Shrek Shakes and Twinkies

Since it’s like Siberia here, I’ve been looking for alternate ways of keeping the kids busy interested, active, and thriving. I think we’ve punished the other library patrons enough for one winter, and Utah malls are pretty skimpy when it comes to play places. Lately we’ve been enjoying the Costco lunch. Well, the Costco after-school snack anyway:

polish sausage and fountain drink: 1.55

two churros: 2.00

all-you-can-eat samples and indoor room to run around: priceless

Dick said he thinks churros are like fried twinkies, in a good way. This made me remember the halcyon days of my youth, when I ate a chocodile (chocolate- covered twinkie) for lunch every day and never got fat. I also ate Black Cows, which are carmel-on-a-stick treats, covered in chocolate. Those mean boys at school, who just didn’t know how to show they liked me, called me “Cow Hyatt.”

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One score minus thirteen years ago

I gave birth to Sally. That kind of says it all. If you’re a mother or a daughter or have a mother or a daughter, you can probably imagine how Idscn0952-1.JPG feel. I knew I would have a daughter first (I am a first daughter myself) and I had her name picked out before I picked out her father.

Sally is smart and sometimes shy; sensitive and sometimes silly. She loves to dance and actually has talent. She is, unfortunately, as talented at singing as her parents are, but she also inherited our love of reading. She can now block out the world in favor of a book with the best of them.

Don’t worry, we haven’t tried to discourage any of her emerging talents yet–but we would, if necessary, before she could make a fool of herself in an American Idol audition. What are parents for?

Sally gets obsessive about her homework like I used to, and she’s athletic like Dick used to be (hehe, Dick is still athletic, of course). And she’s kind, nurturing, loving to her sisters. She’s definitely a better big sister than I was. Like most children, she’s quick to forgive and to show affection.

I find that when I get mad at Sally it’s because she’s suddenly acting like a normal 7 year-old, where I had gotten used to a pretty helpful little-big girl.

Notice the purple velveteen bunny in both the baby picture and the 6 1/2-year old picture from this summer.

3_20_01_0002.jpgWe found this car seat on the curb in The Bronx — New York has a great system of recycling; just leave your stuff on the street (next to, but not in, the garbage), and chances are, someone else will need it. I had to draw the line, though, when homeless people were picking up aluminum cans that had blown into the little front yard of our Archie Bunker house.

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Sally was a healthy 9 lb 3 oz at birth.

babyathome_0006.jpg babyathome_0043.jpgI think I have about 700 pictures of Dick and the kids sleeping.

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Dick was home with Sally while I worked in the good old days, and he liked to tease her. I think you’ll see that Sally looks a lot like Spot, or Spot like Sally.

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See Sally with Julia Stiles — Dick taught her freshman writing course, and I was crass enough to ambush her after a student-teacher conference. Wanted my Sally to have at least one picture with a celebrity, eh.
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See Sally ride the Subway in NYC.

And here are some pictures from our swim party on Saturday:

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Unfortunately, the birthday girl isn’t featured very prominently in these pictures: she was too busy going down the slide and staying as far away from mom as possible. At least it seemed that way at times.

It wasn’t hard to love him

hinckley_medium.jpgI know, the scripture says “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” but if you’re around a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the next few days, you might hear a lot about how much we all loved President Hinckley.

I certainly loved him. I only saw him once in person, at a big devotional at BYU when I was a student there ten(!) years ago. I didn’t get to shake his hand, and he probably wasn’t speaking right to me that day. But I was inspired.

Of course, the scriptures go on to tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even to love our enemies. President Hinckley wasn’t a god or a neighbor of mine or an enemy. He was a prophet, a very good man, a loving husband and father. I’m not a trained investigator or even very well-read on recent church history or trivia, but I know, I feel, and always felt, when I listened to him speak or as I read his words or heard about his life, that he was a man of God.

Here are some of his words from his first talk to the church after becoming prophet in 1995:

Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.

We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt.

As much as we are into the reveration and adoration, we are also, as a people, relatively cavalier about death. There was an awful (forgive me for speaking the truth) talk in our most recent conference in which a man spoke about the death of his first baby, and his not going home (from his far-away work) to his wife for two weeks, and not even returning home for the funeral. On reading the talk again now, it is not so bad, but at the time, I was completely dismayed.

