Friday, December 30, 2011

Welcome to Nerdtown

This was my day today:

Woke up for some ridiculous reason at 6am. Decided that I'm done thinking about repainting my bedroom--it's time to just do it. By 6:15am the paint was stirred, brushes were rounded up, and moulding was taped off. Given that it required several coats I didn't actually finish until 3pm, but for a paint job accomplished alternately in my underwear and my pajamas (I decided that I didn't want to risk getting paint on my jammies so I took advantage of being home alone to strip down), it turned out dang good. My only concern is why on earth I waited so long.

Event no. 2--I got a new dishwasher. I was too cheap to pay for installation, so until I can either figure it out from youtube videos or con someone into helping me, my days of handwashing are not quite at an end--but they are close. The new one is black. It's pretty.

I went to a dance. A real, grown-up one. There were a surprisingly high number of men there. Many of them were the same age as my grandpa, but still.

Also, I took a small break from my vegetarian lifestyle to have In-and-Out, and it was very good. Of course.

The day's highlight: finding a beyond-fabulous collection of essays by every major existentialist philosopher, all in one beautiful volume, tucked away on a bottom shelf at Barnes & Noble. It made my whole week.

Conclusion: I am a nerd.

But I am a nerd with exquisite taste and a lovely bedroom.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas from Grace

Grace came home from school today with a holiday card for her beloved Mama.

Dear Mom,
I love you when am I going to your work? I love you so so so so so so so much Love Grace To Mom One thing I left on the crismas list is a repunzel barbie to mom from grace. PS pleze rite me back

I especially like how she didn't exploit holiday sentiments to ask for anything in return, or use this buttering-up opportunity to sneak in a last wishlist request.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Second Best

When I was a little girl I proudly announced to my teacher, when asked what I planned to be when I grew up, that I was going to be a mommy and have 12 kids.

When I was 14, a boy at church tried to insult me by predicting my future: "You're such a molly you're going to have 12 kids, live on a cattle ranch, be married to the bishop, and write mormon cookbooks." To his dismay, I didn't see it as the insult he intended. I thought it sounded perfect.

In college wards--three in a row--the end of the year found me voted Most Likely to Have 12 Kids, and again, I took it as the ultimate compliment.

If I had ever stopped to sketch out my dream life it would have looked very much like this: Stay-at-home mom to 12 or so kids, all delivered naturally & possibly via home birth, probably home schooling, writing books (though not necessarily cookbooks) on the side, married to an awesome guy who totally supported all of those endeavors, living off the land and possibly off the grid...you get the idea. It's a completely different life from the one I have.

Thank God it's completely different from the wonderful, amazing, totally perfect life I have. Oh, how I thank God that I ended up with this wonderful, amazing, totally perfect-for-me life.

Sometimes I get pitying looks from people because I wasn't able to have children "of my own." I look at my beautiful, beautiful children, who look nothing like me and never will, and I am grateful all the way down to my toes that I was blessed to have THEM; not the genetic clones I envisioned. I feel the love of their birthfamilies, surrounding the kids and sustaining me. I look at all the ways adoption has expanded my soul and opened my heart and enriched my world, and I'm humbled to the ground that God's plan for me included this "second-best" path.

Sometimes I get pitying looks from people because my path to wedded bliss took a painful detour through divorce. Ironically, some of those pitying looks come from people whose own marital experience could best be described as the next road over from hell, so I take the self-righteous pity for what it's worth--a thinly veiled attempt to feel better about their own circumstances. This one is harder to write about because I don't have a happy ending to tack on as the moral of the story. I do, however, kinda agree with the handcart pioneers, that my divorce and subsequent experiences have been a small price to pay for knowing God. The kind of close-up, intimate knowing that only comes when you are down in the mud...yeah, I'd do it all again if it meant coming through with the knowledge, deep down to the core of me, that God is always there for me.

And you know, as much as I adore my kids, I'm really glad that I'm not living the stay-at-home mommy life that I imagined. I love that my kids have benefited from many loving people besides me. I'm glad that they've been able to learn, from early ages, that the world is full of kind people, that they can trust the world and be safe in the world, because they've been blessed with wonderful caregivers. I'm glad that God's plan for my life has involved an endless parade of college students who share their enthusiasm and energy and fun, not just with me, but with my kids. My kids think I have a coolest job on the planet, and I would have to agree. Thank goodness God knew that giving me lots of grownup kids to mother, in addition to my four little ones, would keep me happy.

There are more. I love my scrappy little house, for many reasons, one of which is that it's given me the opportunity to learn new repair skills I didn't think I had. It's also given me the chance, many times over, to appreciate good neighbors and awesome home teachers and all-around nice people who help me out when I'm over my head. I love my beat up old minivan, mostly because my kids love it and because it's name is Madame Blueberry, and how can you not love a car that comes with a name like that? If I had the dream house, the dream car, I'd miss the affection for shabby things that has grown on me.

It's cliche; true, but I'm so glad that God hasn't answered all of my prayers the way that I wanted.

