Thursday, March 31, 2011

Books I Read in March

I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron ***
I love Nora Ephron.  She's witty and a great writer and this book didn't disappoint.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture 
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein **
I already blogged about this book.  It was something.


Kindred (Bluestreak) 
Kindred by Octavia Butler **
This book had time travel.  I like time travel.  This book had elements of history.  I like history.  This book was violent.  And I don't like that.  It was set in 1976 and also in the Antebellum South, which was neither a pleasant or safe place for slaves.  


The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship 
The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow *
I tried to like this book more.  It is about women and their friendships!  What's not to love?  There was nothing really compelling about the book and I realized I didn't even really like these women very much, let alone have the ability to keep them straight (it's about eleven friends).  I wanted to give it more of a chance because it was a "National Bestseller," but I finally quit reading it.  I had four other books on my shelf waiting to be read.  (It's disappointing when National Bestsellers dissatisfy.  I know that it shouldn't surprise me if I'm out of step with what a lot of people apparently love--I mean The Bachelor is still on the air isn't it?  But I expect more out of book readers somehow...)


A book I'm still reading:

Wish You Well 
Wish You Well by David Baldacci

I don't remember reading this book.  It is vaguely familiar and the characters are dimly recognizable.  This is why I'm recording here what I read.  Because I don't remember and it drives me crazy.  (I'm liking Wish You Well by the way...again?)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What I Cleaned in March

In March, I cleaned our living room, "dining room" and hall closet (cue scary music).

I feel a little dissatisfied with my progress because one of the things on the list was to steam clean the carpets and my steam cleaner has a broken piece.  The website and owner's manual are in disagreement about the piece.  And I'm confused.

And not sure I really want a steam cleaner anyway.

I can think of 25,000 things that are more fun than steam cleaning.

I feel marvelous about the coat closet though.  Here's how it looked "before":



I'm not proud.



This doesn't look vastly better, but believe me.  It is.





Other than that, the room was mostly easy to clean.  I vacuumed all the corners and cleaned all the nooks and crannies and deep into the couch cushions.  (I found zero money...I need richer family members and visitors.)

One rainy Friday afternoon (I actually don't know for a fact it was rainy, I'm just guessing) we were cleaning the house as is our custom.  I got fidgety and told Braeden and Emma I wanted to move furniture.  They're used to me by now.  Since we're cut out of the same cloth, Braeden and I started scheming and measuring furniture without the benefit of a tape measure...who has that kind of time to go all the way to the garage?  Braeden had been sweeping so he started measuring with the broom.  Would the piano fit here?

Emma went for the tape measure.  She's like that.

We decided against a complete overhaul of everything and just switched a few things.  First, we had to see if we could make the piano budge.  We could!  Hurray payback for all that milk I buy those children from Costco!  While we were in the middle of heaving the piano across the room, Braeden's friend Adam stopped by with his trumpet in hand.  He and Braeden were going to have a sort of jam session with a trumpet and tuba and if you haven't witnessed that my friends...

Adam was completely befuddled by our actions.  "What are you doing?"

I pointed to the final destinations of all the furniture.

He said, "But why?"

Braeden shrugged and said, "My mom just moves furniture."

Adam said, "But that's the optimum spot for the piano," and he pointed to where the piano used to be.  Totally irrelevant.  Change is what we were after.  I could tell Adam thought we were crazy and by we I mean me but I just enlisted his help in moving furniture.  He's a strong kid.

Next Hannah stopped by.

"What are you doing?"

I guess what I was doing is making neighborhood children grateful for their more sane mothers.  You're welcome.

Here's the optimum spot for the piano, where it no longer resides (pretty roses courtesy of Adam--the husband, not the bewildered neighbor--on my birthday):




And I also moved Horace Vandegelder to a new perch.  He seems really happy about it.

Best pet ever!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Drizzle

Precipitation for March 1 - 27 is running 2.13 inches above normal at 5.45 inches compared to the normal 3.32 inches. There have been twenty-four days with precipitation --- twenty days with measurable precipitation and four days with a trace of precipitation.
 -- beautifulseattle.com



The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain.
Dolly Parton

Monday, March 28, 2011

Strong Enough

My mom always seemed to have a disproportionate amount of glee when we went to meetings like the Young Women's General Broadcast when I was growing up.  She'd proclaim, "It's so wonderful to go with my girls."

Whatever.

Then my girl was old enough to go.  I felt like my mom.  (A girl can dream.)  I kept telling Emma how great it was to go together.

