Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Post-Christmas Sigh of Relief

I love Christmas, and I loved it this year.  We had a great time.  What a magical time of year, especially with my children. 

But seriously, what a stressful season this has been for me!  I can't even put my finger on why, other than it was just full full full of projects.  I feel like I have been going nonstop since before Thanksgiving, just trying to put Christmas together for my little family.  The crazy thing is that I felt so on the ball this year.  I had a plan, and I thought I was almost done with Christmas shopping by Black Friday.  All I had left to do was wrap things up and ship them off. 

Wow, I was so far off.  I guess I was done planning things by Black Friday, but not actually done with anything at all until a week before Christmas.  I worked on projects while my kids were sleeping all month long.  I shopped, wrapped, packed, planned, ran errands, cleaned, cooked, then did it all some more.  I reorganized my recipe collection as part of a gift for my sister, which was an awesome project, just lots of work.

I had issues with shipping, as always.  The first one was that I ordered Christmas cards from Costco.  It took them a week to arrive, and when I went to pick them up, I found out that they had been shipped to the wrong location.  So I waited another week for correct delivery, only to find out that the picture I used on the card was so bad that I couldn't send them out!  I had taken a quick picture of my boys in front of my house, and their faces were super red, Hobbes was out of focus, and it was just all around bad.  I had good intentions, but sorry to those who would have received a card from us.  I'll plan it for next year.

One package was accidentally shipped to our former house in St. Louis, and then the people who lived there carried it around in their car for a week and half before finally sending it to me!  Gah!  I was so mad!  But alas, all was well in the end.  All packages got to their people on time.

I hosted a book club and decided to make a cake for it.  No pictures of that one because it was disaster from beginning to end.  Lots more stress than it should have been.  Next time I will make cookies.

I am the ward music director, and I was in charge of the Sacrament meeting Christmas program.  It seemed simple, and in the end it was a very nice program, but it was a lot of work for me, organizing and attending rehearsals all month

And after all of that was done, I hosted two Christmas parties at my house, one on Christmas Eve, and another on Christmas Day.  Both were lovely, but it's always a stress to get my house ship-shape for a get-together with four agents of Chaos living under this roof. 

So, anyway, I'm grateful that it was all lovely, but I'm grateful that it's over for this year.  It feels awesome to get back to normal.  Normal chaos is good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Stories

I was talking to my mom the other day and as we laughed and laughed about my kids, I realized that I have a few more my-kids-are-funny Christmas stories to share with all of you.  So, just in time for the holiday, here is some more Christmas Cheer from us:

I Was Not His Father, He Was Mine:
In the car on the way home from a fun Christmas party the other night, Spiff was humming the tune of one of Michael McClean's Carols Best Forgotten.  Anyone who know Spiff and me knows how much we despise these songs, so it was in jest that he was happily humming this song (He was working late one evening...) as loudly as he could while we were in close quarters in the car.
From the back seat, Gunner said: "Dad, stop singing that awful song!"
It was a proud moment for me as I realized that my son will have good musical taste.


Jingle Bells:
We have a few jingle bell Christmas tree ornaments.  Hobbes gleefully takes them from the tree, jingles them all around and sings, "Di-na-na, Di-na-na!"  It is surprisingly in good tune for his jibberish version of Jingle Bells.
He is showing the first signs of musical talent, too.


The Radio:
We have been listening to the soft rock station in the car this month.  It's the station that plays all the Christmas favorites all month long.  I like some of them, I detest others.  As we pulled onto our street the other day, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" came on.  I didn't mention it to Gunner, but I thought it might be confusing for him, what with his introduction to Santa Claus this year and all.  But as we pulled into the garage and I got ready to turn off the car, he piped up, "I Want To Finish This Song!!!"  I was slightly bummed that he heard it, and I didn't discuss it.  I do wonder what he picked up from listening to it...

Also, he has started singing the station's jingle.  Out of the blue, he will sing, "Y-One-oh-Five...!"
I think it's funny.


The Present Saga:
I love having presents under the tree.  As a kid growing up with my family of six (4 kids), my parents made the anticipation of Christmas so much fun.  We never had a lot of money, but there were always an abundance of presents under the tree--even if it was boxes full of socks.  They would have these long wrapping parties in their bedroom.  They would work and wrap presents for what seemed like hours, and then come out carrying piles of boxes in their arms.

The fun twist is that instead of using name tag stickers, they would hide our names in the design on the wrapping paper.  They got pretty good at it, and it was tricky to locate the names sometimes.  So, when they would come out of their bedroom and put the presents under the tree, we would swarm to the tree and look for names, and we would practically memorize who the packages belonged to by Christmas Day.  I remember loving the anticipation, and wondering what was in each box.

Anyhoo, I have an almost-2-year-old who will happily unwrap everything.  I also have Gunner who desperately wants to open presents.  Last year, he was mad about not being able to open presents during the entire month of December.  But like I said, I enjoy having presents under the tree, and I also think it's good for the kids to have to anticipate an event without being able to open things nownownow!

Here are two good stories about that:
1.  Choices
I decided to put just a few presents out earlier in the month.  I put some things out that are soft, light, and unbreakable.  I knew the boys would play with them, and I thought they would be excited about it. Hobbes was, and he enjoyed removing the bows over the next couple of days.  However, Gunner was mad.  He was mad mad mad that he couldn't open his box.  I thought, "I should just give up and put them away."  But my stubborn side won out.  "It's good for them!" I reminded myself through gritted teeth.

For two days, Gunner insisted that he needed to be allowed to open his, or else, until eventually I said, "Fine.  Go ahead and open that present.  But Mom & Dad, and Santa, do not bring presents to impatient little boys.  So if you open that presents, that's the only one you will get this year.  I think you will be sad on Christmas Day when the rest of us are opening presents, and you don't have anything else.

He thought for a good, long while, and then said, "Hmmmm, I guess I'll wait."

Over the last couple of weeks, whenever he gets the itch to open any of his packages, I just have to remind him that it will be his only one, and he happily moves along.

I feel like a genius.  I am also grateful that he didn't call my bluff.


2.  Helpers
We had a little buddy over one day while I was wrapping presents.  Gunner and our little friend wanted to help me.  I thought they were cute, but I didn't really want them to help me.  So, I had them wrap some presents for each other.  They each got to wrap up two mini candy canes, put tags on them, place them under the tree, and then immediately unwrap them!  What a treat!  Again, I felt like a genius.  A Christmas genius, I tell you!

Gunner later wrapped up a box of mini candy canes for Hobbes that is sitting under our tree.  And he wrapped up a package for himself, labeled To: Gunner, From: Gunner.


And through all of this, I have to say that I am just about as excited for Christmas as Gunner is.  I cannot wait to eat delicious Christmas food and for the kids to open their presents!  How can I possibly wait one more day?!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Joy

I have loved decorating our house for Christmas with Gunner this year.  He is so happy and excited about it.  We have a few small decorations, including a 5-foot tree that we set up on a small table, a 2-foot tree that I set up in our kitchen's bay window, and a couple strings of garland that I put around with some lights.

As I was working on decorating the smaller tree and getting around to draping garland on something, he said, "We have a lot of trees to put up, don't we?"
I replied: "Yes, we do."
He said: "Let's put up our next tree, and then I will be filled with joy!"

Then a few minutes later: "Is your heart filled with joy, Mom?  Because mine is."


