Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year

Why doesn't someone tell me I'm not a kid anymore? I keep playing with my kids and keep getting hurt. I guess I forget (or don't believe) that I'm getting fragile. Booooo. Last year I jumped off the balcony into the snow with my boys, and I ended up with a sprained ankle. This year I boarded down the tiniest little hill with my guys and I ended up with a muscle strain in my back. My kids are like Bumbles - they bounce. Me? not so much. But I keep acting like I'm a Bumble. In Rudolph's story, the Bumble guy was old, after all. Well, "older". Maybe not quite as old as I am. Ooooh, I'm getting old. Older. Not old. Nope. Never old. (It's all in your head, right?). So I keep bounding around with my kids, and paying the price. But having a great time when I do end up bouncing instead of flopping.

I love the New Year's thrill. It's exciting. It's a door opening to a million billion possibilities and all I have to do is decide what I want and go for it. Like shopping at a huge store with a gift card, I look around at all the choices of what I really want, then I pick the one or two things I'm going to get. Or do. Or become. The blank slate and fresh beginning of a New Year means I can pick anything. Do anything. Become anything. It's all there. What will I choose? What will I resolve this year?
It's inspiring, really - all the possibilities. It makes me want to reach higher, be better, try harder. What will I do this year?
I don't know yet, but I'm having fun browsing through the choices. Learn a new language? Write a book? Start a non-profit? Build something? Teach my kids something cool? Travel somewhere?
Whatever it is, I know I can be a better me. And that means trying to be the person God wants me to be.
What will I become this year? I wonder...

I was folding laundry in the playroom when my girls interrupted me with the invitation to their tea party. I guess I figured being in the same room was good enough, so I explained to them I couldn't join them. I had all the clothes from this vacation to fold. I put the girls off, telling them I was busy and that if they really wanted me, they'd have to wait until I was done, blah blah blah.
They did wait. They waited and waited and kept making the table prettier and setting out new "foods" and chatting happily, glancing at me and my six piles of clothes. I would never finish in time to play (it was getting close to lunch), but they were fine waiting. I had thought they'd get bored waiting. But I soon realized they weren't about to move on to a new game or toy. They were content to wait for me and my laundry as long as they knew I'd eventually join them. Their patience, trust, love, and childlike belief finally broke through my task-oriented mind and zapped straight down to my heart, opening it up like it should have been to begin with. I stopped mid-fold, put down the clothes, stepped over a pile of socks, and took my seat between my girls. Right where I belonged.

And I had the most delicious make-believe meal ever. My girls "cooked" me some bacon and peas and cookies. We set a battery-powered Christmas candle on the little play table for our candlelight dinner. I folded myself into the child-size chair and "ate" my plastic peas with a miniature fork. I sipped the air from a tiny tea cup and made appropriate comments on "what a lovely table, dahhhling" and "simply wonderful."
They'd waited for me for about 30 minutes before I caved. Our tea party lasted about 10 minutes. That's all they wanted. Ten minutes. Since when did folding clothes become more important than ten minutes with my girls? Silly me. When the tea party was over, they moved on to playing on the playroom slide and I went back to folding clothes and watching them. They had their mommy-fix, and I had an eye-opener. They're growing so fast.
My boys, too, are bolting up. In the last two months they've jumped an inch and a half in height. I can't hold on to them hard enough to keep them little. I can't keep them back...but I can move along with them. So I'm learning their language - what's cool, what's not. What's important, what's not. I'm also realizing that they still need me. They may want their independence, but they want their security, too. Last night one of my sons saw me reading to the girls. He asked (in a sincere way) why I didn't baby him, too. I stopped for a moment. I looked up at him and suddenly saw my baby boy again. He's grown so much - they both have - but they're still my babies. Always.

And so I read to my boys. I read to them although they can read just as well (and faster on their own) as I can. Ability to read, though, wasn't the point. The point was feeling cared for. Feeling babied, loved, adored.
We've been going going going so much this vacation - being at the Hancock cabin with cousins galore and too many outings - and they haven't had "down time" with me like they needed. So last night we spent the evening home, just us, no distractions, and we read together. We did puzzles together. We were quiet together. We had time together.
Time together...I can't hold them back, but I can go along with them. I can put down my laundry, I can give ten minutes - I can give ten million minutes - I can mother my babies, and together we'll make this Journey through life a compilation of beautiful moments.
There. That's my resolution. One of them, anyway. To give my children more of me every day, and to move along with them and meet their needs and teach them. And give them love.
My other resolutions? I'm sure one of them will be to morph into the perfect wife. Goodness knows Jeff deserves it. I'll try. And I'll fail, but he's patient and loves me anyway. If I can't quite make it to perfect, at least I can make it to better.
I'll work out other resolutions as soon as I've narrowed them down to what I really want. It'll take some mulling over things to figure out what it is I really want. I'm so very blessed. It's been a good year. I'm so thankful for fresh starts, for the atonement of our Savior that lets me start anew, and for the enabling power that helps me become who I'm meant to be. It'll take eternity to get there, of course. Perfection is a long, long, l-o-n-g way off...but at least I'm heading in the right direction.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cool Runnings & my new Phone

