Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting my routine on

Nearly a month into the school year, and I am falling into an easy routine. I know some people dread routine as a dreary word, but I love it. I see it as an intricate dance where I perfect the day by repetition. I usually start a timid rough draft (written out, I am THAT list oriented) and then adapt as I live it. Moving the pieces of my week around until they feel more natural or more efficient or blessedly both at once. After I've polished the routine, I can add the improvisations in more easily; with kids, there are always unroutine-able, sometimes unforeseen, bumps in life.

Of course there are some things I still  need to tweek. I'm only fitting in exercise twice as week and I'd like more computer time, or rather, better use of computer time! It seems my project are all half done and my piles of ideas are cluttering up my ambition. Still, I'm settling into a happy routine and I think I can adjust it, if not easily, than feasibly.

I think it's easier this year than it has been for many because all the kids are finally in school. Although it is only a few hours each morning, the introvert in me is thriving on time alone each day. I've found it makes the rest of the daily chaos more manageable and I'm getting more done throughout the day. Homework is monitored, house cleaned, and kids read to with patience to spare. In fact I enjoy spending time with the kids when I don't have to forcibly carve alone-time into my day (usually by hiding in my bedroom or bathroom).

Of course it helps that Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I always feel more present and joyous during this season. But this year I'm in a particularly happy place and I'm trying to take in as much of it as possible.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Happy Birthday

This is me  messing around before the baseball games. Do I look a year older?

I pre-celebrated my birthday, or so I thought. My presents were presented several weeks previous; I loved them all (a beautiful necklace and earrings from Peter and an awesome homemade totebag from my parents). I expected a cake, maybe a nice dinner, and that was it.

So the day started with (surprise) baseball. A double header. But the fields are down the street from Costa Vita, so I survived. Ethan survived a pitch right in the chest, too. And Peter survived no sleep after a night shift with only nominal zombie like appearance.

But on the way home from the games, Peter surprised me by telling me I had 15 minutes to pack an overnight bag. My sister came to watch the kids  (Thanks Brenda and Bryan!) and we headed out to a surprise location. It was interesting because I was driving (see the zombie comment above), but didn't know where I was going. I was given an exit number (2.5 hours away) and after reaching it,  Peter woke up to navigate me to the hotel. He had booked hotel with a spa and booked a mani/pedi for me. After I left the spa, I headed to the room where we ate room service and watched BYU give up two chances for a miracle play. The next morning I had a Peter-booked hour long massage and then we headed home. 

(you know it is a fancy hotel when they're advertising for Lexus test drives at the entrance. See picture above)

A most wonderfully wonderful fantastic overnight trip made even better by my complete lack of expectations. Peter knocked it out of the park! 

After the weekend he even made me a cake and dinner and cleaned up the kitchen afterwards. It was AWESOME.
The only problem is Peter is turning 40 this year and he has (obviously) set the bar a teeny bit high...

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Like You Already Didn't Suspect I Was a Bit Off My Rocker.

Being alone. As a mother of a handful of children, I crave it. And now that they are all school age, I'm finally enjoying large doses. (Well, 3.5 hours a day, stupid half-day kindergarten). Consistent alone time spent using the restroom without a death by a thousand knocks, cleaning the house without a constant leak of mess, and going grocery shopping without "helpers."

It was during this last task, however, that I hit a slight glitch.

You see, apparently having a child tag along for all those years was just a prop. For my talking. When my children aren't there with me I still jabber away. Only now, wonderfully alone, it is too myself. 

When a child is in the cart no one thinks twice when I grumble, "They've moved the tortilla shells again! Guess I'll search across the store." But when I'm standing alone staring at the previously-tortilla-now-potato-roll spot? People looked at me strangely. Apparently it also isn't kosher to announce, "Only three more things before we can check out!" to thin air. Or to note to myself that the name brand Fluff is cheaper than the off brand (and then fill my cart with several jars).

