Saturday, December 26, 2009


Z in his new wagon, with the fun toy from Grandma.
When it was time for his nap, he kept shouting, "I pay! I pay!"
and cried himself to sleep.

Fun marker keeper, handmade by Aunt Em

How to make paper airplanes. We hoped to combat the lure of the Wii, but so far, that siren song has been awfully strong.

A big Christmas snowfall, plus mild temperatures, made it the perfect weather for the creation of snow creatures

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Christmas foods

Christmas Eve Glazed Chocolate Layer Cake

Christmas Morning Breakfast
Pecan Sticky Buns--A traditional favorite from AJ's family
Mushroom Quiche
Plus, don't forget the Christmas crackers

Christmas Dinner
Green Beans with Pinenuts
Sliced Potatoes with Thyme and Scallops
Fresh Greens
The ham, though good, wasn't quite as pretty as the rest of the food.

And because I thought it turned out pretty, a closeup of the potatoes

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A pretty much perfect day

As I see it, there are a lot of disadvantages to having a birthday during the winter solstice. It's just too close to Christmas and the celebration always has a red and green patina. For example, birthday present are sometimes wrapped up in Christmas paper. No one want to eat cake because they are sweeted out on homemade caramels and pistachio bark. And everyone is more excited about upcoming Christmas and the last few things that need to be done to properly celebrate a birthday.

Plus, there's so little light, and it's cold. You can't do much outside. I would much rather have a birthday during the summer solstice.

But, it is easy to find a babysitter on the 23rd. And for someone who prefers a quiet day alone to a big birthday lunch, it works out pretty well.

This was my day:

I get out of bed at 7:30, waking when the boys do, and then head to the gym without the kids since AJ didn't have to be to work until 9. After I get home, I shower and ready while MJ is still asleep--MJ+T seems to be trouble 75% of the time. At 10:30, I pick up the babysitter, a sweet girl from the ward who lives nearby. She is young enough that babysitting is fun for her and she still has a babysitting bag loaded with activities.

Then, I'm off. My first stop? I have to drop off AJ's laptop that he forgot, but it's pretty quiet at his office so he actually has some time to chat. Next, I head to my favorite part of the city where there are lots of interesting shops and restaurants. I find parking easily and go to browse around a great used indie bookstore. Because my to-be-read pile at home is huge, I mostly just look around, but end up leaving with a cookbook I've been wanting to try. We're going to have their green beans with pinenuts for Christmas dinner. I stop by the nice grocery store on the corner where I've parked to pick up some good bread. The baguettes in the market near our house are too fluffy and soft.
Then, to lunch at an amazing cafe and bakery where I relax and read while I eat my lunch of a chipotle goat cheese quesadilla and diet coke, with a ginger cookie for dessert. When you order, instead of getting the number on a stick that most places use to find you when your meal is ready, this place have made collages of interesting things. Last time I ate there, I got Satie, which is fine, but no personal favorite of mine, but yesterday, I am thrilled to get Ira Glass to wave down my food for me. I am reading an engrossing book, so I just linger over lunch for a while.

I stop by an interesting shop to browse around and walk out with two small globes that I will hang from the ceiling in my book corner. And then I stop by the cheese store to buy some goat cheese topped with dried fruit that we will bring to our Christmas Eve dinner, provided that the blizzard warnings don't spoil our plans.

Then, it was back to my town to stop by the grocery store for all the food we need for the rest of the week. It was crowded and I was grateful several times over to not have the kiddos with me. Before heading home, I picked up the latest Harry Potter movie from Redbox because we never saw it this summer.

The babysitter refuses payment, saying it is a birthday gift, and I suspect that it is her mother's idea, which she confirms, but still refuses to let me pay her.

AJ is soon home and we open presents, which include books! and my two favorite movies of the year.

And then, we all go to dinner at Punch, serving wood fired Italian style pizza. Yum! My favorite resturant in our town. An added bonus is that an 800 degree oven cooks pizza very quickly, before the kids get restless.

We drive home in the snow, looking at all the lights. Counting the houses with lights keeps the kids happy, so there is no squabbling from the back seat.

