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!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reading List: The Glass Castle

One of my favorite ways to assess a book is by its first sentence. A good first sentence should demonstrate literary merit and a unique and engaging voice. It should create, just within its dozen or two words, a little mystery or question or intrigue. I love to read a book’s first sentence and then set the book aside for a while to just mull over that sentence and what might be next in store.

When I read the first sentence of The Glass Castle, I knew I was in for a treat. In fact, I was hooked and had to set aside the afternoon’s chores to get well and deep into the book.

Here’s it is. Read it and I bet you’ll be hooked too:

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."

The way I came to this book is this. A few months ago, my famous and talented Aunt Nancy sent me a study on the right way to praise children. So I sent her an email with a few studies on child development I found interesting:

One study compared 1. babies who co-slept with their parents and were fed on demand 2. babies who were fed on demand but did not co-sleep 3. and babies who were neither fed on demand nor co-slept. The happiest, least fussy babies were those who were fed on demand but did not co-sleep.

Another study compared 1. children from warm and nurturing homes with low conflit 2. children from warm and nurturing homes with moderate conflict 3. children from warm and nurturing homes with high conflict and 4. children from homes with low conflict but not warm and nurturing. The children with the best social skills and highest self-esteem came from the homes that were warm and nurturing (of course) with moderate conflict. The idea being that normal family conflict is a good learning environment for appropriate assertiveness and good social skills.

No, it’s not a coincidence that both these studies validate somewhat out-of-control, overextended families (like mine). Nancy recommended The Glass Castle in response to those studies.

So if you read it, which you most certainly should, ask yourself these questions:

Of all the things the Walls parents do wrong, what is it that they do right that makes everything else almost okay? What do they do that contributes to their children turning out responsible, compassionate, and successful?

I’d love to know what you think.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kitchen Talk

"They look like they're staying still, but actually they're moving in a freaky circle."
~ Levi describing the spiral shape of a galaxy

"penis x 10"
~ Roscoe's latest entry on the fridge shopping list. I believe he was actually writing "pencils x 10" but his handwriting is, uh, pretty bad.

"Mom, can I go to a whorehouse?"
~ Roscoe again. At the dinner table. He was referring to a "horror house," as in a Halloween haunted house. The answer was no in either case.

"Jesse loves booze, right?"
~ Haley, referring to jumping out behind a door and yelling "boo" at Jesse

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My big, bad, horrible, no-good day

Yesterday was the pits. I got a big resume order (federal resumes stink!) on an expresss timeline, had a client who wanted a revision, then got another order from a repeat client who is very high maintenance. So by about 9:00 in the morning it was clear I basically needed to work all day--which is somewhat problematic given the five kids who need attention. Fortunately my in-laws are here to help me out, but still, I spent all day with a knot in my stomach, composing retarded resume-speak sentences, and ignoring the kids, who ended the day neglected emotional wrecks.

I got a little notebook to follow President Eyring's advice about remembering God's influence in our lives:

Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him. I testify that He loves us and blesses us, more than most of us have yet recognized.

There were, actually, many blessings in my life yesterday. One being that I earned some money. Another being Brenda helped me with the kids or I would never have gotten that order done. Another being all the work Skip got done in the yard to make up for Mark working on the dissertation and never doing work in the yard.

Skip and Logan do some damage to a dying tree. Logan got to pull the branch down as Skip cut it. The coolness of the job almost made up for the fact that they did it in a nasty cold rain.

But as I went to bed and reflected, as President Eyring says, on "the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today" all I could think was how grateful I am that life comes packaged in days, and that each day ends and you can start a new one in the morning.

After Sunday dinner, Roscoe enjoys his newest cousin, Nicolas. Jesse plays piano with Haley and cousin Ariana.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are you noticing a theme here?

OK, I just spent 3 days trying to upload a little video of Haley and Levi dancing. I now officially give up. But here's a shot of some artwork from my preschooler and my middle schooler.

Roscoe made his ceramics class. The glazed green eyes on the sides are truly spooky. With the notch on one side, we decided it could be used to hold your cooking spoon or paintbrush.

Today our stake conference was a regional stake conference broadcast from the Conference Center. It was a special treat to hear from General Authorities in a more personal setting. They seemed to speak more familiarly and casually--especially President Packer. There was definitely a theme to what they said that makes me think more about Sister Beck's counsel that we do less.