And that is why I love this season.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Let all of our hearts be filled with joy as we celebrate the birth of Christ!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Funny Boys

Some of my favorite funny/awesome things my boys have said and done lately.

Creative Love:
Gunner was across the room from me one day when I randomly told him that I love him.  He returned the sentiment, and then with his elbows by his sides, he put his hands out in front of him, and cocked his arms like a gun.
He smiled and explained: I just blew you a hug.
Best hug ever!  Why didn't someone think of that sooner.

Star Wars:
My boys loooovvve Star Wars.  There are always little jedi toys fighting and saving the galaxy.  Or there is a Jedi running around my house.  In Gunner's little world, I often play Leia, and he saves me with his light saber skillz.  We listen to the Star Wars Music a lot (a daily request by Gunner so that he can better pretend that he is a jedi, wielding his weapon to music), so much that Hobbes knows the songs.  If he sits down to read a Star Wars book, he sings the little song to it.  That's right, my little son's first songs are "The Wheels on the Bus", "Twinkle Stars", and the Star Wars Theme."

Oh, and he does the light saber noise.  You know the one.  It's awesome.

We're bringing these boys up right.

Wiggles:
We traveled two hours to a friend's house for Thanksgiving last week.  Before we got the kids in the car, Spiff had them run around outside to get their wiggles out.
Gunner said: "My wiggles will miss me because I'm leaving them behind."

Mount Everest:
Hobbes is a climber.  I think I have mentioned this before.  Also, I think I have finally trained him that he needs to stay off of the kitchen counter (most of the time).  He does not, however, think that this rule applies to other high surfaces, a fact that I discovered the other day when I found him standing IN the bathroom sink, pounding on his reflection in the mirror.  He had gotten there by putting the kiddie step stool on top of the toilet seat, and climbing on all of that to reach the counter.  Very stable conditions.  I got him down (should have taken a picture first, I guess), and then immediately hid the step stool in the shower.

I found him on the bathroom counter the very next day.  He discovered that he doesn't need the step stool to reach the counter from the toilet seat.  Awesome.

Muscles:
Tonight, one of the kids' beloved toys slid across the kitchen floor (on it's own power, of course), and hid under the oven.  The kids tried desperately to get it out, using wooden spoons as retrieving devices, with no success.  When Spiff got home, they had this conversation:
Gunner: Dad, can you move the stove so we can get the toy out?
Spiff: I can't because I'm not strong enough.
Gunner: Here, I'm giving you some of my muscles.
:)
In the end, Spiff took out the drawer under the oven and dug out the toy, along with about four wooden spoons.

The Potty:
Hobbes (at 22 months) is discovering the potty.  He's figuring out his body and trying to figure out where things go.  The other day, he wandered into the bathroom and stood in front of the toilet.  I went after him, discovered that he had #2 in his diaper, and thought that maybe he was trying to get it in the toilet.  I stripped him down to his nothings (cutest little bummy ever!), took care of the doots, had Spiff retrieve the baby potty, and then we spent 45 minutes with potty discovery time.  Again and again, he would sit on the potty, stand up, grab a tiny bit of toilet paper, wipe, throw it in the big potty, then repeat.

I am in no way ready to potty train him.  He is way too much of a free spirit for that.  But it's awesome to see him discover and learn.

Santa:
We checked some Christmas books out from the library and have been happily making our way through them.  (Jan Brett wrote some great Christmas picture books, btw.  I love them!)  One of them is The Night Before Christmas.  After we read it for the first time yesterday, Gunner and I discussed the story.  I realized that this is the first year that he understands enough to really get into Santa and the whole story, and I found myself struggling to explain it all to him!

He got really into it and totally drilled me.  It's tricky to get all the details right when explaining them to a 4-year-old.  G: "What is Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, etc?  Why do they pull Santa's sleigh?  What are elves?  How do they make toys?  Where does Santa live?  Why does he live there?  Is he going to give me presents? 

 "Did Uncle Heath get coal in his stocking last Christmas?  I don't want coal.  I'm going to change my mind and be a good boy."

He's very excited to leave Santa some cookies (he wanted to make them tonight, and I had to explain to him that they would go stale in the month we have until Christmas Eve. Total bummer.).  I think I need to watch some Santa movies with him.  Any suggestions for a good one? 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Right to Complain

I just had a weird and unpleasant experience.  I'm going to tell you all about it because I'm bummed about the status-quo results of the election last night, and I feel like whining.  But not about politics.  Because really, what's the point?

So I'll complain about motherhood and friendship instead.

The boys and I were invited to a play date this morning, which is an event that in itself is kind of few and far between these days.  The girl who invited us is a really nice girl that I met at a park one day.  I have seen her only one other time beyond that, and other than being in contact via texting, I haven't spoken to her.  Needless to say, we don't know each other well, and so it was sort of a trial thing.  Can we be friends?  Will our children play nicely together?

Turns out that this girl is super nice, and her one little baby (who shares Gunner's name, making things confusing for the kids) is very chill.  I would like to become better friends with her.

She (I'll call her Friend #1) also invited another girl, in an effort to branch out and make more friends.  This other girl is new to the area, too, and doesn't know anyone.  She has four little kids, around the same age as my kids.

Here's where it turns weird.  I thought things were going well until this other girl showed up.  Her kids were veeeeeeeeeeery hesitant to play with mine, and they were very quick to assign blame to my kids.  Unfortunately, I'm sort of used to that, and I can get past that.  Okay, so we may not be best friends because our kids aren't very much alike.  It happens.

However, I was really put off by this particular mother.  Like her kids to mine, she seemed veeeeeeeeery hesitant to talk to me.  I tried making conversation with her, and she answered my questions, but not very willingly.  She talked to Friend #1, but not to me.  She never engaged me in conversation.  She never asked me a question.  She would hardly look at me.

Maybe she's just super shy.  It was still weird.

So, fortunately, Gunner and the kids eventually started playing together, and he started having quite a good time (running around and yelling in a way that Friend #1 is NOT used to with her one little baby boy).  But unfortunately, when it came time to clean up and go home, he didn't want to go.  He then threw a major tantrum, and I had to carry him out to the car kicking and screaming, all the while thinking about how embarrassed I was, and that we were most likely not going to be invited back.

That's all.  It was just a weird morning, full of stilted conversation, pretenses about how our children always behave and how our houses always look, and realizations that we won't or can't be good friends with every person who comes along.  I'm okay with that, but I do wish it were easier to make friends.  I wish mothering were easier, and I wish it didn't have such a big impact on how I make friends.  I also miss my old friends.  My people.  The ones who know me and my children, and they love me regardless of what kind of behavior is shown.

So, if I were to sit you down right now and whine at you, I'd say that I'm lonely for My People, and I'm frustrated about motherhood.

But for those of you who have always made these hard parts of my life easier (you know who you are), I'd like to say Thank You.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Spiff's Grammy

We went on an impromptu trip to St. Louis last weekend.  Spiff's Grammy has been sick, and had moved into a hospice care facility a week prior.  His family (Mom and sissy) flew in to see/care for her.  So we went, too, braving the long 8-hour one-way drive to be there for just a day.  It was so worth it.  It was so good to see Grammy and to have everyone together.  We saw her at her best.  She seemed like herself...snarky, witty, sharp, and energetic enough to handle having our kids around.  We visited for a while and shot a few family photos.  I left feeling happy to have spent time with her, and feeling like she was still going to be with us for a while.

