Wednesday, December 17, 2008

9 year stats

7 Addresses
4 States Inhabited
1 House
3 Cars
39 States traveled to together (airports do NOT count!)
5 trips to Florida
*16 trips to DC
Approx. $18 K spent visiting family alone!
5 foreign countries visited
6 jobs
2 graduations (mine from BYU, Mark's from HBS)
4 children
About 2735 nights of interrupted sleep (rough estimate)
*212 trips to the laundromat
*32 parking tickets
38 birthdays
8 birthday parties
About 4080 pancakes made on our pancake griddle, not counting moonlighting at ward breakfasts
4 trips sans enfants
25 callings
countless hugs, kisses, smiles
* approximated

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Best Christmas Pageant & Pork Shoulder Ever

My sister Heidi has requested that I blog about the best Christmas in Alabama and the best one in UT. This will be our tenth Christmas together, and we have traveled for every single one of them (during the Christmas season counts, if not there on the actual day), except for 2002, when Katrina was 6 weeks old. Traveling during the holidays stinks, but Mark and I are both incredibly sentimental, so we put up with lots of headache to be with loved ones.

My favorite Christmas in Alabama was Christmas 2000. I was pregnant with Felicity, so it was just Mark and I and his immediate family: his mom, dad, and sister. Rewa had not yet remarried, so she was there with lots of free time. Christmas Eve was on a Sunday, which I love, because it forces us to enjoy that day too, since Mark won't shop on a Christmas Eve Sunday. I also like going to church on Christmas Eve. Mark's aunts and cousins were there, and we all had Sunday dinner at MaDeah's house. The next morning Rewa got up and opened her presents by herself and then Mark and I opened our gifts with Mama Arcola. Everyone came over for the traditional pork shoulder with biscuits, rice, and hot sauce breakfast they have every Christmas morning. Then we watched X Men on video with Terrance, who has actually read the comix so he was chock full of info. That night we went to Arcola's old family house where she grew up and had the turkey and dressing, ham, greens and sweet potato pie. I couldn't remember anybody's name or keep up with the conversations but we still had a great time. I think I picked up a lot of southern expressions that trip.

Alabama Christmas 2005 was also pretty good. We instigated a Christmas Pageant that year, and Kel, Rewa's son, participated. Mark and I did stockings for everyone, which was really fun to plan. The next day, we asked the family if we could open presents together and we were so busy watching the kids get into their Santa gifts and setting up the 4 video cameras that we didn't finish opening presents until 4 pm! Mark's parents got new carpet 2 days later, which was a lot of work, and then we all went to Panama City, Florida for a few days and stayed in a nice condo on the beach. It was a great break from the Boston winter we were about to return to.

My favorite Christmas in UT was probably last year... or Christmas 2004. Both Christmases I was expecting a new baby boy in the next month, so I was huge and uncomfortable, but it was good to see so many members of my family. We did a lot of family get-togethers last year, which was so nice because we got to be with everybody so much of the time. The children always have a great time with their cousins. The only lament is that Craig & Holly and Kurt & Alice were gone last year. The girls' reaction over their gifts in 2004 was awesome and Matthew's over his tools was great last year.

On Christmas Eve, the Hansens have their traditional turkey dinner, followed by the kids' production of the Nativity. It's not terribly reverent, but always entertaining and rather a huge production with so many kids. Then we sing Christmas songs for hours, hang up stockings, and the water game ensues. Water UNO is a tradition from Craig's mission- it starts out a huge game with a monster deck. We play "SuperUNO," meaning that you pile on Draw 4's, pass your cards to your neighbor when a zero is played, etc etc. Losers drink a huge -huge!- cupful of water. You're out of the game when you excuse yourself to the bathroom. (Yes, this sounds like a game from elders... ) Mom and Dad play the Messiah into the night and the Santas get a few precious hours of sleep before we dress up and line up to go see stockings and then presents under the tree. Dad hands out the gifts one by one in an agonizingly slow fashion until the room resembles a packing peanuts factory (one year I gave Tyler an incredibly fragile electric blanket) and we laze around and read comic books from the stockings for the rest of the day. Lunch is leftovers from the night before and it's a nice lazy day playing with toys, games, and the movies. And eating candy.

So there you have it, almost like it was straight from the Ghost of Christmases Past. We are going to Alabama this year, but since we're driving, we get to leave when we want and hopefully it will ease the stress somewhat on packing gifts. Better than last year, when the suitcase of presents got left at home and I called my heroic neighbor in a panic. She sped it to the airport and then the nice guys at Security did not throw a fit about the large bottles of cologne going through the belt. I think they were afraid to mess with a stressed pregnant lady. Very wise.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Matthew's house

Every kid loves to build stuff out of pillows and blankets, and it helps if your mom lets you have a go at the furniture pieces as well. This is Matthew's favorite activity lately- making a house, rocket ship, roller coaster or a train out of household objects. There are intricate details at times, like that upside-down laundry basket, which serves as a transporter into the house, because the door was eliminated. Hard to make a fuss about the mess when he's using his imagination and playing independently so well. (Besides, let's be honest, it's a mess anyway.)

It also makes me question certain Christmas requests. Why is it that the actual toys, lusted after for months on end, become less fun than the wrapping paper or the box it came in? What's more, Mom and Dad's regular things are even more exciting. I guess that's why they invent things like E-Z bake ovens (which turn out to be more of a hassle for parents. Just a piece of unsolicited advice for any of you contemplating buying one)!

Cousins, cousins, everywhere

"Cheers, chaps"- toasting each other at Thanksgiving dinner. 8 kids at that table, the babies at the other.

The 6 "Kansan Kids," as Felicity and Katrina have dubbed them, came down for a quick visit for Thanksgiving, escorted by their parents of course. It was great- the children all play very well together and the older girls are super helpful with the younger kids. Plus it's always nice to see Neil and Kristie.

