Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cat Jail


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don’t let the Perfect be the enemy of Good Enough

I already knew that I had space issues before we started moving into our house.  Because of that I drew up little diagrams of my new kitchen with all of it’s drawers and cabinets and assigned bowls and plates and mixers and pots to what seemed like good places.  Then I put post it notes on the cabinets to help keep track of what went where, and moved them around when I realized something just wasn’t working.  It was a great system, especially since having a functioning kitchen was a top priority.


I soon realized that those same issues were paralyzing me when it came to unpacking any more boxes.  Literally.  I was so overwhelmed every time we opened a new box because now I had to figure out the best places for still more stuff.  So I mostly didn’t open any more boxes.

Then one day I had a sort of epiphany.  Here I thought that I had eliminated perfectionism from my life many years ago, but it had snuck into a back door and was living in my closets.  And cabinets.  And drawers.  I was unable to unpack because I couldn’t figure out the perfect place for everything—until one day I realized “it doesn’t have to go in the perfect place, it can just go anywhere now and later I can figure out a better place if I need to.”

Throughout my life I’ve been warned occasionally “not to let the good be the enemy of the best,” or in other words, to not be satisfied with merely being good but instead to press onward to be the best.

I have decided that in some instances (perhaps many?) that the reverse is more true; that we ought not to let the best be the enemy of the good.  And that’s what I’ve told myself every time I unpacked something and a voice in the back of my head said  “that’s probably not a good place for that particular game/stapler/wrench.”  Every time it happens I tell that voice to calm down, that there will be plenty of time later for reorganizing things into “more perfect” places.

Do you know what, I think it’s working.  I’ve (slowly) been getting more stuff unpacked, and I’m feeling less stressed about it.  It’s also made me think that I need to be careful to periodically re-evaluate the assumptions I’m operating on, because let’s face it—not everything is worth doing perfectly, especially when it results in you living your life with all of your belongings packed in boxes in the garage…

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Visitor

One of Josh’s favorite cousins, John, came to visit a few weekends ago. 


Apparently this is how boys bond.


Andra, thanks for loaning us your boy!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Can you be TOO green?

I say YES!


The kids were just having an argument in the other room.  At first I just heard the sound of arguing, I had to focus in to figure out what the argument was about.

“I think they’re real!”

“No they’re not, that’s gross!”

and then

“Mom, are the spiders and scorpions in Creepers yoyos real???”


Well fortunately moms in this day and age have access to Google which answers a multitude of questions.  And THIS is what we learned.


But it was the next part that really gave me pause…



Sustainably farm raised?????

Is there such a shortage of spiders that the yoyo company needs to raise their own?  Wouldn’t they be doing the world a service if they scavenged them from the surrounding areas instead?  Like people’s houses??


Friday, February 22, 2013


I walked into the house at lunchtime today and realized something.  I was happy.  I was feeling real joy.  And since I’ve been having such a hard time for the last month, I thought that I’d better write about this moment and savor it and remember it and then remember it again.

I’ll have to back up, though, to tell the story.

Yesterday I went to play the piano for the 3rd grade choir, as I usually do on Thursdays.  This time we had to coordinate our schedules because Rachel had play practice before my choir practice, and Jared had a battle of the books after my practice.  Because I was already there I asked the teacher in charge if it was ok for me to stay and watch the battle, and she said of course.  And invited me to come back any time I wanted.

It was such fun.  There was another battle before Jared’s, so I got to sit and watch that one too.  All of the kids were clustered in their battle groups behind the teacher.  In front of the teacher, one on each side, were the battle teams with names like Socratic Skittles and Supernatural Bookworms.  The teacher sat with a parent helper and a student timer and took turns asking each team a question about one of the 16 books that they had read.  Some of the questions were pretty easy, but some were really difficult!  The thing that I liked the most was watching the teams lean together each time to answer the question.  Then after each team answered the question, the teacher and all of the children snapped instead of clapping.

Here’s a picture of Jared’s posse + another friend on their team—in the top of the picture.  This was right before their battle started.

And here is a video clip from their battle.

I enjoyed watching the battle so much (even though I couldn’t answer all of the questions!) that today I went back with the girls for their battle.  Thank goodness their girl drama seems to be over and with the addition of the new teammate they are doing really well.   Here’s a fuzzy picture of their team.  (I was trying to be relatively unobtrusive in my picture taking as the only parent-observer in the room so I took my pic without flash.)

The team that had gone before the girls was the top ranked team and neither team missed a single question until the very end.  It was very exciting to watch.  Then the girls went.  I loved watching them.

