Friday, December 28, 2007

the haunting, part 2

This disturbing image courtesy of Tony. Thanks, Tony.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

the haunting, part 1

This photo has been haunting our house for weeks now. I can't even remember where I found it. All I know is it saved as "David formal." I innocently emailed it to dh, resulting in many printouts of his face popping up in tote bags, briefcases, and behind cabinet doors. The other day, dh was telling Flash, "I really love you, buddy." To which Flash responded, "yeah, right!", and opened the cabinet to reveal yet another printout of David formal. We're still laughing about that one, and David formal still haunts the house.


The Christmas wrap-up (it's a tired pun, isn't it?)

Best food: these aMAZing truffles with crushed chocolate wafer filling provided by our neighbor. Must locate recipe and eat as many as possible before 2008. Also red chili tamales made by my friend Heather.

Best gift to me: hand-held shower thing installed by dh so I can wash my hair in the bathtub more easily. Now the shower is all his -- to use and clean. Also this funny shirt from my sister.

Best gift given: light-up frisbee (kids loved it!), Ratatouille

Best feeling: watching our kids' excitement, feeling so much love for the Savior

Best song: "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel", monk chant version, provided by my friend on a 3 year old compilation CD. Not sure who sings it, but it's getting some pretty heavy play around here. Super Q's favorite is some Mannheim Steamroller version of "Carol of the Bells" with lots of old-sounding techno tidbits. We listened to it about 30 times on the way home from my library gig. It kept him happy, but I was about ready for a Prozac Icee when that trip was over.

even gingerbread men need to economise

more f minus comics can be found at

Thanks to Tony, the artist, for letting me use his comic!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

xanadu, how could you?

Last night I sat down with some gifts to wrap, hot cocoa and my new arrival from blockbuster: Xanadu! Do you know it? It was a favorite with me and my sisters in 1980. And now, 27 years later (ok, I am officially OLD), Xanadu has let me down. It's a horrible movie, rife with cliche, including but not limited to: a frustrated artist stuck working for The Man, washed-up but very talented musician ready for a comeback, and otherworldly magical being who doesn't know about "feelings." Throw in some roller disco, big band music, legwarmers with pumps, and Zeus, and you've got a recipe for a fantastic journey only an 8 year-old in 1980 could love. And we did love it. Watching it last night, I surprised myself with my ability to recite parts of it verbatim. Yikes!

For an even more blistering take on Xanadu, click here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

instantly forgettable!

Oooh! Finally my scanner is fixed and I can post this hilarious DVD cover. Sincere apologies to Patty; I couldn't resist. This thoroughly legal and certainly not pirated movie is one of many we bought in China over the summer. First there's the lavish praise supposedly quoted from L.A. Weekly up at the top. Reading on, the text there on the bottom indicates this movie is actually "The 6th Day" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet the proof of purchase up top by the barcode tells us we're buying a copy of "The Ladykillers." One can only imagine what a mash-up of the three films would look like. Wait... Naomi Watts and Arnold Schwarzenegger? King Kong, maybe?

In a similar vein, while in China we saw many, many fine examples of wacky English. You can see what I'm talking about here.

I hasten to add that my written Chinese is on par with that of a 4-year old, so no offense intended here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

early Christmas present

Oh dear! My favorite band singing "Away in a Manger." Thank you, Santa!

girly crafts

After seeing so many super cute dresses and bonnets and aprons and hairbows on flickr and various blogs (mostly angry chicken), I couldn't stop myself; I had to make some girly crafts. I opted for clothespin dolls and spent way too much time on them. Note to self (and anyone who wants to make them): use hot glue, NOT Elmer's glue, which you will have to just sew over anyway with impossibly tiny stitches, the pioneerish phrase "Hide a knot as you would a secret" running through your head the whole time. Also Sharpie ink bleeds into the wood, causing Dollie to look as if she had just watched "Beaches" and forgot the waterproof mascara, so use paint.
Here's hoping my 5 and 2 year-old nieces love bits of fabric and ribbon wrapped around clothespins. (I keep hearing the question,"What happened to their arms?" echo in my head.)

As with any project, there is a victim of my trial and error approach to craftsy stuff:

She's got her abnormally large eye on you!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

... and sprig of rosemary

Waaaaaay down in the older posts, my sister asked for some Thanksgiving recipes. I'm actually a traditional Betty Crocker sort of person (minus the shellacked hair) when it comes to Thanksgiving, but here's the turkey I've made for 2 years now. It's delicious, and makes for delicious leftovers, too. I found the recipe on Also, if your rosemary bush recently died (like mine did), I suggest going to Lowe's about a week after Christmas, when they are clearing out their little rosemary bushes (pruned to look like mini Christmas trees). I think you can grow it almost anywhere, and it's so magically delicious with poultry, in bread, and soups.

