Saturday, August 31, 2013

No Test Today

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

. . .  hauling the kids to my doctor appointment for a TB test (required for anyone who wants to help at Daniel's preschool), only to learn that they don't offer the test today and I don't actually need an appointment when the do offer it.  Receptionist fail.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . stepping out of the heat into any place (our car, our apartment, the grocery store) that had air conditioning.

. . . going for a swim as a family.  Joy and Daddy plunged right in, I spent ten minutes easing my way into the pool, and Anna sat on the deck splashing her feet in the water.  Daniel said he jumped in, but that meant he jumped from the deck to the pool's first step.  He never got wet above his waist, but I still had him wear floaties, just in case.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Yellow Mushrooms and Food Drama

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

. . . working hard to prepare a nourishing, tasty meal that fit in today's time constraints, only to see it utterly rejected by a four-year-old who would rather go hungry than eat something he's never tried but is certain he won't like.  Siiiiiigh.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . attending Joy's Back to School Night.  She has a great teacher, and I'm excited for the fun things she'll be learning and doing this year.

. . . walking home in the cool evening air.  One part of the neighborhood had a pleasant, mellow, earthy aroma to it.  I'm guessing it was the big, yellow Sulfur Shelf mushrooms that grow on certain trees this time of year.

And another thing . . .

. . . I made granola in my solar oven this afternoon.  I'm just sure that must qualify me for membership in a hippie commune somewhere.

. . . I spent most of my spare time today researching sack lunch ideas for Joy.  This is the first time I've had to pack her a lunch on a regular basis, and I need to get this down to a system soon.  It's adding a surprising amount of anxiety to each day when I wake up thinking, "Oh shoot!  I have to pack Joy a lunch that is nourishing, filling, and she'll actually eat."  Most of the lunches we eat at home either don't travel well (e.g. scrambled eggs), or Joy has recently decided she doesn't like (peanut butter sandwiches are out, but at least she enjoys ham sandwiches at the moment).

How ironic that I enjoy food and cooking so much, yet feeding my kids is such a consistent source of stress.  I am so grateful that my husband willingly eats whatever I fix for him.  If he was picky, too, I think I would go mad.

So, um, any school lunch ideas you'd care to share?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hot Park, Cool Feet, and Holy Bananas

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

. . .  giving Daniel the choice of which park to play at today, then hearing him choose the hottest, sandiest one with the least shade on a 95 degree summer day.  Sigh.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . soaking my feet in the cool swimming pool outside our apartment this afternoon.  Ahhhhh.

And another thing . . .

. . . this morning a single, thirty-something neighbor noticed I'm expecting my fourth child.  For about two minutes, all she could manage to say was, "Holy bananas!"  I think she said it four times (one for each child?).  We actually had a pleasant conversation once she recovered from the shock.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cookies, Carrots, and Baby Curls

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

. . .  more heat.  It's supposed to cool down this weekend, though.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . chatting with a friend.

. . . seeing Joy's little carrot sprouts pop up in their planter.

. . . eating cookies.  With chocolate in them.  Mmmm.

And another thing . . .

. . . I got my hair cut today, and considered having Anna's cut, too.  Her hair is getting long and a tad unruly, but I know she'll look older when we cut it and I'll miss those little baby curls at the bottom after they're trimmed off.  She probably won't care either way, but I'm not quite ready for my little girl to look like a big one yet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Party, A Haircut, and a Hot, Hot Day

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

. . .  languishing in the heat.  Not sure if it's partly because I'm pregnant, or just because it's really hot and muggy.

. . . washing dishes when I'm tired.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . cutting Daniel's hair well, without nicking him (for once).

. . . finally taking care of a nagging task.

. . . having family over to celebrate Anna's birthday this week.

. . . smooching my sweetie.

And another thing . . .

. . . I took Anna to a toy store today to see what might catch her fancy (I was drawing a blank on birthday gift ideas).  Lucky me - she bypassed the expensive puzzles, tea sets, and kiddie computers in favor of one of the cheapest things in the store.  Typical toddler, no?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hondas, Passion Flowers, and the Big Bump

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

. . .  reaching the stage of pregnancy where it's hard to roll over in my sleep.  My body just stays in one position until some part gets sore enough to wake me up, then I switch to some other position for the rest of the night.  I suppose it's good practice, since I'll be waking up at least once a night for months after Baby Boy arrives.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . composing family blog posts for all of June today.  It helped that we didn't take many pictures that month, so there were only four posts.

