Sunday, May 30, 2010

So much didn't get done

I thought, as I stood in my absolutely filthy kitchen, wearily watching Tim microwave frozen burritos for the kids and himself for dinner, about how much I didn't get done today.

Everything's dirty, scattered, out of place. The house looks like several tornadoes hit in rapid succession.

And we were just sitting down to a dinner of burritos, ice cream, and graham crackers.

I had to remind myself that holding a feverish baby all day WAS the most important, most valuable thing I could have done.

So the day was a success.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Did I just read that?

From's home page today:  "Journalist killed covering volcanoVideo"

That's why  most of us just let the darn things erupt. What was he trying to cover it with, anyway? Asbestos?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Did I just read that?

From fox News today: "U.S. authorities announced Wednesday that they had broken up the international online child porn site, saying more than 50 people had been arrested in more than 50 states since the 2008 start of the investigation."

There are MORE than 50 States? When did that happen?

It gets better, though. Later in the same article, we get this: "Besides Indiana and Louisiana, suspects came from California, Alaska, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia and Florida, DeBrota said."

Let's see....that's a grand total of: 11 states.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recipe: Hamburger Buns

You wouldn't believe how easy these are.

Make bread dough ( Or use your favorite recipe.

After it's raised for 1 1/2- 2 hours (punching it down every 30 minutes or so to keep it in the bowl and because it improves the texture), break the dough into 14-16 balls, bigger than a pingpong ball but smaller than a baseball.  Form it into a nice round ball (I fold it under and into itself repeatedly until it's a nice, smooth, tight ball on top, and then put the folded-under side on the bottom). The smoother the top of the ball, the nicer the bun will look. When it's a nice ball, smash it between your hands so it's about 3 inches across and quite thick (my kids get a kick out of this procedure because each ball gets one good smack). Place this on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls. My cookie sheet holds 12. You want to place them in the same places you put cookies. They'll look like they are too close together, but you want them to touch sides as they raise.

Cover them (I use plastic wrap, my mom uses a damp cloth) and put them in a warm place to raise for 30 minutes. During the last ten minutes of raising time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden.

When you take them out of the oven, place them on a clean dry dishcloth or paper towels on a cooling rack--this softens the bottoms of the buns without making them soggy--and cover them with damp (not wet) paper towels or a clean dry dish cloth to catch the steam and soften the tops (unless you like a crunch hamburger bun).

Really easy, really cheap, really tasty. Also FAR more filling than storebought buns, and they don't stick in your teeth like the store variety do.

You could do hot dog buns, too. Just make a flattened oblong instead of a flattened circle.

Our favorite hamburgers use these buns, beef patties, and a slice of fried ham (like you have for breakfast, not those processed thinned-out lunch meats) along with the usual hamburger toppings. It sounds weird, but it's FANTASTIC.  I also  like to add a slice of fried ham to chicken sandwiches. YUM!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Perfect Moms

I was thinking, as I lay awake two nights in a row, about motherhood.

I realized that motherhood has some essential duties (nurturing children) and a WHOLE BUNCH of satellite duties.  For example, it is part of mothering to keep your children clean and appropriately dressed.  The satellite of that is doing laundry.  Really, doing laundry is not part of motherhood. You could hire it out and someone else could do it, and you would still be mothering your children.

Dishes are another. In fact, cleaning the kitchen is. Feeding and nurturing our children's bodies with healthy food is part of mothering. But you could hire someone else to clean the kitchen and do the dishes, and it wouldn't interfere with the mothering.

The thing I realized is that, when we talk about or imagine perfect mothers, the things that we attach to that perfection are, more often than not, the SATELLITE duties--the ones we do of necessity but that aren't actually part of being a mother! Isn't that strange?  It's true, though. When we imagine a perfect mother who has it all together, her kids look perfect, her house is clean and organized, her kitchen and bathrooms are spotless, her yard is manicured and her house beautifully decorated. She has a garden and feeds her children organic produce. And those children dance around happily in clothing she made herself, begging for more homemade bread.

Oh, there are other things, too. Most of which aren't really things the woman can control. For example, perfect mothers have children who are friendly, personable, polite, and articulate. Now honestly, can a mother, even the best of mothers doing the rightest things, actually produce that? NO, not honestly--because if we are being honest, we admit that those things have to do with the child's temperament and choices. The mother can teach a child that it is right to be polite, but ultimately it is the child's choice if they want to. And we all know children who don't want to sometimes. Or all the time. Depends on the kid. And how old they are.

I realized two things, actually.  One is that the "perfect mother" doesn't exist, so we should stop envisioning her and then comparing ourselves unfavorably.  Perhaps we should strive for "righteous woman" (which is possible) instead of worrying about being the perfect mother (which isn't possible).

The other is that in order to be a truly effective mother who uses her limited energies on the most important things, it is important that we separate mothering from all the satellite duties. It's not that the satellite things are not important. Everyone has to eat off clean dishes if we want to be healthy. It's just that we shouldn't confuse that with motherhood. Housekeeping and child rearing are different things. You can hire a housekeeper for your home (and don't we all wish we could!) without it affecting your personal righteousness. I'm not sure you can hire someone else to raise your children without it affecting your personal righteousness (I'm not talking about daycare, which especially single moms find absolutely necessary--I'm talking about, for example, the Victorian Socialite's ideal: bear the children and then put them in the nursery and hire a nursemaid to care for them, allowing them in your presences once a week or so. There are modern parents who still do this.).

