Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of the best things I've read in a long long time


You really should click the link, but if you don't, here is a quote from the article, about a museum that collects serious but terrible artwork:

"The loss of two MOBA works to theft has drawn media attention, and enhanced the museum's stature.[5][21][22] In 1996, the painting Eileen, by R. Angelo Le, vanished from MOBA. Eileen was acquired from the trash by Wilson, and features a rip in the canvas where someone slashed it with a knife even before the museum acquired it, "adding an additional element of drama to an already powerful work", according to MOBA.[23]

The museum offered a reward of $6.50 for the return of Eileen, and although MOBA donors later increased that reward to $36.73, the work remained unrecovered for many years.[24] The Boston Police listed the crime as "larceny, other",[5] and Sacco was reported saying she was unable to establish a link between the disappearance of Eileen and a notorious heist at Boston’s famed Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that occurred in 1990.[25][26] In 2006—10 years after Eileen was stolen—MOBA was contacted by the purported thief demanding a $5,000 ransom for the painting; no ransom was paid, but it was returned anyway.[27]

Prompted by the theft of Eileen, MOBA staff installed a fake video camera over a sign at their Dedham branch reading: "Warning. This gallery is protected by fake video cameras".[28] Despite this deterrent, in 2004 Rebecca Harris' Self Portrait as a Drainpipe was removed from the wall and replaced with a ransom note demanding $10, although the thief neglected to include any contact information.[29] Soon after its disappearance the painting was returned, with a $10 donation.[30] Curator Michael Frank speculates that the thief had difficulty fencing the portrait because "reputable institutions refuse to negotiate with criminals."[30]"

Next time I'm anywhere near Massachusetts, guess where I'll be visiting first....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

a born engineer

When left to his own devices at church today, without any influence from any other kids, Dan immediately took a piece of chalk and sketched out a machine on the chalkboard that put oil 'from a can into a bottle and puts the lid on'. He talked me through all the parts, too. Then he erased it and drew two more. Granted, there were lots of arbitrary parts that did arbitrary things, and not much explanation of exactly how does it spray oil into the bottle, etc, but he's only 3.

Then he drew a space suit, drew himself inside, and drew a rocket. Then he drew a match in his hand so he could light the rocket so it would shoot fire and fly. He drew himself a second match so he could light the rocket to fly home. Then he explained that he only had two because Daddy took the rest of the matches and put them up so nobody would get hurt on them.

Aaah, the mind of a three-year old!

When left to his own devices, Daniel builds buildings and stages, and draws machines (when he learned that such a job as 'architect' exists, he was delighted). I had to think back to what the other kids drew at that age. Caleb drew games--pinball, board games, computer games--and comics, and he wrote stories (he could read and write by 3 1/2 years old). Anda drew animals and people.

I wonder if this is a hint about their talents and futures?

wolf stew

Two of the kids are in the kitchen playing with their stuffed animals.

"I caught the wolf for our dinner," one kid has one animal say.

"Rip its eyes out," says the other.

"Tear its nose off, too," says the first.

More gory pretend dismemberment follows.

And how does my sweet only daughter feel about all this?

I'm not entirely sure, but she's in there saying, "Now squeeze all the blood into the pot, and we'll make a sauce and cook it in its own blood."

I think she started the game.

It's not that we don't have princesses and puppies around her. It's just that the princesses conquer their own enemies, and the puppies act like wild animals--and she knows exactly how wild animals act because she delights in studying them in detail (she wants to be a wildlife biologist, and a farmer so she can study and raise animals). When I act shocked at her sometimes gory animals-acting-like-animals games, she reassures me that the good guys aren't being eaten or blown up or crashed in a plane-train-truck collision--only the bad guys. Most of the bad guys are big fluffy teddy bears for some reason (pellet-filled bears like beanie babies are exempt). Most of the good guys are cats. (And, for some mysterious reason, the really powerful good guys--the superhero animals--are all "best silly swimming." I'm not sure where the phrase came from, but when something is best silly swimming, it means it has magic powers.)

I guess the wolf is cooking now because it's sitting in a pot on a kitchen chair and the kids have moved on to more benign games with the 'good guys'--the stuffed puppy is now chasing a ball, and the stuffed dogs are playing with toy food to cut carrots and bake bread, complete with cinnamon, black pepper, and squeezed strawberries.

I guess she's a domestic cheetah princess mommy at heart.

Friday, March 27, 2009

health news this week

Turns out that the attentive parents were right: ADHD drugs don't work long-term. They seem to work for about a year, and then? The stunt the kids' growth and don't help the ADD.

Actually, I have adult relatives who have said their meds stopped working after a year, too, much to their consternation.

Of course, the behaviorists are saying that proves they were right--behavior training _of the parents_ will solve the ADHD problem. As a parent, quite frankly, I resent this. It implies that my child's physiological problem is my fault. Other than imparting bad genes to my children, I don't think this is my fault, and I absolutely am NOT interested in going through behavioral modification on me. Or the kids, for that matter.

It actually reminded of the studies that found a correlation between ADD and TV time in toddlers. So they all said, "Little ones should not watch TV--it can cause ADD." In other words, "See? It IS bad mothering that causes ADD." Hogwash. YES, there's a correlation between more TV time as toddlers and having ADD when the kids are old enough to test for it. Any mother of an ADD toddler will tell you in a heartbeat that they discovered that the kids calmed down and let them, say, shower or make dinner when the the kids watched TV, and that infants who later were diagnosed with ADD stopped crying and fussing so much when they got to watch TV. Yes, there's a correlation--it's because the poor kids are born with ADD, and TV is their first medication, which the moms feel guilty about using but get so desperate to survive that they throw their resolutions out the window and teach the one year old how to play the dvds themselves! The doctors can't see this because they've decided that nobody is BORN with ADD, only the propensity to develop it. But moms know better--we can see signs of ADD in some kids as early as one week after birth. You just have to know what to look for. They used to say that kids can't be born with bipolar disorder, too, and all the moms of bipolar kids knew better--and were eventually vindicated.

Anyway, back to the original topic: The behaviorists are wrong that nobody should ever use medication. People just need to re-evaluate how it's used, possibly taking cues from the people who use nutritional supplements to treat ADD in using the drugs less often or skipping days so it doesn't build up in the kids' systems. We don't take Tylenol every day just in case to help deal with aches and pains, and we don't take decongestants every day to keep our noses clear. We take them when we need them. Perhaps ritalin would work better that way, taken on an as-needed basis (and I know some ADD people need them all the time to avoid depression and stuff, but not everyone does). You take it when you need to think clearly. Or, like people who use l-tyrosine, you know you can only take it 5-6 days a week or it builds up in your system and stops working, so you think through the week and plan which day to skip, and then don't take it at all on vacations or break days so its efficacy doesn't wane.

The medicine not being a panacea does bring home one point though: You MUST be aware of the diet and exercise parts of treatment, too, so that even if the medicine stops working, you don't turn into a lump.

and, I guess, also the point that we haven't cured this one, so we need more research.

Other health news proved the Word of Wisdom once again. Hot coffee and tea lead to esophageal cancer. Apparently the wording in the scriptures is actually significant in this instance--it's the hotness of the tea that increases the cancer risks (the hotter the more the risk, so that people who drink it at 158 degrees or hotter are hugely more at risk than people who drink it less than 140 degrees).

I found this quote especially interesting: "Hot tea is not the only beverage linked to esophageal cancer. Drinking alcohol and using tobacco also ups the risk for cancer in the windpipe."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Well, who would have known? It's a real disorder!

"circadian rhythm disorders in which sleep is usually normal in structure and duration but occurs at an undesired time (delayed sleep phase syndrome)."