Elder Andersen of the Seventy said we should slow down. He said if we ask God, he will help us know how can we slow down and what things we should skip.

Sister Lant from the Primary General Presidency said that we should reconsider our family's time obligations that keep us from putting our focus where it belongs.

President Packer said, "The Lord doesn't balance his books in October," meaning that blessings from obedience and completion of our goals sometimes happen in the very long-term and that we shouldn't worry about what's not done now.

And Presdient Hinckley--who seemed much more vigorous and fluent than he did at General Conference--told us to "cultivate the art of the soft answer."

I know my soft answers fly out the window when I'm in a rush. My cousin Allison, who is one of the best moms in the world, confessed that one Sunday morning she found herself shouting at her slow-moving family, "I HAVE TO TAKE THE SACRAMENT!" She didn't want to be late one more time. I totally relate. Sometimes I sacrifice peace and patience in order to get everyone where they need to be. Sometimes when I walk into church on time with 5 children with all shoes, ties, and Primary talks in order, I think, "Well, I may be here on time, but I'm not getting any blessings for it because I had to yell at so many kids to make it happen."

So you know what I could give up in order to slow down and keep a better gospel focus and have more soft answers? Order. A clean house. My feeble attempts at personal fashion and hygiene. But then I might go crazy!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday afternoon fever

Really, is there anything more fun than kids dancin like there's no tomorrow? This little video had to end abruptly when Haley started feeling the fever a little too hot and did some booty slaps. She came to our family with some rather unsavory dance moves, but this one I'm afraid she learned from her brothers right here at home.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shout-out to the lurkers

Today the stars aligned so Logan, Levi, Jesse, Mark, and I could see Joe and Jessica for a few moments before they caught their flight back to Dallas. Joe says he hopes our brief encounter will merit mention in the blog, so here it is--even though Joe's a lowly lurker who never leaves a comment to let me know he was here. I do love my brothers and their families, so much so that we're plotting ways to live closer together so 20 minutes sitting on a sidewalk on a chilly day doesn't constitute our month's interactions.

Also, Aunt Marsha let slip that Cousin Thelma Jean reads this blog, which makes me feel very happy.

So this is a shout-out to Thelma Jean, Joe, and all you other lurkers. Drop me a line sometime and let me know you're there.

Also my husband Mark wants you to know that I also have a brother Mark and that their comments should not be confused--which should be pretty easy because my husband rarely reads let alone comments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feeding the Good

Roscoe fills the house with piano music.

I remember one afternoon when Roscoe was a baby, lying on the bed gazing into his beautiful face and thinking, "I am a perfect mom." I was! I crept around the house all day with him protecting him from loud noises or even minor disruptions. I was responsive and loving and securely attached. But I as soon as I had that thought, I also realized my perfection would certainly end once this parenting thing got more complicated than snuggles and coos.

Fast forward: Last night I sat in bed after everyone else was asleep, weeping because I am failing one of my children. Now don't jump in and say that's not true and I'm a great mom, because really in some significant ways I'm not doing what this child needs, and so, I decided, I must change what I'm doing.

Haley colors Elmo using her perfect pencil hold.

So I brainstormed and wept and doodled all over the sudoku I was allegedly doing with phrases like: Why does he do it? What need is it filling? attention - be noticed - stop and look - engage Where can I start? Notice the good. There's not much of it. The good he does gets no response.

And then things congealed into some clarity, and I wrote two phrases that have become our parenting mantra:

Don't feed the fire.

Feed the good.

Logan arrived home from school wearing a blue bindi, which he said is the sign he is a Mindswapper from Asteroid 6. Of course.

I woke Mark and shared the news. Then as I drifted to sleep, I replayed all my interactions during that day and envisioned how I would respond with my new focus on feeding the good.

I used to feel Roscoe forced me to be a positive parent because he would crumple with guilt and shame if I was negative. Now this other child is helping me be a more positive parent because if I tell him his actions were bad he'll believe he is bad. When my kids do something good, Mark and I sigh with relief and rush on to the next thing. But when they do something bad we screech to a halt and describe in great detail why and how it was wrong. This particular child seems to feed on that, like fuel to a fire. And we've got to change that dynamic 180 degrees.

