Monday, December 31, 2007


Of all the things children learn, my favorites to watch are walking, talking, and reading. Each of those just dramatically widens their vistas and the kids seem so thrilled by their new abilities. Right now is fun because Jesse is learning to talk--slowly--while Levi is learning to read. The other day during lunch we made these lists of "Levi can read" and "Jesse says" on the kitchen chalkboard.

Levi's life has been filled with words and books, but now he can recognize words he sees. He spends hours circling words in his Book of Mormon or numbers in my sudoku books. He proudly asserts, "I'm a reader!" or "I'm a good learner!"--phrases he's learned from his awesome kindergarten teacher. We always tell him how learning to read is going to give him hours and hours of fun for the rest of his life.

Jesse is turning out to be a bit of a slow talker. Is there too much noise around here to compete? He understands most of what we say and will follow suggestions like "Let's go take a bath" or "You need a diaper change." We can see thoughts in his head and hear mumbo-jumbo coming out of his mouth as if he were talking--but so far ball is his best word. He carefully rounds his little mouth to make the L sound. Anybody think it's more than a coincidence that ma means mom and more and mine--kind of all the same concept for babies.

In other chalkboard news, I've hung this one right across from Roscoe and Logan's bedroom door. Every few days I write a compliment or thank-you note to keep those big boys' efforts from getting lost in our hustle to manage the little kids.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


So I've basically been in a funk for, like, forever. I'm locked eternally in a house full of demanding, overenergetic children and mess, mess, MESS. (Think of the Grinch's "noise, noise, noise!") I dream of either a) solitude or b) affirming adult companionship. But no one here speaks to me except to ask for something or air grievances. From here my future looks like a vast wasteland of toil and loneliness.

(Can you tell Mark's on a dissertation blitz this weekend?)

What really sucks is that being the mother in a house full of children is what I really want. Their healthy exuberance and ongoing projects and the blessing of being here to witness it all--just what I always wanted.

So in addition to being grumpy, I'm ungrateful and unreasonable.

I need some spark to get me back to the sunny side of life.

Would you do me a huge favor? Send me a slice from your life, however small. Something you saw, or heard someone say. Something--anything. Please!

Monday, December 24, 2007


So now I know I'm not a good blogger in December. But at the moment, Mark and the kids are gone, the washing machine is running, sadly the dishwasher isn't, but tomorrow's breakfast casserole is in the fridge and the pogacha is rising.

Of all the many domestic accomplishments of my mother's life, one of the greatest is her success capturing Micah's pogacha recipe. My mother's father was born in Yugoslavia, and his mother made pogacha, a egg-and-raisin bread, in a truly old world style: some of this, a handful of that, no set recipe.

My mother pinned down the genius, making Micah measure each handful before it went into the bowl and taking notes on all the variations of method. In the end, she created the pogacha recipe we all now follow every Christmas.

Three-year-old me watching Micah herself knead pogacha in her San Diego home. Sibs, recognize that kitchen stool? How about that apron? Both lived in our own kitchen for years. Anyone see a bit of Levi in that face of mine?

Despite Mom's genius capturing the recipe, I've always found it a bit hard to follow. So here's my rewrite of Mom's recipe--same recipe, just more detail to help you keep you from throwing away that egg white you need:

Micah's Pogacha

Soak 1/2 - 1 c white raisins in warm water
Soften 2 t yeast in 1/2 c warm water

Add the following ingredients, in the order listed, into a 4 c measuring cup:

1 c boiling water
1/4 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
2 t salt
1/2 c milk
2/4 t lemon extract
4 drops yellow food color
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, beaten
(Here's the tricky part: Take 2 T from this egg mixture and put it in a small bowl. Also, put in this small bowl 1 egg white.)

Add warm water to the above mixture to make a total of 3 c

Add yeast (with its water) and raisin (without its water) to the above mixture. Add 3 c flour. Add about 3 c more until dough is soft and holds together. Knead 10 minutes. Let rise til double.

Form into 2 round loaves in sprayed pie pans. Let rise again. Brush top with that small bowl of egg you saved. Split top in thirds using sharp knife.

Bake 20 minutes at 375. Then bake 20 more minutes at 350.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A green cardigan

In celebration of my 15th wedding anniversary, two stories:

Our first date

My roommates were planning a trip to a Salt Lake haunted house. I never hung out with my roommates and never went to haunted houses. But I saw this as an opportunity to hook up with this guy Mark who was roommates with my best friend’s boyfriend and who appeared interested in me (and apparently I was interested in him).

So I phoned him up and asked if he wanted to go to an “open house” with me. He didn’t understand what kind of open house we were going to, but said sure. And thus began our courtship based on misunderstandings and false cues.

When we arrived at the haunted house, I remembered why I don’t like them. We started dutifully walking through fog-filled corridors while underpaid creepos in mummy costumes leered at us. I held onto Mark’s upper arm as we navigated the dark corners. He perceived this as a major come-on. It wasn’t. He slid my hand down his arm and into his hand. I perceived this as a distinct come-on. He claims it wasn’t.

But this, I think we both will agree, was definitely a come-on: I found myself being led by the hand down a dark, deserted corridor. Mark said, “What’s your last name?”

“Ashurst,” I said. “Why?”

“No reason.” Pause. “What’s your middle name?”

“Michelle. Why?”

“No reason.”

Mark then planted on me a very tender and soft kiss. He claims this was not his usual first-date M.O. And thus began our courtship full of many, many, many such kisses.

Our second date

Mark and his roommate who was dating my best friend planned a birthday outing for me. They picked me up from my house, drove me to Saver’s (an Orem thrift store), and presented me with an assortment of “F.D. bucks.” Funny money emblazoned with kooky Mormon symbols.

“What’s F.D.?” I asked. False Doctrine. Why? No one, including Mark, knows. But thus began our relationship marked by ongoing intrusions from Mark’s strange musings on Mormon history and doctrine.

