Monday, December 28, 2009

Las Vegas Temple

We took the kids to romp around (reverently) at the temple before church a couple of weeks ago. It is still so nice here and we thought it would be a good way to get in the mood for church and not be rushing around at the house right before church. I am not totally sure it worked. The temple was of course beautiful, but we were still late to church and I found myself hurrying after the kids everywhere trying to shush them so they wouldn't interrupt the various youth groups meeting there on the grounds. The second picture captures the mood perfectly. Dirk is trying to take a happy family picture while I am probably saying something like, "Would you PLEASE get your dirty feet/sticky fingers/drooly face off my skirt??"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Henderson

It was so fun to spend the Christmas season with my mom. She is usually not one to fuss over decorating and such, especially while living alone, so we got her a tree and decked her halls appropriately. The beautiful spirit of Christmas is even better with little childrens' excitement.Tristan is ready for Christmas pancakes.
Santa had a real time trying to find Gwendolyn's Pegasus. In the end, he fashioned some homemade ones out of purple lamé fabric, boning, and glitter paint. Well done, Santa.
After breakfast, we rode bikes to the park and Isaac got to try out his new bow and arrow.
Brody went down a steep hill on his scooter and stayed on it the whole way down. This child has oodles of natural athleticism.
This is Gigi's tough face after she fell down attempting a similar maneuver on Brody's scooter.

I wish I had more pictures of the day -- it was just wonderful.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Recital

For Gigi's ballet recital, her class did a dance to "Do You Hear What I Hear." It was lovely. We had a near disaster when she found herself up in front of a big crowd without her little lamb prop, but I ran it up to her just in time and all was well. It is so fun to watch the children get into their own hobbies and interests. She was so brave and did a great job.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Update

Good grief, my life is flying past me. I went to Jazzercise last night, my second class ever and it is really fun (I realize I may have just solidified my nerdiness), but I just kept thinking, "I could really do these moves better if she would just slow down a tiny bit!" This is how I have been feeling about life in general lately. I suppose I am mostly to blame for the pace, though, so I should just do my best and be grateful, even if I jiggle and don't look like J.Lo. I think this metaphor has gone too far, but you get the idea.

Anyway . . . Dirk's security clearance came through finally and he has a signed offer and is headed to D.C. on Monday to start his job in Maryland doing top secret fancy computer stuff. Very exciting, right? So, he will be commuting back and forth for the next few weeks until our tenants move out of our townhouse in Maryland and we can all move in. Yikes! We will all spend Christmas here and then we will crisscross the country for what feels like the millionth time on what promises to be a fun-filled, snow-filled road trip. I should be thrilled. I AM thrilled. But to be honest, I have started making some good friends here, I have loved getting closer to my mom, and living on the cheap sort of grows on you. . . especially the rent-free part. Henderson is really a fantastic place, except for the occasional extreme heat, but that just doesn't happen very often. So, even though I am happy to be contemplating being an adult again, I am sad to leave.

And what am I most looking forward to, you might ask? Well, I will tell you. I am most looking forward to remodeling and decorating our house out east so we can someday sell it for lots of money. New floors? Definitely. New kitchens and baths? A girl can hope. I have never really, really decorated a house before, but I know I have it in me; I just know it. So I am becoming a student of fabulous ideas so I can turn our oldish, blah house into a home that I like to look at. That's it. May the force be with me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

German Pancakes

***OOPS!! I typed up the recipe wrong the first time! It should have been one cup of milk, not 1/2 cup. It's correct now.

My wonderful sister Rebecca always made these for us growing up. I finally called her and successfully got the recipe! I don't think she means to be engaging in a misinformation campaign, but I think she is secretly and maybe subconsciously protecting her title as Best Cook Ever by leaving out details here and there of her delicious recipes, but this one was right on. The most important thing is to do these in the blender; they need the air.

