Just so you know . . .

Generally I just wait for this to, hmm, manifest itself to people, but since you aren't all around to see it becoming evident, here you go:

Which perhaps will (somewhat) explain this:

And this:

(this is twins. Megan, is this an accurate representation? Bless your heart.)

Two healthy baby monkeys! And the proud, um, father?

We should be able to meet the new little guy (or girl) sometime in August.
9

Eight

Dear Sam,

These last eight years together have been as good (or better!) than:


eight limbs

eight fantasy figurines

and an eight-wheeled car.


Happy octo-versary. I love you!
Love,
Marilyn
P.S. And better than this too!
2

Cool

A couple years ago. The one and only time I've ridden a Segway scooter. They were letting you try them out at Thanksgiving Point for some reason. And I know, I know, they are SO nerdy, although at the time I felt like I was pretty cool on this thing. And have you ridden on one? They are FUN. Worth the nerdiness, I tell you.

Today I'm going to write about something that everyone already knows. I'm sorry. But maybe the fact that everyone already knows it; even I know it, for goodness' sake---is part of what makes it so interesting to me. Because I don't know why I can't just internalize it and let it go, but for some reason it's something I have to keep struggling with again and again. So okay already, here's what it is:

It doesn't matter if people think you're nerdy.

Deep, eh? :)

I'll tell you what prompted it. I was reading what someone had written about how they had to move to "the suburbs," and it was really hard for them because they were this hip, urban-type person and now they were having to go to a boring, homogenous, white-bread, insular community and give up the rich vibrant fulfilling life of diversity and challenge which they'd enjoyed in the big city. And it was hard to be tolerant of so many unenlightened, non-thinking "suburbanite" Mormons but they were learning to do it (by being "patient" with the presumably unbearable political ignorance of these cretins).

The moved-to community in question, incidentally, was the one I live in. So Sam and I were talking about how much it bothers us when people generalize so much about such a large group of people, and make assumptions based on preconceptions---and how you always find what you look for in other people, so if you are looking for weirdos and provincialism, so you can scoff at it, of course you'll find it, but that doesn't mean that's all there is----and how we don't ever want to become smug and look down on people who choose a different kind of place to live than we've chosen, or think our life experiences make us better than someone else's, etc. etc. (I could go on and on about all this, and I DID last night)---

and I just kept feeling so bothered by it all. I think what it came down to, is I'm a provincial, un-hip, boring, suburbanite myself. By some measures. And I hate thinking of someone deciding before they even know me, that I fit every stereotype they can devise about what that means. And really, I hate thinking of someone deciding such a thing about anyone. (Although I know I often do it too. Judge too hastily, that is.) I kept wondering how I could get people to STOP THINKING THOSE THINGS! Stop generalizing! Keep an open mind! Be more generous to others! and so forth.

But then I woke up this morning and thought suddenly, Why am I worrying about this? What am I, trying to win some hip, urban cool-ness contest? WHO CARES??! The truth is, I AM nerdy. I'm not cool. I don't know much about the latest music or the latest fashion; I love my backyard and my neighborhood parks; I buy Great Value brand chocolate chips; someday I'm sure I'll be driving a minivan. And I'm totally okay with all that, until some silly thing has me questioning it again. But honestly. As soon as I think about it rationally, I realize it's okay if people assume that I've gotten my beliefs simply by default, or that because I fit some stereotypes I fit all the others too. Because I know that isn't true, and one of the beliefs I have come to (NOT easily) is that the best thing you can do is be generous towards others, because you never truly know who they are or what they've been through. Whether they seem to fit every stereotype you slap onto them, or not.