This beautiful, messy, glorious second-best life is the happiest thing I could know. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I Like

  • Lady Antebellum
  • dark chocolate almonds
  • people who feed me
  • 3 Nephi Chapter 17
  • substitute teaching in youth Sunday School classes
  • Christmas tree lights
  • cooking with my kids
  • my sisters
  • long, hot baths
  • movies with friends
  • flirting
  • walking around temple grounds
  • new jammies
  • functioning household appliances
  • brushing & flossing (I know, weird)
  • Barbra Streisand
  • meeting cool people
  • reading new Junie B. Jones books with my kids
  • snuggling

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Children: the Benefits, Part Two

Here's a scenario that repeats itself whenever I attend a conference out of town:

Several of us will be sitting around, enjoying dinner or sharing a shuttle, or scoping out hotel gifts shops together, and the question of children will come up.

Those who have them will pull out cell phones and show off pictures while everyone oohs and aahs appreciatively. The norm seems to be one child; a few adventurous souls will own up to having two, which is warmly commended with nods of acknowledgement for the bravery of taking on two.

Then it's my turn. I smile super big, pull out my phone with pictures and trump them all with FOUR.

There is stunned silence, until inevitably, some shocked soul will whisper "but, WHY?"

The shock intensifies when they discover that all four are adopted and therefore pretty clearly wanted, chosen, and planned for. No accidents among the bunch.

This isn't about answering that asinine question of why. I can't think of anything better to do with my life than raise a family. In my mind, justifying it is akin to justifying why anyone would want to ever fall in love or eat chocolate or go to heaven. It's such no-brainer that it doesn't even deserve much of a response.

The thing is, I can't wrap my mind around the other side. It blows me away that so very many people are deciding that children simply aren't worth it. It blows me away that they are so focused on the work and messiness and inconvenience of children that they've completely lost sight of the incomparable joy that comes with family life. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the short-sightedness that opts for less hassle now with no thought to everything that is lost by that choice.

It's especially ironic considering that most of them are one of several children who enjoy all the benefits of sibling relationships. I'm tempted to point out at times that someone willingly tackled the task of giving them life and rearing them to be moderately productive citizens, and doesn't it seem just a wee bit self-centered to refuse that role for another someone?

But, in spite of the judgmental tone of this post, I don't really spend much time worrying about the choices that other people make regarding procreation. We all choose our own path, and I respect that.

It just makes me sad that for so many people, it's a one-sided choice.

I know when I get home I'm gonna be tackled to the floor by four little people who have missed me more than anything. It's gonna be loud; they're all going to shout at once, all the exciting news I've missed. It's gonna involve crying and hurt feelings and poked elbows and trampled toes. It's gonna be messy--I'm trying not to think about what the house will look like when I get back.

It's going to be heaven on earth.

Maybe that's what I'll say, the next time someone asks why.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Loving

I recently re-read "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis. Thought-provoking, to be sure, and for the most part I agree completely with his superb mind.

One place I always get a little lost with Lewis, though, is his characterization of God as a Stern Being who is easier known as the Ruler of the Universe than as a deeply personal Father.

The characterization doesn't mesh with my personal experience. While I agree with Lewis that God doesn't NEED our love and isn't necessarily any more grand or glorious because of it, instinct tells me that there is more to the story, and it DOES matter to God whether we love Him back.

Last night I read Gracie a book that I used to read to her when she was a baby. In the book Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare discuss how much they love each other. Little Nutbrown Hare loves Big Nutbrown Hare as wide as his arms, as high as he can jump, and as far as he can see. Yet regardless of what measure he uses, Big Nutbrown Hare can always reach wider, jump higher, and see farther.

As Big Nutbrown Hare tucks Little Nutbrown Hare into bed, the reader is reminded that parental love knows no bounds.

For some reason as I read it this time, I was thinking of Little Nutbrown Hare, and how his efforts to express love must have meant the world to Big Nutbrown Hare. Of course his efforts were smaller, less grandiose, more childlike. They were also the very best he had to offer. It was exactly what Big Nutbrown Hare wanted.

I loved the first smiles and giggles and reaching out to grab my finger with my babies. I loved hearing them say, "Mama," and chubby hands around my neck and "I wuf you." I loved the first sprawling scribbled love letters and the crayon drawings of mom & me. I love it now when they bring me breakfast in bed or "sneak" to surprise me with a clean kitchen or save their allowance to buy me presents.

It's the very best they have to offer, and it's exactly, perfectly what I want.

I think I love God all the more because, when I bring Him my immature, shabby, impatient, and totally messed-up heart, He lets me know that it's exactly, perfectly what He wants.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Children: The Benefits

Anyone who is a parent knows how completely humbling the task can be. However, I've noticed that they can also be quite good for the ego. Mine aren't teenagers yet. Enough said. Here are some reasons I keep them around:
  • they think I sing better than anyone on the radio
  • they are pretty sure people would pay $100 for one serving of my teriyaki glazed salmon
  • they are certain that no one can do harder math than Mommy (oh, how I'm enjoying that one while it lasts--which will probably be another month, or fourth grade, at which point they'll surpass me in ability).
  • they think I'm just as pretty as Sandra Bullock and waaaaaay prettier than Miley Cyrus
  • they are convinced that anyone who doesn't want to marry their mom is a complete imbecile and totally beyond all hope
  • in a discussion about how faith can move mountains, they wanted to know which ones I've moved recently
Definitely keepers, these kids of mine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Happy Endings, mid-page

Along with a gaggle of giggly girls who firmly believe in fairytales, princesses, and dreams coming true, I have a sweet little son (who is often a punk, but is just as often a sweetie-poo); who is perhaps the most romantic soul in our family.