Rosemary Garlic Roast Turkey


  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 tbsp./30 mL dried)
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) black pepper
  • 12 to 15 lb. (5.5 to 7 kg) whole turkey, fully defrosted if frozen

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
  2. In a small bowl or food processor, mash together garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper so that it forms a thick paste.
  3. By hand, gently pull the skin away from the turkey breast at the front of the breast (near the neck opening) to form a sort of pocket. Rub some of the rosemary garlic paste onto the breast meat under the skin, reaching in as far as you can without tearing the skin. Rub the remaining rosemary garlic paste all over the skin of the turkey and in the cavity. Add the stuffing, if you're using it, and place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and tie the legs together with kitchen string.
  4. Place the turkey into the preheated oven. Do not cover the pan. Roast, basting every 15 to 20 minutes with the pan juices, until a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh reaches 170 degrees F (77 degrees C) and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a skewer. This will take anywhere from 3 to 4-1/4 hours (depending on the size of the turkey and whether it is stuffed or not). The only definite way to know if the turkey is cooked is by using a meat thermometer. Remove roasting pan from the oven and let the turkey rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes before carving.
  5. Serve turkey with pan juices or use the juices to make gravy (recipe follows).

Rosemary garlic gravy:

  1. 1/4 cup (50 mL) fat from the roasting pan
  2. 1/4 cup (50 mL) flour
  3. 2 cups (500 mL) defatted turkey pan juices, turkey broth, water, or a combination
  4. In a saucepan, combine the fat from the roasting pan and flour. Cook, stirring to eliminate any lumps, for just a minute or two. Whisk in turkey juices, broth or whatever liquid you're using and cook, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens. Let simmer over low heat, whisking occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot.

the secret

I'm keeping a secret from my kids. It's not about Santa or the tooth fairy, unfortunately. We found out this week that another of Super Q's friends (incredibly, it's a friend whose birthday is within a week of his and Hannah's and with whom we have celebrated birthdays) has cancer. It is leukemia, and his prognosis is markedly better than Hannah's, but his family and financial situation are somewhat worse. It is expected that he will have 3 years of chemo and many painful spinal taps and spinal fluid treatment of some kind. It's terribly sad, so sad that I am purposefully keeping it from my boys. It's a departure from my usually frank approach to talking with the boys about life and death, but I don't think they are ready for this news. They are both still worried that they will also "get" cancer. Up to now, I have been able to use statistics to buttress my position, namely, "Oh, this is so rare. It hardly ever happens." Except when it does.

As recently as yesterday, Super Q told me, "I miss Hannah. I still love her. " He is so sweet; he frequently prays, "Thank thee that Hannah can be alive again someday. Thank thee that she can work up to heaven with you, and have fun." His gratitude is an example to me. Today we're going to her grave, armed with silk daisies, a Christmas ornament, and a little bag full of "gems" (polished rocks) from the Grand Canyon and little notes from the boys. I fully plan on being a red-eyed wreck for the rest of the day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

pipe cleaner fun

The sick day also afforded me an hour to work on these pipe cleaner poinsettias. I stole the idea from a gift wrap article in Better Homes. The kids helped with cutting the pipe cleaners (I think they're called "bump chenille" or something like that) and bending the cut pieces in half. I hot-glued them to a small cardstock circle, and the kids helped with hot-gluing the silver beads in the middle. I'm kind of working on a tree with mostly white and silver ornaments, and I thought these poinsettias would look beautiful tied on with white ribbon.

how I spent my kid's sick day

We've had a strange on and off stomach bug in our house, mainly affecting Flash. It started the day before we were supposed to drive to Janette's house for Thanksgiving, and the nausea and vomiting have returned (pretty reliably) every 2 days. So Flash was home yesterday. After exceeding my limit of X-Box and TV, I took a deep breath and said, "Hey, why don't we decorate for Christmas?" Everyone cheered. So we decorated here and there, and the tree will come later. Super Q is so cute about it; wide-eyed and excited. He made a connection between every little thing we put up and Santa: "Santa will love this tiny bell, Mom!" It made the living room full of tissue paper, boxes, and sphaghnum moss worth it.

Monday, November 12, 2007


We had a super-fun cowboy weekend trip with the boys. Or more like a ranch-hand weekend. We stayed at the Quiet Hill Ranch (I bet the owners are glad they didn't go with "Silent Hill"; remember that horror movie a few years back?) where you sleep in a real log cabin (with hot showers and a/c, so not really real) and cook yer vittles in a lodge kitchen. We gathered eggs from the chickens, played horseshoes, and built a campfire. The next day we hiked-- what passes for a mountain in Texas--Enchanted Rock, a huge granite hill. It was super windy and we had a great time filling up our shirts with air-muscles. It was a much-needed break for all of us. I didn't know how much I needed it until Sunday arrived. It was my first Primary presentation and the whole day was a stressful blur. I'm told it was a great presentation. I wouldn't know as I divided my time between pulling a 5 year old out from under the organ, trying to find a super last-minute replacement for a non-participatory teacher, and getting the older brother of the above-mentioned 5 year old to put away the Barbie tic-tac-toe game right now!

Monday, October 29, 2007

life in the tent

As much as I loved the comfort food pasta dish below, it didn't stave off the chest cold for me. I spent 2 1/2 nights of misery, falling asleep too late, waking up often, even possibly pulling a muscle right below my ribs from all of the infernal coughing. Finally in the middle of the night I remembered a tent-like structure I had made for Flash a few years ago. Granted, it was easier then because he was in a crib, but my Nyquil-addled mind still managed to put together a respectable sheet tent. The humidifier pumps steamy air directly into the door of the tent and FINALLY I can get some sleep. The whole setup lends a sort of 19th-century feel to my bedroom. I should have some mustard plasters and leeches at the ready to complete the scene.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

pasta shock

So everyone in our family has a horrible cold and we were in need of some comfort food. I modified a recipe from Food & Wine Magazine's Quick From Scratch Pasta Cookbook and made this:

Homemade Penne & Cheese

3 cups dry whole wheat penne pasta
3-4 tablespoons butter (or butter-type spread)
1/8 cup half and half or milk
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons bacon pieces
2 tablespoons bread crumbs (opt.)

Boil pasta according to directions on the package. While the pasta cooks, grate the cheese. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Over very low heat, combine the pasta and remaining ingredients (except the bacon and breadcrumbs) until the cheese is melted and everything is creamy. Transfer to a 2 qt baking pan. Sprinkle with bacon and breadcrumbs. Bake @ 350 for 25 minutes. (Baking can be skipped; just sprinkle with bacon and breadcrumbs and eat it!)

I made some steamed broccoli on the side and it tasted so nice. Super Q and I enjoyed it on the front lawn as a picnic while Flash did lots of tricks on his razor scooter in the driveway. Hooray for fall weather!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

isn't this one of the signs of the last days?

Fanny packs are back. (!)

the mean friend

I just listened to the greatest This American Life podcast. You can find it here. It's called "The Allure of the Mean Friend," and I don't even need to explain it to you because you've almost certainly wondered about mean popular people and why such a person* even exists. (Shouldn't popular and mean be mutually exclusive?)

It's so funny and right-on. I highly recommend it for a distraction as you fold laundry or cut out 120 construction paper pumpkins... or map the human genome or whatever your current project is. (The feminist in me wouldn't let me leave it at laundry and pumpkins).

If you're more in the mood for a heartbreaking yet hopeful story about parents who beat the odds, listen to this one. The second "act" is about a boy adopted from Romania. The first 7 years of his life were spent in a crib, shared with one other boy. He was allowed out of the crib to eat and use the bathroom. Not surprisingly, he has a difficult time with "attaching to" or trusting others. His mother worked with him for 7 years. I won't spoil the rest, but you will be amazed.

*If I could track it down, I would post a picture of one such person from my high school yearbook. Suffice it to say that the photographer had to move back and re-frame the picture in order to accommodate her incredibly HUGE 80s halo of hair. She also had many matching sets of suede skirts and boots. I'm sure she's a great person now and everything, but she was one mean girl back then.

Hallo-teen fiction

You've undoubtedly heard about this book, Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, an LDS mom living in AZ. I read it yesterday in preparation for book club next week. The plot was good; it moved at a fairly fast clip. I kept having to remind myself that it is young adult fiction, though; I think I expected more out of it in terms of style and voice. Actually, scratch that, some of my favorite books are young adult fiction (e.g. Harriet the Spy) . I have to put the cover of Harriet in here because I LOVE the old-school illustrations from the original edition.

Not that you can see it well, but Harriet is definitely ahead of her time with the slouchy jeans, hoodie, and -- black Converse low tops, maybe?

Anyway, back to Twilight. I was intensely curious to read this book after hearing a bit about its origin (a dream the author had) and the facts about the author herself, not to mention the subject matter: a girl whose first love turns out to be a vampire. As I said, the plot draws you in, but I found lots of repetition of descriptive phrases and the like. This is annoying to me; I'm just picky about style, I guess, which is not to say I have personally mastered it at all. I tend toward the rambling phrase and overuse of parentheses. As if you hadn't noticed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

smooshy cooking

Here's my new way to trick my boys into helping me cook:

Items needed:

1 ziplock bag (gallon size)
recipe for something that can be smooshed (we made ricotta/parmesan filling for pasta shells)
a little restraint (on the part of the kids)

They had a great time smooshing the ricotta, egg, parmesan, etc in the bag. Then we cut off the bottom corner and piped the filling into the shells. They want to try it with cookies today. Or maybe brownies would work.

I have to admit that part of the appeal on their end is the gross-out factor, but that's ok with me.

I also wanted to pass on this recipe that I have been loving for a few years. It's from Lindsay Olives, and I like it in pitas as well as on couscous or rice. My kids like it, too, although not all kids are into feta cheese. You might substitute goat cheese instead (or another mild, soft cheese).

Pan Grilled Chicken with Olives & Plum Tomatoes

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons poultry magic seasoning mix* or garlic salt
2 cups diced plum tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can Lindsay Ripe large, extra large or jumbo olives, drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil or parsley (optional)
2 cups hot cooked couscous (2/3 cup uncooked)
Coat both sides of chicken with 2 teaspoons of the oil; sprinkle 1-1/2 teaspoons of the seasoning over chicken. Heat a ridged grill pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, olives and remaining 2 teaspoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning. Transfer chicken and couscous to serving plates; top with the olive mixture, cheese and basil. Makes 4 servings.

*Any seasoning blend such as herb poultry seasoning mix may be substituted. To substitute garlic salt, reduce the amount to 1 teaspoon. Sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon over the chicken and stir 1/4 teaspoon into the olive mixture.

Nutrients per Serving: Calories: 419 Calories from fat: 165 Total fat: 18g Monounsaturated fat: 9g Cholesterol: 82mg Sodium: 838mg Total Carbohydrates: 31g Dietary Fiber: 2g Protein: 34g

creepy as you please

An ad for these dolls has been haunting my dh; I taped it up on the outside of the shower door so he had to see it every morning. I think they look so real that they're actually creepy. And the ad text is hilarious:

Sweet things often come in small packages - like these poseable baby dolls in the Heavenly Handfuls™ Sweet As You Please collection, available exclusively from Ashton-Drake. Measuring only 5" long, these miniature realistic baby dolls will warm your heart as you cradle them in the palm of your hand.

