Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time

Yesterday, on my hands and knees, I scrubbed our hardwood floor and then coated it with a protective solution of some description. 

Every other day of the year, I'd be happy for a bigger kitchen.  On my hands and knees, wearing Emma's volleyball knee pads (Adam's stroke of genius), I wished for a much smaller kitchen.

I shooed everyone outside and strategically worked so that I ended up at the door.  (Because no one could walk on the floor for 2 hours.)

What I didn't plan on was the fact that I wouldn't be able to wash my hands.  I rinsed them with the hose but it was not the same.

The good news is that since I didn't wash them before it dried, my hands now have the same protective coating as the floor, except for where it's cracked off.

We hit the road and headed to Lynnwood to a welding shop to get a hitch put on our van (for bike rack purposes).  It would take a few hours so we crossed the street to where Five Guys is conveniently located.  Burgers and fries for lunch.  According to the sign, the potatoes were from Rexburg, ID, home of BYU Idaho.

"These are Mormon potatoes!"

"I don't think potatoes have a religious affiliation."

They're weird, but my children entertain me.

In an effort to eat our way through the strip mall (and to kill some time), we next got frozen yogurt next door at Menchies.  Much discussion ensued comparing it to Skinny Dip Yogurt.  (For the record, I think I prefer Skinny Dip but would not turn down some yogurt from Menchies.) 

We didn't have anywhere to rush off to since we were waiting for our van to be ready.  We sat and chatted awhile.  It was nice. 

From there we crossed the parking lot to Fred Meyer's.  Everyone had to make a selection of $2 or less.  We arranged them for judging to see whose purchase was most worthy.

I was a shoe-in with the Wheat Thins, Mark picked the bouncy ball, Braeden the frisbie, Emma the bubbles and mini bowling set.  Emma also provided the numbered signs and matching Sharpies.  
 When Adam got home, he carefully deliberated:


Then he revealed the big winner.

The bouncy ball.  Mark acted like he won the lottery (show off).

The ball does bounce "75 feet!!!" but still, I think I was robbed.

I am delighting in this whole summer and my kids are home thing though.  At times they do make me crazy/cranky (the squabbling, the messes, the disparaging agendas), but spending time with them is its own reward.

I love silent reading time when they spell words for me to define then nod in satisfaction and go back to their books.  I love Braeden's questions that puzzle me, "So how do illegal weapons and the second amendment fit together?"  (I don't know.) I love Emma's doggedness in completing tasks.  I love Mark's spontaneity and enthusiasm...and his forbearance in dealing with his allergies which have been terrible.

I'm glad they're mine.

I'm glad its summer.

(It is summer, right?  The sky here is confused on that point.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Books I Read in June



American Fuji by Sara Backer **

I've always been pretty neutral about whether or not I'd like to visit Japan.  This book didn't create a very rosy picture of the place though.  The author is American and lived and worked there for awhile so I wonder if she hated it.  The end of the book sort of redeemed it...I liked the ending.






The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory***

This book was set in England during the 1400s.  I started out really liking this book but as it went along, I started to really get annoyed with the House of York and all the royalty in general.  What an ambitious power hungry group!  It was fascinating to read about their lives and I enjoy history.  But, if I had been Elizabeth Plantagenet, I would have protected my family and given up all ambitions for the throne and gone to the country to raise chickens or something.

But I'm not Elizabeth Plantagenet.






Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? by Pamela Keogh *

I'll never know if I'm a Jackie or a Marilyn because I didn't last long in this book.  I picked it up on a lark from the library but it only took me a few pages to realize I'm really just a Thelma and have more interesting things to read.









Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin ****

This is one of my all time favorite books and the book I chose for book club this month (it was my turn to pick).  It is laugh out loud funny.  It is light and airy.  It is romantic.  Love it.






Open House by Elizabeth Berg ****

I was surprised by how much I really loved this book.  It was one I just picked up.  I could have done without some of the "details" of the relationships but it was extremely well written and satisfying.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer House



The other day I looked around.  My American flag was flapping on the front porch.  The boot tray by the front door has become the flip-flop tray.  There's a basket of swim goggles by the door.  Outdoor furniture has gradually migrated from the garage to the deck.  Flowers are blooming.