And how many of us have spent a lot of emotional energy worrying about our failures in the non-mothering duties moms all have? Or worse, neglected the children to be a "perfect mom"--by making sure all the satellites were taken care of!

Sometimes it seems like the circumstances conspire against you.....

Today Tim had to fly out to LA to film half a dozen kazoo e-cards for The music came together nicely, the comedy bits were planned, he found a bunch of costume and prop pieces and had them collected.

In order to get the stuff there, though, he had to have about $100--we needed to put gas in the car and the company bought him a flight on American Airlines, which means he needed money to check his bags (darn airlines! That's why we book with Southwest when we book Tim's flights!). And then to do the same in reverse coming home.

He did three shows on Saturday, expecting to get paid $100 for one, and possibly for another. Didn't happen. With no credit and no money left (I think Tim might have had $5 in his pocket, and I had just given my most of my last $1.25 to the tooth fairy), there was no way to catch the flight!

EXCEPT, out of the blue and a week before they were supposed to even do the review, the mortgage company sent us $127 that was leftover in the escrow account. MIRACLE!

Except it arrived after the banks were closed, and none were open today, and we had to have the money before Tim could catch his flight at 4:45 today.

But I made a few phone calls and got the manager at the WalMart to agree to cash the check even though both our names are on it (thank goodness our mortgage is managed by a government agency!). Unfortunately, we had to go in today because Tim had shows until after WalMart was closed last night. Still, with all that squared away, I thought we were set.

Not so.

I didn't sleep more than 3 hours (even though I was in bed for 10) on Friday night because my prenatal vitamins keep me awake. So I took them earlier Saturday night, but not earlier enough. I slept a grand total of 1 hour and 20 minutes, 1 hour after I got in bed and 20 minutes right before I had to get up. The rest of the night I just lay there, wide awake and wondering how on earth I was going to be alert enough to drive Tim to the airport. I figured he could drive there and I only had to make it home.

Except then Tim dropped into bed, about an hour before we had to leave, moaning. He had a migraine (he gets serious ones, too!), and we had no caffeine. So he fell asleep and I prayed he'd make it long enough to help me cash the check (we BOTH had to go) so we could buy him some Coke and get on the road.

He made it. The cashier didn't give us any trouble with the check (I was really worried about that because they have so many rules about what they can and can't cash, and we were just inside them). Tim got a Coke out of the vending machine and took some ibuprofen, and we got gas in the car, and we made it to the airport with just enough time to spare to get him on his flight (I hope--he didn't call, so that means everything is going smoothly).

And, despite Caleb throwing up on the way home and Nathanael crying most of the way home (it was either too hot with the sun on him or too windy with the window down; I couldn't win!), and me (in my tired state) getting lost for a few minutes (I took exit 1 instead of exit 0. Exit 1 connects to the right road, but only in the wrong direction!), we made it home.

I feel like I've been battling the tide all day, as one thing after another seemed to step in, in rapid succession, to bar Tim's way to LA.

Hopefully nothing ELSE goes wrong!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Great Mormon Novel Debate settled (for me)--whew!

For years my "intellectual" friends ("intellectual" in quotes because it is a social group rather than a state of being, and I wanted it to be clear I was talking about the social/academic tradition/group rather than the state of being an educated thinker. The really truly great thinkers and artists I personally know--and I know a good many--don't have time to play "intellectual" games. They also don't seem to have a problem with their faith, which is stylish among "intellectuals") have discussed off and on the "Great Mormon Novel" and why it hasn't ever appeared.

This guy pretty much settled that debate for me.

What a relief!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My A-HA! Moment of the Day

Today was one of the more miserable days I've probably ever had. In my life.

I woke up at the usual time but had to get out of bed (instead of my usual spending 2 hours in bed awake before I stir). Then I spent all day depressed, puking, having intrusive thoughts, and wondering how I've managed to stand 10 years of active fibro plus the rest of my life with mild symptoms when I thought it was going to kill me today after a week of it getting worse every day.

I don't remember ever feeling so miserable that I just wanted to get into bed all day, and then getting in bed didn't help.

And then, as I was getting the kids to bed, it struck me.

I always get prenatal depression and anxiety if I don't take my prenatal vitamins. And I hadn't been taking them because they were keeping me awake at night. So I opened the cupboard to take some and found my fish oil there. Stopped taking ALL my vitamins at once (now I realize that was stupid, but it didn't occur to me until tonight), so I hadn't been taking my fish oil. No WONDER the fibro has gotten unbearable (so that my pillow even feels like a rock).

So tonight I took my pills.

And I'm sitting here wondering if I will sleep tonight and also why I didn't just switch to taking my pills at lunch?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Benji says,

Upon laying down outside for a quick diaper change: "AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! The Sky is MOVING!!!" (there were clouds blowing by overhead).

Going to bed entirely too late, after several hours of me trying to keep him in bed, he caught a glimpse of the dawn sky outside: "OH NO! Look at the sky! What WRONG with it?!" and later "OH NO! Sky turned GREEEEEN!"

Plumbers of Rome...Harmony Sweepstakes...FINALLY!

2003--Tim took Moosebutter to the Harmony Sweepstakes regional competition in San Francisco. They won and went to the Finals, where they took second and got a couple of other awards. And Tim was hooked.

2004--Tim took Moosebutter to Denver regional sweeps. It was the only year he participated but didn't win anything.