First, preheat the oven to 450 and put your glass 9 x 13 into the oven with 2 tablespoons of butter so that the butter will melt while you prepare the batter. Then, into the blender, put:

6 eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 T. melted butter

Blend 'em up very well, for maybe 45 seconds. Then bake in your 9 X 13 for about 15 minutes. They will get all big and puffy. Be ready to eat them as soon as they are done . . . that is when they are tastiest!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading with Gigi

Teaching this girl to read is a hoot. She is very interested, but can drag things out impressively, because she is very easily distracted. Here is a conversation we just had:

Gigi: "llllliiiiiiiiiiicccccck. Lick! Lick me mom. Okay then, I'll lick you. (Rubbing my arm after the licking) It's like lotion! A little bit. Not very.

WAS. WAS goes to jail. That silly WAS is not following the rules. I can make a jail for that naughty WAS with my fingers and he cannot get out no matter what. Look, you can't even see him anymore. He's sleeping in his jail now.

K, k, k, k, Come on, mom, see if you can say this faster than me.

Rock. (curling into a ball) I'm a rock. Hit me and you'll see. C'mon! Hit me! Did it hurt your hand?"

And on and on and on. It is a good thing I am not in any hurry. Oh, and she calls periods 'stop dots' and she won't let me hold the book!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Excellent Birthday

It was a banner year here for me! Dirk made me my favorite breakfast: grits and eggs. But he doctored the grits with Parmesan cheese, sharp cheddar, jalapeños and goodness knows what else. They were the best grits I have ever had. Someday, children will sing songs in the streets about these grits. They will be served to kings (um . . . the grits, not the children). That is, if he is ever able to reproduce them. I think he took a 'little of this, little of that' approach. Anyway, I will move on, for those of you not as passionate as I about this great cuisine of the South. Incidentally, isn't there a festival for just about every kind of food somewhere in this country? I'd like to sign Dirk up for the next grits festival. Moving on.

Dirk took the kids out shopping (while I lounged around luxuriously and read a book) and each got me something special that they thought I would like. So sweet! That meant: nail polish from Gigi, peanut butter M&Ms from Isaac, lip gloss from Brody. Then Dirk gave me the best gift ever, which was a bunch of pictures of all of us that he had edited to black-and-white and worked other magic with that I cannot fathom and put in a sleek black frame for me. It was something I had been wanting for awhile. I used the bacon grease from breakfast to make some roasted butternut squash risotto for dinner. Yum!

In the evening, we painted our toes, the boys helping by choosing the colors and my mom took us out for Nielsen's Frozen Custard (which should also be sung about and served to kings).

Oh, and the pictures! They slaved away in the office doing their top secret birthday cards.

Overall, I think we had enough fun (and saturated fat) to last us 'til Christmas. Thanks, little family. Best birthday ever.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I volunteered to help out at Isaac's Christmas party at school. It was fun to see all the cuties dressed up. I made these eyeballs for the kids. You can find the recipe here.

I made Isaac a fruit bat costume. I accidentally called him batman and he was quick to correct me. He also asked that I make him a label to avoid further confusion. I am pretty sure this was all inspired by Stellaluna.

Okay. From the front he was cute enough. But Brody-as-a-giraffe was impossibly cute from the back.

Tristan was also a giraffe. But Brody kept calling him a cow.

At our ward's trunk-or-treat. Gigi was so excited to finally able to don her Tinkerbell costume.

Kung Fu Panda (Gigi's latest obsession) and some kind of fire-breathing dragon (for such a sweet and gentle kid, Isaac's interests tend toward the macabre). Brody was asleep during pumpkin carving and I was in the bathtub. We never knew what we'd missed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Road Trip -- Part 1

We recently completed a road trip to Houston, Texas, to celebrate Dirk's sister's wedding. It was lots of fun, and went amazingly smoothly, considering the number of small people involved. Our first night, we stayed with friends in Phoenix. It was so nice to see the Bennett's! The kids all reconnected right away.

Brody and Claire had fun on the water table.

Isaac and Charlie really enjoyed playing Charlie's video games. Clever Charlie convinced Isaac that the lemmings would only work when Charlie was playing, so Isaac did a lot of watching. He asked me if we could get a lemmings game that would obey him, too.

Gwendolyn and Jack

Brody found the idea of tricycles in the house novel and wonderful.

Thanks, Bennetts!