There's not a backpack in sight.

The weather is a little fickle, but we are doing our part.

The rest is up to you, Mr. Sunshine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baking Day

At the end of Emma's basketball season, her coach gave each girl an award.  Emma got an award for being the Most Cerebral Player. 

She wanted to know the beginning from the end.  And everything in between.

It's her approach to life.

Since she's abandoned her plans in favor of school choir next year, one thing she gave up was Home Economics.

I told her I could teach her that.  I said, "I'm the best homemaker in the world.  I'll teach you that."

Emma gave me her look.  Oh, you have a daughter on the cusp of teenager-dom?  You know the look. 

When I was growing up my sisters and I started cooking at about Emma's age.  One of us made bread every Saturday and one of us made a dessert every Saturday.  (I've since learned my mom was more interested in teaching us than in slave labor like I supposed at the time...it is MUCH easier to do it yourself.) 

So I decided on Saturday to turn Emma loose with a dessert of her choice.

I think I'll give her an award for being the Most Cerebral Baker.

She wanted to know exactly which attachment to use on the KitchenAid (and why).  Emma wanted to be absolutely sure everything was accurately measured.  She wanted to know what "creamed" meant, what "fold in" meant and what precisely were stiff egg whites.  I'm a bit more haphazard when I cook.  I estimate things if I don't want to measure them (vanilla, shortening) and I mostly use whatever kitchen implements will yield the fewest dishes.  I have been known on many occasions to not read the directions clearly and have to improvise a little.

Maybe this is why Emma gave me that look when I told her I am the best homemaker in the world and I could teach her.

Maybe I'm second best?  Third best?  On the list?

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Good Stuff

Jill said when she read my post about depressing graduations, she was waiting to see the good stuff.

That Jill... running coach turned life coach all of the sudden?

She's right though.  There was good stuff.  I owe it to my narcissistic little blog to make mention of it.

I think I hone in on the negative more than I should because I resent school just a little bit because they have my children and I don't (and because I'm naturally sarcastic).

But there were good things.  There were ways I saw my children blossom and bloom.

I love that they loved (most of) their teachers.

I love the serious way Emma approached her homework.

I love how Braeden learned to manage 7 teachers when before he'd only had one. (Me.  Sniff.)

While I didn't love, I appreciated (?) the hard things.  The times when kids were mean, when assignments were hard, when they felt slighted.  I know they need these kinds of experiences to make them into who I want them to be:  compassionate, responsible, unencumbered by feelings of entitlement.

I loved attending Braeden's 8th grade poetry reading.  (8th grade poetry?  Fabulous.)

I love that Emma's teacher cried on the last day of school when she read "Oh the Places You'll Go" to her class.

Emma with her adored teacher, Mrs. Schroeder

I loved band concerts and the culmination of huge projects and seeing my children be stoic in the face of rainy walks to the bus with enormous backpacks.  (No, I won't drive you.  Do you think I want to go out in this rain?)

I love the new friends they met and bonds they formed and how excited they were to tell each other about their daily adventures and to pore over their yearbooks together. 

I really really love that they're now home for the summer!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Quest: Chocolate Cake



I made my first entry in The Chocolate Cake Quest when I made Mark's half birthday cake.  It was from Our Best Bites.  I made the cake and the frosting.  They weren't too labor intensive which is important.  I dirtied a lot more dishes than if I'd made a cake mix and my regular frosting, but this is, after all, The Quest.

The cake was a tiny bit dry.  Not really dry, but not as moist as I'd like.  The frosting was a little too rich.  I liked it, but I should have used a thinner layer.



I had enough extra frosting to make these:



I should have made more.

I didn't need such a thick layer of frosting and frosting on graham crackers is maybe the ambrosia the Greek gods ate on Mt. Olympus.


The Quest continues.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Depressing

There have been a boatload of new experiences with this public school thing this year.  Some of them are a pain (getting up early).  Some of them have been pleasant surprises (how positive the school environment felt).  Some of them have been depressing.

