paper was invented when I was in second grade, I was so happy I didn't have to scratch my homework on a rock anymore.
Incredulous child: Did they have bricks?
Impatient me: Umm...yes.
Innocent Child (quickly losing "favorite" status): What about the stuff BETWEEN bricks? What about soil?
This is the problem with children. Even if you're NOT older than soil, they make you feel like you are...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I love a big ole bowl of oatmeal first thing in the morning. A little brown sugar and cinnamon. Mmmm. Warms me heart and soul.

Brad likes his oatmeal in a different form...

The perfect oatmeal cookie recipe is his own personal Holy Grail. And I think, this weekend, he came pretty close to perfection.

Religious Experience Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 375. Combine 1 3/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Beat 1 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 sticks butter and 1/2 cup white sugar until creamy. Beat in 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, and 2 tsp. vanilla.

Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, 2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped nuts. (You may need to add a little extra flour if dough is sticky.)

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet, then cool on countertop.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Meet my high school crush. I'd pined since the first time I saw Goldie Hawn in Foul Play, crusing up the Pacific coastline with Barry Manilow singing in the background.

When I finally passed my driving test on the fifth (Or was it the sixth? I forget.) try, Mom and Dad got me my own vintage German sweetie. We were the perfect match--both petite, curvy and a little quirky.

Unfortunately, like most high school relationships, ours came to a premature crashing halt.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been...

What was your first fahrfegnugen? Did it end amicably or in an ugly smash-up?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Seven Questions...Gettin' Crafty

Meet Kelly! Athletic, smart, beautiful. A world-traveling entrepeneur, a cute cute blogger and the most important person in the lives of three lucky boys. Best of all--she and I share roots on the same family tree.

Kelly is my younger cousin. She inherited our grandmother's gift with a needle and thread and has been putting it to good use. Go check out her etsy shop--Kelly Couture--she's got the cutest aprons, jewelry and accessories! And she made them all herself.

Kelly's darling handcrafted aprons

Since I got skipped over by the stitching and crafting genes (instead inheriting Grandpa's thick ankles and taste for butterfat), I am fascinated by people who can actually make things and ENJOY doing it!

Here are Kelly's thoughts on being creative...

1. Where do you go for creative inspiration?
For me, as I'm sure it is for most people, I find inspiration everywhere. I can go days, even weeks where everything I look at sparks an idea or a project. Unfortunately, there are also lots of periods of drought, during which I definitely doubt my creativity. Luckily, I have a few ways of kicking myself in the butt during times like this.

The first & easiest way to get over the "hump" is blogs & websites. There are so many crafty & creative sites out there, it can actually be overwhelming. But they are definitely a great source of inspiration. I also have a HUGE magnet board in my office that I use as an inspiration board of sorts. the pictures and images rotate often, depending on what strikes my fancy, but it's always filled with things that inspire me... beautiful magazine ads, postcards, photos, fabric swatches... basically anything and everything.

The one thing that never changes is a set of quotes that inspire me every time I read them:

"life isn't about finding yourself. life is about creating yourself." -george bernard shaw

"you can't use up creativity. the more you use, the more you have." - maya angelou

Another thing I do to inspire creativity is my collection of magazines. Recently I've actually given up all of my magazine subscriptions. Getting the magazines in the mail just wasn't working for me at all. My latest issue would arrive & sit for days without me opening it. For me, personally, I've found it much more inspiring to make the trip to barnes & noble, where I can actually peruse all the latest issues & decide if it's really worth investing. Often times, I end up buying the same old titles, but on occasion, something totally random catches my eye.

This way, I'm excited & ready to read my newly purchased magazines... which is always a treat. I love curling up on the couch, and thumbing through these new issues. I read & tear. anything that catches my eye... an advertisement, a project, a room layout, if it attracts my attention I tear it out & later file it away in one of my many binders.

Which leads me to my next source of inspiration... the binders. I have a shelf full of binders, filled with magazine tears. They are organized as follows: patterns, recipes, project ideas, decorating ideas & holiday ideas. If I'm every totally stumped, or just feeling down, I love to page through the binders, something always jumps out at me & helps rev my engines.