" Delayed sleep phase disorder Common in adolescents; persistent phase shift in sleep-wake schedule (later bedtime and wake time) that conflicts with school and lifestyle demands"

"ADHD. Parents often report that children with ADHD have sleep disturbances, especially difficulty initiating sleep, poor sleep quality, restless sleep, frequent nighttime arousals, and shortened sleep duration....Sleep problems in children with ADHD are often multifactorial. Potential causes include: psychostimulant-mediated sleep-onset delay, bedtime resistance related to comorbid anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or circadian phase delay, settling difficulties related to deficits in sensory integration associated with ADHD."

"Delayed sleep phase syndrome. Some youths presenting with sleep-initiation insomnia—particularly adolescents—may have a circadian-based sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). DSPS is a significant, persistent phase shift in the sleep-wake schedule (later bedtime and wake time) that conflicts with the individual’s school, work, or lifestyle demands.12 The problem is the timing rather than quality of sleep.

Sleep quantity may be compromised if the individual must arise before obtaining adequate sleep. Sleep-onset delays resolve, however, when the patient is allowed to follow his or her preferred later bedtime and wake time.

The typical DSPS sleep-wake pattern is a consistently preferred bedtime/sleep-onset time after midnight and wake time after 10 AM on weekdays and weekends. Adolescents with DSPS often complain of sleep-onset insomnia, extreme difficulty waking in the morning, and profound daytime sleepiness.

A 1- to 2-hour phase shift to a later bedtime and wake time is part of normal pubertal development and has been cited as a rationale for delaying high school start times. The phase shift in DSPS is typically much more dramatic and intractable than the norm."

that's us.

"Treatment options for DSPS include:
strict sleep-wake schedule (such as 9:30 or 10 PM to 6:30 AM on school nights, with no more than a 1-hour discrepancy on non-school nights)
melatonin, 3 to 5 mg, given 3 to 4 hours before the desired bedtime, if sleep schedule strategies are unsuccessful
bright-light therapy in the morning to suppress melatonin secretion and “reset” the body clock, especially if morning waking is particularly difficult.13

Teens with a severely delayed sleep phase (>3 to 4 hours) may benefit from chronotherapy. Delay bedtime (“lights out”) and wake times successively—by 2 to 3 hours per day—over several days. For example, if the teen’s preferred fall asleep time is 3 AM and wake time is noon, then bedtime and wake time would be 5 AM to 2 PM the first day; 7 AM to 4 PM the next day, and so forth until the sleep-onset time coincides with the desired bedtime."

We've tried the bright-light therapy. Didn't work. We hesitate to try chronotherapy because we've been afraid it would put us onto a 26-hour day, permanently cycling forever, since even the caregivers in the family have the problem.

But Melatonin...There's hope!


adhd sleep cures....

this was reported in 2003. Why didn't I find it then?


I knew there was more to our sleep problems than just me forgetting bedtime!

I suppose the fact that I can forget bedtime might be a hint that something is wrong with our circadian rhythms. I suppose the fact that it is physically possible for an entire family to have an intensely wrong sleep schedule that absolutely resists all efforts to fix it, even ones suggested by doctors, might have clued me in that I'm not just dumb or lazy or foolish or a failure. I suppose the fact that it gets wrong again when we do manage to fix it might also be a hint. I suppose the fact that Caleb had severe insomnia, and Daniel has pretty extreme sleep problems still, at age 3, waking 4 or more times a night, might have been a hint that there is something medically WRONG with us.

I suppose it should have been more significant to me that one of the diagnostic criteria of fibromyalgia is sleep problems. But I wrote it off because that isn't likely the cause of all of our sleep issues.

And now, to my great relief, the researchers are producing helpful data. Turns out something like 50% of kids with ADD have sleep problems.

Read about it here:

Here's the quote that made me breathe a sigh of relief:
"These findings suggest the children with ADHD have a delay in their circadian rhythm, or "internal time clock" that keeps them from being on a regular sleep cycle, Gruber's team maintains."

Also: "treatment of sleep problems has been shown to improve behavior and decrease the need for stimulant medication in children with ADHD." This may be why, as we've found ways for Caleb to get more and better sleep, his behavior has improved noticeably.

This doesn't make it any easier to get to church on time. But it does give me fuel for discussing the problems with people--it is a medical problem that we have to adjust to, not simply a failing in my parenting skills.

What a relief. I feel as unburdened as I did when I discovered that I have fibromyalgia--and that's why I'm such a failure at keeping house. When you know you have a problem, it's much easier to deal with it than when you just think you're a failure.

I'm going to look up sleep anxiety now. It would be heavenly for me to have labels with which I could research and discuss Dan's sleep problems (I've actually been praying about his sleep problems all week...this article was an answer to my prayers.). Knowing they are real problems, and not his fault, helps me to be patient and also to help him.

More on how we've adapted our sleep situations to solve Caleb's problems later....

What Obama's $3.6 trillion spending plan could buy:

$3.6 trillion dollars is a lot of money. People throw that number around a lot because it is the amount Obama wants for his pet projects (okay, for the budget. Still...).

Just for some sense of what that amount is:

If you used that money to buy houses at $100,000 a piece for families in the US, you could put 38% of the entire US Population into houses that they would own outright. That is, you could buy 36 MILLION houses for people. 36 MILLION families would have a permanent home and be able to use their hard-earned cash on the economy instead of on failing house payments and taxes to pay for cabinet members who don't pay their own taxes. People could afford their own health insurance and education at private schools.

Oh, but a $100,000 house isn't a very good house, you say? Well, let's take the median house price at the end of last year, or $180,000, and assume the government has to pay that much for houses, on average, to give to citizens. 20 MILLION families would get a house. A real house. Here in Vegas, for $180,000 you can get a 2700 square foot house on half an acre.

Not that I advocate giving houses away--I don't think that kind of freebie leads to safe, productive neighborhoods. People treat better things they work hard for (is that why pregnancy and childbirth are so darn difficult?).

It's just something to think about.

Oh, and I realize the entire $3.6 trillion isn't just for Obama's pet projects, but also for things that benefit all of us, like roads.

Here's the kicker: the total bailout cost is looking to actually be worse than that.

From cnbc.com: "The U.S. government has launched an unprecedented array of actions to salvage the economy and stabilize the financial sector that could put up to $10.926 trillion of taxpayers' money at risk." (http://www.cnbc.com/id/29792192/).


That would buy 60,900,000 houses. Almost 61 MILLION houses. Nice houses. 2700 square feet on half an acre in Las Vegas houses. It would put 194,271,000 family members into their own homes. That is 63.5% of the entire US Population. You want to go by households? Census data indicates that in 2007 there were about 105,000,000 households in the US. Almost 11 trillion dollars could buy outright more than half of the houses those households live in. Possibly all of them if we allowed for the fact that some people live in $30,000 properties and apartments.

Again, I'm NOT advocating giving houses to everyone in the US.

I'm just saying....we're spending it anyway. And instead of helping families with it, we're giving it to stupid/corrupt businesses and organizations that are handing it over to foreign institutions, and to organizations that caused the problems in the first place. AND, what's more, it's not helping the economy at all. In fact, I suspect giving everyone in the nation a house would actually help the economy more. Again, I realize the problems, and am not proposing it.

Just trying to give you a little perspective on what the government is spending. For more perspective, realtytrac.com reports that only 2,330,483 houses are actually in foreclosure right now. At the median home price from December, it would only have cost the government $419,486,940,000, or about $420 billion dollars, to pay for all those houses and get the banks out of trouble that way. I wonder how that would have affected people's ability to get loans? Cuz that's what's been holding the economy back all along.... Maybe that's the bailout we should have invested in.

more funny kids

Daniel told me he was excited that "Valentimes" comes every year.

Benji was standing in the living room yesterday singing his heart out. When I listened to the words, I nearly laughed out loud:

"The eensy weensy spider was out walking about. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the eensy spider was walking all about again."

Makes more sense, especially to a 2-year-old who's never seen a water spout (they have little need for them in Vegas, so we often don't have them; we just let rain fall off the roofs and go where it will).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

there was a time....

