Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Make It Do or Do Without."

I read an article the other day that talked about the growing trend among consumers to hold onto products longer. Cars, clothes, TVs and even shampoo and toothpaste are getting the last bit of use squeezed out of them. Great news for the environment, we are throwing away less and reducing, reusing and recycling more.

The part of the article that surprised me, however, was that consumers were now replacing their cell-phones every 18 months instead of every 16 months. I realize that some cell-phone plans automatically upgrade the phone every 18 months, but this still shocked me. I've had my cell phone for 6 years.

It's a pay-as-you go model with minutes costing 25 cents each.

Crazy, huh? Not if I hardly use it. The phone ends up costing me about $10 a month.

There is no camera or Internet connection. It doesn't play music or have any apps. I can send text messages, but I'm so slow at that I rarely ever do.

What I do do is make and receive the occasional phone call. If I've remembered to charge it up. Which reminds me . . . .

I tried to find a photo of my phone online and could not. I don't think it's particularly outdated looking, but I still think those communicators they use on Star Trek are cool. Yep, I've got a flip phone. A six-year-old flip phone. It works great. Why would I get another, more expensive phone?

This one will be perfect for embarrassing my kids in a few years.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


For the third time this winter, the news people forecasted a major snow dump on Portland. And, for the first time they were right. Sort of. I suppose you could argue the words "major" and "dump." It was more "minor" and "dusting." But it was most certainly snow. One out of three isn't bad.

A snow day was called and school was cancelled. My boys were out on the hill behind our house by 7:30am--earlier than they normally wake up for school. It was a good thing though, because by noon, the snow on the sledding hill had all melted. 

Jonah made a giant snowball and he didn't want to just leave it in the open space. He rounded up a few neighborhood kids to bring it into the backyard for him. Notice, Jonah is not part of the snowball pushing group. I believe he is offering comments and suggestions from the sidelines somewhere.

The kids weren't sure the snowball would fit through our gate, but with a little shoving and a little shaving it was rolled neatly onto our lawn. Robert stood in the kitchen making big head shaking movements and crossing his arms in an "X" pattern and mouthing the words, "get that thing off my lawn!" 

Too late.

With a little effort, Jonah climbed atop the snow ball and posed for a picture. One of the kids who'd helped roll the ball onto the lawn said, "This is the best day ever!" Which is a pretty bold designation to make at 8:45 in the morning. But he was probably right.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Surprise! We're The Most Awesome Parents Ever!

Have you seen the TV commercials, or heard the radio commercials that show parents revealing to their kids they are going to Disneyland "right now?"

"Right now?" the kids say.

"Yep, right now, go get in the car. We are going to Disneyland right now."

Or maybe they are already in the car. I personally know a family who did this. They woke their kids up early one morning, convinced them to get into the minivan, then a few hours into their drive, revealed their destination: Disneyland.

The kids in these ads are absolutely overcome with excitement. And, as a parent, the power to excite can be intoxicating. To be able to create in your child that level of freak-out . . . well, it's hard to resist. What parent wouldn't want to say something that would make their kid deliriously happy?

But with great power, comes great responsibility.

I've asked Robert what he thought about this kind of vacation announcement and we've come to several conclusions:

1. Telling your kids about an exciting trip to Disneyland moments before you leave, robs them of the anticipation. Sure it's hard to wait several months for an exciting trip, but looking forward to it is part of the fun. Isn't it?

2. This kind of surprise might be inadvertently setting your kids up for future disappointment. You get up one Saturday morning and say, "Hey kids, let's do something fun today." If your kid has had a surprise trip to Disneyland sprung on him in the past, you know he's going to immediately think, maybe this is another Disneyland trip. They start to get excited and when you say, "let's go to the zoo," it's a big let down. What could possibly measure up to a surprise trip to Disneyland? That's right. Nothing.

3. Kids may not know that mom and dad saved for a year to be able to afford the trip. They may not know that plans and decisions had to be made. This trip will just be another moment of instant gratification.

So tonight when we saw an Disneyland commercial on TV, I asked Ethan if he would like us to do a surprise trip to Disneyland.

He replied with a very eager "YES!"

