Thursday, February 28, 2008

Van Gogh And Me

Van Gogh and I have something in common; the thing we love is the thing that injures us. For Van Gogh, he is reported to have used, and nibbled on, his lead paints. For me, I use, and nibble on, sugar, or probably more specifically, chocolate.

Unfortunately for Vincent, his paints - which he used in liberal big globs, seem to have been the cause of many of his physical problems (we assume) that lead to his hallucinations, insomnia, and many other physical ailments too gross to list here. But he loved to paint, relished and enjoyed it. His brother tried to warn him, "if you know that it is dangerous for you to have colours near you, why don't you clear them away for a time, and make drawings?" In other words, "give it up!"

I have been dealt a similar blow. Chocolate, in liberal big blob amounts (or cacao concentration) is sending my blood sugar off the charts (well, off the Dr.s charts - I think they're being waaaaay too picky about the numbers!), and raising alarm. So I have been slapped with a diagnosis of "gestational diabetes," and they are taking away my medium of happiness with a simple, "just give it up!" And at the worst time possible. It's easter candy time!

I love the cartoon from Sandra Boynton of the turkey taking a survey about chocolate, asking a hippo, "Do you like chocolate?"
"'Like,' as in, 'Do I like to breathe?'" responds the hippo.

Yes, that is my feeling exactly. I like chocolate, as in "I like to breathe." I use it to enhance my world, much like Van Gogh used his paints to enhance his "snowy linen land." I have studied the science of chocolate and can tell you the cheap from the expensive, with Palmer on the lower, waxy end, and valhrona on the upper upper silky smooth, don't-even-TRY-to-make-me- resist end.

This is the one time of the year that I love to indulge in that strangely satisfying concoction in Cadbury's mini eggs. Crunch, chocolate, chocolate. Yum, roll it around in your mouth and repeat. Usually about 1/4 of the bag at a time, while contemplating a good hiding place from . . . well, everyone in the house. They just don't appreciate them like I do! They SAY they do, but then they just snarf them down.

But, for my health, and the health of this baby, I will be pricking my finger five times a day, watching "carbs", and saying "no" to my favorite substance for a while. I think an insane asylum might have been more fun.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Play Time!

Here is the baby quilt for our little one on the way! This is what I wanted to play with on my weekend of solitude, but had to wait until the Stars quilt was finished. The pattern is entirely out of the imaginings of my fevered brain. That also means that there was no pattern to work with, so it has taken a bit longer to finish than I had anticipated. Due to the children being around while I've created, I have had to get peanut butter and chocolate pudding washed out of it already.

I tried to come up with something that was particularly "boy-ish". After searching through all of my patterns, and everything under "baby boy quilt" online, it seems like the most boy-ish quilt available out there was either a blue & white pattern, or involved a bear, or Noah's Arc. That doesn't seem right. Or very realistic. So, I put my own brain on "search", and thought about what it is that a boy does that I thought would be great in a quilt. Kites would be fun, or balloons with fun fabrics - just SOMETHING that says boy, and not "Little Lord Fauntleroy" sissy-ish style. Then, watching my kids, it hit me. I realized that they both seem to love to get in the laundry basket - whether or not there is clean laundry in there, and just hang out there. So this idea was born.

As with any other project, it has gone through a number of incarnations. I have yet to add a hair swirl (the first one I did, ummmm, REALLY didn't work out), and some clothes pins - but my iron broke today - of course!

Matthew helped add some of the elements to make it look more realistic. He drew the hands on the edge of the laundry basket (hour long project), and the clothes pins (two hour long project)as well as helping with some of his other suggestions. It is really handy to have an artist's son in the house, and due to his inability to recognize my interpretation of certain things, they've had to be redone. Here are some snippets of our conversations:

"What are those big brown things right there?"
-You serious? Those are posts for the clothes line.
"They're a little thick, maybe some grass at the bottom would help it look better - or at least give you the idea that they're in the grass, and not just sitting on top there."
-Okay. (Ding! We've just added a two hour project to the quilt.)

