Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balance Sheet

Created:
1 tail for a monkey suit
2 dozen ghost cookies
1 newspaper article
2 "computer-berry-machines" made of pillows/tupperware

Destroyed:
1 jar of pureed butternut squash (dropped)
1 clear IKEA drinking glass (dropped)
2 light bulbs---energy-efficient, of course (dropped) (what is WRONG with me?)
1 wax ghost (arm bitten off)
2 dozen ghost cookies (does "eaten" count as destroyed?)
1 cardboard knight helmet (ripped while being fought over)
1 grocery store receipt (eaten)
1 lawnmower handle (hit with car)

NET NIELSON CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD: -2
(Needs improvement)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good riddance to bad baggage

Hmm, actually these bags found at random on Google image search are rather cute!

Well, I believe the time has come for me to purchase a bag. A MOM'S bag. (Or purse, as the case may be. What is the difference?) I have a little brown purse (very little) (I would say, the size of, a cantaloupe. Flattened into a square.) which has been through a lot (stolen from my car and then recovered in someone's trash can later) and served me well (if in a very utilitarian way). But it's bulging at the seams from all the things I put in there. Which are:
  • bandaids
  • 2 suckers from the bank, saved for kid-emergencies
  • 2 pkgs. smarties from the grocery store, ditto [I think that's the first time I've ever said 'ditto', so enjoy it]
  • a "feminine napkin," naturally [Let me digress to say that when I was little, I saw the signs for those in bathrooms, and I thought they referred to beautiful, frilly, delicate, feminine table napkins---and I collected pretty napkins at the time---so I was always turning the knobs hoping I'd get lucky and one would fall out.]
  • Library card
  • Debit card
  • Credit card
  • Community Center Access card
  • Blood donor card
  • "Fresh Values" card
  • 1 million other cards I never look at or use, such as my "KBYU Member card," "Borders Rewards" card, etc etc etc
  • Checkbook
  • Change
  • 3 Packages of "moist towelettes" (sounds worse than "feminine napkin"!)
  • 3 reusable grocery bags---by the way I LOVE these---I have 6 which I use for all my groceries and other shopping--they are here
  • receipts
  • coupons
  • business cards
  • directions to various places scribbled on scraps of paper

Much like your own bag, perhaps. Anyway, I need your help. I've never really had a BAG-bag. In fact, I feel like I'm the last person in the world to realize that one is supposed to have a bag, accessory-wise. We used to watch "What Not to Wear" a lot at our old house, and after a while I realized that all their outfits always had a coordinating bag. Cute! But I feel so clueless. Do any [normal] people really do that (buy several different bags to go with your outfits, I mean)? What do you do for carrying your money? (Not that I ever have actual money. Cards and checkbook, yes.) Do you have to have a separate wallet inside the bag for that? Is your bag also your diaper bag? (I don't think I would do that, since I often don't carry the diaper bag into the store with me.) What constitutes a cute bag? Are there "trends" in bag fashion? Am I potentially going to commit a bag faux-pas by carrying a white bag after labor day, or some such thing? What else do I need to know to enter the wonderful world of bags?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Giving him the business

Do you have some things that just remain funny to you, no matter how many times you hear them? Certain movies have parts like that for me (or TV Shows: Arrested Development has a lawyer named Bob Loblaw, the thought of which never ceases to amuse me). When we go to a football game and I ask Sam if he has the tickets and he says, "I have MINE . . . ", it's funny to me. Every time.

Then there's this:

I can't watch that without laughing. And laughing. And laughing. So, enjoy! (The funny part doesn't come till about halfway through)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Song of Jello

And now, by popular demand, I present the words to my jello song. For the full effect, imagine me singing this about a half-octave too low for my voice, so I have that little tremble in it when I try to be loud enough. And also imagine me hitting the wrong chord occasionally on my guitar.


Hello Jello my old friend
I seek your jiggling arms again
Because the world is sharp and hard and rough
And frankly I have nearly had enough
And I’m ready for something that will yield to a simple squeeze
So won’t you please
Give me a taste of jello.

For in this world of spite and fear
I hear your wobble in my ear
Your wordless strength inspires me to fight
Your glossy radiance makes me more bright
And the rhythm of your vibration sweeps me along,
Mysterious song,
A song of rage and jello.

