Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nasturtiums and Courting

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  lots of kid drama at Target.  I'll spare you the details.

. . . noticing that yesterday's post published with tiny writing in part of it.  For pity's sake, Blogger, why does it only look like that AFTER I hit Publish?!?

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . reading through my journal entries from the time when Phillip and I were courting.  It was lovely to read all the things I came to admire about him, and the sweet experiences we shared together.

. . . finally doing some much needed container garden maintenance.

. . . the big kids helping me plant nasturtium seeds.

. . . sharing homemade pizza for dinner, and ice cream for dessert.  Oh yeah--and grapes on the side.  At least the grapes were healthy, right?

And another thing . . .

. . . I don't love that Anna has learned the word "no," but she sounds so cute when she says it.

. . . Baby Boy is starting to kick more vigorously.  He's gotten a lot stronger since I felt those first little flutters a month ago, and I can't help wondering what his kicks will feel like as he gets stronger in the coming months.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Butterflies, Baby, and the Fancy New Phone

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Anna learning to be helpful.  Lately she has started bringing Joy and Daniel clothes and shoes to help them get dressed.  Daniel prefers to do things on his own, but Joy usually appreciates Anna's effort, possibly because she likes to help out, too.

. . . watching butterflies sip nectar from the flowers at a gardening store.  It was also fun to buy some pink nasturtium seeds--they're unique and colorful, and they remind me of my mom.  Hopefully the plants will prosper in my container garden.  They're supposed to be pretty hardy, so I think they have a good chance.

. . . using the word "compunctions" in context.  Isn't it such fun to say?

And another thing . . .

. . . well, I finally caved in and got an iPhone today.  For a variety of reasons it made more sense than the bare-bones phones I usually gravitate toward, but I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, it's nice to see texts as a scrollable conversation instead of isolated snippets, and to type with a digital keyboard instead of predictive text (I meant "if Joy" not "he Low"!).  On the other hand, I suspect that within a few weeks I'll start viewing this 21st century luxury as a "necessity" I can't survive without.  I think that kind of misconception is a big problem in our society (myself included), and I don't like adding another dose of it to my life.

Anna feels no such compunctions.  She asked me at least two dozen times to open the photo gallery so she could look at pictures of herself and her siblings.  She calls herself "Baby," and I hope we can persuade her to adopt a different title before our next baby arrives.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Remembering and Flour Tower

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  awaking to find my aged cell phone dead and unwilling to charge.  This means I'm staring down the barrel of one of my absolute least favorite activities in life: shopping for a new cell phone.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . reading STM's recent post on remembering.  It reminded me to pause and remember the tender mercies and sublime moments I've been blessed with through the years.  It's so easy to forget them in the busyness of life.

. . . visiting with my Big Family, and playing Flour Tower with them.  Of course, I would have enjoyed the game somewhat less if I'd made the tower crumble and had to fish the coin out with my teeth.  Joy had a somewhat different take on the situation: she intentionally knocked the tower right over on her turn so she could retrieve the coin.

. . . reflecting on a recent Ensign article on personal prayer.  When I remember to slow down and really commune with my Father, it is such a peaceful, inspiring experience.  You'd think it would be easier to keep up a habit I love so much.

And another thing . . .

. . . I just finished writing family blog posts for March, and I've set a goal to get that blog up to date before Baby arrives around Halloween.  Of course, as soon as Baby Dear is born I'll fall right behind again, but at least I won't feel quite so overwhelmed about catching up.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pussy Willows and Irrational Ice Cream

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . passing along some unused items to friends who would have a use for them.  I even found someone who wanted those dried pussy willow branches I bought on a whim at Easter and never found a use for.  One man's (or woman's) trash is truly another's treasure.

. . . watching my husband help push a stranded motorist to a gas station.  My hero. :)

. . . spotting a planet up in the sky at dusk.  I don't know which one it was, but it was still cool to see it.

And another thing . . .

. . . making homemade ice cream is hard.

Let me rephrase that--making mediocre homemade ice cream that's icy, has weak flavor, or freezes rock-solid is easy.  Making delicious, creamy ice cream is hard.  My mom has passed along a few good recipes, but most of the ones I find online are disappointing.  And expensive (cream, strawberries, and Nutella aren't cheap).  And the ingredient lists can be scary (a RAW egg? HOW much sugar and heavy whipping cream?).

But for some reason, I just can't resist trying again and again.  Humans are not entirely rational beings.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Hustle and a Hint

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . cooking a flavorful, filling dinner.