On hearing that Pres. Hinckley had died, Dick and I reflected on how much we loved him, how he was our favorite prophet ever. Dick even went so far as to call him the “best” prophet we’ve had in a long time. I remembered how the not-so-young women in our old congregation in Florida used to speak of Pres. McKay who was “such a gentleman” and “so wonderful with his wife.” Then my brother Ryan called to ask if Dick would have the day off tomorrow, seeing as Dick works for the church.

Dick, having met Thomas S. Monson recently at work, said, wow, now I’ll have met the prophet, because, as our line of succession is stable and follows the pattern of Brigham Young after Joseph Smith, we know that he’ll be President Monson soon. And we’ll probably love him too.

And I’ll remember that the reason we can rejoice in a life lived so well, and not mourn too much at death at age 97 is that I have all faith, conviction, belief that President Hinckley is now with his beloved wife, and happy to be where he is. He wouldn’t want Dick to have the day off tomorrow. I don’t think President Hinckley ever took a day off from doing much more important work — the work of the Lord.

As for me (not having had a day off in almost seven years now), I’m going to take what President Hinckley said to the children to heart this week:

May we go forward with determination to try a little harder to be a little better.

Recession-proof

Like many people caught on the wrong end of the housing market, we lost a small fortune (“small” maybe to you, big spender; “fortune” okay, only if you have really, really low expectations) on our house in Florida. So far we’re resisting the urge to sue our agent, which supports the idea that people don’t sue doctors, or agents, they like.

But despite a bond forged over losing the first house we bid on and miscarriage commiseration, I’m still pretty ticked that she urged us to offer just over the asking price three years ago, and didn’t march us down to the police precinct to check out the crime statistics. What was she thinking?

But that’s over, that’s done. We’re not thinking about that any more. No seller’s remorse allowed. Better to just be out of that situation completely now we’re into a pre-recession or full-out recession, depending on who you talk to. And it turns out that we may be, comparatively speaking, in a pretty recession-friendly state right now.

Basically, if you were poor and knew it and acted like it before the recession, and if you have a stable job and reasonably good credit and don’t already own a house, things might actually be looking up. But what if you didn’t know it or weren’t acting like it?

Apparently, one only needs to make $50,000 to be a part of the trading up crowd, or as Tiffany’s puts it, the “midtier luxury consumer.” Of course, they probably weren’t thinking of a family of five when setting the 50,000 starting point. Although Dick and I did shop at Tiffany’s in Manhattan once. I had a gift certificate from my second favorite job of all time, as a secretary in the Economics Department at Columbia University.

I loved that job. I usually wasn’t very busy, and I got to yak with fun women and eat yummy (free) lunches and help plan parties and generally play at being an adult (this was before and right after Sally was born). Maybe it was my number one favorite job of all time. hmmm.tiffany.jpg

Anyway, Angela, my boss, didn’t laugh when I chose a Tiffany’s gift card for my 175-ish Christmas bonus. It was probably a good thing that I only had under 200 to spend, because what I really liked at the time, besides the canary diamonds, was the Blackberries china pattern. Welcome to Pooh Corner, anyone?

Now, I know all the words to Moon River, but I think it’s safe to say that the prize quality in cracker jacks has sadly deteriotated since 1961. So we got a sterling silver baby’s first spoon and had it engraved for Sally. It’s still safely wrapped up in the soft blue cloth envelope, nestled in that pretty blue box. Maybe we’ll let her see it when she’s twenty-one.

In the meantime, Dick will gratefully wear his thrift shop trench coat that he initially scorned. (Hard to feel superior when it’s like Siberia out there). And I’ll pass up that $400 handbag in favor of my $14 Shopko hobo, and just be glad that I probably won’t even notice my ‘sudden’ inability to buy 200 dollar jeans.

Mother, Mother, write me another

I sit here, in the blessed quiet of the post-kids-bedtime limbo — time guiltily stolen from household chores (got 5 minutes? you could shine your sink a là FlyLady) and church duties (Sunday’s just three days away — is your Sunday School lesson ready?). Stolen because really I should just go to bed so there’d be more than a 50 percent chance of getting through the morning without yelling at my kids.