"Why is the baby's mouth open?"
-It's not OPEN, can't you tell that its a pacifier?! Kids don't have purple mouths!
"Oh, maybe if you made a little handle thingie, it would look more like a pacifier."
-Oh, yah, well okay. (Ding! hour long project.)

"What is the baby sitting in?"
-THAT IS A LAUNDRY BASKET! Anyone can SEE it's a laundry basket! It's the spittin' gosh-darn image of a laundry basket, with laundry coming out of it. It has the SHAPE of a laundry basket, I made the pattern FROM a laundry basket! Can't you tell! (I refused to add another dang project at this point.)
"Oh, really? Well, okay."

And so, just in case you can't tell, those brown things with the string is a clothes line, and the white "thingie" on the line is a cloth diaper drying on the line. Or as Matthew guessed, "a white, baby, . . . something???"

It'll be fun to see what my quilter does with this one, and I believe that this baby will be the first of my babies to have a quilt done - by me, before s/he showed up. But, after two kids, I've also gotten smart enough to understand that it's harder to get one done after they come than before. So, TA DAH! Two quilts in about a week. Not bad, not bad.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Reason to buy a Wii

Sent to me by Debbie Lee, this just goes to show how contangeous laughter is. I don't ever just watch this once, I have to play it a couple of times. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stars Upon Thars

I have a saying, mostly for my children, that goes like this: "First the Work, It's always the same, then we can laugh, watch tv and play games." "Watch tv" can be substituted with about any other fun activity. That is why we make our bed first, do our homework first, and do our Saturday jobs first. I don't try to be mean, it's a way of getting the nasty stuff out of the way so that fun can truly be uninhibited fun. And so, before starting on Baby Sam's quilt, I had some unfinished, and undesirable, work to attend to - first.

This star quilt has been languishing in my "to do" pile for a few years. What you see is about the third incarnation of the fabric and pattern. Started in Las Vegas as a "Let me Show you How Easy Quilting Can Be" project, something went terribly awry. One of the fabrics threw off the rest by being too stretchy, or just not 100% cotton. The result of my Americana Texas Star was a bulky, not straight, and just hashed mess due to seams not matching up. Frustration ensued. I went against my personal creed of never putting a project down without knowing EXACTLY what to do next. I knew that it would have to be dismantled, but everything got a bit fuzzy after that.

Sandy English, my Iowa mentor, helped me on one of my home visits by proposing a design for the quilt that would rehabilitate it into something useful. We drew up a design, I went out to the Kalona quilt shops, spent the money on the fabric (never cheap), and added the big stars. But when the project started taking longer than I had anticipated, it went back into the box. Kids have a way of trying to run my sewing machine, or yank on the iron cord when I'm in the middle of something complex.

Fast forward a couple years to my weekend of freedom, and knowing full well that my quilting days are numbered, I brought it out again. All the fabrics were there, the big stars done, wrinkles still there, but no pattern. What were we going to do with all of these strips? Borders maybe? UGH!

But, with patience, and being able to leave my sewing stuff up on the kitchen table for the past few days, I have finished it. It's busier than I usually do, and geometrically, I can't say that I'm incredibly pleased with the balance and overall design, but one thing I do know: it's done. I have pieced the backing, ironed up some binding, and will be able to throw together a quilt label after it comes back from my quilter.