Really & truly though, on an every day basis, I just really try to pay attention to the world around me... you never know when the lightening bolt is going to strike. I've had inspiration hit while I was walking through Disneyland, shopping in the grand bazaar in Instanbul, or simply lying on the beach. Often times my creativity is a result of need. I need something, or more often than not, I want something, or have to give something, so rather than buy it, I like to try to figure out ways to make it.

Other times my creativity comes from seeing something in a store & thinking to myself "I can make that for cheaper, or cuter, or even both." (Does that even count as creativity?) Seriously, inspiration truly is everywhere! Whenever I'm in a rut I just have to remind myself to open my eyes.

Handy diaper & wipe "clutch"

2. What does your workspace look like? How do you organize your supplies?
I can answer this question with just two words: organized chaos. My work space is spread out throughout the entire house. Although I dream of having a "craft" room, right now, that just isn't a possibility. So, my sewing is set up in our office. I found this really great sewing armoire that is perfect. When the doors are closed, you don't even notice it, it just looks like a piece of furniture. But when you open it up, it's like a mini sewing room. There are lots of shelves for me to store fabric & supplies. Plus it has a table with a drop leaf extension so it can really expand to make a nice little sewing table.

Usually all of my fabric and supplies are put away nicely, otherwise it can get hard to find things. I like to keep fabrics pieces of like size together, in color order. What this means is, I have a plastic bin with all my fat quarters folded nicely & color coded. I have another bin for odd size pieces, & then one for bigger pieces of fabric.

Within arms length of my sewing machine I have big mason jars... one is full of different colored buttons, another is full of ric rac, and finally one is full of spools of thread. I also have to have all scissors & cutting supplies close. (Although all of my cutting happens in the kitchen. I mentioned that it was spread throughout the house, right?)

I also have another cupboard (in the bathroom of all places) that is full of the fabrics I use to make baby quilts, quilt kits I have yet to piece, stitching & crocheting supplies & other random crafts. Then my kitchen is where i store all my jewelry supplies (I know, totally random).

Overall, I'm a pretty organized person, everything has it's place. I don't really function that well if things are out of place, which makes it hard, because when I getting working, things can go flying. Suddenly my clean, quiet space is a total disaster, & I'll have no idea how it happened. which starts the vicious circle... I'll have to stop "creating" & start cleaning, just so I can find things. Once I've tidied up, I can start "creating again, & the cycle starts again.

3. How do you balance your hobbies/business with your family responsibilities?
I'm not really sure if I do. This might be a better question for my hubby, Jeff, he might have some opinions on this... the one thing I've really tried to do is develop a schedule. I know it sounds boring, but if I didn't schedule, I'd spend all day sewing. I try to do as much of my crafting (for personal or business) while boys are sleeping, either napping or down for the night. It doesn't always work out, but I try. I don't really mind making jewelry while they're up, seeing as I'm in the kitchen, but I don't like to sew while they are awake. (Their little hands love the needle, & their little feet want to sew, so it just doesn't work.)

Right now I'm trying an experiment & am actually trying to limit the days I craft. I'm hoping that if I know I'm only going to sew two days a week, & actually plan for it, maybe I'll be more productive. Plus that gives me more time for other things (like my hubby).

4. Do you work better with a deadline? Or do you need more space and time? I wish this wasn't true... but, I'm a deadline kind of girl. There's just something about a deadline that gives me a little rush. I can have all the time in the world, but it never does me any good, because I just can't function until I have a deadline looming over my head. Then suddenly it's like someone flips a switch in me, & I'm ready to go.

Ahoy, matey! Pirate quilt

5. What is your crafting "uniform"? What do you wear while making your creations? Anything that is comfortable... usually it's jeans and t-shirt or my pajamas. Basically, whatever I happen to be wearing at that exact moment in time. Although, I must say that I prefer to sew bare foot, I just seem to have more "feel" that way.