We strolled through Saver’s as I made my purchases with my F.D. bucks. One of those purchases was this puke green wool cardigan.

Cable stitched. At least 30 years old. Originally a crewneck that was converted by hand by a previous owner. I have worn this sweater for the last 15 years. Who doesn’t need a cable stitched cardigan? Well, some people don’t, but I do. I’ve worn it with those huge flowery pants I used to make, with those patchwork bellbottoms I bought at a Grateful Dead concert, with maternity jeans, and with cargo pants with binkies in the pockets.

Some time ago I decided that since the sweater is now thinning and full of holes, I’d ceremonially get rid of it on this day. But now I find I can’t. I think it’ll go in my keepsake chest (which, incidentally, also contains those Deadhead bellbottoms).

Maybe this sweater is a symbol of my relationship with Mark: A bit quirky. Not something you can buy off the shelf. Customized by hand. But a classic. Long lasting. Suitable for all seasons and styles.

Oh, I do love that man. Here’s to the next fifteen years.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Logan logs double digits

In a momentous weekend, Logan rolled it over into double digits. He turned 10 on Sunday at 4:57 p.m.--which is just the kind of detail that Logan remembers.

To start the festivities, Logan and Roscoe both graduated to blue belt in karate. They are both looking very sharp these days and clearly making a lot of progress.

On Friday, I made this electric guitar cake for Logan's birthday party. I experienced technical difficulties with the icing tools and therefore conveniently decided on this edgy style.

Logan, Levi, and 6 friends enjoyed a pizza dinner and a viewing of Napoleon Dynamite. They discussed belching throughout the entire meal, and I let them.

On Sunday Logan opened his presents from his parents and grandparents, most notably, this cool, blue, junior-sized electric guitar.

Logan has been asking for an electric guitar for years, and I poo-pooed him until one Thanksgiving when he had the chance to try out Cousin Eric's guitar. Logan looked so thrilled, so natural, so like a fish who had finally found water, and so cool that I began to let go of my dream that Logan play the piano. Finally, we struck the deal that if Logan showed his commitment and dependability by faithfully practicing piano for a year, then he could have an electric guitar. He held up his side of the bargain, and now, so have I.

As you know, I face Logan's second decade with some trepidation. I've have lots of second and third thoughts about launching him into the world of butt-rock and reverb at this tender age. My hope is that Logan will see that by giving him this guitar I am buying into his dreams and supporting him in being him. Maybe if I give him tools to pursue his dreams, he won't feel he has to fight me to get there.

Maybe this picture can be the symbol of Logan's second decade.

Yes, he's playing an electric guitar. But he's nestled in the loving arms of his mother, who shows him both how to manage the frets and how to feel the spirit and choose the right.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update on everyone

Seems to have recovered--mostly--from a cute little rash all over his little self. Maybe roseola?

Is totally flummoxed by her fever, which is a doozy. I keep telling her, "You are so sick and it makes you sad--but it's okay! Just rest here until your body makes you all better."

Recites long portions of dialogue from his favorite movies, using voices. His Spiderman/Green Goblin dialogue with "No matter what you do for them, eventually, they will hate you" is downright creepy.

Has the world's worst hair. A total dog pelt of what was, a few months ago, a cute buzz. When oh when will his mother fix it?

Has lost his Spanish book. His teacher says it will cost $80 to replace it. But it's somewhere on this earth, so why can't I just get it back?

Hasn't laid eyes on Jesse since, I think, last Sunday. He's on dissertation blitz, passes through late in the night, then is out the door before Jesse is awake.

I must admit, is getting tired.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Two tiny tips

Life is squeezed too overfull for any creative musing to come leaking out. Instead, here are two tried-and-tried tips. Totally effective, totally low-tech, all for mere pennies. If only life were so simple.

To get rid of a wart, make a little band-aid strip out of duct tape and wear it for a few days. It suffocates the wart and voila.

This one is stolen from my friend at Mythbuster Beauty. Smash two aspirin in a cup, add a few drops of water, and spread the grit over your face and neck. Rinse off in 10 minutes or so and you'll have lovely, silkly smooth skin. I adore this.

What is your favorite household tip?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

24 hrs of pictures

We've had lots of excitement in the last twenty-four hours. First and foremost, yesterday was Haley's fourth birthday!

I wasn't there when Haley was born--this is only the second birthday she's celebrated with us--but I may love her birthday the most. I'm so happy to see how far she's come and how much she's grown in so many ways. She's growing like a happy flower and I'm so glad she's here in our family to do so.

Mark's birthday is on Monday, but we celebrated his with Haley's. (So he can dissertate like mad all week while his parents are here helping me out.)

Can you special I got this awesome shot of blowing out the candles?

Here's Haley with some of her birthday presents: The Daring Book for Girls, which is super fun and a companion to The Dangerous Book for Boys.

This is the dollhouse made from the little Ikea bookcase. A few months ago I ordered a bunch of free wallpaper samples from Graham & Brown. I mounted them on the backing. (Clearly, I wasn't thinking little-girls'-dollhouse when I ordered the designs.) I think this is much cooler than a super-pink dollhouse, and it can revert to a bookshelf when needed.

Today Haley wore her Christmas dress from Grandma Ashurst to church and gave a talk in Primary. I paperclipped together some pages from this little Nativity book from Tomie De Paola so she only turned to a handful of pages. Then I taught her a little sentence to go with each picture, like "Mary and Joseph were on a trip" and "The shepherds saw Jesus." This is another sign of how much she's growing. Even a few months ago she could never have learned it all, but this time she had no trouble. She stood right up, delivered her lines pefectly--and independently.

Levi has been studying gingerbread men in school--don't you love kindergarten? So I promised we'd make read gingerbread people. Here are Haley and Levi decorating.

Meanwhile, Grandma made some of her famous Christmas pumpkin bread. Molasses, walnuts, pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves--all kinds of delicious scents.