. . . seeing purple passion flowers with my family while we were out for a walk this evening.  Phillip commented that the elaborate flower almost didn't look real.  If he thought that one was unbelievable, he should try smelling another variety that smells like grape bubblegum.  I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't smelled it myself in a friend's yard years ago.

And another thing . . .

. . . ever since Daniel noticed that Chevrolets have a "plus sign" (Chevy logo) on them, he's been interested in the various car logos and their names.  This week he began playing a game where he counts one logo on one hand and another logo on the other as we pass cars on the road, and whichever hand gets five fingers up first wins.  Most often he pits Chevys against Hondas, and in our town Hondas usually win by a mile.  Look out, though, Honda--Daniel learned the symbol for Toyota today, and it could give you a run for your money.

. . . in the last two weeks, I've had at least half a dozen people comment about how small my tummy is for someone in their third trimester.  While that response is certainly better than the alternative, I tend to feel more bewildered than flattered.  When I see my stomach in the mirror, I think, "Good heavens!  It doesn't look like I could get any bigger, and I've got over two months to go!"  It baffles me that people think my tummy looks tiny (even by comparison to other baby bumps) when it looks so huge to me.  Phillip agrees with me, and though some people have joked that he would be more supportive by siding with them and saying I look svelte as a supermodel, I'm actually grateful that he shares my opinion so I don't feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Clean Home and a Grateful Heart

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . getting chores done as a family while we played our favorite tunes.  So far our policy has been to have the big kids help parents out with chores, but today it occurred to me that they're old enough to handle some chores on their own.  I think that would do them good to have ownership of their own tasks, so I guess it's time to brainstorm.

. . . going to the temple with Phillip while friends watched our kids.  I went in weighed down by my challenges, and came out realizing I have so very much to be grateful for.

. . . my husband washing the dishes for me when he could see I was a bit overwhelmed by all the things I needed to do tonight.  Thank you, honey. :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Drowsy Chords and Starlit Tag

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

. . .  nearly falling asleep as I practiced the piano.  I stayed up way too late last night.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip commenting about four times that dinner was really good, and that he wished there was more of it.  I'll remember to make extra next time.

. . . watching Daddy play tag with the kids at the park this evening.

. . . reading A Kiss for Little Bear to Daniel.  I think it's an adorable, amusing story; Daniel just likes that it has pictures of cute animals.

. . . hugging my kids and telling them I love them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

First Grade and Granola Therapy

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

. . . putting tons of work into a dinner that no one liked, including me.  So I made some granola and felt better.  It helps that our home now smells delicious.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing Joy wake up twenty minutes early shouting, "First day of school!"

. . . meeting Joy's first grade teacher, who seems like a calm, capable, lovely person.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Checkers and the Moon

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

. . .  trying to persuade Joy to attend the sleepover she planned with Red Grandma.  Most kids like things that are familiar and predictable, and Joy is no exception.  She tends to be excited about sleepovers with her grandmas until she is faced with the prospect of actually sleeping away from home.  We talked her through it this time, and she seemed OK when I left, but I hope things go well tonight.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . standing outside with my husband, gazing up at the full moon as it illuminated the quiet, peaceful night.

And another thing . . .

. . . Daniel likes to play checkers these days, and since it's no fun to get beaten all the time I try to let him win every second or third time we play.  I've noticed that it takes more mental effort to lose to a preschooler than it does to beat him, especially if I want to do it in a way that isn't obvious.  If I make a particularly glaring "mistake," he'll often ask if I want him to jump my piece.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More Cuddles and a Divine Sense of Humor

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . cuddling Anna on my lap.  I know I said that yesterday, too, but it truly is one of the sweetest parts of my day.

And another thing . . .

. . . yesterday I reflected that, as a family, we would benefit from having a better sense of humor.  We take nearly everything SO seriously, and so many trivial things (a spilled drink, a dawdling child, three kids asking for different things at the same time) turn into stressful crises that I think could be avoided if we learned to just diffuse the situation with a simple chuckle.  A laugh has such power to communicate to yourself and others that little things really are little, and that you'll come through them just fine.

It's easier to contemplate such a change than to make it happen, though.  You strengthen your muscles by exercising and polish your piano skills by practicing, but what concrete, quantifiable thing can you do to improve your sense of humor?  I sat praying for help and guidance with this yesterday, but before I reached any conclusions one of the kids asked for help with something.  Soon I was caught up in the typical business of life, and after a little while I noticed I was happier than usual.  I had a smile on my face, and I was joking around with the kids.  I realized that I forgotten an important element of self-improvement: God's help.

