Monday, December 21, 2009

Flying South

Adios, amigos. We're outta here.
Trading snow boots for sunglasses and hot cocoa for hot salsa. Santa made an early stop at our house and filled the Christmas stockings with colored pencils and hand-sanitizer and bubble gum for the cross-country plane ride. We are ready for take off.
I love that the kids are excited for some new traditions. Brad can't wait to taste his mom's holiday cooking. I'm just hoping for peace and sunshine. Maybe a couple of really good books and some grapefruit picked right off the tree.
Merry Christmas, everybody. Will be back in twenty-ten.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Amazing what a little sprinkling can do to change things up.

Kids, who haven't wanted to play outside since the leaves blew away, are all sporting red, chappy cheeks after a day in Winter Wonderland. The Lands End snowpants have been broken in. Marshmallows have been toasted in the fireplace. Some of us have stayed in pajamas all day.

I can't think of anything more heavenly than watching four snow angels through a frosted windowpane while packing a suitcase full of t-shirts and swimsuits. Talk about the best of both worlds. I'll sing White Christmas this weekend but hum Feliz Navidad the rest of the week. Cannot wait.

And Mother Nature reminded me again today that moms set the mood. With a little magic fairy dust, a mother can cast a spell. Hush a crowd and soften rough edges.

I did a little sprinkling of my own today. Glitter playdo--a double batch. Enough for the kindergarten holiday party and some to keep in Santa's Workshop.

Glitter Playdo
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
4 tsp. cream of tartar
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Stir in medium-sized saucepan and cook over medium heat. Mixture will get lumpy and form a large ball in the center of the pan. Add two tablespoons of glitter. Knead to desired consistency. Keep in airtight container.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ghost Stories

Charles Dickens knew that December was the perfect time for a good ghost story. While I'm not usually a fan of the genre, this month I've read two ghost stories and liked 'em both.

One was deliciously creepy and enjoyable.

The other was deliciously silly and enjoyable.

Both are set in London. (My favorite fiction setting!)
Both will probably be made into chick flicks. (Jude Law, call your agent.)
Both provided much-needed spirited distraction from the scariness of daily life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Children Want to be Jewish and Other Yuletide Reflections

This week just about everyone in our neighborhood is celebrating Hanukkah. Including us. We've lit the menorah and spun the dreidels. We've eaten the chocolate coins. But it is not good enough. My kids want presents. Eight nights' worth to be exact.

I keep reminding them that Santa will come soon and that, anyway, we believe in Jesus and want to open presents on His birthday. And, don't get me wrong, the kids love Jesus and Christmas. Of course.

But it's really hard to compete with the brand new air hockey table next door. Oy.


Tonight I was helping Jake with spelling homework, thinking up sentences for his words. I like to kill two birds with one stone and throw in a little moral lesson with my sentences.

Word: Voluntarily
My sentence: The boy voluntarily let his sister have the first ice cream sandwich and made his mother very happy.

Jake's response: Yeah. Like when did that ever happen?

Word: Enviable
Jake's sentence: He had an enviable scar.
Me: Really? I don't think people envy scars, do they?
Jake: Mom, you've got to start thinking like a guy.



We are doing our annual Christmas card map and have received cards from thirteen different states! As well as Vietnam and Venezuela! Marking the map makes me very happy. So does reading the cards and looking at the photos. Thank you to everyone who has sent us holiday cheer.

We need more Midwest and Southern states represented, though. If you happen to live in those wonderful geographic regions and have an extra stamp, please send us something. A postcard is fine. Thank you.


Tonight was Family Night. And, I am happy to report, no one was hurt during the game portion of the evening's activities. This is rare.

Luke, however, did need to excuse himself to apply several Go Diego Go bandaids in the course of Jake's (extremely hands-on) lesson about The True Meaning of Christmas.

He might be lucky and get an enviable scar.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa's Workshop

Here are our kitchen craft cubbies. They usually sit against the wall and hold stuff.

Here is the kids' craft table. Usually covered with games or coloring papers. Christmastime, I fill the cubbies up with all sorts of crafting goodies.
Except for glitter...of course. Because it ruins my Christmas spirit.
Cheap toys, paints, kits from the dollar store.
Lots of envelopes, glue, tape (my kids are ADDICTED to tape).