6. Do you like background noise? TV? Music? I definitely have to have noise. I prefer dialogue when I'm crafting. Right now, my sewing machine isn't really set up for me to watch tv, so I usually crank up the tv really loud, or play a show off the internet. But when I'm really on a roll, I love music with a good beat... it just keeps me pumping along. Basically, I need noise. Absolute silence does me no good.

Kellycouture wish necklace

7. What advice do you have for someone who would like to start creating something new?
In the words of Nike: "just do it". Creativity is a wonderful thing... there are no rules. It requires no formal education, there is no right or wrong. It's all about you & it's all for you. so find a project & tackle it. I love trying new things, testing new ideas & being introduced to new concepts. It's always fun to craft with a group - everyone always has a different take on things, so you're exposed to a whole slew of perspectives. At the end of the day, if you are enjoying yourself & having fun, that's what's important.

Thanks, Kelly! You are an inspiration.

In her "spare" time, Kelly also writes a very cute and clever blog. Check it out here...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why Every Mom Needs a Blog

Everybody knows that you don't get into the whole motherhood gig for the big bucks and the fancy office. If tedium, bad smells and repetition get you down, this may not be the career choice for you. And, if words of affirmation are your love language, then just toss your self-esteem into the Diaper Genie.

Unless you have a blog...

Then you post a moderately-attractive picture of your family and within 24 hours, you will have a few friendly comments. Your kids are adorable! Your hair looks great! You write a few truthful paragraphs about your struggles with a special-needs child and all kinds of people you've never met before will be sending well-wishes. You are such a good mom! Hang in there! I've been there, too. You paste some photos of famous Mormons and type your thoughts on polygamy and you will feel like a cyber-celebrity for 8 glorious hours.

Thanks to everyone who has written in, commented and linked this weekend. It has been so good for the self-esteem of this affirmation-craving-stay-at-home-mommy type.

Yesterday, when my 3rd grader's little buddy hopped into the minivan with some constructive criticism--Wow! You REALLY need to clean up in here!--I didn't get defensive. Instead, I mentally traveled to my online-happy-place. Who needs a clean car anyway? After all, Dancin'Queen thinks I'm "brilliant!"

Today at the grocery store, the cashier gave me a withering look as the twins went into their traditional checkout freak-out. So what?! I thought. Who cares what he thinks? At least, Hollyween likes and links me!

Losing a ten-minute debate with my three-year-old about certain health risks involving a lollipop and a soccer field port-a-potty didn't get me down. Hey, you little squirt! You might think I'm a nag and a spoilsport. But The Mombabe sent me two comments. She even sang Hallelujah! With teeny-tiny music notes! (Tutorial please, Mombabe.)

So thanks again, everybody. You made me feel like a million bucks.

Now, just convince the people who live with me...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just for the Record...

Some Mormon women sing...

Some Mormon women dance...

Some Mormon women write scary stories...

Some Mormon women have a lot of money and really great hair...

I know hundreds of Mormon women. They do all kinds of different things and live all different kinds of lives.

This woman served as a leader in the Mormon church. She recently spoke to teenage girls worldwide. She encouraged them to stand up to peer pressure, strengthen their families and serve others. (Click here for more.)

None of the Mormon women I know look like this...
None of them are marrying off their teenage daughters and-- although some may joke about wanting a sister-wife (preferably one who is really fat & ugly, does bathrooms and changes diapers)--none of them really want to share their husband with anyone.


Some Mormon guys can throw a ball...

Some Mormon guys yell at the ball...

Some Mormon guys make scary movies...

Some Mormon guys have a lot of money and really great hair...

I know hundreds of Mormon guys. They do all kinds of different things and live all kinds of different lives.

This is one of the leaders of the Mormon church. Last Sunday he spoke about honoring women, especially mothers, and gave advice to husbands and children about how to treat the women in their lives. (For the whole story, click here.)

None of the Mormon men I know look like this...

The Mormon men I know are honest and hard-working. They don't cheat, smoke, drink or gamble. And TRUST ME....the last thing any of them want is another wife.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Could Take an Armful and Make a Treat

Spring, in my neck of the woods!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Children's Lit Love

Once upon a time, I was a freshman majoring in Social Work at BYU.