"But wouldn't you miss looking forward to the trip?" I asked. "Isn't it fun to have something like that to look forward to?"

"Well, maybe you could tell us about it two weeks before we go," he said.

It is so much fun to give kids things they want. It's fun to make them happy by indulging them. And, in a way, it's easy.

It's hard to have to say "no" so they can learn a lesson. It's not easy to stand firm when they whine and complain and say, "all the other kids get to do it," or, "why are you so mean?"

I didn't start this post planning to get philosophical about a trip to Disneyland.  We are probably going there this summer, and I have nothing against the Happiest Place on Earth. I certainly don't think a surprise trip to Disneyland will ruin kids. At least I hope it wouldn't.

But, I do think the great responsibility that comes with the great power of being a parent is doing the hard things: saying "no," or "not now;" teaching virtues like patience and hard work; being an example of integrity. These things don't win parent popularity contests, but might produce more productive and valued members of society.

But that's just my opinion.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's For Dinner?

I am just now crawling into bed and have noticed the beginnings of my shopping list on the night stand beside me. Actually, I never got as far as the "list" part. I started this morning by trying to think of things we could eat for dinner during the week. I only got as far as, "meatloaf." That is the only meal idea I have for the upcoming week. Meatloaf.

I got online to get ideas and spent 20 minutes looking at Jell-o recipes and another 20 looking at dessert recipes. Not a complete waste of time, but I didn't get any closer to figuring out what to have for dinner this week.

Fettuccine Alfredo sounded good, so I checked out the recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks. While she did a bang-up job of presenting the recipe and directions, she also convinced me that fettuccine Alfredo was literally the road to ruin. One bite and I'd be popping out of my jeans. The same jeans I sacrificed four weeks to fit into. I decided against fettuccine Alfredo. Sigh.

I asked Ethan, "What is something you'd like for dinner this week?"

"Steak," he replied.

"Okay, that's one idea. What else?" I asked.

"Flank steak," he said.

"Okay, that's kind of expensive. Can you think of something else you'd like?"

"Sirloin steak," he said.

"Forget it," I said.

Jonah and Isaac suggested chicken nuggets and French fries, and when I asked the husband what he'd like for dinner this week, he replied, "what are my options?"

Options? If I had a list of options, I wouldn't need to ask!


So, meatloaf.

Ooh! What about chicken tortilla soup!

Yay! Now I have two things to make for dinner this week. At this rate I'll have the rest of the week's menu figured out by Tuesday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Guess what!

I'm opening an Etsy store. I'm going to sell bags.

I will be sure to let you know when I have my grand opening but I will be selling this design (pictured above) and another one. Both patterns are designed by Rae Hoekstra over at Made by Rae. (I bought the rights to sell, so it's all on the up and up.)

I need to build up my inventory a bit more. And take really awesome pictures of all my bags. And figure out how to set up an Etsy store (Our stake is having a class on the very subject at an Arts fair next month. How convenient is that?) I know it's probably not super complicated, but I want to do this right.

But here is what I do know:

My company will be called Story. Because every bag has a story. The stories will all be available for view on Etsy with each bag's description and each bag's story will be printed on the high quality paper tag, suitable for framing or taping into your journal or scrapbook.

I took my current stash of nine bags over to a friend's house today to show them off. Not a lot of praise and adoration here at the house of boys, so I needed some girl feedback. Not only did she give me my needed feedback, she also purchased two bags. (pictured above) Which was the best feedback of all, if I do say so.

I made my first sale!

Also, some nice words in an e-mail about my middle grade work in progress allowed me to let out a nice sigh of reliefness. Which feels very good indeed. Very good. It confirmed to me that you have to do what you love and what feels right and not what other people tell you to do. Not that other people don't sometimes have spot-on suggestions and advice--but one needs to stay true to oneself. Yes, one does.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Jell-o Project: Valentine Crunch

"Please, please don't put sweetened condensed milk in it!" Ethan begged.

Valentine Crunch was originally presented to me as Christmas Crunch several years back by my friend Natalie. It is delicious and has a nice blend of flavors and textures that is sure to be a winner at your holiday dinner table. I had every intention of making this Jell-o salad for a Christmas-time meal, but things got busy and I didn't do it.