Do I have visions of my children one day holding it up after my demise and saying, "Who wants this one? It, uh, has a lot of pieces, and she did it all herself, anyone? Anyone?" Yes, yes I do. But they can be haunted with the thought or voice, as I am by MY mother's voice in my head, "You finish what you start - even if it's not turning out extremely well. Because you can never tell, until the end of an enterprise, if it was worth it or not - never in the middle." The fabric is not wasted, and neither was my weekend - I have taken a monkey off my back! Now, I can go out and play.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Heaven's Last Best Gift

In the concluding chapters of Jane Austin's "Mansfield Park," Lady Crawford asks her husband, "And what is it that the poet says about a wife?" To which Henry Crawford replies, "She is Heaven's Last Best Gift, my dear." What a thought, what a confession, usually only given by a man who has lived a long time. I had to find out what inspired poet came up with such sentiments!
Awake, My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found,
Heaven's last best gift, my ever new delight! - John Milton, Paradise Lost (bk. V, l. 17)

All other goods by fortune's hand are given,
A wife is the peculiar gift of heaven.

- Alexander Pope,

Heaven's Last Best Gift. At first I thought Lord Crawford was just being flattering, but then realized the historical significance of his statement; Eve is the last creation ever mentioned. And if we do our best work when we have obtained the most practice and skill, then God's ultimate creation would indeed make woman, "Heaven's last best gift."
After all, what could induce Adam to take a bite of the forbidden fruit? Well, probably the thought that without Eve, all he was ever gonna do anymore was kick around Eden, eat some kosher fruit, maybe rename the animals and have long conversations - with himself, "Shut up Wilson!" Or maybe think about painting the garage. I believe evidence shows that he recognized Eve as heaven's last best gift, and figured that it would be better to be with her, in difficult circumstances, than to be in paradise all alone.

Though I feel, at the moment, like earth's only housekeeper, the idea of being Heaven's Last Best Gift has it's charm. Matthew took off this morning, and the house is in disarray - despite my best interventions. Boxes, discarded laundry, unmade beds, and more yucky floor greet my weekend of solitude, but we handle it in the best way we can. Just a bit here and there until this place is restored back to an Eden. In the meantime, I'll entertain you with my thoughts on other women who are indeed, Heaven's Last Best Gift. Perhaps I have more perspective on my sisters as this gift than any other.
Reagan is so many things wonderful: She's hilarious. She is witty and incredibly creative. She makes up songs, and games and dinner if you are complimentary enough. Getting her to laugh is as easy as finding a mini-van in a Mormon church parking lot. She makes life fun, and does fun things as well. My child's first birthday cake was a disastrous reproduction of my own. Reagan's daughter had a little baby cake made out of rice krispy treats, and covered in frosting, then fondant covered cake presents and a "1" candle. I think she made 3-4 mock ups before the final one was acceptable. A better mother, you could not ask for, a more pleasing companion is more rare than a Hawaiian blue diamond. She is inspirational, and, you ought to know, the initiator of this blog, "Oh, I'll set it up for ya!" What a heavenly delight.

Danika has been married for just over a year, but it is easy to see how she is truly heaven's gift: her husband says it, and shows it, all the time. It has been her personal delight to "upgrade" all aspects of her spouse. Though he came highly recommended in the first place, she has worked her wifely magic to transform him from a "nice guy" into, "Wow! I hope my daughter can marry someone like that someday!" She has detailed him out - from cuff links to camelhair coat, and all those things that men don't think are THAT important, but which we women know better. She puts him in the best light possible - always. She has truly smoothed out some of his rough edges, and softened some of her own, to make a home where you would truly long to be.
Lisa, my sister-'cuz she's-married-to-my-brother, is truly heaven's gift as well. Spiritual and caring, she was foreordained to be a mother. And by that I mean that she was raised with just a brother, but has taken on the "crowd control" art of raising FOUR boys. She dispenses medical wisdom, and has fallen gracefully into the role of "everything mom." I have inner guilt when I hear about the valentine airplanes she made for her son 'til 1 am, "because he admired them so much last year," as I only fulfilled the minimum duty in that area. Lisa has a heart as big as all outdoors, and has been more patient with my brother, often, than I would have been.
Her true delight is in her family, and having even more extended family around - like me! Our chocolate fountain sits in her cupboard because we knew that there would always be a party when we came to visit, and that she would make sure it got used far more than our hermitish home. She parties, we . . . think about the possibility every now and again. She is a saint.