And I need to just be happy when I make good choices and learn good things, and try harder when I don't, and not worry about whether or not anyone else is thinking those are good efforts or not. Because for ME (and us---our family), I'm so happy---I mean, last night we told the boys a story about The Pea That Didn't Want to Be Eaten (it was a real nail-biter) and then they went to bed and Sam and I put together a puzzle called "Rainbow Forest" while we listened to opera arias and made fun of the German ones [German! Can you believe it's a real language?] and ate peanut butter ice cream. And it didn't involve anything that could remotely be considered "cool" (I don't think, but as you know I'm not really up on these things), but it was lovely. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.
6

A trend that I've noticed lately, and which bothers me, perhaps unduly:

[begin rant]
News headings (either on actual articles or above short news briefs) reduced to short, two- or three-word "puns" rather than actual reflections of the content---the emphasis on being "clever" (I put that in quotes because, it's rarely clever) rather than actually conveying information.

Some examples? Okay, here you go. Picked randomly from the three magazines that happened to be lying next to me on the desk here.

"Evolving Times: The history of New York City's Times Square shows society's changing views about journalism, according to research by communications professor Dale L. Cressman published in Journalism History." [Get it? Evolving Times? Like, Times Square? But also time like actual time in years? Clever!!]

"Star Student: Tabitha C. Bush, a doctoral astronomy student, won the Chanbliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award . . . " etc etc. [Star student! You know, she's a "star" because she's smart, but she also actually studies stars! Ha!]

"Scenic Drive: a comfortable outdoor garden room grows in---of all places---a driveway." [Scenic drive, hey, that's what it's called when you drive somewhere scenic, but this is a driveway that is scenic, wow.]

"Global Appeal: To create a planted sphere of hanging flowers, use cardboard to hold soil in place while you invert one basket on top of another. Secure the two halves with plastic ties . . . " etc. [Usually "global appeal" means "worldwide," but here it refers to an actual globe!! Wordplay!!]

"Counter Proposal: A new countertop, backsplash, and sink crown the existing vanity, now updated with paint and embellishments." [This isn't actually referring to any kind of proposal, since it's about re-doing a countertop, but surely the fact that we have the word counter in common (though the meanings are totally different!) is reason enough to use this phrase in our heading!]

"Soft Touches: 'I've long been a fan of Sferra's luxurious linens. The brand was the perfect fit for my first line." [This phrase is usually used figuratively, as in, 'That lady is a real soft touch.' But here, we cleverly use it to mean, something actually soft, that you actually touch!]

"Just Add Water: Adorable swimsuits to get your kids sea-, pool-, and sprinkler-ready." [It's like a box brownie mix! But here we're using it for kids! Like, a recipe for wet kids!]

Okay, you're probably tired of this by now, and that's the point: I am too!! I'm trying to think of the possible explanations for this behavior:

  1. The writers actually think they are being clever, and that people will be impressed.
  2. The writers don't think it's clever, but they think it's what the people want/expect. "Punchy prose! None of this lifeless, dry, "informational" writing for us!"
  3. The writers are frustrated English majors who take some kind of odd delight in pulling up all the cliched phrases from their brains and matching them with prose that relates on the surface only. Sort of a random word-association exercise.
  4. The writers do not notice that they are doing this. They have become immune to their own bad writing by reading too much of it.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy true wordplay as much as the next person (I know I've sent you here before, for example, and I love it), but in my opinion, doing it poorly (or in the wrong venue) is worse than not doing it at all. I hate reading a cutesy, poorly-thought-out headline on something that's supposed to be "news." Or honestly, on anything.

[/end rant]

5

Becoming a handyperson

Here's something I like. I like it when you have no idea how to do something, and it sounds like it would be totally beyond your abilities and you'd never get it right, but then you don't have a choice and you have to do it, so you do, and then it turns out you are capable of it after all.

This happens to me from time to time. Usually with something (very simple) around the house---like, there will be some table or something from IKEA that needs to be put together, and I think "I better wait for Sam to do this." But then I'll get tired of waiting, so I'll just buckle down and read the instructions and do it, and it turns out I can do it. And I'm always so amazed at myself. (I don't know why---I suppose they do, theoretically, make their instructions so anyone, literate or not, can follow them. But I still feel like I'm impressive for figuring them out.) Or it also happens when Sam and I do a project together that we've never done before.

