Monday, November 30, 2009

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year, I would like any and/or all of the following:
1. A fully automated kitchen that cleans itself.
2. Harvard to nominate me for an Honorary Doctoral Degree. If they could give me one of the funny PhD caps, that would be great, but I'll settle for the diploma alone.
3. My waist back.
4. The book of my children's lives, unabridged, so I can see how this mystery/drama/comedy is going to end. If there's a Cliff Notes version, send that along, too. No "choose your own adventure" options, please.
5. The equity back in our house that the economy ate. I'll go for a "break even"
6. Speaking of self cleaning--if you could get some of those self cleaning clothes for my kids, it would probably be really good for the environment. I'm just sayin'...
7. The directors of Lord of the Rings to decide they want to (re)do the whole Twilight series. With a gigantic budget. And good actors. Please. For the love.
8. World Peace.

I think that should do it. In return, I shall make my Boston Mint Cookies. I'll even leave the recipe out.

Think about it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week of Thanksgiving: Cornucopia

I don't know about the rest of you, but the symbol of the cornucopia has never made much sense to me. Why a horn shaped basket? What did it symbolize?
Turns out, it's a Greek mythology thing. Awesome. So, I decided we needed to teach our kids about the cornucopia.

At the beginning of November, I used my kid's Crayola watercolors and painted a cornucopia that we put on the window. Each day, we wrote down things we were grateful for on little watercolor fruits, vegetables, and meats. It was so fun to see what everyone was grateful for, because you never knew what they were going to say next. Here is a list of my favorites:
  • Decay
  • Each of us, by name, several times.
  • Stove
  • "spray"
  • "nise voises"
  • jammies
  • toy saw
  • "trick or treat"
  • dress ups
  • chalk
  • "me"

We had such a great time, and every day there was excitement over who got to choose the fruit or vegetable to write on for the day. As thrilled as I am to put up our Christmas decorations this weekend... I was sad as I took down the cornucopia from our window. We have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week of Thanksgiving: Never Forget

At this time of thanksgiving, let us remember and never forget:

The needy are always with us.

(Especially the 3 year old kind.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week of Thanksgiving: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Sunday night, in the pouring rain, I drove up Providence Road to a place I'd never been before: Temple Israel at Shalom Park.
A week previous I got an e-mail asking for people to be a choir participating in an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The rehearsals and performance will be held, this year, at a Conservative synagogue.
That is one bandwagon I jumped right on. Not only that, but I decided to drag our local sister missionaries with me--just for effect. Any excuse to visit a new house of worship is something I'm up for. Not to mention how fun it sounded to sing with people from lots of religions. We Mormons have our Tabernacle Choir, but we will never have the soul of a good, Southern Baptist choir.
I got there right on time, and entered the beautiful building, feeling a little unsure. I saw the stacks of kippot for the men, but reassured myself that they were optional for women, before entering the synagogue.
A group of people sat in the folding chairs, some sitting in little clusters, some sitting alone. Taking a deep breath, I marched down the aisle and introduced myself to a lady sitting by herself. We began to warm up.
Our music directors include a Jewish Cantor, a Universalist Unitarian Music Minister, a music minister from Friendship Baptist Church, and the music pastor at St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, although he is actually Episcopalian. The director from the Baptist congregation is so fun to watch, he jumps up and down all over the stage, which inevitably sends his kippah flying from his head. At which point the most delightful little Jewish lady trots up to the stand in the middle of the song and plunks it back on his head. Repeatedly. And neither of them even miss a beat.
Meanwhile, the Unitarians are crossing out every referal to "mankind" and urging us all to substitute the word for "humankind" so that we're gender inclusive.
At about which point the man from St. Gabriel's starts railing on us for being even slower than the speed of sound and begging us to KEEP UP!!!!
I find myself grinning and laughing and just singing my heart out. My favorite are, of course, the songs in Hebrew, with their lilting melodies and softly accented words.
At the end of the first practice, the music pastors all stood on the stand together. They talked about how they first started meeting over 6 months ago. And how they learned that you haven't learned to live in peace with your neighbors of a different faith until you've sat down and discussed and disagreed and been uncomfortable with each other. Only when you've faced your differences, can you find real friendship and peace. I thought that was beautifully profound.
So, Shalom. Have peace.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Week of Thanksgiving: 2009