Millionaire Women Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen Millionaire Women Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen by Thomas J. Stanley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was very interesting and inspiring. Someone had recommended The Millionaire Next Door to me, but my library didn't have it in, so I got this one. I think his title including the word "millionaire" gives the impression that perhaps he is going to preach about chasing wealth and getting rich, which is not at all the case. He profiles the conservative and hardworking behaviors and lifestyles of people who are actually financially independent and contrasts that with what symbols society usually interprets as denoting wealth. He is heavy on the statistics, which tends to make my eyes glaze over a bit, but it definitely lends validity to the conclusions he draws. I am inspired this week to finish up my budget for the year and make some savings and investing goals, so I would say it was a very successful read.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities (Bantam Classic) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. There is something magical about a book that takes about 100 pages to even get interested in (and made me a little cranky in the trying), then suddenly becomes a neglect-your-kids-and-stay-up-too-late-reading kind of book. I actually woke up this morning and was so sad that I was finished.

I don't even know how it happened. One day I'm complaining about it, the next I am irritated with my husband for interrupting my reading to ask where I'm keeping the diapers these days. So confident is Dickens that he will capture you eventually, but completely, he doesn't work too hard at the initial hook. AND, I knew the ending about 80 pages before it happened, could see it all clearly, and I still couldn't tear myself away; would in fact read paragraphs twice because they were so good.

I thought his portrayal of the opposite sides of the French Revolution was spot-on, and brilliant. He illustrated perfectly the fact that, when people are so viscously oppressed, their reaction to it, when it finally boils over, will be just as evil.

I know that people say that Dickens is sentimental, but maybe a novel isn't supposed to be so realistic. It is fiction, after all. Maybe it is just as high art if it is beautiful and extravagant as it is if it is beautiful and minimalist or cynical or whatever serious literary people love. This is good stuff. I give it 4-and-a-half stars. No, five. Yes, definitely five, and I am off to read the Scarlet Pimpernel. Amen.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Conversation I just had with Isaac

Him: Can I play the Wii?
Me: Not today.
Him: What can I do?
Me: I dunno. Use your imagination.
Him: I can't! It's not working today!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

List: The Crazy Way My Mom Talks

My mom was raised in the South, but she moved away when she went off to college and never lived there again. She claims that she never had an accent, but the entire family (who still lives there) speaks with such a thick southern accent that I had trouble understanding them when I was little. I think she just lost the accent years ago. Still, however, she has some kooky pronunciations for things that really crack me up. I am recording them here for posterity.

"redio" for radio

"necked" for naked

"pacifically" for specifically

"awrynte" for alright

"futher" for further or farther

"toe-let" or "commode" for toilet

I am not making fun . . . these little things endear her to me, and she wouldn't be her without them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My List

I was having a little bit of a breakdown the other day and happened to be on the phone with a friend on whom I unloaded my stress and anxiety about living with my mother forever, being poor (not in spirit, but the bad kind of poor), raising kids who worry about money the same way I always did, being stuck in the waiting place, and on and on. I am grateful that she comforted me through a few things, and bashful that my brave face cracks so easily.

Anyway, she suggested that I pray about what Heavenly Father might have me do as I wait for our situation to become more permanent. What a concept. Pray? For something specific that I need? Instead of freaking out and wishing we had sent me to law school instead of Dirk? Kidding, there, I promise.

So, here it is, and I am adding to it all the time, since my prayers have not been what they should lately and I am trying to humble myself:

My List of Things To Do While I Wait for My Life to Get Going Again
(If reading this makes you relieved that you are not in my situation, please keep that to yourself. I'm fragile just now.)

Learn Spanish (inspired by my time in the Mother's Lounge on Sunday during the Spanish sacrament meeting and understanding more than I would have thought I would)

Figure out how to start my own property management company and make a plan and a timeline to do so.

Make some efforts at missionary contacts.

Work on Family History (My mom gave us all assignments for the next family reunion).

Learn how to edit my own photos so that I don't have to always ask Dirk to do it.

Work on my menus-by-season for the year.

Read a book about the French Revolution.


Draw up some plans for our kitchen remodel for our townhouse in Ellicott City.

Organize my mom's food storage.

Okay, that's it for now. I am also going to go ahead and sign my girl up for dance class because she wants to so much and because the city has really cheap classes and because she needs something of her own outside of the house and because Dirk's security clearance may take another six weeks to process anyway.

