Monday, September 29, 2008

Great Day in the Morning

That's a phrase my mom used to say as an exclamation of surprise or bewilderment that never made much sense to me. Yesterday, when I opened the letter (technically addressed to Dirk, but we are one, right?) from the Caifornia bar office, all I could think was "Great day in the morning!" We were walking to church because we are very green and healthy now that we are Californians and also because it is impossible to find parking at the church, and Gigi forgot her sweater, so I ran back for it (more on my very fast running later). I thought I would grab the mail as I went into the house and I saw the letter and I just couldn't help opening, knowing that it might be bad news and ruin our day. They have decided to accept Dirk's answers from the third day of testing, even though he posted them late!! So, there is a good chance that he will not have to retake the bar. I was so excited. I ran all the way back to catch up with the family and showed him the letter. Do you know what he said? "Oh, that's great." with a kind of pleasantly surprised voice. No jumping or jubilation. He mystifies me. After that, he made the interesting comment that, when he assumed his answers wouldn't be accepted, it was easier to feel confident about his performance on the test in general. But, now that there is a chance he'll pass, he's much less confident. We shall see. We should know around Thanksgiving time or a bit before.

On the running, I have been getting ready for my first 10K, to be run on Thanksgiving morning in downtown San Diego. Anybody want to join me? The training so far has been going well, and is kind of fun, especially when I get to run on the beach at sunset. That is my favorite. I am afraid I am wearing our little doggie right out, however. He starts strong, but after a mile or so, he hangs back a bit. He'll be getting in shape along with me, I suppose. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yes on Prop 8

I haven't received a calling yet at our new ward in San Diego. I have, however, received an assignment to call or walk for the Proposition 8 campaign. Here's the deal with voting YES on Proposition 8: It doesn't take any rights or benefits from gay or lesbian domestic partners. These people have all the "same rights, protections and benefits" as married spouses, according to California law. The difference is, their unions would not be called marriages. Why is this important? Because, if Prop 8 does not pass, then teachers in public schools could be required to teach that same sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage; that there is no difference in families that are raised by two fathers or two mothers and families that are raised by a mother and a father. I have called voter registration lists (though not nearly as much as I should; I am way behind) about this issue because I believe that marriage is sacred, and that it should not be redefined for me into something that it doesn't mean to me. And, because I believe, as our Proclamation on the Family states, that "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." Because of all this, I have been talking about this campaign, even though it terrifies me, and requires me to overcome a whole lot of nerves to do it. And it isn't fun.

A couple of weeks ago, a man stood up during a Sunday School lesson about this issue. He was a former member of the stake presidency, but asked that his comments be taken as his own, and not as a leader in the church. He emotionally shared an experience his son had had while at college in Utah, where he had witnessed some "Christians" speaking very disparagingly about a gay couple that walked by. His point was that if we want to spread Christianity, that we should be Christians ourselves. He talked about how important it is to love and follow our prophet, who has asked us to do all we can on this issue, while loving ALL our brothers and sisters.

I was moved by his short speech; even more so when I learned later that his son identifies himself as a homosexual and is working through all the issues that come with that. I don't know any of the details, but I do know that their emotional family journey has been marked by loyalty and love for each other.

I don't understand why so many people struggle with this issue. I feel love for them, and hope that they can make a life for themselves that makes sense to them and their God. At the same time, I truly believe that our social structure depends on traditional families, and children being raised by a mother and father, wherever possible. I know that there are all kinds of situations where that is impossible. But, I believe it is ideal nevertheless.

Communing with Nature

Dirk took #1 and #2 into the wild for their first camping trip ever! We knew it was time, as Isaac had been praying all summer that we could go camping. He finally got his wish when we were visiting the Burnham family in Tremonton at the end of August. I didn't understand why Dirk couldn't just sleep with them in the perfectly good tent that was already set up in the backyard as the teenage boys videogame getaway. He said he needed fire. And nature. It was great fun. I stayed back at big sister's house with Brody. We had fun, too, and slept better I would guess.

This weekend, they all went again with the Bedells, family friends of ours. Everyone came home very dirty and tired and happy. Here's to the great outdoors.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beach Bum

Is this kid ready for California, or what?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Red and green aren't just for Christmas

This is the recipe for you if your garden took over the backyard with tomatoes and basil. Not that I have a garden, but we are growing basil and I found tomatoes on sale. Anyway, I made it for dinner last night and it was the best tomato soup I've ever had. The kids didn't like it because it is a bit spicy. So, omit the red pepper flakes if you don't want spiciness. Also, I don't have a food mill (and my new, tiny kitchen will not accommodate any new gadgets . . . I'm working through being really depressed about that), so I put it all in a blender, and then I strained it through a sieve. This recipe makes a very large batch, so I am freezing some for another meal. Thanks, Barefoot Contessa!

Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This is an actual conversation I just had with Dirk:

D: "I think it's safe to say that I won't be getting any demanding callings at church."

N: "Oh? Why's that?"

D: "Because I spent most of priesthood in a small room with Brody sleeping."

N: "You mean you got Brody to sleep and found a dark room to let him sleep and fell asleep yourself?"

D: "No, I mean priesthood was held in a small room and I slept in there with Brody."

N:"You mean you got Brody to sleep during priesthood and then fell asleep yourself?"

D: "No, Brody was playing on the floor the entire time. I woke up occasionally to check on him."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ox turns 5

The much anticipated "five birthday" was upon us just two weeks after a hectic move to San Diego. Since he doesn't really know anyone here yet, we had just a couple of family friends over, with all their children, and it felt like a big party. He is so funny with the cakes! Ever since last year's feat of processed sugar architecture, the kids think they can just describe any shape or theme to me and I will turn it into cake stuff. They are too young to remember that last year's pirate ship was the only traditional sort of birthday cake I have ever had turn out like it was supposed to. I usually stick to cheesecakes and others that actually taste good, but kids start to get to be an age that they want a neon-colored marginally edible birthday cake and what can you do? So here is my best attempt at a Jeep cake for Ox. It looked alright, but it tasted awful.

