Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recall

Hubba in his truest form.

Today I inadvertently published an entry written for my personal blog here on this blog. For those of you who are wondering, it was a detailed description of my less-than-perfect day at church relating to the challenges I am facing with my 4-year-old, Hubba.

And here's the thing.

Initially, I was mortified when I realized my mistake - 3 hours after the fact. It was when I received notice that I had comments on the post that I realized what I had done. I immediately moved the post to the place it was meant to be and then read the comments that were left for me.

All I really wanted to say was thank you. Thank you to those who left me words of encouragement and kindness and advice. Every comment that was left was exactly what I needed to hear and greatly appreciated.

You are some amazing people out there. Whether or not we have ever met, I am thankful to have you as friends.

Really...thank you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love the fall. The changing colors, the crunch of leaves, the smell of the crisp morning air... and the influx of all things pumpkin at the local grocery stores. In years past I would anxiously await the arrival of the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie and devour as many as possible before they disappeared again. I searched in vain for a recipe for these morsels and ultimately decided to take matters into my own hands.

Over the years the recipe has been tweaked (too dry!) and changed (too bland!) until I finally found perfection. And now, friends, I share it with you. Get ready to enjoy some Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

You will need:

2 cups pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
4 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Eat half a dozen (at least!) with a tall, cold glass of milk while still warm. Sweet pumpkin perfection.

Secrets

Hubba has been really into what he calls 'secrets' lately. Allow me to illustrate.

During dinner one night he asked, "Mom? Can I tell you a secret?"

"Sure, Hubba," I answered, leaning in close to hear what he had to say.

And then he whispered, "Get me a drink."

Yesterday I asked Hubba and Curly to please pick the Legos up off of the floor so I could vacuum.

They continued to pull the cushions off of the couch and use them as mini trampolines.

A few minutes later I asked, "Pretty please pick up the Legos?"

Hubba picked up 3 Legos, made them into a gun, pointed it at me and made shooting noises. Curly laughed. Little O looked me square in the eye and said, "NO."

Because bribing is not beneath me, I announced, "If you guys pick up all of the Legos while I finish folding the laundry, I will give you guys ice cream!"

Hubba gave me a look and said, "Wait."

What? Wait?

He leaned over to Curly and began whispering something in her ear. "What are you guys up to?" I asked.

"It's a secret," he replied, obviously annoyed. After a minute or two of this they turned to look at me in unison.

"We will pick up Legos for ice cream... and 2 cookies," Hubba stated.

"WHAT?" I responded. "You can't negotiate with me. Forget it - no ice cream OR cookies, just clean up."

Hubba rolled his eyes. More whispering ensued. Curly looked at me, looked at Hubba, then nodded.

"We gots a secret idea, mom," Hubba announced. "How 'bout YOU just clean up the Legos yourSELF and then WE will just eat ice cream?"

"Is a good se-ket, mom," Curly confirmed.

I beg to differ.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Icing on the (Cup)cake

I was asked to make a cake for a funeral luncheon last week. In my opinion, people who are eating at a funeral luncheon deserve the best there is - with a little bit of happiness thrown in as well.

Does it get any happier than cupcakes in shiny wrappers?

I used to think that perhaps it was a bit disrespectful to go against the grain when it came to those who were paying their final respects to someone that they loved. So, in the past, when asked to assist in providing a meal for those in attendance at a funeral I always prepared exactly what I was asked to bring.

Until my dad died.

After returning to the church from the cemetery I was drained. Emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. I walked to the food tables, loaded with mountains of rolls and pans of cheesy potatoes and slices of ham that many kind people had prepared for us, and forced myself to eat. When I had finished my meal I happened to walk past the dessert table so that I could toss my empty paper plate in the garbage. I had no desire for sweets. However, in order to hold in my tears I had resorted that day to putting empty thoughts in my head, so as I walked I mentally noted what I saw. White cake. Chocolate cake. Yellow cake. Chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Yellow cake.

And then... cupcakes! In bright, cheery wrappers! But the thing which really caught my attention was the colorful chocolate candies, placed on top of each cupcake in the shape of a smiley face. Somehow this simple change from the expected brought a smile to my face and I grabbed one, hoping that the saying 'You are what you eat' would hold true. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite, savoring the happiness each one seemed to contain.

Now, when asked to provide a cake for a funeral luncheon, I always do something more. The cupcakes I made not only looked blissful, they tasted it as well. Do you know why? They were frosted with my best homemade buttercream frosting. They were topped with sprinkles. And they were made with the hope that even the smallest bit of happiness would come to those who would be enjoying them.

When it comes to happiness, I'm all for paying it forward.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happiness is the Bomb

A quote for today:

"Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination."