I ate the pretzels and some of the other ingredients and kept forgetting to replace them. Then, one thing led to another and soon we were breathing down the neck of Valentine's day. I was going to have my Jell-o salad, gosh darn it. It's red, it's sweet, it's the perfect Valentine's day treat.

This is essentially the recipe, although mine was a little different (more sugar with the cream cheese, less with the pretzels) it's a winner all around. Funnily enough, several places on-line refer to this as raspberry pretzel dessert. The crunchy pretzel crust is most definitely what makes this Jell-o recipe a big winner.

Best of all, not a lick of sweetened condensed milk.

Although, the can of crushed pineapple (oops! Pioneer woman doesn't add the crushed pineapple to her cream cheese-sugar-cool whip mixture) was definitely a potential deal breaker. Here's how the dinner-time drama went down:

Jonah - ate his Valentine Crunch Jell-o salad/dessert first. Cleaned his plate. Declared it decidedly delicious.

Isaac - ate one bite. Asked, "is that enough for dessert?" The kid does not like fruit. I had mercy on him, but did make him have a nice, cool-whippy, pretzel-crunchy bite, just so he got the full effect, sans raspberries.

Me - ate mine second (there were mashed potatoes and gravy on the plate I had to attend to first) and then eyed Isaac's uneaten portion greedily.

Robert - ate it, and loved it--In his own, understated way.

Ethan - Got the Calvin and Hobbes book out so he could perform a reenactment Calvin's dinner-table drama with facial expressions as he attempted to take one tiny bite. I do not know what this kid's problem is. I told him he could not have dessert unless he ate the whole thing and licked his plate clean.

If you get to call this Jell-o a salad and have it along side your dinner, consider yourself lucky. If it's served up for dessert, enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Today I:
  • Slept in until 7:45. I stayed in bed and thought about my day while I very slowly woke up
  • Ate breakfast (Bob's 10 grain hot cereal)
  • Trimmed and cut back bushes and trees and ornamental grasses in our yard, pulled out dead plant matter from last year and cleaned up the beds to make room for all the new bulbs pushing through the dirt. Raked and deposited all clippings and pullings in the yard waste recycling bin
  • Cleaned off the front porch
  • Organized my food storage
  • Bought a birthday present
  • Took Jonah to his basketball team pictures and game
  • Grocery shopped, bought kids new church shoes
  • Cleaned the garage
  • Took Jonah to a birthday party
  • Prepared class list and activity calendar for the new Beehive class presidency
  • Picked up Jonah from his birthday party
  • Made breakfast for dinner: bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs with OJ to drink
  • Cleaned up the kitchen
  • Made Heath Bar crunch ice cream for tomorrow
  • Made sugar cookie dough for Valentine cookies tomorrow
  • Washed and folded 3 loads of laundry
  • Solved the great Pokemon meltdown (DS in time out for one day)
You might notice I didn't have "shower" or "eat lunch" on the list. But I don't think I stink too bad, and I had an extra piece of bacon at dinner to make up for missing lunch.

Now I'm sitting on my bed, listening to the rain pound against the window. I'm exhausted, my muscles ache and it feels great! I have the latest Juliet Marillier book in the Sevenwaters series that I'm going to read as soon as I snuggle up under the covers.

It feels so good to relax when I've worked hard. This is something I try to teach my kids. I don't think they fully get it yet, but I hope that some day they do. It is impossible to fully enjoy leisure and rest without having worked.

And I'm fully enjoying it tonight.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Overheard in Bed

I woke up suddenly this morning at 12:34 am. I'm not sure why I woke up but I didn't have two seconds to ponder that question because Robert started talking in his sleep.

"This is a weird, weird . . . "

Oh, this is going to be good, I thought. I couldn't wait for him to finish his sentence.

". . . weird . . ."

A weird what!

". . . costume." And then he finished with the profound, "Inside a costume."

Was he in a costume? Was the costume in a costume? Why was the costume so weird?