And I ask myself, why don’t I do anything with my life? After even just an hour of quiet, I have forgotten how time- and energy- consuming the three hooligans are. It’s frustrating, because I don’t know how much of my continued sklunklishness is due to the fact that I had to listen to high-pitched whining for ten hours today, and how much is just evidence of the good doctor’s wisdom when he said, “when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

I should probably read one of those motherhood-motivational books that I see advertised in the pseudo-church press circulars. But, barf.

Or I should woman-up and get me some discipline. Nah — using all my discipline to stick to a mere five brownies tonight.

Here’s some irony. I have this great idea for a motherhood book of my own. The basic concept is that it would be a mother book by an actual stay-at-home mother, not a stay-at-home mother with an impressive journalistic career temporarily on hold while she freelances in between diaper changes (although someone like that would probably be pretty inspiring).

Because, and this is my original idea, mothering and writing about mothering is kind of like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: the more you step away from it (mothering) by getting book contracts and ignoring (blissfully, I imagine) your kids to research the book (by reading similar books, naturally), write the book, and promote the book, the less experience you have of actually being JUST a mother.

Or, to be more analogic — the closer you look, the harder it is to know what exactly a mother is, because instead of being, you’re seeing.

Some women have the energy and intelligence to be a mother and a lawyer, painter, doctor, plumber. And others got married even younger than the average age for Mormon girls and have spent 90 percent of their adults lives as . . . mothers.

The ironic thing is that, after having this great idea, and getting hyped about it with my kindred (mom) spirit Tara, we’ve (I’ve — it was my idea after all) done exactly nothing about it. Oh, except, she’s about to have her third kid, and I moved across the country with my family and established a new household and supported my husband through a couple of (very rewarding) job changes. And today I took Sally and Susan to dance class.

At the risk (too late) of making this a very long post, here’s what’s motivating me (or trying to) out of my slump:

Four takes on What Is A Mother?:

Watts: It’s 1987 Ray. Did you know a woman can be anything she wants to be?

Ray: I know; my mom’s a plumber. And I have an enormous amount of respect for her.

Watts: That explains a lot about you Ray.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Am not inspired to become a plumber. Movie as a whole makes you want to go out and marry your best friend. Oh wait. We can check that off the To-Do list. Check.

I love being in my mother’s kitchen. It is always warm and steamy and filled with activity. In my mind, I have a kitchen like this. The cabinets are filled with dishes that actually get used. The pots sit out on the stove, waiting for the day’s sauces and soups and stew. The cookbook on the counter is dog-eared and splattered with grease and gravy and icing smudges.

Sometimes, I wanted to marry Morelli so I’d have a kitchen like my mom’s. Then, other times, I worried that I couldn’t pull it off, and I’d have a husband and three kids, and we’d all be eating take-out standing over the sink. I guess there are worse things in the world than take-out, but in my mother’s kitchen, take-out feels a little like failure.

Lean Mean Thirteen, p. 262

I wish I could recommend Janet Evanovich’s books to my mom and sister, but they wouldn’t like the bad language and sketchy relationship entanglements. And I could use a little less formula and a little more emotional /intellectual growth on the part of the heroine. But, dang. She’s a fantastic storyteller. Makes you want to learn how to shoot a gun, or not. I actually prefer my own kitchen to my mom’s; only because I know where everything is in my cupboards.

Although she volunteered, served on various committees, or stuck her oar in countless organizations, she’d never worked outside the home. He’d gone through a period in his late teens and early twenties where he’d imagined her (pitied her) as an unfulfilled, semidesperate housewife.

… [after he’d taken her aside to encourage her to break out of this repression]

“I get to use this house as my studio, my science project, my laboratory and my showroom. I get to be the director, the designer, the set builder, and the star of the whole show. Now, why would I want to go out and get a job or a career — since we don’t need the money — and have somebody else tell me what to do and when to do it?”