And then, I move the cubbies and make a "secret corner."
And, voila! Santa's Workshop! The perfect place for little elves to get busy.
(Somehow, "Ooooh, go make a surprise in Santa's Workshop!" sounds a lot better than,
"Can't you just get out of here and leave me alone?!!")

p.s. My kids wrap all their presents in aluminum foil. Less frustrating. And no tape necessary.
Unless, of course, you are addicted to tape.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kindergarten Love

"I never see you anymore," my friend said at a Christmas party last weekend. "What are you doing with yourself these days?"

"One word." I told her. "Kindergarten."

Yes, kindergarten. No, I am not teaching kindergarten. I am not even attending kindergarten. But if you have two kids in afternoon kindergarten, it officially becomes the center of your universe.

We spend all morning Getting Ready for Kindergarten. There's not really enough time to go for a playdate or run more than one major errand. Several changes of clothing are involved. Also, people are starving. All the time. Which means apple slicing, peanut butter spreading, cracker crumbing, countertop wiping and more changes of clothing.

Then, no matter how early we start or how organized I am, we somehow are always Rushing to Catch the Bus. I am old-fashioned and don't believe in driving to the bus stop unless the weather is really really really bad. So we walk, we bike, we scoot, we fall, we get muddy, we collect sticks and we climb trees. It is quite a production.

By the time the boys climb into the bus, I am very relieved that no one has broken an arm. I wave and give the twins our "secret sign" as they look through the window. Then I chat with my neighbor, Sue, for a few minutes. We solve several world problems and then I walk slowly home dragging a Razor Spark scooter and a red two-wheeler behind me.

My official kindergarten title is Room Mom. Kindergarten room mom at our school is responsible for lining up parent helpers for Kidwriting each day. Which means I am constantly bugging the parents with emails and phone calls. Or doing Kidwriting in the classroom. Or watching another mom's toddlers so she can go do Kidwriting.

I am always happy when it's my turn to help out. I love elementary school. I loved attending. I loved teaching. I love construction paper and the smell of school lunch (usually).

When I walk into the classroom, the kids are so happy to see me. Nothing is better for one's self-esteem than Kindergarten Love. After hanging with a bunch of eye-rolling teenagers in Seminary every morning, walking into kindergarten is like stepping into a warm bubble bath. They fight to sit next to me! They call out my name! They like my red hoodie! I feel like the Star of the Week.

The truth is my seminary students are not a whole lot different than a group of kindergartners. Both enjoy snacks, stories, sitting by their friends. Both need frequent reminders to stay on task and stop chatting. Both think life is exciting and extremely difficult at the same time. They are right.

As much as I complain about the daily inconveniences of kindergarten, the truth is that I am going to really miss it next year. No more morning buddies to ride in a firetruck shopping cart and embarass me at the grocery store. No more Kidwriting. No more Star of the Week.

But, thankfully, there is no time to worry about that now. It's time to start Rushing to Catch the Bus!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Face Off is my carbface after 10 days of "watching it." A little less puffy? Maybe? Holding a camera over my chubby side helps. This week I have had my face in boxes of Christmas ornaments, the screens at and a jumbo jar of Vicks VapoRub. My December cold returns.

Of course, this face eats 3x what mine does and look at it. Not a carb to be seen. This face will light up if you ask its owner to share his thoughts on college football and BCS selections. He has opinions, people.

Ahhh...this face. It has saved its owner from all kinds of spankings and time-outs. Dimples as defense. This face has been within an inch of the under-the-tree-Christmas-train all week. Choo choo.

This face tries so hard to be tough. Mostly to cover up the softie within. This one likes to face the music. Particularly the John Denver/Muppets Christmas CD which is playing non-stop around here

This young one has his holiday game face on. Christmas shopping all done? Check. With money he earned himself? Check. Outstanding report card? Check. Santa has noticed.

The face of a snow-angel. We had our first dusting of white stuff this weekend. Just enough to sled in for a few hours before all melting away. Beautiful.

Christmas? I think we can face it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And We're Off...

The Sleigh Race--Currier & Ives

I always feel, the first week of December, that I am coming out of the starting gate to compete in some twenty-five day steeplechase. I don't know why. It's not like there's some great prize for the first one with lights strung or tree decorated or cards stamped.