It was that way last summer when we had to lay sod. Or a couple summers before that when we were installing outdoor lights or building garden beds or staining the deck. Every time, the task seemed so intimidating before we started it, but once we did it, we felt so proud of ourselves. And all those jobs ended up being fun, oddly enough.

(And it occurs to me: Is this how one becomes an adult? An all-knowing, capable-of-anything adult, like my parents always seemed to be? Just little by little, one new skill at a time?)

So, lately the project has been dripline for the garden beds. We hired a company to bring in topsoil for us and put in the sprinklers/valves, but then we raked out the dirt and laid the sod and built up some raised beds last summer, and the last few weeks we've been laying out the dripline and planting the plants. I think our landscaping guys were supposed to do the dripline as well as the sprinklers, but it just didn't seem worth fighting to get them to come back and do it, plus they did sort of a half-hearted job on everything else, so we figured we might as well just do it (better) ourselves.

We've been running back and forth to Home Depot for 1/4-inch connectors and pressure-regulating valves and tubing couplers and so forth, and it's amazing how fast something that seems totally foreign to you can suddenly become comprehensible, and even familiar. I didn't even have to ask for help on the last trip I made, alone, to the hardware store (very rare occurrence). So, if anyone else is installing dripline this summer, I am now available for consultation. :)

Next project: finish the basement. Hmm. That one really may be beyond our capabilities. But, I bet if we could find someone to show us a few things, we could do a lot of it ourselves. I'd be willing to give it a shot, anyway.

6

Scones

For a long time, I have used this scone recipe to make Navajo Tacos for dinner, and I love them. But lately we've had them for breakfast a few times, and I think they're just as good that way. We eat them with just butter and cinnamon sugar on top, and they're amazing. Honey butter, obviously, would be a good choice too, but I haven't tried it, and I love the churro-like crunch the cinnamon gives them. With a fruit smoothie to go along with them, I think they're a perfect Sunday breakfast (or Saturday---if your church is at 9 a.m. like ours is!).

You can also make a big batch of the dough the night before (fry up a few for your dinner---top them with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream) and then save the other half of the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge to make for breakfast.




Scones

3 c. flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. powdered milk (or use milk for liquid instead of water)
1 T. shortening or bacon grease
enough hot water to make a soft dough

Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough until smooth. Let rest 5 minutes. Pat with hands to make flat circles, then roll out into bigger circles. Poke a hole in the center (so it won't bubble up as much) and fry in oil on both sides until golden brown. Serve hot, with butter and cinnamon sugar.
1

They called me the hyacinth girl


We did some planting in our backyard this weekend (rose bushes, lilacs, a tiny tree, etc.) and some of the bulbs I planted last Fall are also in bloom now. It looks so pretty---unfinished, but pretty. :) I love the hyacinths, both the way they look and the way they smell---heavenly! And hyacinths always make me think of the lines from T.S. Eliot's* The Waste Land (and since we always want to quote "April is the cruelest month" from that, it seems only fair to remember some other lines as well):

'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.'

—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,**
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.


I think that's so haunting, and beautiful. (Or is it depressing?) :) Anyway, I'm just so happy to have Spring weather, nothing seems depressing. Happy April!

*I confess I've long had a soft spot for T.S. Eliot. I suppose some find his work bleak, or think he is overrated, but I have lots of his poetry memorized, and it's some of my favorite. In fact, for my honors thesis in college, I composed three art songs using Eliot's poetry. I used the above lines for one of the songs. My cousin's wife Cheri (she's an amazing soprano--she sang with the Boston Pops at Tanglewood and is in the Tabernacle Choir now) recorded the songs with me. You may hear "Hyacinths" here, if you are so inclined: hyacinths.mp3

**I wish I had one of these. Doesn't it sound old-fashioned and romantic? I don't think my eight hyacinths would quite constitute a "hyacinth garden." But I would like to plant more.
10