Recognitions/celebrations/graduations are a little depressing.  Particularly for 6th and 8th graders.

Here's what I think:

--8th grade girls that take the opportunity to dress like prostitutes and their parents that gleefully take their pictures are depressing

--"certificates of completion" are depressing

--14 year old girls trying to walk in 4 inch stiletto heels are depressing

--awards for 100% attendance are depressing...there's something really sad about never missing school

--sitting next to Mark (a.k.a. the most miserable child in America) at a school event is depressing:



He had to empty the dishwasher when we got home because he was so cranky.

Speaking of pictures, the shots I got of Emma were also depressing.

They mostly looked like this:


But there were also lovely one's like this:

do you see her?

I should be a professional photographer.

Now I'm going to go empty the dishwasher for being so cranky.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Track and Field Day

It wasn't very long into my elementary school career that I realized athletic ability equated with success.

And that I didn't have any.

I was picked last in P.E. and my ultimate humiliation was the yearly track and field day.  I was last in the races.  My effervescent cousin went home each year with about 8 blue ribbons which didn't make me feel much better.

My mom tried to comfort me annually when I arrived home in disgrace.  She reminded me that I had other talents.  She told me I excelled every other day of the school year, academically.  No one cared.  Least of all me.

I hated track and field day.

When I was in fourth grade, I "tripped" and "sprained my ankle."  It was really quite tragic because I couldn't participate in any of the other races that day.

(It was tragic for the person who had to come in last because I wasn't racing...I was as happy as could be.)

My mom let me skip school on track and field day when I was in 5th grade and 6th grade.  She's pretty much the best mom in America.

I was asked to go to Emma's school today and help with field day.  I hope I don't "trip" and "sprain my ankle" on the way to the school.

(In case you're wondering, the irony of me training to run in a race is not lost on me...Stephanie and Jill promised we'd all run together.  If I collapse, they'll drag me across the finish line.  No one was that generous when I was in elementary school.  They left me in their dust.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Moms Don't Go On Scout Camp-Outs

Friday night Adam and I drove a van load of boys to the mountains so they could camp and ride 50 miles on a bike.  (50 miles?  That makes me tired.)

The boys have been friends for years and have had their share of bonding experiences.  They were in high spirits with school almost out for the summer (finally) and enjoying being together.

At one point in their conversation I reminded them there was a lady present.  They said, "Oh, sorry," because they're good boys, though they are 14.

As we left the freeway and drove on a narrow mountain road, I felt anxiety about leaving my boy.  The day had been sunny but was now grey and cloudy (surprised?).  The tall trees met over the road, diffusing any light that still remained.  It may look picturesque but is stifling to my wide-open-spaces-desert-born sensibilities.  I looked out the window at the gloom and told Adam, "I don't want to leave Braeden here."

"Why not?"

"I hate camping."

I think Adam just smiled at me.

The boys tumbled out when we got to the campsite and I asked my shorts and t-shirt wearing son if he'd remembered a jacket.

"Yes," he said patiently.

I stopped myself from throwing my arms around his ankles and dragging him back to the van.

When it was time to leave, Adam, the seasoned scout camp-out parent, tossed a "See ya" in Braeden's directions and was rewarded with a nod from our first born.

I insisted on a hug.  Yes, in front of his friends.  They understood; they have moms.

I said, "I don't want to leave you here Braeden."

"Why not?" he asked, as surprised as his dad had been with my hesitation.

"It's cold and dreary," I said (and I hate camping).

"I've slept in an open field in pouring rain," he said, "And had fun."

Comforting.

Adam and I headed back to civilization in the suddenly silent van.  We had dinner at MOD Pizza thanks to a hot tip from Jill (delicious) and I got to practice this phase of motherhood I'm struggling to master.

The leaving them to fend for themselves.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm a Mormon, Yes I Am

I've been hearing a lot about Mormons lately.  Between presidential candidates and Broadway musicals...and Jimmer, they're in the news.

I think as Mormons, we don't mind that so much.