Raining bubbles. Felicity got a bubble machine last March and was saving it for this moment.

Felicity and Maria on the swingset. These girls have been buddies since birth- Maria was there to welcome Felicity home from the hospital.

We loved having them, and it's always hard for Felicity to say goodbye. Even though we are about a 7 and 1/2 hours' drive away, it feels like they're not so far since we usually get up there and they down here every few months. Either that or we meet up in UT.

Then my dad came for a conference in Dallas the next week. He stayed over and we got to see him the morning of his 65th birthday. This was Dad's first visit to our house, and we were happy to have him. I put him to work helping with homework and babysitting, reading to/feeding children, before Mark returned from a week in DC. Matthew has prayed for his return, I think he likes Grandpa's laid-back style of babysitting... lots of freedom and tv.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Misconceptions

We went and bought a Christmas tree and decorated it a couple weekends back. Matthew wanted to know on Monday morning, "Why didn't Santa come?"

One of my friends from the neighborhood stopped by and recommended I buy decorations after Christmas. We've always had smallish artificial trees in apartment living, so now that we have a bigger space, our decorations to tend to get lost on the bigger tree. However, I sort of like the "less is more" approach with decorating- simpler. I would, however, like to find the rest of the ribbon and lights.

The children drew names out of a hat to see which sibling to whom they would be giving a Christmas present. Katrina drew Felicity. She promptly went to the tree, retrieved the present Grandma sent for Felicity, and handed it to her sister. She's so generous.

Funny how we automatically assume children are going to get all the traditions, customs, and procedures around Christmas, since it's a holiday they enjoy so much. Max seems to be enjoying himself, though.What, you don't eat your presents? What's wrong with you?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"You'd better not... or else!" stories

In the last post, I asked my cousin Holly to remind me of the story of when she got her finger chopped off as a little girl. I was remembering the story because I was trying to get my kids to be careful around sharp knives. (I asked Holly's permission to publish it for the blogosphere):

The story goes that Uncle Lowell was trying to remove a stump and gave it a go with an axe, but that wasn't working, so he went for a rope and truck while leaving Holly, aged 6, with Darren, aged 4, warned them not to touch. Darren was playing at Paul Bunyan while Holly was making homes for grubs out of wood chips, and as Holly put it, "We sort of collided in those separate plans, and voila! When Dad says don't touch, he means it." (Thankfully, her big sister Joy had the presence of mind to hold the remains and it was successfully sewn back on.)

I've always been a sucker for a good story, and it seems to help my children remember why they're not supposed to do that naughty whatever. Besides, although this sounds strange, my kids seem to like them- even the stories told with the intention of scaring them into obedience. One time, (ONE TIME!) I told the girls a story about a little boy named Lincoln (whom our family didn't even know personally- my sister told it), who was scalded by hot bathwater, and suddenly they wanted to hear it at bedtime for weeks.

Serious backfire, folks. I actually hate these kinds of stories, but I also want safety and immediate compliance to safety rules. I'm the type of girl who HATES watching the ten o'clock news because I start worrying about the people on Highway 114 who got hit-n-run by the guy going 90 in a 55 and will they get their deductible back??? (So you can imagine how it felt to watch the NYC news every night and hear about the crazy murders happening in that hood, Jersey City. Which is, in fact, where we were living.)

Some scare-ya-into-obedience stories are not so bad. There are a few components of a good story:
  • Obviously, it needs to be applicable to the situation (Holly's story isn't going to help motivate them put on their helmets.)
  • Needs to have an unhappy/painful outcome, but not so unhappy that it causes other phobias or nightmares.
  • Needs to not scare me- I loathe those times when moms sit around and tell freakish horrible stories about that child molester or this car accident that happened in the 2 seconds when they took off a seat belt.
  • Stories like this should be rarely told, or they run the risk of making your child paranoid or to ignore all parent tales.
My mother is not afraid of anything, so she rarely passed these along. My dad told one- his uncle was resting his elbow on the rolled-down window while driving, when a trailer came bumping by and smack! that was the end of his arm. Didn't really work with any of us, though. We still let our arms out the windows. Just like Tyler and the warts- nothing could stop that finger sucking.

But I'm curious. Do you or your parents have a good story? Bad one? Did it work?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ack! Tagged again!

Oh Holly. I am terrible at tags! But I do lack for ideas, so hopefully this will help get me to 50 by the end of the year.

5 of My Current Addictions:

Dessert, especially chocolate (maybe not as much as Mark does, but close)

Listening to my baby laugh... oh, and the others too

Christmas music & movies

Wasting time on the computer


I don't know how to do links, so I can't pass it on legitimately. But I thought of a good story, maybe you can help- when you chopped your finger off as a little girl. I've been trying to tell it to my children as a "you'd better not" fable but can't remember the details.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving back.

This is my first attempt at video ever. Yes, it's obviously the work of amateurs. Sorry about the glare from the window.

Matthew very kindly stopped his couch house construction for the filming, but wanted to make sure his leg appeared in it. Did you see it?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's not too late to celebrate Halloween, is it?

Since my neighbors are in the thick of hanging Christmas wreaths and lights, I thought I'd put up some pix of our October festivities to even things out. [I should acknowledge that I assigned my piano students Christmas music 2 weeks ago and have been sneaking some things out myself.]

I read in the Washington Post that Mark brought home this Thursday, that Christmas has been creeping up earlier and earlier every year. The article reviewed papers over the past 100 years and preparing "early" for Christmas back in the day was considered 2 weeks before Christmas. I think we have a lot more activities associated with the holiday now, so you really need more time to celebrate it. Similarly, Halloween has become almost a month long holiday.