So here are picture of my children being good today. (Except Levi! Who was very good indeed.) And of course as I concentrated on the feeding the good, I saw lots of good to feed. But I also saw how much the kids want me to see the good. How after they do something good, they stand poised for a milisecond hoping I'll notice and swoop down upon them with praise.

And of course, a picture of Jesse being naughty. Here he stands, not sits, in Haley's chair, not his highchair. He is throwing Kix onto the chair, then stamping them into dust with his little jammied feet. And I smiled and kissed him and took a picture. How's that for positive parenting!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Sunday nap woes

Things that conspired to destroy my much-anticipated Sunday afternoon nap:

  • Levi crying because Logan rescinded his offer to play with him
  • doorbell ringing (someone from the ward)
  • Jesse refusing to take his nap
  • Levi needing help with Testament DVD he was watching in lieu of playing with Logan
  • Roscoe and Logan wrestling outside my door

When at long last Roscoe volunteered to take care of Jesse, who was still fussing in his crib and refusing to nap, I dared hope that today's nap would find happy fulfillment.

For a few blissful moments, I lay in bed smiling as I listened to my oldest and my youngest. Jesse happily cooed when Roscoe entered his room, and Roscoe cooed right back. I had almost drifted to sleep when I heard Roscoe say to Jesse, "Do you need a change?" "What lovely children I have,"I thought sleepily.

Sadly, all hopes were dashed when Roscoe tossed the wet diaper down the stairs--a habit he learned, sad to say, from his father. The loaded diaper popped, spattering the walls and stairs with urine-soaked gel. Sigh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I can see clearly now...

Yesterday was a great day as as mom:

First, Jesse's babysitter dogged me, so he and I came back home and spent two hours alone together while everyone else was at school. Downside: there goes my work time. Upside: two hours indulging in the luxury of giving full attention to Jesse. I stacked blocks; he knocked them down with great gusto. He stole little objects from Roscoe and Logan's room and brought them to me, and we sat side and side looking at them and saying, "Wow!" It was so fun to just focus on the amazing little mind and silly little habits of Jesse.

Later in the afternoon, something happened to catch my eye out the front window. It was Levi and Haley walking companiably side-by-side down the sidewalk. I ran out and brought them inside for a little review of the rules about leaving home. (Like how if you're 3 and 5 you have to check with mom first!) They sat down willingly to listen and sort of snuggled up to each other. Levi laid his cheek on Haley's shoulder. After our little chat, they went back outside, and I stood at the window for a while just watching. How fun it is to have two little squirrels scampering about together.

When Roscoe came home from school he showed me how he's learning to conjugate -ar and -er and -ir verbs in Spanish. So we looked at his Spanish book and practiced verbs together in a patch of sunshine on the floor. Finally Roscoe looked up at me and said, "Why are we lying on the floor?" We were just doing it for fun.

After dinner, I took Logan to school for parent-teacher conferences. We browsed around the book fair, and then read through his purchase (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) together while we waited our turn. Afterwards, we went to Sonic for treats and a little heart-to-heart about Logan's future in karate. We brought treats home for Mark and Roscoe, who were working on packing Roscoe's stuff for a Scout camput tonight.

So by the end of the day, I had had moments of total concentration on each child, as well as moments of clarity when I could see the joy and blessing of each child's existence and of this moment in their life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Puma? Maytag? Barfing?

One of the happiest of events of these many years is that my brother Mark and his awesome wife Kelly are having a baby! Mark is one savvy sibling: he ensures everyone will adore his spouse and children by making us wait so dang long for them! I still practically weep with joy every time I see Kelly just because I'm so happy she's finally here! And, of course, there are many other reasons to love the talented, sweet-tempered, funky, generous, and creative Kelly.

Anyway...focus, Ang...the point is that Mark posted his baby bean's heartbeat on his blog. Mark claims it just sounds like a heartbeat, but I've always thought different. Here are my family's picks on what an in utero heartbeat sounds like:

Me: washing machine (swishy-swashy swishy-swashy)

Logan: a baby puma (wuuaaooor wuuaaaoor)

Rosoce: a baby choking on blap (This one may be the result of his longterm emotional scarring from Jesse's amazing blappiness.)

Any other candidates?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Do Less?! *% gasp! ^# wheeze! ^@

Did you love listening to General Conference this weekend? Are you excited to hear more from President Eyring in the coming years? Did you shake your head fondly and say "Poor President Hinckley" when he reminded you he's a whopping 97?