. . . looking out the window and seeing Phillip and Joy hurrying back from an outing to arrive home when they said they would.  From the smiles on their faces, you could tell that the hustle was part of the fun.

. . . starting A Cricket in Times Square with Joy.

And another thing . . .

. . . Daniel asked me to play a game of electronic chess with him this afternoon.  I was doing pretty well (winning, but taking it easy on him) until he discovered the Hint button.  The electronic Hint giver's skills are about as far ahead of mine as my skills are ahead of my four-year-old's and the computer didn't take it easy on me.  The only thing that saved my king was that Daniel accidentally brushed the New Game button, whereupon I announced that it was time for me to go start on dinner. It really was, I swear.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Snicker Doodles and Good Sons

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . making Alton Brown's granola recipe (though I used pecans instead of cashews, and only cooked it 45 minutes).  It was delicious, and the smell of anything brown sugary baking in the oven is heaven.

. . . cuddling Anna while I read one of our favorite books to her.

. . . baking snicker doodles with my sweetheart.  And eating them.

And another thing . . .

. . . I recently started reading a book called The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men, which was recommended by a friend (and lots of strangers on Goodreads).  I'm reading it because I want to understand and appreciate Daniel and his new little brother better.  I relate to my daughters pretty well (duh--I'm a girl, too), but I often feel at a loss as I try to understand and effectively raise my son.  I hope this book will provide some clarity and guidance.

This afternoon I read a chapter about the neurological and hormonal contrasts between males and females, and the differences are striking.  Males brains have a larger amygdala (aggression center), testosterone makes males more competitive, they have less serotonin than females and therefore less impulse control, and when they're at rest the brain region that re-engages most readily is the "fight-or-flight" section (as opposed to the region related to emotion and expression, in the case of the female brain).

That certainly meshes with my parenting experience, since Daniel regularly crashes his tricycle into objects and people, cheerfully bumps into family members and even total strangers, and wigs out if he doesn't get the last sandwich or apple slice (i.e. even meals have a competitive component).  I hope this book will provide guidance about directing boyish tendencies in a positive direction.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fresh Ginger and Diaper Cream

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  spending a bunch of time at the computer on a hot afternoon.  I was doing (mostly) constructive things, but I felt blah by the end of them.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . joking around with Daniel.

. . . taking Anna on a one-on-one trip to Trader Joe's while Phillip was home with the big kids.  She gave me a big, long hug before I put her in her seat to come home.  Awwwww.

. . . Phillip arriving home with an enormous bouquet of flowers, just because.  It was his way of saying "I love you THIS much!!"  Gracias, mi amor. :)

And another thing . . .

. . in the last month or so, Anna has gone from being my least picky eater to my most picky one.  She favors carbs and cheese, but won't eat most fruits or any veggies.  Fortunately, she'll still happily drink just about any smoothie I offer her, so I've taken to making a lot of green smoothies (spinach + fruit, often with some yogurt or milk thrown in) to share with her.   It's fun to experiment, and the resulting smoothies do both of us good.

. . . this evening I noticed that my hand smelled of fresh ginger and diaper cream.  That pretty well sums up my life these days: kids and cooking.  If Mormonism had a distinctive aroma, I would probably smell like that, too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Get-Well Cookies and a Cereal Stash

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  our last five minutes at the park this morning.  Each of my three children was crying for a different reason.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . finding a crazy deal on Phillip and Daniel's favorite cereal.  I bought 8 boxes.  I'm bracing myself for them to get tired of it around box #3.

. . . making peanut butter cookies as a family.  Joy had suggested that we take cookies to her friend who was under the weather yesterday, so the big kids and I mixed up the dough this afternoon and started it chilling, then Daddy helped us bake and deliver some of them for our home evening activity tonight.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kids and Test Kitchen Wishes

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  Anna learning the word "No," and making liberal use of it.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . the big kids laughing and playing together.

And another thing . . .

. . . most of the time I enjoy cooking.  Occasionally I'm not in the mood for it, and on the other hand, sometimes I get a little obsessed with it.  Lately I find myself swinging toward the latter extreme, hunting for recipes and tips on making panini, strawberry ice cream, margherita pizza, stove top popcorn, and so on.  Sometimes I wish I worked in a test kitchen, where I could just spend all day cooking variations of recipes, then feed the results to a panel willing accomplices and get their feedback.  I suppose my family would be willing to give me lots of input on the ice cream, but I lack the resources to make ten batches in a day.  Popcorn's cheap, though. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teamwork and Pizza

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  getting my blood drawn for a routine prenatal test.  Needles don't unnerve me the way they did ten years ago, but I still don't like 'em.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Joy teaching Daniel to "work together" this morning.  They helped each other push Anna in the cart at the grocery store, read a book in the car (Joy taught Daniel some of the shorter words so he could read them aloud, with mixed success), and clean up the front room at home.  I like this game.

