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!