Friday, June 26, 2009

Sweet

One of my favorite things to watch is my boys being gentle and sweet. Obviously they're wild and loud and boy-ish much of the time, and that's great. But the other day Sebastian came in from outside all excited. "Mommy, there are TONS of ants!!"

Normally you'd think a boy like him would go around stomping them or something, right?

"I made them a little house; come and see it!" he said.

I went out. There were a bunch of ants swarming around on the driveway, and next to them there was a whole line-up of leaves, sticks, flowers, rocks, etc. VERY complicated. Sebby showed me what everything was (he was actually telling it to the ants---in this sweet little high voice):

"Okay, yittle ants! [Oh, and you have to imagine all these "little"s as "yittle." Not all his "L"s are pronounced "Y", but some still are.] Here is your little bedroom---and if you get sleepy you can rest on these leaves. See? There are four beds so you can all sleep when you get tired. Here are your nice covers to keep you warm and snug. And you have two mushrooms for your little umbrellas if it gets rainy. This is for your little playground: you can climb on this rock and then slide down the stick and land on the pile of soft grass so you won't get hurt. My bike bell is for your smoke detector if there's a fire, so if you hear the bell don't be scared, okay? And you can walk around the rocks and look at the pretty flower petals for your pretty garden. And I made you a tiny seat you can sit on, and rest."

He was so pleased and excited. He kept saying, "Those ants are going to WUV their yittle home!!"

I really yike that boy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Synchronized bobbing

This morning I was swimming laps at the pool and there was one other guy swimming laps in the next lane, facing towards me. We were both doing breaststroke and somehow we got going in the same rhythm, so we were coming towards each other and both bobbing our heads up for air simultaneously.

It was embarrassing. Everytime I popped my head up, there he was, popping his head up. Finally I stayed under for an extra stroke so we'd be offset from each other. It seemed better somehow. Is this some sort of swimmers' etiquette I never knew about?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thanks for sharing

We are, in some ways, a family of skimpers and sharers. Sam and I usually share a meal if we go out to eat. We share a milkshake (between the five of us. More kids=new diet plan) at the drive-in. We always, always order from the Value Menu (it is like this post, and many of the comments are interesting too---but that is not my point here). Figuring out how to agree on a choice, what we will share, is for us a habitual part of ordering anything, anywhere. Yes, certainly there are ways we could be more frugal, and ways that we are much more spoiled than the previous generation---in that we are able to go out to eat at all, for example. But since Sam and I both grew up that way, the habits were sort of engrained in us in some form at least. And sharing, getting less, making do with the small size instead of the large, etc. also seems like a good choice most of the time---cheaper, healthier, and so forth. We'd keep doing it because we want to, even if we didn't necessarily have to.

But.

The other day Sam and I were out somewhere and we saw these kids, maybe 8 and 10 years old, eating ice cream with their mom. They both had these huge ice creams---waffle cones, double scoops, etc., and they were sitting there licking at them vaguely (not excitedly or anything), and suddenly I had had enough. I was indignant.

"Who do those kids think they are?" I hissed. "Look at them! Eating those huge ice cream cones---each of them with their OWN---and they don't even care! And they're just kids! I've lived three times as long as those kids and I've still NEVER had an ice cream that big all to myself! Not in my whole life!!

"It's not that I don't like sharing," I said (warming to my theme). "I might even prefer it. But it just doesn't seem fair. Look at those kids! Eight years old! Large-size ice creams all to themselves! And me nearly thirty and still waiting for such a thing. Does that seem right?"

"It's not right," agreed Sam. (He may have patted my arm.) "It's just not right. I will buy you your very own big ice cream. We'll go next week for family home evening."

So the next week we went out to a ice cream place and I ordered MY OWN. (The rest of the family shared a banana split. Old habits die hard.) And Sam kept telling the boys, "That one is JUST FOR MOMMY. You can't have a taste." And I ate it happily (although I did end up sharing some at the end because I got too full---but it was okay because I didn't have to) and it was delicious!! I felt like some kind of balance had been restored to the universe. "It was a dream come true," I said to Sam. "Thank you, my dear."