Well, she passed away early this morning.  One week after we saw her.  I can hardly believe that she went downhill so quickly.  But I am grateful that her daughter was there with her.  I'm grateful that we were able to visit her.  I'm grateful that we were able to spend four years living in the same town, and that I got to know her.  And I'm grateful that we were able to have an impromptu reunion with Spiff's fam and spend some time with them, and with some good friends in St. Louis.

Here's Grammy.  Isn't she cute?
I took this picture about 18 months ago.  She was all dolled-up and ready to go to a social at her retirement community.  I think she looks so pretty.

Current memorial plans include a cremation and then a full military funeral service sometime within this next year.  I think that is a perfect way to celebrate her life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gunner is 4!

I can't believe my little Gunner is 4 Years Old!  What?!  When did this happen, and where have I been?  He's such a big kid these days.  He's so independent, does so many things for himself, talks constantly, plays imaginative games constantly, sings songs to himself all day long, rides a two-wheeler, taught himself how to snap, etc.

Yet he needs his mama and daddy so much sometimes, and it reminds me of what a small guy he still is.  Like on Sunday at church when he was so tired in the primary's program practice that he would not participate.  I eventually gave up trying to get him to perk up and sing, and just brought him home and gave him a nap.  Then I thanked Heavenly Father for the motherly insight to hug and love him, instead of forcing him to do something he couldn't have handled that day.

Anywho, he had a great birthday.  It started out with a special delivery.  Our Aunt sent him an edible arrangement.  So cute and fun!  Too bad that he won't eat the delicious fruit that came in it.  Well, too bad for him...

Then I took the boys and his buddy, Greg, to the zoo.  They boys had a great time running and playing.  I really missed my sister and niece and our weekly trips to the zoo last year, and it sort of felt all wrong to be celebrating his birthday without them.  But we did have a lovely time.

I met up with Maggie for a special lunch out.  Gunner was thrilled to have fast food for lunch.  Such a treat since we almost never go out these days.

Gunner spent the rest of the afternoon playing at Greg's house, then they all came back to our house for birthday dinner, cake, ice cream and presents!  A Fun-Filled Day!  He went to bed with his new Star Wars toys, exhausted and happy.

Boy, how we love that little kid.  And here's to another great year!

Gunner's Star Wars Cake

Alright, here's the lowdown on Gunner's cake.  There were definitely some lessons learned on this one, so I'm writing them down.  Hopefully one of these days, I'll be good enough at this whole Caking thing to whip out a nice-looking cake without a lot of time, blood, sweat or tears.

I covered this cake in Ganache this time so that I could leave it out at room temperature and it would keep it's sharp corners.  I'm still learning about how to shape everything.  I used the upside-down frosting technique, which worked great, except for the fact that it came out the shape of a large Rolo.  In the end it didn't matter once I got the decorations on it.

Huge Rolo Cake.  Makes me want it to be filled with caramel.  Yummmm.

I didn't have time to prepare things ahead of time, so it was kind of a last-minute-panic situation.  This led to me working on it for almost two days straight.  Very tiring!  But fun, right?  Hmmmm.

Here's are both cakes finished and on the cake board.  Here are a few things to note:
1.  The Round Cake is a replica of Tatooine.  I used the Wax Paper Transfer technique to wrap the buildings around the cake.  It worked like a dream!  Awesome technique.
2.  The other one is Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder.  I modeled it after a toy, but sort of just made things up as I went along.  That little thing was tons of work.
3.  I loved how the marbling of the brown fondant turned out.  In fact, I thought the two cakes looked so good and clean on the cake board that I almost didn't want to add the extra decorations.

Good thing I did, cuz it totally looks better with everything else.  Don't you think?

Back view.

Here's a close-up of Tatooine.
Gunner helped me make the little rocks.

And a close-up of the Landspeeder.  I used silver luster dust on the gray parts to make them shiny.
Gunner liked that. :)

Here's the new Landspeeder toy we gave Gunner for his birthday that I modeled his cake after.
I got the colors completely wrong, but other than that, I think the cake turned out pretty similar!

The one big thing I want to remember about making this cake is about Quantity, since I'm always trying to figure all of this out every time I make a cake.  How much of 'this and that' does it take to make a three-layer 8-inch round cake (just like the Tatooine cake)?
1.  It took two cake mixes (this recipe), although I used the fourth layer to make the Landspeeder cake.  I would have ended up with an extra layer otherwise.
2.  I made one half batch of chocolate buttercream frosting (I added 1/2 cup cocoa to the butter while creaming to make it chocolate) to fill the cake.  This half-batch would be plenty to fill and frost an 8-inch round cake.  However, if you're covering it in ganache like I did, you could get away with making a 1/4 batch of buttercream for the filling.
3.  Ganache: I used Trader's Joe's Pound Plus chocolate for the ganache.  That stuff is awesome and super affordable.  The recipe for ganache is 1 part heavy cream to 2 parts chocolate. (It's different for white chocolate.  Officially it's 1 part cream to 3 parts white chocolate, although it's tricky to get the consistency right.  You want it to harden into a nice shell, so maybe the proportions should be 5 parts white chocolate to 1 part cream, although I haven't tried that.)
Anyway, the Pound Plus is 17.3 oz.  This makes it 8.65 oz. of heavy cream.
This amount of ganache will just cover an 8-inch cake this size.

That's about it for this one.  Happy Caking! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mangle, Anyone?

While my parents were visiting us last week, my mom and I spent an afternoon making pies together.  Three gloriously beautiful, perfect pies.

And then Spiff and I cleared up a five-year misunderstanding.

It took us five years to realize that there was an understanding to clear up.  But don't you worry, because it's all settled, and it's back to peace, love and happiness in Spiffville.

It is all about pie.

Have I mentioned that Spiff loves pie?  He does.  A lot.  A whole lot more than me.  I like pie, and I'll happily eat a good one, but I can take it or leave it, as far as desserts are concerned.

I am more interested in the making of good pie.  Over the years, I have come across a few excellent pie recipes.  I can make a good pudding pie.  I make an excellent lemon meringue.  I even conquered my mom's pie crust (which I have to admit is not the flaky, buttery, tricky-to-work-with pie crust that I still haven't dared to try, but which is delicious nonetheless).

The one thing that has eluded me is the making of fruit pies, which happen to be Spiff's favorite.  I have tried and tried with various recipes, from BH&G to internets, and I always seem to be severely disappointed with the results.  I sorely dislike a black/blueberry pie that taste fine, but is a watery mess when it is cut.  All that hard work, and it turned out like that?!  What a disgrace!

While making pies with my mom, I finally stumbled across a blackberry pie recipe that turns out well.  It baked up well, cut like a dream, and was absolutely not a runny mess inside. Oh, and it was delicious.  I told Spiff that I will be happy to make it again sometime, now that I have something that I know will turn out for me.  He said, "But I still want you to make Mangle!"

I exclaimed my confusion, "Why would you want a gross watery slop, when you could have this?!?!"

We discussed, and we discovered our misunderstanding.

My version:
I made a blackberry pie for Spiff a few years ago that turned out the way I described.  I tried again some time later with the same disappointing results.  Spiff didn't seem to mind, since they tasted good.  After cutting into one watery, mangled-up pie, he dubbed it a "Blackberry Mangle."  A Delicious Mangle.  He continued to ask me to make them occasionally.  I got tired of my pies turning out like poo, so I stopped making them, and I couldn't figure out why he consistently wanted me to make a poorly-made pie.