And the obstacles on the course are self-made. Really. No one else in my family cares whether the ribbons on the banister garland are spaced evenly. Or if the nutcracker collection looks balanced on the mantlepiece. But these simple obsessions are pleasurable in their way and my little elves indulge me.

This year, the decorating plan was going to be Christmas Lite. Since we're flying south for the festivities, I had promised to leave the baubles in the basement. But ladies, you know, there is no greater motivation to pull out all the holiday stops than 65 of your closest friends coming over on Thursday for the Relief Society Progressive Dinner.

Needless to say it looks like an evergreen explosion around here. But I love it.

Now we are in full jingle at our house. The wreath is hung. The tree is lit. And seasonal music is blasting every chance we get. (Celine Dion and I sang a lovely duet--O Come All Ye Faithful--on the way to the dollar store today. Too bad you missed it.)

Am now looking forward to Christmas cards, candy making, cookie exchanges and collapsing in a heap on my in-laws' driveway December 22nd.
**If you want to see what my house looks like, click here. Add two years' worth of aging to everyone (except me, of course) and you will get the general idea.
**Coming Soon: The Carbface Report

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Thing About Little Brothers

The thing about little brothers is that they come along and steal your limelight.

They smell and make weird noises. They are the first to point out a zit on your chin. They celebrate the fact that you failed your driving test. Five times. And they never let you forget the time you decided to make a 173-point turn inside the garage, because you thought that would be easier than putting your VW Bug into reverse and backing out the driveway.


then they grow up and marry somebody really cool.

And they provide your kids with some of the world's best cousins!

And, suddenly, you realize that a little brother can be one of the most amazing people you know.

(Luckily, he will never hear this sappy confession, because he thinks blogs are as dumb as turning a VW around in the garage...)

Thanks, J & C!

Memories of a very Amish Thanksgiving...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Feelin' Brave

I'm feeling brave as I pack up my savages and get ready for a rustic Thanksgiving out of town. Some years I love setting the table and making the pies, but this year I'm very much looking forward to leaving the dishes in someone else's sink. This year I want to make memories instead of stuffing. Can't wait to meet up with my little bro and his pack o'pilgrims.

The problem is that I am way behind in my packing, cleaning and general road-trip readiness. This morning I chose Zumba class over prepping at home. Have you ever tried Zumba? Seriously my new favorite workout, even better than Spin class. Latin cardio dancing. It's so much fun. Shelley, our instructor, gets us shaking and shimmying and singing so hard...I forget I'm burning calories. (Note to self: Next time the kids act up, threaten to come to school and perform Zumba routine for the entire class. That oughta scare 'em straight.)

Also, thought I'd be "smart" and get out the Christmas decorations a little early. Not smart. The house is half-decorated/half-disaster. With a sprinkling of fake pine needles covering all flat surfaces. Silly me.

I am still in the throes of Operation Carbface. Not noticing major changes in facial shape. The facial expression has become quite grim, though. Diets make me cranky. Will be taking Thursday off, of course.

All right, must go. Time for this wigwam mama to gather up her tribe and vacuum pine needles outta the teepee.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just Me and My Carb Face

A couple of weeks ago, I checked out this book from the library. Occasionally I enjoy reading diet books. Preferably while eating, of course. This one looked like it would go nicely with a big chocolate chip cookie. So I brought it home.
My philosophy about diet books is the same as my philosophy about parenting books. If I read a good parenting book, I feel like I am a good parent. Even if my parenting behavior has not changed. Same with a good diet book. I read it and instantly feel thinner.
But this book made a believer out of me. The author of this one made a claim that caught my attention. On page 188, Dr. Gullo promised that I could lose my carb face in 10 days.
What is a carb face? You may wonder. Well, here's what the book says,
"If you've ever looked closely at a person who has...binged on carbohydrates, his face often looks puffy and distended. This is what some of us who work in the field of weight management call the 'carb face.' "
I totally have a carb face.
But only for nine more days.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen! I have already completed one-tenth of the 10-day Gullo TurboCharge Diet. Just in time for Thanksgiving, too.
All I have to do is eat egg whites, fish, cottage cheese, and grapefruit for the next 240 hours. But don't worry, I won't starve to death. See, I get to have unlimited quantities of ice water, green vegetables, and sugar-free gum.
I don't want to be a size 2. I don't want to run a marathon. But I am fascinated by the thought of losing my carb face. So I'm going to try it. And I will keep you all in the loop.
Stay tuned.
Source: The Thin Commandments by Stephen Gullo, PhD [Rodale Books, 2005]

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Tomorrow is my turn to plan a Seminary game. I turn to my spouse for creative inspiration. "Hey Brad," I ask. "What was your favorite thing to play when you were a seminary student?"