And leading the example of us all, my mom. I am still coming around to some of her wisdom, but these things are true: Mom got it done. And she was nice about it too. Six children, author, seamstress, home decorator (DESPITE my father's help), educated through a PhD (BECAUSE of my father's help), and serving a full-time mission, mom is an angel. And her sister said of her, "Your father adores her - even [after all these years] now. You can tell that he worships her - even when she is just crossing the room." True true.

Not to dispense with the schmaltz, but let it also be understood, that each of these women also maintains a strict consistency of character, and is loving and giving in most areas, until crossed. Do not challenge Reagan on matters of spiritual import, do not drive with Danika if you can help it, a chauvinist pig will soon be breakfast sausage at Lisa's table, and don't ask for anything from my mother if it will take her time, her car or her money. After 9pm, whatever your question, the answer is "No." Even heaven has it's limits.

So, in looking for this inspired quote, I found it's match - just as appropriate:

In the election of a wife, as in
A project of war,
to err but once is
To be undone forever.

- Thomas Middleton, Anything for a Quiet Life (act I, sc. 1)

I hope that the title of "Heaven's Last Best Gift," will be fitting for me, and that I can also stay true to the wittiness and humor that God has blessed me with, in whatever small amounts. For now, it will have to involve a little vacuuming and garbage.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day - And What I'm Giving Myself

Though traditional Valentine's Day activities usually involve cards, chocolate, a romantic dinner, and other accoutrements, I am giving myself the gift of peace and quiet. Just not today. I am running through the house, gathering up laundry, cleaning the kitchen, straightening as much as I can, and getting the van ready. Matthew will be taking the children up to see his folks for the long weekend. Oh PRAISE BE AND CAN I HELP YOU PACK!!?

I'm thinking of entering a blog contest:, lining up the yogurts in the fridge (no mess, no dishes, no fuss), and perhaps going a little wild and starting a baby quilt for little Sam. I will be alone. I will wander from room to room, in stocking feet and pajamas looking at the same made beds, empty laundry baskets, and clean, empty kitchen sink. It'll be 24/7 euphoria. I'll probably fill up the car with gas, get it detailed, and drive like a regular person again. Instead of the usual, "Kids, stop it! Stop it! DO I need to pull this car over! You won't be happy if I do!"

Something about knowing that Sunday is Stake Conference is giving me a cough/tickle in my throat, and I wouldn't want to willfully infect anyone. Instead, I can look at the ultrasound pics of Baby Sam. Here he his sucking on his fist. I might be able to possibly scrapbook the photos with a clever title, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and do a few of the things that I've been meaning to get around to - like writing in a journal, watching Pride and Prejudice again. I dunno. Part of relaxing is just taking a break from all that you usually do. SO, I may shower, I may not. I may get dressed, or just explore the Hugh Hefner option. It's anybody's guess! But until then, I'll be foldin', packin' and sweepin'. Happy Valentines Day to you, and Happy Valentines Weekend to ME!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Not One of THOSE Mom's . . .

In a recent discussion with my darling friend Mish, she described a mother who was "totally" into nutrition and all of the goodies she served up. I was aghast, and unnerved, that I have lived so long and never heard of:

Amaranth:Okay, it's grainy. It's round. Can't think of a thing to do with it.

Quinoa:A visual mix of seaweed/escargot. Looks a lot like Amaranth. Still no idea what to do with it. I mean, would you want to see that on your salad?

Oat Groats: (I am NOT making this up! Hence the picture.) Anything that sounds like "gross" I just don't go for. Anything that sounds gross, and LOOKS gross is just out of the question. This stuff is gray for crying out loud! Just look at it!