Which is why it wasn't a complete surprise when, a few nights ago, he snuggled up against me and asked, after a few minutes of quiet, "Mommy, why couldn't you and Daddy just live happily ever after?"

Now that's a loaded question. One with even more loaded answers.

I blurted out the best answer that popped into my head: "Well, the story's not done yet. Daddy's not in my happily ever after, and I'm not in his, but the good parts of the stories are still coming. And YOU are definitely part of my happily ever after."

It seemed to satisfy him. For now. I'm not naive enough to think that my kids will forever be satisfied with my non-answers about the dissolution of their parents' marriage; however, by the time they are old enough to be relentless they will also be old enough to believe me when I tell them that divorce is about grown-up problems.

Eric's innocent question has stuck with me, though. For him, and for anyone who glances wistfully into the past and wishes that things had stayed the same and hard, sad times hadn't come, here's what else I would have added:

"We're living the middle of the story right now. Before the happily ever after there are lots of grand adventures, heart-thumping terrors, overwhelming obstacles, and side stories that temporarily distract us. In the thick of the action the hero and heroine don't know how it will play out. No one knows the happy ending until, well, the end.

"Sometimes the middle of the story totally sucks. Sometimes the danger is unbelievable, the pain seems never-ending, and any hope for a happy ending is seemingly dashed.

"But that doesn't make the happy ending any less certain. The Author knows the entire story, beginning to end, and there is always, ALWAYS a very happy ending."

One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis (you knew it would be). He said, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind." True, that.

Chalk that up as one true thing that I know: it always gets better.

Here's to more page-turning adventures on the way to our happily-ever-afters!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Adding to the List

Earlier this month I had to travel to Logan for a few days. It was the perfect opportunity to add another temple to the list.

And perfect opportunity to snap a picture of myself in bedhead, getting ready in the morning. 'Cuz I know you all wanted to see that.
On the way to Logan is Brigham City, where they will soon have their very own temple. Isn't it gorgeous? I love this design. I can't wait to bring the kids to the open house.

And finally the Logan temple. Logan itself is a beautiful town. I can't believe I've never been! It has all the charm of a rural small town with all the energy of a vibrant, exciting college town. The temple was perfect. I think one of my favorite things about temples is how nice everyone is inside them. Logan did not disappoint.

I realized as I drove home that I passed ten temples--Logan, Brigham City, Ogden, Bountiful, Salt Lake City, Jordan River, Oquirrh Mountain, Draper, Mt. Timpanogos, and Provo--all within a two-and-a-half hour drive. Is that an amazing blessing or what???

I'm a lucky girl.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why It is Impossible to Have a Conversation With a 6-Year Old

Child: Can I have a lemonade when we get home?

Mom: No.

Two minutes pass.

Child: So, remember how you said I could probably have a lemonade when we get home?

Mom: No.

Child: Well, you definitely said I could have one, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

It's the Little Things

You know what I love? I love it when someone waits to hold a door open for me. Not sure why that totally makes my day, but it does.

I like it when people open doors for me in general, but there is something about a person actually standing there, waiting for you to catch up from twenty feet away, holding the door open for no other reason than the fact that you'll eventually get to it and need it open, that just makes me all warm and fuzzy. It's like the kindness of opening a door, times ten. I love the implicit kindness of setting aside a few seconds of their own rushed schedule to do a small nice thing for someone else (in this case, me).

And yes, it's on my mind because it just happened a few moments ago. Mr. Anonymous Stranger Who Took The Time To Make My Day, a thousand blessings and good karma on your head.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being Saints

In my ward, two older-ish gentlemen were recently baptized and became members of the church. In our faith worthy men are ordained to the priesthood, but they must be ordained in sequential order through various offices of priesthood, beginning at age 12. Young men are ordained to be deacons at 12 and continue on: deacons, teachers, priests. At adulthood they are ordained as elders, and sometime later, as high priests.

When a man joins the church after his teens, rather than automatically being ordained an elder, he must go through the other offices first. As you might imagine, this can be humbling. It plays out in very public ways, as deacons are assigned the task of passing the Sacrament bread and water to the entire congregation, teachers act as ushers of a sort, and priests bless the Sacrament in a public meeting.

Not being a man myself, I don't have firsthand experience with this, but I've been told by men who converted later in life that it's rather humbling to be out there with the 12-year old boys. From my perspective on the outside looking in, it seems like a bit of an act of faith as well. Submitting to the proscribed order of things, in such a public way, is an overt way of staking a claim, of saying, "yes, I believe that this is all true."

I admit, I've been curious how these two new brothers in my ward would cope.

Today they took their place in front of the Sacrament table before the meeting started. From the organ I had a birds-eye view as one by one, other men in the congregation glanced over, noticed, and came to join them. The younger men were excused. Today the Sacrament was passed to us by an army of men who looked quite different from the usual prepubescent boys. Graying hair and no hair replaced the rumpled or slicked back teen version; it was wrinkles instead of acne. Gently and almost imperceptibly the older brothers motioned the new ones in the proper movements and ritual, mentored them in their new responsibilities.

My fears that they wouldn't fit in, would feel awkward or conspicuous were unfounded.

And this, my friends, is why I not only believe the doctrines, but love and believe in the church. We mortals need a place and a company to practice what we believe, and the comfort of each other is the best way to do it.