Without hesitation, he says, "Spin the Bottle."

Not surprising. Not helpful either.


Sam at dinner table, "Ewwww. Do NOT get your eyeball juice on me again, Emmie!"

A little brother with a secret is a dangerous thing. Luke helped me pick out a surprise DVD to watch on our Thanksgiving roadtrip. Of course, he could not contain his excitement and started giving broad hints to his oldest brother.
"OK, OK! I'll just give you the first two letters.... U and P."

In line, at the H1N1 vaccination station, I heard a kindergartner mention my twins to his mom. I couldn't see him pointing, but I knew he was talking about us.

"Look, Mom!" he said. "Those boys are twins and they ride my bus. That one is the nice one. And that one is the mean one."

For the record, so far, nobody has 'fessed up to being the Mean One.
But I have my suspicions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photo Shoot

What do you get when you combine some cute kids, a seriously intense camera and one fantastic photographer?

You get an afternoon of adventure at the farm down the road!
(Not to mention a whole bunch of really great photos...coming soon to a Christmas card near you.)

We loved having Aunt Christie come to stay as she snapped, clicked and flashed her way through the Keystone State. I was seriously impressed with her professionalism and creative talent. This girl's got it together. She's so good!
As her honorary sista, I felt a whole lot of family pride and was excited to recommend her to my friends. It was just fun to be a part to of her East Coast debut.
In between gigs, Stie hung around for some late night chatting, a few good meals and one ridiculously heinous movie. (Oops, my bad...)
Still, it was one great weekend.

Say Cheese!
Go check out our photographer's website. She really makes everyone look beautiful.
While you're there, wish her a happy birthday! Love ya, Stie!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Day the Vaccine Came to Town

My mom still remembers the day she got her polio shot. It was an historical and traumatizing event in her young life.
My kids had their own historical moment yesterday when the H1N1 vaccine finally came to town.
We stood in a line that wrapped around the high school with 11,000 of our closest friends and neighbors.
I have to confess that I dreaded the whole thing for days--the crowds, the crying, the craziness.
But I was pleasantly surprised. There were hundreds of volunteers, community helpers and medical staff.
The line moved quickly, the paperwork was minimal, the organization was simply fantastic.
My kids each took some big snorts with their little snouts.
And that's the last time they'll act like swine this season.
I hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Daughter, The Jock

Not a sports picture...but still pretty cute!

Emily started basketball this week. Soccer doesn't finish until later this month, so she's double-teamin' right now. She loves it and she's good. I'm proud of her. I'm impressed that she can actually throw and catch and dribble and kick. And run. And run. And run. Wow, this girl can run. So what if she didn't start walking 'til 18 months? She sure makes up for it now.

Miss Em lives for competition. She loves games and loves to win. Many evenings she chooses a few rounds of Uno over a bedtime story. Most times she wins. Fair and square.

I love having an athletic daughter. I always admired the girls who could flirt with the boys and then beat 'em on the tennis court. I always wanted to be the sporty type. But it's kinda hard to be sporty if you hate running and are afraid of the ball.

Back in my Elementary Ed days at BYU, I had to take a course for future gym teachers. To pass the class I was required to do the following:

  1. Stand on my head for 60 seconds. I am not kidding.
  2. Make five free-throw shots in a row.
  3. Throw a football some ridiculous number of yards away from my body.

Luckily, that semester I had this really cute boyfriend who was also pretty athletic. I felt all helpless and feminine while he showed me the finer points of throwing a spiral. So romantic! I was sure the big He-Man was falling hopelessly in love with Dainty Li'l Me.

It worked. But a few months later, after we were engaged and talking about our future family, he said, "I just hope our kids take after me, you know, in the coordination department."

Fortunately (and, quite miraculously, actually) they all did.