Once I noticed people were looking at me rather queerly, I tried to do better. I really did. Turns out mumbling to myself made it worse; people, eyebrows raised, tried to pass me as far away as possible. Merely mouthing words as I strolled the aisles actually made people turn around and walk the other way.

So I'm in trouble and I've been trying to come up with solutions for my talk-to-myself ways.
  • Create a lifelike puppet of a preschooler for my shopping cart- I'm trying to look less creepy, pretty sure that doesn't fit the bill.
  • Find my old bluetooth and hook it to my ear so it looks like I'm on my phone- Not obvious enough. Those people look crazy, too.
  • Borrow someone's kid to take with me shopping- Not that desperate.
  • Stop talking to myself- Too much will power required.
  • Practice my crazy lady look and talk to my hearts content. Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner.

I'd say the benefit of not having a prop when I talk & shop is I don't have the constant, "Can we buy {fill in the blank with whatever happens to be in eyesight}, but I have a package of Lindt Hazelnut Truffles that begs otherwise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Silver Stomachs & Stretched Souls

My stomach is covered in silver. My son informed me of my richly enveloped belly one morning while we were both in the midst of a shirt-displacing yoga stance. I laughed and invited him to feel the ridges forming my metallic fortune. It wasn't silver, I explained, it was the sunlight hitting my faded stretch marks.

I vividly remember the night before my inaugural labor. My skin stretched so thinly across my torso it threatened to tear open if I grew even one more millimeter. In fact I wondered how it hadn't already ripped apart. And I sobbed. Partly due to pre-labor hormones and months of pregnancy sleep; partly because I realized my body could never be quite the same; and partly because my mother's friend, who had something like 8 pound twins, had actually torn open from growing too large and I was frightened my skin might literally tear.

Time soothed the memory of pregnancy and what were once wide dark wounds are faint white lines. I wear those stretch marks with proud distinction for although they're not really silver, they represent both the price I paid to be a mother and the muli-fold returns I've received from that investment.

I've thought a lot about stretching thin as I've started planning my family's fall schedule. There's baseball and marching band, piano and clarinet lessons, violin and gymnastics. The list grows larger as my free time evaporates. I've worried that my kids are overscheduled and I've bemoaned that their interests weren't all the same. Then I realized they individually have only one or two activities and I want them to follow their own dreams. It is the aggregation of their individual interests that has left ME overscheduled, they are blissfully unaware of my behind-the-scenes work.

In short, I think my poor little soul might be getting some stretch marks. I can't possibly fit in anything else, and yet more comes and I stretch a little more to hold it. But the marks are showing and my resolve threatens to rip wide open. I know I will never be quite the same. But when I worry about what will be left of me, I try to remember that what now appears too much will eventually be a faded memory. I will be left with the proud marks of a mother who's paid her price.

And maybe those marks will sparkle silver someday. It seems to do so in the older mothers I admire.

I hope so, 'cause its kinda hard right now.


In case you're wondering, my stretch marks happen to stretch from above my belly button to halfway down my thighs and nearly meet behind my back. And my mother didn't get any with her six pregnancies. Not nice Heredity, not nice at all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Periodic Table of Elements Cake

I know everyone is waiting on pins and needles to hear about our summer reading, but I've received a request for information on my son's birthday cake. Never one to disappoint, here are the details.

My eldest son loves science, but he somehow thinks my cake making can defy the laws of physics. Deciding on a cake each year can be a bit of a compromise. After rejecting several impossible designs of computer games he likes, I finally suggested we find another passion of his and we settled on the periodic table.

Since he is at Scout Camp on his actual 14th birthday, we celebrated tonight. Ryan has a couple friends over and I am feeling extremely short.

And here is our Periodic Table Cake:

After trying to decide if I should cut up a couple regular cakes into little squares or just buy a small square pan, I bought the pan. With a 40% off coupon at the craft store, it cost me less than $6. Best decision ever. If I did it again I would buy two and finish baking twice as fast!