. . . making homemade pizza, and letting everyone over age three top their own.  Next time I think I'll  divide a crust in half for the big kids, since neither had room to finish more than half of theirs.  Phillip polished off his meat-lover's pizza, though, and Anna happily helped me with my Margherita pizza (named for an Italian queen, not a salty cocktail).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sun, Shade, and Rules

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . affixing our signature to a new list of apartment rules stating that (among other things), as of August 1, our kids can no longer ride bikes in the courtyard or climb the tree out front.  Siiiigh.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . going for a walk, watching the big kids run through the sunny patches and walk through the shady ones.

. . . praying for help and guidance, and getting both.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pancakes and Potential Training

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . debating whether to start potty training Anna.  On the one hand, the 3 Day Potty Training lady (whose ebook was very helpful when I was training Daniel) says that 22 months is the ideal age to train, and it would be really nice to be done before school starts and our new baby arrives.  That said, I'm really not looking forward to the ordeal and its attendant accidents.  Plus, I can't quite wrap my mind around the idea of my "baby" girl being potty trained; part of me wants her to stay small and cuddly forever, even though I know that isn't how life is meant to work. Sigh.  I think I'll reread the ebook and give the matter some more thought before deciding whether to wait or take the plunge.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . evaluating two Primary classes this afternoon (I'm the Primary counselor over education).  Both teachers have a great rapport with their class, and taught their material in an effective, engaging way.

. . . making pancakes for dinner.  Specifically blueberry pancakes, and multigrain pancakes topped with maple yogurt and fresh berries.  Aw yeah.

And another thing . . .

. . . I composed five posts for our family blog this afternoon (to be posted in the coming days).  It was fun to look through and comment on our pictures, and it feels good to have a bunch of posts ready to publish, but for some reason composing them is really tiring work.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Prelude to Vacuuming

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  pregnant hormones tweaking my emotions.  I love having babies to cuddle, and I'm excited to meet the newest member of our family, but I don't love being pregnant.  Every stage messes with you in one way or another.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . doing a lot of cleaning as a family.  Working together and getting things done just feels good.

. . . taking a walk with my family in the cool evening.  Phillip and the kids occasionally raced ahead, then ran back to me or waited for me to join them.  It was a pleasant outing.

And another thing . . .

. . . I don't dislike vacuuming.  It's actually rather cathartic, and hey, it counts as my exercise for the day.  What I detest is the wearisome half hour I always spend moving chairs and clearing things off the floor before I can even turn the vacuum on.  It's the only part of housework I consistently dread.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cookies, Computers, and a Stinky Smoothie

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  producing a smoothie that smelled like a gas station.  I guess my nose considers yogurt, banana, and overripe mango a very potent combination.  Fortunately the smoothie still tasted all right (with some added sugar and a handful of spinach thrown in for good measure), and Anna was happy to share it with me.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . another overcast day.  The clouds even dropped a few half-hearted little raindrops on us.  Since it wasn't super hot, I decided to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the result was very tasty.

. . . Joy being really excited about her first piano lesson today.  The teacher was impressed that Joy already knew a couple songs and the names of keys.

. . . Daddy and Joy working together to upgrade a component of one of our computers.  Phillip does a good job of letting Joy help him work on things.  Too often when Joy asks to help me I say no because it's so much faster and easier to do things myself.  It's nice to be efficient, but I'm missing opportunities to bond with and teach my daughter.

And another thing . . .

. . . I needed something at the dollar store today, and the big kids each took their collections of coins to see what treasures they could find.  Joy bought a plastic King Pig toy because she's into Angry Birds lately.  Daniel bought some low-fat brown sugar Pop-Tarts.  I'm not sure if he'll eat any of them, and I sure won't (maybe if they were strawberry), but he had at least a dollar's worth of fun swinging the plastic bag around and figuring out how to open the box.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Clouds and a Thwarted Unfollow

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  trying to navigate Pinterest's new format.  They've added a bunch of icons without explaining what they do (there isn't even a label when you mouse over them), and for the life of me I can't figure out how to Unfollow a random stranger I started following by accident.  Sigh . . . the epic struggles of first world life.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . waking up to an overcast sky.  Huzzah for cooler weather.