~Robert Fulghum

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Little Missionary

I am not sure what it is exactly that holds me back from sharing my religious views with others. Perhaps it is the idea that I may be perceived as preachy or overbearing. Maybe I am afraid of offending someone. Regardless, I have a son who has never felt any of this kind of apprehension. He has a zest for life and when it comes to sharing his faith and beliefs regarding our religion, no one is exempt.

When Allen and I returned from our trip on Sunday, All-a-Boy told us of his latest missionary experience.

On Saturday All-a-Boy was riding his bike around the neighborhood when he was greeted by two missionaries getting into their car. They asked how he was doing and then inquired if he knew of any people in our neighborhood who were not members of our church. All-a-Boy immediately responded, "Sure I do! Just follow me!" The missionaries jumped into their vehicle and slowly followed behind All-a-Boy's bike as he led them around the block to the home of our neighbors across the street, a friend that All-a-Boy has invited to church on numerous occasions - with no luck. All-a-Boy went to the door with the missionaries and knocked. When his friend S~ and her mom answered, he said, "Hey, S~! I wanted to introduce you to the missionaries."

Greetings were exchanged and small talk was made - and then S~'s mom joked, "Well, All-a-Boy, since this whole thing was your idea I'd expect you to have a story or something to share with us." So he did. He launched into a re-telling of the prophet Elijah and his "sacrifice burning contest" with the prophets of Baal. He then recounted a story of Wilford Woodruff on his mission in England and how he converted a constable who was sent to arrest him.

The visit ended with All-a-Boy sharing his testimony with S~ and her mom about what makes our church different from others and why he loves it so much. Before leaving, All-a-Boy asked if they would like to come to church with our family next Sunday. S~'s mom told him that they could probably come in two weeks.

All-a-Boy was beside himself with excitement as he shared this story with me.

I was beside myself with amazement at the conviction and determination of my boy.

I want to be more like him.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Surprise, Surprise!

This last weekend held many surprises for me. I thought that our anniversary celebration from a week ago was it - but Allen had a few more things up his sleeve. Saturday morning began with breakfast in bed, including a telegram that started me on a completely unexpected wild goose chase which continued until Sunday afternoon.

Do you like picture books? Because this is sort of like one. Enjoy!

I am so lucky!

Friday, August 21, 2009

School Stuff

This is the pile of disclosure documents I was expected to read, sign and provide my phone numbers and email address on after school yesterday. Between my 3 oldest kids I counted a total of 23 separate documents.

Do you know how much time it would take for me to read through each of these? I did what any responsible parent would do. I made my kids read them. And then I signed them, tore off the signature page, and stashed them away to be read later.

The sad thing is this: I will read them later. Every one. Every. Single. Word. And do you know why? Because I love to get out a brand new red pen and find typos and grammatical errors. It makes me feel smarter than the teachers. This way, if I go to student/educator/parent conferences (formerly known as parent/teacher conferences) and the teacher acts snooty I can secretly say to myself, Yeah, whatever, Mr.-14-Errors-On-The-Disclosure-Document. Don't get all hoity-toity with me! You don't even know proper sentence structure! Yes, I am Gerb, and I'm a nerd. (Nerds everywhere respond: Hi, Gerb!)

In other school-front news, my neighbor called me this week and told me she had signed up to be Room Mother with me in All-a-Boy's 5th grade class. I was a little surprised by this since I had not actually signed up to be Room Mother. "It was your name on there," she told me. "I know I saw it."

I had to bring Princess to the school for some 1st grade reading testing so I decided to investigate. Sure enough, my name was there on the clipboard:
In All-a-Boy's very careful handwriting.

(Yes, I am going to do it.)

This school year is going to be awesome.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One Step At A Time

(Photo from West Torrance High School cross-country team, 1989)

I used to love running. It has served me well at many stages of my life. It was an easy way to fit in somewhere as I transitioned into high school, providing me an instant family of sorts, and my affinity for it seemed to grow from there. Running was something I could do easily, something I was naturally good at. It built up my confidence and boosted my self-esteem in the years I needed it most. As life continued, I slowed down. A lot. I became a wife, then a mother. I had other responsibilities and rarely made the time for exercise in any form. But running remained a way to clear my head if something was bothering me.

The last time I really ran it was a way to deal with grief... and I over-extended myself.

So I stopped running. I had injured myself physically and emotionally. Running was something I now associated with sadness and pain - something that I did not want any part of.

That was 8 years ago, and I have been pretty lackadaisical about my lack of exercise. Except that lately there's been this one thing on my mind: I am getting older, and keeping my body healthy is not going to get easier.

Let me dispel one common misconception: being thin does not equal being healthy. For me, being thin just means my metabolism is amazing. This is something we don't hear much about because, let's be honest, when a thin person says they are out of shape and need to exercise others pretty much just roll their eyes and hate them. But I'm going to say it, because it's true: I need to make my health a priority. There is so much I need to change, but I am always at a loss as to where to begin. Diet? Exercise? Eating habits? The easy route was to put these concerns at the back of my mind, so I did.