One cake mix, adapted with the White Almond Sour Cream recipe (once you try it, you'll never go back), made 6 batches in the pan and was enough squares to make all the elements plus extra. 6x24=144. You need 118 for the periodic table and some will be ruined when you try to pop them out.

There are no directions on the pan for adapting regular recipes' cooking time. My oven did fine with about 1 teaspoon per square, 350 degrees for 11 minutes, then 10 minutes in the freezer before popping them out. Don't forget to keep a cookie sheet under the pan, check for done with a toothpick, and spray the pan before each batch.

After they cooled, I piped an outline, with regular store bought buttercream frosting, around each square. Then I colored the rest of the icing 6 different colors and watered them down until they were syrupy consistency. I dolloped the colors in the center and they spread easily with the back of the spoon to the piped outline. I also watered down chocolate frosting for the transition metal elements. (A total of 7 colors, I just counted on a periodic table to see how many of each color I needed)

Some of the icing didn't harden as well as I liked, if I were to try again I might experiment with melting the icing for 5-10 seconds in the microwave instead of watering it down?

After letting it sit overnight to let the frosting set as much as possible, I used a copy of the periodic table to pipe on each element symbol and close approximation to its number. I was worried it would dry out, but after almost a full day they tasted just fine. Extra fine because of the WASC recipe I mentioned earlier.

Then I found a space wide enough, put down wax paper and laid out the cakes in the periodic shape.

It was a HUGE success!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Evil Summer Scheme 1

I wouldn't be myself without some evil schemes for summer. It's a full time job, however, as my kids keep growing and entering different phases so my evil plans need to adapt constantly. There are a couple of evil plans I've implemented this summer. Both are adapated from previous schemes and I really like how they've worked so far. I'm posting them in the hopes some other evil scientist, or mother, could find something useful in them, too. I'll post my weekly chores today and our reading program tomorrow.


 I like to do one thorough cleaning and pick up as needed the rest of the week. It makes sense to do it on Saturday, which is why I do it on Monday. I've always had trouble with distributing chores evenly and making sure everything gets done well. The kitchen might be an hour, maybe 3. The bathrooms could take 5 minutes or an hour depending on who used it. Um, I mean how dirty it is.

Anyway, I took everything I usually do on Mondays when the kids are at school and wrote it down in very basic steps. For instance the kitchen would include: clear table, clear cupboards, unload dishwasher, load dishwasher, wash table, wash stools, wash cupboards, granite polish countertops, wash cupboard fronts, etc.

When I was done, I had a little over 50 steps to a finished house, which I printed onto strips and laminated.
I put them in a jar and the kids take one out without looking so there is no picking and choosing and complete that job. When they're done they pick another until the jar is empty. I did this last summer and it worked wonders! This year I color coded them into "initial chores", "mid-clean chores", and "finishing chores" so someone wouldn't pick "vacuum carpets" before "pick up toys".

When I do my Monday cleaning during the school year on my own it takes up to 6 hours. When the kids and I do it together it takes closer to 3. Please note that it took 15 years of chore giving hell before my kids made cleaning with them FASTER than cleaning without.


  • All the kids work the entire time.
  • Little things that kids tend to forget are done because it is an individual job like clean under the couches" or "wash back window"
  • There is no arguing over the fairness of the jobs. You do what you pick and then you pick again.
  • If your kids are competitive like mine, they hurry so they've picked the most jobs that week.


  • Sometimes your younger kids pick a chore you'd rather an older kid did like "clean the toilets" or "wash the dishes". 
  • You do have to make sure some of the kids don't skate past a job or it makes later jobs more difficult. The kids are getting better as they hate coming back to a job they felt they'd completed. (So is that really a con, they are getting better at doing the jobs?)
  • You have to monitor so the kids don't lose the cards.

Anyway, here are the kids cleaning. The youngest usually helps either myself or one of the older kids with the jobs they pick.