Regardless of the unknowns, there was no doubt I'd just heard the world's funniest sleep-talking ever. I would have laughed if I hadn't been so tired. I thought of that British woman who started taping her mild-mannered husband's nightly sleep-talking rants and made big bucks creating her own website and t-shirts featuring his nocturnal utterances. Maybe I could do something like that?

I knew one thing for sure. I had to write this down so I'd remember it in the morning. I rummaged around in my nightstand for a pen and found a notebook and started writing in the dark. However, the dry scratch sounded suspiciously like a pen out of ink. I rummaged some more, repeating the costume monologue in my head so I wouldn't forget.

I found another pen and wrote, hoping the pen was working. I even underlined the 'd' in weird to identify the weird emphasis Robert had given to that letter each time he's said "weird."

Then I tried to get back to sleep. But my mind was running with the possibilities: should I get up and post this immediately on Facebook? How would I phrase it? How long would it take for my computer to start up and actually log into Facebook? Could I do this and still get back to sleep later?

Luckily, before I could act, I fell asleep.

I woke up around 7 am, feeling a giddy anticipation about something.

Of course! The funny sleep-talking!

I grabbed my notepad and read what I'd written. The pen had failed at one point, but I'd pressed so hard into the paper I could clearly see the words written in the dark of night. I read.

"This is a weird, weird, weird costume. Inside a costume."


Not as funny at 7:04 am as it was at 12:34 am.

Good thing I didn't post it on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Call

A mom's work day may end when the kids finally are asleep in bed, but in reality, she's on call 24/7. From the time you push that baby into the world until they start sleeping through the night, a mom works both the day AND night shift. Once sleep habits are firmly in place, you can still expect to be woken up in the middle of the night to clean up barf, change wet sheets, sooth away the bad dreams, take temperatures or administer medicine.

One survival skill every mom acquires to cope with the night shift is to do all these things while half-asleep. If you can stay half asleep, once you get back into your own bed, dreamland will be easier to slip back into. And this is important. Just because that kid kept you up half the night does NOT mean they'll let you sleep half the day.

And if you have healthy, sleeping kids who never have bad dreams or pee accidents, your being able to do various tasks while half-asleep will still come in handy. Because every once in a while, depending on how much water you drink before you go to bed, you will have to get up to use the . . .

. . . well, you know.

So the key to getting up in the middle of the night is to keep one foot in dreamland and one in reality. Above all, you should NOT think of any of the following things in your time out of bed:

Stuff you have to do the next day
Men in clogs
Unfinished craft projects
Business ideas
Writing ideas
Kids who insist on wearing the same outfit every day
A slide show presentation you are doing the next day in school
What time the indoor track opens
What you are making for dinner for the next 3 nights
What you need to get at the grocery store
How the universe is endless
The perfect comeback to a certain Facebook status from 2 weeks ago
Whether or not you took the garbage out
How you shouldn't have eaten that second piece of chocolate cake

Just learn to keep your mind empty and you will be asleep in no time.

Good night.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I'm not fishing for compliments. I just need to vent a few things. So if you feel the need to pat my ego, which I love by the way, don't leave a comment on this post. Just send chocolate.

I love to write. I'd write even if I was the only one reading it. But make no mistake, I really love when people read my writing. I love it even more when people pay me for my writing. I would love to be able to earn a nice income for our family by writing. For a freelance writer this means being self-motivated, self-starting and self-promoting. Blah.

You have to call people or e-mail people and submit things and ask them whether or not they want to buy the thing you wrote. This is never a fun thing for me. However, over the years, I've had pretty good luck with my minimal efforts. But minimal does not a "nice income" make. So for the last few months I've tried to step it up.

While I did sell one thing to the New Era in October (payable upon publication on an unknown day in the possible or not possible future) I've been turned down for the last three things I've submitted to another magazine. I've tried to find other homes for those articles with other local magazines, but so far have had no luck. Blah!

I should mention that when I shared these woes with a friend, she offered me a writing job for a music magazine. So, that's good. But still. Rejection hurts. Especially when I'm not sure what my next step should be, or sure if I even want to take it when there will probably be more rejection. I'm fairly confident that I have some writing talent, but how can I know for sure? (Please, not a cry for your kind words. I just need to get this out. It's therapy).