And, because one of the best (and worst) things about being a mom is reliving your own childhood through your kids' I can proudly say that I am a girl jock, too.

Yay, team!

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Praise of Monday Morning

The best-kept secret of motherhood is Monday morning.

After a whole weekend of soccer games, Pet Pals club, play dates, Chuck-E-Cheese, errand running, Sabbath "resting" and family togetherness...Monday morning is my return to sanity.

I put the big kids on the bus, the little kids in front of Caillou, turn on my podcasts and then I'm on my own.

With 700 lbs. of dirty laundry, of course.

The thing is, I don't really even mind emptying wastebaskets, folding laundry and scrubbing the kitchen floor. On a Monday morning, it's my time. (As opposed to Saturday family chore time which I know is important, but let's face it, can be agonizing.)

I sort my thoughts as I separate the darks and whites. I scrub a grubby corner of the pantry and let my mind tackle a tricky scheduling dilemma. I wipe fingerprints off the glass door and resolve to improve parenting mistakes. It's Monday! A fresh start!

I learned early in my stay-at-home career that it was best to keep Monday's AM calendar square relatively clear. No doctor's appointments, no swimming lessons, no obligations. The foundation I lay Monday morning sets the tone for the entire week. And if I can get my house pulled back together, I feel a whole lot better about me, too.

The dryer is beeping. Is there anything better than fresh, warm towels? Or is that just me?

Enjoy your Monday, friends!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fifth Inning Musings

9:39 PM--I am sitting on the couch watching the World Series. Em is asleep next to me. Jake is foraging in the kitchen. He loves staying up on school nights and I am enjoying his company.

Brad is watching on the West Coast. It is weird to watch sports without him. Basically he serves as my own personal sportscaster. I can blog, read, plan my Seminary lesson, or sleep on the sofa and he'll keep me informed. I like his commentary and explanations. Also his snacks. Brad makes really delightful late night snacks.

I want the Phillies to win, but it's not looking good right now. And, let's face it, I haven't done anything for them this year. So how can I demand a championship? They owe me nothing.

I'm worried about Jake, though, he's taking this very personally.

It's fun to have a pre-teen in the house. Even though Jake's social development can be a little unpredictable, he is growing into a very typical young man physically and emotionally. Just a few centimeters behind me and with a mouthful of train tracks, the kid is every inch a tween.

Of course, I'm not crazy about the mood swings and I need to spend my entire clothing budget replacing all his high-waters. But it's fun to have a male presence, someone who knows all the Phillies' names and laughs at the goofy commercials.

I like watching sports with cute boys. And this one still lets me kiss him goodnight.
Go Phils!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween was not about me this year.

It used to be all about me. My costume inspirations. My pumpkin carving skills. My beautifully decorated sugar cookies.

Well. This year I let the little people take charge and guess what? Halloween survived without me. Seriously. Who needs sugar cookies?

Look what they came up with all on their own...

Jake designed his own zombie costume. It was bloody. It was scary. His newly-installed oral hardware added a sinister gleam. I offered to buy any ortho-threatening candy for 5 cents a piece. But Brad doubled my offer and Jake is no dummy.

Girls of a certain age like to dress up to match their friends. I support it wholeheartedly, as long as they are not showing too much skin. Em is a die-hard Dr. Suess fan and came up with this idea weeks ago. The blue hair looked much better in person.

Sam was all set with a Harry Potter costume...or so I thought. Five minutes before the kindergarten bus, he burst into tears and refused to wear the robe, the lightning bolt or the Hogwarts tie.
The only costume that made him happy was this dinosaur costume which once belonged to Jake. At age 3. It was so snug, we called Sam "Wedgiesaurus." He was thrilled with himself.

Nascar Luke was typically easy-going and cooperative. Still, he balked at the idea of a helmet or makeup. (I thought a little pencilled facial hair might be fun...but it's not about me, right?) This was the first year the twins didn't dress alike for Halloween. The end of an era. I'm a little sad about it.

Brad does not dress up. He wears plaid and denim and watches the Phillies.
The highlight of my week was meeting up with my blog buddy, Jessica. (Yes, she really is this pretty!) Next year she's going to come trick-or-treating with me and we're going to wear matching costumes and spray our hair blue.
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