: I ran outside once this week and spent most of the time slipping and trying not to slip. It was icy. It didn't help that when I was running into the breeze, the wind blew my warm breath back on my face, thus fogging up my glasses. It was 5 am. I could barely see anyway, since it was dark, but with fogged-up glasses I REALLY couldn't see. Why run with glasses? I'm too lazy to put in contacts in my sleepy eyes that early in the morning, and I need something to help my eyesight - so glasses. Fogged glasses, though, are worse than no glasses. So I tried taking them off. Of course, then I really couldn't tell if I was about to step on an icy patch or not. I put them back on and kept wiping them off with my gloved fingers. Until my gloved fingers got too damp and then the dampness froze (it was, after all, 20F, with a windchill around 14F). So blindly slipping on my run - which happened to be a "hills only" run - I found myself not working on a fast time or on good form (hard to do when my limbs are flailing to keep me upright), but simply trying to SURVIVE my morning "run." I had visions of crashing to the pavement up on the dry farms where the only traffic is the occasional potato truck - the very very BIG potato truck. The big potato truck that of course wouldn't see a blinded runner sprawled on the icy road. I ran in fear because my mind began going a little crazy, but the imagined disasters did give me a rush of adrenaline and the courage to pick up the pace...until I turned back into the wind and ran with fogged up eyesight again. And I slipped. A lot. But luckily I never fell.
Resolved: I'm not going to ruin a season by twisting my ankle on a piece of black ice or waste a run by having to walk because I can't see, or risk my life because of a potato truck (okay, I know the potato trucks don't run in the winter, but what if some farmer decided to drive the truck at 5 am on the lonely dark road, you know - just for fun?).
So back to the treadmill it is. I've been watching documentaries on my iPad (streaming via Netflix) during my morning runs. I know - it might seem boring to others. But I love that I'm exercising my body and educating my mind. I can hold on to the side so I don't slip. The iPad is close enough that I don't even need my glasses. And, as a bonus, I'm not about to be run over by a potato truck.
In winter, I love my treadmill.

Swimming: For two whole days our Endless Pool was functioning. I swam about seven times on those two days - three on my own and four with the kids. We had to turn it off and close it up though until we get the decking and skirting built, and until we get the cover mounted. The warmed-up pool was putting way too much humidity into the air, ruined two doors, and made our electrical bill sky-rocket. When the cover is on, it will control humidity and help keep the pool at a decent temperature with less cost. So this week our carpenter will start the woodwork. I only had it two days, but I miss it!!! Can't wait for it to be functioning again.

Reading: My sister-in-law introduced me to some really fun mystery/cooking books. I've read Lemon Tart, English Trifle, and am reading Devil's Food Cake. The last one is Key Lime Pie. Such fun books. A normal ol' lady who loves to cook, is very perceptive, and just happens to be around when disaster strikes. She uses her common sense, her powers of observation, her persistence, and her personality - and her good food - to glean information, piece it all together, and ultimately find out whodunit.

Cooking: I love the back and white soup on the earlier post. My kids love it, too. This week I hosted a crepe-making activity, which was tons of fun. And delicious. I also made fudge and spent a day making applesauce (and bottling it) with my mom. I know, kind of late in the canning-season, but the apples were fine waiting until I was ready. I can't remember everything I baked this week, except that I made baked potato soup on Wednesday, and a slow-cooked in the dutch oven beef roast on Thursday. Friday was a Christmas party dinner so I didn't cook, and today Jeff made fresh pasta for dinner (which was, as always, outstanding).
Oh, I used some of the fudge today to make into a French Chocolate (hot chocolate) drink. Very rich. Very very yummy.
I think I need to get back on the treadmill.

Other: I seem to have bad luck with phones. I already broke one phone this summer (it had been Jeff's phone at one time), which Jeff graciously replaced with his current old phone (and then the poor guy had to buy himself and upgraded phone). This week his old phone that was now my phone got sick. Sick to the point that it wasn't really working. So Jeff bought me a brand new one (no hand-me-downs this time). He also bought me a hard-sided shell and immediately put the phone in the shell before we even left the store. Huh. I can take a hint. :) Kind of fun to have a new phone, though. My calling & texting plan is pretty limited (apparently AT&T says I'm not a heavy phone user) so I won't be using it tons. Not for phoning, anyway. I'll be using it for other stuff - reading, playing games, checking the weather, logging my runs, know, all the things you'd expect from a phone.

Being Human(e)

I wrote this for the Bella Rosa Bikes blog - some of it is a recap of things I've already blogged about here, but I'm copying it here anyway just for my own records.

Being Human(e)

So, thinking of Christmas, I decided that grumpy athletes remind me of Scrooge (before his metamorphosis). They think only of themselves and find no joy in the success of others.

Thankfully, I don’t know a lot of grumpy athletes. Most people I know are really, truly wonderful. I loved the idea in the book, “Born to Run” that the best athletes were also the best people – the most loving and inspiring. They excelled, but not at the expense of compromising their humanity. They didn’t squash people to get ahead, but pulled others along with them to the top.

I like that. I like that a goal doesn’t have to be about beating everyone else but about everyone cheering each other on to meet their own goal. I like the idea of sharing the experience, of everyone doing their best and everyone pleased with each other’s performance.

The potential problem with being the Scrooge athlete is that being better than everyone becomes his identity. He haughtily pulls inside himself, too worried about his performance to even consider cheering anyone else on. And then the inevitable happens: one day, he fails and finds himself all alone. It is devastating because he has lost – not only the race, but all the wasted time focusing on something fleeting instead of something lasting.

Something lasting…like what? Like being the best person you can. Like finding as much satisfaction in your successes as in other’s successes. Like being comfortable, adaptable, and flexible to the curve balls coming your way, bouncing back with a smile and a good heart.

Speaking of curve balls and a good heart, three weeks ago my son was teaching my five-year-old daughter to play baseball. She stood too close behind him when he swung a big, heavy metal bat…right into her nose. It moved the bridge of her nose off center, breaking the bone and breaking the skin. I ran her into the bathroom where she bent over the sink, gushing out sobs and blood. When she caught her breath long enough to speak, the first thing she said was, “It’s okay, Mom, it was an accident. He didn’t mean to. He feels really bad.”