Glory Days

Back in high school when I used to be a real runner I didn't know a ton of other people that ran (besides friends on my team, of course)---in fact, most people said things like "I could never do that" or "I don't really get why anyone likes running"---but now it seems like everyone is doing 5Ks or training for marathons (or races they erroniously CALL marathons but are actually 5Ks . . . which is annoying). And I would feel more smug about it (What a trend-setter! Ahead of my time!) except that now when my running skills might actually do me some good with my peer group, I am slower and less tough than I have ever been and I hesitate to even identify myself as "a runner" lest someone actually see me out "running" some morning and immediately have to avert their eyes so as not to embarrass either of us with that amplification of the truth. Which is part of the reason I go while it's still dark outside. (The other part being, when else can I go? I can't run with my kids in strollers anymore, Sam leaves for work early, I hate going after dinner, etc etc. So 5:30 a.m. it is.)

Still, I have this feeling deep down that I am still a "real" runner, more so than all these Johnny-come-lately's I see flitting around in their cute little yoga pants, and I always think snobbily to myself "Ha, I bet SHE'S never run up Timpanogos" or "Hmph, I'd like to see HER out in sub-zero weather" as if I am entitled because of my past glory (can I call it glory? Even if I was a pretty average runner who never made it onto a college team or anything, and one of my proudest moments was coming in first in the "slow heat" [yes, they call it that] of the mile at some Region race?) to think such things. I think that makes me kind of a hypocrite. (I mean, I couldn't run up Timp anymore either. Nor do I often go outside in sub-zero weather. Nor have I run a race for years and years, unless you count Beth's sparsely attended Ward 5K where we came in like 2nd and 3rd [Beth beating me, of course] out of 5 people, or something.)

So I'm wondering, how long are you allowed to keep getting mileage (ha, mileage? Get it? For a runner, you know?) out of your past? Just between you and me, I'm only running (lumbering?) about 2 miles at a time these days, and honestly if you saw how slow I am you would wonder if you should call it "jogging" (answer: NO!!) or even "speed-walking." And I do lift weights, but it's only because we have a community center where I can do it free and if I go early enough in the morning there are no tiny, aggressively fit women in the weight room, but only a bunch of over-testosteroned men trying to seem casual in their desperate, grunting quests to outdo each other, who smile over at me sympathetically every time I have to spend 5 minutes peering at the instructions on how to work the dang machines.

But I used to be good, or, you know, pretty good. I ran two marathons fairly fast, qualified for the Boston Marathon (never ran it, though) and I ran with a really fast lady for a while in a half-marathon and actually had people yelling my time at me enthusiastically because I was close to the front of the pack (I fell back later, of course, but my time was 1 hr. 26 min., which is pretty fast). (But that was nearly 10 years ago. Good heavens! Ten years! If that thing about how your cells all replace themselves every 7 years is true, then I don't even have ONE CELL that's capable of such a thing anymore.) Anyway, I'm not as consistent as I used to be, but I do still run most days, even in the dark and in bad weather and in ugly clothes, which counts for something, don't you think? And I like to think I have the right mindset for a runner. You know, since I ran cross-country and all.

Even so, though---all these cute girls who have become "runners" since high school are, at this moment, probably faster than me. And better at it. And tinier. And lots of them have kids too, so I can't blame it on that. So can I still consider them presumptuous upstarts who don't have a deep and true knowledge of what it means to be a real runner? (Internally, of course. It's all internally. I never SAY anything!) Or is it time for me to give it up, relinquish my old identity, and admit that I'm no longer any more of a real runner than any other of the middle-aged mom-ish looking ladies speedwalking with 5-lbs weights around the track and taking "stretching" breaks every couple laps? Is there a statute of limitations on how long you can keep being snooty about such things?
8

Well-begun is half-done

Here's a passage of scripture I read this morning:

"Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel . . . Therefore, let your soul be at rest concerning your spiritual standing, and resist no more my voice. And arise up and be more careful henceforth in observing your vows. . . and you shall be blessed with exceedingly great blessings" (Doctrine and Covenants 108:1-3).

As far as I understand this, the man addressed here (Lyman Sherman is his name) was told that he was forgiven of his sins (which he had been worrying about), simply for doing one thing right---for taking one step, that morning, in the right direction---not for doing any huge task or for completing some long spiritual journey---but for this: going to ask God for help.