In TX, everyone is so excited for fall's arrival and summer's departure that pumpkin patches, Halloween and autumn decor, fall festivals and the like blow into action before the weather's really even cooled off. It was better for temperature this year, but it always amazes me the extent my neighborhood gets into their Halloween decorations- both spooky and cutesy. There are a lot of things you can do, so it makes it a fun month and these pictures reflect some of the things we did. Just be glad I didn't include them all.

Here's Mark and the kids carving out the enormous Jack-O-Lantern for Family Night one Sunday. Blogger limited my pictures so I can't show you the finished product.

The Kindergarten classes took a field trip to the Arboretum. Here's Katrina lovin on Miss Lawson, whom she adores to the point of wanting to buy her cherry cokes at every opportunity (Miss Lawson's favorite drink).

Katrina at the Arboretum (the sun got hot at the end of the day)

Max amidst all kinds of pumpkins. He was a very happy tagalong!

Matthew and Katrina in a dude Pumpkin House at the Arboretum

We have a lot of Pumpkin Patches around us, with lots of things for kids to climb on and rides and bounce houses and whatnot:
The kids driving the tractor. If the girls look like they're in pjs, it's because they are. You can't dress in costume for Halloween (religious groups frown on celebrating the holiday within the school context), but you can dress in pjs for Red Ribbon Week.

Then is the famed Halloween night for trick or treating!

Mark & trickertreaters. Matthew- Spider Man. Felicity-Asian Princess. Max-Lion. Katrina- Angel (w/ mask)

Max holding the lion tail in his sleep after trick or treating

Max was wiped out and fell asleep before the evening was over. We had another party to go to, what a champ he was to attend. Because of Blogger, I couldn't include pictures from Matthew's preschool party, my pumpkin dinner, the work party (Max was a dragon for that one), or from the costume party that Mark and I attended. We were a s'more. He wanted to be the chocolate, but we just went with our natural colors and I was the marshmallow. We used cabinet doors for the graham crackers.

So November 1, we were Halloweened out. No wonder it took me so long to post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A 6 Year Old Bean

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took the older 3 kids shoe shopping. The girls needed some new Sunday shoes and Matthew needed some shoes that he could put on without any assistance from me (We are exiting sandal season). Felicity knows that cost is a key component for shopping and found some shoes she liked that were dressy, classic, and on sale!!! She was all set. Matthew was looking at all of the different character shoes and likewise found something that worked in our price range. Meanwhile, Katrina was trying on all of the shoes, especially the fancy ones with all kinds of things going on.

Showing off "Lucille" for the Book Character Pumpkin Parade

I am rather a plain Jane kind of girl- no pierced ears, makeup on the way to church, and most days in jeans and a simple shirt. While I admire those who have the sense of style to pair zany shoes with a very different outfit, that's never been in my comfort zone and I don't know what to do with those clothes, let alone accessories. I'm trying to branch out, but my history has been that shoes are neutral colors, especially black. I tend to encourage the same in my children. But as it should be, Katrina is her own girl.

Miss Independence Riding a 2 Wheeler!! (in soccer uniform, minus the shin guards & cleats)

She liked the glittery shoes, the animal prints, the heels, the jewels, the spray gold/silver/metallic looks, and tried them all on. A good fit was not enough, however. After trying them on, she'd run over to the tiled section of the store "to see how they sound." What! You don't buy shoes based on how they sound! Well, maybe I don't, but she was ready to. In fact, some that she really liked had a "boring" sound, which disqualified them. Of course none of her pairs were on sale, or at least on sale enough to tempt me if I were a size 12 1/2. But it was her birthday in a few days and I was trying to give her the freedom to choose. We put a pair she loved on hold and also tried another store, with similar results. Thankfully her favorite out of the group was reasonably priced and we bought them in time to wear for the Primary (kids) Program the next day in church.

Her birthday was the following Tuesday, and of course she wanted to wear the new shoes to school with a dress to celebrate the day. Thankfully, I had sneaked some cute, clearanced, school shoes into the purchases on Saturday night that made a good gift for Katrina. They went well with the dress, lucky for me and for those fancy shoes that would have gotten pretty scuffed on the playground.

No longer in the Disney Princess stage, but still a princess in that she knows she is beautiful, loved, unique, intelligent, and wants to reflect that in her appearance. I recognize that "Princess" has become somewhat of a negative word with connotations of spoiled, picky, lazy, etc. However, there are good aspects of the title, which part I hope she chooses. I love my feminine little girl and her original personality. And I am grateful for her affectionate personality, who tells me several times a day that she loves me, gives hugs and kisses, and says "I'm so glad you're my mommy."

To which I respond, "I'm so glad you're my Bean."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My voice is my passport; validate me

OK enough already, it's time for a new post. It's time to crawl out from my hole of painting and sick baby-tending. I'm going to post 3 times by the time this week is over. Just so ya know, Sunday is the end of my mental week, based from a misunderstanding from early childhood until I was in high school.

My earlier post about what makes me feel good about myself as a wife made me start thinking about other illogical connections to my job performance as a friend or mother. This whole thought process was started years ago by my sister-in-law Kristie, when she was living on Long Island in Bayville, NY, 38 miles away from us in Jersey City, NJ. Baby Felicity and I were visiting her and their 3 (at the time) girls one fine day. We drove into Oyster Bay in the afternoon and the sun was shining. Kristie said, "Oh no, it's a beautiful day and we haven't been outside. I always feel like a bad mom when that happens." I thought, "?!?!?"

But now I completely understand.
If I'm a good mom, then...