I'm sure that there is a real Oat Gross fan/officianado out there that is just over-the-moon about this stuff, so let me just say that I am not a complete rube when it comes to a variety of foods. I eat gray stuff too. There's Stroganoff, annnnnnnd, aaaannnnnnnnd, and I guess that completes our "what I eat that's gray" session. Wait! Vanilla chocolate chip ice cream! It can appear gray on occasion though, now that I think about it - if you leave it out on the counter for too long. So, two gray things. Now there's some variety for ya! It just doesn't leave any room for Oat Gross, I mean GROATS.

Millit: Aren't there, like pillows stuffed with this stuff, to make them form to your head?

agave syrup: Ummm, no idea, sounds like it would be that purpley exotic topping from the twirl-town rack they bring you at a Denny's for breakfast. THe one container that is always full, but at least you felt like you had a number of syrup choices for your pancakes.

Soy/Rice milkish substitute: Why substitute expensive milk, for the real stuff? Cereal with rice-smushed-to-look-like-milk vs. real milk? - Real milk wins, hands down. I do buy the soy stuff though, Matthew is lactose intolerant. He can't handle that regular "spicy" milk. He needs something milder than milk - so his tummy can handle it. We wouldn't want to go nuts, and overdo it on, uh, milk.

Anyway, 2% is more cost effective per gallon, and my kids love it. Our mutual acquaintance health-conscious mom is also dairy free, so they don't have any cheese, or milk, or yogurt. Anywhere. On anything. What is going to happen the first time her kids run across nachos? Probably offered to them by MY kids?

So, here and now I have decided that I would rather have my kids enjoy the blessings of foods that are found in large quantities at a regular priced grocery store than to graze through life on honest-to-goodness, never-would-crave it, grains. I guess I'm just one of THOSE kinds of moms. I feel so guilty. Please pass the pizza.

Now, now, before you peg me as too cynical, and a complete junk food idiot, I must tell you that if you would like some grains, I do have some in stock. Come on over and I'll make you some of my famous healthy oatmeal with brown sugar and chocolate chips on top. Yum! Now that's what I call healthy eating! Keeps the cholesterol down. ;D

Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

I don't know about your family, but we have a real diverse "Chinese Zen Zodiac" crowd under this roof. We have an Ox (Matthew), a Pig/Boar (Me - c'mon, keep it together, it's supposed to be "LUCKY"), a Dragon (Abigail - duh!), a Monkey (Benjamin), and soon-to-be a Rat (Baby Sam). Judge for yourself if you believe that the proposed characteristics match up with the individual:

Ox Attributes: A born leader, you inspire confidence from all around you. You are conservative, methodical, and good with your hands. Guard against being chauvinistic and always demanding your own way. The Ox would be successful as a skilled surgeon, general, or hairdresser (Matthew missed his calling on that one! Tee Hee!!). Some Oxen: Napoleon Bonaparte, Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Richard Nixon, Rosa Parks, Sylvia Porter, Vincent Van Gogh.

Pig/Boar Attributes: (Note Bene -Because my birthday is Jan. 18th, it actually falls under the year usually associated with those born in 1971): You are a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. You are sincere, tolerant, and honest but by expecting the same from others, you are incredibly naive. Your quest for material goods could be your downfall. (Oh yeah, right!) The Boar would be best in the arts as an entertainer, or possibly a lawyer. Some Boars: Lucille Ball, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Jackson, Albert Schweitzer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Dragon Attributes: (notice - she is not just ANY Dragon, she's the feared RED DRAGON!!!) Full of vitality and enthusiasm, the Dragon is a popular individual even with the reputation of being foolhardy and a "big mouth" at times. You are intelligent, gifted, and a perfectionist but these qualities make you unduly demanding on others. You would be well-suited to be an artist, priest, or politician. Some Dragons: Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Pearl Buck, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Seuss Geisel, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Pat Schroeder, Mae West.