Why social work?

I don't really know.

The truth is, ever since first grade, all I wanted to be was a school teacher. I played school every day and had little neighborhood schools all summer long. I babysat and taught nursery school and knew all about fairy tales and fingerplays.

But declaring Elementary Ed as your major at BYU is the equivalent of changing your name to Jane Doe. Everyone at BYU is an Elementary Ed major. It was just too humiliating. I couldn't bring myself to join the permed and brainless masses.

And so I suffered through Anthropology 110 and Statistics 200 and looked forward to my bright future as a parole officer.

But at least I had my pride.

A girl who lived down the hall had followed the herd down to the McKay Education Building and joined the El Ed cult. She was raising fruit flies in a test tube and learning to decorate bulletin boards. Whatever.

I mean...didn't she know that there were only, like, three guys TOTAL in the whole program? Not that I was obsessed with guys or anything...but still. Elementary Education? No, thank you. I had brain and I was gonna use it.

And then, I heard about Children's Lit.

Wait. What? You mean, I could actually get college credit for reading Superfudge? Charlotte's Web? The Wizard of Oz?

I changed my major the very next day. (And got a new perm, too...)

Children's literature is my love language. I was raised by two bookworms who gave me an early taste for beautiful illustrations and the magic of the written word. Bookstores and libraries fill me with inexplicable joy. And it is a very rare night when my children don't get a bedtime story.

I have so many favorite books and authors. I want to celebrate them all. Because in this world full of cynics and sleaze, is there anything more pure and noble than creating lovely prose and pictures for little people?

Here are the first in my list of favorites:

Do you know Robert McCloskey brought baby ducklings into his bathtub so he could draw them to perfection for Make Way for Ducklings? His illustrations are true works of art. And the stories are timeless. I just got Blueberries for the twins and they love it as much as my older kids, who loved it as much as their mom. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk!

Who doesn't love Tomie de Paola? His artwork is deceptively simple and every story is unique. My favorite is his autobiographical Art Lesson. (And Strega Nona is pretty fun, too!)

Charming. Witty. Wise. And, so, so clever! I think Kevin Henkes is a genius. It amazes me that he can draw and write with such sweet, gentle humor. Growing up with an unusual name, I feel a natural connection with Chrysanthemum, but if you haven't met Lilly, Wendell, or Sheila really should introduce yourself.

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see Eric Carle looking at me! What would kindergarten teachers do without Eric Carle? His books teach the days of the week, the months of the year, the colors of the rainbow and all the world's endangered species! And he reminds us that ladybugs aren't always female and that sometimes they can be very grouchy. Universal truths.Eve Bunting doesn't illustrate, but her writing paints such beautiful pictures. I still cannot read The Wednesday Surprise without crying. So tender. So sweet. If I could be a children's writer, this is the kind of story I would want to write.

Let's hear it for the people who make storytime a celebration!

Which storybooks can you read over and over and over?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Happy Things

  1. Going to the dentist for a filling and, after minimal uncomfortable poking & prodding, being told that I don't have a cavity! The dentist is just incompetent! Or the x-ray was shadowy! Either needles. No drill. No big ugly bill. I'm happy.
  2. Taking my three sons on a bike ride. Two were wearing Thomas the Tank Engine helmets and one was doing hot-rod danger stunts. They all take after their dad. But no one got hurt today. I'm happy.
  3. Sunshine. Blossoms. Forsythia. And that yellowish-spring-green that makes everything look just born and fresh. Allergies will be starting soon. But not yet. I'm happy.
  4. Taking Jake to a bowling league just for kids with special needs. Watching tough dads push wheelchairs. And teenage sisters cheer for their challenging little sibs. Smiles and high fives. Chatting with friends. I'm happy.
  5. Watching church on tv. In my comfy clothes. Pretending not to eat the traditional General Conference trail mix. Because m&m's don't have any calories, if you snitch them from your kids. Being inspired and uplifted. I'm happy.

Happy weekend! Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seven Questions...Mommy Style

Calling all moms! Calling all moms!