Practicing our religion often takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires us to do things that are downright humbling. It calls upon us to make both private and public acts of faith. Those things can be scary, unnerving, potentially embarrassing, and uncomfortable.

Being surrounded by friends--by brothers and sisters, even--makes it much more possible.

To my brothers and sisters, who have surrounded me and held me up when I needed it most, for little things that barely mattered and for big things that mattered more than I'll ever know, thank you. Thank you for the practical support offered.

More than that, thank you for teaching me how to be one of the saints.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Early Writings

The kiddles are figuring out that the written word is a powerful thing. A sticky note was found on my computer with the following message:

"I hate my danss class they don't have trets I want to go to the othr danss klss wir i yous to go."

I'm proud of them for using words and exploring putting their feelings in writing; somewhat less enthused about the passive-aggressive nature of putting it in a note instead of telling me. But we can work on that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homemade Brownies, My Way

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Break the chocolate into smaller chunks by hitting each square with a hammer. If you are planning to sneakily make brownies after the kids are in bed, it would be best to do this part before bedtime. When the kids ask what you are doing, the appropriate response is "nothing." Word to the wise--do not put the chocolate on a china plate for this step.

Put the chocolate and butter together in a glass bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes, depending on your microwave and how cautious or risk-taking you are. Stir gently until all the chocolate chunks have melted and the mixture is smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan.

Stir sugar into the chocolate-butter mixture. Scoop out a generous spoonful and eat it, because you still have 40+ minutes to go before the brownies are ready, and that is simply too long to wait for gooey chocolate yumminess. Resist the urge to scoop up such a large spoonful so fast that it hits the front of your shirt. Chocolate, butter, and sugar stain.

Add eggs, one at time, mixing after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and the flour, in that order.

Hold an internal debate over whether it's better to save the last cup of chopped pecans for healthy salad toppings or sacrifice them to the delicious decadence of brownies. Decide that salads win. This time.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Leave enough on the insides of the bowl for finger licking. Spread the batter over the bottom of the pan. Keep generous amounts on the spoon so that you can clean the spoon off with your tongue.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is set and firm, but the brownies are not yet noticeably browner around the edges.

Remove from oven, exercise all of your self-restraint, and wait 5-10 minutes. Let the brownies cool, firm up, and set.

Forgo cutting even squares in favor of digging into the warm, melty chocolate heaven with a spoon. If you get more than a third of the way into the pan, stop immediately, pray for forgiveness, and quickly wrap the rest for freezing. In the back of the freezer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Friday Friends: The Divine Ms. B

Name: The Divine Ms. B, also known as Betsy

Why We Are Friends: the picture speaks for itself. Also, because when I admitted that I'd never set off soda bombs in church parking lots, she was scandalized enough to insist that we make that our next girls-date. And because she has great taste in kids. Hers are yummy.

What We Like To Do: Contrary to her husband, Brain-Drain, who has been known to see us out the door with such gems as "Oh, you're going out with Wendy? I've got the number of four bail bondsmen right near the phone," we are not Thelma & Louise. Our primary shared activity is sitting up talking until very late in the car/yard/driveway/street. Close second--late night texting.

What Brings Us Together: Costco & pedicures & shared love of Erynn

Why I Want to Be Her: Um, see picture above. Also, she has great hair & teeth.

What Makes Her Smart: She knows everything there is to know about every animal & plant known to mankind. She knows everything there is to know about every obscure disease known to mankind. If she doesn't, just tell her that you might have it, and the next day she'll present you with documented monographs. Not only smart; she's also a world-class researcher. To top it off, as Brain-Drain says, she's more than just a pretty face. To quote him, "it's nice to be with someone who reads and stays current on world events, and has something interesting to say." While I prefer Ms. B's company for somewhat different reasons than he does, I do have to agree with his assessment. It is NEVER dull to be around Betsy.

Best Thing About Our Friendship: it makes me feel 13 again, except way older & cooler than I was at 13.

Her Special, Incomparable Talent: chocolate truffles. They are world-famous.

Times I Don't Like Her As Much (j/k!): When my kids tell me--repeatedly--how they wish she was their mom instead of me. Shoot, I'd pick her too, but ouch!

What She Teaches Me: Not to take myself, or the rest of the world, too seriously. To trust my instincts. That life is always good, even when it sucks. Everything always works out for the best. That EVERYTHING is better when you laugh really hard.

My Future Relationship Plans: Our mansions in heaven are going to be right down the street, back to 97 steps apart, 'cause I miss that.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Planning Ahead

Mia: "I can't wait till I'm a mommy and I can be rude to my kids."

Me: "WHAT??? Is that what you think I do??? Am I rude to you???"

Mia: "No, but when I'm a mommy, I'm TOTALLY going to be rude to my kids. You're way too nice."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

I don't what kind of self-absorption leads me to believe that an online audience is interested, but since I persist in my narcissism anyway, here's the latest.