My children play outside and/or go on a walk
I make cookies or they help me cook something
I read to them for great lengths of time

We eat well-balanced meals that involve lots & lots of fruits and veggies

My children watch no or very little TV/movies

And do lots of jobs, in and outside

We have a good scripture study/song/prayer with NO FIGHTING

My children do not have cereal for breakfast

Use their imaginations while playing

They bathe

I clean something besides the kitchen for the 842nd time that week

We have a learning activity that actually gets cleaned up afterwards

Their rooms are clean
Lots of hugs and kisses

I feel I am a good friend when:

I watch their children

They come for dinner

I have the ingredient they're missing for their dinner

We talk on the phone and it is neither too long nor too short (so they know I care, but I'm not taking up their whole day, either)

I attend their event (baby shower, softball game, dance performance, whatever)

My Christmas/birthday card actually arrives on time (or I remember it at all)

They let me serve them in some way (do their dishes/organize pantry/teach their Primary class while they're on vacation)

They laugh while we're together

They tell me about their problems
I have a recipe they want, and actually remember to give it to them

I read their blogs/email forwards (some of these are more fun than others)

These lists are not all-inclusive, and obviously there are some things that are beyond my control. (Like having the capers my neighbor needs for her lemon chicken? or my children actually putting their undies in the hamper without my prompting? ) For some silly reason, those things are like little gold stars on my report card. However, knowing that I cannot determine the outcomes, I'm trying not to get hung up on these things.... since I never accomplish everything on the list anyway, and some days are better than others. But it's still interesting to reflect on what validates.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sweet Tooth

Mark is the original baked good lover. Remember when we were making all those desserts and I blogged about them? Yeah, and I didn't even include the carrot cake and the cookies that were also made that week. Well that was all when Mark was home. He didn't travel for 2 weeks, and has a high expectation of desserts, so that's why I gained 5 lbs in those 2 weeks. Since Mark started his job with Deloitte, he has had to find other sources to satisfy his sweet tooth since he's not home for dessert 4 nights a week. And I tend to be pretty tired and not into baking several times a week in a typical week, so Mark found a new friend in baked goods.

So the solution is.... Swirl Bakery. Kind of pricey, but he just doesn't eat on Thursdays, and then when he gets off the plane at DFW airport, he takes a taxi directly to the bakery and then home. And he expenses the whole bill, because he hasn't used any of his daily allotment for traveling meals. However, he's on a new case which has complicated matters. The client has dictated that No Consultant Shall Board a Flight Prior to 6 pm. And since he's flying from DC, that means the bakery is closed before he can get there. Yesterday he phoned the bakery and gave them the permission and credit card number so that I could come pick up the goods.

In the middle of making corn chowder, I loaded the children into the minivan and we trucked into Swirl Bakery. We waited our turn (Max & I did anyway- the others were dancing around and climbing on things) and when I got to the front of the line, I said, "My husband called..." That's it. That's all I said.
"Oh, YOU'RE his wife?" the girl behind the counter said, looking surprised.
"Do you know who I am talking about? Do you know which person my husband is?" -I was a little taken aback.
"Do I know who he is??? Of COURSE I know who he is! He comes every week, just as I'm trying to close. Sometimes we've locked the door and he makes me come unlock it and let him to buy stuff."

She explained their conversation and told me that there was a $35 limit. I tried pretty hard not to laugh as we made our selections and she gave us feedback like, "he really likes the Italian cream cake, but we don't have any today. Get this instead, he likes this..." She was astonished at how little we bought. I guess we disappointed her with the low sales, not even getting halfway to the budget limit. The children sure enjoyed picking out their own treats and bugging the poor elderly couple eating dinner in the cafe. Each child has inherited their parents' sugar addiction. In fact, they were very motivated to get their jobs done when we got home in anticipation of the dessert. Funny how little time it actually takes to clean the toyroom and bedrooms when a sweet reward is in store. Matthew didn't even need help picking up the trains, tools, or laundry!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Look! Bullet points! I have Power Point potential yet!

I feel good about myself when my husband watches football. Strange, totally illogical, yet true.

See, my mother is a sports widow. She hates television and would prefer to unplug it forever, except that she loves my father and he enjoys a few shows. Growing up, we were allowed to watch tv only:

  • On Saturday mornings before 9 am (which I have only recently discovered is a way of sleeping in when you have small children)
  • General Conference (worldwide church mtg held twice a year)
  • Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, maybe Today's Special if you're lucky
  • Sports
Oh yes and piano lessons. Mom let us watch one of the days she taught piano, but in the middle of 6 boys, I was seriously outnumbered, so I would take a pass on Thundercats and Transformers and opted to play with friends or read. Even Saturday morning cartoons were wanting when my older brothers wanted to watch Dungeons & Dragons instead of Alvin & the Chipmunks. They never wanted to watch the Smurfs or other shows I was into.

But Saturday afternoons, Monday night football after FHE, Friday night basketball games, World Series, March Madness, the tv could get turned on without fear of raising the ire of our mother because Dad liked sports. I'm sure there were times that spectator sports drove her crazy (New Year's Day comes to mind), but hour after hour of time outs in the fourth quarter persisted on a fall afternoon. Many of my brothers used this to their advantage. Craig watched all sports, from golf and bowling to tennis and baseball. You have to really love the game to keep your brain from turning to mush after a marathon day of staring at the tv. I watch the US Open every year, but after an hour or two I am DONE. At least with the Olympics, you get some variety in sport. And that is not all! You still have two papers to read and the stats to go through and compare and contrast, not to mention BYU sportsline emails and internet crunching and munching. They are experts and can recall stats and games and athletes. They even named stuffed animals after key figures of the day.

So when I got married, I expected that Mark, my former football/basketball/volleyball playin man would be devoting hours to it. After all, that is what his dad does- every day after work, he retires to his room and watches a game or two or five. But Mark largely gave it up, since our weekends are busy or we're trying to spend time together. I wouldn't even think about it until fall was half over and he'd flip on a game for a few minutes. He does love tv, but usually he goes for shows I want to watch too, or action movies.

This year, he got scolded by a truly devoted fellow Bama-fan at church and I realized that it's mostly because of me... and my "to do" list and date night and Daddy Alone Time w/ each child every Saturday.