2005--Tim took moosebutter to the LA Harmony Sweepstakes, where they were first runner up, and Plumbers of Rome to the Denver Harmony Sweepstakes.

2006--Tim took moosebutter to the Chicago Harmony Sweepstakes, where they won first runner up and Audience Favorite, and Plumbers of Rome to the Denver Harmony Sweepstakes, where they won the Best Stage Presentation award.

2007--Tim took Placental Armaggeddon, Vocality, and Plumbers of Rome to the Denver Harmony Sweepstakes.  Vocality took second and best original song, and PA got the best vocal percussion award.

2008--Tim took Plumbers of Rome to the Denver Harmony Sweepstakes and the group he coached into existence, the 40th Parallel, took themselves. Plumbers won Audience Favorite and Best Stage Presentation.

2009--Tim got a little crazy and took Plumbers of Rome to the San Francisco Harmony Sweepstakes, where they won second place and audience favorite; Essence of Larynx to the Pacific Northwest Harmony Sweepstakes, where they won third place, King4 and Throat both to the LA Harmony Sweepstakes, where K4 took third and Tim won Best Original Song for a Throat Song; Mouth Beats and Wonder Voice to the Denver Harmony Sweepstakes, where MB won and WV won best solo; and Mouth Beats to the Finals, where they won the Best Original Song award.

2010--Money was too tight to fly groups all over the nation again, so Tim planned to just take groups to the local (Denver) Harmony Sweepstakes. VoxBom and Wonder Voice competed there, and VoxBom came in second.  Meanwhile, the other two guys in Plumbers of Rome REALLY wanted to compete in Boston and offered to buy their own tickets, so Plumbers of Rome went to Boston Harmony Sweepstakes and WON.

Quite frankly, I was floored. I knew they were good enough, but Plumbers has always been a side project for all the guys involved. It's kind of a fun diversion they play with on the side--a chance to re-interpret pop songs and experiment with what just 3 voices can really do.

So I knew they were going to the Finals, and I honestly wasn't even nervous for them because I was sure nothing would come of it. I told Tim I didn't think Plumbers was the kind of group that got rewarded in the Finals.

I was wrong.

Tonight they sang, and tonight they WON. Won overall and won best arrangement.

After 8 years of competing in the Harmony Sweepstakes (with 10 different groups doing 22 performances in 6 different regions and three National Finals and winning 28 awards), it finally happened.

Plumbers of Rome are the 2010 Harmony Sweepstakes Champions.

The kids immediately asked, "What did he win?"

Um....CD duplication and a spot on the list of winners.

But it's STILL exciting!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Did I just read that?

From the Times Call (Longmont News): "“There are a lot of them that I’m completely intimated by still,” Boyd chuckled."

"Intimated" is similar to "hinted". It's really hard to be "completely intimated"--they are not words that go together well.

Perhaps she meant "intimidated"?

Penny Pinching Tips

You  might want to check this out. It's a post from my cousin, Rob, about The Grocery Game, which costs $10 a month to join, but apparently saved them over 90% on their grocery bill this month.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Concrete example of Health Insurance NOT being what you think

Congress and the President, during the health care debate, went to great lengths to confuse and eventually equate the phrases "access to health care" and "health insurance."

Turns out being required to get health insurance mandates another bill, but doesn't give you access to health care necessarily.  Concrete example that came in the mail today:

HumanaOne ad which says an individual health insurance plan can be purchased for as low as $78 (I assume per month. It doesn't specify. It could be per day!).

The small print, in about 6 pt type, light grey, at the bottom of the page, says, "$7500 deductible".  YES, that is $7500 you pay out of pocket before your health insurance kicks in. PLUS the $78 a month (or day, or whatever it is).  That's extreme even for catastrophic coverage!

This insurance is an added bill.  But it does NOT give you access to the regular day-to-day kind of health care that catches problems early and allows for preventative care.

So much for the president's plan.....

Did I just read that?

From Google News tonight: "... people should avoid breathing in smog, the American Heart Association said on Monday."  (link takes you here, where you can see the phrase repeated in Large Type.)

I'm not sure how people can avoid breathing, in smog or in clean air! That's pretty tricky advice....

Or do they mean it's okay to breathe OUT smog, just not in....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Starting to bother me:

"President Obama today announced his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, calling her "one of the nation's foremost legal minds." Kagan would be the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed and the third woman to join the current Court. Mr. Obama called Kagan -- who is the nation's first female solicitor general and the first woman who served as dean of Harvard Law School -- a "trailblazing leader.""

It is REALLY starting to bother me that Obama keeps citing as Elena Kagan's qualifications for Supreme Court Justice that she's a woman.  GENDER is not something that makes you qualified (any more than it makes you unqualified) for something.

It does not reflect on her talent, ability, or fitness for the position that she is the first female solicitor general or the first female dean of Harvard Law School. Rather, it reflects the tenor of our society's ideals right now. In fact, there is a very strong chance that her appointment to both of those positions had more to do with an organization seeking social approval or funding than her ability compared to other candidates, unless ALL the candidates were female, in which case being the first woman would, again, be irrelevant.

If she is going to be on the Supreme Court for the next 50 years, I want to know what she has done for real. Not that she's female. Who CARES if she's female. It should have NOTHING to do with it. Really.