And Jesse rolled out some gingerbread of his own. :)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice

I once wrote that I've never met anyone like my son Logan. Except, amazingly, my son Levi is a lot like Logan. Same swagger. Same flair. Same amazing ability to remember names and dates as he expands his social network.

Case in point: Here's a memorable quotation from Logan several years ago. One night we were riding in the car, and Logan spun this tale:

Once there was a happy family: Logan, Roscoe, Angela, Mark, and Levi. They were all Qshurst-McGees. Levi Christian Qshurst-McGee, Angela Michelle Qshurst-McGee, Roscoe HenryQshurst-McGee. Mark Roscoe Qshurst-McGee.

At this point Mark and I were chuckling contentedly, enjoying this story of family love. Then Logan continued:

But one had the longest name of all. Logan. He was the fastest. He was the best.

Yesterday, Levi was drawing and I hear him say:

Oh man, I messed up! I'm trying to make the most happiest person in the
world--eats good food, listens to his teacher, and does all good stuff. A person
like me! ... And then I'll put some Spiderman stickers on.

Yesterday I snuck up on Levi while he was deeply absorbed in some make-believe between a little Obi-Wan and a lion. I love the way kids his age go so deep in their play. I also love how in this clip you can see the moment when Levi realizes I'm stalking him. He tries to play it cool for a moment, then gives in.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holiday Whirl

Do you hear that rushing sound? It's the sound of money flowing out of my account. I'm having a shopping meltdown. In the last 24 hours, I have purchased

  • 1 black, junior-sized electric guitar with amp (Logan's birthday present; more on this later)
  • 1 bookcase (will become a dollhouse for Haley's birthday present)
  • 1 desktop computer (everyone's Christmas present--from you, Mom! Check it out--it's only $200!
  • 1 chandelier (Mom's Christmas present to me; Nancy I think it's the same one as yours)
  • 1 twin-sized duvet cover (I have the idea that Logan will keep his bed more in order if he doesn't have to manage separate sheets and blankets)
  • 5.25 yards fleece (something fun in the works for J&J's kids)
  • 1 yard brocade (Nancy, I'm recovering my blue striped memo board with something funkier)
  • 2 personal pizzas (plus 1 Levi got for free for doing this month's reading log)
  • 6 Ikea kids' meals (to allow time for all that shopping)

And that doesn't include the bionicles, transformers, movies, and art supplies I've bought on previous occasions or that the kids bought for each other.

Can you believe that? And I'm not a major gift-buyer. The kids each get one thing from me for their birthday--but I have three birthdays in the next week. And this year I'm doing Mom's shopping. Oh, and the next week is my 15th wedding anniversary, an event you would think would get some special notice, but may get lost in the fray.

3 birthdays + Christmas x 7 kids = Madness

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

MRS Course Requirements

At BYU, where I went to school, there are lots of jokes about young women getting their “MRS” degree. I took a demanding load of random classes: Art and Technology, Environmental Biology, The Philosophy of Wealth, Cultures of Africa, Advanced Literary Theory. And I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. I went on to get a master’s degree in women’s studies and folklore--all of which is patently unmarketable--but I feel everything I ever learned has helped me to be a better mother. Also I think the fact that I got an education helps me feel more content with my choice to be a housewife.

As a student of third-wave feminism (the first wave being the suffrage movement, the second wave being the 1970s emphasis on equal rights and women’s access to the workplace), I learned that women today should feel empowered to make whatever life choices they wish--including seemingly unenlightened choices such as being a housewife and spending days nurturing children, keeping house, and supporting husband.

Nevertheless, there are some gaps in my education. Things that as a housewife I would really benefit from knowing. I have gone through BYU’s entire course catalog and compiled the following list of classes future housewives should take. In this post-feminist world, let’s admit it: Lots of us girls are going to choose to grow up to be housewives.

Here, for your education and enlightenment, is my courselist for your MRS degree.

(I’ve omitted anything from the following departments: Home and Family Living, Education, Religion, and Marriage Family and Human Development. Anything from those departments would fill degree requirements. Although, it’s both feasible and enjoyable to learn things like cooking, sewing, and interior design on the fly as a mom.)

Accounting 200: Principles of Accounting
I do resumes for people who manage the finances of major corporations through major organizational changes. And then I struggle to keep our family finances straight. I wish I were better educated in this area so my simple household budget looked easy.

Accounting 320: Introductory Income Tax
Over the years I’ve wrestled thousands of dollars for our family from our income tax returns. What if I was actually educated in this area? And what’ll I do now that I have business expenses to consider?

American Sign Language 101: Conversation ASL
I love the trend of teaching babies some basic sign language for those months when they know what you’re saying, know what they want to say, but can’t talk yet. What a nightmare for poor them! And a nightmare for Mom as Baby resorts to screaming and whining. Also, very helpful for telling kids what to do from across the room or during sacrament meeting. How many times have I looked down the pew and wished I knew the signs for, “Please pass the diaper bag down here” or “Where’s the binkie?”

American Sign Language 301: Deaf Culture
This one would be fun, but I include it as a joke. What housewife hasn’t spent days thinking, “Is everyone here deaf?”

Ancient Near Eastern Studies 310: History and Culture of Ancient Israel
For explaining Bible stories and imagery to children with some accuracy.

Anthropology 101: Social/Cultural Anthropology
I was an Anthropology minor in college. I unreservedly and passionately recommend that everyone take this class. Everything you think is just human nature? Culture. Just the way it is? Nope, culture. This class will permanently change your perception of the world and make you grateful for what a crazy, rich place it is.

Business Management: Personal Finance / Planning for Financial Security at Retirement / Basic Entrepreneurship Skills / E-Business Lecture Series
How many housewives end up starting a business? How many more wish they knew how?

Construction Management 311: Quantity Takeoffs
Course description: “Compiling, organizing, and analyzing all the items that influence and contribute to total cost of residential and commercial construction projects.” How many housewives end up needing to know how to manage the cost of residential construction projects?