And when the lonely nights are long,
I murmur "jello" like a song
Your name is balm to all my darkest fears,
Enchanting music to my willing ears
Though I know that some here would correct me if they could,
For the public good:
They’d say it’s gelatin, not jello.

But jello by another name
Would surge and wobble just the same,
Mere words cannot describe your throbbing heaves
Your ripples spreading out like falling leaves
Like a walrus emerging in triumph from the stormy deep
It makes me weep
To watch you move, oh jello.

And though you tremble as you move
Your surface still remains so smooth
Half-Liquid/Solid—you break all the rules
I love the lattice of your molecules
No colloidal suspension so excited me before,
Made me ache for more,
Long to be filled with jello.

Jello, when all the lights are out
Do you know what I dream about?
The slippery meal that I could make of you
I would not even really have to chew
You’d just slip down the throat like a whisper in the night,
A flash of light,
A shining star, called jello
.

A few things

I'm on my way upstairs to take care of my poor, sick, shivering husband, but here are a few miscellaneous items before I go:

First, something political in nature. I usually try to stay away from politics here, trying to follow the advice in General Conference to focus on the truth we share rather than on our differences---however, since this is from one of my favorite Mormon Democrats, Orson Scott Card, and a very thought-provoking and enlightening column (and new information, perhaps, to some of you) regarding the current financial situation, I thought I'd link to it here.

And now on to the topic of Balloon Animals. You know that guy at Brick Oven that makes balloon animals? He is, truly, a balloon genius. I LOVE seeing all the designs he can come up with. We went there awhile ago and Seb requested a monkey and Abe requested "A Honey Bear" (which is his bear's name--"Honey"--not that he wanted one of those bottles of honey shaped like a bear. There was some confusion about this at first, naturally).



This is a very, very good monkey.

But this bear is the best!! The guy said, "Well, I'll try to make him holding a little pot of honey." So he did, and do you see what else? He made a little bee to fly along that clear tube, buzzing around trying to get close to the honey pot. When you shake it, the bee flies back and forth. Isn't that awesome?


Lastly, Sam and I have been developing a hieroglyphic language to write in (H is for Hieroglyphics), so the above is the type of thing that greets me every time I walk past our message board. I must say, it's becoming quite a good language. It's really fun to write and decipher each others' messages. Each of us in the family has a different symbol--- Don't you think Malachi's is especially appropriate? Sam said the other day Ky was looking up at him and he thought, "Wow---he looks exactly like his hieroglyphic symbol!"

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Jello Hilarity


Okay, the following is maybe my favorite series of pictures ever. Parents, perhaps you didn't know how much fun your children were having outside making jigglers. Observe the joy and merriment:

Seb

Clara


Abe



Asher

Maggie (she is yelling, "Put-back!!", wanting Joel to put her jiggler back in the pan)

Sophie

Have you ever seen a more serious/traumatized-looking group of children? But wait--we have one more:

Um . . . . okay . . . this is Lincoln. Thank you, Lincoln! Glad someone was enjoying himself. :)

And here are some pictures of the excellent presentations:

(I love the two little girls looking up adoringly at Beth and her fishbowl here)




(I like this too: you can just feel the emotion in Melissa's performance)



Good job, everybody!

Jello Banquet recipes

Well, my dears, we had a lovely time the other night at the ISFAJ (International Society for the Advancement of Jello) Banquet, didn't we? I was SO glad for all of you that could come, and for your excellent contributions. We will definitely have to get together again soon. Meanwhile, here are the recipes. I will post a few more pictures later.

**Update with better pictures: here

Rainbow Layered Jello

1 6-oz. package green jello
1 6-oz. package lemon jello
1 6-oz. package orange jello
1 6-oz. package strawberry jello
4 c. sour cream, or plain yogurt

*Remember to start making this early. If you want it done by dinnertime, you should have it started before noon. Or make it the day before.*

Mix green jello with two cups boiling water. Take out ½ cup of this jello mixture and, in a separate bowl, combine it with 1 cup sour cream. This is your creamy layer. Pour it into a 9x13 glass pan and refrigerate until set, about ½ hour–45 minutes. Pour remaining 1 ½ cups (or so) of clear green jello over creamy layer and refrigerate until set. (The clear layer usually sets faster.) Repeat process with yellow, orange, and red jello, alternating clear and creamy layers.