What does have something to do with it is that she's never been a judge before. To me, this is the equivalent of saying, "This person is a fantastic author. Therefore they should become the next editor in chief."  Or "This is the best math teacher in the school. Let's make them the next principal." Or "Here's the best washer salesman on the floor. Let's make them the CFO of Sears."

Experience in a related field doesn't qualify you for a job. Experience in that job does.   Great lawyers do not necessarily make great judges. The skills they have to employ are different.

I sincerely hope (and, unfortunately doubt) that Congress has more mental capacity and more common sense than the President. One step after another, and he's proven he's not only incompetent, he's dangerously so.  

Sunday, May 09, 2010


My 4 yo and 6 yo were in the living room playing today while I was in the kitchen making bread. Suddenly, a massive fight broke out. I paused and listened, too tired to rush in there and negotiate with them.

They were fighting about whether or not one of them broke the fourth wall in the midst of their game!

Cinnamon Rolls

Dad makes the best cinnamon rolls, so I thought I'd record the recipe, since now I think I have it nailed down (every time I call him, it's different!).

You use the same bread recipe that makes bread loaves, pizza crust, pitas, doughnuts, and just about everything else. It's a really versatile recipe.

1/4-1/3 c sugar (you can go as little as 2 Tbsp or as much as half a cup if you want the bread sweet)
1 1/2-2 tsp salt (more if you use more sugar)
1 tbsp yeast (this is approximately 1 1/2 of the little packets. I always measure it)
1/3 c oil
2 c hot (baby bath temp or up to 120 degrees) water
2 eggs (optional)
1/2 c mashed potato flakes or mashed potatoes (optional)
4 HEAPING or 5-7 level cups flour
6 tbsp powdered milk (optional)

1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
2 tsp-1 tbsp cinnamon (depends on how much you like cinnamon)

Put the ingredients in the mixer bowl IN THAT ORDER. (If you don't, the powdered milk and potato flakes won't fully incorporate ever, leaving the finished product with a terrible texture). Mix until it is smooth and tender and not sticky. I usually let the kitchenaid have at it for 5 minutes or so. If it's still sticky at that point, add more flour, 1/2 c at a time, mixing well after each, until it is smooth, soft, and tender. For loaves, you can make it heavy and dense and it just makes bigger loaves, but for doughnuts and cinnamon rolls, aim for just barely not sticky after 5 minutes of mixing, very soft and tender. No need to knead.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot (I heat my oven to 150 degrees and then turn it off and put the dough in there so the kids won't touch it). Let raise for 2-4 hours, punching it down ever 30 minutes to keep it in the bowl.

When you're ready, divide the dough into two balls.  Mix the filling ingredients except for the raisins. Now, on an UNPREPARED surface (no flour or oil on the table or counter--you WANT the dough to stick), roll the dough out until it's just about 1/4" thick. It should make a very large rectangle--about the size of a cookie sheet. Spread the butter-sugar filling all the way to three edges of the dough in a nice thin layer, leaving the long end farthest from you with about 1-2 inches of un-sugared dough.  Sprinkle raisins evenly across the filling. I like to use a LOT of raisins. Some people prefer a few. Roll the dough from the long side nearest you, as tightly as you can without gushing the filling out (it takes a kind of lift-and-roll motion). When you get to the unsugared part, pull it up and over and pinch it to the rest of the roll to seal.

Now, taking about 18 inches of sewing thread, slide the thread an inch under the roll. Lift the ends of the thread, cross them, and pull. This should neatly (and without spilling filling) cut the dough. (Be careful, it sometimes catches raisins and flings them, much to the delight of children).  Cut the roll into 1 inch slices and set them gently into a greased 9x13 pan. You can usually get them all in by putting the small ones into a little group and letting the big ones sit on their own. Don't crowd them too much, though, because they have to raise. Cover them, set the pan in a warm place, and let it raise 30 minutes. 10 minutes before it finishes raising, preheat the oven to 400 so it's ready when the cinnamon rolls are!

While that first batch is raising, either form the second half of the dough into a loaf to bake (raise half an hour, bake half an hour at 350) or make another pan of cinnamon rolls.

When the oven is hot and the rolls are raised big and light, put them into the hot oven and bake 12-14 minutes. They should just BARELY show golden around the edges when they're done. Don't overcook.

Cool them in the pans. Some people like to frost them or glaze them (2 c powdered sugar with 2-4 tbsp milk, stirred smooth and drizzled over the tops of the rolls) while they're still warm. Other people like a good, fluffy frosting after they're cool. (The BEST cream cheese frosting for these is here:
m/easy-recipes/monkey-bread-recipe.html at the bottom, below the monkey bread recipe. Just be sure you beat it 12 minutes like the recipe says!)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Don't know why....

This is really a baffling pregnancy for me. I thought, since it's number six, that I kind of had this pregnancy thing all figured out.

Not so!

I have NEVER felt this exhausted in a pregnancy--not even with baby number 1, when I was still going to work and then coming home and resting on the couch the rest of the day. I am so deeply exhausted at this point (I think I'm at 8 1/2 weeks now) that it is quite literally ALL I can do to get myself dressed each day and find food for myself (let alone the kidsies!).

I thought things would ease up when I was pretty much done nursing Nathanael, but no. Perhaps when my milk completely dries up? I don't know. All I know is I am so SO worn out that I am pretty much non-functional now, and I can't figure it out. Anemia? Shouldn't be--it's easy to crock pot beef, so I've been eating a lot of beef. That usually takes care of anemia for me.