English 220: Composing Personal History
As an English graduate, I’m a big fan of taking all sorts of literature courses. But this one seemed most relevant for housewives. We’re often the only ones witnessing our children’s histories, and certainly the only ones who will take steps to record it.

French and Spanish 101

I’m certain Roscoe would be flunking Spanish right now if I didn’t know enough to help him with his homework and say “Si hijito, muy bien” when he gets it right.

Information Systems 105: Creating Personal Web Pages

Microbiology and Molecular Biology 221: General Microbiology
Course description: “Microbial world, emphasizing communicable diseases, their causes, and control.” How much time do you spend trying to understand and control communicable diseases?

Organizational Behavior 347: Managerial Leadership Development
How to be a good leader. Isn’t most of being a housewife about getting people to do what you want?

Visual Arts-Photography 210: Introduction to Digital Imaging
Visual Arts-Photography 275: Classical Portrait Photography

This is probably the one I wish for most often. I have all these beautiful children doing charming things and I take terrible pictures of them.

Women’s Studies 392R: Women’s Studies Colloquium
One of the best things I did in college was learn about the history of women’s lives and feminism. I think that when you’re penned in your house helping everyone else in the family go and thrive in the world, it’s nice to feel that you were fully informed about your choices. Plus I resist that feeling that feminism and women’s history is scary. We should know who we are, girls!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snowy Saturday

Today was the first real snow of the year, and it was a big one. Like six inches. It came down all morning. The kids bundled up and spent the day playing in the snow and shovelling the driveway...over and over again. Have you heard the one about how cleaning house before your children are grown is like shovelling the walk while it's still snowing. So true. And yet, people in snowy climes know that you do have to shovel while it's still snowing before the snow gets all compressed and refrozen and there's too much to shovel at one time.

Rosoce, Haley, Logan, and Levi on the snowy tramp. Haley is wearing a little pink dress and striped tights. I pointed out to her the wisdom of wearing pants in the snow but she was too enamored of the tights to change out of them.

When Levi came in his cheeks were bright pink. This may have had something to do with the fact that Logan rubbed his face in the snow.

Suiting up for snow for the first time of the season involved lots of searching for the preferred gloves or mittens, dumping out the entire shoe basket--and all the dirty socks therein--in search of a mitten's mate. Our house has no coat closet--no closet on the entire main floor--so the little nook to the garage has little coat hooks and the shoe basket and we try to make that work.

Today I had a brainstorm on how to keep the kids organized. I got this shoe organizer at Target. Each kid has a row, where they keep their everyday gloves, snow gloves, hat, flipflops, or whatever. I'm thrilled with the prospect of a winter without the daily hassle of locating this or that. Now instead of rummaging through the shoe basket for a workable but mismatched pair, each child has their own stuff to keep track of and place to put it. Mark cannot understand why I would even mention it, but you know, don't you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grand Prize Winner!

Congratulations, RedRedRose! You're the lucky winner of this month's WonderTime magazine for your comment in the Tween Flicks post. Send me an email at angela at dot com and give me your info.

Thanks to everyone for the great movie ideas. The kids and I now need to spend some quality time with our Blockbuster queque.

** Turns out RedRedRose is Cousin Becky! Who lives in Australia! So the mag will be sent to Cousin Jenny who lives where the postage will be much more reasonable, and Becky will pick it up when she visits next month.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quirky Creativity

Here's the latest ceramics project from Roscoe. He fired this little body in the kiln, along with the five heads that fit into it. He named each after one of his parents or grandparents, but with no regard for the namesakes' actual characteristics. I don't get it. Not at all. And yet, I like it. Those snappy little synapses in Roscoe's intricate mind yielded this quirky little project. How...Roscoe.






Monday, November 26, 2007

Tween Flicks Contest

Lately we've developed the tradition of the Friday night Family Movie Party. Roscoe and Logan have gotten old enough that they feel the need for something festive on Friday night. Plus, this plan simplifies Roscoe's babysitting chore if Mom and Dad want to go out.

So we've become connoisseurs of the tween movie, things everyone from Haley to Mom can enjoy. Not Disney, but not Francis Ford Coppola. It has to be clean. A few mildly bad words are okay, as our ClearPlay DVD player will silence them out. (I highly recommend this as a way of keeping potty words out of children's pure little minds just a bit longer and extending the family's movie options.) Sexual humor is not okay. (Really, I'm counting every month I can stave this one off as a major victory.) Recent hits have included Men in Black, National Treasure, Gremlins, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and The Princess Bride.

Help me brainstorm: What are your suggestions that meet the above criteria?

Make a comment on this post--even if you can't think of a great movie tip--and I'll put you in my very own drawing to win the latest issue of Wondertime magazine. I absolutely adore this magazine. It has fabulous writing and a very affirming view of fostering beautiful childhoods for our children. If you win, I'll package it up and send it right to your door. Your odds of winning this one are pretty good, so send me some love!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Marrow and Grease

It took several rounds of shouts and grumbles and please-don’t-touch-anything-on-the-tables before the seven of us sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. Staging this feast required, of course, advance planning on my part. First the menu, then the shopping list, then the order of operations starting Wednesday afternoon.

Moments after the prayer, a certain someone knocked over a glass of ice water, which cascaded across the tablecloth toward me, soaking everything in its path. Mark told the big boys they could each have a drumstick, and they tucked in with...gusto. I was sitting by Levi and watched a field of meat crumbs spread beneath his chair.

After his second or third helping of turkey, Roscoe happily commented, “Ooh, this piece is even yummier. Was it soaking in grease on the plate?” Now you have to know that I am not a meat lover. We’ve never been vegetarian, but we rarely eat meat and I very seldom cook it, so it's a rare treat for the hungry boys, nauseating for me.

Logan affirmed, “Yeah. Grease is the best.”