Monkey Attributes: You are a very intelligent and a very clever wit. Because of your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality, you are always well-liked. The Monkey, however, must guard against being an opportunist and distrustful of other people. Your sign promises success in any field you try. Some Monkeys: Julius Caesar, Bette Davis, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betsy Ross, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry S. Truman, Leonardo da Vinci, Alice Walker.

Rat Attributes: You are imaginative, charming, and truly generous to the person you love. However, you have a tendency to be quick-tempered and overly critical. You are also inclined to be somewhat of an opportunist. Born under this sign, you should be happy in sales or as a writer, critic, or publicist. Some Rats: Charlotte Bronte, Truman Capote, Catherine I, Mata Hari, Wolfgang Mozart, William Shakespeare, George Washington.

So there you have it! Is it any wonder that our house is in constant upheaval!! I am a lucky Pig with a Monkey on my back, a Dragon breathing down my neck, a Rat that's getting fatter, and one big stubborn Ox in the house!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Surprise Letter

I got a letter from the Property Management company. I think they have hired a retired referee who can't seem to see the trees for the weeds. "Property Management" seems to believe that trimmed bushes should be removed (they're not dead yet!), flowers are an offense (please take care of your weeds with petals), and they see weeds . . . where there are rocks. They've even complained about our yard not having ENOUGH rocks. Geesh! So, these letters are met with a groan. But todays letter was a bit of a surprise. To wit, it reads:
"During a recent inspection of the community on 02/01/08 it was observed that there is a condition at your residence which needs to be taken care of. Please remove the bike helmet from your roof."
How is it that they could see the bike helmet, but not my black shoes that I looked for for 2 months, or the dinosaurs and other animals that are also up there? I called Matthew at work to read him the letter.
"We got another property management letter . . ." *groan*.
But when I read it to him, he laughed! "When did Abigail do that?"
Just goes to show how very eventful life is when you have kids. And I find it interesting that anyone withOUT kids would think I was an idiot parent, but anyone who HAS kids would not be shocked at all. It's just one of those things. Kids do crazy, weird, and often inexplicable things.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

How Do they Know??

How do my children know that daddy will be coming home late tonight? We had FHE yesterday night, with a nice dinner, time for Play Doh fun, bedtime stories, and family prayer. When, in the secret of the closed-door office, Matthew says that he'll be late tonight, the news travels - inexplicably - to my children's brains and launches the "Arc Out" sequence.

Dinner is a burrito on a plate, bedtime stories have been nixed due to time constraints, and there will be no extra requests! Despite these time saving devices, the whole night is thrown into chaos as mom discovers regurgitated gold fish crackers in the refrigerator water dispenser tray, mud has been tracked all over yesterday's pristine floor and clearly, from the smears and blobs on various surfaces, SOMEONE has been helping themselves to the yogurt. PJ's that were tidied yesterday are now strewn throughout the house, and garbage appears from every corner!

I am reminded of The Simpsons episode 195, where Lisa fears that the Simpson's genetics will make her dumber the older she gets. She imagines herself in a hammock wearing a mumu, and married to Ralph. She is so incapacitated that all she can say to her naughty kid is "stop it, stop it, stop it . . ." and it SCARES me that the only difference between her nightmare and mine is a hammock and mumu!! I am just that drained right now.

If anyone handles this differently, please let me know how to reverse the launch sequence. I am in the Bermuda Triangle of nighttime routine. I like a tranquil evening - I really tried! Now you'll have to excuse me while I go yell at my kids who are trying to get OUT of bed . . . "Stop it! Stop it! "

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Giant Among Men 1910-2008

President Hinckley, prophet and seer,is a life worth emulating and reading about. I adore President Hinckley, and will miss his humor, which was said to be at the expense of no one. I followed him through college, mission, marriage and children. It was nice to know that there was someone out there who, I felt, would always think the best of me first, and find out all of the details later; only to still later say, "Well, at least she tried!" :D And I know he loves you too. Optimism, Gratitude and Humor marked his life. And we all could use more of each. Enjoy this tribute: