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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Goody-bye Mickey

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been a bit of a roller coaster week around here.  Sad news first.  Our cat of 16 years, Mikey died Saturday morning.  He has been getting quite frail and this week decided it was time.  He stopped eating and drinking, by Friday his kidneys has shut down and he was unable to walk.  It hit everyone hard but especially Allison.  Mickey has been sleeping with her every night on her pillow for the last couple of years and she has come to consider him 'her' cat.  Lots of tears and sobbing over the last few days.  Even Spencer has had a lot of manly sniffles.  Allison spent Saturday afternoon digging a hole in the frozen ground outside to bury Mickey so she could visit his grave.  When the weather warms up a bit I think we will have to re-dig the hole or help the body disappear.  But it was very touching.  She had everyone throw in a handful of dirt and say good-bye.  Spencer has gone out just to pat the ground and tell him what a good cat he was.  Lots of interesting conversations as our kids ask if Mickey is sealed to us since he was 'born in the covenant'.  As parents we have had to control the inappropriate smiles as our children have mourned.  Its the first time they have actually watched the process of something they have loved die and I think it was harder for them because of that.

The girls had their dance recital yesterday, thirty minutes after having Mickey die, so they were smiling with red-rimmed eyes as they danced.  They were both very excited about their performance though and the flowers afterwards.  Allison can really shake her hips and perform now with a big smile towards the audience.  Robyn spends her dance alternating between smiling at us and looking at her teacher off-stage to make sure she is getting the steps right.

We had two big parties this week which took up most of our time.  On Thursday we had a surprise wake for Jeremy to celebrate his last night of youth.  He had a lot of friends come by to give him a hug and eat some cake.  I think he had a great time and it was fun to see so many of our friends.  My favorite card of the night: Birthdays always remind me of the giant redwoods on the West Coast.  They way they stand tall and proud, year after year, century after century.  Their majestic beauty never fails to take my breath away.  (inside the card)  Thank you for planting them.  I know he appreciated all their little notes, cards and gifts that were sent his way.  Robyn could not understand why he was getting metamucil and adult diapers but she thought it was pretty funny.

Then on Friday we had our ward party that I had the pleasure of heading up this year.  I was amazed at how much everyone in the ward did to make it a success.  We ended up with 420 people coming, tons of good food and then had an amazing choir program.  It was a long day of setting up, getting food etc but it all came together.

Jeremy had a smug-mug event this week where he taught about lighting.  Spencer was quite proud that he got to go too.  I am not sure how much he actually learned from the night but he was quite thrilled with the opportunity.  Jeremy had one family photo shoot this week out on the frozen lake.  He has been lucky enough this year to be involved in a lot of the behind the scenes Christmas help in the ward and has enjoyed figuring out how to help people.

Spencer has been struggling with math a lot this week as he tries to catch up on home-work.  Which means I have been struggling with math this week as I try to explain how to do all the problems he has missed.  It is difficult sometimes to separate what is normal 12 year old behavior and what is bi-polarness kicking in.  We talked about the Millennium today at church and it made me think about how amazing it will be when we get to meet Spencer without any mental illness or meds clouding his personality.  We meet with his new psychiatrist this week, see how it goes.  I don't think he needs any changes it was just time to find a local doctor.

Allison had her class ski trip this week.  I was glad she actually got to have someone who knew what they were doing teach her how to ski.  She has no fear and just takes on the toughest runs the instructor will let her do.  She was excited to see that her picture was being used by the church on one of their links for  I posted a copy of the screen above.

Robyn has been enjoying all the Christmas festivities at school.  All but Taylor have school Monday and then a half day of class parties on Tuesday.  She told me this week that she is never getting married in the temple because who would want to be married to a boy forever.  That would stink.  She also told me that she is not having kids but is going to work in an office instead because she doesn't ever want to change a diaper.  All I could think of was where did I go wrong?  I tried to convince I really liked being married and having kids, but she wasn't buying it.  Maybe I wasn't cheerful enough this week?

We had one more Christmas party that we went to Saturday night.  Kids were happy to sit and watch a movie.  And I after spending a frustrating hour with Spencer's math was very happy to sit surrounded by adults, with good food and a few games.  I think we all appreciated the break from each other.  This time of year I am always appreciative and amazed at the people we are surrounded by and their thoughtfulness.

Love to you all, Heather

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A week of tiny auditorium seats

Dear Friends and Family,

This was the week of Christmas concerts and now we are done.  Loved them but am done heading out every night to some event.  Monday, Allison's choir performed a the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake.  Spencer stayed home with Taylor so it was just me and the girls.  It felt so laid back and easy and just thoroughly enjoyable.  Afterwards we walked for a few minutes through one of the visitor centers.  They had some new displays we hadn't seen before.
Then on Wednesday Allison had her choir concert at the school.  So we all headed over for that hence why she wasn't upset the boys weren't there on Monday.  She was one of their narrators for their mini-play they did and she rocked it.  Microphone squealing and going out on her didn't even phase her.  Neither did Robyn wearing some humongous sunglasses and making faces at her.

Then on Thursday Robyn had her kindergarten concert.  They have been working for months on their Christmas songs and I have heard many of them at top volume as I drive car pool.  I was just grinning for that whole concert at their energy and enthusiasm as they sang and did the actions for each song.  It was one of my favorite moments of the year.
Have I mentioned that Robyn is on the tall side?
Robyn and her carpool friends - Myra, Libby and of course Luke - they wore noses when they sang the snowman song

Today we had our last concert with Spencer playing the guitar at a local care center.  I can actually recognize and sing-along with him now which is nice.
And then to round out the week we had new nights of adult only events back to back.  Friday was Jeremy's work party.  Spencer was our babysitter as we went on our annual shopping spree followed by dinner and visiting.  Jeremy got a new camera toy he is having fun with and I got some much needed shoes (after 19 years of living in Utah I finally bought some snow boots.  I have been using my Grandma's which didn't fit very well.  But then again I think shuffling while shoveling snow might have saved me numerous falls).

Saturday night Jason, Kelly and cousins did family photos with Jeremy and then graciously stayed with our kids while we went out.  For Jeremy's birthday I had bought tickets for us to go see Blue Man Group - something he has wanted to do for several years.  They were weird, interesting and highly entertaining.

So it was truly a party week.  Plus to keep me smiling all week long it was a week of numerous loving gestures.  A friend brought our family dinner, just because.  Little treats and kind notes were dropped off.  Favors done.  Just one of those weeks where you count your blessings and are glad to have your family and friends.

Other odds and ends.  This week was bitterly cold.  I would drive the kids to school and it would be 15 degrees outside.  The warmth and smog has returned now though so we are getting up to 30 and 40 degrees during the day which feels much better.

Robyn came home from kindergarten telling me about the awesome game they play at recess.  It is called Girls and Boys and they take turns chasing each other.  If they get caught they loose a life.  I asked how many lives they have and she said, "oh, around 14.  No one ever runs out".  When I told her that game was around when I was a kid too, she was flabbergasted.  They thought they had just invented it!

Allison was telling me about her night at the mall with her two friends.  How they were given the big brother's cell phone so they could go shop on their own.  How Forever 21 is such an awesome store.  How they got diner together at Arby's.  All I could do was look at her and think, "where did my little girl go?!". 

Spencer came home from Young Men's with a distended belly and a big smile.  When I asked what they did, he replied "we deep fat fried stuff".  Yep, they made corn dogs, onion rings, french fries, stuffed jalapeno's.  Talk about an activity right up Spencer's alley.  He thought he was so cool.  The next day, he skipped breakfast and ate only a pear for lunch.

Love to you all and hope you are enjoying this holiday season, Heather

Sunday, December 4, 2011


OK, how could I forget all the little details in my post that have made me smile this week.
1. Santa is still alive and thriving in our house.  I finally sat Spencer down this week and revealed the magic behind Santa.  Something I swore I would never do, but I don't think he would have gotten it otherwise.  I felt like I was stripping him of his dreams as he just stared at me with these big sad eyes.  But he started getting into the spirit of things and figured out how he could help.  He volunteered to take care of Santa's nachos and leave lots of crumbs and a note.  Glad he can be so thoughtful :)  You would have thought the nachos left on Christmas Eve would have been a dead give - away but to Spencer that made total sense.  Allison on the other hand asked me slyly that it seemed very suspicious that Dad thought Santa would prefer nachos to cookies.

2. Allison had a lengthy dentist appointment this week.  She was ready to pay $20 out of her own money so she could have the option of nitrous.  She is the one kid in our family who can handle nitrous.  I wondered how much of a guilt trip we put on our kids for their cavities and how much we spend at the dentist.  But she spent two hours quite high and tired out while they worked on her teeth.  She was either half-asleep or was keeping up a running dialogue "Mom, what's for dinner?  we need to buy some raspberry juice, I like raspberry juice, it feels good when you squeeze my leg when they are doing the shots, I like having you here, I want yogurt, my cheek hurts..." all said without breath, in a teeny-tiny voice.

3. Last Sunday Spencer gave his talk.  Did pretty well.  Hardest part for him was the sitting still on the stand afterwards - one of his big obstacles in life.  The talk after him asked if we could picture anyone who was ungrateful, how they would be unhappy and grumpy most of the time.  Robyn turned to me and said in a LOUD voice, "that's easy.  That's Spencer."  Sadly true a lot of the time lately.  Maybe when he isn't spending every day making up math work after school, life will improve.

4. Yesterday I ran an errand while Jeremy was home supervising kids.  He yelled up to Robyn and friends, "what are you doing?"
Robyn: "playing"
"what are you playing"
"wait, what? does everyone have their clothes on this time"
"yes dad.  you can count on me"
(we have had to explain a couple of times that we do not actually reenact doctor visits - just pretend)

once again, love, Heather

Dear Family and Friends,

My girls got haircuts this week and were quite thrilled with their new look, especially Robyn.  A lot of hair flipping has been going on around here.  It is snowing outside right now and sticking which always makes it feel like the holidays are really here.  Decorations are up, kids have made various projects, and Christmas activities have started.

This week we started off the season with our annual block light parade.  We walk up and down the street turning on our Christmas lights and meeting at the end for hot chocolate and treats.  The weather was relatively warm so kids were running wild with glee and abandon at being out at night and the anticipation of sneaking a bunch of cookies at the end.  We got to clean the church right before the parade and it was nice to have the motivation to hold over our kids' heads.

On Tuesday I taught a mini-class about keeping Christ in Christmas for Relief Society.  Thank you to all my friends and family for their ideas.  For his activity Spencer went up to SLC with the deacons to see the lights and watch the Joseph Smith movie.  With Robyn and Allison each practicing extra for their upcoming Christmas concert and breaking out constantly into impromptu concerts our house has been full of the Christmas spirit.

On Friday the kids and I went up to the Festival of Trees.  Lots of crowds plus kids does not equal Christmas joy in Jeremy's mind so he got a pass.  I am not sure what our kids enjoy more, scones and honey butter, the amazing Gingerbread houses or the Christmas trees and performers.  We always have a great time and each year gets a little easier.  It used to feel like a marathon event to go, now its more a fun event that I just have to psyche myself up for a little bit.

I have spent the week working on Christmas presents and the odds and ends that fill up our lives so quickly.  Macho is back to thinking he rules the neighborhood but scurries quickly to get by Jeremy.  Spencer is currently barking like a seal and is home for the day.  Allison pointed out that someone has had to stay home from church for the last three weeks now.  Guess it is germ season around here.

On Saturday night Jeremy and I went to a play called 'A Joyful Noise' about the writing of The Messiah.  It was really interesting and quite entertaining.  The Messiah was definitely meant to be experienced, not just listened to on a CD.

Had our Relief Society Presidency meeting this week and Karen, our President shared some training from Sister Beck.  My favorite part was when she talked about young mothers floundering in the church and what they need to know.  They only need to do four things each day: 1. Roll out of bed and say a prayer.  2. Read some scriptures, keep in the bathroom if necessary to find the time and privacy.  3. Make your bed so you are not tempted to crawl back in and to signal God that you are ready for the day.  3. Get dressed for your family, don't stay in your PJs till noon.  I thought this advice was great, even though I don't fall into the young category so much anymore.  But its a good reminder of what is important.

Hope each of you is enjoying this wonderful season, Heather

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Count my many blessings...

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Best part of this Thanksgiving for me arrived Tuesday night with my parents and sister coming to visit.  Weeks like this make me long to be back around family in California, then I look at cost of living out there and reality hits once again.  But it truly was wonderful to have family around and Jason and his family were able to join us for Thanskgiving day and for a trip to the movies.  So life felt very complete.  It also is strange how when my parents visit I always have a bit of a wake up call when I have that moment of looking at our family and realizing we have some serious work to do ie do our kids really act this way?  am I always nagging like this?

Robyn continued to be sick this week.  It was the cough that would not end.  So we had lots and lots of mom/daughter bonding time.  I am just a little bit excited and feeling a little bit guilty about it, that she goes to school tomorrow!  She came down early Tuesday morning dressed for school, hacking away with bloodshot eyes and bags, sobbing that she would miss the kindergarten Thanksgiving feast.  She had her pilgrim costume all ready.  Instead she stayed on the couch with a barbie movie and made a smoothie/cookie run.  She said the day was almost as good as going to school.

Wednesday was spent in a flurry of baking and taking Macho to the vet.  The theme for this week as far as animals are concerned is "he is NOT worth it!".  Last week we thought Macho broke his leg in a fight but then he recovered.  Turned out that he had gotten a bite that had turned into an abscess.  So meanies that we are we skipped the vet doing surgery and putting in a drain.  Instead we got antibiotics and morphine for him and manly Jeremy (buco good husband points going on here) spent every morning and night squeezing out all the pus and blood to drain the abscess out.  And now Macho besides his bald leg thinks he is back to normal.
To top the evening off we went to a roller skating rink where my sister Christina showed off her roller derby skills.  The rink was pretty empty so our kids could zoom all around.  Taylor likes the speed and the disco ball lights as we do laps around.  And then we sat around that evening swapping kids and fluids stories - so much room for humor there.

My brother Peter sent Spencer an old GPS unit.  Spencer thought Christmas and birthday had arrived early in our house.  He dragged grandparents on several geo-cache hikes throughout the week and was wrapped up in his own little world for the rest of the week.  He gives his first talk today - hence a crabby Saturday as he dragged his feet on what to write.  My favorite quote of the week was from him, "Mom, I don't have any thoughts.  I never have!".  That kept me from strangling him in frustration.
Thursday our house was full of cousins and turkey.  We left Jeremy, Jason and Taylor watching football and went on our annual hike up to Battlecreek Falls.
Robyn after laying in bed for a week, acted quite wimpy and wanted assistance most of the way.  Of course on the way down, she threw off the pretense and took off on a run to catch up with Grandma.  I love being outside on Thanksgiving with sunshine, yellow leaves and kids exploring.  Makes me so grateful for this life we lead.  Then we returned home to cheeseball, a really fun puzzle and pie.

Friday Spencer went off to a robotics merit badge class for the day while the girls headed off to paint pottery.  Seems like a strange thing to do but we had a lot of fun visiting and trying to think creative thoughts.  Robyn was done long before the rest of us but was a good sport about sticking around.
Then we headed off to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights, freeze our tushies, and enjoy some really good Mexican food.  Taylor made me smile as he was looking around at all the lights and then was just smiling with glee as he downed horchata and quesadillas.
Guess who brought his camera?  :)

Allison is in a non-picture mode lately.  This set-up reminded me of the Dr. Suess book where they all do each other's hair.
Saturday we broke out the Christmas decorations and my family running a few errands.   Allison and Robyn managed to put our tree together by themselves which considering its much abused state is quite an accomplishment.  And we met up with Jason and cousins for a trip down memory lane watching the Muppet movie.  Kids by then were so wired they were literally dancing around singing Christmas songs and bouncing off walls.  My family fled to the airport relieved to leave the madness I think as we held back the sniffles.  It was so wonderful to just sit and visit.  How can sitting around and talking about little things feel like such a big thing to me? 

After the festivities of the week our kids crashed last night and Taylor and I enjoyed a morning of Christmas music and a quiet household.  It felt wonderful for all of us.  And today we finish off the last of the turkey and pie!

Hope you each had a great Thanksgiving,   This article made me smile today and count my blessings.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holidays are here

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year - my annual shopping day with friends.  Kids were glad to see me go, hopeful that I will get everything on their Christmas list and anxious to spend a Dad day.  Dad days involve doing their jobs and then having a day of TV and goofing around, ordering pizza and sneaking soda into the house.  My day involves catching up with some old friends and running all those Christmas errands.  Due to some sick kids it was really only my friend Michelle and I for most of the day but it was still a great time.

Robyn is home sick today.  She came down with a cough on Friday and has that low temperature, croupy cough thing going.  Not enough to make her truly miserable but enough to keep her down on the couch.  So she is busy watching Animated Scriptures while she pretends to nap.  She is trying hard to get better before her Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday.  She has been spreading the Christmas season a little early in our house, breaking into Christmas songs whenever possible.  On Thursday I taught art and had the kids sculpt ornaments.  After Thanksgiving we are going to paint them.  Kids made things from hearts to snowmen to alien space ships.

Allison had her Thanksgiving feast on Friday at school.  They spent the week learning manners and had to come in their best dress and enjoy a 7 course meal, using all the right forks etc.  She thought it was great.  Friday also Allison was in her school spelling bee representing her class.  She lasted three rounds but then got out.  But she felt pretty good about how she did as she was competing against the junior high.  I have been sewing away this week on a Christmas project and listening to the TV show The sing-off while doing so.  Allison has become a little addict and hurries to join me after she is ready for bed.  I have vivid memories of doing the same thing while my Mom watched Moonlighting at the same age.  Allison had a daddy/daughter dinner for Activity Days this week with Jeremy and just beamed the whole evening through.

Spencer is busy and matter of factly figuring out how to balance his different assignments and working to bring his grades back up.  He finally had the brain wave that the planner from the school would actually be a really good thing to use.  So he has been staying after school to re-do tests and assignments most days.  A week or two ago he had his first after school dance.  I came to pick him up and watched all these kids doing line dances amazed that Spencer would be participating.  And then I saw Spencer in the back with a group of boys playing some version of the Tron disk game.  That made much more sense to me.  Jeremy went into Spencer's photography class this week to teach about lighting.  Spencer thought his dad was so cool.  Spencer really is doing good over-all, but now and then we have that moment when we remember he truly is bi-polar.  He always is really paranoid about his shoes.  I should have know better but Monday when its time to go he breaks down thinking his new shoes from Saturday have changed and are not longer fitting right.  Once he calms down he seems to understand that its just his mind playing tricks on him.  And then for the next few mornings, we just have to remind him that his shoes really are the same, he just has to convince his mind of it.

Taylor was home sick with a cold the first part of this week but is back to his normal, chirpy self.  We are quite mean and make him stand for long periods to build up his leg strength.  He still does not walk well but is quite happy for us to carry him.

Macho got into another fight.  At first we thought he had broken his leg.  But after talking to the vet and seeing him start to improve we are thinking that instead he has an infection in his leg.  See how he does in the next few days to see if he needs antibiotics.  He is quite pathetic looking.  And on a side note we bought new mouse-traps but no dead mouse yet.

Jeremy sucked it up Thursday night and went with me and a friend and her husband to see a preview of Breaking Dawn.  I can do an 8pm movie but the midnight showings just don't work for me.  Jeremy tried hard to stifle his laughter but had his face buried in his hands, shoulders shaking quite often.  It is such a silly, girly thing to enjoy, but I do.

Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving holiday full of family and great food and grateful hearts,


Friday, November 18, 2011

White Chicken Chili

I have been looking for a good white chili recipe for awhile and am so glad to have found one.  This is easy, healthy and is perfect for warming you up on a cold evening.  I will keep bags of cooked, chopped up chicken in our freezer to make this meal even easier.

White Chicken Chili

2 c choped onions
2 Tbsp oil
1 4.5 oz can diced green chiles
3 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 15 oz can white kidney beans or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 c chicken broth
5 c cooked, cubed turkey or chicken
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, shredded
tortilla chips

1. In a large pot cook onions in oil over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes till tender.  Stir in spices and cook for 1 minute till fragrent.  Stir in beans and broth.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in chicken and simmer till heated through.  Stir in cheese.
3. Put a handful of tortilla chips in a bowl.  Top with soup.  Can top with sour cream, extra cheese or hot sauce as you like.

If I need our kids to donate a kidney or clean their rooms, this is the dinner that will motivate them.  They now know to set the table with two napkins, one for your lap and one for you chin.  This recipe is from Russ Signorino who won a cook-off with them.  They are amazing.  They are quite spicy, just as a warning, but that is how we like them.

2 Napkin Ribs

1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c ketchup
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c water
4 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
2 racks baby back ribs (about 5 pounds)

1. For sauce in a tupperware bowl mix brown sugar, ketcup, vinegar, water, dry mustard, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, aparika, 2 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp salt.  Seal shut and refrigerate for several hours.
2. For rub, in a bowl combine, sugar, chili podwer, red pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, onion powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper.
3. Put each rack of ribs on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Cover ribs with rub, making sure they are spread all over.
4. Seal ribs shut into an aluminum foil packet by covering top with another sheet of aluminum foil and then rolling up the sides.
5. Put ribs into the fridge for several hours, up to 24.
6. Put ribs in the aluminum foil onto a baking sheet and put in oven at 350 degrees for an hour and a half to two hours.
7. Open up foil packets and spread half of the BBQ sauce over each rack.  You can either then move the ribs to the BBQ or cool for 15 more minutes in the oven.
8. Serve with extra BBQ sauce.

These taste like a really good spice cake.  My kids were quite leery of eating them since they have sweet potato in them.  But then they gobbled them up, saying they tasted so good they forgot all about the sweet potato.  This is from a Better Homes & Garden magazine with a few changes.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes - Makes 24

2 c flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter softened
1 1/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 lb sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and mashed to give you 2 cups
1/4 c milk
1 tsp milk
24 chocolate kisses, unwrapped

8 oz milk chocolate
1 c whipping cream or whole milk
2 c powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 c butter
*add more sugar till its the right consistency if needed

1. Can make ahead the sweet potatoes as they have to be mashed and then cooled.  To roast, put potatoes in a pan, prick all over with a fork and roast for one hour at 425 degrees.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line or spray 24 muffin cups.
3. Beat all the dry ingredients together: flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. Beat butter for 30 seconds.  Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes till light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, sweet potato, milk and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture.
5. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake 5 minutes.
6. Take out and put a chocolate kiss in each muffin cup and top with a spoonful of batter.
7. Cook for 14 more minutes or until tops spring back when touched.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and then cool completely on wire rack.
8. For frosting in a small pan, heat the milk, chocolate and butter till all is melted.  Remove from heat and beat in the rest of ingredients.  Frost cupcakes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pure laziness

Dear family and friends,

There is nothing like a week of events getting cancelled and being able to get up in the morning to sunshine to make you feel like you are living a life of ease.  Really it isn't but it sure feels nice to have things slow down and to be given the gift of unexpected pockets of time where nothing has to be done.  It was good timing as I caught a cold this week.  Me and my squeaky voice appreciated some down time.

I have been busy destroying our living room with Christmas projects.  I have resisted turning on Christmas music although Robyn has shown no such restraint.  But it has been fun to break out some gift giving projects.  They won't look as nice but they will be full of love and even a little blood - who knew needles could be so sharp?  Robyn seems to have cut the Christmas bug a little early.  She has been busy decorating our house along with her friends for Santa.  We have a pile of letters from all her friends piled next to our fireplace.  And her room has been decorated with snow flakes.  Add in the fact that at school they have been working on their Christmas program which means afternoons consist of her and friends singing Holly Jolly Christmas at the top of their lungs, complete with dance moves.

Robyn, Allison and I enjoyed a girls' day out on Saturday.  We went to see Disney on Ice up in Salt Lake.  I was quite impressed.  Trust Disney to put on a good show.  Then afterwards we went to lunch and walked through the first snow fall of the season to get some hot chocolate and look at what books they would like for Christmas.

We had a great girly time.  Robyn yelled out to Snow White not to eat the apple and couldn't understand why she didn't listen.  Robyn is learning the benefits of being the youngest child.  This week we went out to lunch with Jeremy after running our last legal errand for Lauri's estate (YEAH!!!).  It felt like we were playing hookey from real life.

Allison won her class spelling bee and has been busy studying her list of words to represent her class at the school spelling bee.  This morning she surprised Robyn and Spencer with breakfast in bed - hot chocolate and bagels.  What a nice sister.  She still loves our Friday night tradition of pizza and movie night.  This is what our living room has looked like the past two weeks:
This Friday the girls with a reluctant Spencer in the back ground watched Annie.  Robyn ran to get her tap shoes on for the closing scene so she could dance with Annie.  Then we are mean parents who kick everyone upstairs so we can watch the grown-up movie. 

Taylor continues to improve a little bit at a time.  Jeremy has figured out a way to make him walk.  It doesn't look pretty but it sure works.  He has a snotty nose right now, which means everytime he sneezes we make a mad dash for the tissue box.
Taylor has a girlfriend at school.  She is a super high energy autistic girl and rides the bus with Taylor.  She is also a gifted thief.  Taylor has been loosing all his sweatshirts that he brings to school lately.  Then we discovered that she has been stashing them in her room.  She walks off the bus, whips his sweatshirt off the back of his wheelchair, stuffs it under her shirt and then puts in her secret spot.  I thought it was hilarious when I found out.  With the girls being gone Saturday the boys enjoyed a day in front of the fireplace with football games playing.  They all loved it.
I took all the kids in to get their flu shots this week.  They had run out of the mist option which meant Robyn spent the afternoon crying about the shot that was coming.  Spencer volunteered to man up and take his first and didn't flinch so Robyn could do no less.  Thank goodness for big brothers.  While there Spencer got all the warts on his arm burnt off.  I hate warts.  To make-up for all the pain, of course we had to go out for ice cream afterwards.  Spencer was excited to learn at the doctor that he is now 5 foot 6 1/4 inches (can't forget that 1/4!)  and 133 pounds.  I just have to laugh because he is such a little kid still - just in a big body.  Then we also went shoe shopping this weekend and had to buy him size 12 shoes!!  They are like little boats.  I hope his height will match his shoe length.  Saturday morning since he didn't have to be anywhere we let him just sleep in.  We figured since he was out by 9 the night before, how long could he go?  10:45!  He must be growing.
Growing pains are kicking in - and I don't mean the physical kind.  This week he managed to break our camera that I have used for a few years.  It only took him a few months.  So having to re-learn how to take care of things.  Then you throw in all the homework not being turned in on the right day and there have definitely been some learning moments going on.  Last Sunday he broke the nose piece of his glasses.  We had the Hall clan over for dinner, one of my favorite traditions.  We all thought it would be funny if we just put some tape around the nose piece to make his glasses work.  He didn't think that was very funny.  He had a court of honor this week and got 4 merit badges.  He is going to be the troop historian to get his leadership requirement done.  Of course he is excited to photograph all the scouting events.
Krispey Kremes from last week's doughnuts for A's run

You might be wondering about our mouse.  Yep, its still running rampant.  Our kitchen has never been cleaner as I keep finding mouse droppings  and break out the disinfectant.  We have come close to catching it but have learned that it is VERY, VERY fast.  And that it can squeeze through those little air intake vents without any problems or climb up into our oven and disappear.  Very irritating but almost comical.

Jeremy tries to balance everything out and fit in some relaxing time when possible.  It truly is a constant juggling act for him.  But we did get to watch two movies together this week which felt wickedly self-indulgent.  Nothing like rain and cold to make you want to lay on the couch with a blanket and a good movie.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful fall and the sunshine in the morning,  Heather

This is your basic traditional chili.  You can turn down the heat by doing less jalapenos or not leaving the seeds in.  This is the kind of chili Jeremy likes.  Perfect to serve with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese or on top of fry bread.

Jeremy's Chili
1-2 lb ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-4 jalapenos, de-seed half of them and chopped
1 anaheim pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 c water
1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 15 oz can white kidney or great northern beans, rinsed & drained
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/3 c milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt

1. Brown ground beef in large pot.  Add onions and peppers and cook till almost tender, around 5 minutes.
2.  Add chili powder and cumin, cook 1 minutes until fragrant.  Add tomato sauce and water, bring to boiling.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer covered for 10 minutes.
4. Add all of the beans and return to simmer.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and salt.
5. Top each bowl with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

This is from the blog  It is one of my favorite meals and everyone licks their plates clean.  I have made a few changes for how we like to eat it.  As a warning this smells really bad while making it but then tastes and smells wonderful by the end.

Masaman Curry
8 servings
1 can Masaman curry paste or red curry paste - usually around 8 ounces
3 Tbsp oil
2 cans 14 oz coconut milk - I use light and can't taste the difference
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 onion sliced into small pieces
2-3 chicken breasts cut into small pieces
4-5 medium potatoes, any variety, cut into small pieces
2 carrots peeled and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp heaping peanut butter
1/2 c peanuts optional
Sriracha sauce to taste - we do 1/2 Tbsp

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in curry paste; cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes till warmed and dissolving.
2. Pour in 1 can coconut milk and stir until well blended.
3. Add sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil.
4. Add oinon and chicken.  Reduce to a simmer and cook till chicken is white and cooked through.
5. Add rest of ingredients and bring back to a boil.   Then cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.  Serve hot over rice.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My favorite holiday...

Jeremy was trying to get Spencer to do a gangster look - this is Spencer trying not to crack up

Dear Friends and Family,

Daylight Savings time - one of my favorite days, at least in the fall.  You always say you need just one more hour in the day and today you get one.  You sleep in till seven and the sun is coming up and you feel wonderful.  Getting up in the pitch black is just not fun and driving kids to school with head lights on seems to go against some law of nature.  So I am enjoying my extra hour this morning with everyone happy for an extra hour of sleep while I got to actually be awake and functioning and walk with Jeremy over to the church this morning.  I think our bodies were just meant to get up with the sun not the stars.

The sugar over load has calmed down in our house pretty much.  We are still the mean parents who let their kids eat a few pieces on Halloween night, pick out their favorite dozen to keep and then the rest goes to Jeremy's office.  Since the kids eat the candies anyway every Saturday when they clean, they aren't technically loosing them, although we still get quite a few groans.

Halloween was a beautiful day.  We had a warm front being pushed ahead of a big storm so kids were running around all day in short sleeves and taking over the streets at night.  Robyn had a kindergarten parade where they marched through all the classrooms to show off their costumes and then had a classroom party.  Allison had a parade and party later that afternoon.  Unfortunately Robyn and I didn't realize the parade was starting early in the afternoon so we only caught the tail end of it.  But since we saw Allison's class, everyone was still happy.

Why is Jeremy taking these pictures inside instead out out by our pumpkins?  Its because at 7:30 when kids are leaving for school, the sun hasn't come up yet!
We made our traditional bones (bread sticks), blood (marinara sauce), and guts (stuffed pumpkin).  I think kids like the idea of the food more than actually eating it.  I got to go trick or treating this year with our kids while Jeremy manned the door, handing out toys and blaring the spooky music.  We have a fun neighborhood to trick or treat in.  One cauldesac did root beer and a block party.  Another cauldesac did a spook alley with hot chocolate, doughnuts and witches around a fire pit.  And since it wasn't freezing or raining the kids lasted for almost two hours.  Good time by all and the morning after was very tough to get going again.

I was able to host a brunch this week for my friend Brenda's birthday.  I always think I should be more creative for these things but instead all I do is cook something and set the table.  But it was wonderful on a rainy, stormy day to spend it inside catching up with friends.  I am so lucky to know so many amazing people who show me what kind of person I want to be.

The turkey tri was this Saturday.  I had done a mock one on Monday to make sure I was ready for it and that I really could run/bike in my swim suit.  It was freezing cold - 20 degrees with some snow flakes.  But because of the storm and the icy spots on the roads they made the bike ride only be a half mile.  So it was a bit of a let down.  But I really liked it.  Even the part where they said to strip down to your swim suit - OUTSIDE - and then run over to the building with the pool in it.  And then when you are all done come back OUTSIDE, all wet to put your clothes back on.  Good thing we were hot from exercising but it was still really cold.  I had been most worried about the swimming but I was surprised that it just felt good.  The hardest part for me was swimming with other people and trying not to get kicked in the face and to find ways to pass people in the tiny lanes.  So next spring/summer I will definitely be trying it again.

Friday I went to see The Help with a group of friends who had all read the book.  I highly recommend the movie and would put it on par with the book which I really liked.  And then it was a double scooper weeekend as Jeremy and I got to go out to dinner on Saturday night.  Then we came home, sent kids off to bed and broke out the ice cream and a movie.  Life does not get much better.

The kids got their report cards this week.  Spencer had a rude awakening with his English class.  Although he had done all the assignments, he hadn't gotten all of them recorded.  So it was a good lesson that just showing your teacher that you were done by waving papers in front of her face does not help your grade.  You have to actually turn things in, make sure they are graded and recorded etc.  I have to admit this is only half Spencer's fault but you work with the teacher you are given.  Hardest part for him was that he had to give up his ipod touch till his grades recovered.  Major tears.

Then on Saturday I took the kids to Krispey Kremes.  They give you one doughnut free for every A on your report card.  Grease and sugar are big motivators.  Robyn doesn't get a report card every term so she only got one sprinkle doughnut and was quite envious of Allison's big box and Spencer's medium sized box.

Then there is all the flotsam and jetsam of our week which really I don't think anyone else wants to hear about.  Jeremy continues to work hard, trying to improve his skills and get all the church things done.  He always has more on his to-do list than he can ever accomplish.

Love to you all and hope you are enjoying this wonderful, extra hour day.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

You're a stinky, smelly witch

Dear Friends and Family,

Robyn has been filling the house with Halloween music.  Her favorite lately involves the line "you're a stinky, smelly witch" followed by maniacal laughter.  At Walmart she was singing it pretty much non-stop while we trolled the aisles for an hour.  Glad she entertains herself so well.  She is loving her Cinderella costume and has put it to use many times already.  This has been the week of Halloween celebrations, that is for sure.

Monday was Taylor's school Halloween carnival.  The teachers and aides at his school go all out to make it a fun evening.  Taylor's "girlfriend" was there to bounce all around his chair (she is this super high energy autistic girl), stroke his cheek and give him kisses.  It just makes me smile.  The kids enjoyed all the games, candy prizes, glitter tattoos and came home on a tired, happy sugar high.

Tuesday the girls got to wear their costumes to their dance class and do 'The Monster Mash'.  Pandora has a kids Halloween station that we have been playing a lot this week so I have seen the dance many times now.

Friday Spencer had a junior high Halloween party at the Library.  He thought he was so cool to be able to go.  His costume this year is an orange T-shirt that says "I was too lazy to get a costume" - about sums it up right there.  His favorite game was zombie attack where they attached saltines to their pants with string and then used swim noodles to try to smash each other's crackers.  That and being introduced to The Twilight Zone made his night.  And then Jeremy and I had a costume party at a friends house.  Jeremy wore his best costume - a camera carrying tourist - complete with black knee high socks and sandals.

 We are carving pumpkins tonight with Jeremy and decorating our cookies.  But I convinced our kids to clean them out Friday.  I said scrubbing the kitchen down after scrapping out pumpkin guts is not my idea of resting on the Sabbath!

Thursday was the first day where everyone's church activities sort of collided.  It all worked out but made us realize that Thursday night is a lot easier if I don't have Stake stuff, Jeremy has bishopric stuff, Allison has Activity Days and Spencer has scouts - all at the SAME time.  It all worked out but made me realize how I want our life to not be so over scheduled.

Taylor had his 5 month follow-up on his surgery.  The doctor said that for a normal person 5 months is when they would start getting their original strength back so to not feel bad about Taylor still not liking to walk.  He puts more work in resisting walking than it would be to actually walk.  His bones are healing but very slowly.  They are thinking he might be vitamin D deficient so we are adding in some supplements to hopefully help his bones heal faster.  But otherwise everything looks good.

Throw in the BYU pow-wow, a wonderful cousin sleep over and a birthday party for Robyn's friend and we were all feeling a little puny by Saturday night.  While Jeremy spent Saturday working and writing a talk for today the rest of us took it pretty easy.  The kids and I watched Ghostbusters for the first time with me holding the mute and fast forward button.  I was just impressed when no one fussed about me skipping scenes that triggered my kid radar.  Its still a great, campy Halloween movie.
Allison gets the short end of the stick most nights.  Either Robyn or Mickey ends up in her bed curled around her.

Fall is on us full force with me running in the morning under the stars with it being 30 degrees outside.  Definitely wakes you up.  I am just glad for friends who meet me, otherwise I would never get out of bed.  Next Saturday is the turkey tri I am doing.  Swimming is getting better.  The lifeguard isn't watching me intently anymore to see if he need to intervene.  And I swear the more I swim, the easier breathing gets.  I am sure it does not look pretty at all, but I no longer worry about making the distance.  And I no longer care what I look like or how fast I go.  My goal is to finish, that is it.

Love to you all and hope you are enjoying Halloween!  Heather

Monday, October 24, 2011

Truckee Man Trip

Heather does all the heavy lifting when it comes to our regular blog posts, but I figured I could get a post up that shows a few photos from the trip. I really didn't take too many photos while out there, preferring to just relax and enjoy. I did realize we never took a photo of all of us together, which is to typical of a bunch of guys, right?

You can see a the whole gallery of photos, but I'll also include a few below.