I was floored. Her first thoughts were for her brother. After her surgery a week later (they had to wait for the swelling to subside before they could do the surgery), she woke from the anesthesia, looked at me groggily, and asked, “Am I okay?” I assured her she was. She then immediately asked if she could please call her brother at home to let him know she was okay. Again, her first thoughts were of him.

I didn’t teach her that, she came that way. She’s a loving, happy and joyful person. She’s also an incredible runner. I kid you not, that girl can run. Sometimes I’ll take my kids to the local university indoor track for some exercise when we’ve been cooped up in winter weather too long. My daughter always picks one of the college kids out and joins them in their run. She keeps up for a couple of laps, takes a breather, then finds a new running partner, bouncing from new friend to friend. And the way she runs, you’d think she was in Disneyland having the time of her life. She grins when she runs. She loves it.

She loves everything. She cares deeply for people. Her loving energy translates to beautiful running. I look at her and think of the hypothesis in “Born to Run” and I see the possibility that it is true.

I’d like to be like her. Sometimes I’m nowhere near, but sometimes I get close. I run two kinds of marathons – first, the marathon for me when I try to get my fastest time yet. When I’m running for me, it is thrilling, a real test of my stamina, a time to see what I am capable of. But it’s all about me. The fun is there, but it’s passing, sometimes followed by post-race let-down (although not as often as it used to happen). I don’t even remember what my times were or what the courses were like. For those “me” marathons, I mostly remember who was there to meet me at the finish.

Then there’s the marathon I run with my brothers. We run to simply share the journey. Two of my brothers and I take turns pushing our oldest brother, who is quadriplegic, in his racing chair. We switch every two miles, take care of each other’s needs during the 26.2 miles, and spend at least the first half laughing and talking. The second half we all kind of clam up, except for our oldest brother. He says really inspiring things like, “Think you could go any faster?” or “I don’t think we’ll get a good time, maybe we should go back to the beginning and try again,” or “Are we there yet?” He has this really evil laugh that follows such statements. He makes us not take things so seriously, and he obviously enjoys the heckling. In fact, he enjoys the whole race, while those of us pushing enjoy a lot of it…and then we enjoy the finish. My brothers are good people. To spend hours on our feet or in a wheelchair together is maybe not the most exciting thing, but it’s definitely satisfying and memorable, something we can do together, and a way to include our oldest brother in the joy of moving. And when we run, our oldest brother grins – he grins like my daughter when she runs. Good, loving people, the both of them. And good at loving the run just for the sake of the run.

I am delighted that I met my personal running goal during one of those “me” marathons. But the second kind of marathon – the “us” marathon - is the one I’m most proud of. It’s not easy pushing a grown man that long (and it takes us a l-o-n-g time), but it is so so so much fun to race together. It is quite the experience to see the delight on our big brother’s face as the crowd cheers him on and fellow racers give him the thumbs up. He becomes a part of some really great people – or perhaps they become a part of him, a really great person. Racing together does that - makes you a part of each other.

Maybe we are all part of each other, and maybe when we include each other we all become better people. Maybe we can all find joy in the journey together. Maybe we all were “born to run” (or ride or ski or swim or just move), one way or another. Hopefully we will all be out there with silly grins and wicked laughs, pulling or pushing each other along to success.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black & White Soup

Black&White Soup

Yield: Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

4 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 bacon slices, chopped
5 large fresh thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place beans in large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover beans by 3 inches and soak overnight.

Drain beans; transfer to heavy large pot. Add 4 1/2 cups water and next 7 ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree black bean soup in blender with 2 cups chicken stock. Return soup to pot. Stir in chopped cilantro. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to simmer, thinning with additional chicken stock if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

On the black bean soup, sometimes to save time I use canned black beans instead, then pick up the recipe from where it tells you to puree the beans. I like my black bean soup thick and add extra beans. You can add more or less beans as you like.

For Cheese Soup:

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add peppers, onion and garlic. Sauté vegetables until tender, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then milk and cream. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Gradually add cheese 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until melted and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, simultaneously ladle generous 1/2 cup cheese soup and generous 1/2 cup Black Bean Soup into shallow bowls, allowing soups to meet in center. Top with tomatillo salsa and sour cream.

On the cheese soup, sometimes before adding the milk, cream and cheese, I'll blend the soup so there are no veggie chunks, and it's a much smoother soup. If you don't blend it, it has a nice texture and a confetti- color, so either way is fine. Also, you don't have to use white cheddar cheese - yellow is fine (you just have Black & Yellowish soup instead).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oliver took his little sister out to play on Monday, Nov. 1. He wanted to teach her to play baseball. She stood too close behind him as he swung the heavy, metal bat, and ended up with a broken nose. Oliver ran for me so I could help. As blood and tears gushed forth, sweet little Eleanor sobbed out, "It's okay, Mom, it was an accident. He didn't mean to - he feels really bad!" Her first concern and thoughts were of him. She didn't want him to feel bad or to get in trouble.

I called Jeff for advice as the blood poured out. I couldn't see her nose yet. He said to wait 15 minutes and call back if the bleeding didn't ease. Thankfully, it began to slow down. I wiped her up and then saw that the bridge of her nose had been pushed over. It was obviously broken. Jeff picked up Ellie to go see an ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor friend of ours. Definitely broken. And she'd have to have surgery when the swelling went down.