His version:  I (apparently) made a blackberry cobbler five years ago, which he says I named a "Mangle."    He has been asking me to make a "Mangle" ever since.  I have not done this, and he can't figure out why.  I have no recollection of making that cobbler, or of naming it a mangle.

We have been referring to two separate desserts for the past five years.  He has not been asking for poorly-made pie, but for blackberry cobbler.  Mystery solved!

Now I at least have a good blackberry pie recipe.  If only I could find that Cobbler/mangle recipe I made five years ago, life could truly be complete.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Exceptional Motherhood

Note:  I wrote this, posted it, and then spent an hour fussing over my worry that someone may not it take it to be what it was intended because it's hard to read sarcasm, and because I think I'm funnier than other people do.  So, let me be clear that this is in jest.  It's meant to be funny, me laughing at myself and my current situation.  I'm not currently berating myself for not being able to control everything that happens to my kids.  The examples are real, though.  Enjoy!

We all know by now that I struggle with motherhood.  Sometimes.  A lot.  Not all of the time, thankfully.  There are awesome days when I love my two little sweeties so much that I think they are the cutest little turkeys in the whole world and even their naughtiness and antics don't shake me.

And while I appreciate all of your kind words of encouragement regarding the whole subject of mothering, I'm here today to convince you that there is nothing you can say that will convince me that I'm a great mom.  Let me share with you some examples of the exceptional mothering that happens around my house.  (Be warned that there are potty stories involved.  Skip it if these hilarious stories about my children's bodily fluids will gross you out.  Or you could buck up and read on ahead because my life and stories of my children are so awesome that you won't want to miss out.)

Example 1:  We have been having some beautiful Fall weather around here lately.  One day last week, I decided to take the boys to the park.  I love park days like that one.  It's one of the only times when both of my kids are awake that they aren't demanding a lot from me.  No one was whining, fighting, or bugging me!  I do love to sit back and watch them play.

Okay, so this particular park is a dream land for aspiring climbers.  It is designed for older kids, and there are three stories of stair and ladder systems that culminate to a very long slide.  Hobbes climbed all over that structure!  He's 20 months old, and probably shouldn't be able (allowed?) to climb those heights.  But I couldn't keep him off them.  And he performed just fine, aside from having to save him from certain doom a time or five.  So I left him alone to play.  Awesome momming?  Or terribly trusting and awful to put him in such dangerous situations under the eyes of the other mommies/grandmas/daddies who were wondering why I was allowing this to happen?  Hmmmm.


Example 2:  This happened at the above mentioned park, which happens to be downtown, right off a very busy road (safely separated) and close to a busy YMCA.  Not isolated or private at all.  Okay, so I mentioned that the boys were happily playing, so I took the opportunity to answer a phone call from a good friend, who very much needed a listening ear at the time.  She and I had a lovely long conversation while I supervised my kids from afar.  At one point, Gunner ran up to me and told me that he needed to use the potty.  Here's where it gets good.  I was on the phone, in the middle of her important story, Hobbes was on the other side of the park, and I realized that there was no way I was going to gather everyone up and get him to a potty in time.

So he decided to take care of it himself.  He trotted off to a distant tree (closer to the busy road and more seeing eyes), dropped his pants, and peed on the tree.

I was only slightly mortified when I realized that there was a grandma there watching everything and judging this negligent mommy.  (And to my good friend on the phone, it was totally worth it.)

Example 3:  The boys and I were invited to a friend's house the other day to play.  These are new friends from our ward who we have hung out with less than a handful of times.  But we like them a whole lot.  While we were there, I noticed several times that Hobbes's diaper was awfully saggy.  I thought he had just peed a lot, and it was super soaked.  I put off changing him because I was talking to my friend, and I thought it would be fine until his pre-nap diaper change.

After lunch, Gunner notified me that Hobbes was trying to climb over the baby gate.  I went to see what he was up to and found him desperately trying to get to a new diaper from the diaper bag.  Here's what happened.  His saggy diaper was actually a broken diaper.  It had broken at the strap and wasn't even covering his bummy.  He had had his post-lunch poop, and was wet and poopy all down his pants and on my new friend's hardwood floor.  Nothing a little sanitizer can't fix, but still.  Gross.  It's a good thing that this new friend has four kids of her own.  Otherwise I might have been too mortified to ever talk to her again.  

The worst part of this is that I had noticed that something was wrong long before the badness happened.  Should've acted on those promptings, folks.  This is not good mothering.

Example 4:  Hobbes snuck into my bedroom yesterday and came out with Spiff's deodorant.  He climbs onto the toilet to get into our unlocked medicine cabinet (gotta fix that!) that is located directly above.  He loves Spiff's deodorant and will take any chance he can get to get his little hand on it.  He loves smelling it, rubbing it all over himself, and licking it...while saying "Yum" and nodding his head.  Weird kid.  He won't eat raspberries, but he'll eat deodorant.  But seriously, what kind of a mom allows this to happen?

Example 5:  Yep, there are more.  This last Saturday, Hobbes took an early nap, which means that by the time we were done with dinner, he was really really tired.  He gets the crazies when he is tired, and that evening, he was racing around the kitchen annoying me while I was trying to work on a project.  After a while, he started climbing all over the bar stools, trying to get on my lap. I didn't want him on my lap, so I kept putting him off.  To my surprise, he climbed on the back of the stool I was sitting on.  Thinking to myself, "That is so dangerous, I need to get him off now!", I stood up to grab him.  Never stand up if that happens!  He and the chair fell right over onto the tile floor.  The chair hit his foot, and he chipped a tooth somehow.  Poor little guy!  And again, what kind of a mom let's this stuff happen?!

I could go on, but I'm not going to.  I think I've incriminated myself enough for one day.  I think I'll go take a nap while my kid watches a movie.  Good mothers do things like that.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Language Lesson

We read a lot of books to our kids in our house.  A whole lot of books.  Occasionally, Spiff gets tired of reading out loud, so he entertains himself (and me!) by reading in a Werner Herzog voice.  If you haven't checked out Herzog's readings of children's books, do yourself a favor and check them out.  They are ridiculous and hilarious.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Anyhoo, this was happening the other day.  Spiff had read his umpteenth book, and soon resorted to his  Herzog impersonation as he started in on another book.

Gunner stopped him and said, "No no no, don't say it in that Spanish!"

Spiff asked, "What's Spanish, Gunner?"

Gunner replied, "Spanish is anything that's different from regular."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tardis Cake

It's Spiff's 31st birthday today!  Happy Birthday to a great guy!  

We love Dr. Who in our house.  So when I came across this awesome Tardis cake online one day, I knew it would be the perfect birthday gift for Spiff.  I'm such a newbie at caking, and it took me months of planning to pull this off.  I moved away from my sister and all of her cake supplies, so I had to purchase my own supplies.  Then, since it was a special design, I had to buy some special tools and supplies.  I enlisted my graphic designer friend to format the text for me.  I almost can't believe that it turned out so well!


It started out like this.  
This puppy is 16 layers (4 cake mixes!  Spiff's traditional birthday treat is a lemon meringue pie, so I made him a lemon cake), four cake boards, and supported with Bubble Tea straws.
At this point, it looks like a Dr. Seuss hat that could never be an awesome cake.
*Note that Square in the corner.  I bought that at the hardware store for $4 in order to frost the tall cake.  It turned out to be the most invaluable tool for making this cake.  I could not have done it without it.  Money well spent.

