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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Normality of nothing

I am grateful for a nothing week.  No one got sick.  No one stayed home.  No one had any doctor appointments or huge drama going on.  Kids still convinced me that the oldest ones needed to stay up to watch Studio C with their Mom on Monday nights, remembering the rule that any TV on school nights requires serious cuddling with mom.

Girls each had a birthday party to go to which they loved.  Girls had their piano recital where they both did awesome and powered through both of them having a "my finger slipped" situation. Spencer decided to cut his hair short and spike it and grew a half inch.  Allison also grew half an inch which was cause for great excitement around here.

Spencer gave a talk at church.  As I listened to him give a talk that he had written by himself without any parental help it was a good reminder to me that he has grown a lot in the last few years.  My favorite part was that he started by saying, "I was asked to talk for 5 minutes about service today.  Lets take a few moments, perhaps bow our heads and close our eyes and just think about that for a few minutes".  Long pause while he looks at the clock for awhile.  Funniest part for me though was watching him try to stay awake on the stand.  He had forgotten to take his bi-polar medication the night before (yes I did remind him but apparently TV sucked out some brain cells last night).  So he had to take them this morning.  On the stand he was trying so hard to keep his eyes open.  After sacrament he headed home and took a 4 hour nap, woke up to come lay by the fire and is out again.  Poor kid. 

Taylor has been happy all week.  He has a new favorite sound - snorting.  He has been fighting off a stuffy nose.  One night kids were getting him to laugh with snorting sounds and Taylor snorted while laughing.  That set him off big time, face turning red, unable to breathe, it was awesome.

Saturday night Jeremy and I got to do some Christmas shopping and watch Catching Fire.  We were late getting our tickets for that night because I didn't want to pay the online fees.  So my cheapness caught up with me and instead of sitting next to each other we were right behind each other.  When a monkey thing jumps out during the movie and I jump and whack the lady next to me I decided that wasn't the smartest idea.

But this week it was just wonderful to enjoy normal, everyday life and be grateful for normality.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Growing up

Allison is growing up.  This week we were able to attend her Young Women in Excellence program.  It is amazing to me all that she is becoming.  Saturday morning she woke me up bright and early in the snow to drive her and a friend up to Draper as our temple was closed to do baptisms for the dead.  And then combined with that feeling of love and pride I have in her is that feeling of exasperation as she gives me grief that I made meat loaf for dinner or watching her trying to boss around Robyn.

Robyn has been the crafter this week.  She has been learning about the Civil War in school and we got to make a puppet at home together.  She wanted to make a puppet of a woman soldier and found the story of a woman who dressed up as a man so she could fight, named Frances Clayton.  She was pretty pleased with herself.  We have resorted to pushups for tattling in our house.  Robyn should have some amazing triceps in a few weeks.

Spencer found out this week what happens when you work with a partner on school project and they don't do their half of the assignment.  Not a happy experience.  So he has been working away this week at getting on top of things there.  He got to help two families move this week along with Jeremy and Allison.  I love when he can go do active service as he is happy to do it, it tires him out and he feels good about himself.  Jeremy said that watching the teachers move things though is a case of constant re-directing their attention to the job at hand.  They are willing but easily distracted.  Robyn helped me Saturday morning to clean one of the moving families' houses.  She was busy singing "A spoonful of sugar" and working away.  That lasted for 15 minutes and then she spent 45 minutes pretending to be a dog until it was time to go.  Baby steps.

Spencer had a piano recital this week.  He was feeling pretty cocky about how well he did until the boy after him played John Schmidt's Waterfall at high velocity.  Helped keep his feet on the ground.

Saturday I got to have my annual Christmas shopping day with my friends.  And once again I forgot to take pictures.  But we caught up on each others' kids and families, ate cheesecake, oohed and awed at all the fancy stores and had a great time spending time together.  I realized that we have known each other now for 15 years.  There is a bond of having little kids all together that just stays with you.  And Jeremy and kids enjoyed a day of eating leftovers, watching TV and hanging out.

I have done exhaustive testing to find my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  There are so many opinions out there as to what is the best cookie but for me this is it.  Super soft and almost cake-like with a touch of salt and keeps great in a freezer or a secretive sugar stash.  I found this recipe at:

Heather's Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup regular cream cheese, softened or 1/3 c creamy peanut butter
 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
two pinches of Sea salt
2 1/4 c milk chocolate chips

1. Beat butter, cream cheese, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a mixer until light and fluffy.  About 5 minutes.
2. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and one pinch of sea salt and mix until combined.
3. Add chocolate chips.
4. Roll mixture into 2 inch balls and cover them with plastic wrap.  Put cookie balls in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even several days.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Put cold cookie balls on the sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then finish cooling on an removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

As we just finished a meal where half of it was considered inedible by the under 13 crowd in my house, I relish those opportunities when everyone likes dinner for that evening.  This is one of those recipes.  I like to serve these baked tacos with Grill Side Garden Salad on top, which of course my daughters conveniently leave off but you could also top with just sour cream, salsa, tomatoes or anything else that sounds good.

Baked Tacos

2 lbs ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 can 15oz refried beans
1 5 ounce can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp taco seasoning
2 c shredded Cheddar/Monterrey jack cheese
20 Hard Taco Shells

1. Brown the ground beef and chopped onion, then drain.
2. Stir in the refried beans, tomato sauce, and taco seasoning.
3. Put a big spoonful of bean mixture into each shell and stand them upright in a greased 9 x 13 pan.
4. Sprinkle cheese over the bean mixture in each taco shell.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Top with Grill Side Garden Salad or other favorite taco toppings.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Photos lie sometimes

Yesterday I woke up with the strange realization that there was nothing I really had to do that day besides take care of our kids!  It was a beautiful fall day so I decided to play for the day.  I took Allison and Spencer up to the temple only to find that it was ward assignments right then for the baptistry.  So we regrouped and went to Kneaders for french toast, cleaned the office (seeing Spencer scrub toilets in a tie just made me smile) and then we went back to the temple.  Allison has been doing baptisms for the dead right after school once a week the last little bit when she realized that there is no one there at 2:30.  By 3:30 it can be a two hour wait.  She does not like waiting.  I am working on getting Spencer so eager to go, so I have resorted to incentives like french toast (I refuse to call it bribery).

Then after kids realized that because it was such a nice day I wouldn't allow electronics on till it got dark, they decided going for a hike was a great idea.  Now if you look at the photo of Allison and me, you would think it was all happiness and sunshine on our hike.  The hike was gorgeous.  Robyn stayed home to play with Jeremy and Taylor so it was just big kids.  However Allison decided to grump the entire way...'i don't want to be here.  I'm done, I'm not going any further, I'm only here because you made me, my ankle is twisted, I would never ever choose to hike on a Saturday"  On the other hand sometimes photos tell the truth as Spencer and his friend had a blast.  When we got almost to the 2 mile overlook of the waterfalls Allison refused to go any further.  Spencer and Brenner decided to go to the falls and be back in 5 minutes.  30 minutes later I was a little worried so I made Allison hike 5 more minutes to the overlook to find that Spencer and Brenner had gone an extra mile, literally to go touch the falls and were sitting happily on a rock over there eating a granola bar.  So Allison very unhappily sat on the overlook to await their return.  When we got home Allison finally muttered, "thanks for putting up with me today" as she got out of the car.  Spencer assured her that when he was 12 he hated hiking and was slow and grumpy the whole way (that really is understating things on his part).  So maybe it is an age thing.  But is is hard to see my beautiful always happy little girl try on these teenage grumps.

This week Allison had an unhappy dentist visit.  She had to have two teeth pulled with one of them having roots wrapped around the adult tooth that required slow and careful separation and picking.  So she almost has no molars in right now and is back in a retainer.  She is not enjoying having to mush all her food.  She thinks this is a good excuse to give up vegetables for the duration and is enjoying apple sauce, pear sauce and any other smooshy food she can think of.  Its a good excuse for ice cream though.  Thursday night Allison and her friend Evelyn came to scout Roundtable with me.  Robyn had bragged about how fun it was going with me during the summer.  After the opening exercises, Allison leaned over and asked when it got fun because so far it was pretty boring and she didn't think it could get any more boring.  Her friend Evelyn said I bet it could!  But then it turned into cub scout stuff and they got to do the skit for everyone, and the opening ceremony idea and play the demonstration game and then we snuck out to grab ice cream cones.  So she is planning on going back next month!

Jeremy has been working hard this week trying to catch up on projects.  Last night after being tied to his computer all day he took a break and we got to grab a manly dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then watch our high school girls volleyball team win the state championship.  I wish one of our kids liked sports because Jeremy sure enjoys cheering on volleyball.  It was a very impressive game.

Today Taylor is home sick.  He has been doing really well lately and is enjoying his twice a week massages.  But this week right after I showered him, he just started throwing up and looking green and pale.  Taylor being nauseous is just a pathetic site as you will ever see.  He instantly becomes this super pale stick figure with no energy or ability to hold himself up.  Hopefully he will get over this quickly.

Friday night I got to enjoy a girls night while Spencer and Jeremy enjoyed a testosterone filled night of watching Wolverine.  I on the other hand got to go see Austenland which I loved.  I had great company with me and I just laughed through the whole thing.  I am sure I enjoyed it in part so much because I have seen all the Pride and Prejudice movies and read all the knock-off books.  But it has made me smile all weekend long.  This week it seems like I have spent a lot of time sitting in front of a computer playing catch up on things.  I am amazed at how much paperwork stuff can pile up although Jeremy points out that most of it is due to my calling or school volunteer work so I choose to do most of it.  But having a mostly empty in box is a great feeling.  Now I am sure it will just fill up again.

This was a week of Halloween where I wish I was a more creative person who had mad stage make-up skills.  I love our neighborhood at Halloween, all the fun personalities come out and it is a great place to be.

Monday we went to Taylor's school for their annual Halloween carnival.  It is truly a sugar fest.  The amount of candy our kids earn or baked goods they buy is astounding.  But they left with bulging pockets and smiling faces.  Throw in a Halloween party for Robyn and a few other activities, school parties etc and it was a celebration week.  Somehow Spencer had the mistaken notion that using flour, vaseline and cocoa powder I could create realistic gore for him and his friend for Halloween.  Halloween morning the pressure was on as Spencer and his friend waited for miracles to occur and the girls also wanted face make-up on.  Along with lunches, breakfast and getting out the door.  We survived and no one cried - I will take that as a huge accomplishment.  By the end of the day Spencer and his friend Conner looked more shiny as the vaseline melted and the girls had smeared things so we had a repeat session that afternoon. At the school parade Allison had been a bit down as no one recognized her costume, so Halloween night she dug out some old dance costume to look a bit more "jelly-fish" like.

Wednesday I attempted to paint a backdrop and Thursday Jeremy set it up with lights in our drive way and took pictures of all the kids coming by.  I bought 160 fruit snacks and when they were gone, we closed everything down and turned off our lights.  I made guts (stuffed pumpkin) and bones (breadsticks) again but kids pretty much existed on candy anyway that night.  It is the first time that I haven't gone trick or treating or even really answered the door.  Spencer took Robyn treating for awhile and then came inside to watch Halloween movies with his friend while Robyn continued going with her friend's dad.  Allison went with a friend and checked in periodically.  It felt a little strange not to be wandering the streets!  It is a pretty family friendly area with neighbors doing hot chocolate and doughnuts, and haunted houses.  It is a fun time and people have some pretty amazing costumes.

Friday night we had our nieces Kayla and Bryn come over with Kayla staying overnight while Spencer went with Garion and his parents to see the Saratov approach.  I was a very mean person making all little people stay downstairs while Jeremy and I hosted a game night party upstairs.  Not many games were played as really we just enjoyed eating treats and sitting around talking.  Allison and her friend took any little kids off downstairs where they reigned as babysitters.  I love to just sit and visit with neighbors and as the weather gets colder (we had SNOW today) that doesn't happen as often.

Saturday Spencer had a pow-wow at BYU where he plated a penny with silver in the chemistry merit badge and thinks that the science teachers are BYU are pretty amazing.  We had a freak day of warmth where I got to go for a bike ride and work in the yard a bit.  Jeremy after spending the morning at D.I. volunteering came back and helped the girls wash the car.  Robyn was in a swimsuit and she and Allison were sneakily soaking each other constantly.

And then Jeremy and I had a real old fashioned date of dinner and a movie.  I don't need that every weekend but sometimes it is so nice to not be doing a family activity or church activity and just have a frivolous evening.  We watched Gravity in 3-D which was really amazing visually to see.

Today is one of my favorite days of the year.  An extra hour of sleep.  Robyn was in tears because she thought the extra hour of sleep was for every night for the rest of the year!  Of course she had a tough day where she decided to try everything she could all morning to start a fight of some sorts.  She also fasted completely and without complaint so I am sure that contributed to the grumpiness.  And then we went to Jason's house for dinner and miraculously she became a happy little girl again.  There are times when I think I am really really messing up our kids and then there are times like this morning.  I had yet to meet Robyn and later decided Allison and Spencer had just let her borrow their bad habits for the day as I came downstairs to find Allison indexing and Spencer working on Duty to God AND they were letting me sleep in.  I needed to write that down so I remember those moments do exist!

My friend Brenda convinced me to try running after the sun comes up.  It has been wonderful to actually see the world around us and not carry flashlights.