You can half the recipe (using small 3-oz. jello packages) and use a smaller casserole pan, if desired.


For the Black Bean Chowder with Yogurt-Cilantro Relish recipe, I direct you here. (I left out the ham hock). And as you may recall, the bread recipe is here.

Quinoa Cakes with Shrimp and Lemon-yogurt sauce
1 c. red or white quinoa, or a mixture of the two
2 c. water
salt

Combine quinoa, salt and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Grate 1 carrot, 1 small zucchini (with peel), and 1 small onion. Add vegetables, along with 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, to the cooked quinoa. Stir in an egg to make a moist mixture that will (sort of) hold together.

I formed it into little cakes for frying, but they didn't really hold together, so you could probably just add it in a thin layer to some olive oil in a hot pan, and fry on both sides till crisp. Then form into cakes by packing into a measuring cup, and top with a cooked shrimp and the sauce (below).

Lemon-yogurt sauce:

1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. plain yogurt
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. mustard

Stir together and heat in saucepan or microwave until warm.


Chocolate Basil Torte
for the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
4 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

for the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375F and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.
2. Place the butter and the chocolate in a glass mixing bowl, microwave on high for 1 min., and stir till smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.
3. Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.
4. Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
5. Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.
6. While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small glass bowl, microwave on high 1 minute, and stir until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Manna from [office supply] heaven

Malachi assists with some secretarial work. (N.B.: unsightly smear on upper left corner of white board)

Sam and I have a little whiteboard calendar that has hung on our fridge since we first got married, which has served us well, except that about twice a month, it falls off and one of the corners breaks. ("This whiteboard must have more than the usual number of corners," your super-duper math-oriented brains are thinking. Yes. It does.) And usually at the same time, one of the magnets falls off. I was examining the back of it and saw that each magnet was glued, hot glued, and then taped on with a tape roll. To no avail, I might add. The poor little thing just won't stick anymore.

So, onward and upward: we bought some new whiteboards at IKEA quite some time ago, and I've been trying to figure out how to make one of them into a calendar. After much deliberation, I tried drawing on lines with permanent marker, assuming that since people are always telling you not to write on white boards with permanent marker, it must mean that it doesn't erase. Well---this is not quite true. After leaving it on several days hoping it would "sink in," I sprayed the thing with white board cleaner (since I will have to do that every month to erase the words on the calendar) and it smeared all around and just looked awful.

Further deliberation followed. I decided something like black electrical tape might work, if I could cut it into thin strips and get it to hang straight enough. Failing that, I was prepared to color masking tape with a black marker. (I felt this was quite a creative solution.) So, I headed out to Office Max to get some tape.

As I walked in the door, the lady asked me if I was looking for anything, and I said, "Yes, I need some black tape."

She said, "Oh, the thin kind, for white boards?"

???!!!!

"Well . . . yes!" I said (somewhat . . . hmm . . . can I use the word 'flummoxed'? If not, try 'taken aback') "IS there such a thing?"

"Aisle 5," she said.

So I got some. And what a day and age we are living in, I must say, when one can go to the office supply store and find the exact weird little thing one needs in less than 5 minutes and for less than $2.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quiet as a mouse

I don't know what it is about me that makes me seem "quiet" to some people. Certainly I don't seem quiet to myself. (Or to Sam. Sorry, Sam.) (Or to anyone who is reading my lengthy posts. "Quiet? But you never shut up!" you are thinking to yourself right now.) But people [you know who you are . . . Beth] will say to me all the time (really, this happens all the time) as they leave, "Sorry---I feel like I did all the talking!" or "Wow, I've really talked your ear off" or "Sorry to monopolize the conversation!" etc., and I'm always really surprised, like, "Um . . . no . . . I said lots of things too, don't you remember?" Is it my memory that is faulty? Do I just think I am contributing to the conversation, when in actuality I am just sitting there silent? Or perhaps my contributions are more . . . intangible, like, positive vibes or something? :)

Also, I used to do some accompanying for this children's choir, and one time as I was gathering up my stuff to leave, the director was like, "Quiet little Marilyn! You're just as quiet as a mouse, aren't you!" I looked at her kind of shocked, and gave this half-hearted laugh, and she's like, "You just never say a word . . . you just sit there quietly . . . you're just such a quiet person, aren't you!!" She seemed so pleased with her assessment that I didn't want to contradict her---but what I wanted to say was, "When am I supposed to have been talking? While I am playing the piano? While the children are singing? While you are giving them directions? What are you expecting me to say, since I come, play the piano for you for an hour, and then go? WHEN SHALL I DO ALL THIS TALKING YOU ARE EXPECTING ME TO DO??!"