So, blah. That's how I feel. I'm currently in a writer's critique group where I'm getting feedback for my first ever attempt at middle grade fiction. I'm sure I'm embarrassing myself, but feel that if I don't at least plow through this, making my best effort, there will always be a big question mark in my life. I already have so many question marks. I don't want any more.

I'll keep taking the risk. My skin will keep getting thicker. I just wish I had a few more go-to's for writing opportunities.

Well, actually, I wish that my writing was in huge demand and I had so many opportunities that I had to tell people "no" instead of them telling me no. And then there would be a bidding war and everyone would be vying for my great writing skills and I'd just have to take a break from it all. So I'd take a twelve-day Mediterranean cruise with Robert where I'd find inspiration for a best-selling book during a night-time gondola ride in Venice.

And I'd get a treadmill desk so I could write and exercise at the same time.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Pity

Remember when I wrote about going downtown to the Portland Timber's store and getting our pictures taken?  Well, check this out. By the way, the photographer told us all to give him our best "no pity" look.

I really didn't like the way my picture turned out. It makes me feel old. It's a bit of a let down when you feel like you're 25 to realize you look like you're 42. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Does This Make Me a Beekeeper?

At church I work with a youth group called Beehives. They are 12 and 13 year old girls who do not wear beehive hats on their heads, but I thought this picture was cute and so are my Beehives. Now that I've typed the word a couple times, I realize how silly "Beehives" sounds. So maybe I should explain that the beehive is really more of a symbol of industry. The girls are able to set goals to be productive and stay busy with many good things. And I think at one time maybe 100 years ago, they used to keep beehives as one of their projects.

Okay, enough about why they are called Beehives. They just are.

On Sunday I needed to make an announcement about our weekly activity. We are doing three heart attacks. This is when you "attack" someone or their room or front porch, with a plate of goodies and lots of cut out hearts with sweet messages on them. The girls are excited, but I needed to take care of some business so the activity would run smoothly. I needed people to sign up to bring cupcakes and frosting and candy decorations.

This is how the announcement went down to my class of 12 Beehives:

Me: I need to go over a few details about this week's activity.

(Three hands shoot up in the air)

Me: (to Beehive #1) Did you have a question?

Beehive #1: Where will you be at 7:45, because I'm going to be late and can meet up with you at 7:45, but I need to know where you will be? Do you think you will still be here at the church decorating the cupcakes? I just need to know where to show up because I'm going to be late.

Me: Well, I'm not sure where we will be at 7:45. I'll probably have a better idea at the activity. (To Beehive #2) Do you have a question?

Beehive #2: I just think that we should probably figure out who's bringing what so we don't have a bunch of the same stuff.

Me: Right, I've got a list here and I'll go over everything. (to Beehive #3) Yes, Beehive #3?

Beehive #3: So, who are we going to heart attack? Because I have this friend and I think we should do her. It would be so awesome.

Me: Okay. Why don't you let me go over everything and if you still have questions you can ask when I'm done talking. I need 4 people to bring 12 unfrosted cupcakes.


Me: I'll bring one dozen. Can someone else do another?


Beehive #4: I can bring cupcakes

Beehive #5: Okay, I'll bring cupcakes too.

Me: Great! Thank you. Maybe 3 dozen will be enough. How about frosting? Anyone? (crickets) Just a can from the store will be fine. (crickets)

Beehive #1: So, do you think I should meet you at someones house while you are heart attacking? Cause I'm going to be late.

Beehive #2: I can't bring anything because my mom has already gone shopping for the week.

(The bell rings signaling the end of class and the room clears out at lightning speed, except for...)

Beehive #1: So...

Me: Why don't I just give you my cell number and you can call me.

I do love my girls. They are such a refreshing change from my boys and I find it very helpful to listen and see what is going on in the lives of these young women. Every one of them is talented and beautiful.  But sometimes their apparent lack of focus, the way they fly from one topic to another, or their cute little buzzing they do with their friends during class, when they are supposed to be listening to the lesson, makes me think think the beehive is a actually a very appropriate symbol.