So, wanting to give him a little leisure time, I went and found a few games and turned them on, hoping to lure him into the room. And he actually spent a few minutes in front of the tv. In fact, we spent last Saturday night putting together our newest Ikea find while watching the Cougs make a comeback and then Texas Tech coming back for an amazing finish against #1 ranked Texas. Not that I cared who won, but it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. (Especially since Mark did NOT want to put together that dresser and did NOT want me to buy anything from Ikea in the first place. But hey, it's for the boys, it'll be trashed in 2 years, why spend $400 on it?)

I know this could come back to haunt me, and it still might. Yet, I am grateful that my husband has watched a little football this season because it means that I am a good wife.

It makes me wonder, what other illogical things make people feel validated as a good wife/husband/sister/brother/mother/father/aunt/nephew/ whatever?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Finally taking my tagging turn

3 different friends tagged me: Cheryl, Meredith, and Kim. I always forget about doing what I'm supposed to do while on the computer, which is one reason why it's such a black hole of time waste for me. I don't know how to put links on blog entries, and the rules varied (slightly) from each other, so this one will have to be my version of the game. Think of it as playing dodgeball with your friend who can't catch or throw (also me).

The task of this tag is to list 6/7 Random Facts:

1- Although I think of myself as somewhat of a conformist, I always have to change something. I can't even follow my own recipes perfectly, much less others. That includes making a recipe that I have never before tried or tasted. And hence (the kidlets watched Mary Poppins this weekend, what a great phrase), there's always a lot of variety in the food around here.

2- I enjoy whistling, but it annoys me no end when anyone else does it. Very unfair, I know. Just last week, Felicity asked in frustration, "Why did you teach me how to whistle and then you do not let me do it?"

3- I have always wanted long hair... but it looks awful on me, and doesn't grow beyond my collarbone anyway. So it has to be short. Probably better anyway since I don't have the patience to take care of long hair.

4- I hate eggs. And processed cheese. Eggs and Cheetos are my dinner of doom.

5- I'm a night owl. Last Wednesday while I was out, Felicity told the bishop to call back at 11:30 or 12 because I don't go to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning. No, not that late. Pretty consistently around midnight though. Why go to bed at 11 when I'm feeling better than I have all day?

6- I was named for my paternal grandmother, Ellen. My parents added the "Jo" for variety. If I'd been born 1 child earlier (I'm #5), they would have named me Elena. Many people cannot remember or pronounce my name and call me things like Jolynn, Jailynn, Mary Beth (they remember it was some compound name). Some assume my father's name is Joe and mother's name is Ellen, or that I'm from the south. I always tell people to ask me my name as many times as needed; I know it's unusual.

7- Although I am at best a sloppy housekeeper, my spices and cans are always extremely organized. That is due to laziness- when I'm cooking, I don't want to hunt something down while burning something else.

So now I'm supposed to tag 7 people who haven't already done this, and they're supposed to copy/paste the graphic below and start the process over. Trying to think of who even reads this regularly! Uhhhh Liesl, Dawn, Melody, Jaime, Kent/Mel, Halls, Kim Christensen.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Maestro

Maxwell is enjoying the piano these days. These pictures are from the rainy Saturday in September, when Hurricane Ike was sweeping through Houston.

Fire Safety Month Hazards

Yesterday my neighbor told me about how on Wednesday, her 9 year old son's friend decided to take the sheets-tied-together method of exiting the house from the 2nd story window over the concrete patio. He denied it, but thankfully nothing awful happened. Fire Safety month tends to do that to people, I guess. It reminded me of a situation 2 years ago...

We had checked a book out from the library about Fire Safety, called "Stop, Drop, and Roll." The kids loved to read it together, so one morning when I was in the bathroom and heard them chanting that phrase, I didn't think much of it. But seconds later, when the house was filled with smoke, I extinguished the small fire on the kitchen table and it was time for questioning. Seems that my little pyros decided to take the candle burning down from up high and ignite some paper with the flame, to see how good their fire safety response would be. Matthew was 18 months at the time and they ran away into the corners, leaving their younger brother with the fire. No lasting damage, but I was pretty mad.

They were definitely P for Punished. So we are a little extra cautious during Fire Safety Month.

How did my foot get in my mouth when I didn't even open it?

Our house is directly behind the high school. This has many advantages (huge field to play in that we don't have to take care of, soccer practice for both girls is just outside the backyard gate, etc), but a few disadvantages as well (band/drumline practice at 7 am, loud Friday night football games). One disadvantage is that on occasion, kids have cut through our yard on the way to school. I have only seen it happen once, but who knows what goes on when I'm not around to look?

Wednesday morning found me looking oh-so-lovely in my holey pajamas, rumpled hair and glasses as Matthew and I were dragging out the recycling bins. I looked up when a young man called out "Good morning," as he walked directly toward my back gate. I gave him the hairy eyeball, saying in body language, "You've got some nerve!" He stopped and pointed to his shirt- "Atmos Energy!"

Whoops. Too full of humble pie to respond. Well, he'll get over it- that's happened to me so many times, when others have thought me much younger than I am. Like my sister visiting us from AZ, who was ID'd when buying spray paint (with Felicity, Katrina and Matthew in tow) because they weren't sure she was 18 (she's 24).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Our pepper plant was disqualified from the Olympics

We counted 17 peppers growing on this thing today! Compared to a measly 1 on the other plant, this one is clearly on steroids. The garden this year has been very odd. The cucumbers and peppers are pretty much the only producers, although we had 2 rather measly bean harvests and more than enough basil. No survivors from squash or watermelon, and a pathetic showing from the tomatoes. There is a small green one on the Last of the Tomato Plants, but we'll see if the birds don't get it first. Today I found a half-eaten cucumber and I don't think it was the ants who were consuming. Wish we'd planted some lettuce to have farther into the winter months, but it's already October, so we'll just wait until February.