Friday, June 29, 2012

The Cinnamon Raisin Bagel Incident

Long ago, when our marriage could be measured in months easier than years, we were broke. Not in a wow this really needs fixed way, more like a can groceries be considered optional this week? way. Broke enough that fancy bagels, or even regular bagels for that matter, were a delicacy. My sweet new husband decided to treat me and picked up beautiful cinnamon raisin bagels after an early morning shift at UPS. Unfortunately I despise raisins; from the texture to the taste to the thought of poor grapes losing all their god-given moisture to become shriveled shells of themselves. Yuck!

They may actually be my least favorite food, but somehow the subject had yet to come up.

We've laughed about the cinnamon raisin bagel incident for years. It represented everything we still had to learn about each other and the surprises still left to find in our relationship.

Peter still likes to bring home small surprises for me. He often picks something up when he's out, although after the cinnamon raisin bagel incident, he buys things he already knows I like. Which is why he was struck last week when he passed a case of Cherry Vanilla Diet Dr. Pepper. Knowing my preference for DDP and my love of vanilla flavoring, he immediately picked it up to surprise me. But there was a major flaw, however, as this gift was Cherry Vanilla Diet Dr. Pepper.

You see, three days before I was messing around with my "about me" section on this very blog. Trying to be silly, I had started with the most trivial information I could think up about myself. This is what I'd written:

"The most important thing you could know about me is that I hate the taste of cherries. Not cherries themselves, just the taste of them as a flavoring. This is due to years of cherry flavored medicine, which eventually led to my association of the flavor with nastiness. "

His timing was perfect, it was the cinnamon bagel incident all over again.

(Although I found the vanilla flavoring mellows the cherry taste, allowing me to enjoy my treat. Still I couldn't get over the rather hilarious timing.)

Have you ever inadvertently given your loved ones a failure of a gift?


Monday, June 25, 2012

This year I accidentally broke Summer

I always look forward to Summer with its long stretches of blessed schedule voids punctuated with sporadic bursts of activity designed drive boredom away. Sleeping late and reading lots. Family bonding and lazy afternoons.  Perfection.

This year I accidentally broke Summer.

First there isn't proper voidness in my scheduling. Someone should have told me teenagers change everything. With parties, church camps, instrument lessons, golf camp, summer baseball, marching band practices, and never-ending phone ringing, the INSANITY never ends. In the minimal blank spaces we fit in visits to the pool, chores, reading time, and other "normal" summer activities. You want friends over? Better schedule it 4 months in advance.

And we're supposed to fit in a vacation, too?!?

As if that wasn't enough, the down time is decidedly not blessed. Sibling bickering is driving me insane. Two teenagers and two tweenagers (I swear the pre-pubescent mood swings are worse than the post-pubescent ones) keep the hormones in our house at DANGER- EXPLOSION IMMINENT!! levels. If you don't believe me you can walk by my house and hear it. You might only enter the neighborhood to hear it. I wouldn't be surprised if people are wondering about the noise all the out at the county border.

Given the state of Summer this year, I, of course, thought it would be the perfect time to start P90x. After all, taking an extra hour and half out of my schedule every day could only be made better by limbs too sore to move more than an inch in any direction. And why would I need to have any reserve of strength? Right? Might as well use it all up within 15 minutes of waking so I can have the rest of the day to deal with paragraphs 2 and 4.

So I'm exhausted, the kids are busy, our gas budget is atrocious, and I'm now hoping for some down time. In September. Of 2025.

Oh all right, I just might survive...


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Darn that blogger

So, I meant to write a rough draft and accidentally hit publish. Switched immediately to draft, but it still showed up EVERYWHERE. Hoping this fixes it until I publish tonight. And yes (if you already read it) I realized it hasn't been 12 years since Elise was in kindergarten. (I hadn't even spell checked. It was just flow of thought onto the screen. How embarrassing!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I can't believe it either- confession of an nonathletic mom

I'm going to lose my street cred. (As if using the term "street cred" weren't reason enough to lose it)

You see, I feel this compulsion to confess even if it destroys my reputation. Deep breath, here it goes:

mnjoy baseball seasothiyr.