He has been offered a job in D.C. that he wants, but is pending his security clearance renewal and meantime he is working on getting an idea of his own off the ground. It's all very exciting and I need and want to suck it up and be patient and all that good stuff (I just replaced another word with "good stuff" -- am really working this evening on my attitude).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Really Gross

I was sleeping in on Saturday and Brody fell and split his chin. Ouch! My mom convinced Dirk he didn't need stitches. And while I am happy to not be spending the day in the ER, I really think he should have gone. We'll see how it heals up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Isaac's Birthday Party

We had a very simple party for Isaac's 6th: fill two hundred water balloons, plan elaborate games for the kids to play with said water balloons, and have them ultimately abandon these games in favor of pummeling Dirk with water balloons. It was great! Then we came inside and made pizzas and had cake. Although, after I saw how much fun they had with the volcano cake, and then playing with the leftover dry ice (carefully supervised and gloved by Dirk, of course), I think next time I will do a mad scientist party instead. I got the cake idea from It was a huge hit.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When Grandmas Attack!

Often, as my mom is leaving for work in the morning, Brody runs to her for hugs and kisses. She already has her lipstick on, so this is what he gets.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of School

Isaac was really ready for the first day of school. He didn't ride the bus this first day, but did the day after that. I was nervous about it, but he was excited. Brody cried when we walked away from the bus stop, as he has several days since, because he wants to ride the bus, too. I answer the question, "Where'd Isaac go?" about three hundred times per day.

Handsome Kid.

Gigi trying on some of Tristan's sleepers. Silly Girl.

Sad Puppy. Yes, that pile of fluff is our dog. And if he is good, I might have him groomed someday soon. But for now, he enjoys doing his impression of a dust mop.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Isaac turns 6

Our family life is flying past at a rate I am not entirely comfortable with. A short list of things I adore about my first baby:

1. He loves the cartoon classics . . . the black-and-white ones with only music and very rough animation. We stumbled across these at my mom's house and he thought they were the coolest.

2. He is extremely tough and hardly ever cries. But that is not what I love. What I love is the face he makes when he is straining not to cry, and the hurried way he looks for something to distract himself. It is so cute, but when he does this, I feel sick in my stomach, like his time with me as a child is too short and he is already becoming a little man.

3. When he rides his bike fast, sometimes he says, "Mom! It's like I'm flying!" I remember as clear as anything when I was struggling to convince him that I was holding him, that I would not drop him, that riding a bike is the best thrill of a young life, that I knew he could do it. And now I'm crying. Shoot.

4. He loves dessert. He doesn't mind eating pretty healthfully, but he really gets enthusiastic about planning elaborate treats for birthdays, FHE, other kids' birthdays, etc.

5. I loved the look on his face a few weeks ago when he got off the bus after his first day of school. He was beaming about his independence and bubbling over with chatter about all the things I'd missed.

6. Isaac loves his peeps: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings. If they are related, they're in.

7. He says "pampcakes" for pancakes, and he always mixes up tomatoes and potatos. They are the only leftover language mistakes from his little years, and I love them.

For his birthday, he wanted to be Emperor for the Day. This meant choosing everything we ate and did. I had to trick him into choosing to have us all go to church, and a couple of other mandatories, but otherwise, it was all him. He decided we should have pancakes for breakfast, with faces built on them using all manner of processed sugar items.

Opening presents!

We threw a small birthday party the following weekend, which I will post next, but for our family, I made this cake. It was tasty; layered with thin layers of chocolate brownie and chocolate pannacotta, then wrapped with dark chocolate and topped by Isaac with canned cream (his favorite; the cake was all my idea but I convinced him that it was his by suggesting he might, as Emperor, want a cake that would go perfectly with canned cream. It worked easily, and I gained great insight into world politics) If you have lain awake long nights trying to figure out a way to get the absolute maximum amount of chocolate into a cake, then this is the one for you. I will post the recipe some time soon.

That yellow thing in the pitcher off to the side was Dirk and Isaac's attempt at a parfait, because "there ain't nobody ever said they don't like no parfait," and my boys are no exceptions.