Two batches of buttercream frosting and hours of straightening later, and we have this beautiful straight-edged column!
I used the Aussie Smoothing technique to get the sharp corners.

It took me about two hours to cut out these panels for the side of the cake.
I used this wax-paper transfer technique for applying the fondant to the cake.  Loved this technique!


All four panels on the cake...finally.

Top, corners and signs on!

And done!
I used the wax-paper technique to put the window panels on, too.  It saved me a huge headache!  I will use it for any pattern I ever put on a cake.

And Ta-Da!!!  Here's the finale!  Complete with candles, cobblestone-covered cake board that I painted with color dust, and David Tennant himself (dressed as Christopher Eccelston, for any Dr. Who junkies who will question that detail).  If you look closely, there's even a little light on top, although it didn't show up very well.  I bought a pack of tiny LED fingerlights online for 48 cents in order to put a working light on the top of Spiff's cake.

My lessons-learned on this cake:

1.  Caking is way more fun and goes a whole lot faster with a buddy.  I miss my sister!

2.  A 16-layer cake requires a whole lot of frosting.

3.  This marshmallow fondant recipe worked like a dream, as long as you only add 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar to the melted marshmallows, not the full 2 pounds.  It was perfect.

4.  Swiss-meringue buttercream frosting melts in a warm kitchen.  It's very stable as long as it's cold. As soon as it warms up, though, the frosting will melt and the cake will get bubbles.

5.  A fondant-covered cake that is stored in the refrigerator will sweat and be tacky when removed from the fridge and warmed.  You are not supposed to touch the fondant until it stops sweating.  If your kitchen is too warm, like mine, then the frosting will start melting, and you realize that you need to get that cake back in the fridge ASAP, but you need to get it on the cake board, which was the reason you got it out of the fridge in the first place.  You will smash your carefully-created, sweated-over cake with a huge handprint while transferring it onto your cake board if you handle it while it is sweaty and gooey.  This will also make you mad and want to cry.  The lesson here is this:  Transfer the cake onto the cake board while it is still cold, directly out of the fridge.  You can touch the cake while it is still cold.  Then you can put it back in the fridge before it all starts to melt.  You will wish you had thought of that after you are trying to repair the damage to the cake from that ginorous handprint.

I'm so happy with how it turned out, and I am happy to have poured so much creative energy into something that I gave to my wonderful Spiff.  I sure do love him a whole lot.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Word Switch

It has happened!  Hobbesie's little word switch has gone off.

It all started on a little family camping trip we took a few weeks ago.  Gunner, Hobbes and I were snuggling down in the tent, reading books, and trying to get the kids settled down for bed (an almost impossible task when we're camping!!!).  Gunner and I sang a Raffi sing-along book of "The Wheels on the Bus" to Hobbes.  I remember this book being a favorite of Gunner when he was Hobbes's age.  The next day, after we got home from our little trip, Hobbes found the book lying on the floor, picked it up, and said, "Rouw rouw rouw."  Over and over.

Since then, it has been about three new words each day.  I love this phase of baby.  It's so fun to finally hear what's going on in their little minds.

Yesterday, we were playing outside in the yard with balls, and I heard this complete phrase, 
"Mama, baba down."

So awesome that he can finally tell me that he needs help because the ball he was playing with fell down through the stairs, and he can't reach it.

I seriously love this kid.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I Am a Mother

Okay, I'm baring my soul here, people.  Please bear with me.

I have been thinking a lot about motherhood lately.  I have been struggling a lot with my job: my kids, feelings of inadequacy, lack of motivation, loneliness, fatigue, anger, lack of control, guilt, and the monotony of taking care of my children and house.  It feels like an never-ending cycle of preparing food, trying to get the kids to eat it, and then cleaning it all up.  Five times every day.  My sweet little Hobbes is the worst eater.  He would much rather play with his food than eat it.  It is always, Always smeared all over his tray, his shirt, his face and hair, and all over the floor.  And I am going to admit that I hate cleaning it up fives times a day.  And at the end of the day, when I'm cleaning it up again, the monotony of it all gets to me. I feel a flood of all of those negative emotions, I'm feel tired when I'm doing bedtime with the kids, and then I am not at my best with my children.  My poor, wonderful children who deserve the best from me at all times.

My good friend wrote a beautiful post on Mother's Day.  She wrote about how natural it is for her to be a mother, like she was created for this specific purpose.  I have thought about that often and thought how lucky she is.  How lucky to be so natural at something that is so all-consuming in life, and something that is so very important.

I have also felt a bit envious because I have never felt that.  I have always wanted to feel that, but I never have.  I always wanted to be a mom.  I always thought I would be great at it, that I would love every moment, that there was nothing else I could ever do.  Then I had Gunner.  He was so hard from the very beginning, and I suffered from severe PPD.  Gunner continues to be a challenge.  I still struggle almost every day, and I have realized that I'm not what I always hoped I would be.  Mothering has never felt natural to me.

It is hard for me.  There are days that I don't think I can continue.  There are days I want to quit.  There are days I think my children deserve better than me.  There are days I think I should get a full-time job and hire professionals to care for my kids because they would do a better job.

My friend, Chelsey, just wrote a great post about stay-at-home-moms.  What impressed me about this post was how she described her desire to raise her children.  She wants memories and good relationships with her children.  She chooses to stay at home with her kids because it is the best thing for her family.  She takes pride in her job and does everything she can to do her best.

Lately, I have had to redefine what I want from this role in my life, what I want to give, and how I want to accomplish it all.  I have talked with Spiff.  I have gone to the Lord for help.  I am still working it all out.  I desperately want to be a good mom.  I want my decision to stay home with my kids to truly be the best thing for my family.  I want my kids to know how much I love them and that they are so very special.  I want to have good relationships with them so that I can help them become the very best they can be.  I want to be able to look past this difficult phase of young kids needing me constantly and see my boys as responsible, happy, healthy adults.  Because that's what it's all about, isn't it?  Helping our children become self-sufficient contributing members of society.  And hopeful ones who will return home often and hug their proud mama.

If you read Chelsey's post, then you read this next part already.  In case you didn't read it, I'm posting it here.  I just loved the advice she passed on from a friend.  It encompasses so many things I struggle with as a mother.  It shows me that I am not alone in my feelings.  It reminds me that I have tools to work with when things are hard.  I have printed this out to post in my home.  I will read it every day until it becomes so much a part of me that I hopefully won't have to work so hard to be better at mothering.

I am a mother.  It was my choice to have children, and it is my choice what kind of a mother I will be.  I choose to try my best for my children.


1. In homemaking and mothering, what matters most is that your home is happy. If you have to let everything else go to get this one thing right, you will have traded well.

2. Kids can't hurry. They try, but...they fail. (I usually like to move at Cheetah Speed, in accomplishing household things and running errands. Let's get it done. I wait for no man. But doing things with little kids has turned my cheetah into one who one only has three legs, one of which is broken and one of which is five inches shorter than all the others. And also the cheetah is carsick, and shedding weird patches of hair, and drooling a lot. Whatever. Anyway, it's inefficient and s-l-o-w.) If you can only accomplish something by hurrying, don't. It is not worth the frustration that will ensue. Try again on a different day when you have more time.

3. No phase (or day) lasts forever. To me this is a reminder to breath it in deeply when it's fun and let it go with a sigh, when it's hard. This, too, shall pass.