Did you trade your make-up for spit-up? Your Prada bag for a diaper bag? Are your kids dressed to the nines, while you rate a 2.5?

Never fear! Paige is here...
It's easy to see that Paige knows style. She's also the mother of four, a fantastic blogger and a political force who shaped US history! Clearly, she was my top choice for some fashion Q&A.

Here are her thoughts on raising your style while raising your kids...

1. What do you think are the top three most offensive "mom fashion" mistakes?
I can only narrow it down to four!
Mistake 1. Many moms think "I can’t afford decent clothes." You do not have to spend a lot to look cute. Cruise through the clothes every time you are at Target and grab a shirt or two. Nothing there is over $30. Of course you don’t have time to try it on- if it doesn’t fit, return it.
Mistake 2. Wearing something dreadfully out of style just because it fits. If you are shopping "on the cheap," you should never feel bad about getting rid of your clothes or deciding it’s "out" or just doesn’t look good anymore. Keep a donation bag in your closet! If you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. If it’s too small, get rid of it. When you finally lose the weight it will be out of style anyway, and you will deserve a few new things.
Mistake 3. Wearing sweats/warm-up suits all day. You just have to get dressed to show you respect yourself.
Mistake 4. Dressing too young. That’s just embarrassing. If you drive by the high school and someone has your same outfit, you are dressing too young! Any "extreme" fashions should be avoided- and if you wore it in your youth (like in the 80’s), you are too old to wear it again (leggings and baby doll dresses...) .

2. What are the clothing items you splurge on? And what is ok to buy on the cheap side?
I splurge on expensive jeans--Sevens, Paige jeans, Citizens of Humanity, Lucky jeans. (See my jean tutorial. ) Everything else is fine cheap- jewelry, shoes, shirts, etc.

3. Please share your philosophy on finding the perfect pair of jeans.
Since I am short and wide (a fat midget), I have no idea who they actually make all those jeans for. Get them hemmed, taken in at the waist, whatever you need to make them look good. The darker the jean, the better. Plus, if you have the large mom pooch, don’t wear your jeans over it! To minimize, wear "midrise" jeans. Gap, Target, H&M are all fine but you might have to try on many pairs to get the perfect ones! Jeans with stretch are your friend.

4. Where are your favorite places to find fun and affordable clothes?
Of course, the aforementioned Target. Everyone will have the same clothes as you, but you will look better in them! I like to get clothes for the current season in the middle of the season when they are really inexpensive. Every single sweater is on sale at Ann Taylor Loft in January- nothing over $20! I also love Macy’s midseason for the same reasons- fantastic sales. H&M is good for shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, and capris (their pants don’t fit fat midgets).

5. For those of us looking for a few pieces to update our spring wardrobes, what do you suggest?
I’m not fashion forward, I’m just trying to keep up!
I do like the bright yellow and green handbags they are showing for spring, though.

6. Do you have any secrets for dressing thinner? Taller? Younger? Please share!
Wear heels to look taller and thinner.
But I only wear them when I go out at night and to church, because comfort is still important.

7. What is your all-time best fashion find? Any hideous regrets?
I have a fashion find about every month, and then I get sick of it. This month, my hair dresser, who had just had a baby, looked amazing in her jeans. She called them her "magic pants" --because everyone looks good in them! They are Levi’s 504 skinny slouch jeans and I got them for only $30 at Kohls. They also have them at Mervyn’s. Sure enough, they are magic pants!

Also, Citizens, Sevens, Paige, and Joe’s Jeans all make them in petites lengths now.

Currently, my hideous regret is my new short haircut. My husband thinks I look like a Hobbit, without the hairy feet. It’s too short, but it will grow.
Final tip-
Never forget to accessorize! Even a boring T-shirt and jeans can look adorable with the right jewelry and shoes!

I learned from my mom that, no matter what, you have to get dressed every day. Even if you aren’t seeing anyone but your kids, you need to get dressed and feel reasonably good about yourself.

Thanks, Paige! I'm heading to Target right now.

Click here to read Paige's fashionably funny blog! (It's even cuter than her clothes!)
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