I think that was all I needed. And now I'm ready to go back to sharing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Things that do not go together


Sometimes when I'm out and about, I go past this restaurant called "Chinese Gourmet."

I've never been there. It may, indeed, be "gourmet" in the truest and most elegant sense of the word. However, the marquis outside reads:

"EVERY MONDAY NIGHT
BOBBER THE CLOWN"

I don't know, somehow Bobber the Clown just doesn't say "gourmet" to me. Maybe they ought to at least get him to upgrade his image a bit. Bobbé le Clown, perhaps?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vavoom


I've always thought it would be fun to name roses. And paint colors, too.

This rose is called "Vavoom." Isn't it pretty? In the sun (what there's been of it), it GLOWS.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bike rides

Every night after the kids go to bed, Sam and I go on bike rides. (Coming back periodically to check on the kids, don't worry. Or do you still worry, even knowing that?) I finally remembered to bring the camera one night. Everything is so beautiful, I can hardly stand it.

(Dramatic sunflare)

(If you belong to the lovely family group in the middle of the photo, email me. I'll sell this picture to you for $20 less than whatever your portrait photographer was charging.)



Baby ducks!
We haven't minded the rainy days too much. They make for such beautiful skies!

I love riding
my bike. I never knew I would love it so much, but I think it's partly because it's so easy and comfortable---no bending in half over the handlebars---and partly because it's just so fun to ride around together with Sam. I honestly think our bikes are one of the best purchases we've ever made. I only wish we could ride them all winter long, too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd


This is significant only because I've never made a layer cake before (and maybe this doesn't count as one either because I just baked it in one pan, and then cut it and put it back together)---and also because it uses that yummy
lemon curd. But really it would taste just as good to put cake pieces in a bowl and spoon the raspberries and the curd and the lemon cream over the top.


My sister-in-law Allison and I have been talking about chiffon cakes recently (Philip loves them), and originally we were thinking they'd be a good combination with the yolks-only lemon curd recipes, because the chiffon cakes use only the egg whites. Or so we thought we remembered, but when I got out my recipes, it turns out that the cakes use the whole egg (separated), so I went ahead and used the easier whole-egg lemon curd as well.

Anyway, I have a whole packet of recipes for different kinds of chiffon cakes---orange, chocolate, lemon, pineapple, coconut, etc.---and they're not too tricky. They do call for cake flour, and you have to beat the egg whites separately, but that's all there is to it. (Oh, and you have to borrow your Mom's angel-food cake pan, if you don't have one yourself.) But I love how light and sponge-y they are, and how you can just eat them with your hands (if you haven't made them into a layer cake, that is).

So here's the recipe.

Lemon Chiffon Cake

2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder (this is 1 T.; I don't know why it doesn't say that)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, plus cold water to measure 3/4 cup
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 tsp. vanilla
7 egg yolks
7 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Mix the dry ingredients; then beat in oil, lemon juice-water mixture, lemon peel, vanilla, and egg yolks until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually and gently fold the egg white mixture into the other mixture with a rubber spatula until blended. Pour into ungreased angel-food cake pan (tube pan). Bake at 325 until top springs back when touched lightly, about 1 1/4 hrs. Invert pan on heatproof funnel and let hang until cake is completely cool. Remove from pan, slice into thirds (I used dental floss to slice) and spread with lemon curd between layers. Frost with lemon cream.

Lemon Curd
(recipe also
here) (I doubled this to frost the cake)
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
6 Tbsps butter, cut into bits
Whisk together first 4 ingredients in saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over med-low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk, about 6 minutes. Chill for at least an hour (with plastic wrap right against the surface so it won't form a skin).