We love to talk about our faith and share what matters most and makes us happy.  Also, where we're misunderstood, I think we want to explain.  We want to be understood.  Everyone does.

I read this article by Michael Ottersen.  Maybe you've seen it?  It's his take on the "Book of Mormon" musical.

I can't get it out of my head.

I read it aloud to Adam (because when one of us reads something good, we want the other one to hear it too).  Although I didn't have anything close to this reaction the first time I read the article, I started crying my second time through (Braeden was nearby so I had him finish reading).

It truly is staggering the amount of good that is done, not just by our church, but by others as well.  I can't take much credit for it besides contributing a little bit of money but it warms my heart nonetheless.



(I think my crying says more about me than it says about the article.  I may possibly tend to cry easily...)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Quest

I am, at my core, a very boring person.  I like what I like and I don't venture too far from it.  At Chipotle, I always get a chicken burrito; at any Thai restaurant, I get showering rama; at The Spaghetti Factory, I get spaghetti with browned butter and mizithra cheese; at The Diamond Knot, I get the Old Darby Calzone.  You get what I mean...

I am in the process of cleaning my kitchen.  (send help)  Here's a problem:  I merrily tear recipes out of magazines and set them aside to try.  I have them in a neat little stack in neat little folders with neat little paper clips.

But I don't like them.  I either want to add them in my permanent recipe book or get rid of them.

But what if there's The Perfect Recipe contained in those stacks?

(Everyone can't be vexed with such pressing problems...only some of us can handle the pressure.)

One reason I continue to rip out recipes is that I want The Perfect Recipe for a few items.  Among them, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate lava cakes...

Are you sensing a theme?

But also, pizza dough.  THE pizza dough.  That's what I want.

And also chicken tortilla soup.  I have several reams of paper full of recipes for chicken tortilla soup.  Which one is the best one?  Why mess with recipes that aren't the Best One?

So if you thought this blog was all about trivialities, you were mistaken, my dears.  I am going to document my (occasional) progress in these various (mostly chocolate) quests.

Gather in your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery of at least one field of endeavor. 
-John Haggai



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yard Sale Finds

Today I'm linked to Nesting Place.  She's having a linky party for terrific yard sale finds.

I love the adventure of yard sales and the thrill of the hunt.  I don't think I've ever purchased something at a sale that I was planning to purchase, only happy surprises.

Here are some of my favorites:


This side table--I changed the wooden knobs for black ones and spray painted the hinges black.


This table.  I think I paid $10 each for it and and the side table.


My typewriter:


Little fingers are irresistibly drawn to its keys and since I think I paid $3 for it and it's pretty sturdy, I don't mind a bit.

My sentimental favorite is this set of equivalent fraction cubes:


Several years ago, I was admiring them at a yard sale.  The woman selling them told me she wasn't sure she could part with them because she'd homeschooled her daughters.  Homeschooling your children is heart and soul work.  It's hard to let it go.  Believe me, I know.  I told her I was homeschooling my own children.  In the instant connection that created, we chatted and learned that we used the same curriculum.

She gave me the equivalent fraction blocks free.  I use them a lot (they work very well) and think of that other mother.  I don't know her name.  I just know we both taught our children fractions on the same cubes. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cause for Celebration

Today's the last day of school in our little one room/one student schoolhouse.  We're going out with more of a relieved sigh than a big bang.   Glad to be done.   As much as I love my delicious time with my favorite red head in the world, it's at the expense of time I'm not spending on other pursuits and it will be nice to have a little more time.

Today's also graduation for our local high school.

The other day I was at the store looking for graduation cards for two dashing young graduates I know.  I know I don't get out much.  I know my finger is not exactly on the pulse of what is now and current but I saw graduation cards for preschool, middle school, junior high.

It's weird.

Don't you just advance from those things whether you like it or not?

High school graduation seems different.  It's a big change.  No more public education.  No more being considered a kid.  Often, no more living at home.  And you have to actually meet some requirements to graduate, it isn't a foregone conclusion.

You hear all the time about the "dumbing down" of American education.  So now we're adding meaningless celebrations to the mix.  Yay!  You were able to complete our much easier curriculum!