Created by doll artist Dorothy Steven and masterfully handcrafted by talented artisans, these cuddly cuties are exquisite marvels of breathtaking realism. The finest quality artist's vinyl allows for incredibly lifelike detailing, down to the creases on the bottoms of the baby doll's precious little feet. With their soft bodies, these miniature dolls are fully poseable and costumed in a variety of delightful ensembles, complete with crocheted booties. Darlings this sweet can't last - don't wait to bring home your bundles of joy. Order now!



Friday, October 05, 2007


Making me happy today:

  • Delaware, a song by Don Peris. The video is clips of home movies from amusement parks, trips to the lake, etc. It's very sweet. Home movies always make me do a weird hysterical laugh/cry thing.
  • Sound driver located! Music on computer now accessible!
  • Chicken enchiladas with green sauce for dinner. I have been such a Mexican food JUNKIE lately. Breakfast, lunch and dinner today were composed of black beans, chips, salsa, cheese, and chicken, in different combinations and with varying degrees of spice. It's a sickness.
  • Coke zero, also breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage
  • Watching my boys hug and kiss pink balloons for Hannah before releasing them into an incredibly clear blue sky. A bittersweet goodbye.
  • The Office ( I know it's totally predictable by this point, but I still like the writing and some of the characters)
  • Leaf rubbings
  • Letting a friend talk me into a manicure and realizing (with some degree of relief/satisfaction) that I'm still not a manicure person.
  • Patty's wonderful news about her son. (She was awaiting the results of a test which determines autistic disorders. You can see a link to her blog at right----> It's called Pancakes Gone Awry)
  • Bend the Rules Sewing. And the return of my sewing machine from a friend. Perfect timing.
  • Freezer paper shirts, an occasional obsession of mine. The upswing of the obsession usually coincides with lots of birthday parties for my kids' friends and an unwillingness to spend $10 each on crappy plastic toys from Target. Not that I don't go the crappy-toys-from-Target route, I certainly do, but a handmade gift is so nice, don't you think? (I'm loathe to ask the same question of the recipients of these shirts).
  • Bulleted lists.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

sad news

At about 12:35 this morning, our little friend Hannah passed away. We knew it was coming soon but I wasn't really prepared for the news, I guess. It was hard to tell our boys about it. It's hard to watch my friend go through this. Our hearts ache for the loss, the empty space at the table, but at the same time I feel some peace and gratitude that Hannah's struggle is over. She is free from the body that limited her so severely for the last few weeks. We know we will see her again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

mysterious ways

I have been feeling so boxed in by sadness, anxiety, stress, etc. lately. But here's the thing about boxes: sometimes there's a prize at the bottom! It may not be from Tiffany, but if it's sparkly and shines a bit, I'll accept it. Last night the prize was my first pack meeting -- something I was not particularly excited about, as cub scouts has struggled in our ward of late. But we had great attendance by both leaders and boys. The boys were so sweet and embarrassed and proud.

We had gathered around for cookies when the power went out. Out came the makeshift flashlights (cell phones) and we herded everyone to the parking lot; some kids cried, some were delighted. I don't know why that decidedly minor experience improved my mood, but it did. So I'm grateful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

cold scary world

Do you remember where you were 6 years ago today? Of course you do. On that morning I was driving in our old Corolla to Target, having just moved into a new house and in need of furnishings. Flash was with me; he was almost 2. We heard the 1st tower fall on NPR. I chatted with the cashier about it, returned to the car, and then realized that it was now two towers down, with thousands of people trapped inside. I went home and sat in front of the television all day, weeping. All of those people jumping. All of those "missing" posters in the days to come. All of those parents and siblings and spouses, gone.

I've been reading "For the Time Being" by Annie Dillard. She quotes the Mahabharata:
"Of all of the world's wonders, which is the most wonderful?"
"That no man, though he sees others dying all around him, believes that he himself will die."

It's true, isn't it? In the past week I've watched the rapid decline of Miss Hannah, was informed of a sexual abuse situation in our ward, and --tonight-- heard that people have been robbed at gunpoint in our neighborhood recently. (This last came from a well-meaning neighbor who shared all pertinent details with use in front of our kids. They're sleeping in our room tonight.) And though waves of sadness and fear and anxiety wash over me from time to time, the breakfast is made, the dishes are washed, the laundry is put away. To stop would be to acquiesce, to deny the warmth that hope brings to weary limbs and minds, that "healing balm" that we all require and receive more than we probably know.

Friday, September 07, 2007

in the underground city...

As part of my much-procrastinated report on our China trip, here are a couple of photos of the "underground city" in Beijing. Tourists can only see a small fraction of what was once an enormous winding network of subterranean air-raid shelters built by hundreds of thousands of Beijingers in the late 70s. What's left of it is damp, spooky and (best of all!) full of Mao propaganda and portraits of military leaders. Next to seeing Mao's creepy old body (which was under "maintenance" and not available for tourists), I was really hoping for a look at funny/disturbing propaganda. What I did not plan on (and was not pleased to see at the end of this dank tunnel) was a "Silk Education Center" wherein our friendly guide turned into a high-pressure mall kiosk salesman. We were trapped for at least 40 minutes until we finally told the guy we had to get to the airport to catch our flight home.
There's more info about the tunnels here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

look down!

Hooray for, where you can make your own playlist and email it or embed it in your blog. I just spent 45 minutes working on it. The little player icon is waaaaaay down at the bottom of this page (I'm not sure how to move it up higher... any suggestions?)
If you've ever wondered what my kids are subjected to on long trips (or what I listened to in college and rediscovered when I put the playlist together), you can satisfy your curiosity courtesy of finetune.

Friday, August 24, 2007

media roundup!

In the usual attempt to distract myself from a mounting to-do list and sad things all around, I've been reading and downloading music like mad. Here's a sampling of things I'm in love with lately:

1. Sufjan Stevens (festively pictured above)
who has an amazing voice and songwriting ability, is Christian, and whose discography includes the requisite percentage of very sad songs. My favorites are To Be Alone With You, Abraham, A Size Too Small and The Dress Looks Nice on You. I think they're all on the same album (Seven Swans) but if you're downloading, you probably don't care.

To Be Alone With You is about Christ, and it's very beautiful and even holy. (Here are the lyrics.)
Although I can listen to a few LDS artists, there is a kind of mid-90s lite rock undercurrent there that turns me off. Hence my joy at finding Sufjan Stevens, The Innocence Mission, and others who are Christian and not offensive and help me feel the Spirit without suppressing a laugh.

2. Fame Junkies by Jake Halpern

If, like me, you are a bit befuddled by the American obsession with famous people, you will enjoy this book. The chapter about the Rod Stewart fan is just plain sad. The author goes a bit too far in his use of evolutionary psychology (did I just make that discipline up) to explain celebrity worship, but it's a good read anyhow.

3. The Office

I usually recuse myself from conversations about serial TV shows, but, alas, I can join in now. I have a show, and it's The Office. Mighty fine mind candy. It's on a bit too early to watch at the normal time, but I've been watching the last season on this website:
And it's subtitled in Chinese, for even more fun.

4. Bog Bodies

I know that a deep and abiding love for bogs is not normal. But they are seriously fascinating. In a National Geographic article this month about bog bodies you will find some spookily beautiful pictures of very well-preserved people, some of whom died around the time of Christ. Some may have been sacrificed, some executed for criminal behavior. I am fascinated by the cultures in which these people lived and the ecology of the bogs themselves. Nowhere else do we find such perfectly preserved faces, clothing, even hair; a true encapsulation of a person who lived long ago.


Don't you sometimes wish you could pull up a transcript of your day to share with other people? Super Q just summoned me to "sit outside the bathroom door because I'm scared but don't come in because of privacy." He walked all the way with a walking stick/light saber stick thing (stolen from the miniblinds in his room, no doubt) saying, "I'm Yoda. I'm a Jedi!" While in the bathroom, he danced around for about 5 minutes saying, "Mom, mom, guess what? OK, Yoda, he's really little? And he lives in this tiny house? His house is SO tiny! But he has a flat-screen TV and a microwave oven and like a little bed and guess what! He's poor! And he bought all of that stuff!"
Wow. I went from "Ugh; more Star Wars" to "Ok this is hilarious" to " my 4-year old says 'flat screen TV' and 'microwave oven?' Microwave oven? "
And it's only the smallest percent of what I hear every day. A transcript is needed, that's certain.

Monday, July 16, 2007

... and there's more!

What could be better than a handsome (although a bit gruff-looking) Texan with a view of Hong Kong behind him? Even MORE pictures of Hong Kong, that's what! Click here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma

Our friend Hannah isn't doing very well. After a very nice respite from symptoms (5 months or so with radiation), her tumor is growing again. Her mom, a dear friend, gave birth to a sweet baby girl on July 1. Their family is under a mountain of stress. My friend, believe it or not, is taking things in stride and focusing on the blessings already received.
Please pray for our friend, Hannah. I won't put her last name here, but just include her in your prayers. Flash and Super Q are having a hard time with this. Today Flash asked me, "Is this the kind of cancer you can die from?" For the first time, I answered the questions instead of deflecting them. I told him yes. He said, "How many times does this kind of cancer come back before the person dies? 13? 14?" I shook my head. "2?" I nodded. He started to cry. "I don't want to talk about this Mom. It's going to give me nightmares." We hugged for awhile.
It's giving me nightmares, too.

back from the mystical Orient

I wish this was a photo that I took; it's pretty cool. My photos are all on our other computer, so I'll have to put them up when I have, oh, 6 HOURS of disposable time. China was amazing and not a little overwhelming. My favorite part, except for Hong Kong OF COURSE, was Guilin (pictured above) and wonderful, cheap food.
Least favorite was the near-crash landing in Chicago on the way home. When a flight attendant makes a tiny, one-line announcement along the lines of "Please remember to leave your carry-on items on the plane in the event of an emergency", you know to brace yourself, I guess. Suffice it to say it was the scariest freaking landing in my life. I really do have many deep and insightful comments to share, with accompanying photos. Promise. Just not tonight.

Monday, June 18, 2007

4 more days!