Eleanor kept up her cheery disposition despite the significant bruising and swelling. She insisted the next morning that she had to go to school. I insisted that she needed to stay home. But as I watched her bouncing around in her Ellie way, I realized she'd either have to bounce around at home or at school, and there was no point keeping her home when she was just fine. I dosed her up and dropped her off. Kindergarten is just 2 1/2 hours long, anyway. Still, I made a trip down to the school to check on her after the first hour. She was fine. Her teacher was concerned, though, because Eleanor had the lead role in the kindergarten classes' play coming up the next week. We weren't sure when surgery would be, so we just played it by ear, assuming she'd be able to still sing and perform.

She met with Dr. McMaster the next day (Wednesday) so he could asses the swelling. He wanted originally to schedule surgery for the next week (play week), but figured he could do it at the end of the current week instead. That'd give her all weekend to recover from surgery and get ready for the play. Of course, the play was insignificant compared to getting her nose fixed, but it was nice that both things could be accomplished. Eleanor had surgery Friday, Nov. 8, at 7am. That meant we had to be at the hospital at 6am. My mom came to be with the rest of our kids (who were still asleep) so Jeff and I both could go with Eleanor. Thanks, Mom!

Eleanor did great. She was sweet with the nurses and doctor, and was very brave with the IV insertion. The "happy medicine" they gave her just prior to surgery made her very loopy, though. She'd giggle uncontrollably, then for no reason burst into tears, then she'd laugh and cry at the same time. That stuff's weird. Dr. McMaster invited Jeff into the surgery. He left to put on scrubs while I waved Eleanor off into the operating room. I did not like being left behind, but, on the other hand, I'm not so sure I'd have liked to have been in there, either. While she was in surgery, I drove back home to make sure the boys were getting ready for school, eating breakfast, and getting off in time, and getting Charlotte up and dressed. The boys had lots of questions about the hospital visit and how Eleanor was doing. I told them she was doing just fine.

My Mom sent me back to the hospital after a half hour or so. I only waited in Eleanor's room about ten minutes before they wheeled her back in, asleep and nose-casted. I didn't know noses could be casted. Dr. McMaster had straightened her nose, packed the nostril, and set a hard casting bandage over the nose. It had gone well. She woke up slowly. The first thing she said when she awoke was, "Am I okay?" I assured her she was. The next thing she said was, "I have to tell Oliver that I'm okay." She was upset that we couldn't call Oliver right that minute to let him know she was fine. Oliver was in school, but I promised her we'd tell him as soon as he got home. That didn't help. She didn't want him going through a whole day of school not knowing how she was. Luckily, when I told her I'd seen the boys before they left for school and had told them she was okay, she then settled down and went back to sleep for a few more minutes. We came home for a day of resting on the couch. I picked up Charlotte from my mom's house, then we turned our futon couch into a full-sized bed in front of the TV and watched movies all day. Jeff's friend's family (the Gambles) had given Eleanor a movie, which she loved. Our neighbor (the Holmans) brought her an enormous butterfly-shaped lollipop (and the rest of us a Mickey Cake - yum!), and my parents came over with a bunch of helium balloons, so we had a party indeed!

Friday evening, Jeff and the boys left for an overnight stay in Utah so they could attend the Saturday BYU Football game (without having to drive early Saturday morning). It was girls' day for us on Saturday! But Eleanor was still drowsy and recovering from surgery, and Charlotte got sick. She'd been doing just fine Friday during the day, but Friday night and Saturday (and the next few days, too), she started throwing up, then lower GI problems, had shaking chills, and a fever of up to 104. She was very, very tired. So for "Girls' Day" we again pulled out the futon and watched movies (and threw up, and dosed medicines, and slept) all day. The boys & Jeff came home after I'd put the girls to bed. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday for Charlotte.

Eleanor was feeling better, so Jeff took her and the boys to church. He drew a pink butterfly on her nose cast to make it a little less jarring to look at. Very pretty butterfly for a very pretty girl.

Monday I got up early to make a quick trip to the store before anyone woke up. I started feeling sick Monday. It lasted for me all week long and into the next, but was pretty mild compared to how the kids got it - they got it hard but it only lasted a couple of days. Jeff got it medium-ish, and it lasted a little longer, I got not so hard but definitely long.

When the girls recovered their strength a little, they donned their winter clothes for some snow play in the season's first snow. They didn't last long before tiring out, but they certainly loved getting out.

Tuesday Oliver got sick while at school so he came home early. His teacher told us that at the last minute, Oliver had been chosen to participate in a t City Spelling Bee, to be held Wednesday night. Tuesday after school his teacher dropped off the packet of spelling words so Oliver could study. Oliver was too sick to study, except for about an hour on Wednesday. We still weren't convinced that he'd make it to the Spelling Bee, but Oliver rallied enough strength to go, despite not having eaten (except a few pieces of pasta) in two days, and only studying a little. It was fun and he handled the whole thing well. He forgot the final "a" in "valiant", so didn't move on to the next rounds. I personally think "valiant" doesn't need the final "a" anyway, so there. Good job, Oliver.

Last week was a long week. The Spelling Bee was my first trip out of the house (beside the quick store trip) in 6 days. Ugh.

Friday we made it out of the house again to go watch Eleanor in the play. She was a lovely Little Bo Peep (broken nose and butterfly cast and all). She sang beautifully and thrived on the attention. She might just have a future in theatre!

Charlotte dressed up in her own Little Bo Peep costume to attend the play (as "Littler Bo Peep", I guess). She actually told me she was Little Bo Peep's (Eleanor's) Little Sister. Charlotte cracks me up. She has an amazing imagination and says the cutest thing. This week it was, "Oh, for goodness' sake!". I know she's a shy little thing around most people, but at home she has no trouble speaking up and asserting herself.

Samuel is very gifted in many areas, including music. He has a love of learning to play new things - a little too much love, perhaps? :) He's switched instruments about 5 times. Now he just needs to pick one and stick with it. I think this is it - the bass clarinet. I love hearing him practicing. He and Oliver have been so helpful this week (and actually, always!). They are amazingly responsible and capable. Now we just need to work on picking up dirty socks... Hee-hee. :)

Samuel earned his 2nd Class in Scouting!

You know how so often they say the Mom earns the rank advancements (half joking, of course)? Well, not with Samuel. His mom (me) didn't do a thing. Samuel took the initiative and, along with a great scout leader, did it all. I am breathing a sigh of relief that I have one less thing to worry about. How nice that Sam does it on his own. I hope when Oliver is an 11-year old scout he doesn't expect Mom to push him to do it. Besides, Oliver would do a much better job than me, anyway.
Speaking of Samuel, Saturday evening, he came down with a fever. He was sick enough that on Sunday he definitely wasn't going to church. Jeff wasn't going either - he was quite sick, too. I got the girls & myself & Oliver ready for church (which starts at 1pm). But I just couldn't do it. I just felt awful. At 11:30 am I threw in the towel and told everyone to change into play clothes. The whole family stayed home. I was exhausted so I fell asleep in the library while Jeff put on an animated bible movie. When I woke up, he went to take his nap. Sam was feeling better, and the other kids were fine (Eleanor never got it - good thing, since it'd be miserable to throw up with a broken nose).
I realized that even though I felt crummy, I still had to take care of my family. The last thing on my mind was food, but I found my kids all reading books - cookbooks. They each had a cookbook. Oliver stood over his book at the counter in the kitchen. Sam sat at the table with his book. Eleanor was curled up on the couch with her cookbook. And Charlotte hopped from one sibling to the next, looking over their shoulders.
My kids were hungry.
Heavenly Father must have sent me a little energy because somehow I managed to help Oliver make rolls (we narrowed down all the recipes to just one). I opened some bottled peaches and green beans and served some left-over slices of roast beef with the rolls. There. A good meal for my starving kids.

Eleanor has turned into a great reader. She's now reading The Magic Tree House books quite well. I love it.

The weekend project had a not-so-good-feeling Jeff building an Endless Pool. He and Oliver worked long and hard, and I was able to help, too. It's coming along, although there is still much to be done. Oliver is a great worker. Dad appreciated the help!

My running shoes. I keep wearing them out. But they're still serviceable - great to have some old ones for muddy runs and stuff, but I do need to get rid of some... I haven't been able to keep up the miles over the last week or so. I can feel my motivation and my muscles atrophying in tandem. I'm wasting away. I'm melting... I'd better get better or I'll have no need for my running shoes, and that'd definitely be a waste.

Recipes. I loves this sausage and orzo dish, and the pumpkin pie cake. I'll add recipes later when I can handle looking at food a little better. (No, I am NOT pregnant. Just sick).

Halloween! The penguin is my little niece Marianna. My kids (and Jeff & I) adore her and her mom. Nice to have them around while Marianna's dad is serving in Afghanistan.

Reading: So I've neglected this area in my blogging, but I really have been reading. On our Grand Canyon trip I read lots and lots and lots during the driving, which I loved. I just finished the Gregor the Overlander books by Suzanne Collins (same author as Hunger Games). The story line was interesting and I really enjoyed it. But I found that the author turned the last book into mostly violence and less story - just like she did in Mockingjay. I hate that a young adult book is so violent that I end up skipping chunks. It's not necessary to be so shocking and does nothing to further the story. There's my rant. I'll be quiet now. It's 3am and I need to get back to bed. I'll never get over this illness if I can't rest.

Life keeps us busy, doesn't it? Illnesses, broken noses, spelling bees, school plays, music practice, scout advancements, home projects, and the need to keep eating. I still think it's funny my kids were reading cookbooks. Bedtime.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All is safely gathered in... (boxes full of squashes, cabbages, apples, onions, potatoes, carrots (previous pic) etc. All from my in-laws' garden).

5 boxes of carrots plus more food!

More food

Stocked shelves

Ells and her rabbit that used to be mine. :)

Oliver & Samuel eating carrots we dug yesterday.

"Let us out!"

Cleaning the church. They did a good job wiping off their own fingerprints.

Charlotte in my favorite type of clothes - warm wool sweater, cozy turtleneck, soft corduroy pants...sigh. I love her braids, too. What a sweetie.

Oliver needs to grow a little more before he can be a firefighter...

At my mom's birthday - Eleanor is presenting my mom with a wooden birthday cake in Ellie's pretend restaurant ( she calls it "Mickey's Restaurant" but I have no idea why she calls it that).

My dad's birthday!

While the boys were at s BYU Game, we had "Girls' day". The girls are proudly wearing the bright sweaters I and my brother wore when we were little. My mom knitted the sweaters & the hat Charlotte's wearing (we call her sweater the Ravioli Sweater) many years ago. Sometimes it pays to be a pack rat and hold on to everything!

Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, rub rim with olive oil, sprinkle all with garlic salt, turn over on top of a half onion for each half squash on baking dish, bake 35-45 minutes at 350 or until done. Scrape baked squash with fork to make spaghetti like strands, cut baked onion and mix into squash, season with garlic salt, salt, and pepper to taste. Yum!
I marinated and grilled chicken breasts, made a white sauce/gravy, and foccacia bread, and home canned peaches.

How many cousins does it take to feed MJ?