Since Emma's in 6th grade and Braeden's in 8th, these are years to mark apparently.  There are events at their schools complete with fancy clothes and likely a lot of clapping.  I guess there's nothing wrong with a celebration.

But I mostly just want my kids back.  I'll celebrate that.

Monday, June 13, 2011

8 1/2 Candles


I hung our festive birthday wreath on the door.  Mark wondered if we'd cut it in half since it was his half birthday.

Let's not get carried away.

Mark spent a good portion of his day building his new Lego set.

Then he explained its finer points to me.



In great detail.



Really, quite a lot of detail (ask me anything--no don't).



Then he got the box to further sell me on the virtues of an ARC 170.

Really Mark, you had me at "it's on sale."


For dinner, I set a celebratory table (which Mark didn't care at all about but I like setting a celebratory table).

"The Special Plate" for the (half) Birthday Boy


And I let Gavin stay for dinner (which keeps things lively).


Is it just me or does Mark look too old in these pictures?


8 1/2 candles?

Slow down, kid.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Decisions, Decisions


Today Mark is 8 1/2.  Half birthdays are a Big Deal around here.  That's when our winter birthday kids get their gifts.  He vacillated between wanting an ipod or another Lego set.

The way I saw it, an ipod was a great gift because it's small.  That merits high marks because I've seen the mess that is my boys' room.

The ipod wasn't such a great gift because as a family, we already have 4 ipods.  Chances are, Mark can use one at any time.  (But I want my own!)

A Lego set was a great gift because it's a toy.  Mark's the only kid that still wants a toy for his birthday.  I want to hold onto that at least for a little longer.

A Lego set wasn't such a great gift idea because Mark already has over half the Legos that exist in the world (give or take).  Again, I've seen the mess that is my boys' room.  (But an ARC 170!  The possibilities!  I can create an entire clone battle!)


Mark decided to go with the ARC 170.  I offhandedly told him that I wasn't giving him his birthday gift until his room was clean.  I didn't really mean it.  If I was a real and true stickler on clean bedrooms, they'd be more clean right?  But Mark took my words to heart.  He has cleaned his room like his life depended on it.

I should feel great because, clean room!  But I feel a little lame.  If it's seemingly that painless to get the room clean, why don't I insist on it all the time?

And what kind of mother withholds a birthday gift as a bribe?

My kind.  But I'm also going to make him a chocolate cake.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Moms or Dads


Recently, I was trying to convince Emma to take choir next year.  (Silly me, when will I learn I can't convince her of anything?) I had heard less than excellent reviews about the classes she chose instead of choir and I know Emma.  I know how much my little songbird loves to sing.  She comes home from church choir practice buoyantly singing the songs to me.  Why not school choir?

"I've made my choice," she vehemently declared.

So I called in my secret weapon.  Not for the first time. I told Adam why I thought choir would suit Emma.  He told her.  She agreed with him.  She decided to take choir.

What gives?

I know I was the same way.  My dad's words somehow carried more weight than my mother's.  Adam and I speculated.  Maybe it's because your mom is there for more of the day.  She is there nagging advising all the time.

I told Jill and Stephanie.  They both said their moms had more clout than their dads when they were growing up.

There goes that theory.

So what do you think?  Which parent had more convincing power?  Why?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rethinking

1- I'm rethinking putting potted flowers under the roof on my front porch and deck.  Now I have to water them even if it rains.

2-I'm rethinking some elements of the story I'm thinking about (but no, not writing very much of before my dad even asks).

3-I'm rethinking the quote on my little chalkboard by my front door but I haven't thought of a different one to replace it with.

4-I'm rethinking throw pillows.  My children always throw them on the floor (and leave them there).

5-I'm rethinking the company I keep.  You know how we were going to run a 5K?  Now it's a 10K and that wasn't my idea.  I need less ambitious friends.

6-I'm rethinking letting my kids grow up.  That definitely wasn't my idea.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Feeling Loved

Sunday morning I was performing some emergency triage on Mark's church shoes with black shoe polish.  I started thinking about my dad who has gone to church every Sunday with perfectly polished cowboy boots for as long as I can remember.