Things That Make Me Happy:
  • Sitting on the couch in the dark, eyes closed, listening to "A Groovy Kind of Love."
  • Belting out Broadway tunes at the top of my lungs.
  • Spectacular sunsets
  • Snuggle time with a child in my bed, listening to that baby's deepest wishes and fears and thoughts about life.
  • Freshly laundered sheets
  • Kind words
  • Being "found" by former students
  • Girls' Night Out!
  • Wondering which nice neighbor just mowed my lawn/edged my lawn/took my garbage can out to the street...or any number of other acts of service that they do All.The.Time.
  • Lunch dates
  • New blog posts from Brain Drain or Mutterdrei :)
  • Pozole. Which I now know how to make myself, at least, in theory, thanks to Abe & Maurina.
  • Finding the absolute most perfect, beautiful home accessory or piece of furniture, that I've been needing for forever, and finding it dirt cheap.
  • Dresses that make me feel like a princess. At my age, that's something.
  • Getting lost in a book.
  • Arrested Development. I know, I know, I'm years behind the rest of the country, but that brilliantly whacked-out little gem of television just makes me laugh until I cry.
  • Nurturing the fledgling writers who just happen to also be my children.
  • Extraordinarily productive meetings.
  • KOSY's Show Tunes Saturday Night
  • C. S. Lewis
  • Spending time with my brothers and sisters
  • Functioning bathrooms!
  • My very quiet, energy-efficient new washer & dryer. Not cool that the old ones broke one time too many, but at least I have nice new ones.
  • Texts from my mom. Ditto Dad.
  • Watching my kids make good choices. Oh, this might be my happiest thing of all. It just doesn't get much better.
  • Hugs

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

Back around Christmas time I had a fantasy-slash-New-Year's-Resolution that I would try a new recipe at least once a month & blog about it. Yes, the Julie & Julia thing has been done to death, I know, but I figured it would give me motivation to enjoy kitchen time more often.

Then my house started falling apart, and, as you may have noticed, I haven't posted a single recipe.

I am atoning now.

These are the incredibly yummy, super delicious black bean burgers I made Sunday, adapted very loosely from allrecipes.com.

3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 eggs
3-4 cloves roasted garlic, chopped -OR- 1 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tsp chili powder (to taste)
1-2 tsp onion salt, or 1 cup chopped, sauteed onions
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tamari sauce
1-2 tsp chili sauce, Thai or Mexican
2 cups bread crumbs (I used 4 large herb & parmasen breadsticks, crumbled)
generous dash of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coarsely mash the black beans. I found a fork insufficient; a potato masher did a great job. Mix in eggs & seasonings. Add bread crumbs until the mixture is moderately stiff, though still soft. Grease a large cookie sheet. Using oiled hands, form patties with the meat mixture and place them on the cookie sheet. They can be very close together--they won't rise or grow in the oven.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. You can flip them halfway through the cooking, but I found that unnecessary. You can also cook them on a greased skillet, flipping about 3 minutes into cooking. I tried one that way, and it was DELISH, but definitely greasier than the baked version. Grease makes everything taste better, doesn't it?

These are so yummy, I was moaning in delight. Repeatedly. Grace & Mia got a little tired of it. "Ugh! Mom, you already told us how yummy they are! I think you can quit talking about it, now." They are also very filling. I ate one sans bun before dinner (a test product, if you will) and another with bun and veggies, and I was seriously stuffed. High in protein & fiber, I could so be vegetarian if I ate like this all the time.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Plea

I try not to cross reference, assuming that if you are interested in my other blog you'll check it on your own.

But I have something important to say, so I'm using this site to encourage you to head over there.

www.janeaustenexperiment.blogspot.com, or link directly to the right.

Read today's post. Please.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Favorite Things

That's right, it's time for another post of Wendy's Current Favorite Things. Ready?
  • So Delicious Coconut Almond Mini Bars (check the frozen section of your local health food store). SOOOO yummy. Like the brand name says, SO Delicious! Super decadent "ice cream" treat for those of us who try to avoid dairy. Mmmm....
  • Bath & BodyWorks Aromatherapy Body & Shine Energy Orange-Ginger Shampoo. Whew! That's a mouthful. Of words, not soap. Don't eat the shampoo. No matter how good it smells. And it does. Smell good. My apologies if I've shared this one before. It's been one of my favorite things for awhile.
  • Big, fluffy pillows and comforters. After the kids swiped every single pillow I owned (what--just because Mommy has multiple pillows on her bed they have to, also?) I finally replenished my stock, right around the time that my darling Smolly sent me a huge load of new blankets, comforters, shams, and who knows what else, that she purchased and immediately decided she didn't want after all. Now I have about 18 inches of fluff on my bed, plus a half dozen bulging, comfy pillows, and hanging out in bed is so luxurious I never want to get out.
  • My green Chinese silk bathrobe that Santa so graciously brought a few months ago. Have I already blogged this one? Well, it's worth repeating. La-la-la-love it! Robe + bed = I may never leave my bedroom again.
  • Avocados. When I was a little girl I could not fathom what my parents saw in these slimy, gaggy green things. Now I could eat one every day, and thanks to Sunflowers, most days I do.
  • Having three bathrooms. With two of them in varying stages of construction/remodeling, I'm feeling particularly grateful that we have three. Please, please do not let me be jinxing myself and have something go massively wrong with bathroom no. 3!
  • Sandra Bullock movies. Because sometimes you just need a movie break, and who doesn't like "While You Were Sleeping" the forty-fifth time?

Monday, April 11, 2011

You Never Forget

Given that my four children are transracially adopted, and come from varying racial backgrounds, it seems a given that they are adopted. And when people find out that I'm divorced it is usually assumed--to the extent that it comes up--that infertility was a factor in the adoptions.


It's a correct assumption.