Until last Friday.

I read a post on this blog that gave me a change of perspective. I read about true determination. About reaching a milestone & achieving a goal. And amidst tears I thought... wow. What an inspiration. And then... you know what? I can do hard things. I can set goals. I can make myself a priority.

I can run again.


So I did it. I ran on Monday morning for the first time in 8 years. It was a 2-mile loop, and I had to stop numerous times to walk and catch my breath, but I did it. I have run every day since then and plan to run consistently until March when my goal is to complete a local 5K race without walking.

I can do this, and I will. One step at a time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Whole Truth

So... our anniversary celebration. That last post was the story that unraveled in my brain as I'd ask Allen to be in pictures and he would include his own unexpected faces and poses. But the truth is this: we did, in fact, stay at the Inn on the Hill, and it was beautiful. It was in close proximity to almost everything we wanted to do in Salt Lake City so we were able to just walk to our destinations for most of the weekend. One of the most wonderful things was the fact that I did not have to cook one meal for almost 3 days. Oh, bliss! I have come to realize that my favorite food is food that is prepared by someone else.

I think that the phrase "A picture speaks a thousand words" will serve me well to describe the rest of our little getaway (and be much less boring for you). So, without further ado, may I present:

Our 17th Anniversary Celebration

(You can click on the picture to see it larger if you so desire...)

P.S. Extra credit to those who notice the accidental photo repeat. The truth: I was too lazy to fix it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Truth Is In There Somewhere

Allen and I are celebrating our 17th anniversary this year. The official date is August 22, but because our kids start school this week we commemorated our anniversary a week early with a little adventure this last weekend.

We wanted to stay at the Inn on the Hill, a beautiful bed and breakfast in downtown Salt Lake City, but couldn't quite afford it.
We decided we could have our own kind of fun for a lot less money. Less money meant we didn't have the cash to go to the local amusement park, so we looked for something similar downtown and found this pig who gave great piggyback rides. (I am SO punny!)
Next we tried to get into a free concert but apparently not all Visitors were Welcome.
We started to get hungry so Allen foraged around for some vittles...
After eating we were getting pretty exhausted, so we stopped for a nap...
but the traffic was SO noisy! We decided then that maybe it would be worth it to stay at the fancy bed & breakfast after all. So Allen asked around about some work and was hired to do a construction job. Amazingly, he was able to earn enough cash for the remainder of our weekend.
We headed back to the Inn with Allen's earnings and were able to secure a room. We decided to peruse the Inn's DVD collection for a romantic movie to watch. I thought it would be nice to let Allen choose.
As you can see, our anniversary was absolutely amazing.

Try not to be jealous.

She Takes The Cake

These are the not-quite-right cupcakes I found on the tray at my brother Chip's house.
This is the cute, pudgy hand that stole the not-quite-right cupcakes I found on the tray at my brother Chip's house.
This is the girl that licked the frosting from the not-quite-right cupcakes that were stolen from the tray by the cute, pudgy hand at my brother Chip's house.
This is the girl with the cute, pudgy hands who is happy to share by returning the stolen, not-quite-right cupcakes to the tray after licking off the frosting so others could enjoy them at my brother Chip's house.

p.s. Hubba thought they were delicious.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Greatest Gift

not my actual socks... but close. photo from sockshop.co.uk

We woke up before the sun, my 3 oldest kids and I. The purpose was to help at a fundraiser for the high school cross-country team, handing out numbers to the runners who had signed up for the Provo River Trail Half-Marathon. We arrived just after 4:00 am and did our best to answer the endless questions that were asked of us.

What time do the buses leave? 5:00 and 5:30.

Where does the race end? Right here behind the theaters.

Do you have extra safety pins? Yes, just over there.

Do you know where I can buy some socks? I just drove for 5 hours to get here this morning and I completely forgot to pack socks! At 5:00 in the morning? Maybe Target... it's about 20 minutes from here.

And then before I knew it, I was offering her mine.

Me: "If you want, you can just have my socks. I mean, I'm not running. And if it doesn't gross you out, you're welcome to them."

Runner With No Socks: "No, that's okay. Thanks, though."

I felt so stupid. Why would someone want to wear some stranger's socks? Why did I even offer? Besides, these were some of my favorites... my multi-shades-of-blue-striped socks made with some special keep-your-feet-dry materials.

I continued to pass out numbers and answer questions.

About fifteen minutes later, someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned.

RWNS: "Hi. I'm desperate. I will totally pay you for your socks."

Me:"You can just have them. Seriously."

RWNS: "No, I need to at least pay you for them."