And what did you think about the talk by Julie Beck, the new General Relief Society President? Her talk is getting quite a lot of blog buzz:

My feminist sensibilities were not offended, as were those of some bloggers. Partly because I don't go to General Conference looking for feminist affirmation (I get that elsewhere--wua ha ha). Also because I appreciated her guts in affirming (as she did at the General RS meeting) that we believe in getting married, we believe in having children, and we believe in being homemakers. You can't really value motherhood if you don't also value housework.

Now this is the part of her talk that's gotten me thinking. She said:

"Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children, more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time laughing, talking, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."

I think I am a mother who tries to do it all. Yoga, canning, gardening, cardio, karate, piano, finance, foster care, family finances, housecleaning, playdates, preschool, church callings, blogging, starting a new business. I believe it's important not to overschedule children, so we've decided to limit the big kids to Scouts/Young Men's plus one music activity (piano) and one physical activity (karate). I'm here to tell you that even that modest-sounding schedule is quite time-consuming--and expensive, which leads to the finance/business items on the to-do list.

And I have secret plans to add to our family's list. We need more humanitarian service and political awareness around here. Does keeping your focus on the gospel mean being insular and provincial?

I'm a firm believer that one of the biggest blessings of the gospel is that it helps you know which are the most important things, and then supports you in putting your best focus there. As my mom told me, "The most important thing is to remember that the most important thing is the most important thing."

Now here is where you must write a comments. Yes, YOU! I need to know what you think about this: Where is the line? Which things should maybe be given up in order to keep focus on the most important things? Am I kidding myself and my family that I'm a girl who really can do it all?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lessons learned from Middle School?

The other day Roscoe and I went to parent-teaching conferences at his middle school. All the teachers in the school sat at little tables around the walls of the gym. Parents and kids sat in rows of chairs radiating into the middle of the room to wait their turn to talk to each teacher. Sitting in line, I had the chance to eavesdrop on lots of teachers and students and think about that rare breed that chooses to work with middle schoolers. I heard things like,

"So you're failing the class."
"I'm going to move you because you talk too much to your neighbors."
"Your citizenship grade is unacceptable."
"Most kids do poorly on this test. Then they figure out they have to study."
"I have discussed this in class several times."
"Remember that assignment?"

I was struck by two things: First, the teachers had no trouble stating straightout what the kids were doing wrong. Second, when they did so, their tone was matter-of-fact and totally unaccusing.

One of the main paradigm-shifts they try to impart at all the foster care training classes I take, is that some misbehavior is normal. Even developmentally useful. Toddlers get into mischief. School-aged kids leave messes. Teenagers roll their eyes. Not that you should condone the above, but we need to remember it's normal and respond accordingly.

When my kids do something wrong, a part of me panics. I want them to feel the pain and consequences of their actions, and a lot of the time I think I lay it on too thick. So my new goal is to be more like middle school teachers (who'd a thunk?) and lay out choices and consequences more impartially.


"Sorry, you can't go to your friends' because you haven't done piano yet."
"Are you crazy? Have you even done your piano practice yet? Why didn't you do it earlier? Why do I have to keep telling you this...."

"That's backtalk, so I won't be driving you to Scouts tonight."
"What makes you think you can talk to me that way? It really hurts my feelings when I work all day long for our family and then you come home and treat me like that..."

Of course, doing the above presupposes that you've thought through an appropriate consequence to dole out. I find I panic and lecture when I really don't know what else to do. So we're back to systems.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Systems Theory, I

The longer I've been a mother, the more regimented I've become about systems. I'm now obsessed with them. It may have all begun one day when I dropped off Roscoe at kindergarten. I sat in the car and watched the kids all play on the playground. They were intent on the play at hand. But the instant the ball rang, they all spun on dimes and ran--not walked--to line up--not mill or huddle--at the door.

What force commanded instant and unianimous compliance? The system, I believe. The bell rings, you run in. Thus it has always been and always shall be. A kid would have to rise pretty far on the scalliwag scale to even dream of transgressing the system.

Same principle with bedtime, choretime, homework time, table manners, teeth brushing.... If you succeed in creating a system the kids buy into, then the parent is magically off the hook. It's not that I'm telling you to go to bed, it's that it's bedtime.