Food is the other thing that has me surprised.

I haven't felt this morning sick (the all-day, nonstop variety) since I was pregnant with Anda. It's not as bad as with Caleb because I've learned in the intervening 4 pregnancies how to handle it, but I feel crappier more often than I remember for any of the others except Caleb.

On top of that, I'm hungry ALL the time. That usually doesn't strike me until after 16 weeks! Usually, I have little to no appetite in early pregnancy and lose 10-15 pounds right off the bat. This time, I spend all day feeling sick and thinking about food. It's like my entire existence survives around finding things I can stand to eat. And large amounts, too. Where I used to eat an apple before bed, I eat a full dinner now (full plate of chef salad, 3-5 half peaches with sour cream/brown sugar topping, and an extra boiled egg), plus dessert. I wake up in the middle of the night starving (and debating whether eating will wake up my digestive system sufficiently that the morning sickness will be worse, or not?). I eat, wait long enough to sit down in my chair, and then I'm hungry again (and hungry seems to be paired with nausea, so maybe that's why I'm sick all the time?). For a snack, which lasts me 5-10 minutes, I'll eat 5 sticks of celery with dressing. Then 15 minutes later I'm prowling the kitchen again, downing 2-3 oranges, 3 glasses of water in a row, or half a pitcher of juice.  Eventually, I get a couple of hours to just sit and rest, but by the end I'm ready to vomit I'm so hungry.....

And it just never stops. It goes on and on and on.

The other baffling thing is that, while I normally "pop out" sooner than most moms, I'm startling myself when I walk past the mirror. At 4 weeks (instead of my usual 8), my friends were noticing a baby bump. FOUR weeks! At 8 now, I'm fully into the maternity clothes and trying to convince myself it's just because they're more comfortable....but then I saw myself in the mirror today and was startled. I look pregnant. Already. I suppose that's good--gives me an excuse to be teary, emotional, grouchy, and TIRED.  I'm scared for what I'll look like at 38 weeks, though! I think this is just the result of having had so many babies before. You get bigger faster with each kid--so number 6 means my tummy is ready to stretch. Or, to be honest, never had a chance to shrink completely from last time, or the time before, or the time before.....

So there are two theories floating around in my mind: either I'm having another girl, and that's why things are SO SO SO different this time, or the nursing plus pregnant has left me trying to nourish 3 bodies instead of just two, and that has wiped me out and exaggerated the symptoms. Or maybe both.

And if the second is the case, there might be hope for me. I think Nathanael is finally done nursing. So maybe next week will be better.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I did the unthinkable today....

I threw a book in the garbage. It's maybe the second time in my LIFE I've done that (the other time was a religious book that was questionable anyway, but the margins were filled with notes from a pedophile about the text, and I just couldn't tolerate it even though the notes were about religion, not other nasty stuff).

ANYWAY, this time it was Steinbeck. I never have liked Steinbeck (I know--among other English teachers, it makes me EVIL!). My impression of his work is that, in trying to make his characters round, he balances every good with an equal evil, which means you get either wimpy, wishwashy characters with no moral center, or bad guys (because even a great hero, if he does despicable enough things, is no longer a hero). There are no good guys. No heroes.

Unfortunately, in real life this isn't actually accurate. In real life there are bad guys, and wishywashies, but there are also GOOD guys--really really good guys, whose good far outweighs their bad.

 Granted, everyone does bad things. The flaw that I find in Steinbeck is that he makes the good and bad equal. For example, King Arthur: great hero, saved England, everyone adores him. I can stand that sometimes he's proud, sometimes he's selfish. Those things make him human. But when he collects all the babies born in the last 4 weeks and murders them (all by himself, to hide a sin)'s too much. He is no longer a hero.

I don't think Steinbeck writes classics. (I KNOW! It's not okay to say that. But someone needs to speak up!). Critics and English teachers, ultimately, don't have the privilege of deciding which books are classics. Classics are determined by the reading public and by time. Shakespeare has NOT stuck around for hundreds of years because of the English teachers. Nor has Mark Twain. And, despite what they told you in school, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and many of the other "great" writers are not being taught because they're classic works of literature. They're being taught because they are easy to teach from--they're loaded with political, historical, and social issues that give the teachers something to talk about in addition to the nice writing. (It's like the Academy Awards--they aren't given to the truly classic movie of the year--they're given to the movie that the Academy wants to promote because it furthers their agenda.).

Anyway, I threw the book (It was Steinbeck's "translation" of King Arthur tales, but it was so very Steinbeckian that I have a hard time believing it was as strict a translation as the introduction claims) away because after reading about a third of it, I realized I didn't want my advanced readers who are still only small children to pick it up and delve in. Little too much graphic gore. Lot too much immorality (sex on the first page--typical of Steinbeck). And, what's more, while they talk about religion and Christ all the time, the overt message of the book is that repentance is a myth--that once you make a choice (usually an innocent one or a mistake, not an intentional evil), it puts you on a path from which there is no escaping, no changing, no amount of sorrow or penitence can fix.  I have no problem if my kids find the book in the library and want to read it when they're a little older. But I didn't want them poking into it now, when they're really just too young for it. Besides, I got them White's "Once and Future King" so they still have access to the stories.

So I confess: I threw a book away.

I also learned something from it. Something not related to Arthur or writing (I learn a lot about writing from Steinbeck--mostly what NOT to do). Something about religion.