After AJ gets the kids into bed and we pick up around the house, we pull out the sofa bed and settle down to watch Harry battle against the evil powers of the universe and try to deal with teenage angst.

A very lovely day indeed.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is what won't be in your mailbox

For some reason, AJ said no to this version of our annual Christmas letter.


That's our year. No one is doing much of anything new.

MJ--still in Spanish immersion school, now in 3rd grade. The only family event of note--her baptism in November.

T--still in preschool. Curses to September birthdays.

Z--coming up on 2 and is starting to talk.

AJ and Belle--approaching middle age with trepidation and some resentment.

Just more of the same.

Laughing, quarrelling. Working, playing.
Reading, and always more messes.
Eating, sleeping and praying.

Please, just don't call us

So, he got to be in charge of the letter this year.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best news

I arrived to church a little off. After AJ had to leave earlier than expected, and baby Z was inconsolably cranky because daddy left, and then when T and baby Z were taking their bath (didn't have time last night because of the ward Christmas party), Z dumped bucket after bucket of water on the floor and I couldn't find his shirt, I fell apart. Not entirely, but enough to come to church frazzled.

But, right before I started playing prelude music, a dear friend gave me the wonderful news that after going through years of infertility and trying to adopt, they had a baby. At first I misunderstood. "When are you going to be able to get him?" No, they already had a baby. They had been laying low in case the birth mother were to change her mind. Then I sat down and tried to blink away the tears so I could play Away in a Manger. Finding out totally changed my mood and really made my day.

What a beautiful Christmas blessing. I am so happy for them and can't wait to meet him.
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Friday, December 04, 2009

Here it comes, ready or not

Oh the butterflies. The nervous butterflies!
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Thursday, December 03, 2009

I bought a suit yesterday.

It's my first ever pant suit. When I tried it on at home with the blouse that my wardrobe consultant picked out, MJ said I looked different and T said I looked like a man. Today T and baby Z helped me pick some comfortable black heels.

Now if I can just wow and charm my way through a job interview tomorrow.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Halfway to 70

Yesterday was my beloved's bday.

We celebrated by:

Going to church from 10-12. Thank you, stake conference!

Playing Ticket to Ride while baby Z took a nap.

Sharing dinner with dear friends, which included honest and invigorating conversation.

Eating German Chocolate Inside Out Cake. Yum! Rich. Divine.

Opening presents. The best, by far, was T's present to his dad. He picked out some awesome fabric and together, we made pajama pants. He was so proud. He marched through the fabric store, telling anyone who would listen, "I'm making pajama pants for my dad for his birthday!" And he was thrilled that he dad would never be able to quietly sneak by him in the night. Those pants are exciting!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Women Unbound, A Preliminary Reading List

The guidelines for this challenge are simple: select and read any nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad topic of ‘women’s studies.’ The dates for the challenge are Nov 2009 to Nov 2010.

I'm going for the Suffragette level. That makes me think of my favorite song from Mary Poppins: "Our daughter's daughters will adore us, and they'll sing in grateful chorus, Well done! Well done! Well done Sister Suffragette!" Suffragette also brings to mind Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of my feminist heroes. To become a Suffragette myself, I need to read 8 books that fall in the women's studies category. Fun, fun!

Here are my initial ideas.

A Midwife's Tale: The of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Ulrich, a historian, uses the personal diaries of Martha Ballard to draw conclusions on larger themes of women's status and issues in the early days of the US. Ulrich's Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History is one of my all time favorite books and Ulrich herself is one of my feminist heroes.

The Book of the City of Ladies
by Christine de Pizan: This is one of the earliest feminist texts and in it, de Pizan confronts 14th century misogyny head on. By constructing an allegorical city of ladies (I love this idea), she showcases the strengths of all sorts of different women--saints, warriors, scholars, artists, and prophetesses.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
by Sue Monk Kidd: This is a memoir where Kidd details her search for the divine feminine.

Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics
by Renee Bergland: Mitchell was an astronomer and intellectual in 19th century New England. This quotations of hers is fabulous: “The woman who has peculiar gifts has a definite line marked out for her, and the call from God to do his work in the field of scientific investigation may be as imperative as that which calls the missionary into the moral field or the mother into the family . . . The question whether women have the capacity for original investigation in science is simply idle until equal opportunity is given them."