I could tell by her expression, Whatever.

Inside the dim chapel, I snuggled up to Emma because I was cold and her hands are always warm.

We listened to music and inspirational talks and soon my arm was around her shoulder and she was tilting her head next to mine.

My girl.

She's so funny and smart and strong.  (Seriously strong...I know because my arm was around her muscular shoulder.)  Is she strong enough?  For when it really counts?

During the meeting, I wanted to shake her...are you GETTING THIS?  Are you listening?  Are you understanding?

Because it matters to me more than I can tell.

This girl, the one who has a certain disdain for most books I recommend or really, suggestions I make in general, who is independent and self assured in a way I never was...this girl, terrifies me.


Because it matters to me more than I can tell.

I want her to be happy.  I want her to choose wisely.  Choose correctly.  I want her to continue to be strong and courageous.  I don't want her swayed by influences beneath the glorious potential she has.  And in the same way I could not convince her to like Mary Janes when she was five and I can not get her to read the books I loved when I was her age, I know I am not in charge of Emma Jayne.  She was gifted by One who is wiser than me with freedom of choice.  She has to make her own decisions.  She has to resolve for herself whether or not to follow the lessons she has been given.

And that, I've decided, is a magnificent thing.

Because that process will only make my strong girl stronger.  (At least that's the star I'm hitching my wagon to.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fresh Out of Ideas

Last night in the 2 1/2 minutes I saw Adam between him getting home from work and him leaving for basketball, I told him I had no ideas for my blog.

(You may think I should just not blog in such cases but I still make conversation when I have no ideas. Ask anyone.)

Emma said, "You could blog about your birthday."

Adam said, "She did."

(I don't know if he meant that in a supportive way or not.)

Since Emma was twirling around practicing her dance for the "flash mob" they're doing at FPS state (don't tell anyone in case it ruins the climactic moment), Braeden said, "You could blog about how Emma isn't learning anything at school."  It's true, unless Emma's exaggerating how much they're practicing dancing.

I went to my bedroom to contemplate (and escape flash mob practicing).  I got distracted by my collection of Classic Poetry.  Robert Burns delights me.  I imagine him to look exactly like Alexander McCall Smith.  I also like Emily Dickinson.  I always have.  I like picturing her wearing long white dresses, reclusive in a pretty little New England house, writing her quirky little poems.  I have an especially fond memory of a one woman show that visited Wells, NV when I was growing up.  The woman was portraying Emily Dickinson in a very earnest and dramatic fashion and then she stopped the show and turned to the crowd and reprimanded us for not being a good audience.  I think that it was Olivia and her friend Teri who were being the loud ones but I could be completely making that up.  (If you know Olivia and Teri, you know it's possible.)  I think that whole exchange in all its awkwardness was even more delightful than Emily Dickinson.

I read this by Christina Rossetti:
 
"...I am sick of self, and there is nothing new;
O weary impatient patience of my lot!--
Thus with myself:  how fares it, Friends, with you?"


It seemed like the perfect verse for me with my dearth of ideas.  Which I pondered for awhile.

Then I went to watch Phineas and Ferb with my children.

Because those guys are poets.

(and they make me laugh)





It turns out that I didn't need to write anything useful this morning anyway, just direct you here.

(Adam's broad shoulders attracted my gaze initially but it was his writing I fell in love with.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When I Turned 38, I Ate (and ate)

If you're narcissistic enough to have a blog in the first place, I think it's a foregone conclusion that you're narcissistic enough to think everyone probably wants to hear about your birthday?

Am I right?

Is anyone still reading?

I think I deserve a medal because on my BIRTHDAY I:

went for a run
taught Mark school
washed a load of laundry
took Braeden to the orthodontist
and
loaded the dishwasher

What kind of responsible citizen am I?

Don't be too impressed though because I:

didn't fold the laundry
was so late for Braeden's appointment they had to reschedule
and
ate 10,000 times the calories I burned on the run

I was late for the appointment because I was having lunch with Jill and Stephanie which turned into lunch and then frozen yogurt (because when you eat one of those enormous Chipotle burritos isn't the next logical step dessert?--see above:  ate 10,000 times the calories I burned on the run).

Besides that I talked on the phone and felt facebook love and told Mark it was OK he didn't have a gift for me.  Also I was given wonderful gifts from Janet and my visiting teachers and Geri (who not only gave us a bike rack for our van--which is exciting--but took Mark so while Braeden and Emma were at YM/YW Adam and I could go out...and eat 10,000 times the calories I burned on the run).