And that is: If there is no repentance (in other words, no Christ), then the freedom to choose that we call agency is completely frustrated because Steinbeck's Arthurian view of life becomes a reality. Without repentance, without the Atonement, one little choice CAN set us on a path to destruction that we can never escape from (and EVERYONE at some point would make that choice, leading us all to destruction). The existence of the Earth and our lives on it would, in an eternal sense, be a complete and utter waste. The key to everything is that ability to choose, or to make mistakes, and then TURN BACK and choose differently with different results.

And it's a good thing we can turn back.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pitas (Pocket Bread)

This is surprisingly easy.

Make Mom's Bread Recipe (not mine):

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c oil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
2 c hot water (120 degrees or so--baby bathwater hot, not hot tub hot)
4 heaping (5-6 level) c flour

Mix well. This is easiest in a kitchenaid, where you can just set the timer for 5 minutes and let it go. No kneading this recipe. The dough should be smooth and tender and almost sticky, but not sticky. If it IS sticky, add more flour and mix again until the consistency is right.

Let raise 2-4 time for half an hour each, punching it down between.

Taking an egg-sized ball, roll it on an untreated countertop (no oil or flour--you WANT it to stick) to an 8-9" circle. Peel it up and place it on an oiled cookie sheet. It should shrink to about 7 ". Bake on the lowest oven rack at 450 for 4 minutes, until it's puffy (the puffy part is important!). Turn over and bake for 2 more minutes. Remove from cookie sheets immediately and place between either clean dish cloths or paper towels to cool (this catches the steam and softens them). Stack them a dozen high, with paper towels/dish cloths between each. If they puffed appropriately, there will already be a pocket inside when you cut them in half. If they didn't puff, you can carefully cut a pocket.

World's BEST Apple Crisp

8 c peeled and sliced apples*
1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c flour
1/2 c rolled oats
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, softened

Grease a 9x13" pan. Put in the apples. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and 2 tbsp butter in a small bowl. Sprinkle (as much as possible--this is a paste!) over the apples as evenly as you can.  Mix the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, soda, and salt thoroughly. Add the brown sugar and mix well. Finally, add the 1/2 c butter and  mix well.  Sprinkle/spread this over the apples.  Bake 40-45 minutes at 350.

*You really can use any kind of apples in this recipe, even (gasp!) Red Delicious.  HOWEVER, granny smith are the best tasting in this recipe. Many, many recipes recommend you mix varieties of apples in this kind of dessert, with a favorite combination being yellow delicious and granny smith. You can do this, but I don't recommend it because different varieties of apples have different cooking times, and different textures when done. If you mix granny smith (or any other firm, tart apple like fuji or braeburn) and yellow delicious (or any other soft apple like red delicious or jonathan), cut the firmer apples thinner than the firm apples or you will end up with some just right and some unbelievably mushy in the final product.

Iranian Beef-and-'banzo Stew

1 beef roast (I usually use 3-4 lb roasts, but any size works)
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained OR 1/2-1 lb dried garbanzo beans, prepared according to package (so fully cooked)
2 cans white beans, drained OR 1 lb dried white beans, prepared according to package (fully cooked)
2 tbsp minced dried onion OR 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
1-2 tomatos, peeled and quartered OR 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp lemon juice
Pita pockets

Put all ingredients in the crock pot. Cook 6-8 hours on high (until beef is fork tender). Remove roast and shred, using forks to pull it apart. Return to crock pot. Stir. Spoon into pita pockets using a slotted spoon.

If you use dried beans, you can soak them overnight, and then rinse and simmer them on the stove for the first 2-3 hours of the cook time while the beef and other ingredients cook in the crock pot. When the beans are done, drain them and add them to the crock pot for the rest of the cook time.

Note: This is especially good served with any variety of white cheese put in the pita, too, and topped with a little yellow or brown mustard.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Craigslist today:  "  •    Prolific Colorado writer being simultaneously drug in too many directions." 


When a "normal" person makes grammatical errors like that, I usually ignore them. When the person claims to be a "prolific writer," it completely destroys their credibility.

Now tell me why I would trust you enough to market your books?

Did I just read that?

Normally, I have a rule against putting Facebook posts on Did I just read That? even though a lot of them are funny. I don't want it to come back to bite me that I'm mocking my friends who are speaking "casually" (albeit in writing). I have no such rule for "published" material (even Craigslist is published!).  BUT there's one exception to the Facebook rule: when someone shares a link that has a funny in it.  Like this one:

On Facebook today: "Bullies Target Obese Kids on Yahoo! Health"

Good reason to stay off Yahoo! Health if you are overweight then!

(If you click the link, you'll see the headline was "Bullies Target Obese Kids," but Yahoo kindly reminded us where the article came from, making an unintentional gaffe.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Did I just read that?

from google news today:

"U.S. sees some evidence of a plot in NY car bomb 

Reuters - Jeremy PelofskyAdam Entous - ‎1 hour ago‎"

Since most car bombs don't involve some kind of a plot?

Or do they mean a plot of land? 

Or the plot of a story?

What a headline!

Did I just read that?

From Fox News today: "The student was struck by a bullet in her ankle, the station reports, and surgeons are deciding how to remove it." (

That would be tricky--removing just an ankle without also taking off the foot......

I realized I haven't been updating you on US lately...

I sometimes forget that a whole bunch of you like to know what's going on around our house because, you know, we live so far away.


