Monday, April 30, 2012

Hanging Out in the Shallow End

In a moment of unjustified optimism a while back, I promised my kids I would take them swimming. For some reason, at just that moment I thought that I was perfectly capable of taking four small children - none of whom have yet had swimming lessons - to the pool by myself. So when they begged to go to the pool, I said yes. Not convinced that I would follow through, they pressed me to set a specific date that we would go swimming. After some calendar juggling, I picked Saturday, April 28th as the big day. And believe me, Haley is perfectly capable of tracking the upcoming date on a calendar and reminding me (and her brothers) daily of when the date would arrive. So there was really no getting out of it.

And as the date got closer, I was wishing for a way to get out of it. I was really starting to wonder about my ability to manage all the kids without having one of them take off to the deep end on me. Then the day before the big day, I came down with a nasty cold. Plus I had a lot of work that I needed to get done over the weekend. I really felt like just staying home all day in my sweats and letting the kids run wild while I worked on my presentations. But there was Haley, reminding me that tomorrow was the day I promised to take them swimming. And there were three sets of big blue eyes shining with excitment at the upcoming trip to the pool (Rylen didn't know or care about the upcoming activity). *sigh* I wasn't going to get out of this one.

Saturday morning arrived... and I realized something exciting. Aaron had too many hours at work. And he had to stay late to host a recital Saturday night. Which meant he wasn't going to work until 2:00 p.m. Which meant if I moved our plans for an afternoon swim to a morning swim, I could have another adult with me on this adventure! Aaron took a bit of persuading. (I believe his exact response when I broached the idea was a groan and: "I was afraid you'd think of that.") But after some pretty pleasing on my part, he gave in and we took off for the rec center.

We had fun at the pool. The kids really enjoyed splashing around and playing on the slides. Rylen liked playing with the fountains - though I really thought he'd enjoy it more than he seemed to, given his love of bathtime. It was probably just the strangeness of it and he'll like it more the next time. Preston started eyeing the BIG waterslide as soon as we got there and was convinced that he wanted to ride it. We warned him that it would move pretty fast and that at the end, he would probably have to go all the way underwater, but he was sure that he wanted to try it. So I agreed to take him down the slide (he's too little to go on his own). Brekken and Haley clamored go with me next, but he got to go first since it was his big idea. We climbed the stairs and from the top he looked down with wide eyes: "Wow! We're really up high!" And then he looked at the rushing water heading down the slide: "Wow! That's really fast!" I double-checked... are you sure you want to do this? And he looked at me and exclaimed: "Yes! This is so exciting!"

So I sat down with him between my legs, we pushed off, and away we went! And you know, that water WAS really fast. Quite a bit faster than I had expected it to be, actually. I tried to brace my feet against the side of the slide to slow us down just a little, and had absolutely no success. So I just held on to Preston a little tighter and accepted that we were going to go down fast. I warned him... "We're going so fast, I'm sure we're going to go under water at the end, so be prepared to hold your breath." And as we rounded the last turn, I told him: "Take a big breath now - here we go!" And it dumped us into the pool. Under we went. I had hold of Preston around the waist and I pushed him up ahead of me. I could feel his head break the surface a little ahead of mine. I came up for air and there he was... sputtering, shaking water off his face, and eyes huge with shock.

"Are you ok?" I asked.


"Was that fun?"


"Do you want to go again?"

"No way!!"

Haley and Brekken had watched us go down the slide and go under at the end... they both opted out of a trip down the big slide and decided to stick with the kiddie slide for now. LOL

It really was a great morning. Aaron even had fun and said he'd be willing to do it again. And having done it once with company, I really think next time I CAN do it on my own. Especially since the most complicated part was getting everyone changed from street clothes to swimsuits and back. (Why is changing clothes such a difficult task? It's not like they've never done it before.) That part will be easier once summer is fully here and I can have everyone go to the pool already in their swimsuits and leave still in their swimsuits... they can drip-dry on the way home.

(And a nice side benefit to this little excursion... I had been having back troubles again and that morning had a hard time even bending down enough to pick up the baby. A couple of hours in the nice warm pool and my back muscles stopped spasming! The whole rest of the day I was able to bend and twist easily... it was great! That alone is enough to convince me to take the kids back to the pool.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting? (part 3)

So in the last post I promised a recipe for Lasagna Soup. This stuff is incredibly good. And pretty easy. Easier than making lasagna, even in the crockpot. I might never make real lasagna again.

The recipe looks long. And generally a recipe that long can kind of scare me off. I guess my general assumption is that if it takes that many words to write it down, it's going to take more time and effort than I want to expend to cook it. But my friend Sarah had raved about this recipe so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. It's actually not complicated and doesn't take that long to put it together. The hardest part was waiting for it to be finished so we could eat it! I cooked the pasta separately and just added it to each bowl. (I didn't want it to go mushy since Aaron and I were eating later than the kids.) It was a scoop of "cheesy yum," add a couple scoops of pasta, ladle on enough soup to cover the cheese and pasta, then top with a sprinkle of mozzarella. It was so good. So very, very good. Writing this post has reminded me just how good. I am going to have make it again. Soon.

We're not huge fans of chicken at our house. Actually, let me rephrase that. Aaron doesn't like chicken. Then rest of us like it fine. (Unless I'm pregnant - then I can't stand the sight, smell or even thought of chicken. Or eggs. But since I'm not pregnant, I am fine with eating chicken.) But even though Aaron doesn't like chicken, I thought this recipe looked interesting and decided to give it a try. It's quick. It's easy. And it tastes pretty good. As Aaron described it: "It doesn't taste so much like chicken. That makes it okay." I added some panko bread crumbs to the topping for a little extra crunch. I like it quite a bit, so I plan to keep making it.

So I was about to say that this recipe was unsuccessful, but the more I thought about it, I realized that I really didn't give it a fair shake. It's kind of like when a movie comes out that was "inspired by a true story" and then it turns out that the actual events were nothing like what happened in the movie? But hey, it doesn't have to be real, it was just INSPIRED by the true story. That's kind of what happened with this recipe. I decided to make it for dinner on Sunday - and because it was Sunday I was limited to the ingredients in my pantry. No running out to the store for the one ingredient you need! But I thought I had most things... I didn't take an actual inventory of the things in my pantry, just a quick browse through in my head.

To start off, I didn't have time to cook it in the crockpot. Plus I was kind of worried that the spaghetti would turn to much in the crockpot. So I decided to just make it as an oven casserole instead. So I cooked the spaghetti. (Strike one against this as a crockpot recipe. I've already mentioned my dislike of having to cook things ahead when it's going into the crockpot.) Then I was going to cook the chicken, but Aaron insisted that I use some other protein. (He really doesn't like chicken.) So I substituted beef instead because that's all I had. I did have the Velveeta. (Not because I keep it on hand, but because I'd bought it ahead with plans to use it in this recipe.) I added the cream soups. Then realized I didn't have the diced tomatoes. Okay... I'll just add some tomato sauce. The kids don't like chunks of tomato anyway. Oh, and I'm out of green chilies? (How did that happen? I always have those.) Oh well, I guess it just won't be spicy. And the mushrooms are gone too? (I really need to go grocery shopping.) Well, there are bits of mushroom in the cream of mushroom soup. No onion... the dehydrated ones will have to do. And then I stirred it all together into a big mess and tried to get that darned Velveeta to melt. It took forever... it just stayed as a big lump of semi-cheesiness. Ick. When I finally got everything mixed together, I dumped it in a casserole dish and topped it with a little panko - jsut because it seemed like it needed some extra texture and I really like panko. It was okay. Not horrible. But not great. And it seems like I can hardly blame the recipe, because I barely followed the recipe at all. And yet... my version was inspired by the recipe. Specifically the Velveeta part of it. It's not something I've ever cooked with before (really, my only experience with Velveeta is that my dad uses it as bait when he goes fishing), but I thought I'd give the recipe a try. And as it turns out, the Velveeta was my least favorite part of the recipe. It was gooey and glumpy and didn't taste very good. I think I'll stick to thinking of it as fish food instead of people food.

Okay, last one for now... Krispy Kreme Muffins (
The Pinterest pin calls them Krispy Kreme Muffins, though the actual blog post calls them Glazed Doughnut Muffins. Being a huge fan of sweets in general, doughnuts in particular and especially Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, I just had to give these a try. For weeks I kept telling myself that I was going to make these on the weekend. But finding time to bake is little difficult with all these little ones. But I finally had a chance to make them this week when I had a kid-free hour (I had to work at home because of a doctor's appointment and thus had the hour I would normally spent commuting home free for little projects like this). They're pretty simple and quick enough that I was able to mix up the batter and bake the muffins in the allotted hour. I made the glaze later that night and glazed the muffins shortly before eating them for dessert/bedtime snack. I have to say, I don't know why the pinner would call them Krispy Kreme Muffins, because they don't taste anything like a Krispy Kreme doughnut. For that matter, I don't know why the original recipe refers to doughnuts, either, because they really bear no resemblance to doughnuts... except for the glaze I guess. That's similar to a doughnut. But you could just call it a sugar-glazed muffin, because that's what it is. But don't take that to mean that we didn't like them! They are really great muffins. They have a perfect muffin texture - a little dense and not too crumbly. They are not too sweet and have just enough cinnamon. The glaze is fantastic and I will definitely find other places that I can use it. I double-dipped the muffins so there would be plenty of that sugary vanilla goodness. The kids liked them (Brekken devoured two in about 3 minutes flat while I was out of the room) and so did Aaron and I. The recipe says it makes 12 muffins - I must not have filled my muffin cups as full as hers because I got 18 muffins out of the batch. I put half in the freezer so we wouldn't try to eat the whole big bunch in a day, and the one I defrosted (strictly as a test for the blog, not because I was sneaking an extra muffin!) stood up to the freezing and defrosting very well. Big thumbs-up for the Sugar-Glazed Muffins!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting? (part 2)

To recap... what happens when an average mom and homemaker, average crafter, average cook takes on the incredible projects, ideas, and recipes found on Pinterest? Sometimes it's great! And sometimes it's not. Here's a few more results of our Pinterest experimentation:

 Let me just say: A-MAZE-ING! This salmon was awesome. I loved the teriyaki salmon and the spicy mayo was a great touch. But if you don't want the extra calorie count from the mayo, the salmon is still great without it. After I took the salmon out of the oven, I broke off a piece to make sure it was done and gave it a quick taste. And then I had another quick taste, because the first taste was SO good. I think I ate about a quarter of my salmon before I managed to get everything plated and ready to "officially" eat. I think I served it with rice, but I don't really remember - the side dish was pretty forgettable. But the salmon was delicious and - even better - super easy. I mixed up a quick marinade in a gallon ziploc bag, dropped the fillets in with the marinade and put the bag in the fridge for about an hour. Then I used the tip from the 2nd link above about how to cook a perfect salmon fillet. Fish is something I always seem to have trouble cooking to the right level of doneness. But this method (put salmon in cold oven, turn oven on to 400 degrees, leave it alone for 25 minutes) is my kind of cooking! And... perfect. The salmon was just right. This is a recipe you've got to try!

Baked Fontina (
This recipe also turned out well. It was easy and fast - two of my requirements for a truly successful recipe. And Aaron, the kids, and I all liked it. I don't have a cast-iron pan like the recipe calls for, so I cooked it in a stoneware baking dish and that worked just fine. I think pyrex or any other casserole dish would work, too. I had to cook mine under the broiler for longer than the recipe called for, but that's probably because I was too lazy to move the rack closer to the broiler. It only took a few minutes longer - not a big deal. We ate the melted cheese with chunks of homemade bread and it was yummy!One thing I will say is that this recipe makes a lot. Even with four kids and two adults eating it as a meal, (yes, I know that's not the most nutritious meal - next time I'll plan ahead and have some veggies or something to dip as well as the bread) we couldn't quite finish. So you might want to cut down the recipe some. Also, the cheese starts to firm up again pretty quick. By the end, we were basically just cutting off hunks of warm - but no longer melty - cheese and placing it on a piece of bread. Maybe if you had something like a tiny crockpot (d'oh! I HAVE one of those! I didn't think about using it until just this minute) or a fondue set to keep the cheese warm and gooey it would be better. But even when it set up a little, it was still very tasty.

This makes some pretty decent lasagna! I really love lasagna, but it's a lot of work to make it. This recipe definitely cuts down on the effort required. I'm not a fan of having to brown the ground beef before adding it to the crockpot... this is because I am lazy when it comes to crockpot cooking. I really prefer to just throw everything in as-is and let it go. So from that point of view, the recipe takes a bit more effort than your standard crockpot meal. You have to layer the beef and sauce and noodles and cheeses. But then you do get to walk away and leave it to cook on its own. Of course, you get to walk away and leave it alone in the oven when you make it the traditional way, too. So really, the main difference is that you don't have to cook the lasagna noodles ahead of time. And let's face it, that's the part that is the biggest pain when it comes to making lasagna. Cooking the noodles... and just the right amount so that they're completely cooked in the final dish, but not too much so that they've turned to mush when you serve the lasagna. And then keeping the cooked noodles from all sticking together as you're getting ready to layer them in your casserole dish is always a pain for me. And I generally either don't cook enough noodles so I have to stop halfway through my layers to cook more or overcompensate and cook too many noodles... and I don't really have a good recipe for leftover lasagna noodles. So the crockpot version eliminates those noodle headaches - though maybe I'm the only one who gets so worked up over lasagna noodles. And the final product tastes pretty good, too. Though it is lacking the slightly crisped texture of the cheese on the top of the casserole that you get when it cooks in the oven. That's a matter of taste, though. I like it, Aaron doesn't. So he was fine with the crockpot version. I'll probably make this again... but if you want a really great lasagna-type recipe, come back for the next part of Pinterest recaps so I can direct you to an incredible lasagna soup recipe!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting?

I love Pinterest, but it sometimes it seems like the people making these crafts and meals must be Martha Stewart clones... incredibly talented crafters, perfect mothers, immaculate housekeepers, and gourmet cooks in their spare time.
As for myself, I'm an okay crafter... if I find time to spend on it. A mother who tries hard... but doesn't always live up to my own standards. A housekeeper... who never has time or energy to clean. And a decent cook... but more concerned with finding quick and easy food that my kids will eat than cooking impressive meals.

So recently I've read several blogs where the authors posted things they've recently found on Pinterest, just to share with their readers some things they liked. And while I enjoy those posts (because I often find something else to pin for myself) I didn't want to do a post like that. What I find more interesting is how these great recipes and projects turn out when someone like me is doing it. Someone who is pretty average and decidely unlike Martha Stewart.

Vinegar as Weed Killer (

I loved this idea! I hate weeds. Our front yard is xeriscaped with wood chips and rock because we couldn't keep a lawn alive. But the weeds still flourish in spite of everything I do to get rid of them. But pulling the weeds is time- and labor-intensive. (And believe me, I've tried to convince the kids that it's fun to help me pull weeds. They don't fall for that.) And I hate to spray poison on the weeds because I worry about the kids getting into it. So I tried the vinegar. Actually, I had the kids try the vinegar. I filled some spray bottles with white vinegar and send the three older kids out to battle the weeds. They had a grand time spraying down all the weeds they could find. (And the van... which resulted in a quick trip to the car wash.) And hey, it kept them busy for a good hour, so that was a definite win. Within a day, some of the weeds had turned yellow and brittle and very dead-looking. Woo-hoo! But other weeds and some grass that crept into the front yard (WHY will grass grow so well now when we don't want it?) seemed completely unaffected. They were all: "Vinegar? Please. You're going to have to do better than that." So I tried again the next weekend. I tried a stronger mix that someone had recommended... a mixture of vinegar, salt and dishsoap. Again the kids sprayed all the weeds liberally. Again they were entertained and outdoors getting some fresh air. And again, the stronger weeds and grass were pretty much unaffected. This time it was more like: "Okay. *cough, cough* So I'm a little sick. But I'm definitely not dead! And I'll be stronger than ever soon!" So as much as I love the idea of vinegar as weed killer, it's not working with the particular weeds in my yard. Guess it's back to the other options.

Easy, Cheap Food Storage (

I've really had the feeling lately that I need to do something to beef up our food storage. (Which currently consists of approximately 20 pages of expired Ramen Noodles and a dozen boxes of Cocoa Roos.) But every time I look at a food storage plan it starts to seem overwhelming, or I can't figure out where to store it, and I just end up not doing it. But this one seems so simple! An easy way to store rice and beans in old 2-liter bottles. Rice and beans are cheap - and I already have some in the pantry. The need for 2-liter bottles provides me with an excuse to buy some Pepsi. The compact size means it's easy to find places to store the bottles. And while I'll need more than just rice and beans eventually, you can do a  lot with just rice and beans if you need to. So I have the rice, I have some 2-liter bottles, I have some bay leaves, I have a space to store it... and I've just stalled out. The 2-liter bottles are just sitting on my counter, taunting me with my inability to follow through. This weekend I'm storing rice and beans! Really! I mean that. ... Probably.

Wow... I apparently have a lot to say about these little project updates. More than I want to ramble on about in a single post. More than you want to take time to read about in a single post. So I'll follow up with more of our Pinterest project results in another post. (Because I should definitely be taking time to blog... After all, I'm two weeks away from a week-long convention for nearly 350 people where I'm in charge of all the sessions and I don't yet have my materials ready.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I was just reading a post on facebook that asked people about the rudest or most socially awkward thing anyone had ever said to them. A couple came to my mind, but the one that really struck me was the time that I was the one making the socially inept comments. It was an accident, I swear!

It was back in college. I was taking an education course where we were finishing up the term with a big group project. I was in a group with a couple of girls around my age (19-20ish) and one older lady who told us that she had returned to college because now that her kids were in college she was trying to keep up with them. (We'll call her Jane because I certainly can't remember her name after all this time.)

On our last day of group work, we all brought in pieces of the project and were finalizing our display in preparation for turning it all over to the professor. And Jane suddenly realized that she had left a critical piece at home. Luckily she lived close to campus, so was able to call home and ask someone bring it up to her.

Shortly before class ended, the door opened and a very attractive young man came in. He looked around for a moment, then spotted our group and headed our way. The younger girls and I all kind of sat up a little straighter, fluffed our hair, put on a smiley face... you know, all those things young women do when they spot a good-looking guy.

He came over to the group and handed Jane the piece of the project she needed. She thanked him and quickly introduced him around the group... girls, this is John. John these are the girls... Then she thanked him again and he left.

When he was gone, I turned to her and gushed something along the lines of: "Wow, your son is SO cute! Does he have a girlfriend? Would he like one? I haven't had a date in a few weeks - how about you set me up?"

To which she frostily replied: "That was my husband, not my son. He's a couple of years younger than me, but he hardly looks young enough to be my son." Then she didn't speak to me for the rest of the term.

Oops. But for the record, he totally looked young enough to be her son. Maybe he was close to her age and just aging really well. Maybe he was close to her age and she was not aging very well. Or maybe there really was 15 years difference in their ages. But I was not the only one in that group to assume that he was young enough to be her son. I was just the only one to blurt it out that way...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm Glad I Blog

I've complained before that I have a memory like a sieve. I just can't seem to hold onto things I want to remember. Thank goodness for Outlook and an iPhone to help me keep track of my days! And it also makes me glad that I have a blog to help me remember things - both big and little - that happen in our family.

Case in point... on Sunday we had a wonderful Relief Society lesson about temples and temple work. Throughout the lesson I kept thinking: I know I have a great story about some temple work I did for an ancestor. What was her name? Sarah? Sarah something. I used to know that name so clearly; I can't believe I've forgotten it.

It's been bugging me for days. In quiet moments my mind would keep working at the problem. Sarah who? Was Sarah the first name or the middle name? I know it was my family line on my dad's side... but I can't come up with it.

And then tonight I remembered. I think awhile back I wrote a blog post about that particular experience. So I went searching through the blog, and there it was. And while I remembered the basics of the story, there were some great details in that post that I'd forgotten. Including Sarah's full name: Sarah Matilda France.

I'm sure glad I blog!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Fletcher Ears For Me

Fletcher ears. They're large. Sometimes very large. And they stick out. Way out.

You see my Great Grandpa Fletcher's ears? Yeah, like that. That's where the term "Fletcher ears" comes from. Whenever a kid in the family has large ears that stick out from their head, we comment that they got the Fletcher ears.

I've always been glad that I didn't get the Fletcher ears. I just didn't realize how far mine go in the opposite direction. Because really, unless they're sticking out and drawing attention, who really pays attention to ears? I certainly never have.

But today I went to see the audiologist. The reason for this appointment is that Aaron keeps commenting on how I never seem to understand anything people say to me. And I have to turn the TV up very loud and turn the captions on. And he says things like: "Go get your hearing checked! Please!"

To which I responded: "What?"

So anyway, once he repeated himself enough times I made an appointment to have my hearing checked. And while I was there, the audiologist kept commenting that I had very small ears. And switching her instruments for smaller and smaller versions. At one point, she kept trying different sizes of earpieces for a particular piece of equipment and finally got the smallest size to fit. And she told me: "I'm glad that one worked! Otherwise I was going to have to go get the child-size kit."

Then they started trying on hearing aids... and we almost had to go child-size on those, too. But at least that means they're small and discreet. :)

Turns out I have almost no function in the outer part of my inner ear. Which means that I actually have near normal hearing (it's on the low end of normal, but not considered impaired yet). But while I can hear the sounds, the sounds don't get transmitted correctly all the way through my ear. So I can hear people talking, but I can't understand what they are saying. Especially if there's any kind of background noise.And at my house, when ISN"T there background noise?

So I currently have a pair of practically child-size hearing aids on a loaner basis. I'm supposed to try them out for a week and see if they help enough to make it worth buying a pair. (Since of course our crappy insurance doesn't cover them.)

Right this minute I'm listening to Preston whine his way down the hallway. I actually could hear what he was complaining about all the way into the bedroom. Maybe this is not an improvement...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Changing Lives: Book by Book

We're still working on our goal of collecting 1,000 books (grade levels 4-8) and $600 to donate a library to a community in need. If you can help, please let us know! (We've even made it easy by putting that DONATE button right over there in the sidebar.--->>)

I thought I'd share a story we recently recieved from the African Library Project.

After a Decade, the Damanko Library Lives

NOT A SINGLE BOOK resides in the Damanko School library in Damanko, Ghana. For ten years, the community has hoped for the library to swap its dust for books, but due to disuse, the vacant library has fallen into disrepair. Now, however, Peace Corps volunteer Kristi Moses has created the Damanko School Library Project. It will improve the library's infrastructure and provide learning materials for students and teachers.

When Kristi, an anthropologist, first arrived at her worksite in September 2010, she discovered that Damanko School, a local junior high, was in desperate need of a functioning library. The teachers do not have enough motivational resources to supplement their teaching, and the students have very few books to read. "Many students have a low reading level because they have little to practice with. Teachers tire of the constant lack of resources for teaching and have poor motivation," she said.

Last fall, Kristi visited New Bern High School in her hometown in North Carolina to share her Peace Corps experience with students. Several classes became very interested in her project. Deirdre Kiernan, an English teacher and faculty advisor for the school's Interact Club, decided to create a partnership with Kristi. Kristi's parents, Diane and Dan Moses, joined Deirdre to head the book drive for her project, and the Rotary Club is helping the Interact Club raise the $500 needed for the library.

Kristi realized that additional assistance was needed to supply the library with books, so she contacted the African Library Project. Once Interact Club made arrangements with ALP, the students quickly took charge of the book drive and have been collecting books for grades kindergarten through junior high. They expect to reach their April 21st deadline.

Taking special care to ensure that her project will be a sustainable success, Kristi said, "It is really a delicate balance. Everything has to be set up just right, or the library system will crumble as soon as a volunteer leaves." A community needs to be actively involved for a project to thrive, so she approached the locals.

Inspired by Kristi's passion and her project, several individuals who attended her meeting organized a second meeting with the village's chief and elders on their own initiative, and each leader even pledged a certain amount of cash from their respective communities. "The community has responded quite positively," she said. "To my surprise, they spent a great deal of time brainstorming solutions."