They’re just so cute.  And they were so excited.  But I also got to see them being gracious.  And having fun.  It was wonderful.

When their battle was over we trouped out into the grey afternoon, pulling hoods over our heads because of the rain and wincing at the chill in the air.  But the excitement of the battle stayed and was still with us as we walked in the door of our house a few minutes later.  And as we walked in, the girls chattering about when their next battle would probably be, and wondering if they could possibly beat the best team, I was felt joy.
Right here, right now, happy to be in this place so my kids could have this experience, happy to have been able to watch them and to see things I already love about them and some new things as well.

It felt good.  Really really good.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Valentine’s Conversations

We may not have managed much this year for Valentine’s day besides the day after half-priced chocolates (and there weren’t even that many at Fred Meyer or Albertsons, which really worries me for the future of this plan) but we did have our giant conversation cookies and spent a pleasant half hour making conversations for each other.


It’s always funny to see what random things people come up with.


And to see hearts with new things on them.  Tweet me??


Josh was much more interested in heart quantity than preserving conversation quality and he covered his cookie with hearts.



I am embarrassed to confess that Russ and I actually ate our cookies the fastest this time.  The combination of Nancy’s soft sugar cookies and my favorite frosting recipe were just too much to resist, and both of our cookies were gone within 24 hours.  Yum, yum!

Nancy’s Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sour cream
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
3 1/4 c. flour
1 t. bkg soda
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt

Cream butter, sour cream, and egg.  Add dry ingredients and vanilla.  Doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling out.  Bake at 375 until just starting to turn brown around the edges.  (Times vary for such big cookies—I think I did mine for about 12 minutes at 350 on convection bake.)

Delicious Butter-Cream Frosting

4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. softened butter
6 T. cream
1 t. vanilla

Mix powdered sugar, salt, and softened butter.  Add cream and mix till fluffy, then add vanilla.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moving forward while cherishing the past


[Mormon Temples are a place where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe we can learn about Heavenly Father's plan for us, and make sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father that are necessary for us to return and live with him again.  If you are interested you can learn more about temples here.]

One of the hardest things to leave behind in North Carolina was our monthly temple night.  For years and years we’ve gone to the temple almost every month.  At some (wonderful, brilliant) point we asked Ken & Alisyn if they wanted to go with us, and a tradition was born.  Each month I’d meet them at their house and we’d drive together to the temple, usually meeting Russ there.  Sometimes Russ would work that afternoon from home and we’d all drive together.  After we were done at the temple, we’d always go out for dinner, usually at Panera Bread.  Where occasionally we’d fight over the last bowl of Broccoli Cheddar soup. 

Throughout the years other friends joined us from time to time, but Ken & Alisyn were our regular temple friends and I think it really deepened our friendship.  In the midst of busy lives we had that hour long drive to the temple to look forward to each month.  We always found interesting things to talk about, and in all of the years we only had to make one emergency bathroom stop.  In the temple we would sit in the Celestial room together and talk quietly about thoughts that we had had that evening.  Then there was dinner with everyone’s favorite soup and more conversation, followed by the hour long ride home with Russ. 

One of the last things we did before Russ left for Oregon last February was to go one more time to the temple together.


I went with them again before the kids and I left Oregon, this time with Ann too.  That evening was an incredibly sacred experience for me, and I left the temple knowing with a certainty that Heavenly Father was deeply aware of me, and with one last beautiful memory of our time together in the temple.


For people who’d had such a long-standing once-a-month temple habit, it was a few months after I arrived in Oregon (and then re-arrived) before we were able to go to the temple again.  Our ward here announced a ward temple night and with some trepidation Russ & I decided we’d go.  It wasn’t that we had anxiety about going to the temple, but we did have anxiety and sadness about going without our regular temple people!

We made it through that first night and enjoyed seeing the beautiful Portland temple.  It was the last large temple built before they starting building the smaller ones, and it really is imposing.

Even after going that first time, we’ve had a hard time really getting back into a once a month temple routine—we moved again, Russ hurt his back, I started having my stomach problems, life has been busy, etc.  But last month we decided that it was a new year and we were going to figure out a way to make it happen again.  (After all—we don’t even have to make an appointment here!) 

So one foggy evening in January I met Russ at work and we headed off to the temple together. 


After we were done at the temple we headed to the Olive Garden (there’s no Panera near the temple) and shared a meal.  The evening was wonderful—just what we needed in so many ways.  As we drove back home I thought again about our years of temple nights in North Carolina, and what a special place those will always hold in our hearts.  Right now I can’t conceive of something like that ever happening here—it takes a long time to get to that point in a friendship, and I don’t know how many times in a person’s life they get to have friends like that.  So for now it’s going to be the two of us going to the temple together, and that’s ok.  But every time we go, I’ll be thinking of other temple nights and how grateful I am to have had them.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Growing Up

Last month Rachel decided (much to my surprise) that she was ready for a haircut.  She went from this


to this.