There was a time not too long ago when I wanted to get my masters' degree in this:

For my focus that would eventually lead to my thesis, I wanted to compare the social history of the women's realm in 19th century Britain, America, and among Mormon Pioneer Women, specifically with interest in how the social and cultural influences on the women before they joined the church affected them and their experiences as pioneer women, and what echoes we find in the mormon women's culture today.

My basic assumption was that the 'drawing room-to-handcart' experience of Victorian women who joined the church made them different from average pioneer and immigrant women of the time, especially since their reasons for immigrating and for moving west were NOT the financial reasons cited by most scholars as the motivating factors in most people's decisions to leave Europe to come to America and then to travel west. They were not gold diggers and hussies. And they weren't necessarily poor street urchins or subsistence farmers, either (or were they? That's what I want to know).

In more intimate detail, I'd like to know how they modified/abandoned/clung to their cultures (what recipes did they bring and how did they modify them? What clothing styles did they wear before they left and then when they had to resort to making their own clothes in Utah? What education level did they have?).

Most people never think much about this: Those women we decry for wearing corsets and ostrich feathers and going to the opera to see and be seen? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. Those beautiful Southern Belles with their enormous crinoline skirts? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. The people who inhabit Mark Twain's books (the Aunt Polly's and Becky Thatchers of the world)? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. The audiences for (and women lampooned in) Gilbert and Sullivan? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers.

We so often hold the church history on a different timeline than the world history that we forget that women like Christine, from Phantom of the Opera, were the ones who ended up trekking across the plains and trying to fight off the crickets and cultivate the desert. And I suspect many more than just my ancestors were originally well-bred women who worked hard to keep their milky complexions and spent their mornings 'paying visits'.

I am so glad I found that website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

superhero costumes

Caleb just observed, "While most of us wear our underwear on the inside of our clothing, most superheroes wear their underwear on the outside of their clothing."

He's right. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but he's right.

What does that say about superheroes?

And what does that say about our culture that worships them?

A post on marriage

I've wanted to do a post on marriage for a long time, and I probably will more in detail some other time.

The observations I've made that drive me to thinking about it are that people treat marriage the way they used to treat having a girlfriend or boyfriend. "Marriage" in action is actually more often a cohabitational 'going steady'.

I realized that, now two or three generations into it being acceptable to be divorced and to solve problems through divorce, there's a good chance that very few people even know what a good marriage looks like, and even fewer who were raised with parents in a good marriage who could model how married people act.

In other words, I don't think people know how to be married anymore. Like using herbal remedies to cure sicknesses, it is an art and science that is passed on culturally that is lost.

The other observation I had recently came yesterday, while I was sitting in the waiting room while they operated on Nathanael. Beside me, an older woman was talking on her cell phone about her son's surgery. Older like in her seventies, with gray hair and hard-earned wrinkles. And she was talking more about how sexy she found the doctor than about her son's (fairly miserable) prognosis.

I was offended. I imagine that hot young doctor and his wife would have been, too.

I kept thinking of it in terms of my brother is studying to be a doctor--do I want women drooling over him? How would he like that? Would knowing that was going on affect his ability to do his job?

It wasn't the words she was saying that were so deeply offensive.

It was the behavior. It was the fact that it is not even culturally tolerated, but rather culturally expected for us to choose to notice a person's physical appearance and then, if possible, lust after it.

And coming out of an old woman's mouth, the words really hit me as sophomoric.

Why have we culturally embraced high school behavior and made it the ideal?

Why have we made it a collective goal to be teenagers, all the while decrying their behavior while we try to emulate it?

I think it is partially because we have turned into a culture (ironically) that first tolerated and then accepted singleness, and now values it above marriedness. Our culture actually teaches us to lust broadly and be lusted after as much as possible, and that therein lies our personal value. It is an immature way of approaching our bodies and our souls. It is, at heart, an intensely selfish way of looking at the world, and selfishness is, ultimately, isolating. And that, friends, is one of the reasons marriage as an institution is failing in our world--we have placed higher value on self than on family.

And then we mourn a culture of isolation and aloneness while we reject the very things that could cure the problems.

These behaviors have always been in the world (I mean, really, who hasn't heard of 'dirty old men'?). The difference is that now there is not a stable body of happily (or at least established) married people who value maturity, dignity, responsibility--you know, all those old-fashioned values.

I find it deeply sad that the only people who seem to really care about and value marriage are the homosexuals. Those of us who have right to the blessing seem to resent it and work against it more often than value and nurture it.

I'm not complaining about my marriage, personally. I feel like I'm the luckiest gal in the world in my marriage, but it's certainly not without attention, care, and cultivation (I daren't say 'work' like so many people do--that implies disagreeable, laborious action, and the action it takes to make a marriage happy is most agreeable to me). And it is absolutely without the choice (and it IS a choice--you can't fool me into thinking it is inevitable and unavoidable and natural) to look elsewhere and lust after people who have no right to my attentions.

A Waiting Room

Yesterday, Nathanael had surgery to correct an abnormality in his "little boy parts". Everything went well, but I noticed that the outpatient waiting room is a study in human stress response. If you ever want to know how tense people look and act in public, go sit in the outpatient surgery waiting room for an hour or two.

While I was sitting there, wishing they had a library (as were other people who were wandering the room looking for something they hadn't read yet), I started listening to the people around me. Turns out people in surgery waiting rooms share pretty private information ina place that is actually really public, but somehow also very isolated. I suppose they feel alone, so they act like they are alone.

For example, I learned that at least two people there had detached retinas, and one was possibly going to be blind even after the surgery, and that one of the others was there on time and going to have to wait for 7 hours until their surgery, but still wasn't allowed to eat now, and that one little girl was having surgery for an accident that involved bb guns, and that the receptionists have to walk the fine line between efficiently getting their jobs done and not coming across as callous and even aggressive with people who are tense and uncomfortable (and downright scared) and really need someone to reach out to them and comfort them and let them know that things will be fine (which the receptionists obviously can't do).`

The prep room and recovery room was equally intense an experience. It was very open, with beds divided by curtains, and no pretense of being private at all--I heard all kinds of conversations that should have been not public information. Like that an elderly man had all kinds of health problems because of a catheter that got infected (this kind of thing lead to the eventual death of my grandfather, so I really heard that) and that the nurse was peeved that the doctor had crossed off EVERY SINGLE pain medication from the list, so there was nothing she could do to help him once he woke up. And I heard them prepping a baby next door for the same surgery Nathanael was having, and the nurse said, "He'll be really sleepy for the rest of the day," and the poor mother (who was young--in her early twenties?) said with a sigh, "OH good. He never sleeps." And the nurse said, "Well, take advantage of it by sleeping when he does, because he might not sleep at all the rest of the week." My heart ached for that mommy and I wished we could just chat about it. Another baby next to me was being prepped for a surgery to remove a quarter he had swallowed that was blocking his esophagus, so he couldn't eat (and they didn't know why he was throwing up everything for several days, so it had been 5 days and two hospitals since he swallowed the thing). His mother, 3 months pregnant, was starving so his grandmother started walking the baby (they can't eat in front of him because he can't swallow, but he doesn't know that so he thinks they're just being mean by withholding food). I started talking to them because their baby wanted to look at Nathanael, and I ended up sharing toys with him. After we had commiserated for a few minutes and shared each others' stories, a nurse came a yelled at us because a patient isn't supposed to leave his curtain cubbyhole because the anesthesiologist was ready to talk to him (never mind that the patient was 13 months old and his parents were in the right place!).

Anyway, it struck me that what all these people needed was to connect with each other--to hold each other's hands, to talk about their mutual problems and their frustrations--and how dreadful it was that the nurses in the prep/recovery room wouldn't let us, and somehow everyone's common stress and fear prevented them in the waiting room. Even just me saying, "go ahead and take those magazines, I've already read them" to an elderly man who was obviously prowling for distraction was visibly comforting to him.

Even now, 24 hours later, what I want is to go back and hug them all and listen to their stories and offer what comfort I can, even if it's just to hold their hand and sit silently while they talk and talk.