God does expect us to work hard and do our part in life, but sometimes I forget that I don't have to accomplish herculean tasks with nothing but my own imperfect efforts.  I can accomplish so much more if I enlist my loving, infinitely capable Heavenly Father's assistance.  Thank Heaven.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cookies and a Silly Hat

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . cuddling Anna on my lap.

. . . seeing the bishop wink at his wife during one of the hymns in church today.

. . . learning that the stake Relief Society president has organized free babysitting for part of our stake temple day next month.  Bless her.

. . . sharing a laugh with the Primary kids as I put a silly hat on someone who was helping with my lesson.

. . . Daniel giving me a hug and telling me he loves me.

And another thing . . .

. . . some women feel driven to organize their homes when they're pregnant.  I feel a compelling desire to cook sugary baked goods.  Anyone want to help me eat the sugar cookies, banana bread, and snicker doodles currently residing in my kitchen?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hugs and Cayennes

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . getting stuff done.

. . . a happy reunion with my kids when they got home this afternoon.

And another thing . . .

. . . I saw another Porsche Cayenne driving down the street today.  It still kind of amuses me that Porsche has begun making SUVs.  It would be like Tiffany's announcing that they're going to start selling fridges.

From what I can tell, a Porsche Boxster is 10% utility (it has four wheels, a motor, and seats) and 90% status symbol (it goes faster than most humans will ever need to, and most people who see it think, "Wow - that person is driving a cool sports car").  Porsche Cayennes, on the other hand, strike me as 10% status symbol (they are nicely streamlined, and have a Porsche logo on them) and 90% utility (most people who see them think "There goes a family on their way to the grocery store or soccer practice").

I don't get why someone would spring for a Cayenne when they could get a reliable, perfectly serviceable Honda Pilot for half the price (or less).  Is that little Porsche symbol on the hood that important to them, or do they find the Porsche driving experience so much more enjoyable that they're willing to pay double for it?  If the latter, I'm kind of glad I don't know what I'm missing.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Reprieve and Farewell to PT

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip taking the kids up to Grandpa's cabin for the weekend.  After being so stressed and worn out for the last eleven days, it has felt sooooooo good to just relax and do whatever I want for a while.  I tidied the house, ate lunch at a pizza buffet, painted my toenails, updated finances, wrote some family blog posts, and checked out a couple local restaurants on  Tomorrow I'm going to tidy up my desk.  Yeah . . . it'll be awesome. :)

And another thing . . .

. . . we're done with potty training for a while.  Anna has completely stalled in her progress and lost interest in the toilet, so we're calling it quits for now.  I feel a twinge of regret about giving up after all this time and effort, but I feel that's the best option for us right now.  And I'll be honest - I'm looking forward to getting our lives back to normal.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Coconut" Yogurt and Purple Carrots

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

. . .  Anna having a potty accident on our couch.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . helping Joy plant the colorful carrot seeds she bought with her own hard-earned money.  I'm proud of her for working and saving for something she wanted, and it will be fun to harvest purple and pink carrots in a few months.

. . . playing that challenging (for me) piece for the piano teacher almost perfectly today.  Yessss.

. . . going out for frozen yogurt with my family.  The store's cheesecake yogurt tasted more like coconut, but I paired it with some pineapple sorbet and all was well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sitting and Neighing

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing Anna sing along with the animals in Pink Grandma's farm song video.  Anna particularly likes saying "baa-baa" with the sheep and "neigh-neigh" with the horse.

And another thing . . .

. . . Anna is perfectly willing to visit the toilet when she needs to go these days.   There's just one major problem: she hasn' t figured out how to go while sitting down.  The good news is that I don't have to worry about accidents during meals (because she's strapped into her seat), and we can run quick errands because she's buckled into a car seat or shopping cart seat the whole time.  I even can work or play on the computer for an hour or more while she sits on my lap watching Grandma's videos.  The bad news is that our culture isn't really big on standing toilets.  Perhaps Anna and I should visit China for a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Piano and Kiwi

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

. . .  trying a new green smoothie recipe  that was a little too weird for me.  Kiwi and mint were involved, and I don't think I'll be using that combo again.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching Piano Guys videos with Phillip and Joy.

. . . practicing a (very simple) piano piece that was initially a real challenge for me, and noticing that I'm getting better at it.

And another thing . . .

. . . as I looked up a recipe in the electronic current draft of my cookbook, I noticed that it contains 141 pages with over 21,000 words.  Wow.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Garlic Bread and the Quest for Knowledge

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . going to dinner with my husband.  It was nice to go out together, and the garlic bread was delicious.