What do you mean you couldn't understand me. I was mumbling?

I'm enjoying baseball season this year.

You can't hear me? Fine.

I'm enjoying baseball season this year.

I know, I know. I'm the mom who comes to kids' sports sign-ups kicking and screaming. Although I tend to replace "kicking" with "eye rolling" and "screaming" with "muttered complaints". I don't enjoy sports and baseball is the most boring. Last year felt like two months of after-school, twice-on-Saturday torture. This year I added another whole team to the mix (which should make it thrice-on-Saturday torture) and still for some reason ... it's kind of, sort of, well ... nice.

Maybe it's because practices are all closer to home. Maybe it's because the kids are all a year older and more independent. Maybe it's because this season I've yet to be hit in the head with a baseball. Or maybe I've been hit in the head one too many times.

For whatever inexplicable reason, all of a sudden, I enjoy watching the kids play. I enjoy sitting and chatting with the other parents. I enjoy watching the teams get better as the season progresses. I haven't opened a book during an actual game once this whole time. Even when my kids aren't actually on the field. Weird, right?

Sure the timing is still a bear and my schedule looks like a complex scientific proof. Dinnertime is more like eat-what-you-can-as-you-run-out-the-door time and Me-time is in temporary hibernation. And yet when I'm watching one of the 5 to 7 games scheduled each week, I find myself relaxing, smiling, and enjoying myself. Go figure.

I better stop analyzing before I talk myself out of it! See you at the ballpark!


 P.S. Don't tell my husband, I don't think I could handle the requisite gloating.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

We Survive March with Exhaustion

I plan on showing everyone a picture of Kirsti's new haircut. To be clear, I cut it, not her. Plus, I took her to a salon later that week and had it fixed; it looks great now. Anyway, I will post a picture soon.

But first I thought I would explain my lack of posting last month. The best explanation would be a repost from my extended family's monthly blog. No obligation to read it as it is long, picture heavy, and we CRAMMED a lot into the month. My goal is to fit blogging into my schedule somehow because it really helps me keep a good perspective.

Isn't March supposed to enter like a lion and leave like a lamb? 'Cause last month did enter like a lion, but it exited like a T-Rex on steroids. So take a deep breath, strap in and get ready for an UPDATE.

The month started with Peter leaving me. Don't worry, it was just for the weekend (give or take). He went down with his brothers and in-laws to BYU's basketball league playoffs. They all had fun, even if BYU lost on Saturday, but their flight home wasn't until Tuesday (Who, you may be asking, designed a tournament that ends on Monday? Someone who wants people to not attend next year.)

He is still losing crazy weight and gaining crazy muscle with P90X. Even with a Las Vegas vacation thrown in, he hasn't broken his diet or missed a workout. He and Elise are almost at their halfway point.

Elise turned 15 this month! She asked if she could throw a party if she paid for it and did all the work. I agreed. And then cleaned the whole house, took her to the store, bought pizzas. chaperoned, drove all over town looking for the right cake display, and fixed the cake when she found out it wasn't as easy to decorate as Mom makes it seem. And freaked out because -HELLO- SHE'S 15! Good thing she did all the work. She actually did all the planning, decorating, inviting, entertainment, and snacks and paid for all but the pizza, so I was impressed.

This month she also registered for her sophomore year. She went with a friend to the midnight showing of the Hunger Games. She's also doing great with P90X.

Ryan has kept me hopping this month. He had an archery competition half way through the month which meant the first two weeks he had practices before and after school every day. The competition was two hours away and ALL DAY LONG. But he had fun and I enjoyed watching him. He also had a band concert. Good thing he told us about it, bad thing it was the morning of the concert! He is playing the percussion with the large yellow arrow over his head. He registered for his freshman year of high school and has become obsessed with the Rubik Cube. This month he baked a pie for Pi Day and baked a cake for the last day of chess club.