I started thinking about a time when I was maybe 14 and my dad was teaching my Sunday School class at church.  He had one long leg crossed over the other and one of the boys in the class asked him what was on the bottom of his boot.

He said, "A patch."

The boy asked, "Why?"

My dad simply said, "Because I have a hole in my boot," and he went on teaching the lesson.

I had no idea.

I was sitting in the class with likely a new pair of shoes on my feet.  When I needed new shoes, I got them.  My parents were the ones that went without, not their children.

But we didn't realize, didn't appreciate.  I think that's the way it goes.  Perhaps if we understood the extent of our parents' love and sacrifice and our indebtedness all at once, we'd be too overwhelmed.

So in bits and pieces, we learn.  We discover ways they've taught us, served us, helped us, worn patched boots.

And on a Sunday morning, years later, we remember.  And feel grateful.

my dad

Monday, June 6, 2011

Vitamin D

Along with our nephew Jackson, we went to the Mariner's game on Saturday.


Seattle was at its best.  The sky was blue, the water sparkled, and the sun!  The sun!


At the game we admired Ichiro...



...we're sort of fans (notice the shirts).



We ate licorice and kettlecorn and garlic fries (oh my!).  And then some Altoids.

We cheered...


This was after the Mariners hit a home run.  It's a blurry shot because it's zoomed in across the stadium...the boys had retreated to the shade (wimps).

...and booed.



We sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame and followed along with the diversions on the jumbo-tron.

We slathered sunscreen on our lily-white Scandinavian skin that hasn't had much sun while under clouds.  (No one got a sunburn!)

We heard (and felt in our bones--it was loud) a sound check for the U2 concert that was being held that night next door in Qwest field.

We root root rooted for the home team.  They didn't win and it was a shame.

But we didn't even mind (much).  Because that's how glorious the day was.

Post game except Adam who was taking the picture...I love Emma's hat hair halo effect.  She's such an angel.

Friday, June 3, 2011

All or Nothing

Mark doesn't do things halfway.  He never has (which can be a good thing or a bad thing).  He gets passionate about something or other and embraces it whole-heartedly.

He watched National Treasure which enthralled him.  He watched it several times.  He became thrilled at the cemetery on Memorial Day when he saw Freemason symbols on gravestones.  "They're from the movie!"  He told me all about Freemasons while he hopped along walking back to the car to get a sweatshirt.  (He, of course, hadn't brought one but I'd brought one for him because he's the biggest pain in America when he's cold...or hot...or thirsty.)

When we got home, he wanted to search the internet for the symbol so he could draw it.  Instead I printed it for him.  He immediately cut it out and taped it to his shirt.  He wore it the next day as well as a wig Emma used for a school project.  An eight year old powdered wig masonic patriot.


Here's the "Declarashin of Indupendints" shown above:


He also assembled some reading material:


He asked me if he could have a flag pole and an American flag with thirteen stars.  I said, "Maybe."  Which meant, "no".

Later in the day I noticed he had his pajamas on under his clothes.  I asked him why.  He said that some of the Revolutionary soldiers didn't have coats so he was wearing his pajamas to stay warm while he marched.

I think the patriots would have been happy to have Mark on their side.

At least until he got cold...or hot...or thirsty.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Tentative Peace



On Monday we spent our Memorial Day visiting a cemetery and then headed to Bowman Bay on Fidalgo Island.  The weather wasn't supposed to be terribly nice but we went anyway. Because when you live around here, you have to.

We had Grandma Geri with us and we visited some of her ancestors' gravesites.

Adam's great-great-aunt (I think?) has the same name as one of my cousins:


Braeden doggedly cleaned headstones of moss.


Emma doggedly searched out family members using Geri's map.


Mark trotted around discovering which wars the veterans fought in.


The day turned glorious once we hit Bowman Bay.  Adam's sister and a few nephews and a niece joined us for a lovely picnic.  There were brilliant bursts of sunshine that boosted my mood immeasurably.








What a spectacular little corner of the world we call home!

So, Puget Sound, truce?

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