Roscoe, wisely, “Well, you can’t eat just the grease. You have to have a little bit of meat in it.”

Then Levi, who had been given a wing to gnaw on, asked, “Is this bone all done?” I look over to see that he has been using his little fingers to pry the marrow out of the bone, which is now all but hollow.

Marrow on my right; to my left, the conversation on grease rages on. Mark is now chiming in. I know I am the mother of four boys, but I have limits and they have now been transgressed.

“That’s it!” I cry. “Manners, please! No more discussion of marrow or grease!”

Logan, always obedient, places one hand dramatically on his heart, stretches forth the other, and in a solemn Placido Domingo tenor, intones, “Marrow and greeeease, marrow and greeease!”

I am deeply, sincerely, unceasingly grateful for each of my five children. I am grateful for the children I have, who all are (except sweet little Haley) uncommonly rambunctious. I love peace, tranquility, and order, and they do not. They love excess and all that is quirky, unexpected, and uninhibited. They want a life of crazy and chaos. Elbows on the table, ice water pell-mell, brandishing huge turkey legs while discussing the anatomy of the carcass they’re eating.

So every day I draw and re-draw the line. Yes to tramping in and out the back door. No to putting one’s face on the plate in order to more efficiently slurp up the spaghetti. Yes to blaring a single Veggie Tales tune at full volume 32 times in a row. No to 32 dirty shirts on the bedroom floor. Yes to spreading the entire living room floor with Bionicle projects. No to leaving them there indefinitely. Yes to making cookies. No to flinging dough about with abandon.

And every day I feel sure the line is in the wrong place. I’m squelching their creativity and showering them with Nos. I should allow more expression and freedom. After all, kids outnumber moms in this place 5 to 1. This is their turf and I should dole out more support and affirmation and less restriction.

On the other hand, even crazy boys must have manners. Children need order and routine. By giving limits and systems now, I’m giving them the skills that will help them grow up to be successful adults who can manage college course loads, run households, have careers, and raise children of their own. Besides, the plan of salvation is all about the fruits and blessings of limits, consequences, and seasons of work. I’m modeling our home system on Heavenly Father’s so they can learn principles of work and accountability on the small scale.

*sigh* After our third helping of pumpkin pie (this one counted as supper), I took a long, long soak in the tub. Maybe I’m temperamentally unsuited to the family I’ve been blessed with. Maybe I would be a better mom if I played more, said yes more, ignored the meat field on the floor more often.

Maybe--maybe, maybe, maybe--it’ll all work out. Maybe I’ll draw the line between chaos and creativity, between consequences and free expression, again and again for years to come. I’ll pull the kids into a bit of order and predictability. They’ll build a counterculture of madness. But one day, maybe they’ll remember fondly the moments of craziness in their rambunctious childhoods as they sit at their executive desks gazing at a picture of their own happy, well-ordered family.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Merry Christmas: The - Funniest - Thing - Ever

You MUST go to this link for the surprise of your life:

Then make one of your own and put the link in a comment so I can see everyone in the family!

* Ok, Mark just tried this and it didn't work properly. Let me know if you have the same problem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

Oh, the joy of spooning pumpkin into the pretty little mouth of my pumpkin-colored boy. (Cinematography by Roscoe.)

Fight the Fluffy

I'm now a contributing blogger on Fight the Fluffy, a blog dedicated to supporting each other in not putting on 20 pounds and getting "fluffy" over the holidays. Check out my latest posts here and here.

Fight the Fluffy is the brainchild of Sue from Navel Gazing at Its Finest, which really is the funniest blog I've ever read. Two times now I've been on the phone with my brother Mark and heard Kelly in the background positively snorting with glee as she read it. So read Navel Gazing, but don't stop reading me! And take a few tips from Sue on the etiquette of commenting on posts you read so I don't feel I'm sending them out into a cybervoid!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Authentic, Historical Thanksgiving Festivities

Today in kindergarten Levi's class made and ate stone soup. He came home decked out in this authentic Indian costume, complete with pasta necklace.

Haley's preschool class had a Thanksgiving feast that apparently consisted of mandarin oranges, tomatoes, and apples. She made this turkey hand puppet.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Mark drives his car to church for morning meetings each Sunday, so we drive home in two cars after church, and it generally turns into a race. Once I almost got a speeding ticket, but I got the van closed in the garage and the kids and I were lounging nonchalantly in the living room by the time Mark and Roscoe pulled up.

This time, Mark and Logan won the race, and this is what we found posted on the garage door when we pulled in:


The high council speaker today quoted the following excerpt from Joseph Smith--History. Joseph is describing the measures he took to guard and protect the golden plates. But the high councilor suggested we think of this as describing our children and the "best efforts" we should exert to protect them. I thought it was a great comparison, and I love thinking of the children as precious treasures that I'll do anything to safeguard.

the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.

I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Earthquake Story

Yesterday I was feeling blue and decided to give myself some kid therapy. You know, there are a number of kid evasion therapies: bath, book, blog, chocolate, shopping, a TV show, hiding in the bathroom with a sudoku. This time, my plan was to persuade Levi to perch on the kitchen counter and chat with me while I mopped the floor, Jesse and Haley napped, and Logan and Roscoe were at school. I figured this plan would be good for some laughs, as you never know what will pop out of Levi’s funny little mouth, plus I’d get a clean floor out of the deal.

Levi, for some reason, wasn’t jazzed on my plan, so I lured him by promising he could choose something from the treat bucket and that I would tell the story of THE EARTHQUAKE.

This is, I think, one of the classics of our family lore. Here’s how I remember it. Fam: please correct and amend as needed:

One afternoon (after school? was it summertime?), my mom wanted to run to the store. She left me, around age 9, home to babysit Joe (4ish?) and Nancy (1ish?). Joe and I sat on the playroom couch watching cartoons--Spiderman, as I remember--and Nancy was napping in her crib in the room she and I shared. Mark (5ish?) drove to the store with mom. (I bet Mom's thinking was to separate the boys rather than leave both of them at home.)

Suddenly, the TV went black. An earthquake. A big one that shook books and dishes off their shelves and even left one exterior wall of our house rubble. California children are well trained, so I popped Joe under the kitchen table and retrieved Nancy from her crib. As I remember, a picture from the wall had fallen across the top of her crib like a lid. By the time Nancy and I got back into the kitchen, the quake was over. We all three walked to the front door and I peaked through the door’s window. I could see other people from the neighborhood walking outside and standing on the sidewalks--I guess to commiserate about the quake and also to get away from any potential falling objects. Seems like I also remember one particularly tall palm tree across the street swaying from the quake--but maybe that happened later.

Soon I looked down the sidewalk and saw Mom, with Mark in tow, running toward us. Apparently, the store she was in had become one huge mound of stuff as everything shook its way off the shelves. As a mom now, I can hardly imagine how she felt about having three little children home alone at that inauspicious moment. Isn't that your worst fear--that you leave them alone for a moment and that's when a catastrophe hits? She and Mark plowed over and through the stuff and jumped right out one of the store’s now-broken display windows. Fortunately the store was only a few blocks away, so they ditched the car and ran back home. So, phew, Mom’s home.

I remember a long afternoon followed. On the one hand, we worried as we waited for Dad to come home. No cell phones! On the other hand, the neighborhood had almost a festive feel--at least for us kids. Everyone sat out on the front lawns and visited with each other.

Dad eventually made it home after some adventures of his own, and Mom and Dad cleaned up and tried to put the kids to bed. But the aftershocks got worse and worse through the night. I remember huddling with Mom up against Mark and Joe’s bunkbeds and becoming totally freaked out. I think Mom tried to sing us to sleep.

Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood went outside and slept on the lawns. It seems so counterintuitive to go outside in the midst of a natural disaster, but I guess falling objects are the main danger. I’ve always thought that I can remember little Nancy toddling around the front yard in the dark chasing swells of earthquake across the lawn. Now could that possibly be true?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Systems II

Yesterday I received what has become my most effective organizing system: The More Time Moms Family Organizer. My mom sent me this calendar for last year, and I still can't get over how helpful it's been. Each day has a big, lined square, so there's room for everything from "Karate 4:45" and "send veggies to school" to "pick up Sarah from preschool" and "tacos for dinner." Plus it's only $15.

Ever heard the rhyme, "Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday." Here's my version.

I've divided the house into zones, and whatever cleaning time I have that day gets spent there. Ironing and churning don't happen at all, and washing happens every day. As you're probably aware, my house is never totally clean, but there's an oasis of progress made every day, and if I stick with the routine, no one area ever gets totally out of control.

So what's your system for the thankless and doomed pursuit of a tidy house?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Recipes for Marks

My brother Mark says he wants me to post recipes. The Joy of Cooking says, "This recipe could not be easier." True. Also a real crowd-pleaser with the kids and pretty cheap if you find your drumsticks on sale.

Oven-Barbecued Chicken

Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse and pat dry:
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken parts

Season liberally with:
Salt and ground black pepper

Have ready:
1 cup barbecue sauce

Cover cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place chicken on foil and brush with 2/3 of the sauce. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip, paint with remaining sauce, and bake 20 minutes more. (If you're like me and never remember to take the chicken out of the freezer in time to thaw fully, plan on baking for an hour.)

My friend Mark Crane requested a repeat of this one. I got it from Enrichment meeting. It's a nice recipe because it's done cooking just as you finish assembling each batch of ingredients. I usually double or triple it and freeze the remainder for another day.

Tortilla Soup

1 c onion, sliced
1 T oil
1 4 oz can diced green chilis
1 package taco seasoning
2 1/2 cups chopped tomates, pureed (I usually use canned)
6 c chicken broth (or use boullion cubes)
2 c frozen corn
2 c chicken or turkey, cooked and diced (or a can)
1/3 chopped cilantro
tortilla chips and monterey jack cheese for garnish

In large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion in oil 3-4 minutes. Stir in chilis and taco seasoning, cook 1 minute. Add tomates and chicken broth. Bring to boil. Add corn and meat, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add cilantro.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Slodge (n.)

The sad fact is today has been a slodge. No, I don't believe that's a word, but if it were, it would mean long, uphill climb. Mark is partying with old friends in Philly and NY--oh yeah, and attending a conference on Joseph's Smith's political thought. I got 5 kids to church by 8:30, managed 40 more kids through the annual Primary sacrament meeting program--doing some strange sort of yoga to slide off my chair and move the correctly-sized stepstool into place for each child--did Junior primary sharing time, Senior primary sharing time, lunch....

I realized last night that the key to happiness on this long Sunday afternoon would be providing absorbing activities--like a total family Lego fest or reading aloud. But I never had the chance. I spent all my time putting out fires and disciplining the perpetrators. *sigh*

Two bright spots in the day: Since the three middle kids and I were sitting on stand with the Primary, I told Rosoce to sit with his friends after he passed the sacrament. Jesse sat with some friends. After the sacrament, I looked up and saw Roscoe holding Jesse. His big brother sense of responsibility had kicked in and prevented him from glibly flitting off with friends.

Jesse is a major handful in sacrament meeting, but I watched Roscoe expertly handle the situation. My heart swelled each time I saw my oldest offer up his tie to entertain my youngest.

Second, we did manage our happy Sunday tradition of chocolate chip cookies. Which can heal many ills.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Conversations with Myself

Not figuratively. I actually spoke these words aloud to myself today.

"Come on, Angela. You could get these two things done and it would be really awesome."
~ Pep talk to myself to power through the last 20 minutes before Roscoe got home from school even though I really wanted to quit working on a lame resume

"Thank you for doing that. I really appreciate it."
~ Congratulating myself for saying no to a woman who needed me to watch her daughter on Tuesday mornings

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What a world

Ever heard of Bahrain? Well, according to Wikipedia, Bahrain is a borderless island country in the Persian Gulf and is the smallest Arab state. Which I now know because I'm doing a resume for a man who lives there and works in the--you guessed it--oil business.