Adam and I went to Arnie's and ate overlooking the Puget Sound.  It was gorgeous.  I ate a small(ish) dinner to make room for the exquisite creme brulee.  If I could write a love sonnet, it would be about creme brulee.  It is perfect and divine and so good that I'm running out of words to describe it...

And besides that, it was gloriously sunny all day.  A few people took credit for ordering up the perfect weather for my birthday.  Braeden told me that the little man who paints the clouds in the sky didn't today in honor of my birthday.

Maybe Braeden doesn't have a future in meteorology...




Thank you everyone for the cards and gifts and phone calls and love and sunshine.  I am a lucky girl.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Year

Birthdays are good for you.  Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.  
Larry Lorenzoni



Every year I am happier that Adam and I share the same birthday.  When I married him, I assured myself a happy birthday every year (and a happy 364 days between as well).



Birthdays make me think.  Where have I been in the last year?

Since March 23 last year, I have been...
busy,
happy,
sad,
shocked,
discouraged,
hopeful,
nostalgic,
grumpy,
sleepy,
energetic,
and
excited.

I have tried new things (sending my children to school!) and started things I haven't done for a long time (running).  I have done the same thing over and over and over (laundry, dishes).  I have gone to new places (Yellowstone) and revisited old haunts (Connecticut) and continued going to the same places over and over and over (the grocery store).

I have learned new things and remembered things I've known all along.  I have worried about people and sent emails and made phone calls and sent telepathic messages to people I love.  (I'm not sure the latter worked, but maybe?)  I've tried new recipes and made the same ones I've made so many times I don't need a recipe.  I have talked and laughed and cried with people who love me.  I have listened to music and read books and watched movies.  I have prayed. I have been on road trips and celebrated holidays.  I have pulled weeds and watered flowers and cleaned toilets and emptied the dishwasher.  I have decorated for Christmas and packed all the decorations away again.

As I suspected, using Benefit cosmetics brows a-go-go didn't change my life like the woman at the make-up counter promised it would.


(I do like it though.)


It's been a typical year.

It's been an extraordinary year.

It's been 365 days and I'm happy to have been alive.

 And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.  It's the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Make Pizza on Your Grill

Adam and I fell in love with East Coast style pizza--and more specifically New Haven style pizza during our Connecticut years.  We've been trying to duplicate it ever since.

We love pizza cooked on our grill.  The best way is to get Adam to do it (that's my strategy).  I'm not willing to share him though, so here are the instructions:

Make or buy dough.  We have yet to find The Perfect Pizza Dough recipe.  I think we're getting closer (a little more tweaking) but you can buy pizza dough at Trader Joe's that works great too.  (Do you have a perfect chewy crust recipe?  Please share...)

The first step is to put your pizza stone on the grill and with the lid closed, turn the heat all the way up (try to get it up to 500 degrees).


As you can see our pizza stone is cracked and stained and much loved (abused?).  A less wrecked stone would work just as well...

Next divide your divide your dough into pizza sized chunks:

I made this dough so it needs to be divided...the Trader Joe's dough comes packaged in the right size.

Flatten it with your fingers (Adam is well equipped for this job with his big hands).


Next, with a rolling pin, finish shaping the pizza.  Work from the middle, smoothing to the edges:


Sprinkle corn meal on a wooden pizza paddle.  The tiny grains act as ball bearings for the dough to slide on...you'll see what I mean.


Transfer the dough to the paddle:


Now finish assembling the pizza.  Spread the sauce, either a traditional marinara sauce:


Or we love pesto too:


Sprinkle cheese:


And any other toppings you want:

Can you tell this is my hand instead of Adam's? Adding peppers was my sole contribution.

Next, slide the pizza onto the heated stone.  This is where the corn meal comes in handy...the pizza rolls right over it.  (This is also where an Adam comes in handy because he knows how to do this part.)


Close the lid and after about 5-7 minutes, the pizza is done!  It should look all toasty and bubbly with the crust sometimes a little black (all part of the magic!).


Slide a cooling rack under the pizza to remove it from the stone (because likely your wooden paddle is already loaded with the next pizza):


Lovely lovely pizza...


And three satisfied customers:


Mark has either 1) achieved Pizza Nirvana 2) is asleep or 3) is his mother's child and has his eyes closed for a picture.

You decide.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We Do Get It Right Eventually

Unless you've been a sixth grade girl, you would not believe the minefield that is Emma's classroom.  Wow.  Girls can be really mean.  Thankfully Emma's been uninvolved in all of this at the moment but there's the girl who invited every girl except one to her birthday party.  The girl who designated a certain day as the day everyone was to be mean to another girl.  The girl who tried to convince another not to let anyone else sit by them at lunch.

It's a wonder any of them have the courage to wake up in the morning and head off to school.

I want girls everywhere to know though, there's hope.  The Girl Wars that are waged subside.  And eventually, exquisite friendships emerge.

For all our trouble in being kind to each other, we ultimately figure it out as adults. 

For example, here's my weekend:

Saturday morning Jill and I took our girls to be tested for class placement next year.  While we waited for them we chatted with each other in a little coffee shop.  We talked about our children, our husbands, our irrational fears, what kind of trees we want to plant and vacations.  I am enjoying the process of making a new friend.  Jill is interesting and kind and entertaining.

Later in the morning I slid into the seat next to Debbie at Braeden's basketball game.  We chatted about our boys and basketball.  She ran for ice when a player fell and was hurt.  We talked a little about our families and our hopes for them.  Debbie and I mostly visit when we're shoulder to shoulder at a sporting event but it's always a pleasure.

That night, Janet and Eric took Adam and me to dinner for our birthday.  It was deeply satisfying to spend an evening with our friends.  We don't see nearly enough of each other with our busy lives but it doesn't matter.  It's kind of like when I get together with my sisters.  I don't need to explain myself at all to Janet.  She knows.  She understands my fears and insecurities.  She tolerates my follies and I know she is on my side.  Always.

Sunday Debbie spoke in church.  I marveled at my wise and strong friend.  There is a lot more to her than someone who's fun to chat with during a basketball game.

Then Stephanie, my vivacious and talented confidant who I've spent hours walking and talking with along the mean streets of our neighborhood, stood up in church to sing with a group of men who, like her, had served missions in Brazil.  (They were singing in honor of an earnest nineteen year old who's heading there in a few weeks.)  She beautifully sang in Portuguese, her talent and charisma shining, and I saw a glimpse of the force for good she must have been years ago in Brazil.  I'm proud to call her my friend.

In Relief Society, I found myself surrounded by women I love.  Jan leaned over with money for Emma and the overpriced cookies she's selling at school.  Jennifer leaned over and to talk to me about scouts.  Becky tapped me on the shoulder from behind and told me happy birthday this week in case she forgot to tell me later.  JoLyn caught my eye and waved her hand in the air with raised eyebrows.  Would I lead the singing? I nodded.  I'd do just about anything JoLyn asked and I love having non-verbal conversations with people like that.

It means you get each other.

So if I could send a message to sixth grade girls everywhere, it would be this.

It gets better.

A lot better.

Girls are not always so great at being friends.  Women are.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Girlhood



I just finished reading Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.  It gave me a lot to think about (therefore the blog post so I can move on to thinking about other things...like what to make for dinner).

The book was fascinating to me and ridiculous and surprising all at once.  (Our children were also intrigued by the title.  Mark said, "What are you reading?"   Emma, as my daughter that Cinderella presumably ate, said, "She's not as lovely on the inside as the outside."

I'm glad I read this book.  The author made some very valid points.  The book is subtitled "Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture".  There was a lot of information about the insidious and damaging consumerism that's targeted at young girls.

I wondered how Emma sort of missed it.  She did have dress-up clothes but was never obsessed with princesses.  She hardly liked dolls (although I did and tried to get her a little interested).  She never played with the few Barbies she had (although I did--but then, I had Olivia to play Barbies with and there's nothing that compares to that).  She went through stages of pink being her favorite color, then red, then blue, then purple, and now, who knows?  I may be partial as her mother, but Emma's practically perfect in every way.

Then I thought about the lens the author was looking through.  She has one child, a daughter, and is raising her very purposefully.  She's not just letting things just happen.  Oh, no.

I thought several times that someone should say to her what my dad tells me occasionally.  Settle down.

From the book:

I flashed on a trip to the grocery store--the O.K. Corral of our Disney Princess showdowns.  Daisy [the author's daughter, who was three at the time] pointed to a Cinderella sippy cup. "There's that princess you don't like, Mama!" she had shouted.

"Mmm-hmm," I'd said noncommittally.

"Why don't you like her, Mama?"  she had asked.  "Don't you like her blue dress?"

I'd had to admit I did.

She had thought about that. "Then don't you like her face?"