Harvest time!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spud Harvest Vacation: Grand Canyon Trip

Family vacation, October 1st - 9th/10th 2010

October 1 Friday: Friday we left Rexburg around 10:30 am to begin our weeklong family vacation. We stopped for lunch and hot springs swimming at Lava Hot Springs, then made it to Jon & Kristen's house by 6 pm for dinner, a disappointing BYU football game on TV, a fun time with cousins, and a good night's sleep.

October 2 Saturday: We packed up and headed to Mt. Timpanogos Cave, listening to the Saturday morning General Conference session while we drove.

The 1 1/2 mile hike up the steep path to the cave was no problem for the kids,

even little Charlotte and Eleanor walked the whole way. Samuel and Oliver took turns leading us.

The cave tour was fascinating. The kids loved it and were excited about every piece of spalientology they learned. We saw stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon, heliotites, and all sorts of unusual cave formations.

We grabbed some lunch back at the bottom, then piled in to the car for the drive south, listening to the afternoon session of General Conference, then reading and watching a movie. We stopped in Parowan at 6pm so Jeff could attend the Priesthood session. I took the kids to dinner then to a park while we waited for him, then when he was done we drove to through Cedar Breaks National Monument on our way to Duck Creek Village. We stayed the night in a quaint lodge called Pinewoods Resort.

October 3 Sunday: After we had our complimentary breakfast, we drove south past Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument to Page, Arizona while listening to Sunday Morning General Conference.

We ate lunch and took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. Our tour guide had a name tag on that said he spoke Italian, which led to the discovery that he had been in the MTC and mission with Ted and Annmarie (Jeff's sister and her husband).

After the tour, we left for Williams, Arizona, listening to the Sunday Afternoon session. We are en route right now. It's a very relaxed, not at all over-scheduled vacation so we can take things as they come and not feel stressed to stay on track. We are enjoying each other's company, the wonders of nature, and the words of our leaders. So far so wonderful.

On our way to Williams, we took a scenic detour to drive through Grand Canyon National Park, the first visit for Jeff and the kids, and my third time here. It is completely magnificent, breathtakingly enormous and beautiful. We are making a few stops, starting with the Watchtower - a replica of an Indian tower, built as a gift shop and offering a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. It sits right on the edge and is a little disconcerting, and well worth the stop.

Sunday evening we made it to our hotel at bedtime. We grabbed dinner in the hotel cafe then gratefully crawled into our beds.

October 4 Monday: I didn't sleep well so at 3:30 a.m. I got up, put on running clothes, and ran 7 1/2 miles on the treadmill in the hotel's exercise room. After walking around for a while I finally went back to our room, showered, dressed, and at 6 a.m. I went back to bed.

Jeff had bought milk and cereal so we ate breakfast in our room before heading out to the train depot where we watched an Old West Shoot-out (a comical re-enactment) before boarding the train.

During the two hour trip to the Grand Canyon, we were entertained by singing cowboys and stories from our car conductor. We had brought books so we also had plenty of time to read.

We arrived around 11:30, found some lunch, then enjoyed the views. Luckily, we had our rain ponchos on because it soon began to rain. We caught a shuttle to an overlook (Hopi), which was of course gorgeous,

but the rain began to pound down hard and the wind blew fiercely. We walked as quickly as we could to the shuttle point, and waited about 10 minutes for a bus to rescue us. We were all completely soaked and frozen. I felt sorry for the children, especially little Charlotte, and Eleanor, and Oliver, and Samuel...but they were all troopers and tougher than their mom. Jeff was soaked through his rain jacket, while the rest of us had at least a little bit of dry areas under our ponchos.

We braved the rain and wind again, dashing to the visitor center in time for a Ranger-led presentation so the kids could earn their Jr. Ranger badges, then we ran again through the storm to the hotel to get some hot cocoa.

By the time we had the drinks, it was time to go to the train depot for our train ride back to the hotel. The rain paused and the sun came out while we waited to board, then started raining again on the trip back. Thankfully we were inside. The trip back was fun with more singing cowboys and a staged train robbery that the kids enjoyed (they "rob" you for tips). One robber stopped to ask for hugs from Eleanor and Charlotte.

We were all still wet and cold, then had to run from the train to the hotel in even morer freezing cold rain and wind. I was chilled to begin with and didn't handle the additional wet and cold well. I was shivering and disoriented and could feel the onset of hypothermia, so I took a hot shower ton warm up. The kids were fine. Like I said, tougher than their mom.

After we were all dressed in dry clothes, we ventured out again to find dinner. Although it was still raining, it wasn't as hard and the wind wasn't blowing anymore. We were seated at an old fashioned Route 66 Diner, but when we saw the menu we grabbed our stuff and left without any explanation. (If the waitress had shown, I would have gladly excused ourselves, but we waited and waited and she never came!). The menu was all burgers and greasy fries, and we were sick of the fast food fare, so we found a tiny Thai restaurant and had the best meal we'd had all vacation. Chicken satay, won ton soup, a curry tofu dish, dumplings, and a transparent rice noodles with veggies dish...yum! The kids were in heaven and kept saying how good the food was and now they never wanted another hamburger again and this was the best food ever, and the waitress was so delighted she brought her mom (the cook) out to see us. It was delightful, and I loved seeing the kids enjoy good, healthy food so much, and the smiles on the faces of the owners. Good stuff.

The kids had a movie night while Jeff and I had some down time to read and plan for tomorrow. I had no trouble sleeping that night. Good thing, because I would have had to run barefoot if I'd gotten up early again. My shoes were soaked. That brings us to today.