The Hemingses of Monticello
by Annette Gordon-Reed: I've heard a lot about this one since it won the National Book Award in 2008. Here, Gordon-Reed resurrects Sally Hemings and her children with Thomas Jefferson who have been systematically erased from history.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: This is a brand new book written by Kristof, of the Op-Ed page from the NYT and his wife, WuDunn, also a journalist. Here, they argue for investment into the education and autonomy of women throughout the developing world. This looks to be a great read.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
by Gail Collins: Also a brand new book, also by a Op-Ed columnist from the NYT. Collins focuses on the domestic situation of women over the past 50 years and how it has changed. I have been looking for an account of the women's movement. I am also hoping for an answer to the question: "Was there really as much sexism in the 1960's as they show on Mad Men?"

Good Girls, Bad Girls: The Enduring Lessons of Twelve Women of the Old Testament by T.J. Wray: I found this at a garage sale this summer, a pristine hardback for $1. Gotta love that! In this book, Wray writes about 12 women from the Old Testament, presenting them in historical context, providing a more nuanced view than the traditional Angel-Whore divide, and drawing lessons for the contemporary reader.


Mrs Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf: A classic. I haven't read much Woolf and thought this would be a good place to start.

by Frances Sherwood: A fictionalization of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, another early feminist who wrote A Vindication on the Rights of Women in 1792 to lay out her case for female independence. And while I'm at it, how about I read Wollstonecraft herself? Maybe, maybe.

The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
: Gilman was a leading feminist intellectual of the early 20th century, and after she suffered a severe bout of PPD, she wrote this about a woman who feels the yellow wallpaper of her room start to close in on her.

Something by Margaret Atwood--I loved The Handmaid's Tale, so I will be searching for another of her feminist novels.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Women Unbound

Women Unbound. A reading challenge. Sign me up!

A meme to start.

1. What does feminism mean to you?

A feminist for me is simply someone who supports equal rights and opportunities for women. There are many strains of feminism, but I think this definition is what it boils down to for me. A friend of mine believes that activism is a necessary part of feminism, and while that may be true on a movement-wide level, I don't think that those who are feminists must also be activists.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Yes! My willingness to look at the world around me through a gendered lens is a key to why I self-identify as a feminist (And it's also, to my chagrin, often my inability! to not see gender everywhere). I also like to be a feminist in different communities where many consider feminists to be evil, ill-guided, or just plain angry and bitchy. I am non-threatening. I love my husband. And I am Mormon. I can still be an advocate for women without falling into all the old saws about what feminists are like. I think that someone like me can help others who are put off by radical feminists (either known or only imagined) to think about issues around gender that are taken for granted.

I try not to be the embittered feminist that cannot talk about anything but gender, but it feels so good to completely unload with a like minded friend who I can trust completely.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

This is a hard question, because the issues that concern me personally as a women in middle class America are so different from the issues that are important for women in developing countries and in other situations different from me. So, instead of trying to be specific, I will just say that the main obstacle that women face world wide is to simply being able to fulfill their potentials as individuals and members of the human race without being handicapped by their sex. And, yes, this is the same challenge that has existed forever for women.

This is a generic answer, vague enough that perhaps it has very little meaning, but I hope to delve more deeply into different circumstances and experiences throughout the year.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My words seem to be stuck lately. I've been wanting to write about a bunch of different things, but when I sit down to try to type, my thoughts come out sounding unnatural and stiff, so I delete and try again, only to eventually give up and leave the computer to do something else.
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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Calling all book suggestions...

Ok, all you readers out there. Next month, my book group is going to be picking the books we read for 2010. Give me your ideas for interesting, well written books that would make for great discussion. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I want to see what you suggest.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shudder Inducing Words

Grovel: to lie or creep with the body prostrate in token of subservience or abasement; to abase oneself

Conventional a: according with, sanctioned by, or based on convention; b lacking originality or individuality, trite; c: ordinary, commonplace

Thinking about them puts my stomach in knots.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gail Collins in Person

On Tuesday, I was listening to our public radio station and heard that Gail Collins was coming to town and that Kerri Miller would be interviewing her in a live forum about her new book. I literally ran to the phone to get tickets.