Kristi finds working with young people very rewarding. "There are so many special people in these schools who deserve every opportunity in life," she said. When she arrived to Damanko, she loaned a variety of books from the Peace Corps collection to Precious, a local student who became a big fan of the Harry Potter series and is a voracious reader, yet has few books to read. But soon this will change.

Renovation to the library will begin this month, and carpenters have already begun building new windows. Once the renovation is complete, the students themselves will paint the room, and organize the books when they arrive. Then, Precious and her fellow students will finally have a library.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quick Funny from Brekken

On our way home from Haley's baptism in Roy, UT we stopped by my parents' house in Vernal, UT. While we were there, we had lunch (bagel sandwiches) and the kids played on Grandma & Grandpa's new deck, which features an exciting ramp to run up and down.

Last night, Brekken asked me: "Sometime can we go to that grandma house again? The one with the cool ramp?"

"Yes," I told him. "We'll go there in July for the family reunion."

"Good," he replied, because I like... I like..." He trailed off, but I figured I could finish his sentence. He had just been talking about running up and down the ramp, so big surprise, he was going to say he liked the ramp.

"I like... bagels. We should have bagels at that grandma house."

Should I break it to him that bagels are actually available here in Colorado? Or let him continue to think they're a special treat only available at "that grandma house"?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Haley's Baptism

After several months of car troubles, scheduling dilemmas, and other delays, we finally made our trip to Utah to have Haley baptized!

We headed out Wednesday morning. The kids were excited the whole way. (How much longer until we're in Utah? - wait 5 minutes - How much longer until we're in Utah, now?) They were especially looking forward to seeing their cousins... or as they always refer to them, The Cousins. (Always as a collective. We're going to see The Cousins! We can't wait to play with The Cousins. We love The Cousins. This applies to cousins on both sides of the family.)

I actually stayed awake for the entire trip! This is unheard of for me. Typically, I get in the car and start falling asleep within 30 minutes... sometimes less. Unfortunately, the reason I stayed awake was because I was working for the entire trip. But on the plus side, since I worked the entire day, I didn't have to use up a vacation day.

The kids had a great time playing with The Cousins for a few days and we really enjoyed visiting with the family. I spent a few more days working (I will be really glad when the May Symposium is done and work is not quite so stressful for a little while!).

Saturday was the big day. Haley got all dressed up in her favorite fluffy pettiskirt.

Aaron and I gave her a special baptism necklace (which we actually bought a year ago and have been hanging onto ever since). The boys dressed up, too, though they weren't as enthusiastic about it. We headed out to the church where the kids were overjoyed to discover another Grandma & Grandpa! My parents and my sister and her family came out from Vernal for the baptism and we finally got an in-person peek at Baby Olivia. (Much like The Cousins, my sister's new child is always referred to by my children as Baby Olivia. She should really appreciate that in a few more years.) Grandma & Grandpa Schurz gave Haley a gift - it was a special baptism necklace.

We got Haley changed into her baptism jumpsuit and then managed to neglect to take a picture. We must have had a dozen cameras there, but no one snapped a picture. :(  As we were getting everything finished up and ready to start, something we said apparently gave Brekken the impression that today was baptism day for all the kids in the family; which is why he told us: "I don't want to get baptized! I just had a bath last night!"

The baptism program was lovely. Grandma Shields gave a talk on baptism. Then Haley, my sister Melissa, my sister-in-law Jen, my sister-in-law Laura, my mom and I did a song about baptism. It went surprisingly well considering we had practiced it together for the first time about 10 minutes previously. Then came the baptism itself, which went perfectly. Aaron remembered all the words, Haley didn't get scared of going underwater (she had been freaked out about getting water in her ears for some reason), and it was just wonderful. Right up until I realized that I had left the towels in the car... so Haley and Aaron had to drip-dry for a couple of minutes until someone could bring in the towels. And then, of course, we realized that neither of them had any dry underwear to change into! Haley elected to go commando (permissible since she was wearing leggings under her skirt), while Aaron went with the dry-off-as-much-as-possible-and-hope-the-damp-doesn't-show-through-your-clothes route. Then we finished up with a talk on the Holy Ghost from Grandpa Schurz and Haley's confirmation. It was really just a very nice and special occasion... underwear snafus notwithstanding.