See, this is the thing I've re-learned over the past six months.

People need each other.

When the scriptures say we are to bear one another's burdens that they may be light, it's a big big deal. We don't have to remove other's burdens. We can't take them away, most of the time (although that is, to a great extent, the calling of doctors and teachers). But people need someone to talk to, to listen to, to love. Loving and listening to someone else eases your own burdens and theirs. A culture, like we have, that is too embarrassed to admit we have burdens is a tragedy and a curse on us all. In trying to look good, and right, and like we have everything together, even in the face of stress, we deny ourselves and others the relief and comfort we so desperately need.

While I was sitting there, I knew that, were Jesus there, he might not take away the sicknesses and deformities, but he most certainly would be wandering and sitting down with each person one at a time to listen, talk, and comfort.

We need to be able to do that for each other!

Turkish Delight

Okay, so we're reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I hadn't read most of them til last summer, and then I found them surprisingly moving, and extremely effective at what Lewis probably intended for them to do--causing me to ponder my relationship to Christ.

The kids, once persuaded to listen (Caleb LOVES to read and taught himself how when he was 3 1/2 years old, but refuses to let me start new books in new series--Anda has to force him to let me), have decided they quite like the books, and I frequently catch them re-reading the ones I've already read to them.

Part of the condition Caleb set on us for reading the series was that we couldn't read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" first. So we read a couple of the others first (the kids have found the books so exciting that they've tried to up our limit from two to three chapters per night, so we're getting through them really fast).

Naturally, like other homeschooling families, we just had to try to make Turkish Delight as soon as we read that part. So we got a recipe here:


and found it called for rosewater, so we got that recipe here:


First, we collected three roses from the front yard--two yellow and one red, since that was what was in bloom at the time. We cleaned them (the yellows had aphids), and the kids took pictures of the petals they liked ("This one is a heart!" "Oh, one perfect rose petal! Oh, look! Here's another perfect one!") (taking pictures of things we like was our solution to the "You can't eat that taco. I want to save it forever" phenomenon in our house that happened whenever someone noticed something out of the ordinary. Now we allow packratism, but only if most of your stash is saved on picasa).

Anyway, we followed the recipe and made the rosewater. It came out a deep red color.

Then we followed the recipe to make Turkish Delight. The first thing we noticed was that the red rosewater, added to the cold sugar water, turned everything a lovely pale yellow. Then, as we started cooking it, the pale yellow grew more intense. And then it turned a lovely pale green. To our utter surprise, the green became more and more intense as the sugar cooked, until it was almost neon. (Perhaps this is why rosewater is often made in enameled cookware?). Anyway, that was a shocker.

Unfortunately, I wasn't terribly careful about following the instructions carefully, and the stuff came out all wrong, with lumps and chunks and hardened cornstarch bits in it. Plus it tasted just awful, like weedy cornstarch. So we weren't inclined to eat it OR to try again, despite the beautiful frosty green color it ended up being.

I do have a recipe from one of my 1950s cookbooks that uses gelatin, so isn't 'real' Turkish Delight but promises to work out better. And word on the street is that the old candies called Aplets and Cotlets were actually Turkish Delight.

I just hate failing at a recipe when I know I didn't follow it exactly, so I might try it again when the kids aren't helping and see if I can make it go, being more careful about the 'cook to hard ball stage' and less about the "that's 250 degrees" (It isn't at this elevation. I knew that, but I forgot when I was looking at the recipe. 250 degrees is hard crack stage; 235-240 is hard ball stage at this elevation), and stirring in the cornstarch mixture instead of holding the kids back with one hand (adding water to boiling sugar can be a recipe for an explosive disaster) and dumping it in with the other.

I think I'll opt for vanilla or fruit juice flavoring this time. But if you want some rosewater for something, I have 3/4 c sitting in the fridge that you're welcome to!

Earth Hour

You've probably heard of this, the latest fad for grownups--participating in Earth Hour--one hour where we all turn off all electricity together to save the earth.

I guess this will reflect on me poorly, and maybe I'm revealing too much about my inner soul, but my honest, true reaction to this:

I have a mad urge to find out exactly when everyone else is participating, and for that one hour turn ON every single electricity-using thing in my entire house.

Yes, at heart, I'm rebellious. I absolutely HATE being told what to do, and it almost guarantees I won't do it. Or worse, I'll intentionally go out and do the OPPOSITE.

Fortunately, I was blessed with the curse of caring deeply and intensely about people not thinking badly about me, and also an intense desire to do what's right in God's eyes.

But when it comes to signing this petition to save the whales, or memorizing twenty scriptures (which I probably would have done on my own if you hadn't tried to bribe me) so I can attend a banquet (the seminary teachers had me on the list and gave me an invitation and were appalled when I refused to accept it because I didn't earn it), or passing off whatever it is that missionaries were supposed to pass off when I was a missionary (I have vivid memories of my district leader putting pressure on me and trying to make it a competition, and my companion saying, "You just made a big mistake, Elder. Now she'll never do it." He apostatized completely a few months later, so I won by default)....I don't respond well to those things. But you can see by the vivid memories I have of it that it causes me immense stress to have the conflict between "you can't tell me what to do" and "I have to be the best and look good to everyone".

My mother frequently reminded, when I came home in tears from this or that conflict, that "You can't spit in the eye of the establishment and expect them to love you."

So, earth hour.

I think a lot about saving power, and using it wisely, and making things around our house more efficient and eco-friendly. I'm all about growing your own organic whatever will grow in your area, and never have managed to put pesticides on any of my trees (and then cutting the worms out of the apples). I cringe at water-hungry plants growing in Vegas, and am really really frustrated and angry that every house doesn't have solar panels on the roof--I think it should be required on all new construction in places like this. I am really really big on the first two eco-friendly mantras--Reduce and Re-use--and also recycle whenever I can (I don't end up using recycling programs, but I do use scratch papers for things, and turn cardboard tubes and boxes into toys, etc). It's not that I'm against doing our individual parts to combat the pollutions on the land that the scriptures tell us will be prevalent in the last days.

I guess I'm opposed to Earth Hour because it's superficial. It's a bandaid that will make the casinos feel like they are earth friendly and energy conscious, when in fact it is just a political move on their parts to improve their images, not to save power. It is, in my mind, the same as considering yourself a worshipping, active member of a church when you attend once a year. Salve for your sinning mind, not repentance.

It's catchy, it's easy, and it actually lulls people into security and prevents them from effecting more permanent changes because they feel like they participated in saving the earth, so don't bother them.

I'm not going to say don't join in. I might even join for my kid's sake (since I am really really careful not to teach them my rebellious ways--I assume they inherited the inclination, since it comes from both sides of the family, but I don't need them to think that's the best and right way to interact with the world).

But don't be too surprised if you drive by my house that day and find all the lights blazing for the other 23 hours of that day, just for spite.


People keep telling me I'm an 'experienced mom'. I don't feel old enough to be an experienced mom, especially since I know nothing about raising people over 7 years old. But I have picked up a few things on nursing, now that we're on number 5.

I thought I'd pass along some of the stuff I've learned. Skip the rest if you're sensitive about this kind of thing.

In no particular order, what I've learned about nursing since I've done it for a total of 45 of the last 90 months (or 3.75 of the last 7.5 years):

--don't give up until you've been at it for two weeks. The first two weeks stink; the rest is wonderful, easy, convenient, free.

--from the time you go into labor, put on that nursing bra and don't take it off except to shower, change it, or treat thrushy nipples. It minimizes engorgement and sagging.

--for cracked nipples due to getting used to nursing (the crack goes across the nipple): drip a little milk on them and let them air dry, preferably in direct sunshine. Heals them DAYS faster than leaving them alone. Forget all those creams and ointments--they're expensive and don't work.