I already told you I've been spending my mornings chatting with someone--unknown if this is a man or woman--in Romania whom I've hired to do web programming for my forthcoming new business. I log on first thing in the morning to catch him/her before bed. While his/her comments appear on my screen, so do the latest news headlines and notification of any new emails. When he/she asks me a technical question I don't understand, I google myself the answer within moments. Crazy, huh?

But between chat posts from Romania, I go upstairs and change diapers, sweep floors, knead bread, and sing songs to children--all things women have been doing for thousands of years. Granted my diapers are way cooler, my broom is more high-tech, and sometimes the Kitchen-Aid does the kneading for me. But still--I like the contrast. It's fun to tap into the global economy in ways unimaginable even a few years ago, and then tap into what's real and enduring.

(BTW, if you're at all intrigued by the effects of technology and globalization, you should read The World Is Flat. Mark and Joe, you would eat it up. It's a hugely influential best-seller with a very accessible reading style. BYU's Marriott School of Business did a whole conference on it. Also, you only have to read the first 4 chapters to get the gist and have a whole new outlook on the way the world works.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Man

Don’t you think it’s about time I wrote something about Mark, the man who 15 years ago sat on the BYU quad and said to me, “I wanna float an idea out there: You and me making a family.” Man, oh man, did we ever make a family. And as I tell Mark frequently, it’s his love that really makes it all worthwhile. Here’s my analysis of some of the dimensions of Mark.

Rock Star

All day long, the kids ask, “Is Dad coming home tonight?” Again and again they ask. When he walks in the door, all activity immediately ceases. Everyone throngs to his side. Everyone jostles to get their arms around him. Everyone talks over one another to be the first to tell him about their day. It’s amazing. All he has to do is walk in the door.

TV Star / Indiana Jones

On Monday night, a local TV station (owned by a patron of Mark’s project) ran a special called The Joseph Smith Papers: A Television Foreword. It had interviews with Mark and his colleagues and described the purpose and editorial procedure of the Joseph Smith Papers. Mark was shown holding one of Joseph Smith’s bound journals and reading passages from it. Then he was shown using his fancy ultraviolet light to read words under the words. In other words, Joseph Smith wrote one thing, then changed his mind and wrote something different over the top. Mark’s tool (and his willingness to stare and stare at each word) lets him see what was originally written and, as he said on TV, “open a little window into Joseph Smith’s mind.”


Mark is gone a lot. A lot. But when he’s here he does things that are a huge blessing to our family. First, he does family scripture study in the morning. That’s something totally off my agenda because Mark handles it and I believe it’s a real blessing to us.

Second, he does the dinner dishes. That may seem mundane, but I bet some of you housewives know why it’s a big deal. It’s pretty demoralizing to run the household all day, wrestle kids through their chores, make dinner, serve dinner, watch the kids mutilate the meal you prepared--then stand up from the table and clean it all up. Mark does a meticulous job cleaning up from dinner, which saves me from closing the loop on the whole meal thing and lets me start the next day with a nice, clean kitchen.

Shower Therapist

So I’m home alone with the kids a lot, which I love. But sometimes when Mark, an adult, comes home at the end of the day, I find I need to talk. So I follow him into the bathroom and instead of letting him shower in peace or even talking to him about his day, I sit on the stool and inflict upon him every crazy thing the kids did, every obnoxious client I phoned, every mildly interesting tidbit from my boring day. It’s a real act of love that he listens and shows some interest.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

6 things

Ooh, six things no one knows! Here are my answers to the tag from Nancy.

1. Dramatic
I was once almost attacked by a drunk man wielding a beer bottle on a London street. I was walking alone at night, which I did frequently and with no compunction whatsoever, and he was, as I said, drunk. I think he thought for a moment I was sneaking up on him.

2. Ethnic
I laid the stone floor in a classroom in an adobe schoolhouse on the Bolivian altiplano.

3. Literary
My secret life’s ambition is to write The Great American Novel, which will finally and at last portray women’s lives as they really are in all their complexity and strength. I will write it in my writing cottage, a 12x12 room situated several yards from the house in an isolated nook of the yard and containing a writing desk, bookcase, sofa, and if I’m really lucky, bathroom.

4. Globalized
Yesterday I hired a web programmer from Romania to work on my new business.

5. Inane
When I was about 11 I decided--briefly, to my credit--I wanted everyone to call me “Bubbles.” I believe this was around the same time my brother Mark decided everyone should call him “Shark.”

6. Heartfelt
I count it as one of the greatest blessings of my life that I got to be the oldest of my six siblings and thereby spend lots of time caring for them as children and then watching them grow up to be my best friends.

I think next to be tagged should be Kelly and Dad.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Messages from the underworld

Every once in a while I encounter an image--a huge glob of jelly on the wall, a bottle of shampoo floating in the toilet, a meticulous construction of blocks, a jumble of ten little legs--and I marvel. Most people never see things like this.

Here are a few recent images of my life left behind by the innocent savages. Perhaps to remind me that I'm outnumbered, that my construct of civilization is shaky at best, that they live in a parallel universe of strangeness and chaos.

This Mexican luchador mask hung over my bedpost for several days. Was it a message? If so, I have yet to decode it.

This morning I found this red dragon nailed to a tree in the backyard. Apparently Levi pounded the nail with a rock. Another message?

Titles from Roscoe and Logan's bike trip to the library. Shadow Thieves? Dirty Magic? Vampires? Dripping Fangs? So this is where they're learning it all!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

False Childhood Memories

These are memories of my childhood--or were until one day the wafted through my mind and I thought, "Um..."