Not that I spend a lot of time dwelling on it in this phase of my life. I couldn't love my children more if they'd spent nine months in my womb. While infertility derailed my plans for twelve children, divorce blew up the train. Given all the reasons for being where I am + the general insanity of keeping up with four little tornados, I rarely think about the infertility diagnoses that were such a huge part of my life for so long, to the point that sometimes I forget--or maybe just tell myself--that infertility isn't a part of my life & my identity anymore.


When I say that to myself I'm totally lying.


Over the past little while several of my employees have made pregnancy announcements. Some pregnancies were expected and hoped for; some were not. Some are married; some are not. Some pregnancies have been hard and come with lots of complications--emotional and physical. Some have been clear-cut rejoicing. Each mother-to-be has filed into my office to share the news with emotions all over the map, and depending on where her heart is at and the circumstances of her news, I've been excited, sympathetic, concerned, supportive, or whatever else she needs right then, and over the coming weeks and months. My only thoughts have been for my friends and what I can do to help, even if the "help" is simply sharing the tears and the excitement.


So it was hard for me to put my finger on the source of a growing sadness that seemed to deepen after each expecting-momma announcement. Hard for me to even acknowledge it to myself. I'm over this, right? My life is full and rewarding and totally busy and waaaaaay past my struggles with infertility.


I'm such a liar to myself sometimes.


The truth is, I wish it were me. Not in a jealous way. I'm genuinely happy for everyone who gets the joy of parenthood, whatever way they reach it. I don't want to trade places. I just wish the plan for my life included the opportunity to experience pregnancy and childbirth. I wish it included more children. I love adoption. I want to do it again. Not that I'm not grateful for my four; I just love them so much and have such a blast with them that I don't want to be done.


Maybe part of the lingering pain is a need to be validated by others. When I was in the thick of infertility issues people moved warily around the subject around me. They were careful of my feelings when making pregnancy announcements. Sometimes it was mildly annoying--I mean, I really, truly am happy for others' happiness, and don't keep a scorecard of what blessings other people have that I want. I appreciated the kindness, though. I appreciated that they cared enough to tell me gently.


Now I'm suddenly the old grownup who somehow grew past that and I doubt anyone thinks of those things anymore. Some of my young employees even forget enough that they ask me about my labor and delivery experiences and look embarrassed when they realize that I don't have stories to share.


It's all good, it's all okay. This isn't a sad post.


It's just, I've been wondering when I really will be "over it." When will I reach a point where infertility is a distant memory that doesn't matter anymore and no longer has the ability to hurt me at all? When will I stop wishing for just one more baby or longing for missed experiences? Even if it's just in fleeting moments here and there...will I ever forget?


I don't think so. I don't think I want to forget. I don't think I want to reach a point where I don't feel that ache of longing. It's part of who I am.


I'm a mom. I was born a mom. Ask my poor brothers and sisters, who had to suffer under my early fumbled attempts. Or my early student wards, three in succession, who voted me "most likely to have 12 kids." They were onto something. Or the foster kiddos who spent time being mothered in my home. Or the college students I mother day after day now. I don't know any other way to be. I don't know any other way I'd WANT to be.


The painful part of being a mother is realizing that you can't mother the world, no matter how much you'd like to. Moms cry when we see starving children in Africa and sobbing toddlers in the aftermath of earthquakes and we dig out our wallets for kids at bake sales and write out checks to buy shoes for homeless kids because we can't NOT do those things. When you are a born mother you can't NOT mother.


Even when you really, truly can't. Biology or busy-ness, or everyday reality--I know I'm good with what I have. And I'm okay with that.


But it doesn't change the wanting.


I'm okay with that, too.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Likely Story

Mom: "Augh! Eric, why is your bed all wet???" (said after Mommy's butt just got soaked). Eric: "I don't know. It's not because I got my stuffed bunny all wet in the bathtub and carried it in here and laid it on my bed while I was getting dressed and dried it off with my blanket. 'Cause I didn't." Uh-huh.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Why I Keep Him

Me: "What was the best thing about your day?"

Eric: "You."

Me: "That's a nice thing to say, sweetie."

Eric: "You are my favorite thing always. I just love you and that's all."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Priorities

Earlier today I had a conversation in my head that went something like this:

Me: Hey! You should save all these great gift boxes and plastic food containers and pretty glass plates that people used to give you treats at Christmas! You could totally reuse them next Christmas!

Self: Yeah! Great idea!

Me: Except, crap--we just put all the Christmas stuff away yesterday. You'd have to go unpack the boxes in the garage and cram this stuff in. Or put them in a new box, which you'd probably forget about and rediscover next time you move.

Self: Good point. But think how much money I'd save next Christmas by already having this stuff!

Me: Um, when was the last time you actually gave little neighbor gifts or treats to people at Christmas?

Self: Three, four years ago? Wow. Has it really been that long?

Me: Very likely. What are the odds that you are actually going to make treats for all the neighbors next Christmas?

Self: Well, I WANT to.

Me: But what are the odds that you'll actually do it?

Self: I know, I know. Okay, so we take the box to DI?

Me: Good plan. Let's put it by the front door and see how many months it takes before we remember to put it in the car. And how many months after that before it goes from the car to DI. Maybe we'll make it before Christmas next year.

Which brings me to the actual point of my post:

There are far more things I'd like to do than enough of me to do them. To put it much more poetically and beautifully, in the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, "My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds."