I feel like I have been blessed, beyond measure, this year.
As I've been thinking, all day, about the things I'm truly grateful for, my mind has gone back to all of the absolutely phenomenal memories I've been able to make this year with people I absolutely adore. And that is precious to me.
Two years ago, The Spouse and I took a trip to Jamaica to celebrate his birthday. On our second to last day, we traveled up to the west tip of the island. While The Spouse was jumping off cliffs like a crazy person, I was safely bobbing in the azure blue water below. I stretched back and floated, gazing up into the sky as the sun began to sink. I remember closing my eyes and thinking "Contentment. This is what contentment feels like." And I tried to memorize it.
The months that followed brought particularly acute struggles and challenges, and I would find myself, closing my eyes and thinking that word "Contentment" and I was right there in my mind, with the waves softly rising and falling beneath me. It carried me through those months.
And this winter, I can close my eyes and think "Contentment." and I'm there, again, in those waves.
But this year has given me more gifts--the kind that nothing can take. The kind that I will carry with me, even when I grow old and die. I'm roasting marshmallows with my children on a summer night and catching frogs. I'm walking the decks of a beautiful ship with my parents, and chasing Alice in Wonderland with Thing 1. I'm gazing out over the bluest skies on the coast of Maine with a dear friend and wishing for time to slow down. And I'm laying on the slopes of a mountain, resting my head on my spouse's shoulder, gazing at waterfalls and glaciers, with the warm sun on my face.
And no matter where I am, or where I go, I am utterly content.

Week of Thanksgiving: I love this.

I love this. I just do. So if you have a few minutes, you should watch it. I'll be thinking about this question, really thinking about it, for the rest of this week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week of Thanksgiving: Lip Balm

Kiddos with their lip balms.

If you couldn't tell, I love Thanksgiving.

A lot.

And it's about more than turkey and pumpkin pie, or even getting together with family. It's about a chance to give sincere thanks for everything that we've been given in preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth in December. I have found that the Christmas Spirit is much more powerful if I have spent a lot of time developing a spirit of gratitude and giving the month before.

All month long, in our house, we've been counting our blessings and putting them in our "cornucopia." (A picture of that will come later this week.) We've talked about pilgrims and the native peoples who helped them to save themselves. We've read our very favorite Thanksgiving books, including The Mousery, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, Over the River and Through the Woods, and Pumpkins. We've talked about service and put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We've been building up to this week.

Today, to start off the actual week of Thanksgiving, I'm using an idea I got from the blog Mustard Seeds, and we made our own lip balm so we can say "Sweet Words of Thanks."

First, we read the following scriptures and talked about HOW we give thanks...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Through prayer.)

Psalms 28:7 (Through song.)

Matthew 15:36 (Through service and an "abundance mentality.")

Then we talked about how the way that we give thanks involves our mouths, and how it's good for us to give thanks.

Then we made our own lip balm. There are lots of recipes online (Mustard Seeds has one that uses shortening), I chose to use plain vaseline, but you can also use beeswax.

In our case, I took a tablespoon full of vaseline and mixed it with a dollop of honey and some unsweetened Kool Aid. You can also add food coloring, if you want. Then we put the lip gloss in the little jars you can buy at Walmart for holding beads. The kids added stickers, and we decided who we want to give the lip balms to at church today to say thank you.

The kids loved this activity, and they loved listening for the action words in the scriptures. Today, we're going to use our mouths to give sweet words of thanks!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


All the things my kids need to know about life, they have--apparently--learned on PBS Kids.

