An Event

If you're looking for something fun to do in Utah Friday night, go hear my illustrious cousin Russ perform at the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake.  I love many things about Russ, but pianistically speaking, he and his brother Rob and sister Heidi (and I must add his mother too) are my musical role models, and have been ever since they (and I) were children.  One of my favorite things about a Hancock performance is that they always add witty and informative commentary, and it adds so much to the listener's experience.  I never fail to leave a Hancock concert inspired and edified (and usually amused and delighted as well).

It's free, too!  Go if you can.

Slow down, Sparky

This is how it feels to be in Sebby's carwash
Having given some advice, I now request some.  I've heard lots of people say to "enjoy the moments" with your kids because they're only little once (etc.), and that's good; I DO enjoy my kids a great deal of the time.  But my problem is, lately I always feel this sense of urgency, like I should be doing something else.  It doesn't really matter WHAT I'm doing, if I do it for more than a couple minutes I start feeling anxious inside.  I still do continue with the activity, and enjoy it, often for quite awhile, but the whole time my nagging feeling is that I should be doing something else.  I feel the next mealtime or naptime or pick-up-Abe time or feed-Daisy-time hanging over me, and I get all nervous and worried-feeling until I get to that thing.  After which I start getting anxious about the NEXT thing.  It's so weird.  Even when Daisy is sleeping, I'm thinking, "Is she about to wake up? I better hurry with the next thing [even if that thing is take a nap] before she wakes up!"  I don't feel like I am taking full advantage of "the moment" at all---but I don't know how to!  There are so many times when we DO need to hurry, that I find myself telling my kids to "hurry up" even when we DON'T need to.  I don't like it.  I can think of some specific times I feel really truly relaxed (most of them take place in the summer, and outside, interestingly: the playground, the swimming pool, lying on the grass while the kids run around) but they don't come around that often.

So what's the deal?  I really do have a lot of "next things" that happen every day (Daisy's next feeding is always only a short time away, and church stuff, and meals, and cleaning, and Abe getting to and from school is a factor every day, and next year Seb will start kindergarten, so that will be even worse), so am I stuck feeling this kind of vague urgency for the next several years? [Or perhaps this is February-induced, and the warm weather will cure it?]  I can't just live so much in the moment that I let time get away from me altogether.  Is there a way for me to keep on schedule with everything (and of course I have to keep track of not just my schedule, but everyone else's too) while still "savoring the present"?
A carwash.  Not related to anything; just thought you might enjoy it.

Singing Rooms

Abe gets embarrassed when I actually come in to watch him sing.  Apparantly it doesn't bother him that I can HEAR him, but when I come close, he ducks into the bathroom and waits till I withdraw before continuing.

The boys love to march around the house and sing songs, many of their own composition.  They've worked out a system so they can do it without bothering each other (they each have a designated "singing room" they have to stay in) and they switch from song to song with "beep!"s and an imaginary high-voiced audience saying, "Can we do that song again one more time?" after which they begin again.  Ky sometimes sings himself, and sometimes provides a non-imaginary audience for his brothers.

The songs are distressingly catchy.  Such as
"Bears and Monkeys flying around,
Bears and Monkeys flying around,
Bears and Monkeys flying around
And one flew by my door."
"The twelve days of Monkey Christmas."
Sometimes the songs are lengthy stories about things that they did or will do. 

When everyone is singing it gets very LOUD in here.  The boys know that stomping and clapping and banging on things provides percussive effects.  I usually have to step in to quiet the singing and stomping when it reaches fever pitch.

I suppose I must admit here that I can clearly remember playing outside when I was maybe 8 or so, and pretending I was an orphan that had just received a letter saying I was going to be adopted---and I was singing a song I made up about this----"The letterrrrrrr, that will change my liiiiiiife . . ."----when my brother Philip suddenly appeared gleefully out of a bush and I was mortified that he had heard me.

Although if you are going to play melodramatic things like that I suppose you really can't complain when people snatch your "letter" and dance around clasping it to their bosom and imitating your song.  And you also can't complain when your children inherit your nerdy songwriting tendencies.

So little time for poetry

(By guest author Sam)

We planned a big family party for Valentine's day, so our personal celebration of the day was simple---some flowers, a special treat at breakfast, and so forth.  But Marilyn left me this poem she wrote, one she'd worked late into the night to finish.  She likely wouldn't share it so I will, mostly because I think it's such a great insight into her character and our relationship.

Between the tears and bears and scribbled walls
I can find little time to shout (as I
would have to shout, or interrupt myself
to find the shoe; acknowledge comments; try

to put the lid back on) to you the way
a yellow curl of smoke washed the moon green
and how I wished to wake you in the dark
but watched you sleep instead, eyes quick with dreams.