Anyway. It's weird. But, maybe the perfect job for such a "quiet" person is---listening to other people talk. And helping them along; getting them to talk more. Which is just what I get to do!! As follows:
1. Listening to my boys. They talk all the time!!! Blah, blah, blah. All day long. I get so tired, sometimes, of just responding to them. Even though I love it, too.
2. Maybe I've told you before, I write for the Spanish Fork News---a small-town newspaper in (yep) Spanish Fork. My brother-in-law used to work there, and they needed writers, and it was something I could do mostly from home, so I started doing it about two years ago. I usually write about one article a week, just on whatever my editor tells me to write about. It will be something like, "This guy won an award from the PTA---will you do an article on that?" or "The cemetery is building a new monument---can you write about it?" or "This event is coming up---find out the details." So every week I get to learn about something different. And, it turns out, I love it!! It is so much fun just to talk to people and find out what they have to say. I used to get nervous about what I should ask them (and sometimes I still get nervous right before I make a call), but it's not hard, really---I just ask what I am honestly interested in---just like you would ask someone when you met them, "What do you do? And what is that like? How did you get into that? And how do you like it?" etc.

I am certainly not a trained journalist---and thank heavens we aren't some sort of heavy journalistic paper that tries to find out scandals or trick people with our questions or anything like that. But I have gotten a feel for what kinds of things to ask, and how to write up the articles quickly, and it's really fun. I feel like I've become part of the community down there, too---we'll drive by and I'll say, "I've been to that school---I've written about that place---I've interviewed that guy running for city council" etc.

And so every week, I get to ask lots of questions, do lots of listening, make lots of encouraging noises ("Really!" "No way!" Wow, that's awesome!" "You DID?" "Tell me more about that!" etc.), and learn about some really cool stuff. Some subjects I've written about recently:

  • A LEGO city at the County Fair
  • A guy who mints coins from his basement
  • "Freecycling" where people trade stuff online so it doesn't go to waste
  • Miss Jr. Spanish Fork Rodeo Queen
  • The demolition of a barn at the SF Fairgrounds
  • "Pondtown Christmas" (Christmas lights at Salem Pond)
  • A guy who converts his cars to Natural Gas
  • A guy injured in an explosion at the pipe plant
  • A lady who is dying of cancer and always wanted to go to Iceland, so she went
  • A teacher who traveled to Japan
  • A boy who was in "High School Musical 2"
  • A girl dancing in the ballet "Hansel and Gretel"
  • A new clinic for moms who are addicted to meth
  • Two sculptors making a statue of a pioneer family
Cool, huh? Even when something doesn't seem like it would be interesting at first, once I get talking to someone about it, it turns out that it IS interesting!! People have such cool stories to tell---and they are usually happy to have someone listen to them---so everybody is happy. Even me. "Quiet little Marilyn." :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frustration


Conversation in the car today:

Seb: I didn't mean to do that, Mommy.
Me: Do what?
Seb: I said, I didn't mean to do that.
Me: Do what?
Seb: I said, I didn't mean to do that.
Me: I know; I heard you; but you didn't mean to do what?
Seb: I didn't mean to do that, I said!
Me: Do what?
Seb: I didn't mean to do that, Mommy!!
Me: Sebby, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DIDN'T MEAN TO DO??
Seb: Mommy, I already said it! I didn't mean to do that!!
Me: I don't know what you are talking about!!!!
Seb: Well, I'm just not going to talk to you anymore, Mommy!
Me: Well . . . good!

[stony silence]
[5 minutes pass]

Seb: Oh, yook, Mommy, I wish I could have that red truck!
Me: Yeah, you love red, don't you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Suspense

It is cold.

Too cold.

Ha, haven't you always wanted to write that? And how would we know if there WAS something ominous or portentous about the weather, anyway? Birds, maybe? (I think ravens always figure in ominous scenes somewhere.)