After the baptism service, Aunt Jen gave Haley a present - it was a special baptism necklace.

Then it was time for a party! We headed over to the other church where we had a couple of crockpots of Italian beef for sandwiches, and salads and dessert. Nothing fancy, but just right! We hung out with family and friends for a few hours. We finally got the chance to actually hold Baby Olivia. There was plenty of time playing with The Cousins. Grandma & Grandpa Shields gave Haley a present - it was NOT a special baptism necklace. (It was a lovely remembrance book for Haley to write about the special day.)

Then we headed back to Grandma & Grandpa Shields' house for an Easter egg hunt. The kids thoroughly enjoyed that as well.

Haley & I snuck out for the evening to go see The Hunger Games with my mom and sister. (Finally! Hooray! I've been wanting to see it so badly!) The movie was great, as was the girls' night out. But when we came out of the theater, everything was shut down. No other moviegoers, no employees... we obviously went out the wrong way. We ended up wandering the empty mall... every exit we saw was gated off and we couldn't get out. We found our way back into the theater where we finally saw an employee! She showed us a different door and we headed that way... only to find ourselves back out in the empty mall. We tried to follow her, but she disappeared too quickly. So there we are again, wandering through the empty mall trying to find an unlocked door so we can leave. My mom commented, "This is kind of spooky." Which is when we heard the weird laughter echoing down the (we thought) empty hallways. Then it really DID feel kind of spooky! Luckily, we finally found an unlocked exit and were able to leave the mall and find the car.

We spent Easter with Aaron's family. The kids were so well-behaved at church! I'm obviously very unused to that... and don't know what to do with myself during Sacrament Meeting if I'm not constantly keeping the kids under control. I fell asleep. I'm sure it was a lovely Easter service, though.

We headed home Monday and planned our route through Vernal so we would have a chance to see my grandparents (who weren't feeling well enough to come out for the baptism). We stopped for lunch at mom's house and got to see my mom and sister Melissa. We also got a chance to see my sister-in-law Sarah and nephew Kyron. Sarah gave Haley a present - it was a special baptism necklace. (If you're counting, that makes 4. And Haley likes to wear all of them at once.) It was great to have a short visit with Grandma, though we weren't able to see Grandpa because he was sick and not feeling up to visiting. :(

The rest of the trip was uneventful, though very long. Why does the trip home always take so much longer than the trip out? (Once again, I stayed awake for the whole drive... because once again I was working the whole time.) It was a great trip - can't wait to do it again for my family reunion in July!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Miracle Shower Cleaner

If you have hard water like we do, you know about the nasty, very hard to clean soap scum that forms when you shower in that hard water. I would post a before picture, but I don't want to disgust you with the nastiness.

Instead, I'll share a picture of the miraculous new shower cleaner I found:

 Yes, that is oven cleaner. Easy-Off Fume Free Max oven cleaner to be specific. I was doing some research trying to find a better cleaning product for the nasty shower and I came upon a thread on a message board talking about cleaning hard-water soap scum... where someone suggested using this oven cleaner. It seemed crazy, but in the thread were several testimonials from people who had tried it with great success. After reading it all, I bought a can, figuring it was worth a shot. I was sure to find the specific type mentioned - other kinds are apparently too harsh. And today I was in full spring-cleaning mode and gave it a shot.

First thing this morning I sprayed down the shower liberally with oven cleaner. I coated every inch of soap scum. And then I walked away. I stayed away for about 6 hours while I cleaned the rest of the house. When I finally got back to the shower, I turned on the water to wet it down and start scrubbing. To my amazement, just the water hitting the coated soap scum started washing it off the walls! I took my scrub brush to it as well and all it took was a single swipe to wipe away the soap scum and oven cleaner. It just wiped right off! Usually a lot of elbow grease is required. I was seriously done in about 5 minutes. A few minutes with the brush, a minute to thoroughly rinse it all down, and done! This stuff is awesome!