All day I thrash in oceans full of words,
too slow to catch the drops before they’re gone.
At night, the dreams that flash behind my eyes
are softer than they were, and fade with dawn.

There is so little time for poetry.
We will grow old, I know, and it will keep.
But read it, if you can; the way I stretch
myself against you even in my sleep.

The way I turn at your step on the stairs:
How anything I once gave up has thinned,
shifted; reappeared changed and whole, to wrap
its shape around the two of us like skin.

Happy Valentine's Day

We hope you have a wonderful day with those you love!
(We'd be enjoying a delightful evening in our Twuggee, if we hadn't given it away as a Romantic Gift.)


He's so polite.  When I ask him, "May I eat you?" he usually says "No!  Doe-neat-me!"  But when I say, "May I just nibble you, then?" he says softly, "O-kay."


Y Mountain and an "elbow light" (not THE "top-of-an-elbow light")
When we go anywhere, we have a set series of landmarks---some of them I don't know why exactly they became landmarks---that we always notice and comment on.  If we fail to notice them, when the omission is realized, crying ensues.

This is how we experience a trip to Grandma's house.

"Hanger restaurant."  (I think it is actually a dry cleaning place---has a picture of a hanger on it.)
"The Super Tunnel Carwash."
"Tiny temple" (far away).
Hang Gliders (seasonal).
Windmills.  (Note if turning or not turning.)
Dinosaur Museum.
Lighthouse and "what-is-that-mountain-called-again?" ["Mt. Rushmore"]
"Timp-mo-gus Temple."
"Smoke going up up up."
"Big spiders.  Big Hat."
"Red Fishy."
"Top-of-an-elbow light." (?? I don't understand this one either---but it is NOT TO BE MISSED.)
"The lots-of-windmills" (very far away).
"Tavernacle." (not the Salt Lake City bar of the same name)
"New brushes carwash."  ("Can we go see the old brushes carwash?" "No.")
Grandma's house!

Can you follow our route?  Do your children note the same landmarks?  (Our alternate route includes: "Factory with the explosion" and "arms".  In the summer, all routes include Sprinklers of Note.)

Ways in which I am like an old lady

(In this picture I am the enigmatic Madame Defarge. You know, from A Tale of Two Cities.
Later, I showed my true colors with my denouncement of D'arnabraham as a nobleman and an enemy of the people. But that's another story.)

I think I've always felt older than I am.  It will be nice for me as I age, I suppose, to be growing more and more age-appropriate in my ideas and interests (rather than trying vainly to hold onto my receding youth).
(Note: I reserve the right to not be like an old lady in every aspect of life)

Ways in which I am like an old lady

  • I don't like roller coasters, or really, excitement of any kind
  • I don't like watching others on roller coasters
  • I wear my pants too high
  • I frequently bemoan the death of "good manners"
  • My first, visceral response to seeing Olympic skiers at the peak of their sport, executing jumps and other maneuvers with great physical skill, is, "Stop! Someone is going to get hurt!"  
  • I would rather sit home under a blanket with my raspberry-leaf tea than go anywhere
  • I shake my head sadly at the state of Today's Youth (hopefully I will learn to overcome this one when I am a parent to some of Today's Youth)
  • I creak when I get out of bed
  • I think most music is Too Loud
  • I always complain that the action in movies is "moving too fast" [sometimes I follow this with, "When I was a kid, they had nice slow-moving movies . . . like Sleeping Beauty!"]
  • I fall asleep reading
  • I find myself unable to utter "slang" words such as "cop" and "bucks"  ["Don't say 'awful,' Jo; it's slang!"] 
  • I darn socks
  • I crochet [May not count---becoming trendy]
  • I tell my children that "all I want for [insert holiday] is for my children to get along with each other!" [this is the ultimate old-person thing---my Dad always used to say this and I thought it was so lame---I thought for sure he was just saying it to manipulate us and not because he really didn't want anything---but now I find it's true for me too!  Sorry, Dad!]
  • I forget things
  • I have referred to various persons of my acquaintance as "a nice young man"
  • I sometimes clutch my seat handle and murmur "Oh!" in a feeble, tremulous tone while Sam is driving

30 Pearls of Wisdom

I cast them before you.  (I hope none of you are swine.  None of you are swine, right?)

My arrival at age 30 has had me thinking of all the things that have changed since my last decade began.  I feel much wiser than I did ten years ago.  (I realize that's not difficult.)  But indulge me.  These are some things I've learned as I've gotten older.  What, I wonder, will the next ten years teach me?  Will you share some of yours as well?

1. The simple hamburgers are the best ones.  Don't be lured by the siren song of the mushroom-chili-bleu-cheese-pastrami burger.