Look at Abe's face. He looks like an oracle of doom. Perhaps he alone knows what is coming. While the rest of us scurry on, oblivious.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Little by Little, part II

So, what is the point of making the effort to improve on the organ? (This is not a rhetorical question: I really wonder this!!) It goes . . . so . . . slowly---I have so little time to practice---and the noticeable results are so small (UNnoticeable, in fact) ! And I keep asking myself, "Why am I doing this?"

Similarly, about other areas where I wish I was accomplishing things again (piano, writing, poetry; things I used to work hard at), I often ask, "Why should I make the attempt to do that?---I don't have the time, I don't have the energy, and who would be around to notice it anyway? And---when I DO find a few minutes to work on something, the time spent is so small, I don't really accomplish anything anyway. So why do it at all?"

Onto this scene of listlessness and ennui comes a Great Talk. And I am so inspired!! This is why I wanted to write about it here. (Sorry it took me so long to get to this point!) It's a talk my cousin Heidi (who is helping me with the organ) heard at a music workshop by Bonnie Goodliffe (Mormon Tabernacle Organist). It's called "Poco a poco," (musical term for "little by little"--but you probably knew that already) and it's about the things we can accomplish in our lives by tiny increments.

In the talk, Bonnie Goodliffe relates how she belonged to a Piano Club where the members played for each other every month, and in 1985, a Bach Anniversary year, she decided to learn the Bach B-flat Partita. With a busy life and lots to do, she had hardly any time to practice, but she put in a few minutes here and there--literally, 5 or 10 minutes of practice whenever she could manage it---and managed to learn one movement of the piece for her club each month. This seemed manageable, and not particularly impressive, and she kept doing it and suddenly, one month she realized she had learned all six partitas in their entirety. This was significant because it was one of her Musical Life Goals; something she'd always wanted to do. She says, "I hadn't really conceived of how or when that might happen. It was just a nebulous idea out there in space. But there it was, suddenly, done."

She continues: "Now, it is almost nothing to learn just one movement of a Bach partita . . . it is no great accomplishment to learn one movement a month. But the cumulative effect was remarkable. I thought , 'How many other things can I work on this way?'"

"You may say that this kind of undertaking is not for you. You may think that you are not interested in this type of commitment. . . But remember there is no penalty for not accomplishing all that you hope for. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Besides, we have many goals which cannot be accomplished in one lump of effort, but instead require a continuing commitment. Reading the scriptures and attending the temple are two that come to mind. If you have a goal to read the scriptures daily or attend the temple monthly, what happens if you miss a time? Or miss a whole week? Or even a month? Do you just toss the whole idea out the window and say, 'I knew I couldn't do it. It's just too hard for me.' No, you just get back on track the best you can. That's what you do with your [other] goals too. Count only the successful efforts, and forget the rest. The times you miss do not lessen the accomplishments of the past or the future. Close the door on any past lapses or failures, and move forward from where you are."

I love that---because I DO tend to think my efforts are less valid because I wanted to practice every day, but I only practiced twice, or I meant to lift weights three times but I only went once, or whatever. Instead, I should be thinking that ANY step I can take, is taking me towards my goal---taking me there just as surely as larger steps would.

Sister Goodliffe then talks about small ways you can improve your abilities---learning one new pedal part a month, finding one new visual aid for your Primary music time, sightreading one new choir piece each practice. "The cumulative effect can be impressive," she says, "But it does require a decision to make the effort, a decision about what direction to take."

Now this next paragraph is maybe my favorite part of the talk. She says, "Recently . . . I was thinking about goals and what was really possible in this lifetime. I had this bizarre idea. What if, in the next life, I don't get to work on all the things that I have been putting off till then? What if I get there, and there is a rule that I can only continue to work on projects that I have already started? What if I can't begin anything brand new? What would happen if I protested and showed a long list of all the music I was planning to learn and all the skills I was planning to develop and the gatekeeper angel asked for some evidence that those things are truly important to me? I am going to feel pretty terrible about all those things I didn't even try to accomplish---all those things on my list that just got shelved until I had that mythical chunk of free time. I am comforted to know that the Lord knows my heart and mind, but what do my actions show?"