#1 reason to go--The topic and the author: Collins is a NYTimes Op Ed columnist and has written several books, including America's Women, which I read a couple of years ago and really liked (a perfect birthday present from AJ). Her new book is about the women's movement and all that has happened since 1960--When Everything Changed.

#2 reason to go--Kerri Miller. She is the host of a two hour MPR program and is engaging and great to listen to. In all the different places we've lived, I've listened to lots of different local public radio hosts and she is one of the best. She beats Marty Moss-Coane, hands down. Her voice is so familiar, it was a bit surreal to see her as she was speaking.

#3 reason to go--I could leave the house and all domestic responsibilities to AJ. I needed to leave.

#4 reason to go--Gail Collins could sign her book. I'm not a big one for collecting autographs, and I thought I would just wait to get her book from the library, but she was so engaging, so interesting, so fun to listen to that I plunked down my $30.12 on the spot to buy the book from a local independent book seller that was on site, and then stood in line to chat with her and get her to sign my book. And darn it if I didn't forget my copy of America's Women.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Minnesota Fall

After a warm September with lots of hot days, we are in the throes of cool weather. And fall in Minnesota means delicious apples. Last year, our apple tree produced virtually no fruit, but this year we pruned it and thinned out the blossoms, all to great results. The tree was overladen with apples, so much that one branch broke. We also have visited a nearby orchard and bought some Minnesota apples from the grocer.

Here is what we've eaten with apples this season:

apple cream pie, for book group in early September
apple crisp, one of our favorites, we've made it three times
apple cake
apple pancakes
curried apple soup
apples with greens, chives, and goat cheese
caramel apples


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Monday, September 28, 2009

Good TV

We are swamped with too many great tv options right now. Meaning we really need to decide which nights we will not turn the tube on or we would be watching all the time.

On dvd:

Battlestar Galactica. After hearing an expert in religion and the media discussing BSG in the same breath as one of our all time favorites, we started checking out disks from the library. I was a little leery because I'm not a big sci-fi fan, but it's great. We just started season 2.

Mad Men. Recommended by my sis. We've only watched a few episodes, but wow, did they really smoke that much?? A plus--West Wing's Elizabeth Moss stars.

Arrested Development
. Old news for most people, but when AJ was in the hospital this summer, our friends brought over the first two seasons. He watched four hours straight and it's good for a lot of laughs.

Speaking of laughs, we are still watching season 2 of 30 Rock, also highly recommended by my sis. She's nice enough to let us borrow her copy, after it took us 4 months to watch season 1 and get it back to her.

On TV:

Glee. This one is all AJ. He loves it. And I am liking it more and more. We had to watch this segment a few times the night it aired, and then AJ showed it to his team at work. My favorite takes me back to my adolescence.

Dance, our family favorite, is back on for a fall season.

Not to mention Ken Burns and the national parks.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

New Recipe

This is amazing. We had it for dinner last night and I already gobbled up the leftovers. And this, with modifications. I had no paprika, let alone smoked Spanish paprika. I used ground turkey and no bacon. And I used the vinegars I already had in the cupboard. Thank you New York Times Food Section!

Smoky Pork Burgers With Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw

Adapted from a submission by Jennifer Hess


2 tablespoons fennel seed

1/2 cup finely diced onion

3 small garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

1 pound ground pork, preferably sirloin

1 cup minced bacon, (about 3 thick strips, slightly frozen before chopping)

4 soft burger rolls or sandwich buns


2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup shredded fennel bulb, plus chopped fronds

1 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage.

1. To cook burgers: Prepare a grill.

2. Gently toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet until aromatic.

3. In a large bowl, combine fennel seeds, onion, garlic, salt and smoked paprika.

4. Add pork and bacon. Toss gently until well mixed, without overworking meat.

5. Divide into four portions and shape into patties. Place on a plate or platter and chill for at least one hour.

6. Cook burgers for about 6 minutes on hot side of grill. After 3 minutes, flip and cook 3 more minutes, then move to cool part of grill for 3 more minutes. Burgers can also be fried in a pan over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side. Let burgers rest for a few minutes, tented with foil, before serving.

7. To prepare slaw: Whisk vinegars, mustard and salt in a bowl until salt is dissolved. Add oil and whisk until emulsified.

8. Place fennel bulb and cabbage into bowl and toss to combine with dressing. Add fennel fronds and toss again just before serving.

9. Place burgers on toasted or lightly grilled buns and top each with a little slaw.

Yield: Four burgers.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

State Fair

Last week, AJ took the day off work and we went to the amazing Minnesota state fair. It was a perfect day--high of 75, a breeze, plus some cloud cover for part of the time. We didn't have much of a plan, save for "eat good food", plus a few rides on the kiddie midway, and we had a wonderful time wandering around, stopping in to whatever caught our fancy. The days leading up to this had been terrible. Terrible, I tell you. Some of my worst mothering moments ever. So, I was very grateful to have a very different kind of day, with AJ, to move me away from what had been happening.

Highlights include:

A Pirate Ride

Learning about agriculture, from seed to market

Cotton candy

Sweet Martha's cookies--divine!!

Celebrity sighting: Our newly minted senator

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Beautiful Place

Piazza Bellezza was originally conceived as just a fun spin on my birth name. I translated it very literally as Bellessa Plaza.

A while, though, after I started blogging, I told a friend the title of my blog and he said, "Oh, the beautiful place?"

I have thought about that on and off and really like the implications of that name. Lots of times, I feel like I am not in a situated place in my life--like I'm more in day-to-day mode and that I have coping strategies to make it through, but that I'm not in a place when I can really use my talents very effectively.

The Beautiful Place has come to represent a metaphysical state of mind for me--a place where I feel like I belong. Don't get me wrong--a lot of times, I feel very comfortable and content with what I'm doing. But, it doesn't often feel 100% settled.

Maybe it never will.

I am a little blue today. Maybe more on that later.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Other Franklin Highlights

A bath in the blue tub, with the exact same tub toys I played with

Photographing the barn, built in 1915 by Cecil, with my sis

Seeing Rebecca and William's "town house", still standing and occupied

Searching for the foundation of Rebecca and William's
(and possibly Sarah's too) country house

Playing in the linens

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The Work of Her Hands

While on vacation, I had a few days to stop in Franklin with my kids and sister to visit my grandma. Her town and her house seem to be identical to the memories I have of many childhood visits. I wanted to see some of the items that Julia, my great grandmother, had spent her spare moments and evenings working on. Grandma pulled out pillowcases, baby bonnets, table linens, and quilts, embroidery, crochet, and needlepoint, and I wondered how many countless hours had been spent on such detail. According to Grandma, Julia was never empty-handed, but always had a project she was working on.

My favorite item was a lively patchwork quilt, made of the leftover scraps of worn out dresses and aprons. While Julia would probably have preferred to display the immaculate white quilt, flourished with large red roses and perfect, tiny hand stitches I loved the chaos of the patchwork colors, balanced and restrained by the perfectly symmetrical pieces. It felt full of life. I wish I knew the source of each piece of fabric.

We also found a patchwork quilt, pieced by Bertha, my grandpa's mother.

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Perhaps using his intestinal state this week as a reference point, T has been referencing "Diarrhea Wimpy Kid" with glee. I think he was a little disappointed (and to be frank, I was too) when AJ corrected him, and explained what a diary was.
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What kind of husband would do that??

We are on vacation right now, visiting AJ's family in Denver. (I love Denver. I hope to someday reside here. I have the neighborhood all picked out.) Because of all sorts of work issues and other travelling that we are doing, we had a heck of a time deciding on dates and transportation.

Finally, we settled on driving. For the most part. Except it seemed that driving long long distances with a 17 month old could be very ugly.

So, AJ suggested that he drive from Minnesota to Denver with T and MJ and I fly with baby Z. I kept asking him if he was sure that he wanted to take the two of them (prone to sibling spats, and in a concentrated space like the car?? That could be hell). And if he felt comfortable driving all that way himself. He said it would be great. They would have a wonderful time. It would be so easy with just the two of them, so I said, "Sign me up!"

In addition to my enjoyment of a direct flight vs. spending parts of two days in the car driving through Iowa and Nebraska, one of the unexpected side benefits was that I got to clean the house after AJ and the kids drove out of town. Getting ready for vacation can be frantic and crazy and since we usually procrastinate, it's only that much worse. Usually, it's all I can do to turn off the AC and lock the doors. Just forget about leaving the house completely tidied. More so, it looks like a tornado has barrelled through the house, with clothes and empty bags and random stuff strewn everywhere.

After they left, I took baby Z and we went for a walk around the lake close to our house. They, I ran to the mall for our last few errands. And picked up some yummy sushi for my dinner. Then it was home to bathe Z and put him to bed. Next, dinner and some Jon Stewart for me. And next? I was excited to clean my house. I spent a long time Friday night getting the house together.

And now that I'm on vacation, the specter of a messy house isn't hanging over my head, casting shadows over down time that would only get bigger the closer we get to going home.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Secret Women's Day

For a while now, all the organists have gotten to choose the congregational hymns. Since there was no topic given for yesterday's meeting, and since Pioneer Day is coming up, I decided to pay homage to two women who were influential in the early days of the church and influential in shaping the music that we sing. We sang three of Eliza R. Snow's poems set to song--Though Deepening Trials, Again We Meet Around the Board, and Awake! And Arise! (I love that one). We recently sang O My Father and her other two more familiar sacrament hymns, but it was fun to dig these ones up. I decided to bypass her In Our Lovely Deseret and The Time is Far Spent to include one hymn that Emma Hale Smith selected for the first compilation of hymns--God is Love.

I'm sure that no one in the congregation noticed any connection between the songs, but I did make my primary class figure out what I had done.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another thing I realized this week

AJ was talking about work. About meetings. About consultants coming in to analyze the company inefficiencies. About development budgets. And I realized that I have very little idea of what his days really are like. On the other hand, my days are completely known to him. It's about driving kids places, making meals, picking up, reading books with the kids. It's what he does when he is home.

My world felt completely subsumed in his. And I felt resentful about it.
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For a brief shining moment...

Last week, I was contacted by a liberal arts university in the area that was adding a section of an intro sociology class. I had emailed around my vita in the spring looking for adjunct teaching, and nothing had turned up initially. I was excited about the possibility--only one class to teach. It would be personally manageable and I could get some experience teaching and building my vita. I brainstormed a lot about what an intro class could look like. I googled intro syllabi. I was invigorated. I started daydreaming about what it would be like to be teaching classes in a university setting and imagining my life more concretely with work. I also had a great conversation with the department chair.

Then, it turned out that a member of the faculty there decided rather belatedly that he would take on an extra class. The department chair was obligated to go with the faculty member.

It wasn't wasted time. I hope that there will be other opportunities at this university. But, I do feel dejected. And somewhat aimless about my life right now. I wonder if things will ever be different and will ever feel settled for me. We have all these ideas about goals for our life. But, will anything really change?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Un Milagro

I am sitting in a house that is (almost) perfectly clean. My shower is sparkling. The microwave has no crusty food residue spattered on its ceiling. My garbage cans are washed out. The massive package of toilet paper has been unloaded and stacked neatly next to the towels in my linen closet. The windows are clean--no smeary fingerprints blotting out the sun.

Yes, a miracle has occurred. My house has never, ever, ever been this clean. Not at the same time. A room is cleaned up here and there, but by the time I make it to the next section of the house, the previously tidied room is no longer pristine. It's just the nature of kids and living in a house.

After my melt down a few weeks ago, a friend gave me the number of the women who have been helping her in her home for years. And not just that--she gave them my number and they called me. After the emotion and anger of the day faded, my resolve to hire someone dissipated as well. Shouldn't we be working together as a family to take care of our home? Shouldn't I be teaching my children the satisfaction of a job well done? And what about the money that I would spend to pay someone else to clean my home? Guilt, guilt, and guilt.

Well, they stopped by last week so I could meet them and they could take a look around. And when they said they could come by one time each month, I breathed a happy sigh. Perfect. Yes, perfect. I wasn't outsourcing all or even most of the cleaning to someone else. We would still be responsible for most of it.

But, to know that someone would do those chores that get postponed to infinity--for me, they are things like scrubbing the dried on food from the booster seat. Moving the furniture to vacuum underneath. Dusting the picture frames. Wiping off the fridge. Wow. That's just emotional money in the bank for me.

So, the ladies came by yesterday. They worked for several hours. My home looks amazing. We were out with friends last night, so the kitchen didn't get messy with dinner. We got home late and the kids went straight to bed, so no new messes. I told AJ how much I would love for him to remove the children from our house for one entire day so that I could stay home by myself basking in its order.

I know that it won't last, but, boy does it feel good right now.

I think I'll go clean our lunch mess off the counter. I want to draw out the pleasure a little longer.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First week of summer break

MJ got out of school last Tuesday, so we have officially made it through a whole week.


First week of competition on So You Think You can Dance--a family favorite. AJ's brother asked him if he felt at all ashamed of his complete and utter love of the show, and he proudly said, "Not a bit."

Too bad that we couldn't all watch it together, though. Instead of going to Texas, AJ went to the hospital. He had an infection in his leg, source unknown. Symptoms included: high fever and shakes, a swollen and bright red foot, and angry streaking up the leg. The cure--three nights in the hospital with intravenous rounds of antibiotics. He came home on Saturday afternoon with a prescription for an oral antibiotic. He is still limping around, the foot is still red and swollen, but the infection is dissipating. Thank goodness for antibiotics. Happily, we were able to watch the results show on Thursday night from his hospital room since my neighbor was kind enough to take care of baby Z. 15 month-olds and hospitals don't mix together well, we found out.

We made a big list of everything we wanted to do this summer. The kids included the zoo and swimming. I included practice piano, reading time, and chores.

And to help make it through the summer, I checked out Siblings Without Rivalry, a book from the dreaded self-help category. I am going to try to give it a fair shake though.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I'm never going to be the best

at "homemaking." No matter what Julie Beck said. I don't like the cleaning. I don't like the neverending chores, the way my kids make messes behind me. I don't like the way that the house is never all cleaned at once. I don't like finding legos, bobby pins, rice kernels, and paper scraps underfoot, and that no one will take responsibility for it, but ooh, I hate having to be the one to either pick it up myself or ask someone else to do it. I don't like my children's resistance to doing even the smallest chore of a mess that they made. I don't like the way that I am the only one who seems to care what the house looks like. I don't like being the taskmaster.

I am thinking about outsourcing some of the drudgery. It was a very bad day today.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The flower box

This is my favorite addition from this weekend because it's pretty right now. We'll see how it weathers the summer. I imagine the petunias hanging thickly over the edges of the container.
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Memorial weekend planting

We have a lot of landscaping rocks in our yard. I don't like them. They are unsightly. Ugly weeds grow up in them. I wanted to get rid of them all, but it is hard work to shovel them up and discard them. So, I was very happy when AJ's dad suggested that we put some shrubs in the sections of our yard with rocks. Even though they are small now, I feel so much better about our yard. I can't wait to see them grow. AJ's is even happier because now that the pressure is off him to find a way to get rid of the rocks. In total, we planted 12 shrubs, one clematis plant at the base of our mailbox, loads of dark purple petunias in the window boxes, and several black eyed susans in the free standing flower boxes near the front door.

Window box petunias and three moonshadow euonymus shrubs, which will grow wide and not tall. They have pretty variegated leaves.

I hadn't realized that the trellis off our deck has legs in order to train vines up and around. When AJ's mom noticed, I was excited to try to grow a wall of green. We planted two honeysuckle plants.

AJ's mom also suggested a clematis at the base of the mailbox to grow up and around it.

Four new shrubs on the front corner of our lot. They don't look like much, but it is a vast improvement. The meadowlark forsythia on the left will get to be 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide. We also planted two goldflame spirea. and one bridal wreath spirea

We planted three sixteen candle clethra around the house too. They will bloom with long spiky white flowers.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

other highlights from this week

Celebrating Nana's birthday

Hanging out with Papa

Baby Z really taking off with the walking

Pretty lemon birthday cake

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