2. Don't ever assume someone is the same person they were ten years ago.  Or five.

3. Cultivate a sympathetic expression which you can roll out over your true emotion (amusement) when your child runs into a wall face-first.  Cultivate an interested expression which you can call upon during the long monologues of others.

4. Conscientious zeal is not the same thing as friendship.

5. If you don't want to have a birthday party for your child, you don't have to.  Also you don't have to have cake.  Dessert, yes.  If you WANT to have a party, do yourself a favor and set the bar low.  That means presents, food, and (maybe) a game.  NO matching plate/napkin sets.  No "take-home favors bags"  No themed decorations.  No individually wrapped chocolate-covered Thomas the Train fortune cookies with personalized birthday poems stamped in rainbow ink.  Come on!  These are your children we're talking about!  Remember how excited they got when they found your old chapstick container under the couch?

6. The thing where someone says, "I can tell you in three words" and then says some other number of words than three?  Not funny anymore.

7. Don't be snobby about Walmart. It makes you look mean-spirited. Be happy there's a place you can get your child a coat for $7.

8. Fall is beautiful. DO NOT let it go by without going on a drive to look at the leaves.

9. When baking quick breads, remembering to put a square of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan will save you inexpressible time and frustration.

10. Everyone acts in a way they feel makes sense for their own situation.  Dismissing any actions you don't understand or agree with as "crazy" is unhelpful and lazy.

11. Quietly dispose of stupid children's books people gave you but you hate reading aloud. 

12. Don't waste time feeling bad about food you have to throw away.  If you know someone that DOES feel bad about it, gratefully accept leftovers from them when you go to dinner there, and then go home and throw them away FOR them.  Think of it as a little service you can do for humanity.

13. Don't drop everything to answer the phone.

14. Buying something you've wanted for a long time is sometimes more satisfying than nobly going without it.

15. Don't skip date night.  I hate it when people tell you to just "find a way" to do things that, clearly, are impossible for you or you would be doing them already.  But, DON'T SKIP DATE NIGHT! 

16. When singing with children, pitch your voice high---too high for your own comfortable range, probably.  Kids are never "tone-deaf" if they can hear the notes in their range.  (I am not an actual Singing Expert.  But I learned this from one.)

17. Saying "I can't take this anymore" to yourself doesn't really change whether or not you have to take it anymore.

18. Babies cry a lot.  Don't take it personally.

19. One man's trash is another man's desperately loved treasure that must be carried around at all times and must never be lost or thrown out, or it will be mourned vocally and lingeringly until is it found or fished out of the garbage.

20. Your shower may be the only time you have to yourself all day.  If so, for goodness sake take your time in there!

21. Your willingness to let your child play with a dangerous or "off-limits" item (your phone, a plastic bag, a fork, a pen, etc.) increases in direct proportion to how busy you are, how urgent your current business is, how desperate you are to finish it, how long the child has been bothering you, how loud the child is, and how futile your efforts to quiet the child have been.  Which is to say: You WILL allow your child to do things you never thought you would, if you are finally on the phone with Customer Service after 42 minutes on hold, if you are with children at a meeting you didn't know you weren't supposed to bring children to, or if you are at a restaurant with childless relatives.  Such desperation should not be mistaken for bad parenting.

22. The "loveable free spirit" personality gets less and less loveable with age.

23. When you have a bad cold, get Puffs with Lotion.  It's worth it.

24. The only comment you should make about a pregnant woman's appearance is, "You look absolutely wonderful!"

25. The dire warnings you give your kids will be remembered and passed down to younger siblings (perhaps even made more dire in the intervening time, e.g. "If you put that fwuffball down the heater vent, it will go into the furnace FOREVER, and you will DIE!") 

26. Let your husband get up with the kids in the night sometimes (not all the time), even though he has to go to work the next day.  It really is true that serving someone makes you love them more, and he will love the baby more when he has to give up sleep for it occasionally.  I'm not kidding about this.  With our first baby, I always felt like I had to be noble and self-sacrificing, but I think I deprived Sam of the chance to be blessed for his own selflessness.  With our second, I learned to let him help more, and he felt more closeness with the baby because of it.  (And I got more sleep.)

27. Soup + bread = dinner. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

28. Many of the things people say they can't live without, you can live without.

29. If the day is warm and sunny, go outside!  Even just for a minute.  If possible, have a picnic.  You feel better on the bad-weather days if you aren't wishing you'd taken more advantage of the good-weather days.

30. The world does not end if your children go without baths for several weeks.  Though the sheets do get quite dirty.  

Oh, and . . .

Megan asked me to do a post on her blog today about things I love.  Or would love.  Whatever.

Anyway, you know me; always happy to oblige! 

Did you know Megan is Utah Valley's leading expert on Food-Borne Illness?  It's true.  She NEVER leaves foods between 40 and 140 degrees out for more than two hours.  Bless her heart.