"Her face is all right," I'd said, though I was not thrilled to have my Japanese-Jewish child in thrall to those Teutonic features. (And what the heck are those blue things covering her ears?)  "It's just, honey, Cinderella doesn't really do anything."

Over the next forty-five minutes, we would run through that conversation, verbatim, approximately thirty-seven million times as Daisy pointed our Cinderella Band-Aids, Cinderella paper cups, Cinderella cereal, Cinderella pens, Cinderella crayons, and Cinderella notebooks...

Wow.

First of all, what exactly is wrong with Teutonic features?  Can you imagine the backlash if someone who was blue-eyed and blonde said they didn't like their daughter in thrall to olive skin and brown eyes?

Also, what kind of crazy lady spends forty-five minutes in a grocery store with a three-year old hashing out what is wrong with Cinderella?

If that had been Emma and me and I didn't want to buy Emma all that Cinderella gear (which I didn't), she would have said, "Can I have this?"

I would have said, "No."

If she had pointed out other Cinderella things over and over again, I would have said, "Remember the answer I gave you before?"

It wouldn't have taken 45 minutes.

Perhaps it was easier because Emma is sandwiched between two brothers.  Perhaps it was easier because we were rather poor when Emma was that age.  Consumerism is easy to avoid when you can't afford it.

Perhaps it was easier because I, more often than not, just said no and moved on.  (I'm not saying I'm always a stellar mother, just ask my kids. I'm just saying, it's not that hard.)  You don't need to involve small children in your parenting decisions all the time.

Besides all of that, I agreed with a lot of the book.  It is better for girls to just be and not be swayed, compartmentalized, and instructed by the pink, pink, pink packaging designed for them.  I concur that Twilight is drivel. I agreed whole-heartedly with her objection to the early sexualization of little girls (it's sad to see little girls in bikinis and mini skirts...it's just sad).

This blew me away though (and made me truly question Peggy Orenstein):

I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage.  Long, long, long before marriage.

What?!?

Three longs and the last one italicized?

Suddenly a Cinderella sippy cup doesn't seem all that bad.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rest for the Soul

Like everyone else, I have been saddened by the tragedy in Japan.

I think about the trauma and horror that is being faced by the people there and it breaks my heart.

I think about a time when our family was sorrowful, after the passing of Adam's dad.  As we mourned, we still had our comfortable homes, we were safe, we were surrounded by people supporting and loving us and bringing us food.


And it was still hard.

I can't wrap my mind around what is happening in Japan.

And then there's my imagination.

We live near a major fault line.

We are along the "ring of fire."

We could be the next place for an earthquake, the "big one."

At three in the morning, I consider Adam at work and Braeden and Emma at their various schools, separated from me, and an earthquake striking.  My imagination just spins and spins with the possibilities.

It's no way to live.  What am I going to do?  Keep them with me always so that they'll be safe?  That's both irrational and impossible and besides, how would it keep them more safe to be with me?

So where is comfort?  Where is peace?

During a harried and coming-from-behind, trying sort of day, I found myself sitting in the driveway of our piano teacher with my scriptures.  I opened them to where I happened to be reading.  As I read, even though it had nothing to do with peace or comfort or earthquakes, I felt a warm assurance wash over me.

I remembered.

It suddenly occurred to me that the same Comfort that sustained us when we mourned as a family, is available always.  There will never be a tragedy so great, an earthquake so powerful, or life so chaotic that I won't be able to pray.  I will always be able to seek for the strength that I need.  It will always be ready.

Of course there are awful things happening in the world.  There may very well be awful things happen in my world.

But I can continue on.  I will.  Because I know where I can turn for peace.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:  and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Whole Lot

On Saturday, when we went to Seattle for Emma's haircut, we also went to lunch and to the Ballard Locks.



At Dick's Adam ordered everyone a cheeseburger, fries and milkshake except me.  I got a cheeseburger, fries and Diet Coke.


Then everyone was still hungry so Adam ordered everyone another cheeseburger except me.  I got a chocolate milkshake.

There was a lot of enthusiasm on the trip:


A whole lot.


There was a lot of evidence of spring:


A whole lot.



There was a lot of Mark being Mark:


A whole lot.


There were a lot of pretty boats:


A whole lot.


There was a lot of interest in (and explaining about) how exactly the locks work:


A whole lot.


There was a lot of water:


A whole lot.



There was a lot of art to photograph:


A whole lot.


There was a lot of fun snapping photos with our new camera:


A whole lot.



The End.

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