Ox is very into Legos and Star Wars this year so I got him a pretty advanced ship because it was so dang cool. I think the box said it was for seven- or eight-year-olds. Turns out, the Lego people aren't just whistling Dixie when they suggest those age limits. He loves his ship, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two afternoons it took me to first put it together, then take it apart to fix something that was getting in the way of the wing motion, then put it back together again. Good stuff.

Last year's masterpiece. If you are one of the three people who haven't heard how I started my son on fire while lighting his canon candles, let me know and I'll tell you. It will make you feel like a really good parent.

My top 5 favorite things about my oldest child:

1. He is the most loving and forgiving person.
2. He almost never throws tantrums, but when something means a lot to him and it happens to get disregarded, forgotten, or overlooked his heart breaks so sincerely and I find myself pausing in my business (unfortunately, I am usually the one disregarding, overlooking or forgetting), then scrambling to help make happen what he is trying to do. He is the kind of kid that you just want to help make happy, because he is so sincere and non-bratty about it.
3. He loves his brother and sister fiercely.
4. His round brown eyes are completely guileless.
5. Whenever we go to the beach, he has the same routine: as we get close, he drops everything he is holding, dives into the sand with abandon, and starts making "sand angels". Then, he runs around on all fours at top speed like an ape until he is exhausted and lies flat on his back to make sand angels again. It is one of the most happy, childish, energetic displays I have ever seen.
6. He loves his treasures. And he treasures the most unexpected things. We make boxes to house these things and he sleeps with the boxes.
7. He loves sand dollars as much as I do and I can trust him not to crush them when we find one.
8. He wakes up happy. Always has.
9. He says the best prayers, including things like, "Bless us to die when we're supposed to, bless us to not eat too much candy, bless us to not have runny noses, bless us to find my super fast fancy car."

Fine. That was more than five things.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Having waited so long to post, I keep feeling like I need to post something really momentous and "worth it." Too much pressure! So, here are the random thoughts on my mind at the moment and I am going to post them no matter what so that I can get into my rhythm again.

We moved. We left Ann Arbor (sniff, sigh) on August 1st for some serious road tripping (if you think you were on our route, but we missed you, please don't hate us! We had several family commitments and movers to coordinate and we did our best. We'll catch you the next time around). One highlight was Nauvoo and the pageant there put on by the LDS church. It was fantastic! My goodness, was I impressed. My expectations were a little low, since I have seen the Hill Cumorah pageant many times and found it a little cheesy. This was my favorite of the pageants I've seen. And the spirit in Nauvoo is just so wonderful. I bought a couple of books there which I am planning to read someday soon to learn what I ought to know about our church's history. While we were there, we ran into a couple of people we know from Ann Arbor who were working the pageant as volunteers. That was fun.

Lots of fun stops along the way, and one stop that was the least fun I've had in recent memory. We were in Claremont Oklahoma, a couple of days into our trip, when Dirk woke up and realized that he had forgotten to post the third day of his bar exam. The CA bar is three days long. Participants write out the test on their laptops and are supposed to post the their work after leaving the testing center. Dirk took his test that third day and flew back to Ann Arbor that evening and forgot to post his work by the deadline. I don't think I can really describe the sickening feeling of having sacrificed for a summer to study and study and then have your work not be accepted. Or, even worse, to be the person's wife who must anticipate another four or five months of bar study, not to mention thinking that aforementioned husband could have hung around to help with the move if it wasn't going to count anyway :) We thought all was lost, and it probably is, but Dirk wrote up a very impressive petition to have his work accepted anyway and we'll see what happens. I have no expectation of success, since they are real sticklers. But at least he gave it his best effort. Honestly, it didn't seem like as big a deal as I thought it should. Everything has worked out so perfectly up until now, we were due for a bump in the road.

I also have to publicly apologize to Dirk, because I think I said something at my last book club in Ann Arbor about how he was useless for driving on road trips. In fact, he drove most of the way and didn't fall asleep once! It's the GPS in the new van; he says it makes him feel a sense of accomplishment as the nice lady tells him where to go and shows the milestones and how much longer is left, etc.

So, we arrived here on August 21st, rushing to meet the movers, who then didn't show up for another week and a half. Really. We camped out and went to the beach and Sea World and I painted most of the house. It was actually kind of fun. Then, on Dirk's first day of work, they came! Now all I have to do is unpack!

That's all for now. As soon as I find the camera and the USB cable at the same time, I will upload some pictures of the chickadees.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Meramac Caves

These are pictures taken at the fabulous Meramec cavern in Missouri during our cross country trip. It was one of those unplanned stops that I saw advertised on about sixteen billboards and they finally convinced me. It was HUGE and once a hideout of Jesse James! When we explained this to Isaac, he was so excited. He has been wanting to be a "bad guy" ever since. He informed me the other day that he definitely wants to be "Dark Nader" for Halloween.

We took the tour, which turned out to be quite thorough, and I'm pretty sure that every being in the cave and the underworld at large was silently begging that Brody go back where he came from. He started wanting to walk on his own about one quarter of the way through and this was obviously not an option. Who knows how deep those underground pools are? So, he made sure we didn't forget by screaming at top volume pretty consistently for the next 40 minutes. The guide took the opportunity to tell us how popular the cave was for concerts because of its excellent acoustics.

Nauvoo Temple