--for cracked nipples due to thrush (the crack goes around the base of the nipple) or being bit (the crack is on the aureola): dab a little antibiotic ointment directly on the cut and then let it dry out AFTER nursing. Don't let the baby suck on the ointment--it's poison. Sleep with your breasts exposed to the air--no bra. The cuts potentially won't heal without the ointment, and can lead to infections really fast, so do treat them.

--If your baby gets thrush in his mouth, you have it on your breasts. Treat it by rubbing on some of the medicine the doc gives you for the baby, by taking diflucan, or by rubbing acidophilus on (you can also rub the acidophilus onto the thrushy spots in the baby's mouth and it helps it go away faster).

--lactation people always say if you are nursing correctly, it won't hurt. This isn't true of the first two weeks--even if you're doing it right, you can be sore and your nipples can crack. It's just part of the game for some women.

--If you're nursing along fine and then it starts to hurt, you probably have thrush.

--Notice that the pictures of a correct latch-on they give you are all 3-months old babies and older? That's because the latch they teach you in the hospital is physically impossible for most (if not all) newborns to do--their mouths are too small, and most have some measure of receded chin. Also, it's cruel to make the baby latch on 20-30 times to 'get it right'. Let them latch the way they are most comfortable and then gently tug on their chin (and upper lip if necessary) to be sure they are flayed outward instead of tucked in. And, believe it or not, your breasts can adapt within 2 weeks to most semi-correct latches as well as by-the-book ones.

--Don't pump to relieve engorgement. Express a little milk with your fingers to relieve the pressure and trust your body. It will take care of the problem soon and learn to produce just the right amount of milk for baby.

--Nursing pads: you can buy disposable ones (some you can even wash and re-use!); you can take one of those receiving blankets that are super soft but too small for any reasonable newborn and cut it up into squares, layer them together, and zigzag the edges and use that; you can by washable ones (expensive and often don't breathe well enough. Hands down the best nursing pads I've ever used are, for engorged or leaky times (like when you know you aren't going to get to nurse for a long time, when the baby skips a meal, or when you are just spraying everywhere from both sides when the baby nurses on one) or when you really need to stay dry (like when you have thrush), are newborn sized disposable diapers (or if you, like me, are still relatively small-chested, preemie diapers). The second best I've ever used are (don't laugh--sometimes you use what you have on hand) pantiliners or even sanitary pads (the ultra-thin kind). No joke. They are thin, made to keep your skin dry even when they have liquid in them, made to conform to your body shape when you move around, flexible and breathable, and, unlike disposable nursing pads, are sealed around the edges so the milk is less likely to fill the pad and then just drip right on down your shirt anyway. Plus they are made to lock the liquid in and not get squishy, and, because they aren't little circles (like real nursing pads are), they don't show under your clothes. And, what's more, unlike cloth or disposable nursing pads, they don't stick to cracked or seeping wounds on the breasts (like thrush cracks or infected baby bite-marks). If you've ever had the agonizing experience of pulling a stuck-on bra off a sore boob, you know why this is a big deal.

--Nobody talks about it, but nursing can cause hormone surges in the mommy that can make you feel INTENSE anxiety, homesickness (this is me, but only when I nurse on the right side), fidgety claustrophobia (like you just need to bounce your legs and squirm, and if you don't stand up you're going to scream or explode), or even intense depression. This is different than post-partum depression because it only exists actually while you are actually in the act of nursing. For some women it's cause enough to quit nursing. For some women, it leads to full-on depression because they focus on it and think they are depressed (as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy). For me? I just remind myself that it's "not real" and ignore it, digging into a book (either reading or writing one), a quilt pattern, or something else that makes me happy.

--Something else nobody talks about is that the breast is round. You don't actually have to use a Boppy pillow to support the baby. Rotate them on the circle and set their bum on your lap while you nurse--still tummy-to-tummy, but no pillow needed. Some babies actually prefer to nurse with their feet down between your knees!

--The currently-popular tummy-to-tummy nursing pose ("the right way") is a load of crock for those of us who have breasts and/or nipples that don't face directly forward. Line the baby up so they go straight onto your nipple and them have at it--and for some of us, this position is not tummy-to-tummy. I noticed this when I put my baby in the 'right' position, and he had to turn his head WAY to the side to nurse. The 'correct' position for a baby is the way they face your nipple and can reach it without turning their head too far to one side or the other. And, contrary to popular urban legend, a baby can actually nurse happily with their head turned slightly one way or the other. Some actually prefer it.

--Nursing mothers often say that only drunk mommies roll onto their babies when co-sleepihg. I learned from a near-tragedy that this is NOT true. Normal, healthy, alert mothers can also suffocate their babies by rolling on them, or knocking a blanket onto them, or having their spouse accidentally flop an arm onto the baby, especially when everyone is deeply sleep-deprived in those first few weeks, and when you finally fall asleep, it's deep and intense and happens fast. I don't nurse lying down anymore since I woke up one night nearly suffocating my poor baby, who had slipped off my breast and my arm and had his head tucked right under my side.

--Buy a good nursing bra (or two) with a one-handed clasp. Then, when it wears out, cut off the clasp. Get any old bra you like and insert the clasp into it (you have to cut and sew just a little). Attach a ribbon from the center of the bra to the strap so it doesn't fall down your back while your cup is open. If it won't lay flat, you can attach the ribbon to the bra strap with a little plastic circle--it allows the strap to aim a different direction from the ribbon, helping it lay flatter. You can convert almost any bra into a good nursing bra--and get better support and more comfort for it.

--nursed babies can get sick, contrary to popular opinion. They just share your antibodies, so they can get over it faster. We've had nursing babies get all manner of colds, rsv, bacterial and viral infections.

--sometimes I feel like a cow.

--breast milk doesn't taste like cow's milk

--breast milk can spray a long way, and can come out of the area around your nipple as well as your nipple, and can come in different colors and shades and flavors based on what you eat.

--nursing while you're pregnant can be exhausting.

I'd love to hear your tips, ideas, suggestions on nursing, too!

Best Frosting Ever

1/2 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c (1 stick, or 4 oz) butter or margarine, softened
2-3 c powdered sugar (less for softer frosting, more for stiffer)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. Beat (or whip) for a full 12 minutes, or even more. (This seems silly, but do it, even with a kitchenaid mixer--it makes an enormous difference in the frosting you get.) Add the vanilla and lemon juice (and food coloring if you want colored frosting), and beat until it's completely incorporated.

It should come out fluffy and soft, but still able to hold its shape.

Good on cookies, monkey bread, carrot cake, graham crackers.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

another bad headline from fox news

"Egypt Wants 3,000-Year-Old Wooden Coffin Illegally Smuggled Into U.S."

I couldn't figure out why Egypt would want to sneak a coffin out of their country and into ours....

Turns out it's a grammatical ambiguity that could be fixed either with the two words "that was" inserted before 'illegally smuggled' or the addition of the word 'returned' at the end of the headline.

You think maybe they need a copy editor?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Competiton results: Denver

Okay, so two days ago I made a joking comment to Tim that wouldn't it be funny if the two groups he put the least amount of emotional energy (and time, actually) into won their regionals and went on to the finals. I even named the groups. Both awesome concepts that just didn't take Tim as much work to put together.

And tonight, one of them won first place.

Mouthbeats, the all-vocal percussion ensemble won the Denver Regional Rocky Mountain Harmony Sweepstakes.

Not only that, the two groups pretty much cleaned up the competition, winning every award except Audience Favorite and 2nd place.

So, results:

Overall winners: Mouthbeats

Best Solo: Kai, from Wonder Voice (she does have a fantastic solo voice)

Best Original Song: Tim, for Mouthbeats music

Best Arrangement: Matt Murphy, for Mouthbeats version of that Daft Punk song "Harder Faster Stronger" (Or whatever it's actually called--the YouTube one with the hands)

Best stage presentation: Mouthbeats

I'm not sure about best vocal percussionist. It would be ironic if the all-vocal percussion group didn't get this award!