October 5 Tuesday: We packed up this morning and tossed our bags out our hotel room porch to Jeff, who had driven the car around. It was raining cats and dogs again. He loaded the car, we got in, then drove back to the Grand Canyon. We made it to the 9:30 showing at the National Geographic Imax theatre just outside the park entrance. It was very cool to see the canyon on such a big screen. When it was over, we browsed a bit, then drove back into the Park to the canyon rim. It was drizzling, but not too bad. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see. Although it was around 60 F on the rim, it was in the 80's on the canyon floor, and a heavy cloud sat squashed between the canyon walls. We could see above the cloud, but beneath us all was white.

So we got back in the car and headed to Flagstaff, where we had Indian cuisine for lunch - another healthy, tasty meal. We are now headed to Gilbert, AZ, and should be there around dinnertime where we will spend the tomorrow and part of Thursday visiting with Jeff's siblings Marshall and Nancy and their spouses Holly and Josh, and their kids. It is still raining pretty heavily. I hope it lets up because I packed for hot, dry weather!

We made it to Marshall and Holly's house around 6 pm, driving through terrible rain, wind and traffic. The trip was harrowing. It was so nice to arrive and spend time with family and meet our new 3-week old nephew Major. Our kids and their cousins were in heaven, playing so well together. Holly rallied and made us dinner, even though I tried to talk her out of it. I never could play hostess well when I had a new baby, but Holly was perfect. She even had a cake with candles for an early birthday treat for Oliver. Nancy and her two children joined us for the delicious dinner. Afterwards, we drove about 20 minutes away to visit my friend from law school and her family. Talk about a scary drive! Lightening piled on top of lightening, making a strobing flash in the night sky. The rain joined in the fun, pelting on our car in sheets of water and hail. Then the wind entered, blowing the water horizontally across the road and adding desert sand to the mix. I felt like I was in an electrical storm blender. My entire body was taught, especially when the water and sand and wind blinded us. I told Jeff we should turn around, but there was no way he could see to find a safe spot to pull over. We rode the furious storm and emerged unscathed but I lost a good 20 years off my life and went looking for white hair on my head. When we pulled up at Cheryl's house, the rain had calmed down considerably.

It was so nice to see my old friend and her kids. We hung around long enough to see her husband Josh when he got home from Bishopric meeting. Great people, great friends, and great memories. Somehow Cheryl and I survived law school and our respective jobs, and are both "retired" to raise our children.

We made it back to Nancy and Josh's house in time to see Josh (lots of Josh's around!) and spend a few minutes chatting before bed. They were kind enough to scoot their two children into their room so 3 of our children could have a bedroom, and Charlotte slept on a mattress on then floor in the guest room with me and Jeff. We all slept soundly. I think I spent enough calories through adrenaline and fear on all the stormy drives to count as a good long run!

October 6 Wednesday: I got up around 5:45 am, ran 3 1/2 miles, then met up with Marshall at 6:30 to run another 4 1/2 and be home before 7:30. It was muggy and a little warmer than I am used to, but I ran in my cool Nuu Muu running dress, so I was comfy. After showers, breakfast, and tidying up and starting laundry, we are now in the car again for a trip to Phoenix's Museum of Science. Later on this evening we will go to a place called Amazing Jake's for fun, games, food, and celebrating Oliver's birthday. Tomorrow it's off to Sedona, then Friday back to Duck Creek Village, the Saturday up to Provo and after the BYU football game we will either head home or spend the night at Jeff's cousin's home. We afef having a full fun-filled vacation. Since we are not in the car for more than a couple of hours at a time (usually), it has been easy driving for all of us.

We had lots of fun at the Museum of Science and after at Amazing Jake's (which was really amazing! A building full of rides, games, and all-you-eat open buffet included in the ticket price).

We sang Happy Birthday again to Oliver, ate cupcakes, and gave him his presents

then played for about 4 hours at Amazing Jake's. We went back to Marshall and Holly's for a movie while I folded laundry, then we went back to Nancy and Josh's for a chat (they got home right before we did) then bed.

October 7 Thursday: It is now 10 am the next morning (Thursday) - Oliver's 9th birthday! (we celebrated it early yesterday so we could have the cousins' company). Samuel and Oliver spent the morning playing with Malcolm and Jayden while Eleanor and Charlotte played with Faith and Danny. Jeff and I packed up the car, said goodbye to Nancy and her kids (Josh had left for work), picked up the boys and let the girls say goodbye to Chloe and Capri, said goodbye to Holly and baby Major (Marshall had left for work also), and are now headed for a quick visit to Sedona. We had a change of plans last night and decided not to sleep in Sedona but to sleep in Williams again so we can visit the Grand Canyon again now that the weather is pleasant.

We drove to Sedona on Thursday enjoying the scenery that reminded the kids so much of the movie "Cars". On our way we passed an R V lot that had been hit by a tornado two days before, leaving wreckage strewn across the highway and into the lot. Apparently, four tornadoes touched down in Northern Arizona on Tuesday, two of them right where we had driven only hours before. Spooky. We said a prayer of gratitude for our safety. Just outside of Sedona, we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant at Oliver's request, the drove through the town to Slide Rock State Park. We donned our swimming suits, brought our towels, and hiked into the canyon for some play.

The water was very cold, so the girls just played in the shallow pools, but Jeff and the boys braved the water and slid down the long, slippery water chute in the canyon creek. A few times down that and we were done. We changed at the restrooms and hopped in the car for the drive to our lodging just outside of Williams - Mountainside Resort, or something like that. We got there in time for the hotel dinner, had baths afterwards, and settled in for the night in the two bedroom (2 queens in one room for the kids, one king in the other room for us), two bath, spacious suite.