In this I am not alone, especially among my sister friends. For some reason an urge to do and be it all seems to be more the province of the female gender, and we have the accompanying anxiety, depression, and insomnia meds to show for it.

The week before Thanksgiving a perfectly nice woman from my church called me one evening to ask if I would, along with one other woman, sew all the costumes for a church Christmas party less than two weeks away. She assured me that the costumes were very simple, and at most, we were only looking at 10-20 hours, total. I told her I'd think about it.

What I should have said was, "In what bizarre universe do you ask a single mom of four very young children, who works full time and teaches part time and insanely insists on being a part time student as well, who already has three other callings at church, and who just bought a house that seems to require a new repair every other day---in what whacked out place in your brain did you think I would be the logical person to ask for this project????"

I sincerely, sincerely regret that I did not offer the above response, and I promise that if (when) something like this comes up again, I most certainly will.

Much as I knew that I must decline, there was still some residual guilt, which I don't even want to begin psychoanalyzing here. I like being able to help people, and anything church-related brings an extra dose of both responsibility to help and guilt if I can't. Thankfully, church is made up of lots of regular folks like me, and the core of my spiritual life--my relationship with God--is founded on His Perfect Understanding, so I have somewhere to go when these conflicts arise.

It bothered me. I prayed about it. I told God that if He really needed me to make those costumes, I'd do it. Even if I had to do them between midnight and four am, which is about what it would be.

God said it wasn't necessary.

He reminded me that there's only one person on this earth who is my kids' mother, and it's me. Nobody else can do that job. I wouldn't want anyone else to do that job. The teaching, squabble-settling, feeding, clothing, cleaning, bathing, tucking, rocking, listening, singing, holding--those are one of the very most important things I can ever do with my time. Ever. And it does take TIME.

I've only got two parents (and two step-parents, but you get the point). I like them. A lot. Our relationships are important to me. I enjoy them. I need them. I want to spend the time required to maintain those relationships.

Ditto my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and many good friends close enough to consider family. It takes energy and work and time to nourish our relationships, and I WANT to do it. I CHOOSE to do it. I believe God approves.

Participation in church is important to me. I attend church each Sunday. I partake of the Sacrament there, believing that the observance is a source of actual power in my life. I play the piano and play the organ and teach classes and sing hymns and freely, actively serve and worship with my fellow saints.

I gladly, willingly accept the assignment to be a visiting teacher, to be a friend to other assigned sisters in my neighborhood. I love visiting teaching. And it does take time. I believe it's important. I believe it matters to God. I believe He wants me to love these women and look after them and care for them.

Temple service is hugely important to me. I think anyone who knows me knows this. I love to attend the temple, serve in the temple, worship in the temple. This also takes time.

Then there are all those things I mentioned earlier--the full time job, the part time job, the studies, the house, the dishes, the yard, the laundry. The list never ends. Somehow, mixed in all of those, are moments of connection, even of service. I tell God that while I don't have much in the way of time, what I have is His, and if He just points me where to go, or what to say, or what to do, I'll do it. I'm frighteningly obtuse, but He breaks through, and the two of us do some good things from time to time. I'm constantly re-learning how frequently one of the greatest acts of service we can do for each other is simply acknowledge each other, fully, completely, to truly SEE each other. Those seemingly trite things--a smile, hug, sincere listening, belief in someone's potential and innate goodness--aren't really so trite at all. Those things don't come naturally to me, but they do to God, and I'm taking baby steps. I don't always see the world through His eyes, but I'm learning.

That's all He expects. It's perfectly enough.

There's never quite enough of me to go around. Just ask my four kids, as they each vie for a spot on my lap. Me & God; that's a different story.

I may not be able to do everything, but thanks to Him, I can do enough.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Dress Code

When my babies were, respectively, 2, 1, and newborn, I used to fantasize about what it would be like to wear "real" clothes to church on Sundays once again. Clothes that weren't chosen based on their ability to disguise spit up stains, mashed fruit snacks, and crushed cheerios. Clothes that could double as facial tissue or napkins (gross, I know, but if you've had kids, you know what I mean. I drew the line at subbing for toilet paper. Though a good diaper blowout was close enough).

Naively, I thought I was a year or two away from Real-Clothes Sundays.

HAH!

The darlings are now, respectively, 7, 6, 5, and 5, and I'm pretty sure I'll be back in "real" Sunday clothes POSSIBLY in twenty years or so, though by that time I'll probably be meeting grandkids, so my years of Real Sunday Clothes have likely already passed for good.

As a favor to those of you who were/are like me, and innocently thought that only the first couple years of childhood need impact parental costuming, I present my list of fashion choices to avoid if you have young children (and by young I mean anything under legal drinking age. After legal drinking age you'll have a whole new set of issues).