Tim is working 80-120 hour weeks lately. What's he doing?
   Producing a 5-track "single" for Confidential to sell at the Harmony Sweepstakes Finals
   Recording and producing a couple of tracks he wrote at StarFest backstage that were HUGE hits there
   Competing, winning, and prepping for the same H.S. Finals with Plumbers of Rome
   Rehearsing his tail off to sing with Confidential as their tenor sub (yes, I KNOW he's usually a bass/bari, but his tenor voice is really incredibly beautiful).
   Performing everywhere he can with his solo show AND his 3 groups that are performance-ready
   Rehearsing with the other groups to get them performance-ready
   Preparing to produce 6 videos on a contract that is just coming through (details get nailed down Tuesday)
   Running sound for other groups when he has time
   Hosting Karaoke a couple nights a week
   Keeping up with emails and phone messages
   Responding to ads looking for performers (like for Charity events and stuff)
   Puzzling over "normal" management problems like how to get this singer to look good on stage (how do you costume that person?!), how much to push (or not) that singer or whole group, managing the calendar and casts, and considering whether he wants to take on that group, too, and under what circumstances, spending time listening to the people in his groups talk about stuff in more casual settings--especially after shows.
   Attending other people's performances--Tim considers this a very important part of his job; he's always a student of what is going on in his field
   Updating his online store (to sell more of his stuff)
   Updating his website, which was hacked last month and didn't recover exactly how he wanted it artistically (although Glen Sawyer managed to rescue all the data and the structure, so that was FANTASTIC) and also considering some suggestions I had for it (really them--he has a bunch of websites!)
   Having longish discussions with me about where we want things to go, how to solve problems that come up, and generally keeping me posted
  Booking venues for summer concerts in Utah
  Polishing up his show for the summer concerts in Utah
  Singing bass as a paid choir member in a choir down in Denver that is preparing to perform "Carmina Burana"
  Strategizing and preparing for various significant (or not) auditions that are coming up--which cast members from which groups to take, which groups to take in general, how to present the material, etc.
  Moving equipment into and out of the van. I assume he does something with it when he drives it away, but he seems to spend an inordinate amount of time moving stuff.
   Regular old maintenance on his office (cleaning, etc.) and his "stuff" (costumes, props, and sound equipment that must be maintained).
   Plus I think next week he's helping a good friend (and extremely talented sound guy) move his studio and set it up in a new space down in Denver.

That's in addition to the laundry (he folded it ALL today and is the only one who does it anymore), church, cub scouts (he's the assistant Webelos leader for the ward), eating, sleeping, exercising, recovering from a back injury last week, spending time with us being a husband and father, and taking up what he can of the stuff I've dropped lately (which is everything).

Tim has the car almost all day almost every day.

So the kids are I are at home. The computer Caleb was using for his projects died (I think it's the power supply--it was moaning and groaning for a few months there; but it might be the power switch--it was being tricky to turn on for a while, too.). So he's been "borrowing" my computer, much to my consternation. I have such a hard time saying to him, "No. You can't learn how to program computers because I want to read the news!" He's a good sport--he gets off whenever I want it. And I finally reclaimed my rocking chair. But I'm struggling to get school done (which we did on my computer) and keep up with my novel (which I had just gotten back into!).

Still, Caleb is doing cool things. He's learning how to "code" as he says, and he's creating his own RPG (role playing game, I think that means) from scratch this time--not modifying someone else's or even basing it on theirs. He's created characters, settings (including maps, scenes, interiors and exteriors of buildings, etc), plots, subplots, dialogs, etc in a way that most 3rd grade teachers WISH their students would engage in. It's cool.

Anda thought it was cool, too, so she's making one, too. Totally different from Caleb's, but cool still. And, since they're creating new-from-scratch things, Daniel and Benji both had to have maps to make, too, so they are. And, consequently, I spend a LOT of time watching kids walk me through the _whatever_ they just created and pointing out how it really is different from last time they showed me ten minutes ago.

Normally, this wouldn't last long because I would be rushing off to work on something else or unable to stand there and look at it and pay attention long enough.

But lately, it's not like that.

See, this pregnancy has completely wiped me out in a way no pregnancy has before. All I do, quite literally, is get out of bed and try not to throw up, dress myself, rest in my chair, fix meals, rest in my chair, wash a single load of dishes (in my magic no-need-to-rinse-even-if-the-food-is-baked-on dishwasher) and then go back to bed, where I stay as long as I possibly can (10-12 hours if the kids will let me). Then we start over. The toddlers are going undressed except for diapers (and even not them for Benji, who is casually potty training himself). The big kids are dressing themselves. Kids are down to one bath a week. We're mostly eating out of cans and the things that good samaritans (most of whom have no idea I'm pretty much chair-bound now) have been bringing "just because I thought you might need a meal today" (which we usually did). If I had frozen pizzas and burritos, we'd be eating them three meals a day. It's that kind of a time. And with Tim not home, the house is worse than usual. But nobody seems to mind.

If I DON'T focus on doing nothing--if I try to go about a normal mommy day instead of just resting and eating (both as much as possible), I find that three things happen a) I get incredibly, abusively angry at everything and everyone, b) I get a nasty combination of despair/anxiety/depression that makes me lose all faith in God and in Tim and also think everyone hates me, and c) my fibro, which is MUCH worse this pregnancy anyway,  is out of control (which then exacerbates the other two).