Yes, there are lots and lots of McDonald's restaurants in China. Kind of surreal, ordering a Big Mac in chinese. And the omnipresence of borscht on fast food menus there is also weird. I'm looking forward to roasted sweet potatoes, shrimp dumplings, and fresh watermelon juice drinks, all available from street vendors. I'm dreaming in chinese again, something that hasn't happened for a long time. Evan asked me what I wanted to do first, and I was overcome with images and feelings; I almost couldn't answer. The thought of being there again is pretty overwhelming.

This place is one of my favorites. It's called Sai Kung, and it's gorgeous at sunset. I watched a man once on P-day as the sun went down. There was a diving platform there and as I watched his silhouette enter the water over and over again I felt such peace. Being a missionary can be exceedingly challenging, even depressing sometimes. I was so grateful for peaceful moments like those; they buoyed me up and gave me the courage to keep trying.

Monday, June 11, 2007

... and we'll set that particular insecurity aside

Thanks for the feedback on the sad-face thing. Sorry it was so self-absorbed. Now that I'm 35 (as of Saturday) I'm WAAAAY beyond stuff like that.

Thanks to all of you who sent/emailed birthday cheer my way. I had a great time buying stuff for myself without the inner mom guilt kicking in ("Flash really needs new church pants and you already have 6 pairs of black shoes; what are you thinking?"). We also dropped the kids off at a friend's house and headed to the beach for Italian food and walking in the moonlight (don't get any romantic ideas there, we were joined by about 29 Mississippians armed with bright flashlights and buckets on the search for sandcrabs). It was a nice day.

We're almost set for the great trek across the ocean to the mystical Orient. I say it in jest, but I must add that there is truly something in the air in China (besides smog); incense and mothballs mingled with a definite shrimpy smell and mango undertones. I can't wait!

Monday, June 04, 2007

sad, sad girl

An informal, unofficial, and certainly not mandatory poll. I've had more than a few people tell me lately that I look sad all the time. These kind of comments come my way from time to time, and I just have to ask, all of you, friends and family... do I really look sad all/most of the time? I think it's just the natural cast of my face (unfortunately)-- what do you think?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

this is so much fun

After an arduous 1-hour session of setting up some new software, I looked around for some virtual mind-candy and found this sign generator. You can add text to all kinds of stuff, from pictures of cakes to the Vegas sign to the London Underground sign. There are lots of fun tools for kids and grownups alike on the site. Check it out! (The link there is to the Big Boy marquee sign, but scroll down for more.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

my kind of cooking

I found an article at (click here) which I love. Here's why: I have a friend who is an excellent cook, who grew up eating food prepared by excellent cooks (her parents), and she once imparted a bit of wisdom to me, which was, basically, you don't need a lot of crazy geegaws to make wonderful stuff. As a person who has collected a number of crazy kitchen geegaws over the years, I'm gearing up for a major kitchen cleanout. (The remnants of the late 90s candle craze were dumped over the weekend; the kitchen's next). This article gives me the freedom to not feel like a loser cook if I use a plate as a pot lid or a splatter screen as a colander.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Super Q ROCKS!

I'm happy to report that at the ripe old age of 4, Super Q has a theme song... a rockin' theme song. You can hear it here; the link's on a site devoted to an actor who was on the old Scholastic Animorphs series, a series I knew nothing about until I found some ancient VHS copy of it at the library. It's now considered way awesome at our house. But here's the best part: remember taping your favorite song off the radio using a tape recorder and having to be super quiet while you did it? I didn't think it would be anywhere online, so Super Q and I sat down and taped it off the TV. Then Q had a great time listening to it over and over again for (no joke) about 2 hours. It's now part of the musical canon of "boy songs" suitable for soundtracks to superhero and secret agent living room battles. Yeah!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

what the?

In preparation for the big TRIP I got a Hepatitis A shot today. And my arm is so very, very sore. Anyway, I sat down to write/whine about it and desired a picture of Hepatitis A cells or something when I came across this oddity: it's the Hepatitis virus in stuffed animal form! It can be purchased from, where you will also find cute n' cuddly versions of black death, ebola, algae, dust mites, mange, rabies, and more! I've been trying to think of an occasion for which a soft stuffed syphilis doll is appropriate. Is it meant to soothe the pain of a diagnosis? Some kind of gag gift you bring to a pathology conference? Man, the internet is bizarre sometimes.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

heavy, heavy boots

Sometimes it's great to revisit books you liked, but only when you remember enough about the book to STOP yourself before you get to the super-depressing parts. Say you've decided to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close again, and all you remember is that the protagonist is a 9-year-old boy whose father died on 9/11. He finds a mysterious key among his dad's things and embarks on a search through New York to discover what the key will unlock. The boy's name is Oskar and he's so precocious and creative--the child we all think we want to have but probably would be annoyed with. When he's feeling sad, he calls it having "heavy boots." He's been hiding the family answering maching since 9/11 because it has 5 terribly sad messages on it: his dad calling from the Windows on the World, reporting on the situation there. The last message consists of, "Is anyone there?" repeated 15 times. Don't forget this next time! Don't pick up this book unless you are on the beach in Jamaica or something, surrounded by enough beauty and vacuousness to cushion the impact. Remember this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

the show must go on!

Is there anything better than an impromptu performance by your kids? When I was little, it ranged from Debbie Boone/Xanadu/Barbra Streisand lip-sync concerts to roller derbies to pageants (the "Miss Ugmo Pageant," to be precise, wherein the ugliest contestant won).