It was my thirtieth year to heaven

     It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
     And the mussel pooled and the heron
          Priested shore
     The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
     Myself to set foot
          That second
     In the still sleeping town and set forth.

     My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
     Above the farms and the white horses
          And I rose
          In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
     Over the border
          And the gates
     Of the town closed as the town awoke.

     A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
     Blackbirds and the sun of October
     On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
     To the rain wringing
          Wind blow cold
     In the wood faraway under me.

     Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
     With its horns through mist and the castle
          Brown as owls
     But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.

     There could I marvel
          My birthday
     Away but the weather turned around.

     It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
     Streamed again a wonder of summer
          With apples
     Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
     Through the parables
          Of sun light
     And the legends of the green chapels

     And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
     These were the woods the river and sea
          Where a boy
     In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
     And the mystery
          Sang alive
     Still in the water and singingbirds.

     And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
     Joy of the long dead child sang burning
          In the sun.
     It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
     O may my heart's truth
          Still be sung
     On this high hill in a year's turning.

(Poem In October

-----By Dylan Thomas)

Raspberry White-Chocolate Almond Cookies

You should know that I am NOT a dried-fruit-and-nut kind of girl.  Usually I think adding nuts to desserts---does the opposite of improves them.  (Disproves them?  De-proves them?  Un-proves . . . ahem, sorry)  And I don't really like raisins.  But, I wanted to try making something with dried raspberries, so this is what I tried.

And they're super, super good.  Not that they're revolutionary or anything.  Maybe you have a cookie recipe you already like.  I'm not trying to pressure you into making these!  I consider myself happy with my current favorite cookie recipe as well.   But then again, won't you be pleased if you gain another favorite?  I think I like these just as much as these cookies, which is surprising, considering how, as I said, I don't love dried fruit.  And by the way, these first came about when I wanted to make cookies with fresh raspberries, which I do love, but the extra moisture in the raspberries really messed up the cookies' texture.  So don't make that mistake.
I love the slight tanginess that the fruit adds to the cookies, and the way that works with the caramelly brown sugar taste.  And I like the extra crunch of the almonds.  And I like the sweet white chocolate.  Basically, I really like these cookies.  I already said that, right?

If you want to substitute craisins or some other dried fruit for the raspberries, I'm sure that would work.  Or you can skip the fruit and do both dark and white chocolate chips.  (I've tried that and it's good.)

Raspberry White-Chocolate Almond Cookies
(makes 4 doz.)

3/4 c. white sugar
2 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter or margarine
1 c. shortening
1 T. vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. baking soda
4 3/4 c. flour---or 29 oz.*
1 cup (or so) of dried raspberries (not re-constituted)
1/2 c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
*Not trying to be pretentious by giving the measurement in ounces, but I got a kitchen scale for Christmas, and I'm updating all my recipes with the amounts of flour by weight.  I LOVE being able to take the guesswork out of how much flour to add/how to level the cup/whether to shake it off etc.  Wonderful.


My illustrious cousin David holds an annual Groundhog Day Limerick Contest, and I'm sorry not to have posted this earlier so you could enter.  However, nothing livens up the winter days like a limerick!  Even without a contest to enter, I strongly encourage you to try writing a few yourself.  I will include a few here to inspire you.

1. Reasons for Relish in a Groundhog's Pessimism (by Sam Nielson)

Long cold winters inflame the irascible;
Make post-rodent eclipses less passable.
Yet I personally dread
The congestion-filled head
That renders Spring's coming "alas"-able.

[From an Atlantic Monthly contest:] [a little off-color content; forgive me]

2. "In spring," said the strict statistician
"I live by this stern supposition:,
'The chances of love
Are a straight function of
The number of times of coition.'"
(by username MadZeno)

3. Limerickitis? I've got it!
It's growing so fast I should pot it.
Then come next Spring
When we do the same thing
I could nip off a bud and re-jot it.
(by username Ravensegg)

4. Poor Alice hadn't a thing
To wear to the beach in the Spring.
She went in and swam
Wearing only a yam
And two dixie cups and a string.
(by username toxwaste)

Or perhaps I could follow David's lead and re-write this post in limerick form?:

The time is too late on the dial
For my cousin-by-marriage's trial,
But a non-judgéd fling
Can still be just the thing
For the underground limerophile.

If you find your muse stubborn or restive,
Or the weather outside less-than-festive,
Read these samples; then flaunt
Your inner bon vivant
(Though a few are just slightly suggestive).

We start with my spouse contravening
Spring's usual welcome.  Well-meaning
entendre then follow.
We next move to sprouts (fallow)
And end with some makeshift bikining.

The last part to recount's not essential
But nice if we're being sequential.
It concerns my own verse:
too much French; even worse,
it's excessively self-referential.
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