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.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Spiff's Father's Day Present!!!

He picked it out after we got here.  It's no Weber, but it sure does cook up some delicious burgers.
And Spiff's not half bad at grilling.  Not half bad at all.

Our New House

Alright, so we made it!  We survived the move.  We're here in our new home, and we're working on getting settled.  Very slowly.  It sure does take a long time.  I think we're all ready for a new normal routine and ready for some rest.  I'll going to try to make a bigger effort to blog, and I'll do some catch-up posts.  But for now, here are some rare picture!  Hoorah!  Enjoy!

Our house, and our little car, which is proof that we live here
It's a ranch-style with a walk-out basement.

My kitchen
Ah, my kitchen.  It's big, beautiful, and the appliances are a dream.
It turns out that the majority of the possessions we own are kitchen items.  There were more kitchen boxes than Spiff and my other things combined.  And this kitchen accommodates them all.
I'm a lucky girl. 

View of the dining room from the kitchen
Look at all that space!

View of the living room from the balcony

 Kitchen window and the porch that comes out from the dining room.
The boys love running in wild circles on the deck.

The yard and back of the house.
It's lovely, no?  I am certainly in love.