And another thing . . .

. . . after days of hoping, wishing, and praying that potty training would click for Anna, I was ready to give up and frankly looking forward to getting life back to normal.  Wouldn't you know it--today was the day she started making a serious effort to get to the toilet, and she actually had one success.  I'm happy for her, and I feel I should honor her progress and desire to learn by continuing her training, but it's really hard to get excited about diving back into the stress and uncertainty for another few days (or weeks???).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Two Kings and a Cone

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

. . .  another day in potty training prison.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . the big kids watching Mulan this morning.  I think it's one of Disney's best efforts.

. . . Daniel observing, "Got ya, Joy," after committing double regicide in checkers.  Joy didn't find it quite as amusing as I did.

. . . eating an ice cream cone.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Ordeal Continues

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

. . .  potty training.  Enough said.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . taking dinner to a friend with a newborn baby.  'Cuz I'm crazy like that.

. . . reading a cookbook while the potty trainee sat on my lap.  She never goes when she's sitting down, which kind of complicates the training process.  Sigh.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Reflections on Qui-Gon and the Nerf Herder

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . playing peekaboo with Anna

And another thing . . .

. . . to help time pass for everyone the last three days, I've let the big kids choose a movie to watch each morning.  The first day, Joy asked to watch Star Wars: Episode 2 (you know - the one where Padme dresses up in a different gorgeous dress for each scene, and gazes into brooding young Annikan's eyes telling him he MUST NOT LOVE HER).  I told her I was going to be stressed enough trying to potty train a toddler, without having a [CGI-dependent, no heart, pale shadow of the original awesome trilogy] movie I don't like playing in the background.

Joy opted to watch Return of the Jedi instead.  The next day, Daniel asked to watch it again, and I confess I didn't mind.  A third viewing in a single week might have been pushing it, though, so I'm grateful to report that Joy chose The Empire Strikes Back today.  As we watched these two films, I was repeatedly struck by how much better they are than the newer trilogy.

A professor of mine once postulated that the biggest problem with the new trilogy is that there is no equivalent of Han Solo in it.  I think he has a pretty strong point.  Ironically, Han Solo has the same flaws Yoda disapproves of in Luke (impatience, recklessness), but somehow the things that are aggravating in Luke are charming in Han.  He's an unabashed scoundrel, and though (like Leia) I wouldn't want to admit to his face that I like him, I can't help it.  He's just plain fun.

It helps that he has a sense of humor, something no one in the new trilogy really has.  They all take themselves and their epic roles too seriously.  They are so busy being characters (the Mentor, the Ill-Fated Sweetheart, the Moody Guy Whose Selfish Hubris Will Lead Him to Betray Everyone) that they are never actually people who connect with you or with each other.  

Sure, the main characters in the older trilogy are archetypes,  too, but they're also very human.  They hug.  They argue.  They tease.  They call each other names ("Nerf herder!" "Calm down, Your Worshipfulness").  They choke Lando and shout at him right after he saves their lives because they're so fuming mad that he betrayed their friend.  You don't get any of that human emotion from the flat, newer characters.  They never feel like friends or sweethearts; they feel like plot devices.  The only one I was every really attached to was Qui-Gon Jinn, and they killed him off in the first movie.  Such a pity.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pizza, a Cricket, and Utter Exhaustion

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . the big kids playing happily together (most of the time).  I'm grateful that they keep each other entertained when I can't.

. . . Phillip coming home.  I arranged for Papa John to cook us dinner tonight.  Huzzah for online coupon codes!

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

. . . putting all the kids to bed after my second day of potty training.  Anna and I are making slow progress, but I can't remember when I've felt so physically and emotionally drained.  Let's face it, though--this has to be done, I don't think waiting would make it easier, and it would be ten times more stressful if I tried it after Baby Boy arrived.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ten, 2T, and One-on-One

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

. . .  cleaning up after ten potty accidents.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . spending lots of one-on-one time with Anna.  It was kind of nice to set my usual tasks aside for a day and just read with her, goof around with her, and watch her play.

And another thing . . .

. . . the undies I bought for Anna (which are 2T/3T--the smallest size you can find in most stores) are way to big for my little pixie, who still wears size 12 month clothes even though she's rapidly approaching her 2nd birthday.  Not sure what to do about that.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Caramel Apples and Puddle Prep

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

. . . preparing for potty training, which begins tomorrow.  Please, please pray that I'll stay patient and positive, and that Anna will pick it up quickly.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip adapting our caramel corn recipe to make caramel apples for family home evening.  It was a fun twist on a family favorite.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Eclectic Homes and How Not to Be Reverent

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

. . .  my firstborn making a long, loud, weird noise just as I was about to bear my testimony at the end of my Primary lesson.  Of course, her brother thought it was hilarious and started making the same noise.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . seeing the the eclectic mix of homes in our area as our family went for a walk.  We strolled past a home with trees bearing pears, figs, and a variety of citrus in various stages of ripeness.  A few doors down we saw a quaint cottage that looked like it belonged in an enchanted forest.  Next door was a yellow house with a hedge that I would expect to see in Suburbanville, Ohio.  I guess the endless variety is particularly striking to me because I grew up in neighborhoods of cookie cutter tract homes.

. . . stopping in to visit some friends on our way home.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Violets, Birthdays, and Prune Cookies

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

. . . trying another recipe for "healthy" cookies today.  You know the type--the ones with a banana, oats, some applesauce, and NO OIL, FLOUR, EGGS, OR ADDED SUGAR!!  I should know better by now.  They're always disappointing, probably because there are certain flavors and textures I associate with cookies, and the "healthy" versions never have them.  Today's version is what a chocolate chip cookie would be like if two of its grandparents were morning glory muffins, and a third was a prune.  I have no issue with any of those things on its own, but I don't think they were meant to go together.

I need to just accept that cookies weren't meant to be health food.  You can make them healthi-ER by adding some oats or wheat flour, and maybe using some coconut oil, but they're meant to be an indulgent treat thoroughly enjoyed in moderation.  They're not supposed to be your whole lunch.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip doing the vacuuming for me while I made a grocery run.  Bless that man.

. . . seeing my grandma's face light up when I gave her an African violet for her birthday.

. . . hugging lots of extended family who had gathered to celebrate my grandparents' birthdays.  It was sweet to catch up, and to savor the bonds that make us feel close even though we live far away.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Craft Rejection and a Non-Green Smoothie

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

. . .  getting everything planned, purchased, and ready for Joy and me to make some cute, easy thumbprint garden shirts, only to have her inform me that she didn't like that idea and she wanted to paint something different.  I did my best to support her individuality and creativity, but I confess it was hard not to feel a little bit peeved.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . saying a bedtime prayer with Anna as I held her in my arms.

. . . actually finding some good new shoes for Daniel at the very first place we tried.  They don't even have a cartoon character on them.

. . . making a tasty smoothie that even Joy was willing to drink.  It's a simple recipe Phillip came up with, and it's become my go-to non-green smoothie recipe: put 1 & 1/2 c apple juice and 1 c OJ in a blender, then add equal parts frozen strawberries and frozen mango, plus a little frozen pineapple (just enough total fruit so the smoothie is thick but still blends; add more AJ if you need to thin it a bit).  I like the 2 Parts OJ, 3 Parts AJ base, because those juices are fairly cheap and don't have added sugar, but if you use all one or the other the flavor stands out too much.

And another thing . . .

. . . it's interesting how daily living provides ample opportunities to teach my kids about finances and such.  I would have thought that I'd have to sit them down in their late teens and try to explain how rent and mortgages work while their eyes gradually glazed over, but today alone I've found myself talking with my six-year-old daughter about those very subjects as we walked to our manager's home to pay rent, or as we talked about what's involved in (hopefully) buying a home someday.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cookies and Hugs

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . making snicker doodles with the big kids.

. . . Phillip coming home from a trip tonight. It is so nice to have his familiar, comforting, manly presence back in our home. He walked in the door about half an hour after the kids went to bed. He hugged and kissed me, then went in to see if the kids were still awake. Daniel was out cold. Joy was just awake enough to saw “welcome home” and hug him from her bed, but she didn't get up. Anna (who was the most awake because she’d had a long, late nap while we made cookies), got right to her feet and asked to be picked up, whereupon she hugged her daddy tight for a minute or two. She then let him put her back in bed and hand her Clifford so she could go to sleep. It was sweet to watch.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Play Dates and the Fun Sucker

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

. . .  wondering if I tend to cross the line between teaching my kids manners and sucking the fun out of their childhood.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . visiting with friends while our kids played (and occasionally fought).

. . . talking with my husband on the phone.  I'm glad he'll be home tomorrow; I've missed him.

. . . making stovetop kettle corn to share with the kids.  It's so easy, and so good.