Fall Desserts

My neighbor and I agreed today, 'Tis the Season to be a jolly size. After all, it's autumn and some of us feel like hibernating soon. This is the time of year that I really enjoy making desserts. Of course I always feel like eating dessert, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood to create yummy food and then have the hassle of cleaning the kitchen afterward. However, as the weather turns, it puts me in a festive mood and suddenly turning on the oven doesn't seem like such an irresponsible thing to do.

I wanted to remember the things I've been making so here's a picture of this weeks' dessert fare.
From left: Cinammon rolls with maple frosting, apple crisp, and pumpkin swirl cheesecakeI need to give credit to Mark for peeling and cutting all the apples for the apple crisp. He's right, it's the hardest part of this dessert.

My notes... These were some of my better rolls. I didn't give in to the temptation to keep adding flour, so they were not dense like they usually are. The maple frosting was a last-minute improvisation because I didn't have any more cream cheese, having used it up in the day before's cheesecake. We were all surprised that just a few drops of maple flavoring into butter/pwd. sugar frosting would make it that good.

The cheesecake was nice, but a lot of work. (Part of it was that Katrina was helping.) Tasted kind of like a blend of pumpkin pie and cheesecake. Not too light and not too heavy. I had to substitute since it called for 1/2 cup brandy and we did not have that. Not knowing what to substitute, I put in 1/4 cup brown sugar and some almond flavoring. It was probably totally off.

The apple crisp was okay. We make this one all the time, because it's brainless and doesn't even require a recipe anymore. So it should be perfected, but the oven got turned off somewhere in the middle, so we had no clue how done it was and played the oven roulette game. Consequently, the "crisp" had mushy apples. Also not enough apples. Mark likes a lot of crisp though so he was satisfied.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Daddy's Occupation

When I was a little girl, I never seemed to know how to explain what my father did for a living. He is an information systems professor, although at the time, I only knew a couple of catch phrases like "databases" and "computers" and "business". I think it's also a pretty good excuse that in the 80s, information systems were not as commonly known of as they are now. To illustrate: my dad has never taken a course in computers or in business, but has a PhD in mathematics and experience in the business world working with developing information systems.

That's background for the conversation Katrina and I had last night. We were reading the book Meet My Grandmother, She's a Supreme Court Justice, and Katrina started talking about her dad (Mark), who has "an insulting job for Deloitte."

"A what?"

"A...a Deloitte job."

"What does Daddy do at his job?"

"He goes to people's houses and tells them how to be better."

So Katrina's concept of Mark's job is that by insulting people, he inspires them to change. Well at least she got the -sulting job for Deloitte part right. And "con" does seem like it would worsen the meaning as a prefix.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Stale Pix

One of our family theme songs is "Sweet Home Alabama," because it is in fact, Mark's home. We went and visited at the end of July, and got to see some of Mark's friends and relations who were around. Most of them have stayed right there in Bessemer, which is a few miles outside of Birmingham. Mark had to work a lot, as did everyone else, so it was pretty quiet. We went to visit his grandmother one night at her home. They call her "MaDear" (pronounced: madeah), short for Mother Dear.

Here she is again at Sunday dinner, with Tehrea, Aunt Reta, Arcola (Nana), Rewa, and Mark with Max in the background.

Mark's sister, Rewa, aka Tee Tee Rewa, lives in Atlanta. She's pretty busy as an assistant district attorney and mother of 2, but she came out to visit for the weekend, and brought Kel and Kayla to meet their new cousin Max. We were all astonished at how much Kayla and Max resemble each other. Here are the "mock twins"sitting on their Nana's lap:

It's her first birthday today (Happy Birthday Kayla!), so they are only a few months apart.

On Sundays, they all gather together after their various churches they go to and have a southern meal. They don't call it southern food though, they call it regular food. We had macaroni & cheese, turkey & dressing, collard greens, fried corn, sweet potato souffle, banana pudding, 7up cake, and lots of other low-cal items. It's good but we usually can't move for several hours afterwards. I was so happy that we actually got nearly everyone out on the front steps for a group picture. Mark's dad didn't make it.

And one last shot of Nikea holding Max. He proved to be a popular baby, since he's pretty happy most of the time and shares smiles so readily. I don't mind having such a sociable child, especially since the other 3 are pretty time-consuming...unless "Family Feud" is on, hosted by none other than Mr. Peterman.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The First Day of School...a month late

I lost my camera for a little while, so I got panicked and had to slap up a bunch of pictures, regardless of how hopelessly out of date they are. These ones actually aren't so dated, they are just from this August, when Mark stayed home to take the kids to the first day of school:

Matthew looks pretty happy to be awake, dresesd, and fed by 7:30 am.
Whereas Max is still in his Sunday clothes. What can we say, he takes after his Uncle Brian.

Katrina was pretty excited (but too cool to show it) for the first day of Kindergarten
with the lovely Miss Lawson:

Here's Felicity, right outside her classroom. She has Mrs. Kinney this year, who told me today that if we get sick of her, Felicity can move to her house. Interesting how (some) children behave better at school than at home. But we'll keep her.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My baby I mean my Barbie kept me up all night

Yesterday I had a terrible night. Felicity has a Hannah Montana Barbie that someone very generously gave her for her birthday. It could not have been bestowed on a more grateful recipient, and has been the source of some contention and many performances in our home.