4. It's easier to preempt a problem than to deal with its aftermath. (Following this advice could mean almost anything...hiding extra diapers in the car, giving D a nap when he has to stay up late for E's baseball game, separating tired children at the dinner table because they WILL start fighting if they're sitting next to each other, packing a snack or some crayons and paper if we're going to be out for a while, etc.) It is worth the time it takes to look at a situation that you know will push your limits and say, "What will make it hard? How can I make the hard stuff easier?"

5. Sometimes (a lot of times) the kid who did the hitting needs to be held even more than the one who got hit.

6. Be consistent. Follow through with consequences. Do something when you're counting and you actually get to "3". No means no. And praise, praise, praise the good stuff!

7. Smile at your husband and children. Just out of the blue, for no reason other than that they exist, they are yours, and that is a blessing. Wink. Mouth a silent, "I love you." Consistent, small displays of affection go a long way.

8. Pray together with your kids. Especially when you are grasping at sanity and self-control. Gather them around you, hold hands, and pray, even if you have to sob your way through it. Tell God that you are having a hard time. That you can't think clearly or don't know what to do. Ask Him--right there, out loud in front of your children--for forgiveness, to give you more love for your family, for help becoming a better mother. I've tried this a number of times. Every time, I have been changed. I finish praying and my instinct is to draw my children to me, hold them, apologize, and express my love to them. We get up and we try again, but it is better. Different. This is a magical piece of advice from a very dear friend. I wish I remembered it more often.

9. Admit when you blew it. Tell your kids you're sorry. My great sister-in-law put herself in time-out once after she lost her temper...chair facing the wall, timer on and all. Kids learn from parental mistakes and how they're handled. They are quick to forgive. Apologizing to them teaches them to apologize, and that everybody makes mistakes.

10. If you need time to yourself to get stuff done, you can usually get it by spending some undistracted time with your kids first. I read once about a mom who swore that if she took 15 minutes helping her kids get started in a play game (building a couch fort, making a Lego creation, helping them put on dress up clothes and makeup, gathering sticks and rocks for a pretend campsight, etc.) they would then play happily with that thing, alone, for at least 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes buys you forty-five. Not bad. I've tried this one a lot--it usually works nicely. Also, turns out it's super fun to forget about the phone and the laundry for a little bit and just play with your kids. Like a kid.

11. You're doing better than you think you are. If your kids know you love them, and if you're just trying to do a good job, that's enough. Forgive yourself for the stuff you aren't getting right quite yet.

My New Costco Problem

I love Costco.  I love shopping there.  I admit to having a Costco Problem.  I developed my problem over the last year.  I spent more money at Costco, and less at my local grocery store.  I felt guilty about the large amounts of money spent there, but enjoyed the delicious food and fully-stocked pantry we had in our home.  I dragged my boys to Costco 2-3 times per week.

My new problem is that there is not a Costco here.  Not yet.

Not until November 16.

There is a Sam's Club here, and Maggie has agreed to let me go with her sometimes.  I'm incredibly grateful for that.  But I'm holding out for a membership for when Costco opens.  How am I going to make it three more months?

Oh, Costo, how I miss you!  How I miss your $5 rotisserie chickens!  How I miss your delicious try-outs!  How I miss buying crackers and toilet paper in bulk!  How I worry that I will run out of my favorite Kirkland brand garbage bags before you open!  How I dislike buying everything at the grocery store!!!  Everything is so small and expensive there.  I feel like they are sucking me dry with every food purchase.

I can do this.  Three more months.  Those construction guys better not slack off.  I'm expecting a prompt grand opening, and I'll be there at the door.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Grief

My mind and heart are grieving today for a sweet family friend who lost her husband last week in a tragic accident.  He and his 6-year-old daughter took their motorcycle on a ride around the block.  They hit a car driven by a drunk driver who ran a stop sign.  The daughter was thrown clear (she tells people that her daddy threw her off the motorcycle) and miraculously came away with a few bumps and bruises.

Today, Emilie is burying her husband and the father of her five small children.  My heart is broken for her and her family.

My family is all attending the funeral this morning.  I wish I could be there to grieve with them and show my support for these people who were so important to me during all the years I lived at home.

I am so grateful for the Gospel this day.  I am so grateful for forever families and for knowing that Emilie's children will get the chance to know their daddy in the afterlife.  I am grateful that I will be with my family for eternity.  I am also reminded that anything can happen, and that we need to try out best to show our gratitude for our loved ones every day.  

Things He Says and Things We Do

Our two friends we have here in this new little town are both on vacation.  When Gunner found out that both Tommy and Charlotte & Greg were going out of town, he got so sad.  "But I won't have any friends to play with!"

And then he spent few days in a row being super naughty.  Super naughty.  It was miserable.  He was just in the worst mood, doing all sorts of things he knows he's not supposed to, fighting with Hobbes constantly, throwing tantrums of all shapes and sizes, ect.  After a few days of this, I finally asked him, "What's going on with you?  Why are you being so naughty?"

His reply: Charlotte is on a trip, and I miss her.

So, that's it.  We got to the bottom of that one.  Apparently, his behavior is directly related to how much fun he thinks he is going to have with his friends.  No friends = a big case of the naughties at home.

He seems to have snapped out of it, and we're back on track here in Casa Spiff. The kids are getting along better.  All moods are bright.  I have been making efforts to make new friends.  I even cleaned my house yesterday.  Think all laundry cleaned, folded and put away, all bathrooms cleaned, and ALL floors cleaned.  I am a rockstar.

We went on a little family campout last weekend.  We tested Spiff's spiffy REI tent in a real deluge, and it passed with flying colors.  There was a huge storm that rolled in around 11 pm, and it lasted until 8 in the morning.  There were at least four thunderstorms that came through, and it rained all night.  I kept waiting for it to rain less hard, and then it would rain even harder!  It was a storm that caused all sorts of damage up and down the state.  And our tent didn't get a single drop of water in it.  That's a good tent.

In other news, I am still recovering from my running injury.  I have run just a couple times in the last month, under two miles, all really really slowly.  I am still sore and aching, and I'm trying to take it slow as I hopefully get back into it and recover completely.  In the meantime, I am struggling to get good cardio workouts without being able to run, bike (I don't have one), or swim (I can't swim).  I have been doing workout videos in my living room.  My arms are a lot stronger form all the strength training, but I miss the cardio benefits of running.

For a couple of months, I had a good routine of cycling through the workouts available on Netflix.  And then one day, I woke up to find the message that they were going to be available only through August 1.  Total bummer!  So, I got online and bought myself a few new videos.  Since we have become fans of the Biggest Losers in our little house, I decided to try out the Biggest Loser workouts.

As I did one this morning, Gunner woke up and started participating with me.  I guess Gunner didn't realize it was a home workout video.  As Bob gave instructions into the camera, Gunner looked incredulous and said, "He pointed at me!  He's looking at me!  Why is he talking to me?!"

Love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gunner the Author

Gunner wrote the following story as part of his Summer Reading program activities.  I shouldn't be surprised, since the kid has a vivid imagination, but I have to admit that I was surprised he was able to spit this thing out in about 20 seconds.  I think he would dedicate this story to his friend, Greg, who loves Monster Trucks.  Enjoy!


A Really Monster Story
by Gunner Archibald

A long time ago, a monster truck crushed a car.  A person jumped on the monster truck.  The person flicked the monster truck up in the air.  The monster truck crushed a house, and then it saw a big big alligator that had 42 teeth.  Then the crocodile ate the monster truck.
The End

New Stuff

So, my RS lesson went well last week, thanks to all of you who gave me great ideas.  I love my friends.