IMG_4754hair (4)

She’s not a little girl anymore!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Life


A couple of weeks ago I started noticing that my weeks had pattern—every week was far busier than I was used to and far busier than I wanted it to be. 

Every week ended with me, exhausted and overwhelmed, making the resolution that next week I would get control of things and then my life would be “back to normal.”

I miss my normal life.  I’ve tried hard to get it back.  I’ve tried to go to bed earlier and to schedule my life more carefully, hoping that those things would help me get back to normal.

And then one day it occurred to me.  (Or the spirit spoke to me.)  I can’t get my normal life back—because this is a new life.  It is not simply the old life, transplanted to a new place.

The old life was far away from everything.  Because of that, we didn’t go places very often.  In the old life the kids were only home schooled.  In the old life we didn’t have drop-in visitors very often because we did live so far away from everything and everyone.  In the old life there were lots of days that I never left my house (or my yard anyway) and I was happy with it that way.

This new life is so different.  We live close to everything.  We go lots of places.  I go exercise three mornings a week.  I go to play the piano for the choir two times a week.  The kids go to school five mornings a week.  Sometimes they go back at lunchtime for choir, or for play practice, or for the battle of the books.  The girls go to color guard and flute lessons.  Jared hangs out with his posse every afternoon.  They babysit one dog and walk another every afternoon.  People from my ward drop by to pick something up or drop something off.  They stay and chat for a while. 

It’s all so different and it feels busy so much of the time; far more than I am comfortable with.  But on that day I realized something about my “normal life.”  That I need to stop waiting for it, and I need to stop whining about it.  (Yeah, that’s me—the waiting whiner.)  Because as hard as it has been for me to accept, that life is gone, left behind in a beautiful neighborhood of hills and curvy roads and beautiful trees.  This life here is a new life; something different that is still being revealed.  Hopefully something that can be equally beautiful.  So I need to figure out how to survive and (more importantly) how to thrive in this life, since it seems clear that this is Heavenly Father’s plan for us right now. 

I’m not sure at all how to accomplish this.  But I’m pretty sure it starts with letting go of the old normal, and embracing the new normal.  With an end-of-week evaluation that assesses what’s working well and where I need to make adjustments, rather than an end-of-week whine fest.  And that it includes taking a nap…

In Dreams

Russ’s boss came back to work this week after an 8 week sabbatical.  We’ve looked forward to this moment with mixed feelings.  With his boss gone Russ’s workload (already unmanageable) was almost doubled, but his work atmosphere was much more pleasant.  Sure enough, at the end of the boss’s first day back Russ looked like he had been horsewhipped—beaten down by a barrage of criticism about the decisions that he had made in his boss’s absence. 

That night I had an odd dream; I dreamed that I met with the wife of Russ’s co-worker and we sat at a picnic table at a park and talked about our worries about our husbands and their jobs. 

I always find it interesting when my dreams mirror my life.  Usually they are random; sometimes bizarrely so.  But every now and they they reflect what is going on in my life with an accuracy that is eerie.

Last night’s dream was an interesting combination of real life and randomness.  I dreamed that we rented a llama for the day.  When the owner came to pick it up I invited them in to use the bathroom.  Much to my surprise they went in a previously undiscovered entrance and discovered another bathroom and bedroom in our house that we had not known about.  And in my dream, my first thought was that I needed to take pictures so that I could blog about this new part of our house!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Morning Fog

One morning in January it was super cold and foggy.  I couldn’t resist snapping some interesting pictures…


fog (2)

One of the bonuses of having all of these huge evergreens around is that they have the very best silhouettes.

fog (6)

fog (4)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines Schmalentines

It’s been a crazy week.  They’re all crazier than I’d like, (more on that later) but this one has been particularly busy.  In addition to the wonderful moments I detailed in my post on Wednesday, my week has included a dress rehearsal, a very long (and wonderful concert), and a court of honor.  Several days have been nap-less and several nights have been super-late.  So yes…I didn’t come into Valentine’s day at my best.

It was a busy day.  Regular school, choir, a bunch of cleaning, short nap, dinner making, etc.  Russ came home a little late because he had to pick up his prescription and some last minute dinner ingredients, and he brought with him some lovely flowers and candy. 