For those not in the know, some Barbie dolls are equipped with a radio inside, because a baby doll's "Mama" was not good enough for the rocker girls of today. No, this doll can belt out Hannah Montana songs and the backup instruments to boot. It's surprising how loud they can be. There I was, minding my own business by sleeping in bed at the ungodly hour of 2 am, when I was jolted awake by,

If you could see the other side of me!
I'm just like anybody else
Can't you tell can't you tell
I hold the key
to both realities
blah blah blah

After the initial shock and wipe off of drool, I soon figured out that there was no burglar in the house playing in the toyroom and went back to sleep. But five or ten minutes later, she was singing again! Admittedly, I am a light sleeper, but this hummer was LOUD. So loud that I woke up again. I am embarrassed to acknowledge that my sleep-induced stupidity put up with this routine 3 or 4 times before I decided to Take Action. I charged into the toyroom with both fists going and turned on the light, looking for the culprit. Sure enough, she burst into song again. I couldn't figure out how to stop the noise so I went downstairs, opened the door, and chucked it outside. At this point, I was wide awake and Mark's gentle snoring was not going to lull me back to la la land, so I went back to the toyroom. It must have haunted by her presence because what little sleep I got was plagued with visions of Miley Cyrus.

But I got my revenge: today was trash day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


A little while back, I felt compelled to write down a memory. Today seems an appropriate day to share it.

Although I lived in the New York City area when 9/11 happened, it did not affect my life very much directly. True, my husband worked in Manhattan, as I had, before I stopped teaching to have our first child. But he had called me early that morning, shortly after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, to make sure that someone we knew was all right. He told me he was getting out of there and although I couldn’t reach him again for most of that day, I knew he was probably okay. Most of the people we knew who worked downtown worked in other buildings. Later we learned that those who had or who were supposed to be there were for whatever reason, out of the building during the scariest moments. I went outside and saw the buildings standing alone in their inferno, as one tower went down and then the other. I saw the shock and horror on my neighbors’ faces, this crisis to weather together, even though we didn't know each other. It was a horrible and surprising day to our entire country.

Still, in some ways, I felt disconnected from the tragedy. We lost tv reception, because all receivers for our area (but CBS') were on top of the towers. There was a stench in the air that reminded everyone that this was more than a bad dream. It wasn’t until we went to the Laundromat a few days later and saw the Missing signs posted that I realized people in my own little neighborhood were so effected. That Friday night, people lit candles and tried to summon up whatever peace they could that our country could recover, that we would be okay, and that those directly impacted would be taken care of.

After 9/11, people took down their Cuban, Puerto Rican, Japanese, or whatever other flags they had and everyone displayed their American pride. It was a way of saying, we are individuals with a past to celebrate. But right now, we’re remembering that we are all Americans. We are brothers and sisters of the same mother country and we are standing together. I really felt this one day at the park.

There was a Catholic church in my neighborhood that had a bell tower. They played hymns or familiar religious songs throughout the day, typically around lunchtime or in the early afternoon. The church was built in the early 1900s and was across the street from a park where I often took my little girl. This park was strangely silent at times, since many of the children were from varied nationalities with different languages spoken at home. Some of the children came with their day care groups, and as children (and adults) who spend lots of time together often do, they fought sometimes. One day, the children were playing somewhat peacefully and quietly as the carillon tower bonged out various hymns. Then the musician played one that was familiar to everyone there. Suddenly, all of the children, completely voluntarily, started to sing, in their own voices, musical or not, native English speakers or not:

“God bless America, land that I love!

Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans, white with foam-

God bless America, my home, sweet home!

God bless America, my home, sweet home.

I don’t know if any of those children were directly impacted by the man-made disaster which had rocked our nation shortly before. There was a chill in the air and undoubtedly many in the area were afraid for what the future held. As I quietly sang with the children in the park, I felt comforted and assured as we sang that there is a God, and he is mindful of us, from one end of the country to the next. This song was written in 1938. I don’t know if Irving Berlin ever had the vision that in the next century, children would be comforted by his words and music. I am thankful that many of the rising generation has trust that the Lord will continue to bless this great nation, that we have been so blessed to call home.

Felicity and I at Liberty State Park (where survivors from Ground Zero were taken), on August 31, 2001.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Senior Moment

My mother-in-law refers to her lapses of memory as "senior moments". Although I am nowhere near old enough to qualify for senior citizen status or the discount, I have the moments all the time and have been having them since I was a child. This Sunday there was a funny one.

My job at church is to come up with the music for sacrament meeting, the meeting that everyone attends together. Basically, it's just picking the hymns and signing people up to share their talents for special musical numbers. I am definitely not the most qualified, but I do appreciate music, want to learn more about it, and I love this calling. So on Sunday, I was feeling a little more righteous than usual and decided to call & remind people of their commitments to sing/play/whatever. Somehow, I mixed up in my head some random people in the congregation and made the following phone call to someone who justifiably could qualify for a senior moment:

"Hi, this is JoEllen M from church. How are you?"
"Fine." (probably had no clue who was calling)
"I'm just calling to remind you that the RS choir is singing next Sunday?"
"Oh, I don't sing in the choir."
"No, not the ward choir," I explained very patiently, "the Relief Society choir. Remember? Is it okay with you if we sing this coming Sunday?"
"Sure! Go right ahead!"
"But won't you be singing too?" gently reminding her that this is actually her responsibility, I'm just being nice and helping her remember.
"Oh, I haven't sung in years!"
At this point, I was feeling slightly disoriented. I thanked her for talking and hung up. I then looked at the list and realized what an idiot I was to have confused the names of this sister and the one who actually was in charge. Not even close. In fact, there's no reason whatsoever I should have mixed up the two ladies. Just my slice of humble pie for the week! And something to laugh about whenever I sing in RS.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ooku Matthew

Pinoeer children grimaced as they rode their bikes around the church parking lot

About a month ago, Matthew came home from an outing with Daddy and his sisters and started calling me Ooku Mama. I assumed it was from something Mark had done with him or maybe a Star Wars Obscure Character. But no, this was just an Original Matthew Title. Mark is Ooku Daddy and yesterday I heard the baby called Ooku Maxwell. So I call him Ooku Matthew in return.