In my house, it's feats of strength and bravery, involving running, jumping off the ottoman, and sliding in the kitchen in stocking-feet. The best part is the accompaniment
, provided by the very crappy songs on our 80s Casio keyboard. Current favorites include "Superstition" (Stevie Wonder), some Pet Shop Boys song, and a song called "Crocodile Rock." These are "boy songs," appropriate for superhero fighting and feats of strength and bravery. The "girl songs" like the theme from Aladdin and a folk song called "Santa Lucia" are only to be played for visiting girls. Even then, they are roundly scorned. Then there are "church songs" (anything with a ponderous organ sound) during which one must solemnly march around, eyes fixed on an imaginary hymnal held in front of one's chest. That keyboard has provided hours and hours of quality entertainment. Definitely worth the $50.00 gift certificate and free night of babysitting I paid for it. (Flashback to that night of babysitting: one pee-soaked mattress, one hyper 10-year old demanding strawberries and whipped cream, one 3-year old who stayed awake until 11:30 pm, one tired and humorless Rebecca taking it all in...Yeah, I guess it was worth it.)

Paris to the Moon

First, I do like Adam Gopnik! Just finished his other small-family-in-a-big-city memoir, called Paris to the Moon. So nice. It's good to get a little reality check about Europe sometimes, don't you think? I read in another favorite book, American Cultural Patterns*, that Asia looks up to America, America looks up to Europe, and Europe looks up to Asia. I think there is a fair amount of Euro-worship here (minus that whole "Boycott France" movement of a few years ago), and we sure could learn from European lifestyles (walking to the market, sidewalk cafes, super yummy fresh bread, and real chocolate, to name a few), but we don't often know the country/culture well enough to make a real assessment of it. Anyway, that was a long way of getting to my point, which is that Gopnik reveals Paris as city with which one easily falls in love and just as easily feels frustrated with. I won't write out any anecdotes here, but suffice it to say that Gopnik hates Barney as much as you do, knows heaps about French cooking, and can draw some lovely conclusions about cultural differences from fax error messages.

*A textbook from some linguistics class ages ago...VERY enlightening! If you want to understand more about American culture and the (for us, totally obscured) motivations behind American friendships, social structure, and ambition, read this book. I also learned quite a lot about Japan, Germany, and, of course, Micronesia in the pages of this book.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chairman Mao, here we come!

Well, it's official. We're taking a long-anticipated trip to China this summer. I'm hoping for some idyllic photo ops with Chinese children like Mao Zedong here. I don't think I'll have much luck with Mao himself, as his body has been lying in state at Tiananmen Square for something like 30 years (ick). Makes you wonder what they preserved him with. My bet is Diet Caffeine Free Coke. Ahhh, better living through chemicals.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

the children's gate

Ooh, I'm afraid the image there isn't looking very clear; sorry. I just have to recommend this book. I've enjoyed Adam Gopnik's work from time to time in the New Yorker (including a great essay about Lewis Carroll about 12 years ago).
This book chronicles his family's move to New York after living in Paris for several years. I've never been to New York but still managed to adore nearly every page of this book. It explores many themes, but my favorite is Gopnik's beautiful way of capturing the way kids think. There are several chapters that chronicle the appearance and evolution of the author's daughter's imaginary friend, who goes by Charlie Ravioli. Charlie, like most people in New York I imagine, is too busy to play, and Gopnik's daughter reports that she is only able to "grab coffee with him" or catch him on his cell. Eventually she creates an imaginary assistant through which she tries to schedule play dates. The whole story is unbelievably funny, and the book is a happy read.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

beanbag extravaganza!

I promised the boys a beanbag toss game if they played nicely together while I cooked...little did I know what a festival of dishes awaited me! We had about 30 bowls lined up throughout the living room and "library" (2 chairs and a bookshelf), and--look closely--we even had a bonus round.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

faux black and white cookies

Remember that Seinfeld episode that featured the black and white cookie? Like the Chinese restaurant and parking lot episodes, it takes place mostly in one setting on one evening. I actually hate those episodes (so frustrating to watch). So it wasn't really in honor of that episode that I made these cookies; they just sounded good. The recipe is completely "cheater cheater Pumpkin eater" as my boys would say, but it works, especially in a time crunch.

You'll need:
1 box white or yellow cake mix
1 box chocolate cake mix
To each box (in separate bowls) add:
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs

Mix well. Take 1 tsp of each kind of dough and make a half-moon shape. Press together. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes on ungreased baking sheets. Makes about 36.
p.s. Don't use "butter recipe" mixes; they are too greasy.

sewing FRENZY!

I'm a bit dismayed as I look at these photos of my little breakfast nook (nook--is that a real word?) window seat cushions. They look so unassuming and kind of bland, masking the 8 HOURS of sewing that their construction required, including all 4 disks of Season One of Frasier and an entire can of honey roasted peanuts. This picture does not show the corner where the two cushions meet like puzzle pieces, nor does it show the many inches of hand sewing that had to happen once I forced the foam pad into each casing. (Did I mention the handmade piping?) Anyway, they're done, hallelujah! I wanted color in the kitchen, and I got it. I had to put the picture up here after putting in so much time on this project.