Over the past several weeks, I've thought about this part again and again. What do my actions show? Why do I keep myself from doing anything, just because I can't do all I want? So I've been trying to do something about it---trying to see each small effort as valuable: trying to sit down at the piano even when I know Malachi only has 5 more minutes of "crawling-around-time" in him before he'll start to scream---trying to go lift weights even though it's Friday and I haven't gone all week so far---trying to write something even though I know it's going to be stupid and inane, because a good writer writes every day---trying to learn the pedal parts for "Redeemer of Israel" even though it sounded better when I didn't---trying to label a few pictures in the box of "Sebby scrapbook stuff" even though I don't have a single page done yet. Hoping that somehow, these small steps will add up to something. Someday.

One last quote from the talk:
"How old will you be in 5 years if you don't make such an effort? If you don't use any creativity in your calling? If you just squeak by week after week, collecting ideas and possibilities, but never applying them? The days and months and years will pass by just the same. But, one step a week or even one a month adds up to a fair distance down the road after a while. The cumulative effect can be impressive. But it does require a decision to make the effort."

So. I'm making the effort. I can do that much, at least. And I feel happy about it.

Little by Little, Part I

Sometimes I feel like I'm sliding backwards. The same thing all of you feel, I bet, sometimes. Whatever metaphor you want to use: an uphill battle, filling a sieve with sand, one-step-forward-two-steps-back. I feel like the small things I get done are not the great things I once dreamed of getting done (Oxford, Carnegie Hall, The Atlantic Monthly---things that probably wouldn't have happened anyway, but at least they were possibilities back then).

[It surprised me, however, when I had Abraham, how much I LOVED being a mom. I wasn't really one of those girls that always wanted to hold everyone else's baby, that picked out names and planned baby showers. But after a few weeks (yes, it took a few weeks), I found that my own child was able to interest me, engage me, in a way that other people's children hadn't (thank goodness). And that feeling has only increased with each baby, until now I find I AM a "baby person," and I truly enjoy my kids. And even some other peoples'. Which is something I count a great blessing.]

Many parts of my former life, though, are not what they once were: Writing, for example,(although resurrected in part by this blog, thankfully) has dwindled from scholarly papers and essays and poetry, to mostly writing books for Abraham to read ("Here is a bear. His name is Honey. I see Honey. He is in a tree! Honey wants some honey. Oh no! Here come some bees! Come back, Honey!"). And music: it is still present, but now in the form of lullabies and silly made-up songs and marching around the house rather than practice sessions and challenging repertoire and performances.

And playing in church, of course. There is always playing in church. And here, again, I am being challenged. Now, as you may know, I play the piano. This is my piano.
I am also the organist at my church. This is an organ.

As you can see, they are quite different. (Okay, the organ I play is not actually this complicated. It only has two manuals [keyboards] and not nearly so many buttons. Still, it is not as simple as a piano. And you have to play a line of music with your FEET!!)

I like playing the piano. I am quite comfortable doing so (certainly with the hymns). I did take Organ 101 in college, so I know the very basic rudiments of the organ, but although I've been church organist before, I have never really gotten good at it and I am NOT comfortable on it at all. However. This time, rather than simply faking my way through the music every Sunday, I am trying to learn what I'm doing. This means playing the bass line on the pedals (with my FEET) and dividing up the other three lines between my two hands, which seems like it would be simpler but is actually quite difficult---because I have to read the same music I'm accustomed to reading for two hands, but NOT let my hands play what I see in the same way. That element, leaving out the bass line in my left hand so my feet can play it instead, is one of the hardest things for me.

But the thing is, it isn't noticeable. Oh, I'm sure people hear all my mistakes and my wrong notes and when I hit the wrong pedal, but if I simply play the organ like a piano, leaving out the pedals altogether and not worrying about proper technique, it sounds fine! An organist would notice, certainly, but since NO ONE else in my ward plays the organ (hence the calling to have ME do it) there is really no reason for me to make the effort (and believe me, it is an effort) to play correctly---except that I feel like I want to, and so I am. And it sounds bad. Oh, it sounds so bad sometimes. It sounds even worse during sacrament meeting than when I practice, because I get nervous and the sound is different when the chapel's full and the chorister goes too slow and the bishop sings too loud. (Or wait, maybe it's just that I'm not very good) :)

I tell Sam, "You are the only person who is going to notice when I improve. So I NEED you to listen to me and give me positive reinforcement, or I'll never be able to keep this up!" And he tries, but he does have to deal with three boys all by himself, which leaves him not much attention for being a critical and kindly ear.