Since NONE of those is okay with me, I just rest and eat and feed kids and that's pretty  much it. I haven't even made it to church, and it's a good thing we've gotten food from the bishop's storehouse (and Tim has picked it up) or we'd be starving for lack of shopping. And then, just resting and eating, I'm actually really quite calm and happy.

What I've found is that being still--just sitting there at eye level to a kid all day--can be magic for a mommy. The kids talk to me more. They show me what they're working on. I'm available and in the school/playroom all day, and they know it so they come there, too. They climb into and out of my lap all day. We nap together in the rocking chair. I read to them. We sing--a LOT. The kids play with each other more because their needs for me are satisfied, so they don't have to follow me around and be underfoot. Even Nathanael, who has been so clingy for so long, is starting to play by himself or run off with the kids because he knows he can get me as much as he needs me.  I feel CONNECTED to everyone's hearts. And I remember how much I love being a mommy (even though, before I had any babies, I somehow got the idea that smart women always hate motherhood).  Sitting around looking into kids' eyes all day is incredibly satisfying.

It's not that I didn't listen and spend time with the kids before. I did. But it's different when they're talking to you when you're doing the dishes. It's different when you're spending time together going to the park or in the yard. It's different when there is a steady stream of instructions coming out of your mouth in between listening (Dan is telling you about the dream he just had, and in the middle, you're calling out things like, "Caleb, you left your shoes in the middle of the kitchen!" "Benji, give that back to Nathanael." "Anda, did you need help with that math assignment? Wait just a minute, Dan is telling me something.....").

Doing less of everything else leaves me with more of the things that matter: the kids, the scriptures, Tim, my own mind (oh, I'm getting LOTS of writing and quilting projects moving along, plus having quiet time in my own soul--it's never really quiet in a house of 5 kids and a musician!--to ponder, which has been SOOO valuable right now). With less motion in my life, I've found that I have more time to hear the Spirit, and therefore less worry about things I can't control anyway, and a greater sense of peace and calm and reassurance even in the face of what looks like disaster.

I'm not miserable. I'm tired. I would gladly sleep all day if I could (physically, I probably could; the kids just won't let me). But I'm not unhappy with this change in my lifestyle. It took a little getting used to, but I'm SO glad to have the chance to re-set my focus.

And to discover that being still and doing less is the most important thing I've ever done.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What are we?

Some of you may remember that I, as an author, went through a LENGTHY process discovering what I write. It took me years to finally identify who my audience is (11-14 yo girls, especially the gifted ones), what my genre is (Fantasy. Fine. I can admit it now.), what kind of voice and narrative I really produce (vs what I wanted to write. Nope--I don't write lightweight comic novels like I thought I would, and darn it, no matter how I try to avoid it, everything I write is infused with a light spy-thriller-mystery feel even though it's fantasy). It's taken me years to realize that what I'm interested in, what I daydream about, is magic in a way that challenges your cultural assumptions about classic tales, women who are real women (soft, feminine, not street fighters but who are still the absolute, no questions asked hero of the story), and spy stories. I love spy stories. I love magic. Is there any wonder they would come together in my stories?

Anyway, I'm noticing that other artists have to go through that, too.  A friend of mine seems to find all his stories end up comic, even when he's trying to write serious (actually, it's what I LOVE about his books).

Tim has had to define what he does, too. Not for artistic purposes, but in order to make it accessible to potential audiences. You have to stick the right tags on the music (or books) so they come up in the google searches and on the shelves where your potential audience is looking.

So where do I put Tim's stuff? His new stuff, despite the fact that there still are a few comedy/novelty tunes stuck in there (it's in his soul!), I think I would class as rock/pop (not pop-rock, which is it's own thing). Where would I put it on the shelves in a music store? Somewhere around They Might Be Giants old stuff (not their kids' stuff), OkGo, and Queen. Just based purely on the music itself, I think he writes rock music. I can hear the influences of not only the groups I already mentioned but groups like Midnight Oil and Rush (with their complex music and thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics), but with nicer vocals, and with rhythms that borrow ideas from the ska/punk movement and vocal styling that borrows from the ska/swing movement. Still rock in my mind, though.

So it surprised me when he was nominated for a Northern Colorado Music Association Award last week--in the Singer-Songwriter category!

I wracked my brain trying to figure out how he ended up there, and then it dawned on me--music is not only categorized by its sound but also by the ensemble that creates it. Nobody is going to confuse solo piano with full orchestral music even if both are playing Mozart. They are two different things, and lovers of solo piano music don't always love orchestral music (and vice versa).

Rock music is NEVER performed by a solo performer. It's always performed by a band. Not even a guy with backing tracks. Rock is performed by a band.

Solo performers who perform their own compositions are singer-songwriters, never mind if their music doesn't fit what most singer-songwriters perform (thoughtful ballads, voice and guitar).

There are other live loopers out there--lots of them--but their music is heavy on the beat-boxing, heavy on the electronica, heavy on the "house" techno. Most of them are using their voices to do the DJ thing, not using their voices to write melodic songs. And THAT places Tim in the singer-songwriter category. His tunes, while rock-infused, heavily effected, and heavy on the bass and rhythm (and beatboxing), are melodic. They are still SONGS, made to be sung, with melody and harmony.

So the Northern Co. Music Association says he's a singer-songwriter, not a rock band.

It leaves me curiously interested to see where we go from here. I have this sneaky suspicion that we still don't know what's coming for Tim's career.....