And now you might ask, "How are things going for you and Spiff in your new city?"  You might not ask, but if you do, I'll tell you.

Spiff is working so hard these days.  Intern year was rough.  He worked all the time.  And now he's here at his residency, and he's working just as hard.  Here is his schedule at the moment:
4:30 Wake up, get ready for the day.
4:50 Out the door, riding his bike to work.
5:15 Get to work, change, get ready.
5:30-3:00ish In OR for the day.  Maybe a lunch around lunchtime.  Maybe not.  If so, then straight back to OR.
3-5:00 Attend a 6-week afternoon lecture series.
5:30ish Arrive home.
6:00ish Eat Dinner.
6-7:00 Play with kids, help get them ready for bed.
7-8:30 Study
8:30 In Bed.

As you can see, he's booked.  So so so busy!  He is learning anesthesia now.  He is expected to know a whole lot of stuff right off the bat, and it's a pretty steep learning curve.  It's stressful, and he's tired.


I am remembering how not awesome it is to be the new girl.  The women in our ward are nice, but there aren't too many in my situation.  In fact, I looked around in RS on Sunday and realized that I was the only woman there who is my age!  There are a lot of 20-something cuter-than-cute single girls (Side note: The young singles are in our ward, which puts Spiff in the Elder's Quorum with only 4 other married Elders, and us having the most kids.  Weird.), and there are a lot of 40/50-something already-raised-their-kids ladies.  Not a lot my age.  It's weird how I still want to be friends with people my age, like I am five years old and want another 5-year-old girl to play with.  I have made one awesome new friend, and I already love her, so at least there's that.

I am very tired of "The First Conversation" I have to have with everyone.  You know the one.  It covers these topics:
What's your name? (I have met tons of people and won't remember their names for months.)
Where do you live? (Not helpful info for me when I don't know my way around town.)
Where are you from? (The usual response to this is, "Oh.  That's nice.")

Occasionally I find someone who is really good at small talk, and that's a nice change of pace.  Being new is always hard.  Trying to find new friends is a lot like dating, and it is hard getting past the "1st-Date Phase" of a relationship.  I remember this when I went to grad school.  I actually remember the exact moment I became close friends with my dear friend, Sarah.  She was a class-mate.  At the start of our first Christmas break, we went to Starbucks for hot chocolate and discussed our classes and teachers.  Then a boy I liked walked by.  He and I had an awkward conversation at our table, then he walked away.  Blamo!  Just like that, Sarah and I had something interesting to talk about, and we became eternal friends.

It's just so hard to get past the superficial layers of conversation so much of the time.  It takes a lot of time and effort, and it's going to take a while.  Making friends is so hard.  Thank goodness I have Maggie here.


Gunner and Hobbes are adjusting in their own ways.  I can tell that we have all just come off of our big move.  I'm dealing with behavior issues that aren't necessarily new, but severely magnified.  The boys fight all. the. time.  Gunner picks at Hobbes, Hobbes whines, then I get involved. We repeat this pattern 1 million times per day.  I am exhausted by them.  I wish I could find a way to teach Gunner to be nice to his brother.  I would love them to be good friends and be able to play together, instead of the constant fighting.  Argh, it's so frustrating.

Gunner is actually grounded right now.  He told me to "Shut Up" the other day.  "What did you say to me?!?!?!" I said.  He replied, "I said, Shut Up, Mom."

So, he's grounded.  This is his first real grounding, so he's figuring out what it means day by day.  No TV, no I-Pad games, no popcorn (which is apparently near and dear to his heart), and he has to do 30 minutes of chores every day for a week.  Oh, except that now it's two weeks because he told another kid to Shut Up in Primary on Sunday.  Yikes.  That kid is hitting some milestones I don't think he should hit for another 10 years.  He's growing up too fast, and I'm apparently years behind schedule.  And I'm a bit lost on him.

On the plus side, he has been helping me get my house nice and clean this week.  I think I might not drop the chores after his grounding is over.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Food Feature: Pot Stickers, Lettuce Wraps and Asian Dipping Sauce

Kalie, this one is for you.  In fact, the thought running through my head as I made these was, "Kalie would love these!"  So here you go.  Make them.  Love them.  They are divine.

I dragged my kids out to the local Asian market a couple weeks ago.  It had to be done.  I was struggling to come up with any meals to cook in our new house without some of my new staple Asian ingredients.  The store here isn't as awesome as the one in SLC, but I sort of expected that.  We're in a small town in the Midwest.  But I can get what I need, and I'll take what I can get.  I'm just grateful to have a market in town.  While I was there, I picked up a package of potsticker wrappers and thought I'd give them a go.  Turns out that these are some of my favorite things I have made.

Pork Pot Stickers
Based on this recipe from Martha Stewart




  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon minced green onions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine
  • 2-3 tablespoons water chestnuts, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 20 wonton wrappers (from a 12-ounce package)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    1. In a bowl, combine pork, onions, soy sauce, sherry, water chestnuts, ginger, sesame oil, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water.
    2. Place a heaping teaspoon of pork mixture in center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly wet edge of wrapper, fold over, and press to seal. Repeat to form remaining dumplings (makes 20).
    3. In two batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of boiling water until cooked through, 4 minutes; transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. In a large nonstick pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-high. In two batches, cook until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Serve with dipping sauce.
    Freeze raw dumplings on a baking sheet, then store in bags, up to 3 months. Cook from frozen.  Look at all my little dumplings all ready and lined up in a row.  I feel a bit like a proud mommy who got her kids in bed early.

    Serving Suggestions:
    Team these up with Five-Spice Turkey & Lettuce Wraps.  They make an excellent combination because there are a lot of duplicate ingredients between the two recipes, which makes prepping and chopping a whole lot easier.
    And last but not least, here is a recipe for the world's yummiest dipping sauce (pictured above), which also happens to be delicious drizzled over the lettuce wraps.  I may even be tempted to eat this stuff with a spoon.
    Asian Dipping Sauce
    2 T. soy sauce
    1 T. hoisin sauce
    1 T. rice vinegar
    1 T. sesame oil
    1 t. chili sauce (I always use Srirache sauce)

    Mix it all together in a bowl.  Store leftovers (if you have any!) in the fridge.  Yum!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stepping Way Out of My Comfort Zone

I don't know if you all realize this about me, but I'm a back-row sitter.  And I don't give comments.  I may think comments, but I don't say them.  If I ever get up the courage to say something in a class, my face turns red (Thank you, over-active blushing mechanism), then people notice that I'm blushing, so then my neck turns red, too!  It's a domino effect of shame for me.

So I sit in the back row, quietly paying attention (or trying to, let's be honest here), and not ever saying anything at all.

We have been in our new ward for three weeks.  When we moved last year, Spiff and I were asked to talk in Sacrament Meeting on Father's Day, which was two weeks after we moved.  This time, I have been asked to substitute as a Relief Society teacher on Sunday.  Both of these things involve me talking in front of people (cue red blush-face), and talking to people I don't know who will be veeeeery interested in what the new girl has to say (cue red blush-neck).