From Sid the Science Kid, for instance, they learned the very important principle of DECAY. This, it turns out, is really, really useful when watching Mama clean out the fridge. "Ewwww, Mama! Decaaaaaaay! It's decaaaaaay!" Maybe I'll start leaving food in there longer, just so they can have the joy of discovering more decay.

Thank you, Sid.
From Curious George they've learned this: you can get away with almost anything if you're cute enough about it. Like begging for LOTS of red licorice so they can measure how tall they are, looking so serious... like it's a purely scientific pursuit. They'll also throw in there, from Sid, that they're learning about "Nonstandard measurement." At least they didn't dump out an entire box of detergent, unlike my nephew and niece. (This despite the little disclaimer in each episode that says "Curious George is a monkey, so he can do things you CAN'T do." I don't know how that message didn't make it into their craniums.)
And from Super Why (which should REALLY be called Super Readers), my kids have learned completely messed up versions of the fairy tales. I can't even do a normal retelling of Red Riding Hood or the Three Bears because I meet a chorus of "The wolf just wanted to play, Mama!" or "Goldilocks cleaned up after herself!" Which is completely annoying, because how am I supposed to teach my kids the difference between good and evil if all the villains are just poor, misunderstood "friends"????
Whatever happened to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Today's Special???

Monday, November 16, 2009

Right Now in North Carolina

You know, sometimes people ask me if I miss the snow.

I spent my early childhood in Idaho. The drifts were so high that I had my own private tunnel to walk to school. I remember tubing down the big hills at the park across the street. When we moved to Utah, we spent endless hours making snow caves and snow forts.

So you might think that I'd miss the snow.

But on days like today? When you have a water fight with your kids outside, in November?? I don't miss the snow one bit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I want a lot of stuff.

The Spouse doesn't have the "want" gene. Or, if
he does, it's rather recessive. He wants things like a single ice cream sandwich.
This is the only reason our household is solvent.

But back to my wants.

Sometimes, since I can't get the stuff I want, it just helps to write it down. Get it out there. Say "Yes, I want this, but I can't have it."

Currently on my list:

Yeah, yeah, I know. What IS that thing? It's a heat embossing tool from Paper-Source. I crave most of the things in that store. But I've wanted this embossing tool (with some stamps and sparkly embossing powder) for well over a year now. And I've bought all kinds of junk that would've cost the same, but it was the principle of not getting something that was purely a want. But every time I allow myself to go Paper Source (which is rarely, because they close at 6:00 pm...) I put this embossing tool in my basket and walk around with it, like I'm going to buy it. Every time. *sigh*

This? This is the "Laurie" set from Crate and Barrel. I wish I'd never set eyes on the thing. It's so girly and whimsical. It also happens to perfectly fit Louisa May Alcott's description of dishes from the children's book "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving." I've been daydreaming about serving pumpkin pie and hot spiced cider with these things. I think they're so beautiful. I know that I would be a better person if I owned them. At least for a day.
Okay, last one. I saw this frame at The Met Museum store in New York. And I broke a commandment right there in the store: I was coveting. I was trying to think of a way, any way, to justify the cost. Isn't it beautiful? It also has additional meaning for me because The Spouse's name means "Beloved." Alas, this picture frame costs $125 dollars. And nobody is e-baying theirs.

It would be so much easier to just want an ice cream sandwich. But even then, ice cream sandwiches aren't gluten free, so I couldn't have one anyway. Might as well want the good stuff.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yo Hablo Espanol.

I was talking to my really good friend the other day. She happens to be Romanian. Her husband is Dutch. They have lived in various countries where French, English, and German have been the predominant languages. So her preschooler can speak any given number of those languages. Probably without an accent, too.

Oh. The jealousy.

It is a proven fact that it's easier for children to learn languages. The younger that they are, the easier it comes. I read about it in a trustworthy magazine somewhere, although I don't remember where, but it was probably at a doctor's office, so it's true.