So basically, it's just me, and sometimes I'll say approvingly to myself after a practice session (I go over at 5:30 Sunday mornings to practice), "Sounding good this week!" and then I'll have to laugh because I know it's so untrue. But I AM improving. For whatever that's worth.

And what IS it worth?

(to be continued . . . )

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dirty

What we have done today:

Watched the construction next door

Played "windmills"

Eaten crumbs off the floor (he looks slightly guilty in that 2nd picture, doesn't he?)

Made play-dough cookies

Colored fwuffballs!! (They were in my craft box and Sebby just couldn't resist . . . so I figured. . . what could it hurt? That boy is in fwuffball heaven)

What we have not done:

Oh well. Tomorrow is Cleaning Day. We want to make sure we have something to keep us busy then, right?

Inquiring Minds

Yesterday at breakfast we had one of those great conversations that make you think how awesome it is to have kids, how amazing and active their little minds are, etc.

Mommy, how do the babies come out anyway? Is it from your bottom?
How do they fit?
What about the very first people, though, how were they born? From Heavenly Mother?
But then how was she born?
How come some babies come out at the right time and some come out too early so they are too tiny and they die?
Do the babies that die get to grow up later, when they get to heaven?
What if when I'm a Daddy, my wife can't have any babies? Won't we be sad?
Can we have babies in heaven?

I just LOVE having conversations like these; for some reason I don't find them embarrassing or uncomfortable (that will wait till I have teenagers, I suppose), they're just FUN.

Then there was our conversation at lunch.

Mommy, is it afternoon or daytime?
Why is it afternoon? Why isn't it evening?
No, it IS evening!
I don't WANT it to be afternoon!
I'M NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaa oh, yook, Daddy's computer colors went on! It's called his 'green saver.'
It is NOT, Sebby, it's called a 'screen shaver.'
NO, it's a GREEN SAVER!
You can SAY that, Sebby, but you're NOT RIGHT.

Wonderful.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Roasting and/or toasting

The other day my friend Rachael was telling me that her family doesn't eat much meat anymore, and I (not to be outdone) was saying that WE hardly ever eat meat anymore either, (which is true, and has been true for years---I cook with meat/chicken maybe twice a month, or less---maybe because I'm just not that good at cooking meat)

BUT
we do love hot dogs cooked over a campfire. I'm sorry if that offends any of you "eww, do you know what's IN those things" hot dog haters (although perhaps, among my readers, there are none of those), but really, they are just SO GOOD. ("Ball Park" brand. Bun-size. Those are our dogs of choice.)

Just wanted to get that off my chest. Thank you.

And now, I would like to say, reason #5 billion that Sam is the best husband ever:

He toasts (or roasts? which is it?) perfect marshmallows. Perfect, I tell you. He is patient enough to get them right---every time---and what's more, he loves toasting marshmallows, doing all the work and then happily giving some of them away to me. So all I have to do is sit there with graham crackers and chocolate pieces at the ready (IKEA chocolate is what we have been using lately, and it's SO good) and then just EAT them, perfectly browned, crisp and soft and melty.

It's getting chillier outside but I believe we have a few more campfires in us before winter. Let us know if you'd like to join us sometime (Sam will probably even toast your marshmallows for you if you wish).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Artisan bread/"ghetto bread"

Good news for all you breadiacs out there. Beth has posted her recipe for that bread we made the other day. She makes it sound easy. And it is!

Try it!

Ah, Fall.

What with the rain, and the cold days, and General Conference, it has really started to feel like Fall. This means we will soon take a trip to the Red Barn (apple cider donuts, hooray!). It means our tomatoes are growing like crazy, we've got spoooooky music for the car (Thriller! The Wobblin' Goblin! Night on Bald Mountain!), the warmer pajamas have come out, and . . .


bats? There are bats (?) hanging from Sebastian's bed when I come into check on him every night. I think they actually might be part of a carwash (the brushes) or something. But regardless, it means he's been doing something instead of sleeping.