When I was about four, I stepped out onto the back steps of our American Fork house and a bumblebee the size of a cat flew by my nose.

One night, driving down the freeway with mom, someone fired shots at us. Mom looked grimly in the rearview mirror and told me to lie down.
(I checked this one with mom, just in case there was some skeleton in our family closet. She denies the entire incident.)

Mom used to give us the beaters to lick after she made cake or whatever, and I always hated the way you couldn't really get good licks on that center prong. Once I twirled my beater around and around, rotating its base in my fingers, until the outer prongs magically parted and I could reach the center one. For some time after, I always spun my beater, trying to repeat the magic.

Once--apparently in a fit of girliness--I kissed the picture of Sleeping Beauty in my storybook. A crown appeared on her head where my lips had touched.

Am I the only one with false childhood memories?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Halloween photos!

Roscoe the teenaged werewolf. Before the other kids were even suited up, Roscoe left to treat-or-trick with his friend and go to a Halloween party. A night of tweeniness for him!

The four remaining kids.

The lizard, the fairy princess, and the cow pass out treats.

Logan the creepy vampire guy.

Levi the snake or lizard or something.

Haley the fairy princess. Nancy gave this me this idea (which she got from Aunt Nancy) to make a one-size fits all tuu-tuu/princess dress. I think Haley looked sweet as could be. Here's she's flapping her little fairy wings (not baring her claws).

Jesse the cow. I love this costume Grandma Ashurst made when Roscoe was a baby. Jesse would not be still for a proper photo! He was chasing the camera, so he and I circled the living room again and again while I tried to get him in focus!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Amazing birthday gifts

Check out these amazing birthday gifts from Roscoe and Logan. I don't think I've ever received anything so creative and whimsical.

This one is from Logan:

It's a tower of treats. Graham cracker walls surround a can of Fresca, which stands upon a foundation of a tortilla. There's a moat of walnuts and Doritos, puncutuated by lollipops. The roof is bread, lollipops, and frosted mini-wheats. Wow.

This is a mobile from Roscoe:

The picture doesn't do it justice. For one, it's huge. Also, it's cut from corrugated cardboard, which must have been quite a job. Suspended from the crescent moons, the letters spell "Best Mom Sleeps Here." I love it. These crazy gifts were real labors of love from boys who apparently, despite it all, really do love their mommy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Birthday Bliss

Today is my birthday, and after much thought, I have determined I'm now 36. (I spent several days last week thinking about how amazing it was that I was about to turn 35. Whoops.)

This is how my day began:

7:15 ~ Levi stands on my bed and sings "Happy Birthday to you, cha-cha-cha"

7:30 ~ We gather for family prayer before Mark leaves for work. He's too late for scripture study today and since the kids are out of school we all got a slow start. Logan informs me that he has placed a menu on my pillow and I am to go back upstairs to order my breakfast in bed. Do I want to do this? No--I've been down this path before and I know where it leads. But I don't want to crush Logan's good intentions so back to bed I go.

7:45 ~ I sit in bed trying to read while listening to what surely are the sounds of destruction and waste in the kitchen below.

7:50 ~ Voices and tempers rise as Roscoe tries to get in on the cafe action and bring me my orange juice. Roscoe: "I'm the waiter! I bring her the drink!" Logan: "But the manager tells her we're out of orange juice!"

7:55 ~ I am served with 0.5 ounces of orange juice dregs and two slices of cold, overcooked toast with gobs of butter. Approximately three children bounce with glee on my bed while I try to eat it.

8:05 ~ As another birthday gift, Roscoe awakens Jesse and changes his diaper. Then deposits his grumpy, drowsy little self on my bed. I ask Logan to bring Jesse a cup of milk. Logan, still in gentile service mode, agrees. But he fails to screw the lid of the sippy cup on properly and poor Jesse ends up dowsing himself and my comforter. "That's it," I cry as I throw back the covers. Duvet cover off, Jesse wiped down, all food back in kitchen. "Will you guys all please just go get dressed?"

Happy birthday, mom!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hooray for the in-laws!

My long-suffering, hard-working in-laws departed today. The deal is this: Mark has to finish his dissertation by Christmas 2008. Yes, that's 2008, which seems like a long way away, but isn't when it comes to getting a 4-person committee to sign off on 350+ pages of unique primary historical research. So Mark doesn't come home from work on Wednesday, and half the Fridays and Saturdays. And of course he's working in the clerk's office on Sundays, and Tuesday nights, and some Thursdays. Which means all he has to do is walk in the front door and he gets treated like a rock star on holiday.

Anway, back to the point, which is that Mark's parents volunteered to come pick up some slack around here while Mark did double dissertation duty.

Among other things, Skip removed two trees and four shrubs; painted a hallway; installed a stair railing, a laundry room shelf, two door frames, and two vent covers; and performed numerous other fix-its and improvements. That man is a monster!

This is my favorite of Skip's contributions. My blog post about household systems got him thinking about systems. He jotted some ideas on my kitchen cupboard chalkboard on the day he arrived. Then throughout the week I'd notice his occasional additions and emendations, until this fully formed chart was left. This is quintessential Skip. And it proffers some good advice for moms. If your "audit" of current household systems yields the "known fact" that what you're doing isn't working, then what new "processes" and "systems" will yield the "end product" you want?

In addition to serving numerous bowls of oatmeal, changing numerous diapers, and providing the nurturing lovin' only a grandma can, Brenda doggedly worked on several sewing projects, including a customized pad for Jesse's changing table. Here she cuts squares for the denim quilt she's making for Levi. (Get it? A Levi quilt for Levi?)

Here's Haley modeling the super cute nightgown grandma made. On night #4, this nightgown still transforms Haley into a twirling, curtsying princess.

On Sunday Levi announced that when he is a man he will have eight children, three babies, and a nanny. He will finance this with a career as an astronaut. When he is in space, I will be invited to come help take care of his family. I can't wait to continue the fine tradition!