At the beginning of the school year, I was alarmed to see that my daughter was going to have one day a week of Spanish as part of her school curriculum. My daughter was going to know a language that I did not. It's bad enough that my husband speaks Spanish and Russian. I find it intolerable if he knows stuff I don't know, let alone my 5 year old. Since my neural pathways are hardening as we speak, I decided that I needed to remedy the situation with all possible rapidity. (Great word. Rapidity. Sounds so Dickensian.) Spanish strikes me as taking less effort to learn than Russian, so I decided to start there.

My neighbor down the street is from Peru, so she offered to come over and teach me. We started with the months of the year. (Which, by the way, seemed a little odd to me because on a list of "critical to know" phrases in any foreign language the months of the year wouldn't be at the top of my list. From my personal experience, the most important phrases to know would be "Where is the bathroom?","How much does it cost?","Is there any alcohol in this?", and "Uh-oh. I think I'm starting my period." You do not want to have to resort to charades to be understood, trust me.)

I dutifully committed the months of the year to my memory and began working on the days of the week. Numbers. Members of the family. I even made some flashcards.

But it was always lurking that my daughter's neural pathways were speeding along, and she and her dad would have a special Spanish Speakers Only club.

But tonight we were driving home and she started babbling in some incoherent language, so I babbled back. We exchanged nonsense back and forth for several minutes, and then I said "That was a great made-up language!"

Her eyes looked at me seriously in the rear view mirror and she said "Mama, THAT was not a pretend language. THAT was Spanish."

And BOY was I surprised! Because I didn't even know I spoke Spanish already. I guess I don't need those lessons after all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mom of the Year

Image by Anne Taintor

Should you ever find yourself pondering the question, "Self, am I as good a mother as Becca?" then you can quickly reach your conclusion by taking the following quiz:

1. Have you called Poison Control at least once in the past week?
Yes (5 points for each time you've called.) No (0 points)

2. How many of your children are currently sick?
1 point, per child, per illness. (For example, if little Suzy has a case of the green apple quickstep AND a raging case of the flu, that's two points.)

3. In the past week when making dinner, say--lentil soup--you
manage to catch something on fire.
Yes (10 points) No (5 points) Never (0 points)

4. True or False: A hot dog, with a vitamin filled dollop of ketchup, is a nutritious breakfast and a fabulous way to begin your child's day.
Absolutely (5 points) If I'm desperate (2 points) No (0 points) Vegetarian (-5 points)

5. You are already listening to Christmas music.
Yes (7 points) No (3 points)

6. Does your family have a list of Appropriate Places to Be Naked Policy? (Such as, your bedroom and bathroom are fine, but the kitchen and front yard are not.) If yes, 10 points.

7. Who has eaten more of the Halloween Candy, you or your children?
You (5 points) Your children (7 points) Equal amounts (10 points)

8. Does you child know what a cornucopia is? If yes, 5 points.

9. How many nights this week have you gone to bed and left the dishes in the sink? 1 point/day. Bonus point if the dishes from the day before spend the night in the sink for two nights.

10. Give yourself one point for each time you've gotten up with a child this week. Give yourself two points for each time that your spouse has gotten up with a child this week.


50 or Higher... Congratulations and rest at ease--you can be confident that you are, indeed, right up to par.

30-50... With just a little more ambition, you too could be the kind of mother that I am. A little less laundry, a little more facebook, and you should be just fine.

10-30... Hey, we all have our down weeks. Maybe you could set some goals. Start with this simple exercise: do all of your parenting from a sitting position for a day or two. It will have you well on your way.

0-10... Really?? I mean, really? How are we friends???

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Crustless Pumpkin Pie

I am venturing into my first foray, for myself, of a gluten free Thanksgiving.

Oy weh.

I wanted to find some GOOD recipes well before the big day, so that I don't spend the day miserable and whining/wishing for my Cranberry Velvet pie with orange shortbread crust from last year.