. . . gabbing with one of my visiting teachers while our kids played at the park.  She's a young mom whose three kids are about the same age as mine, and it's nice to talk with someone who relates to the joys and challenges of parenting.  I also chatted with a mom who left her full-time job last year to be a full-time mom.  She says being a mom is actually more challenging, and I'd have to agree.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Yoga, Pizza, and Chortles

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . family and friends wishing me a happy birthday.  Thanks for the warm fuzzies. :)

. . . having a tickle fest with Anna on my lap.  I love it when she laughs so hard that she snorts a little.

. . . Phillip smiling as he walked in the door from work.

. . . making grilled pizza.  I grill the crust, then top it and finish it under the broiler.  It actually turned out really well tonight, probably because I didn't broil the heck out of the cheese this time.

. . . doing a little yoga this evening.  I've set a goal to exercise more regularly (every day but Sunday, if possible).  Fifteen minutes of yoga isn't exactly a 5K run, but it's what my schedule and body can handle right now, and it feels good.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Present and a Pioneer

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  losing my cool with Daniel this morning.  Everyone was in a rather testy mood for the rest of the day.  Sometimes it's really scary how much influence a mom can have on her kids.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . preparing a short bio of one of my pioneer ancestors to share as a family home evening lesson tonight.  I still can't believe that went I searched for his name and the word Mormon on Google images, his picture was the first one that came up (all the others were movie stars and random pictures from Church history).  As for the lesson itself, Daniel and Anna quickly lost interest (I should have just told one quick story instead of several), but Joy was attentive through the whole thing.  It was cool to share our ancestor's faith in the prophets and reverence for the temple with my daughter.

. . . a friend bringing me an early birthday present this evening.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Testimony, a Cupcake, and Oscillating Family Narratives

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  finishing my Primary lesson ten minutes early, with the chorister (who was due to take the helm after me) no where in sight.  While the Primary president went in search of the chorister, I talked with the kids about what they did for the Fourth of July.  It may not have been the most spiritual Primary experience they've ever had, but it was better than listening to crickets, and I eventually tied it into quality time with family, which is our theme this month.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Joy actually uttering a sentence at the podium in church before losing her nerve and having me share the other few things she'd planned to say.  She's wanted to bear her testimony for months, and I'm proud of her for keeping at it until she succeeded (with a little help).

. . . eating a coconut cupcake my mom sent home from the cabin with us.  There were other flavors, too, but I like the coconut ones the best.

. . . taking a relaxing walk with my family at sundown.  At one point Anna tripped and then came running to Daddy for comfort.  By the time she reached him the pain and shock were gone, but she still wanted a hug from her favorite guy, so instead of a sniffling comfort-me hug she gave him a massive (for a toddler) bear hug.  It was cute.

And another thing . . .

. . . this evening I read a New York Times article postulating that family narratives are closely linked to children's resilience and self-esteem.  The author cites a study that found that "the more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."  He said that hearing stories about where their grandparents grew up, how their parents met, how the family weathered good times and bad, etc., gives children a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves: a family that endures.  He added that of the three types of family narratives--constantly improving, on the decline, or oscillating--the most beneficial one is the third, which shows that the family enjoys good times and bounces back from bad ones.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Archery and a Fiddler

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  discovering that my bow-drawing muscles are sadly out of shape, and I am likely to be sore after firing a mere six arrows.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . visiting a nearby archery range with my little family near dusk.  It was frequented by swallows, dog walkers, a couple daddy-daughter archery duos, at least one fiddler (whom I never saw but definitely heard), and a few men with cool accents from the other side of the pond.

. . . Phillip teaching Joy and Daniel how to use a little bow and arrow set we bought this week.

. . . convincing Anna that playing with a ball was the coolest thing EVER (and much more fun than investigating the archery lesson fifty yards away). 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Steps, Stephen Hopkins, and Da!

This week at my parents' cabin . . .

. . . my not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  Anna getting carsick on the drive up the mountain.  Fortunately she was fine after we reached the cabin and got her cleaned up.

. . . climbing the steps up to the road near my parents' boat dock.  There are over 50 of them, and they would be killer even if I wasn't pregnant.

. . . my favorite moments included . . .

. . . hanging with all my siblings.  It's not often that we all manage to gather in the same place.