It amazes me how quick the Lord is to forgive us and encourage us. He does it at the first sign of our willingness---not making us wait for his encouragement until he's sure we're "sorry enough" (like I too often want to do to my own kids).

And my favorite thing about these verses is their tone. Obviously God has lots of different "voices" that emerge in different parts of scripture, but this "brisk yet cheerful" one used here reminds me of Mary Poppins* or something. [I don't mean to be disrespectful.] It's just so sensible and no-nonsense. (And such a nice cheery antidote to our tendency to dramaticize everything and wallow in our own self-absorbed despair: "But will I ever be good enough? But I keep failing! Ohhh, I'll never amount to anything!" etc.) To me, these verses say:

"All right, you're forgiven! Now stop moping, get over yourself, get up and do better!"
Spit-spot! Well-begun is half-done!

How inspiring!

*From the Disney movie. I haven't read the book Mary Poppins since I was little, so I can offer no opinion on that character. I seem to recall that she is meaner in the book than in the movie.
4

Easter cookies/Fruit pizza

Here is the pretty rainbow of Easter cookies we made last week during Spring Break. Sometimes I don't feel like getting every horizontal surface covered with icing and decorations, but it's usually so fun that it's worth it. We made my fruit pizza recipe (basically a snickerdoodle crust---with cream cheese icing on top, and fresh fruit---I love it) instead of the basic sugar cookies, and it was yummy. The cookies aren't as sturdy as the traditional kind, (and maybe they spread out more, so the shapes aren't as defined---not too good for bear shapes, but fine for egg shapes) but they're SO soft and yummy (especially with fruit on them---but the chips were easier for the boys to decorate with). I like the cream cheese frosting a lot, too.





Sebby's bear (I think this is an exceptionally cute bear)

This was funny. Abe's teddy bear (Honey) has one of his eyes partially covered with fur, and if you try and push the fur out of his eye Abe rubs it back the way it was (for some reason he doesn't like Honey to have big eyes). So he made this bear like Honey, with one eye bigger than the other.

A bunny, by Seb. Kind of scary and cute at the same time.
A bunny by Abey. Nice double mouth.

Here's the recipe (lots of strawberries on sale right now! And kiwi is my favorite topping on this). Perfect for family home evening refreshments on a Spring evening. :)

Fruit Pizza

Crust:
1 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. flour
½ t. cream of tartar
½ t. soda
1/4 t salt
1 t. vanilla

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. sugar
½ t. vanilla
milk, to make it the right consistency

Topping: fresh fruit (assorted)

Cream shortening and sugar. Sift and add the next 5 ingredients to make the crust. Pat out the crust onto a round pizza pan (or cut into cookie sizes) and bake at 350 until just barely brown (8-10 min.?); let cool. Beat frosting ingredients together. Spread over crust. Decorate with any kind of fruit–strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwi, mandarin oranges, etc. Refrigerate after decorating.

5

The List


I've always liked lists. (Not that that makes me unique; see this blog, for example.) I make lists of things to do, but I also like to make other, less useful, lists: things that make me happy, things I don't like, words I like to use, and so forth. I used to think I was so clever because I'd answer questionnaires (you know the getting-to-know-you ones you always get in church classes and so forth) by crossing out their standard questions ("Favorite treat?") and replacing them with my own ("Favorite green vegetable? Favorite transitive verb?" etc.).

It seems you see lists all over the place now (15 Things in my refrigerator! 100 things to do before I die! 10 Things I never told anyone! etc) and I wonder, what do we see in them? Is it lazy to write that way? Have we lost the art of the essay; the well-crafted argument; the thesis that unfolds bit by bit until the ending reveals itself as inevitable?

And what about lists of "things I want to do someday": are they just trendy ways of bragging about how "well-rounded" you are/will be because you've been cliff-diving, while leaving out the less tangible, but much more important, things that make you into a worthwhile person? (does anyone have "Hold my tongue and smile when I feel like making a sarcastic remark" on their "life list"?)