A moment of silence for that pie.

Ok. Better.

Anyway, I remembered a crustless pumpkin pie that I made for my mother when she was here for Thanksgiving three years ago, and decided to try it again--I remember it being really, really delicious.

The recipe:
GLUTEN FREE Crustless Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 1/4 c. sugar (I use a little less.)
3/4 c. evaporated milk (yes, you can use skim.)
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (puh-lease. I use this as a starting point and dump the stuff in.)
If you DON'T need to eat gluten free, add 3 T. flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together until smooth. Resist the urge to eat it by the spoonful. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate, and then dump it in. Taste a little bit with your pinky finger. Resist the urge to do it again. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet. (The regular metal kind. NOT the bake stone kind. Trust me.) Pour hot water on the cookie sheet until you've got an even 1/2 inch or so. Place in the oven. Careful--don't dump the water. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool. Add whipped cream. Devour. You can even share if you like.

Mmmmm.... what was that other kind of pie I had last year?? I don't remember...

Saturday, November 7, 2009


*choirs of angels sing*

I was made aware, earlier this week, of a BLACK FRIDAY SPECIAL... on Saturday. There was a bunch of stuff... X-box... blueray... big ol' white trash televisions... and, oooooh--laptops! "At least 10 per store."

My family goes through laptops like most families go through, oh, I dunno. Shampoo. There is a veritable graveyard of laptops clustered around my feet. Most of them recently refurbished, and totally useless. Their causes of death range from "Stepped on the day that it was opened" to "Possessed by demons."

So I got up this morning at quarter to six and took my super-awesome Kate Gosselin haircut to the local Valmart. The parking lot was alarmingly full, and not everyone could be stocking up on emergency supplies of Baby Motrin or Gingerale and saltines. (My only other reasons, before today, to show up at, pre-dawn, at Valmart.) So I Senior Olympics speed-walked (cutting through the Intimates and Pubescent Boys section) to Electronics. There was a single worker there, who looked at me with raised eyebrows.

"Laptops. On sale." I gasped, out of breath.
"Ya'll realize that's you gots to wait, right?" he said kindly.
"Yup. 8:00." I chirped, waving my tattered copy of Harry Potter.
"Oh wow. You's prepahred. Well. Go head. Wait on them benches in Site to Store."

I walked back to Site to Store and plunked down on a black iron bench, and felt really foolish. Wishing for my bed, I opened up Harry Potter to the first page.

And then, I heard them coming. A herd. Soon--all the benches were full and the line twisted down the toy aisle and out of sight. I didn't feel so foolish anymore.

The girl next to me, a state trooper, happily opened the latest celebrity magazine and gave her thoughtful opinions of celebrity romances, children, and boob jobs. ("That's never gonna work." seemed to be the general consensus, for all three.) A worker got off of work and plunked herself down in her blue vest, asking us each in turn was WE were there for. A guy on a cell phone was taking off-sight orders and planning how to sell things on craigslist.

The time ticked by. Word leaked from the jumpy manager's walkie-talkie that there was only one laptop available. The rest would be rain checks. People shuffled nervously.

Then 8:00 came.

And I left the store, with the people in line staring daggers at my back, with the single, brand spankin' new laptop.

And there was rejoicing throughout all the land. Or at least in my house.

But please, let this laptop last more than one Christmas....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Top 10...

Top 10 Things You Don't Want to Hear Your Doctor Say...

  1. I just don't know what to tell you.
  2. I really think we might be able to write a paper on this.
  3. Oops.
  4. Huh. Well that's weird.
  5. Let me check with my medical dictionaries and get back to you.
  6. Really? I just figured you knew more about it than I did.
  7. My colleagues are gonna freak.
  8. Do you know where to get more information on this?
  9. Wanna see something cool?
  10. Oh my gosh! You have GOT to take a look at this!

All of which I heard at my doctor's office today.