My sister Nancy has a brilliant system that demonstrates how even the simplest system can save work and hassle. Her daugher Naomi wears the same nightgown for three nights. Then it goes in the laundry. If I had such a system I'd avoid both the oatmeal encrusted nightie (Haley) and the laundry hamper full of fresh PJs from each night of the week (Levi).

Here are two of my favorite systems:

The Kitchen Binder

You know all those papers floating in your kitchen, drifting into untidy piles? The ward list, coupons you intend to use, library slips, flyers about upcoming activities, receipts. Put them in a binder. Mine sports the kids' chorechart on its front cover. (A system I despised as a youth but have put to great use as a mother.) Inside is my list of monthly spending, ward list, kids' handouts, school papers, foster care training schedules...

(I'm a huge fan of three-ring binders and spiral notebooks--as well as cubbies and buckets. I'll tell you more of these systems later.)

Reading Time

Roscoe and Logan enjoy tonight's reading time in the morass of tween filth they use as a bedroom.

I thank my lucky stars every night that I ever thought of this one. Until Roscoe recently turned 12 and got smart enough to totally reject this, all my kids, the tall and the small, went to bed at 8:00 sharp. Eight to nine is reading time. You can pile your bed with as many books as you'd like. (I must shift piles of up to 37 titles--I've counted--before I can change Levi's sheets.) The little ones, of course, just leaf through pages and recite what they can remember--both important pre-reading skills.

The beauty of the system is twofold:

1. Mom and Dad maximize that essential window between kids' bedtime and parents' bedtime.

2. Kids naturally regulate to however much sleep they need. If they're sleepy, they'll fall asleep by 8:15. If not, they can read til lights out at 9:00.

Whenever I see a fun mom, I long to uncover her systems. I wish I could snoop through her drawers and files and closets and see how she does it. So how do you do it? What are your systems, however mundane, that keep family life flowing smoothly--or smoothlier?

As a bonus, pics of bright little Levi today. He comes home from school each day excited to practice what he has learned to write that day. He has a special notebook for this purpose. His awesome teacher has taught him to say things like, "I'm an expert on Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "I'm not very good at writing Gs--I need to practice." It is so fun to watch the cogs in his brain twirl and spin.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Some Nourishment for YOU: Taffy Apple Pizza

Thanks so much for everyone's comments! You came up with some great ones. I felt very nourished all day to keep opening emails that said things like "Good job" and "Keep it up"--even though you weren't really saying those things to me :)

And your posts identify the reason why we have to work so hard to keep spouting these nourishing words instead of just blasting our kids with constant stop sign words: They want unlimited wii, no sleep schedule, junk food, constant Christmas...We want children with some sense of limits and control. We don't have the same agenda!

Anyway, keep 'em coming as you think of them or (hooray!) actually use them. In the meantime, enjoy this surefire crowd-pleasing recipe:

Taffy Apple Pizza

1 package (18 oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough, softened (This is easier if you choose a kind that’s already rolled out into a sheet.)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 creamy peanut butter
1/2 t vanilla
2 medium granny smith apples
1/4 c caramel ice cream topping
1/2 c peanuts

Bake dough 16-19 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove and cool.
Mix topping of cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.
Spread over cookie dough.
Peel apples, slice thinly, and arrange over top; lay ‘em on thick.
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Microwave caramel 30 seconds, then drizzle over apples.
Sprinkle with peanuts.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Nourishing Words

One night during our Ashurst family reunion last March, we passed out otter pops to the kids. My brother Joe said to his kids, "Have as many as you want." What radical concept!, I thought. As many as you want? I've said "only one" or, in a more generous mood, "not too many," but "as many as you want"? Never.

A few months later a read a magazine article (in Wondertime magazine, which I highly recommend) about saying to your children, "Take your time." I never say that. "Hurry up" I say about 50 times a day.

So I've hatched a new plan: I'm going to compile a list of wonderful phrases that would nourish our children with peace and joy but that we never get around to saying. I'm going to make them into a cute little gift book, and my super talented sister-in-law Kelly is going to illustrate it.

So brainstorm with me. Add to this list of wonderful nourishing things to say to your children:

I'm listening.
Take your time.
There's plenty.
Just try again.
Have all you want.
I'm sorry.
I love you.
Thank you.
Tell me about it.
I can help you.
That's normal.
You're good at that.

What else??