I thought
this was a good, if slightly cynical, point about the "life list":

Over the past few days I've learned about Life Lists, the effort of baby boomers and others to inject meaning into their lives by writing down a list of things they want to accomplish before they die. Popular items include run a marathon, sky dive, and be kissed in the rain. So far I haven't seen anyone list the ambition of the Jean-Pierre Melville character in Godard's "Breathless" -- to become immortal
and then to die.

There's nothing new, of course, about writing down life objectives. And thanks to the current fad, we're learning plenty about
certain folks who came up with Life Lists as youngsters and subsequently were able to check most of the boxes. To me this quest sounds dangerously like letting a teenager tell you what to do.

Hmm. It's true, I certainly don't think the lists I made in Young Womens of "Things I want in my future husband" were prophetic, or even useful ("Plays the drums"? Really? I thought that was a must-have?), and by no means do I see most of my teenage aspirations as important to accomplish now---but like I said, I still like lists. For me, they aren't the way I like to do goal-setting, but for entertainment and categorization purposes, they're fun to write, fun (for me, anyway) to read, and they're a good way for me to get writing when the "well-crafted essay" eludes me. [Surely there are even things best expressed in a list? Maybe I'll steer clear of the "life list," though, and try to "inject meaning" into my life some other way. :)] Maybe, if you have nothing better to do, some of you can think up some good lists (of whatever!) and post them on your own blogs this week. I'd like that.

With that said, perhaps you'll indulge me as I present the following?:

13 Things I would like to do before bed this evening:
Eat another cookie
Brush my teeth
Watch
this again
Be kissed in the rain (just kidding . . . but kissed in the house would be nice)
Smell my sleeping, bathy boys
Get Sam to fluff my pillow (he's the best fluffer)
Put away the clean dishes
Lock the front door
Avoid stepping on any toys on the way upstairs
Admire the vacuum lines in the living room carpet
Make Sam laugh
Quote a line from "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
Remember that thing I was supposed to do tomorrow

4

Un-cooped

Here are some Springtime things that make me happy.

Big stacks of crepes. (Crepes: what a perfect spring meal. Especially with asparagus and hollandaise sauce inside . . . mmm!) When you slap your hand down on a stack like this it feels solid, yet padded (like a baby belly). Even better, eating this big stack of crepes with lots of different fillings, which we did when my mom and brothers came to dinner on Sunday. (We missed you, Allison and Sheila!)

Babies laughing on swings.

Daffodils. I love them. Every spring I decide they're my favorite flower. (Along with violets . . . daisies . . . lilies of the valley . . . and a few others.) :)

Big fields of daffodils . . . even better. (Lovely poem here)

Boys running hand-in-hand.

Excited babies. This is how excited Malachi gets when he sees the moon. All that provoked this expression of open-mouthed delight was me saying, "Malachi, where's the moon?" and him finding it.

Warm weather! And finally being outside!! The best happy springtime thing of all.
5

Good ideas

Have you seen these?

Every so often one of us (usually Sam) comes up with some great idea. (Coincidentally, most of the ideas are born between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.)

One is a plexiglass hamster ball for our children (padded outside and in). I'm sure you can imagine the usefulness of such an item.

Another good idea Sam came up with is, well first let me explain: we have a measuring spoon that is made of plastic and it pops out to be 1 T. on one side and 1/2 T. on the other side, like this:


Which is itself a pretty cool idea, but then Sam's idea is to make a pregnancy/nursing bra like that, so you wouldn't have to buy new ones as you, ahem, fluctuate in size; so you just pop! C-cup, pop! B-cup. Brilliant, right?

We have other good ideas too. Lots of them. How about our idea for a "straight-talking Jesus" version of the Bible? I won't demonstrate what I mean so you won't think I'm being sacreligious, but trust me, the world needs our genius in this area as in so many others. It's a darn shame neither of us has access to a marketing company right now, but just you wait, someday all these ideas will come to their deserved fruition.

So? What about you? Any good ideas?

5
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