[I should stop and interject that our “new” valentine’s tradition, at least with the kids, is to buy candy the day after so that they get more bang for our buck.  So nothing that happened can be ascribed to any kind of sugar high.  No, that was tonight.]

I was finishing up dinner (delicious muchachas) and trying at the same time to get our one big valentine’s tradition ready—our super-sized sugar cookies.  The kids were already a little crazy before we sat down to eat dinner, and by the time we were eating, oh my.  By the end of the meal Josh was standing on his chair, bouncing up and down while screeching.  The other kids, taking their cue from him, were either manic or whiny.  I was not sure if I was going to be able to get away from the table with my sanity intact.

When we were done eating we tied Josh to a chair and gagged him told Josh he needed to calm down and sent the other kids to bed.  They were a bit offended at being sent off so early, but since they’d been up till 9:30 Wednesday night and were going to be getting up at 6:30 on Friday, I felt ok about doing that.  In fact, I felt great about it.

I helped get things cleaned up and then sat down on the couch thinking that I would get something done, but before too long I could tell that I was a lost cause. 

I went to bed at 8:51.

Today everyone seems to have settled back to their normal-ish selves.  I am reminded again of how awesome these kids usually are, and I am grateful that last night was an anomaly and not a regular occurrence.  Cause I’m not sure how many of those I have in me…


(This picture doesn’t have anything to do with what I just wrote about—it’s from Friday which was pink day at school.  I love seeing the fashion ideas my cute girls come up with.)

Lunch at Panera and best & worst lists


Monday Jan 7th was Mahon and Cindy Lynn’s last day here.  We took Josh out of school for an hour and all had lunch at Panera bread.  My desire was that we all have some time together again before CL & M flew out and it worked very well.  Since we hadn't had time to do our New Year's highs & lows before that (we were busy with LotR on New Years) we did it there at Panera.  Except for Jenna who had made a 2 page masterpiece of highs & lows all throughout the morning.  That girl is a list-making wonder, and her personality just shines through her lists.  We had a great time eating and then each sharing our lists. 

jenna list

Funny story.  On the way to the high school there is a wetland area that has a little stream going through it.  When it's rained a lot (as it has this winter) there's quite a bit of water in it.  Well a couple of weeks ago Josh told me that there was a dead beaver beside the wetland on the way to the school, and then one time when I picked him up he pointed it out to me.  So of course (because I am strange this way) every time I drive past I have to peek at it--because there is a beaver tail to look at!  Well the kids & Mahon & Cindy Lynn & I were going to pick Josh up from school to take him to lunch, and I asked if they wanted me to show them the dead beaver and of course they all said yes.  We slowed down nicely to point it out and the girls all said "eewwww" just like I knew they would.  But the funny thing was that then they put "seeing a dead beaver" on their "bad" lists for 2012!  (Although seeing the dead beaver happened on January 7th, 2013.)  And then Jared, who didn't make a "good" and "bad" list, but instead made a "pros" and "cons" list (so funny!) put "seeing a dead beaver" on his "pros" list!!  There are times that I just adore my kids and this was definitely one of them.  Panera was a good way to end our time together.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh. My. Heck.

My day started unexpectedly when the phone rang at 7:00 AM.  I struggled out of bed and ran into the kitchen (will we ever find any more phones???) thinking that surely if the phone was ringing so early it must be one of the kids saying they had forgotten something necessary for band.  Instead it was a Vonage service person, calling to talk to Russ about some question he had.  I refrained from telling him what I thought of anyone calling at 7AM, and gave him Russ’s number.

I drank my coconut water (if it’s cold I’m starting not to mind it as much) and had my piece of peanut butter toast, something I had never eaten before in my life before I had stomach problems, but have eaten every morning since.  (The one morning I had jelly toast instead my stomach hurt terribly.)  After eating I made myself get into my exercise clothes and made my way to Curves.  Where, when I was done exercising, the mother of a (part-time) schoolmate of Rachel made some comments to me about how unfair and hurtful Rachel has been towards her daughter, and how upset both she and her daughter (who has been very ugly towards Rachel, bless her heart) are.

It was late enough when I left curves that I only had time to pick the kids up from school (they had just finished their PE & music classes) and run Rachel and Jared over to the dentist to get their teeth cleaned, still in my workout clothes.  There was a receptionist there that I hadn’t met before, and she asked where my cell phone phone number was from.  When I said North Carolina, she asked me what North Carolina was like.  On this grey and dreary day, that question was almost more than I could handle.  I’m sure she had no idea how close to tears her many kind questions had me.