I used to teach relief society, eight years ago before I married Spiff, in our single's ward.  Back then, I thought it was the perfect calling.  I only had to prepare something once a month.  I got to lead a conversation with my female peers in similar situations on interesting gospel subjects.  I loved it.  Then I got married and started attending family wards where all of the members of the RS came with different stories and perspectives on life.  I realized that it is a place where offense can be taken so very easily by members of the class, from something the teacher said.  Perhaps she wasn't being sensitive enough to everyone's situations.  Perhaps she was naive in her own experiences and made a gross generalization.  Perhaps she was just stating what the Prophet said in the manual.  No matter what, offense was to be taken.

I decided after this that I never wanted to teach RS ever again.

I then got called to work in the primary, where I have been for four years.  I have forgotten how to interact with relief society sisters!  I think it's easier to be with kids.

And here I am, in my brand new ward, teaching this week's lesson, which happens to be on Missionary Work (Lesson 14, George Albert Smith).  This happens to be my most uncomfortable topic to talk about.  I am the worst about sharing the gospel and actually feel completely uncomfortable with it.

Goodness, I'm really at a loss here, folks.  Anyone have any brilliant ideas for me?  Any an all helpful comments and suggestions are welcome here!  Thanks in advance.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Our Move

So, here's how the move went.  And even as I'm typing this, I'm thinking, "Boy, I'm sure glad that's over!"  It's so much work, and we are all still recovering.

We packed up our house with the help of my sister and her girls.  Spiff and Stephanie wrapped furniture in plastic wrap and hauling boxes into the truck, while I ran around finishing the packing and cleaning.  Her girls were amazing!  The oldest, who just turned 13, carried countless boxes out of the depths of the basement up the stairs and outside to the driveway.  The 9-year-old helped keep an eye on the little kids.  It wasn't until later in the afternoon when all of our doors were wide open while we were carrying everything in the house outside that I decided I could not keep track of Hobbes!  I called up Kalie and she most graciously agreed watch him while I waited for my other sister to arrive and take the younger kids away.  Seriously, Kalie, I don't know what I would have done without your help!  Little Hobbes would have been smashed by a furniture dolly without you.

Anyway, the elder's quorum showed up and loaded up the furniture.  The thing about using ABF is that you are charged by the square foot of space you use.  So, we tried to pack everything as densely as possible.  It's like a hunormous (that's Gunner's word) 3-D puzzle.  We did have a few casualties.  The kids' play structure didn't fit.  I'm still a little sad about that.  And we left Gunner's crib behind.  Actually, Spiff tore it apart and used it as packing shims.  I think the rest of it was just used as firewood at my family's annual camping trip.  We bought him an IKEA big-boy bed when we arrived.

So, all said and done, it was the world's longest day.  We were exhausted, but we got it done, and I'm so very grateful for all the help!   Then we said goodbye to our little house and got on the road.  We sure will miss our house, fabulous neighbors, family, friends, mountains, and glorious glorious weather!

We drove through Wyoming this time, instead of heading East on I-80, in order to avoid the longest straight section of road in the country, and the rest of Nebraska, too.  And I didn't regret it for an instant.  Driving north east in Wyoming was wonderful.  It was such a beautiful drive!  In fact, I'm fairly certain that my breath was taken away as we drove past Alcova, WY.  Seriously beautiful country.  You probably have to see it to believe it; the pictures just don't do it justice.

We stayed the night in a fairly excellent hotel in Gillette, WY, and rewarded the boys for their outstanding traveling behavior with a late-night swim in the hotel pool.  We had a good time, were able to relax and stretch out after a long day of driving, but didn't get the kids in bed until after 10:00.  This resulted in a looooooooooong day the next day.

We started off the day by driving to Devil's Tower.  I have never been there, and I thought it was great!  There was a little mile-ish hike that we took the boys on. I thought the kids would be happy to get out of the car, stretch their legs and enjoy a little adventure.  I was wrong.  Well, Hobbes was fine.  Look at him happily hiking along!

Gunner, on the other hand, was awful.  He whined and complained the entire time we walked!  "Are we done yet?"  "Why do we have to BEEEEE here?!"  "I want to go back to the car!"  Etc.

That is, until he found the perfect little gun-sized/shaped stick and started shooting every person who hiked past us.  Good thing most people were good sports about it because he shot every one of them dead.
Devil's Tower = Beautiful

From there, we headed East to Mount Rushmore.  I have also never been there before.  And it was...meh.  I didn't love it.  The Mount was cool.  The history behind it's creation was cool.  The opportunity to get out of the car and walk around was nice.  But I was underwhelmed by the whole place.  Perhaps if Gunner hadn't been whining, or if we had been able to spend more time in the Black Hills instead of just seeing this one sight, perhaps I would have liked it better.  As it stands, I don't think I'll ever return...willingly.

The thing about it was that everything in the whole area was entirely over-commercialized.  There is this one main highway that runs from I-90 down to Mount Rushmore.  There are approximately 30,000 billboards along that highway trying to get you to come in and have FUN at this man-made sight, or more FUN at that man-made water park, or even MORE FUN(!!!) at that museum!  Museum of Gutzon Borglum, who built Mt. Rushmore (that's understandable).  Museum of Reptiles.  Museum of Birds.  Museum of Bob Loblaw.  There just isn't enough natural fun to be had in that part of the country that they have to man-make it, and they have to cram it all down your throat as you drive by.  I wanted to see the sights and enjoy the area, and it was ruined for me by all the man-made stuff.  I guess I'm completely spoiled growing up in the West where there is no lack of splendid natural beauty to be had.  What South Dakota had to offer paled in comparison.

Oh, that then there was Rapid City.  After touring around those two sights all day, we decided to stay the night in Rapid City.  We must have just hit the wrong parts of town, and I hope we did because otherwise that place is a dump!  Our Garmin landed us at a park in the Ghetto, we ate dinner at a Subway where all of the workers behind the counter were missing some teeth, and we could not find a hotel room for under $230/night.  What?!  I know.  That's insanity!  We decided that there must have been an event and that the hotels were hiking their rates because the nice hotels at Snowbird Resort, you know, the ones that you can ski to the lift from your hotel room door...they don't charge much more than that to stay there.

We were tired and hungry, but we decided that there was something wrong with Rapid City, so we meandered down the highway to Wall.  Yes, we stayed the night in Wall, SD, home of the made-famous-by-billboard-advertising Wall Drug!  I feel so honored, and grateful to stay at an inexpensive Econolodge.  Thank you, Wall.

The next day found us at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.  The Corn Palace!!!  Look at the link for pictures of the outside of this landmark.  Here's one of the inside.  It's entirely decorated by corn.  Pretty neat.  This place was the home for us of a nice stretch of our legs and a picnic lunch.  Not much more than that.

So from there, we drove to Minneapolis to stay with our gracious friends who put us up for a few nights until our ABF truck finally delivered our stuff to our house.  It took two days longer than we had hoped.  We will probably not use ABF again, unless we are planning a week or longer vacation in the mean time.  It was a big time waster and frustrating to feel like we were in limbo.  Oh, than then there was a monsoon that arrived and dumped rain on us for the evening.  We had to postpone the elder's quorum another day.  More delays.  But even in the rain, Spiff and our good friend, Dan, unloaded boxes in the rain, saved some books and the piano from rain water that had gotten into the truck, and we were on our way to getting settled in our new house.

Spiff has since started his new job.  It's good and hard for him at the same time.  The kids and I have enjoyed being reunited with Maggie and her kids!!!!  Not enough exclamation points for that one.  Gunner has a new friend from church.  I have met some nice people, but it sure is hard being the new girl again.  We miss what we had, and change is hard, but we're slowly slowly slowly getting there.