Friday, February 23, 2007

18 more days

Happy, happy day! I just checked the Innocence Mission's website and their new album is due out in March (13th to be exact). And if you love beauty, gentleness, and music with a moral (but not preachy), or if you love pretty voices and folksy guitar, then you will adore this band. You can see their very nice site here and listen to clips of the album here .

Workin for the Weekend

Here's something funny... you know that Loverboy song, "Everybody's Workin' for the Weekend"? Believe it or not, stay at home drones are also workin' for the weekend. There's something about Saturday that is just a relief to me. No one has to be fed and out the door at 8:00; we can wear pajamas until noon if we want.

That said, tomorrow is Buy the Materials to Make Bunkbeds Day. We have a grand plan to save tons of money by building bunkbeds for the boys. They will look nothing like the image above. I really hope they work out... If not, we might be having a Sell Random Pieces of Wood Day.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Air Bud tragedy

Well, another "kids" movie has proven problematic for our family. The last one was Zathura, which the kids LOVE, but has a particularly nasty word near the beginning, which leads to a mad dash to the DVD remote just in time to skip it and to hear... "MOOOMMMMM!"
In the case of Air Bud, there actually were a few objectionable words, but nothing too serious. It was the scene near the end where young Josh, the nerdy-new-kid turned basketball hero has to drop his dog/mentor Air Bud off in the wilderness due to the fact that a semi-insane clown is after the dog. (Long'll have to rent the movie/buy it at the dollar store to get the full context.) Anyway, Josh delivers these intense, emotional lines like "Bud, it's time for you to go...(sob!) I don't want you anymore! (hiccup) Just leave! Go!!"
I tried to explain to the boys the reason for Josh's betrayal (see aforementioned insane clown), but when I looked over at them, they were both breaking down, sobbing. I felt like SUCH a jerk for letting them watch this painful scene, and FF-ed the tape until we got to another basketball scene where Josh, along with last-minute substitute Air Bud, wins the state championship for his team.
I guess the lesson is to preview each and every movie before showing it to your kids. Or just avoid animal athlete films altogether.

Friday, February 09, 2007

One Art

Are you a loser? I am. As in, I lose my keys and lock myself out of the house, lose bits of paper with Very Important Lists on them, lose the names of people in the dusty cabinets of my brain and lose the ability to answer even one more curious question from a very verbal 4-year-old... If you're a loser, too, you might like this poem by Elizabeth Bishop, titled One Art. I'd put it all here but I think it's not yet in the public domain, and librarians are supposed to protect copyright, etc., etc...
I should mention that the scope of the poem extends beyond lost keys and might make you a bit sad at the end. And while you're sad, go ahead and read this one (The Embrace) by Mark Doty. It describes a dream in which a deceased loved one returns, alive and well, to visit the author. It's beautiful.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I mean, really!

Will my life ever return to the normal rhythm of get Flash off to school, Super Q to preschool, volunteer at school library, grocery store, make dinner, ride exercise bike, sleep, repeat? I was called to be the Primary president ( in charge of roughly 120 kids between the ages of 2 and 12) at church about 2 weeks ago and, man, am I reeling! Between phone calls and finding substitutes and meetings and issues with teachers and now Cub Scouts, I feel like I'm being stretched to my limits. My body has responded in typical stress-out mode: nausea, migraine, twitchy eye. As Flash would say, in his inimitable way, "I mean, really!"

I'm thinking a tattoo of all of the prophets across my back will help me remember to follow their example as I serve the kids in my ward. Or maybe just a green CTR shield on my ankle?

suggestions for filling down time

Fun things to do when you're faced with a rainy Saturday, a napping 4 year old, and no desire whatsoever to clean your house:

Google Image Search on your own name. I found several "Rebecca Marshalls" (one pictured here--she looks a bit like my Dad's somewhat unstable cousin), both in the UK. And a few men who came up under that search (?)

Research Windows Vista. Get excited about it. Price it. Decide against it.

Listen to majority of The Shins' new album. Wonder why you were, at one point, desperately in love with this band. Shift allegiance to Iron & Wine.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

an ad like no other

It's a gray day outside--I know you need this link as much as I do. It's for the Sony Bravia TV: 2 ads that celebrate color. My favorite is here,
, the superball ad. The paint cannon ad is also really cool -- it can be found here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

distractions of late

freezer paper hand towels , detail of shoe organizer

<--freezer paper/embroidered tooth fairy pillow shoe organizer for baby Chloe--->

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

telegrams and anger

Last week we found out that a good friend of our family, Miss Binns (at left) has an inoperable brain tumor. She starts radiation this week, and her oncologist has given her a 12-18 week prognosis.

We've known Miss Binns since she was a baby; she's two days older than Super Q. Her mom is one of my dear friends. We're all reeling at the news, as you might imagine. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the possibility of a life only 4 years long.

I've been thinking the past few days about one of my favorite books, Howard's End, by E.M. Forster. Among other things, its theme is the overarching importance of personal relationships in our lives. Indeed, you might say that little else matters except for connecting with (loving) others. In the book, two sisters, the Miss Schlegels, encounter death, love, and loss with grace and sensitivity informed by their motto: "Only Connect!" They consider themselves quite different from other people--they don't care much for (as they put it) "telegrams and anger." In other words, they try to see beyond the minutiae that can cloud our perspective and take time away from the people we love the most.
"Only Connect!" Words to live by, I think.