Swimming at the Scera in Arm, UT

I used to think the anti-girl sentiment of boys was learned, but Matthew is out to prove me wrong. He has now gone 4 weeks absolutely refusing to go to nursery because he "doesn't want to see the girls there." It is driving us crazy. When I point out to him that I am a girl, he tells me, "That's why I'm sitting by Daddy." Since when does Mommy have cooties?

Relay races w/ Uncle Kent in Pine Valley

And the latest little "gem" from Mr. Contrary is this: yesterday, Max was wearing a onesie that read, "Am I cute or what?" Matthew told me, "He's what."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Scattergories tag

What is your name? JoEllen
4 letter word: joke
Vehicle: Jalopy
TV show: judging amy
Body part: jugular vein
Girl name: Jerusha
Boy name: Jorge
Occupation: Juggler
Something you wear: Jersey jumper
Food: Jello jigglers
Something found in a bathroom: Jergens lotion
Excuse for being late: Just woke up
Something you shout: Jerk!
Movie: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Musical Group: Jackson 5
Summertime activity: Jumping off the high dive
School subject: Japanese

anyone? anyone?

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm a comin' home ta you...

We have been in Alabama and Kansas but are almost done with our Summer of 5,000 miles. We return home on Saturday night to our own house and will be done messing up other people's homes. I must admit, the prospect of no longer living out of a suitcase is starting to really seem like a good idea. We sure have enjoyed seeing our family though, and it's been fun to have some distractions while Mark does his Deloitte thing.

On another note, I wanted to comment on the show, "Family Feud". Mark's family loves this game show and one of our jokes is that someday we'll appear on it ourselves, to duel against some other family. For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of diversity on this game show. We were watching it one day last week and Felicity came back in the room wanting to know who won. We told her which family did and she was relieved: "Oh good, because the black people won last time." Just so ya know, she really likes things to be equitable, because she identifies with both groups. Although fake cheese appeals only to black people, as she told my brother Kent some time ago.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Long and Boring Travelogue from UT/AZ trip

We recently returned from a trip to Utah. Since one of the goal in a Hansen-relation’s life is to go to as many states as possible, we went through NM, CO, and UT on the way there, and through AZ on the way home, so Max has 5 states for being 5 months old.

Here's Max and Liesl celebrating the 4th:

This was the Nomad Vacation, and our minivan sighed with relief to be back in the garage. (But not for long) After staying the night along historic route 66 in New Mexico, we drove to UT just in time for the awesome salmon “fry” (grill) my brother Bruce and his wife Michelle do for Father’s Day every year. They postponed it and we were lucky to attend, and then stayed with them and their 4 kids in Pleasant Grove. Some things we did: went to my nephew Will’s blessing, the BYU Anthropology Museum for a “culture day,” storytime at the Orem library, and played kickball for FHE. After going to Heber to see my Palmer cousins at their family reunion, we stayed one night at my parents’ house, and celebrated Heidi’s birthday with Dawn and Melody and wow Heidi, aren’t you so excited to have 11 kids come along too? Mark was still in KC, so the kids and I then went to West Jordan to stay with Dawn & Jay and their 3, and then Mark joined us.

Trissie & Matthew w/ my favorite dessert: chocolate eclair cream puff ring. About a jillion calories but so worth it. Mark, Max, and I went to my cousin Mark’s fancy wedding reception and got to see more family. Mark and Jay had to work all weekend, but we got to go to Dawn’s ballet studio’s performance:
(The actual dancers are on the left)and the hubs stopped working so we could go out on the town while two twelve year olds watched 7 kids under 7.

Celebrating Heidi's birthday at the Homestead while Brian cheeses it up:

Mark flew to DC on Monday and my friend Cheryl graciously invited the remaining 5 of us to her home in Cedar Hills for Bill’s pizza and to play. We then moved back to the Hansen Homestead to eat cherries, play with cousins, hang w/ my siblings, and take it easy. We visited our Wilcox relatives as Mark flew home. We celebrated the 4th by going to the parade:

Felic & Matthew with some random kid and Kilton BBQ, and then up to Lehi to the Fergusons’ for the going away party for Heidi and Aaron. (celeb name: AirHide) The next day Liesl and I went shopping and we saw Wall-E with lots of Bergesons, Tyler, Brian, and Fergs. Unfortunately, our little niece Camille had to be hospitalized so the Bergesons had to postpone her baby blessing. However, she came home Sunday night and came to the rest of the reunion.

Saturday night started our family reunion, with a slideshow by Bruce in the Bergeson Basement. Neil & Kristie & co had joined us, Kent, Kurt and Alice flew in Saturday, so we also had dinner and family pictures on Sunday. Monday, we went to Pine Valley, southern Utah, to stay in my sister-in-law Holly’s family’s cabins for the rest of the family reunion, with almost everybody from my gigantic immediate family in attendance!

Lana & Megan sucking thumbs and lying on the stairs at the cabin. What a couple of cuties. Although it was a lot of people in a smallish space, we were really grateful to the Ences for letting us have it there and it was fun to be away, where there were no distractions.

Jan winning the potato sack race. Go plaid! (we lost. too many little kids) Paula, Alice, Lizzie, and Kristie @ Mtn Meadows Monument

We departed via the Grand Canyon, actually not on the way home at all, but well worth the detour. I drove along the long and winding road… and then we’d stop and walk around. We stayed in Flagstaff, had lunch in Holbrook as a tribute to my college buddies Evan and Will, and stayed in Albuquerque that night.

Us at the Grand Canyon. Looks like Katrina's getting rubbed out by the camera.

Our house gave us a very warm welcome, (broken a/c) but we’re happy to have gone and happy to be home. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually unpack. Actually no, just repack for the trip to Sweet Home Alabama.