Wikipedia vs news outlets

So maybe wikipedia can be just as funny as the news outlets. I found this gem today:

"The population was 90 at the 2000 census. A 2006 estimate placed the township's population at 92."

And there was only one other line in the article, identifying which township in Nebraska we're talking about.

the news....

Here is a concrete example of why I feel like reading the news repeatedly throughout the day is not a valid use of my time.

This is a real headline from today's news:

"First lady admits: I hide my hips with pleats"


My new hobbies

I've started quilting again. Testing a few new methods I've dreamed up and a few I've heard about. I'll let you know how it all comes out. I actually realized the other day that we had an old sheet that would be perfect for my current project, and I looked at Tim and said, "Do you think anyone would care if I cut up that sheet for a quilt?" He looked at me for a minute and then said, "YOU are the mom in this house." So, once again, I am making an art quilt with entirely recycled materials. It's going to have to be my trademark, I'm afraid!

In this awkward time of writer's block, I've been pining for a good non-fiction book, but the library is totally off-limits until Benjamin can handle it (as in not run off and not pull every single thing off the shelves and not throw the books or color in them and not tear the pages). He's getting close, and the big kids are hungry for the library experience.

In the meantime, though, I've spent a lot of time reading news websites online, and not being terribly satisfied by it. In general, I find only so many things happen, and only so much can be said about them. Consequently, the stories on the news sites tend to be sensationalized, and often not terribly edifying, and, after the first day of some something hitting the news, not very new. In other words, a quick glance at the headlines on google news once a day would do it for me, and then I felt like the rest of the time was wasted.

I want to do a bunch of stuff with my time, but the bundle of Nathanael on my lap pretty much mandates that I had to find something to do sitting in my chair. And I was so so so tired of wasting my time wandering the internet.

So I found a solution: wikipedia.

I know. You're saying, "that's the ultimate wandering the internet!" But I'm saying, "the ultimate nonfiction book!" It's like reading the encyclopedia, which I've always loved to do. But this one has hyperlinks. So now when I'm wandering the internet, I feel like I'm learning stuff. Like about Glenrio, the ghost town on the border of Texas and New Mexico that was on Route 66 but got bypassed by the freeway. Why would I need to know about that, or that there's a list of Italian Actors, or the name of that little town in India that held a speed-walking race for people over 65? I don't know. But it's fun, educational, and I pick up on fun stuff, like this phrase I found: "though more cranially reminiscent of archaic whales". Out of context, it's a beauty!

And, for those days when I just need to stop, there's always this site to stare at:


Saturday NIght in Denver

Tim has two groups performing at 7:00 in Denver, CO, for any of you who are in the area. The groups are Mouthbeats, an all-vocal percussion ensemble (I heard the rehearsal tracks--it sounds really cool), and Wonder Voice, an a cappella cover band. If you ever wanted to hear "White Rabbit (Go Ask Alice)" and "Across the Universe" sung together as one song (not just a medley--the melodies cross and interweave at the end. Very cool), now is the time. Also, an awesome operatic rendition of the old Gloria Gaynor classic, "I Will Survive" (sorry, minus the cute green alien and the falling disco ball, although I do think Mouthbeats is going to bring down a Mothership as part of its show....)

To find the place and price, go to this website:


You can also see who else is performing.

It should be an awesome show!

(Oh, and if you go to that site and look closely, you'll see both Tim and his doppelganger hanging out on our driveway!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

more funny headlines

on google news:

"Video: Josef Fritzl sentenced to life in Austria"

His crimes were unbelievably monstrous; what does that say about Austria?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I'm scared to even pursue publishing in the LDS market

This is from LDS_Publisher's blog about how the Whitney Award Winners are chosen:

"As a Whitney judge, I look for a well-written story first. I'll accept some structural issues—typos, adverbs, cliches—but if there are too many, it loses points fast. If there are more than a few grammatical errors, it loses points regardless of how good the story is. If the story is hard to follow, changes POV incorrectly, or if I'm constantly being pulled out of the story due to other errors in writing, it loses points."

The Whitneys, if I'm not mistaken, are not granted to the best unpublished manuscript out there. They are for the best books. Published (or, apparently, self-published). If these errors are appearing enough in LDS fiction that it becomes criteria for being rejected for an award, then I'm really scared to associate myself with LDS fiction. And the fact that the judges are willing to look past a few cliches and typos--that's really scary, you know? What does that say about the quality of LDS fiction? Not much.

LDS_Publisher also says, "When it all shakes out, I think the winners tend to be a pretty good sampling of LDS fiction."

And THAT is why I swore I would never publish in the LDS Market.

This is a cool service

I just discovered that if you go here:


You can enter your email address (in the left-hand sidebar, near the bottom) and they give you the chance to sign up for whatever news updates from the Church that you might want to have come to your email, including news, commentary, audio and video updates, etc. Very cool.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

a three-ingredient cold cereal?

Tonight, grocery shopping, we bought one of every cereal at Wal-Mart that cost less than 10 cents per ounce.

We came home with a frosted mini-wheats knockoff made by a company called "mom's best" that I'd never heard of. It had "whole grain" bragging on the box, which I don't take seriously because most companies have more sugar than whole grain.

When I got home, I flipped the box around and read the ingredients as I put it into the cupboard. There were three. I had to look twice to be sure. There were definitely three listed. Just 3: Whole wheat, evaporated milled sugar, and gelatin. Compare that to most cereals in your cupboard! That's as few as (or fewer than!) when you boil your own wheat to make wheat berries or cracked wheat cereal for breakfast (at least the way I make it, it has wheat, sugar, salt, and cinnamon or maple syrup or strawberry jam--that's four, unless I forget the salt, which I often do).

I hope it tastes good because I'm sure happy with the ingredients!

Note, later: It does taste good. Really good. I'm going to look up their other products. I totally believe in supporting companies like this--made with renewable energy, no chemicals, and still inexpensive.

and the winner is....

Plumbers of Rome, one of Tim's groups, competed in the Harmony Sweepstakes in San Francisco. They won the prestigious Audience Favorite Award and came in second overall, losing by a mere 2 points, much to Tim's chagrin.

Still, I'm not complaining. He's had at least one of his groups in the sweeps every year since 2003, and he's won some award every time--and usually multiple awards, including a couple best original song awards and the Impact award, which is given to the person who has the greatest impact on vocal music in the region and is only awarded when the producers feel strongly about it (not every year, in other words). In fact, Tim's never had a group compete and NOT win something, even when they intentionally tried to disqualify themselves!

So, this year, 4 more to go!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stressors in my life this week

Wow. Lots of posts lately. I guess this is how I'm getting my writing fix when I'm having writers' block for my novel (I'm trying to restructure it mentally before I start writing because the idea, pared down and made to look marketable, also became quite boring. I'm trying to rethink--what would make it fun for me? That's the book I'm going to write, the one that is fun for me, even if it's not marketable).

So, this week:

The baby and I both got thrush, which led to open sores on my breasts (I know, too much information!) that won't heal, making it indescribably painful to nurse. So we're dealing with that. At least the bronchiolitis in the baby went away.

We have our first ear infection in any of my children. (5 kids and 7 1/2 years, and we've never had one before!). This one is a result of RSV in Daniel and has caused some temporary but incredibly annoying (especially at night when I've gotten the baby to sleep and Dan wants to ask a question) hearing loss.

Baby had a well-child checkup and got his shots. He's doing remarkably well, and even woke up smiling this morning, but he is a little fussy and wants to be held a lot.

Tim is swamped with work, some of which pays (which actually puts the pressure on, you know?). Right now he's in San Francisco with Plumbers of Rome, preparing to compete tomorrow night. So I'm here alone with the kids again. Good thing I'm not scared to be alone, but I do miss him. He's started getting calls from strangers for music projects, so that's a good sign that maybe even without getting a job he got a job.

A good friend of mine got in a sticky situation (which I have no details on) and had her kids temporarily seized by Social Services. She was in court all day today trying to get them back. This is one of my deepest fears for me, so I've been pretty traumatized by it happening to someone I care about. I've spent the last day trying not to think about the empty bedrooms at bedtime, and how awful it must feel to know your children are crying for you somewhere and you can't get to them. In the process of the whole thing, her husband ended up being taken away, too, and she's heavily pregnant. Again, I have no details, but I know enough to be sad and stressed by it all, especially since, across the country, I can't think of anything I can do to help!

I am trying desperately to get my house in order. The problem has been that we never unpacked enough to get places to put things away, so I'm making lots of piles to sort and then I will find places to put things away, or we'll get rid of the things. We're stuck in this too-small house for now, so we've got to make do, right?

It's hard to make dinner while holding someone whose head is still floppy, so we've not been eating well. This leads to the dreaded weight gain, so I have found myself too big for my regular clothes and unwilling to wear my maternity clothes. I'm tired of looking crappy, so I'm trying to cut the carbs, but when you have your arms and lap full all the time, it's not easy to cook healthy stuff. I wonder how long I can live on cheese and deviled eggs (easy if you make them using a ziploc bag for all the mixing and filling).

Schedule? Messed up again. Instead of fixing the baby's sleep schedule to match ours, he somehow managed to fix ours to match his. So now we're all going to bed after 4:00 am (how I hate to see the sun rise!) and getting up closer to 4:00 pm. This is my most-hated sleep schedule because it is incredibly isolating. And it makes it really hard to get to church at 9:00 am. I'd just keep going at 1:00 pm and switch wards, except I don't speak Spanish, and the ward that meet at that time does. It also makes it really hard to get the kids out to play with other kids, and I feel stressed that they don't really have friends because of the sleep schedule. I remember having a good time with my best friend in first grade--and Jon made lifelong friends when he was in 2nd grade. I want Caleb to have that chance, but it's really hard when we come alive right about when other kids are going to bed.

Lots of my family members (parents and siblings) are sick and in Utah, so I just sit and worry and can't help them.

Daniel has developed full-body eczema again. The doctors always give us creams that sting and burn, so Dan won't let us put them on. His skin was clear in Reno (for the first time in ages), so I'm going through what could it be? The cats? The plush carpets? The dry air? The laundry soap? I think it might be the laundry soap, since he has no eczema on his face or under his diaper, but he does have it wherever clothes touch, plus on his hands (but it always shows up there last, after he's been rubbing and scratching everywhere else). I've had to step back and say, "Dan's comfort is worth the extra $5-$10 we'd have to spend per month for more expensive soap--and our clothes will be cleaner, too, and so last longer." Spending money is hard for me--I even feel terrible when I spend $100 a week to feed my family--of 7. I'm all about getting the best deal ever--and I have to remind myself that 'best deal' isn't necessarily equivalent to 'cheapest.' So I need to go buy the same detergent we had in Reno (arm and hammer liquid) and see if it helps (I think Purell and Tide can help with this, too, but they are so costly!)

So...how's your week?

fun cooking tip

Bake your favorite quick bread (banana bread, blueberry bread, sour cream cinnamon raisin bread, lemon bread--the kinds that come from batter instead of from dough, and that often have as much sugar as cake, but taste like muffins) in a can.

We use the large cans that hold 30 oz of beans, peaches, or pears usually, but I have also used those big number 10 food storage cans and the smaller pineapple cans; I imagine you could also use the cans that pineapple juice comes in, or even soup cans if you wanted tiny loaves. Take the label off, wash and dry them, and grease them well. Then fill them half-to-2/3 full of batter (my recipes fill 3 cans this way) and bake until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean (60 minutes for pineapple cans; 70-90 for peach cans, etc).

Wait until the loaves cool, and then run a knife around the inside to loosen them and the loaves fall right out. Alternately, you can use a can opener on the bottom of the can and push the loaf right through.

They make the prettiest round slices of bread. Next time you need to show off your bread (like for a ward potluck, or a Christmas treat plate, or a gift loaf, or a family party), this is a really fun and easy way to dress up a regular quick bread because nobody expects to get a slice of bread that is perfectly round. It's kind of cool and fun.

Next, I want to try yeasted bread this way and see if I can make round sandwiches for the kids. It would be great, too, for hamburgers!

Earthquake Las Vegas

recent studies reveal:

Guess which part of Vegas is set to be completely annihilated if there's an earthquake?

You guessed it--The Strip!

I'm bracing myself.....

More concerns about Obama

I'm not sold on a man who has 5 cabinet picks kicked out for breaking tax laws (especially when they're trying to raise taxes on everyone else...).

And when his people get put on leave because their staff members are being arrested for corruption, that has me a little bit worried.

And when his friend and mentor who was glossed over as Republicans throwing fits over nothing actually DOES get arrested for home-grown terrorist activities in the '70s, I start to wonder if we aren't panicking enough yet.

And when he starts to get heavy handed with the press, refusing to talk to them, I'm surprised THEY aren't panicking yet.

I mean, it's nice that he talked about transparency and communication in his campaign, but it worries me more than a little when he starts installing 'czars'--alternate cabinet members who don't have to be approved by congress (who have ferreted out the illegal behaviors of so many of his picks) or report to anyone but the President, and who seemingly have the exact same job as many of the cabinet members...doesn't it look like, just maybe, he's overstepping his bounds even more than Bush did and concentrating way way too much power in a very secretive presidency?

When our sworn enemies worldwide cheer that he's elected, shouldn't we all run screaming?

Charm can only carry you so far. Bossiness can't only get you a few steps further. At some point (and I suspect it's happening), even his own party is going to start screaming Halt.

And if they don't, and we don't, I don't know what to think...it's a little scary. I know the word socialism has been thrown around a little too much lately, but that may be for a good reason.

Chocolate chips and the Navy

This appeared in the margin of a food magazine that showed up in the mail today:

"There are at least 1,000 and as many as 1,500 chocolate chips in each bag of Chips Ahoy! Cookies, according to a study conducted by the United States Naval Academy."

Please tell me no tax dollars went to train our troops to count chocolate chips!

Maybe these guys were in training to staff that Naval Undersea Research Facility that we found out in the middle of the Nevada desert.

I can totally see a study like that being conducted in a junior high school classroom in a public school. I'd probably do a study like that with my students. But the US Naval Academy? It just sounds so...hmmm.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happiest states

"Health Buzz: America's Happiest States and Other Health News
Posted March 11, 2009
The States With the Happiest Residents

Looking to get a little happier? Relocating to Utah will give you the best chance at bliss, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released today and reported by the Associated Press. In general, folks surveyed out West had the highest sense of well-being, while more of those living in the South and Midwest reported being in the doldrums. West Virginians were the worst off, followed by those living in Kentucky and Mississippi. And after Utah, Hawaii and Wyoming were the next best places in the contentment ranking." (http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/brain-and-behavior/2009/03/11/health-buzz-americas-happiest-states-and-other-health-news.html)

How's that as a counter to the "mormons are the most depressed people" urban legend?

Hey, now that you mention it...Hawaii and Wyoming have sizeable Mormon populations, too....

There was also this:

"Oklahoma, Utah Lead the Pack in Cell Phone-Only Households

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trendy California isn't a trendsetter when it comes to relying on cell phones. And while the 1987 movie "Wall Street" helped introduce the then-brick-sized mobile phone to popular culture, New York and other Northeast states lag in dropping landlines. Surprisingly, Oklahoma and Utah lead in going wireless, according to federal estimates released Wednesday." (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,508927,00.html)

Perhaps, if we use the same kind of logic as the "mormons are the most depressed people" people, we could come to some interesting conclusions by joining these two studies. Perhaps cell phones make people happier? Or, even better, landlines cause depression (and the lack thereof, naturally, lead to happiness?)

What I didn't see covered in that last study was people like me--I have neither a landline or a cell phone; I use VoIP technology and have for years.

No such thing as 'quality time' to a child.