Me: "Here. Take them. They're a gift. From me to you... seriously."

RWNS: (Hugs me) "Thank you. This means so much to me. Really." (Hugs me again) "Thank you so much."

Me: "You bet. My pleasure."

And then, as she ran off to catch the bus to the starting line, I yelled, "Good luck!"

It warmed my heart to see that person, a perfect stranger I would likely never see again, running off in my (very obvious) stripey blue socks. The happy feeling came from the thought that a simple pair of socks had, for just a moment, turned strangers into friends.

I don't know how to explain it, but I think that moment was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Asked For It

Today's Sunday School lesson for my 4 to 5-year-old class was titled "Our Parents Help Us Learn". One of the points was that we were born into families for a reason: so they could help us to learn and grow.

I posed this question to my class:

Why do you think we were born into families instead of just being placed on the earth in the middle of a grassy field somewhere?

And N~'s answer was this:

Because we NEEDed to be PRE-TECTed from LAWNmowers!

Maybe I should re-think the way I pose my questions to 4 and 5-year-olds...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Boys vs. Girls

(Cowgirl and Princess rode the escalator numerous times on their shopping trip)

Well, friends, the summer is almost at a close (sad, sad, sad!) and that means it's my favorite (lie, lie, lie!) time of year - time for back-to-school shopping! I take the kids in groups of 2 for my own sanity. And here is the difference I noticed between back-to-school shopping with boys and back-to-school shopping with girls (using my 4 oldest as examples):

BOYS (aka Coolister, age 16 and All-a-Boy, age 10)

Me: Hey, guys, what do you need to get before school starts?

Coolister: A pair of pants.

All-a-Boy: I don't think I need anything.

Me: You're kidding me, All-a-Boy. You don't even own a pair of pants without holes.

All-a-Boy: I can just wear shorts in the winter.

Me: No.

All-a-Boy: (rolling his eyes) Ok, a pair of pants. But I hate shopping.

(Actual shopping trip includes my choosing pants, shirts and shoes for them to try on & purchase from only 2 stores. If you don't include the time we spent perusing books (love, love, love!), we were finished in less than 2 hours.)

GIRLS (aka ElemenoB, age 14 and Thumbelina, age 13)

Me: Okay, ladies, what do you need to get before school starts?

ElemenoB: At least 2 pair of jeans, some shirts that aren't t-shirts and a belt.

Thumbelina: I need some collared shirts, some tennis shoes for P.E., some cute shoes for school and some church shoes.

ElemenoB: Yeah, if I could find some more cute shoes, that would be nice, too.

Thumbelina: Oh, and some dresses.

Me: You're going to wear church shoes and dresses to school?

Thumbelina: If they're casual and cute, yes.

ElemenoB: I also need some new mascara and some running shorts.

Thumbelina: Yeah, I need P.E. clothes, too.

(Actual shopping trip consists of their choosing items to try on - including numerous t-shirts for ElemenoB (???) - and roughly 3 items each being purchased from a total of 6 stores. Total time invested thus far is 5 hours... and we're not finished yet.)

The difference?

Boys are no-nonsense, practical and deliberate.

Girls are... not.

But I love having both. (Love, love, love!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Heartstrings

Photo from amisimms.net

I am often overwhelmed at the continuous string of terrible, tragic stories of things that are going on in the world. Yet, when I look for the good that can come about as a result of these, I am buoyed up with hope.

Like a quilt is tied together with bits of string or yarn, I believe that our lives are tied together with heartstrings.

When we hear of a tragedy in the community, our heartstrings call us to action.

When we find that a friend has suffered a death in the family, our heartstrings bring to mind the ways we can offer comfort.

When someone we know tells us of their child's successes or failures, our heartstrings make us want to cheer them on.

When we learn of a stranger's struggle over a personal loss, our heartstrings evoke sympathy.

When we read about the homesickness and heartache (but also happiness and hope) of a young neighbor who is serving the people of a foreign country, our heartstrings bring emotions close to the surface.

When we learn of unrealized dreams, lost hope or broken faith, our heartstrings can cause an incurable aching which prompts us to help where we can.

My personal definition for heartstrings would be: the love for humanity that binds the deepest love and emotion in our hearts to each other.

Much like twin siblings seem to forge an unbreakable bond in utero, I believe that all of us, as human beings who share this planet with each other, as imperfect individuals who were all created by the same loving Father, have an inherent connection which defies definition.

And I think that if we could learn to recognize those pulls on our heartstrings - and to act upon them - it would be a beautiful thing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rain Dancers

When a friend comes over to hang out and the hour is late but it is raining and there is no vehicle to drive her home... what do you do?

You dance your way to her house, enjoying the misty downfall and reflections of light on the silvery pavement, of course!

And be sure to save your best moves for the grand finale in her driveway... in case anyone's watching.