October 8 Friday: In the morning, we packed up, ate breakfast at the hotel dining room, then drove back into Grand Canyon National Park for a final visit - this time with sunny weather!

We thought about taking the helicopter tour, but I couldn't justify $1,000 for a couple of hours' trip. So instead we visited it the old fashioned way: on our own two feet. It was again strikingly beautiful. I don't think anyone could ever get used to looking at the canyon, it is just too awesome and magnificent. We ate lunch at the El Tovar hotel jn the same dining room where Teddy Roosevelt had eaten. We walked a bit of the Bright Angel Trail, visited the art gallery, and just enjoyed the cool air, warm sunshine, and lovely canyon views.

We drove from there toward the North Rim, past Lee's Ferry, and stopped in Kanab for dinner, the drove back to Duck Creek Village to stay the night in Pinewoods Resort again - in the same room we had occupied on Saturday night last week.

October 9 Saturday:

After we ate and packed up, we drove to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

At over 10,000 feet elevation, we were higher than many mountains. The orange and red colors of the sandstone were particularly striking with snow streaking down the sides of the cliff walls and Hoo Doos.

The kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges and we are now en route to Provo (stopping first for lunch in Fillmore) for the BYU football game this afternoon. Charlotte and I will wander around while Jeff, Samuel, Oliver, and Eleanor go to the game. Afterwards we hope to visit with John and Mary Thomas then make a late drive home to Rexburg. What a full week! I can't understand though why we are all so tired and so hungry when we are spending so much time sitting and eating! It's incredible how much food we are eating, especially the little girls. We are trying to make sure we have healthy foods and have done a good job avoiding fries and greasy foods. But we are still eating tons. Good. I guess we need it!

Funny that after my little comment about eating healthy food (a paragraph or two above), we stopped for lunch at Carl's Jr. and had battered and fried foods and hamburgers for lunch. Ah, well. I guess we've been healthy most of the trip. Of course, there is still the matter of the $30 worth of Halloween Candy I bought last Friday that is now mostly gone... :)

We made it to Provo with time to spare before the game, so we made a quick visit to two of our favorite people: Grandma and Grandpa Rasmussen (Jeff's grandparents). We enjoyed chatting with them and letting them spend some time with our children - their great grandchildren. The grandparents are such lovely, kind people. Just being with them for a few minutes influences us to be better people.

We said goodbye then drove to the BYU campus at 3:30, parking near the Museum of Fine Art. Charlotte and I walked partway to the football stadium with Jeff, Samuel, Oliver and Eleanor, then we turned back to hunt for a treat for ourselves. We split a personal pizza, some milk and a laffy taffy string, the wandered over to the Bean Museum of Natural History, spent about 20 minutes there, then went to then art museum for another 20 minutes. The museums closed at 5, so we headed to the Bookstore. We browsed all sorts of books, buying a few children's books, an illustrated Russian/English dictionary, a Ukranian phrasebook, and some candy corn (Charlotte's idea). The Bookstore closed at 6 so we were kicked out and went in search of more food (see, I told young were uncommonly hungry on this trip!), settling for more milk and some tacos. We walked around, periodically checking on the progress of the football game, then headed to the car around 7pm. The game was over sooner than we expected, and unexpectedly BYU won! (They haven't been doing well this season.) Jeff and the other children joined us around 7:30, then we made it through the sluggish post-game traffic, finally getting on the highway and off to John & Mary's house for pleasant hour and a half visit. They have an gorgeous home with delightful children. It was hard to leave them, but Charlotte kept falling asleep and the rest of us weren't far behind her. The Thomas' will be visiting us in Idaho this week so we'll see them soon, which made it easier to say goodbye.

I am thankful we have been able to share some of the rich beauties of the world with our children this vacation. I know it has been a lot of travel and a lot of changes everyday, but it's been a great way to give the kids some in-person experiences that many people miss out on. Disneyland is fun, but the real land with it's real wonders is simply grand. The very best thing though about this week was just being together. In all the hustle to and fro, and all the oohing and ahhing, the most amazing wonder was the company we kept - that of our children and each other. God created a world of sheer magnificence, grandeur and beauty, then to top it all off, he gave us the gift of families. I am grateful to my parents for insisting that I look out the window and that I get out of the car when we visited places that some people only ever learn about in books. I owe them for instilling in me a love of things and places that are wild. I hope we can do the same thing for our children and teach them to love and care for the world God gave us, and to love and care for the family that we are. I love those little Jr. Rangers.

October 10, Sunday: We arrived home around 2:30 am, sent the kids straight to bed, unloaded the car, and gratefully crawled into our own bed for some much-needed sleep. Thankfully, church doesn't start for us until 1pm, so we took all morning lazily getting ourselves ready and finishing the unpacking. It was fast and testimony meeting today at church. I was surprised when Samuel walked up to the podium to share his testimony. At first he started with an abbreviated travel log, saying that we'd spent the past week traveling to various places. I thought he'd say, "It was fun," and be done. But in a beautiful show of his spirit, he went on to say that he kept trying to hurry us back into the car at each stop so he could get back to his video games. And then he woke up this morning and it hit him like a cannonball that the time was over. Vacation was past. And he'd been hurrying through it, but now he wished it was still there. It made him realize that we need to enjoy the time and things we have. He bore his testimony about the blessing of being an eternal family, and how we could be together forever. It was incredibly touching, not just to me but to many other people who later came up to me and commented on & complimented Samuel's heartfelt testimony. It was very sweet. All of our children make me so proud, so pleased to be a part of their lives and have them call me mother.