Ethan and Kirsti finished up hockey after school twice a week. They also finished up Math Club and Chess Club. Now I just have Strings for Kirsti before school three times a week and Spring Training (an athletic exercise modge podge) after school once a week for Ethan, Kirsti, and Joseph.

Ryan, Ethan, Kirsti, and Joseph all ran in a Leprechaun Race. It was a mile and the older 3 all ran it faster than I could. Even Joseph was close.

Ethan had a science fair this month and, much to my surprise, we managed to get it done on time! Kirsti had a stake Activity Day activity that lasted from 2 till 8 on a Friday. Guess who was one of the volunteers? Yep, me. Guess what day it was? (Hint: the day before the all day archery competition.)

Joseph, Kirsti and Ethan all went to Jump Rope for Heart. They also dressed up for Character Day to celebrate Dr. Suess's Birthday. The book they're holding is where their characters came from.

Of course this month also included our annual Pi Day celebration. Ryan baked his Pi pie. I made T-shirts (Pi make the world go Round) and we ate pizza pie for dinner with chocolate pie for dessert. Matthew made the pie at special days with his cousins. I was nice and included the lesser holiday (St Patrick's Day) hats, too.

And finally, the T-Rex of our March schedule: baseball. This year we have 4 kids playing on 3 different teams. That is a total of 7-9 practices and 5-6 games per weekEthan has already started games and has pitched for the first time and did great. He is hitting the ball (even swinging is an improvement from last year!) and is a lot faster than last year. Kirsti, Joseph, and Matthew have all started practices last week and will begin games after spring break next week. I am enjoying it a lot more this year. Partly because their practices are all a lot closer to home, partly because I know to bring my chair, blanket and a nice hot chocolate cup, and partly because this year I managed to avoid getting hit in the face with the ball at the first game.

I am still hitting the gym twice a week. I am slowly getting faster with my runs. With all the driving around, I'm reading much and cleaning little. I read 8 books last month, but only posted once. We finally got a new rug for the front room and living room. It changed the look of the rooms a lot and we love it!

The month ended with a neighborhood Easter Egg hunt and general conference. And if I missed pictures of the event, I'll just blame exhaustion.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'll just call it the Ernie Hair Cut

I adored Sesame Street as a child. Unfortunately, when it came time to pass hand down this love to my own children, I found the show had become polluted with obnoxious, wall-coloring, red monsters, non-imaginary Snuffleupaguses, and overkill on political correctness. But this post is about that most beloved, entertaining, and educational show of memory .

More specifically about Bert and Ernie. How I loved that rapscallion puppet named Ernie! Although I confess I loved Bert a tiny bit more with his long suffering sighs.

Remember the time Ernie was alone with Burt's cookies? Temptation overwhelmed and he soon took a small nibble on one. But, oh no! The cookie was now uneven and a correcting nibble was needed. And then another and another until finally the cookie was gone.

I don't know why I thought of that skit this morning. Might have something to do with this:

P.S. My daughter, who managed learned optimism without any Sesame Street lessons, took it all in good measure. "It's hair, it will grow back. And now I don't have to pull it all the way over my shoulder to brush it." In fact, it barely touches her shoulders now.

For comparison, here is what it looked like on Friday. Note the length even after making six braids and braiding them into one. And yes, she is wearing fairy wings, pointy ears and a tiara to school. And her brother is wearing a suit in the background. Isn't that how your kids always dress for school?

P.P.S. Fine, just kidding. In honor of Dr Seuss's birthday the school allowed the kids to dress as characters from favorite books. I even have a front facing picture. Ethan was Artemis Fowl, Kirsti was the Fairy Queen from Fablehaven and Joseph was Pip, one of the dragons in Pillage.

And now I find myself craving cookies.

C is for Cookie. that's good enough for me...