. . . the big kids trying out a waterski training raft (kind of like this one) which my dad recently bought.  Joy worked up the nerve to stand up on it, but insisted that Papa drive very, very slowly.  Daniel remained seated the whole time, but let Papa drive as fast as he wanted (which was still a rather leisurely pace).

. . . chatting with neighbors old and new at a neighborhood potluck around the corner from the cabin.

. . . hearing Anna's emphatic replies each time Papa asked her where a family member was.  He would ask, "Where is so-and-so?" then she would point to the person and say their name (about half of her words at this point are her versions of family names, which I suppose reflects her priorities).  Even if she didn't know a person's name, she would still point and say something like, "Da!"

. . . sitting outside looking for bats in the twilit sky while Papa reminisced about years past.

. . . gathering with my family on the afternoon of the Fourth for an activity Dad organized.  We took turns reading a paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, then each of us gave a short bio of one of the signers we had selected to research.  I chose Stephen Hopkins, former governor and Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island.  He was one of the oldest members of the Continental Congress, and his signature is easily identifiable on the Declaration because his failing health made his hands shake.  The story goes that as he signed he steadied his right hand with his left, declaring, "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."

. . . the kids and I harvesting little raspberries from a bush I gave Papa for Father's Day a few years ago.  They were tasty, but the volunteer blackberry bush down the slope will probably be more productive.  

. . . my dad and sibs having a spirited water fight.

. . . eating my mom's homemade ice cream while we all played a card game called Sink or Swim.

And another thing . . .

. . . in case you're confused, my kids call my dad Papa.  Also, I notice that I mention my dad a lot in this entry, but rarely my mom.  Her role in things may not have been as high-profile, but her planning, cooking, and love is the glue that holds everything together.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Halibut and a Puddle

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . .  finding Anna splashing in a dirty puddle wearing her new, white shorts.  Why did I buy white shorts for a toddler???

. . . my Iranian neighbor once again expressing her awe that I am such a calm parent.  I keep assuring her that I am the diametric opposite of a calm parent on a daily if not hourly basis, but she doesn't believe me.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . the big kids helping each other figure out a game.

. . . practicing the piano, and having Joy and Daniel both come stand next to me because they wanted to play something, too.

. . . making a yummy smoothie.  Anna has decided that every fruit except apple is out of her diet, but she happily drinks smoothies so I always make sure to share some with her.  It's a handy way to get fruit (and usually some veggie--huzzah for spinach!) into her.

. . . visiting friends and talking about random things.  We also shared our baby boy news and the second half of our blue cake with them.  Joy originally wanted to wait a few minutes before explaining why the cake was blue, but after about ten seconds she couldn't wait any longer and spilled the beans.

. . . trying a little French cafe that Phillip found through  The place was relaxed and unassuming, as if they felt their food was so good they didn't have to try to impress you by looking fancy.  And they were right.  I'm not usually a fish fan, and adding poached egg and bacon to a salad just sounded weird, yet both were delicious.  It's amazing what you can do with quality, natural ingredients and good cooking technique.

As I ate, I reflected that American food is often a sad reflection of our culture.  Americans tend to want big portions with overbearing flavors, and they're willing to sacrifice quality to get what they want faster and easier.  As a result, we miss out on the rich, subtle sophistication of real food prepared really well.  The more I eat good meals made from real ingredients, the less satisfied I am with things that come from a box or a can.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Piano and the Telltale Cake

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . reflecting that, for all that our old car has a bunch of annoying little issues, at least the air conditioning works really well.  I'll take that over a working CD player any day of the summer.

. . . attending my third piano lesson.  The sessions are both gratifying and humbling, because there are always things that I do well, but there are also always things I need to improve.  What's more, the teacher warned me that Joy will probably play pieces the same way I do, so it would be best for me to iron out as many wrinkles in my own playing as I can.  Art really does imitate life.

. . . Phillip playing tag with the kids when we took a walk for our home evening activity.  They had a blast.

. . . baking a simple cake, and tinting the batter to announce our baby's gender to our kids (I had the big ultrasound this morning).  We told the big kids that when we sliced through the white frosting, if the cake was pink they'd be having a little sister, and if it was blue they would be having a little brother.  Both guessed it would be pink, but they were excited when I served up the first slice and it was bright blue.  Joy is especially pleased that Daniel will have a little brother to wrestle with, and she thanked me for breaking the news in a fun way.  The whole business went over Anna's head, but she appreciated the extra doses of sugar.