She’d crooked her finger so he leaned down to her. And she’d laid a hand on his cheek. “You’re such a sweetheart, Caleb. You’re going to find out that not everybody wants what society — in whatever its current mood or mode might be — tells them they should want. I consider myself lucky, even privileged, that I was able to make the choice to stay home and raise my children. And I’m lucky to be able to be married to a man who doesn’t mind if I use my talents . . . I’m happy. And I love knowing that you worried I might not be.

Blood Brothers, p. 141

I’ve liked Nora Roberts for a long time. Double plus on the not being able to recommend due to language and sexual situations. Too bad. And double double plus on being very formulaic, which is good and bad. It’s like going to Olive Garden or Outback to eat. Might not be exciting and new (at least after the first few times), but reliable and satisfying. And I love how she describes this woman’s outlook. I’m kind of conflicted — wanting different things moment to moment. Tara says mothering is great–like the ups and downs of PMS, only multiplied. (no pun there).

Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight and that’s all they do. They don’t pull away. They don’t look at your face. They don’t try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms without an ounce of selfishness in it.

Waitress, Jenna writing in journal while pregnant

I’m seeing a definite pattern here. All considerations of talent and temperament aside (they aren’t that important, right?), perhaps part of my writer’s block is due to the fact that what I like to read and, often, watch, contains thematic elements I can’t recommend to my nearest and dearest. hmmmm.

Dick and I really liked Waitress. It’s got adultery in it, which is usually a big turn-off for me, but it was very realistic and understandable, and most importantly, not glamorized/rewarded. More depressing were the two very unadmirable main male characters. I don’t think I see the male of the species through a rosy haze, but this was pretty brutal.

But at least Jenna isn’t some angelically boring earth-mother-pregnancy–is-glorious type. When she invents a pie in honor of the baby-to-be, she calls it “Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie… Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course.” It’s probably pretty unrealistic that her whole life changes the second her baby is placed in her arms, but it’s a nice fairytale. I am mother: I have purpose.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun — or would, if they weren’t feeling sklunklish

I have a good friend who had a girl for her third child, after having two blondie boys. All three kids wear glasses now; it’s adorable in a sort of a smart-Barbie-and-Ken way. She was so excited about the whole pink thing that she sometimes had to try multiple outfits on her baby before choosing what she’d wear each day. I am obviously missing some girl gene, or am just lazy, because it’s all I can do to keep my kids in clean underwear.

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But on Saturday I finally found the Pocahontas costume I bought for 97 cents at Old Navy after last Halloween (2006) when Spot was two weeks old. We only missed this Halloween by 73 days, and there is no way Spot is fitting into this costume next year, so I made her wear it all day and even took some pictures.

We can pretend this is Spot at 1 year on Halloween, but really it’s Spot at 15 months with her very special (meaning she doesn’t have to share it) baby doll. She was not impressed by the authentic Native American headdress; one second after this picture was taken she ripped it off for the millionth time.

The costume really wasn’t bad as a regular dress. It’s soft and warm and fuzzy, and despite how it looks when she sits uncooperatively, it kept her knees warm. I guess the dress-up gene gets turned on around age 2, though I really can’t remember a time that Sally and Susan weren’t changing clothes five times a day.

Today I felt sklunklish. The high-pitched whining (“I’m a princess. I don’t have to bring my dishes over to the sink.”) almost tipped the sklunkish-ness over into daughter-cidal mania. Which is not to say that I would prefer boy children.

If we had a boy, we’d have to build up a whole new terminology for potty time: Susan (sitting primly on the toilet), “I don’t put my dress in the potty, I just put my poop in the potty.” Although Sally’s latest bit of candor (“Mom, if you eat all of that you’ll get fat), made me consider the possible benefit of oblivious boys.

I’m assuming (charitably, I think) that Sally was mostly trying to get me to share my cookies with her. But she’s right about the eating=fat thing. Luckily I have a plan to work on that. Goes something like “eating+exercise=not too fat.” I’ve found an exercise/babysitting partner who inspires forces me to jog about five times a week and deep clean slop around some lysol wipes and empty the dishwasher every morning before she and her kids come over.

We’re running our first 5K race in two weeks. Nothing like a race in public to shame you into actually schlepping to the treadmill. I know I’m not Yiddish, but I did live in NYC for three years; I can use the word schlep. What a great word.