Things Not to Wear to Church:
  • Pantyhose. I began today with a brand new pair. Temporary insanity. The first snag, so to speak, occurred 15 minutes later, in the church parking lot, when child no. 4 slammed the car door into my leg. Five minutes later, child no. 2 stepped on my foot as she tried to climb over child no. 3 to get the most desirable spot on the pew. Halfway through the meeting child no. 4 tried to push child no. 2 off my lap, rubbing his foot up my leg in the process, specifically, the part of the shoe with the velcro closures. The stockings were past gone, but child no. 3 decided to make sure by using her finger to show me how she could poke a hole through the nylon toward the end of the meeting.
  • Anything white. Or light. Or dark. Unless you want to see what they look like with permanent marker, crayon, FD&C Red 40, bubble gum, or cherry lip gloss across the front. I wore my new wool coat to church today. Why do I have a new coat, you ask? Children who shall remain nameless melted crayon into my old coat, and crayon just doesn't come out of wool fibers. After a year of wearing bright blue wax on my sleeves, I finally bought a new coat. Today in church I looked down to see child no. 3 intently running a yellow crayon up and down my new black coat. She is still alive, and forget anything else you've heard--that right there is evidence of my eternal love for that child and the reason I'm going to heaven when I die.
  • Anything with a neckline lower than the collar bone. Ditto for buttons up the front of the bodice. Unless you like flashing the bishopric sitting up front. I generally consider myself a modest dresser who doesn't push the envelope on what is revealing. Yet in the years since I've had kids the people in pews near me have been entertained by these comments: "Oh Mommy, what big breasts you have!" Or "But I LIKE grabbing your boobs when I climb on your lap!" Or "Hey, if I open all these buttons like this I can see your underwear!"
  • In that same vein, avoid hem lines any higher than the ankle. Since I prefer long skirts this usually isn't an issue. However, today I forgot. I wore a fun little dress that went just below my knees. Problem one, it gave me kids far greater access to pantyhose than usual. Problem two, by the time all four had jockeyed for position on my lap, I looked down to see my skirt up around my hips. I'm not joking.
  • Loose waistbands. With four kids literally hanging on my skirts, this one is a no-brainer.
  • High heels. In reality, this really shouldn't matter much. In real life, however, child no. 4 will remove said shoe and use it as a weapon against child no. 1, who will spend half of Sacrament Meeting whining about how she IS old enough for 3-inch heels, and while we're at it, everybody who is anybody wears eyeshadow in second grade, and it's not fair that Mommy gets to wear both the heels and the eyeshadow and she is relegated to cherry lip gloss and ribbed tights.
  • Makeup. By the time four kids have spent 1.25 hours fighting over your lap, you won't have any left, anyway.
  • Styled hair. Save yourself the effort & pull it back in a ponytail to begin with. After going through all of the above sweat will have destroyed those careful curls or straightened tresses you spent a half hour creating.
You may be wondering, after this huge list of Don'ts, what is left to wear.

I'll simply point out that there may be a reason long, heavy, indestructibly denim jumpers are the preferred outfit of choice for many a Mormon mom. Hold your judgement--it may be less of a choice than you realize.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Oh-So Funny Child

Mommy: "Look! Check out my new coat! Isn't it beautiful?"

Grace: "Why did you get a new coat? You already have one."

Mommy: "SOMEBODY left blue crayons in the car on top of my coat and the sun melted the wax into the wool fibers and I can't get it and I've been wearing it like that since last year, and now I finally have a new coat."

Grace: "First, it looks just like your old coat. Second, are you saying it's time for us to put crayons in the car on the new coat?"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

If I'm Dreaming, Don't Wake Me Up

While not super huge on the list, one hobby I kind of like is cooking. I didn't realize until I had kids, that I specifically like cooking for appreciative audiences. As in, I get a huge thrill out of planning, organizing, and creating something special for people to eat, and I especially like going to all that effort when they clearly enjoy the end results.

It should surprise no one that having children has been one long and ongoing test of my patience in this regard.

A few years ago I pretty much stopped cooking, not because I was too busy, or because homemade meals didn't fit our lifestyle anymore, but simply because my ego couldn't take the hits.

I'd spend several days planning a perfect meal, shopping for perfect ingredients, block out the time to go through each step, and proudly serve it, exquisitely arranged and impeccably timed---and my darlings would scrunch up their noses and began to wail how much they hated whatever-it-was, and why, oh why, couldn't we just have chicken nuggets or mac & cheese instead?

Time is a marvelous thing, and lately I've detected a shift of sorts.

Grace's new favorite food is salmon, and she doesn't really care how it's prepared. Lightly glazed, pan-seared salmon fillets make her eyes light up bigger than Christmas. Mia has a newfound addiction to hummus and recently polished off three slices of ham quiche--a dish previously pronounced "completely disgusting" by all four kiddos. Mercie asked for seconds and thirds on homemade wild rice & shrimp chowder, and didn't pick the shrimp out. And I nearly passed out last night when Eric skipped the navajo tacos in order to create a custom dinner salad, full of healthy things like lettuce, avocados, beans, and cheese.

Even better, pretty much every day now I hear things like, "Thank you for that yummy dinner, Mom," or "Mom, this (insert whatever it is) is SOOOOO good! You are, like, the best cooker in the whole world!" Or, patting a very full tummy, "Mommy, when I grow up I want to cook as good food as you."

We've had the past two weeks off for the holidays. We've spent lots and lots of hours together in the kitchen, also far more enjoyably than I would have expected. Instead of monster messes, the kids are actually getting old enough to be truly helpful. And things actually soak into their little brains, and I don't have to repeat myself fifty times!

Last night I sat on the couch in the front room and the kids, honest to goodness, worked together to clean up after we made dinner together. I swear I'm not making this up. Every now and again one of them would detour through the front room to hug me or pat me and tell me thanks again for dinner.

My babies are growing up. I could so get used to this.