Lemon Cream
Whip some cream, add pwd. sugar to taste, stir in some of the lemon curd to taste (I used maybe 1/2 c. or so of curd?)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Featured poem: "Aware of Death"


Aware of Death
--Leslie Norris
At two-thirty in the morning I awoke choking,
Every fibre in my fur-lined lungs roaring
For relief of air, the room unhinged and bellowing
And the crazy window swimming in and out
Of two dabbed eyes. Take it easy, take it easy
Said my unseated reason. Or feeble courage, I don't know.
Like hell, I thought, like hell I'll take it easy.
I began to nurse the oxygen like a miser,
Controlled the rasping walls with a shrewd squint,
Tucked rasping panic into an obscure corner,
And found I was easier. My arms for example.
I had thought them wildly pummelling the night for breath,
But they were confident on two clasped fists of sheet,
Calmly supporting my racked and labouring body.
I pulled carefully with my mouth at the painful
Air. It was like drinking straight out of a cold tap.

And nothing like this had ever happened to me before.

Later I lay for twenty minutes by the cold moon
In a mental sweat of fever, yes, but as well of
Almost the final terror, my lungs boiling,
Tongue too big for talk, mouth
Tasting the body's bitter dissolution;
Aware of death.

Many times I feel a sense of familiarity or recognition when I read a good poem, even though the experience described is not one I have actually had. But the other night, an experience like this one happened to me---exactly, just like this---and immediately, though I haven't read it for a long time, fragments from this poem came into my head. So I went and got my book out---and there were Leslie Norris' words, as if they had been written specifically for the occasion.

(I don't know exactly what happened, or why---something to do with pregnancy and my lungs being all squished and a baby kicking me in the ribs and heartburn and vivid dreams and all those sort of things, no doubt. When Sam was in the worst of his whooping cough he had episodes like this several times a night. He thought he was going to die from panic alone, I think. It was awful to watch---and awful to experience as well, I find.)

Anyway, I find it amazing that so many of our human experiences are so universal---even the private, untold ones that feel quite personal and unique. And even more amazing that there are poets skilled enough to find the words to capture them---accurately enough that I can think: "this is ME, he must be talking about ME." It takes careful observation to write like that, of course, but also (in the best writers) I think there's a kind of sympathy and care for the feelings of others (which feelings, of course, are more like our own than we like to admit) that makes the writing succeed. Not just a sympathy for those viewpoints that we share, but a feeling of being in this together because we are all human. My favorite writers seem to have an awareness of and even enjoyment of our common frailties: rather than observing life smugly from "the outside," looking down on the miseries of humanity in a detached way, they write as as fellow-sufferers who understand, and sympathize even with the things they don't really understand.

Having known him, I know that Leslie Norris was that kind of person, of course. But I think many other good writers must be as well. I think of the way President Eyring and Elder Holland write, for example, and they always have that same sort of inclusiveness and humility, that sense of "we are all learning these things together"---and same with Helaman and other Book of Mormon writers. You can feel it in their words. I think that's why the words are so powerful.

And I think it brings up an interesting idea---that becoming a good writer (or a good speaker---or a good influencer of others in any way) is perhaps more rooted in becoming a good person---kind, charitable, sympathetic, humble---than it is in studying the craft itself. (Not that you wouldn't need to study the craft itself, of course.) And I guess there are plenty of talented writers that don't like people and aren't humble, etc. But I still am taken with the idea that perhaps I could be improving myself as a writer and thinker, even when I can't find the time to actually write and think as much as I'd like, just by working on noticing and sympathizing more with those around me. And maybe someday it will all have time to synthesize inside me and I'll be able to write and reflect and connect with others when I'm an old lady---even after I die. As this poem connected me again with Leslie Norris, even after he's been gone for three years.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I am a builder

The boys have been building temples (among other things) with their blocks lately. (The temples often have little "extras" in them---such as carwashes or playgrounds.) They have gotten quite specific in their architecture: for example, here, as you can see, is the Draper Temple:

And here, quite different, is the Oquirrh Mountain Temple:

These blocks were the best Christmas present for the boys! They were the only real toy we gave them (except a couple things in their stockings), but they play with them ALL THE TIME. (Except Malachi, who is usually kept zealously away. Poor, poor Malachi.) Next year, I'm thinking maybe we'll just give them some more shapes to add to the collection.

Also, a few more pretty things: this pink rose

and these calla lilies (the variety is called "flame," I believe).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Good idea, too late




Huh.
This could have prevented a couple thousand wall- and floor-inflicted injuries at our house a couple years ago:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Family pictures

(A girl in my neighborhood was starting a photography business and took these pictures for us last November---she was so nice, and I'd recommend her, but she recently got pregnant and sick and now I don't think she is continuing with her business anymore. We so appreciated her help, though! Anyway, we just barely got the pictures back, so I thought I'd post them before they're too obsolete.)


It seems like so many people are becoming good photographers these days---maybe because more people have nice cameras, or digital cameras are more accessible, or something? I haven't studied it, so I don't know much about the art, but I do know I've seen about a million blogs/websites where people show their work. And the pictures are beautiful. And I'm so amazed that someone could create them.

Except . . . I just can't decide what to think about family pictures. Because I hate to be cynical, but I'm getting just a little tired of all the pictures that promise to "truly capture your family's personality!!"---but then, they all have the same (trendy) poses: back view of the whole family holding hands walking along a wooded trail at sunset. Couple holding hands at arms' length and one of them has a red balloon. The kids, super-saturated, sitting in a row and licking lollipops. The child's face in focus with the parents lounging, out-of-focus, in a field of grasses behind. I guess it just makes me think, really? Everyone's family personality is "childlike and bright and fun, coordinated but not TOO coordinated, with a touch of whimsy!"? Really . . . all of you? I admit, the pictures are often cute, and eye-catching, and maybe they're better than the matching-denim-shirts shots of last decade, but then again, maybe they're just . . . trendier at the moment.


[I remember two girls I knew in London talking about how Martha Stewart's wedding ideas were so much better than anyone else's, because they were TIMELESS. They didn't want to be looking back at their wedding pictures in 20 years (like they looked at their parents' pictures now) thinking, "That's so dated"---and Martha was the key, they said. Except . . . have you looked at Martha Stewart wedding pictures from the late 90s? DATED! Predictably enough, new things are considered "classic" now. Which is fine. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking we aren't influenced by current trends. (Me too, although I'm usually 5-10 years later than everyone else. I feel like I just barely came to terms with the idea of capri pants. Gauchos? Skinny jeans?? Don't push me.)]







This is a shot that really captures our relationship! I'm glad she just happened to catch the casual, unscripted moment of spontaneous pier-leaning. :)


So anyway, back to "capturing your personality." I like the idea, in theory; I'm just not sure you can CALL it that when it's really "capturing what everyone else thinks is cute and popular and what you wish your family's personality was like." If we were really capturing personalities, wouldn't our family photos be more like
this? I mean, speaking for my own family anyway, our "unscripted moments" are usually just weird, or nerdy, or to say the least NOT photogenic (and that's the ones that aren't downright unpleasant, e.g. Seb bashing Malachi in the head). Kind of like this:

"Uh . . . I feel silly doing this. [nervous laugh]"

"Help! Let go!" "Brr, it's freezing out here."

And so I've always thought maybe it's better to just do the "formal" pose, since the so-called "unscripted moments" aren't true-to-life anyway, but I don't know---I do think a lot of people's trendy pictures turn out awfully cute, and that's the point anyway, so who cares if it's not actually spontaneous or if your family isn't actually all that laid-back and whimsical? And, I'm just realizing as I think this through, maybe the whole point of the pictures is to idealize you, and make you look cuter and MORE fun and MORE stylish than you really are. Actually yes, that IS partly what I want out of a photograph, come to think of it.

But I still feel like a picture that's really "you" is a good idea. And maybe there is someone out there who really can capture "our family," in all our weird, energetic boy-ness, and our nerdiness, and our awkwardness. The question is, could they make me like those pictures? (Consider that a challenge, photographer friends.)