A quote from a psychologist who writes a weekly column for our local paper:

"Here is the stark and uncomfortable truth: Children don't give a damn about quality time. That little bumper sticker was coined to assuage parents, not to describe a terrific child-rearing model. Children have very simple and concrete ways of looking at the world. To kids, parents fall into two types: there and not there. Present, reliable and accessible. Or not."

He's talking about custody of kids in divorce situations. I think the concept equally applies to families having two wage earners (who are supposed to be parents, too), and to families where one parent works too much or is otherwise not available to kids when they are home (because they drink, watch a lot of TV or computer, have a time-intensive hobby, or whatever).

I think there's a reason for the uncomfortable truth that people don't even want to talk about in church: God asked mothers to stay home with their children, and fathers to support the family and partner with mothers in raising the children. It's a very simple, but extraordinarily unpopular traditional family approach to living.

Maybe, just maybe, could we consider the possibility that God knows more than we do about what's best for raising children, even if it's inconvenient or socially reprehensible (like raising your own children has become)?

The 'quality time' myth has also been applied to spouses. Really, the only way to have a healthy, happy marriage and family is to forget about designing 'quality time' and just spend as much time together as possible. The happier, the better.


I have been wanting to get into a bigger house, but our needs for housing are so unique that it seems doubtful we'll find a place we can afford to rent. So I've been pondering housing a lot. See, if we can move, I don't want to end up in yet another difficult to live in space. And to avoid that, I have to know not only what's wrong with this house, but what would be more right.

Years ago, when pondering going on tour, I realized people need six things to live happily: someplace to be, something to eat, something to do, something to wear, something to believe, and someone to love.

Thinking of living in those terms, I've come up with three rules that should guide finding a place to live:

1. The place to be should make all the other five things easier to do joyfully. What's the point in making something your main place to be if it makes all those other things harder to do?

2. A house should serve its owners, not the other way round. We should not adapt our lifestyle to fit a house; the house should adapt to our needs.

3. A house is a commodity, to be used up, rather than an investment. When looking at a house, it's more important to find a place that would be nice to live, safe, and meet our own unique needs than to find a place that someone else might like sometime in the future. Likewise, when fixing up a house, things should be redone with making life easier in mind, not with what will give you the biggest return when you sell it. We shouldn't live our lives to make money. We should live our lives to make memories. Besides, if you move into a place as an investment solely, the first two rules are too hard to follow.

So there you have it, the summation of the last 10 pages of writing in my journal.

What I realized we mostly need is just plain more space, inside and out.

I'm no economist, but...

Apparently the economists agree that Obama's plans for the economy so far stink. Or so said many news articles today.

Even I, with my limited knowledge, can see the flaws in some of what he's doing. For example, he's raising taxes on the 'rich'. Sounds good on paper until you realize that translates to raising taxes on all the employers who can afford to give people jobs with benefits.

So he could raise taxes across the board, and everyone would be out a couple hundred dollars, or he could raise taxes on the rich only, and then all the poor are out a job and in line for the handouts that came from raising taxes on the employers, which necessitates raising taxes on the employers more, which puts more people out of jobs....

Doesn't seem very likely to fix the economy, does it?

It didn't work during the Great Depression. Besides, the rich can afford to get out of the taxes! During the Great Depression, they left the country. Then who's paying the taxes? The poor. We're screwed either way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another great line from foxnews.com

"Agee left a four- or five-line note for detectives after shooting and killing himself at his parents' home, according to Mack."

How he left a note AFTER killing himself is something I'd like to know more about....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

random stuff

I fell in love with a house (which is for sale but we can't afford: 4500 square feet on half an acre and a steal at $290,000. But who has $290,000--and the realtor says probably cash only). Turns out the last person to own the house more than 18 months was murdered there 5 years ago, and the house has changed hands 4 times since then. And the murder is unsolved. I still love the house though, even if it looks like a haunted house.
Benjamin has struggled to say "Nathanael." For a while it always came out sounding like, "Dinner." Now it often sounds like "Mason." Usually he just gives up after some thought and calls his brother, "baby."
I found bullets in my house--on top of the shelf by the front door!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tim Y Jones choral music in performance

Mr. Tim updates

First of the four competitions is over. Essence of Larynx competed in Olympia, WA and came in 3rd. Not bad for their first public performance anywhere ever!

funschool and other fun free sites for kids

I have known about this web site for a year now, but until now couldn't get it to work on our computers. Now it does (hooray firefox 3!)


This site is full of fun, actually educational games, some of which I've 'been looking for something that did that'.

There are games on all subjects and all elementary levels (including preschool). The first we tried totally cracked me up, since I was a librarian in a pre-mother life. In it, you are the librarian and have to get books for kids--but you have to remember where the books are and get them before the kids get frustrated and walk away. It was hilariously like being a real librarian.

Other games my kids and I enjoyed were 'action fraction', 'dr. brain's robot' (an addition 'flash cards' kind of practice game, but fun), and 'super hyper spider typer.' Just the names of the games are fun enough! Besides, how can you knock a game where "big Bruce" flips burgers into people's mouths?

It's not a replacement for a legit, graded curriculum. But it is a fun and free supplement to what you're using, especially for kids like mine who need help practicing skills (like basic addition facts), but don't want to do the flashcards on Compass Odyssey (boring even the first time) or in real life. Maybe we'll get those math facts down after all! And learn to type.

Another site the kids have enjoyed is www.paulysplayhouse.com

I especially like the puzzle game "Hermie Heckle's Playhouse."

Of course, there is also our universal favorite, pbskids.org. I especially like the games on the "Fetch" website. They let you build a rollercoaster while teaching you about energy and do other equally creative science activities. My preschoolers love the videos on the "Curious George" website--they show kids doing science experiments that my kids can replicate at home, and modeling how we talk about science. They also really like the videos on the "Sid the Science Kid" site--especially the movie about decay (scroll down to 'decay song'). PBSkids is loaded with more. There are games that teach about nutrition on the Arthur site, songs and stories on SuperWhy, pbskids Island (great site for teaching early reading skills) and more. In fact, the Sesame Street site is the most boring of those available.

The one kids website I used to recommend that is now banned in our home is nickjr.com. The ads are aggressive, the site is difficult to navigate (leaving the kids wandering in advertisement-laden cyberspace) so I have to get up and help them find what they want, the games are so addictive and plentiful that the kids turn into zombies and won't turn it off when it's time. The site actually teaches kids how to get lost in cyberspace by the way it is constructed, allowing them to literally wander from place to place within nickjr.com for hours and hours and hours. And not only is it addictive in an unhealthy way (I had one kid go into out-and-out night terrors when interrupted during one particularly mesmerizing game--that's when we pulled the plug on that site), it is, by it's very nature, deeply commercial. Nobody's going to find pbskids merchandise at every turn, but they do find Dora stuff everywhere they look. And the more they play on NickJr.com, the more they beg for and are interested in the stuff at the store. I don't need that kind of 'educational programming' in my house. Plus, a lot of their 'educational' games are only superficially educational, despite the information they force-feed parents at the beginnings of the games telling them what vital skills their children are learning. It is edutainment at its finest. I don't need that. If we're going for entertainment, let's go for entertainment and not make any pretenses about it needing to be educational. I'd rather send the kids outside to play, anyway. nickjr.com is for the same people who read those parenting magazines at doctor's offices and take them seriously. Oh, and nickjr.com puts TONs of junk onto your hard drive without notifying you--cookies, java crap (did you know your computer runs faster if you empty the sun java cache every so often, despite their warning when you try that you shouldn't unless you're a programmer or something equally ludicrous), etc.

Oh, and you can always try the Compass Learning Odyssey, which we use as our primary school curriculum, on Time4Learning.com, and on the Compass site.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A pertinent thought for troubled times.

From an old book I found on the shelf, in a section penned by a man named Habakkuk:

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord--I will joy in the God of my salvation." 3:17-18, punctuation modernized.