We went to a beach party at Sally’s school last week. Since there was neither a beach nor a party there, it was about what you’d expect. Dick had to use the little boys room and then reminisced about throwing wet (from the sink, I hope) toilet paper on the other kids. He was reminiscing about his childhood, not about having thrown wet toilet paper just then.

At church on Sunday I taught a class of five kids ages 3 to 8. Incidentally that was our entire primary; not exactly what I envisioned when we moved to Utah. First I totally changed their lives with a lesson encouraging them to choose the right by asking themselves”What would Jesus want me to do?” (see how that is similar, yet superior, to WWJD?). Then for an activity I had them draw pictures of them doing something that Jesus would want them to do. One 7-year-old boy drew a picture of himself helping a bleeding kid get a bandaid.

Each time he showed it to me the pool of blood was bigger, but, to be fair, the bandaid he was applying as an act of mercy got bigger too.

Sally’s school party was basically an excuse for all the kids to run around screaming (don’t they get enough of that at school?). There was music and a disco ball. Sally was really excited at first, but then she got shy for a while. I was mean and said she had to get out there and dance or we’d just leave. Susan, bless her heart, was oblivious to everything but the music and her own body. Why . . . really, why do they have to grow up even that much?

Dick forced me out on the cafeteria floor (“you have to dance or we’ll just go home”) for the moms-and-daughters only song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. I almost started crying. Ok, I did cry a little, but I don’t think anyone noticed. Why am I such a girl? And why do I sometimes want to wring the necks of these three beautiful, frustrating, silly, loving, exasperating girls? I should probably focus on how angelic they are when asleep. If only I weren’t asleep myself for most of that blissful time.

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Best everyday breakfast

It should be cheap, easy, and tasty (not necessarily in that order). Breakfast on a school morning for three kids and a late hubby: something Spot can feed to herself (having to spoon-feed the baby is another reason to boycott jar babyfood), and Dick can take on a paper towel out the door. Even better if it’s easily adaptable to kids and adults and customizable within the kid range too so each kid feels special, like this is “their” food.

I’m talking pancakes and syrup. From a mix, no less, but you have to make the mix.

Pancake Mix (from Mom’s Make-a-Mix Cookbook via sister Marcy whose OCD’s (including recipe organization) come in very handy every time I want to find something.)

10 cups flour (you can do any combination of white and wheat flour; you can even add wheat germ or other healthy stuff)
2 1/2 cups instant nonfat dry milk (if you don’t have powdered milk, you can just always make it up with milk and buttermilk with no problems. But the more dairy the merrier, right?)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
2 TB salt

Mix well & store in airtight container.

To make 12 3-inch pancakes

1 1/2 cups Pancake Mix
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4-1 cup milk or water (depending on if you’re running low on milk, which I never am, of course)
3 TB oil

Cook pancakes on high heat griddle. (I don’t know why pancake recipes call for high heat. I like to use just barely over medium; that way when I get distracted by a dirty diaper or a hair emergency (she’s only 6 for crying out loud — just shoot me when she hits 12) or the need to stuff my face with an already-done pancake, there’s a better chance that they won’t burn.)

Of course there’s all that stuff about having your wet ingredients at room temperature and mixing delicately and using the batter right away. Whatever. If you’re awake early enough to set your ingredients out to come to room temperature, you need better reading material on your nightstand.

Serve with homemade syrup. Good kid syrup is a bit watery so they think they’re getting a lot but aren’t really going into a sugar coma (it’s morning, right; we gotta pace ourselves). Adult syrup should be indulgent and yummy enough to make even butter seem almost unnecessary (but not quite — more dairy, remember?).

Kid Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Mapleine

Bring to a boil, let simmer for a few minutes.

Connie’s Buttermilk Syrup for Grown-ups (I don’t know who Connie is, but I got this recipe from Marcy, too, about six times)

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda (don’t forget this; some chemical reaction thing makes this really important)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Mapleine

Bring first four ingredients to a boil in LARGE saucepan for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat and add flavorings.

There you go. Guaranteed to keep everybody happy.