After a few minutes of talking about North Carolina I ran next door to our credit union where I opened 8 new savings accounts.  Hooray for being able to handle our finances better!

I finished at the credit union just as the kids were done at the dentist.  We just barely had time to run and get them burgers and then rush back to the house (me still in workout clothes) to drop off Jared and pick up Jenna for choir.  The girl’s choir has moved to Wednesday during early lunch for this semester, followed by the 4th grade choir during the later lunch period.  The previous choir accompanist (who was 85) has not returned since her emergency surgery in the winter so I have continued to play the piano for the 3 elementary school choirs.

The girls went into choir practice but I told them that I was going to be a few minutes late, and went in search of one of the 6th grade teachers to talk about Rachel’s problem with the school friend.  The teacher was kind and said that she would handle the problem between the girls, and I went off to choir happy.

Except that when I got into the music room all of the kids were like “there you are, we’ve been waiting for you!!!”  It turns out that the music teacher was absent today and the substitute had no musical background at all.  So one of the 6th graders who plays the piano had been trying to help the choir practice.  When I arrived they all looked at me as if of course I would teach them the music as well as play it.  After 10 minutes with them I had 20 minutes with the 4th graders as well.  By the time I was done my throat hurt and I was feeling deeply grateful to all of the wonderful primary accompanists I had over the years, because it turns out that it’s not so much fun to try to teach the music and accompany yourself at the same time.  Kind of exhausting too.  Maybe I should have gotten paid for subbing??

I left the school and went home, worn out by my day.  And when I got home I had to laugh.  It was only 12:27… But believe me, I was done.  For. the. day.

And while we’re talking about houses…


Don’t you wish your house matched your car???

(I promise, in real life the colors are much closer!)

(I also promise that the across the neighbors probably think I’m a stalker because I keep driving by and taking pictures of this house.  But I was determined to get a good one!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Christmas Picture

Doing some catchup blogging….

Proof that some Christmas sewing happened, even if it was post-Christmas.

DSC_0008 (2) p



Monday, February 11, 2013

My Lucky Day (post script)

I was just sorting through some pictures and realized that I hadn’t included these in my post about Russ’s birthday.  I will go back and add them in, but I just had to post them where they’ll be seen too because they’re such fun!  (Well except to my kids who were pretty grossed out….)


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yard Possibilities


We’re reconsidering our traditional shrubs & water feature yard scheme and thinking of going with something like this.


In case you can’t see that clearly enough, let me help you.


Now THAT’s recycling!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Icy Beauty

Russ is out of town, having his annual visit with his parents in Utah, so I got to take the kids to band at 7 this morning.  The windshield was unexpectedly icy, and while I was cleaning it off the kids discovered that Russ’s car was also icy, but in a much more beautiful way.  When I got back I grabbed my camera and took some pictures.


Even the pond had strange lacy frozen shapes on it.  You would think these are frozen leaves, but there are no leaves on the surface of the pond.


I’m not normally a fan of early mornings, but I was glad that I got to see this one…

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Just like watching paint dry, only better.

I’m not sure what it says about us that we are so entertained by watching the german pancakes cook in our new oven.  But we are.  One day we set up the tripod and Mahon took time-lapse pictures.  (I know.  We are total nerds.)  Another day we just videotaped it.  I thought that turned out best, so here you are.  Two minutes of real-time (not sped up) german pancake fun…

(also two minutes of your life that you will never get back…but don’t think of it that way!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Big Renovation Project

We’ve done it.  Started our first big rennovation project.  One that has made every child in our house very sad…but I just had to do it. 

Those walls full of glass in the entry are history. 

2 entry (2)

I probably never did get a good picture that showed the full glory of that wrap around wall and ceiling of smoky glass, darn it. 

It was a cool place to put our Christmas tree this year—nothing like seeing 3 trees instead of 1!


If we had been running a dance studio those mirrors would have come in handy, and everyone could check their clothes there.


But the fact was, the mirrors were very dark in an already dark part of the house.  So I offered Josh $100 to take them down.  In the end Russ & I were both worried that they would come down in shattered dangerous shards, so Russ helped him.  And we prepped the entry as if we were painting black paint with a paint sprayer.  Plus covered the floor with layers of flattened packing boxes.


Russ worked up high,


and Josh was down lower with goggles and a mask.


In the end, in what I consider a monumental tender mercy, everything came down pretty easily.  Even the piece from the ceiling, once Russ scored it to break it.

And here is what we are left with.


Already the entry seems much lighter (which I expected) and much smaller (which I did not.) 

I think that once we’re used to the more finite space, we won’t regret it.  At least I won’t…now to get someone to fix the wall!