Monday, February 27, 2012

Six Random Catch-up Items

Last month my brother Joe and his family moved to a town about an hour away from us. One of the many perks to having family nearby--cousin sleepovers, cooperative car repair, Friday night parties--is that when Jessica had a baby, we got to enjoy the family that came to town to help.

Last month when my dad and Mark's dad were both here for the Court of Honor/baptism fete, I looked over to see both dads deep in confab, wielding measuring tapes and notepads. Together they hatched up a scheme for track lights in my dark, depressing playroom. Skip later emailed us a schematic diagram of the whole thing, and when my dad was here last week, he installed it all, a project that involved running electrical conduit through the garage, adding a new light switch, and many other tasks lesser men would cower at. It was kind of this magical confluence of handy dads. The playroom looks so much better. Thanks, dads.

Yesterday I realized that I can't remember the last time I saw Betsy crawl. She's a pro walker these days. Her birthday is on Sunday. My baby will no longer officially be a baby. *sigh* More on that later.

Last night Haley sat on the front room floor weeping. (Bad choices bring sad consequences.) Betsy walked up to her, crouched over, and looked deep into her sister's eyes. She put a hand on Haley's shoulder. She tipped her head against Haley to give her little snuggles. She stood there for a few minutes giving Haley comfort in all the baby ways she knew. It was beyond sweet.

Last week I finally gave the boot to the washing machine that I love but that does me wrong over and over like a bad-news man. That cheating cad is now out in the garage and a nicer, newer, better model that I scored on ksl for a song is helping me shovel out from the laundry backlog that had accumulated.

Last night while cleaning up an avalanche of Bionicles, I found the last missing piece from our Christmas Little People Nativity. Poor Sonya Lee, the little Asian-looking wiseman, had been the subject of a "Have you seen me?" poster in the kitchen for several weeks. All three wisemen are now happily reunited in the big plastic bucket in the basement.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bridal Flower

Yesterday I sorted through a tall rack of little china saucers at a consignment boutique looking for additions to the assortment of plates displayed on my kitchen wall. I made a shortlist pile of my favorites, then took the pile to the counter and spread them out to make my final selections. This plate clearly wasn't the cream of the crop.
 It’s pretty, yes. But others were prettier, brighter, their designs more finely painted. This one’s pink roses are a little cliche. The fern tendrils are wispy and blurry. It's old and faded, but even in its heydey, these flowers were drawn by a less experienced hand, a less keen artistic eye. She is chipped. And cracked. Perhaps over long weeks on this shelf, she’s gone beyond dusty to grimy. There’s a fine web of cracks all across her face and back.

But still, there was something about this plate, and at the last second, I handed her to the shopkeeper to ring up.
This plate looks to me like someone I would like to be friends with. Along her edges is a subtle scalloping, a pretty detail you see only on closer inspection. She is edged in gold. She looks like she has served well. Many a cup balanced upon many a hand. Many cookie crumbs captured. Her beauty has faded. But it has faded through use, and that's a beauty of its own.

The insignia on the back says Taylor Smith and Taylor. With a bit of research, I discover that this pattern is called Bridal Flower. From the 1940s, it “features a delicate spray of ferns, roses and little Forget-Me-Nots.” I imagine her as part of some young woman’s trousseau. A treasured possession brought out to brighten dreary days or mark special ones. As that bride grew old, this plate became cracked and chipped. She became separated from the rest of her set. And finally, she ended up all alone, in a stack of brighter, shinier plates.
There are parts of me that want to be like those other plates in the shop. Bright, fancy, noticeable. But there are other parts of me that aspire to be like this little saucer of bridal flowers. Perhaps not the most fine or precious. But serviceable. Enduring. And upon closer inspection, bearing its own elegance and the beauty of a life well lived.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Yesterday Little Miss Betsy decided that when she wants to go somewhere, she should walk.

Oh how I love watching a baby learn to walk. Look how excited and proud she is. Over and over and over all day long she took tiny step after tiny step. She fell down a million times, but she didn't let that bother her one bit. And look what she has to contend with:
Our lesson for Family Home Evening was "I can do hard things." When your homework is hard or you're annoyed with your sibling or you need to tell a hard truth--you can do it! Little Elizabeth demonstrated her walking work and it was a great example of this principle.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Friday I took the plunge and tackled our pantry. Here's the before:
It's all just jammed in there. Including various strange or expired or useless items and a bread machine we never use (because one loaf of fresh bread around here would just create a riot). You can't see how dirty and slimy the walls and shelves are. You know how old paint becomes kind of sticky and fuzzy and uncleanable?

I pulled everything out and piled it on the counters, revealing the extent of the dust and grime hiding beneath. I washed out the pantry and painted everything. My goal was to do the whole project without spending any money, so the shelves are high-gloss white from our kitchen chairs and the walls are the yellow from the laundry room. In my mind, a kitchen can never go wrong with yellow and white.

I let the paint cure for three days--meaning lots of mealtime awkwardness over the weekend. I stole a little white bookshelf from Levi's closet and a laundry basket from Logan's room and used them to get stuff off the pantry floor. Then I dusted, sorted, and organized all the cans and jars before loading them back in on Monday morning.

So much better. Best of all, our overstuffed pantry now has plenty of room for more food!

People sometimes ask how I feed our big, hungry family on a budget. I think looking at our pantry gives a clue. You see lots of big containers of grains, beans, baking supplies, and long-term storage. There aren't many processed foods or snack foods. The more your groceries come from the produce section, baking aisle, and bulk aisle, the healthier you're likely to be and the further your grocery budget is likely to stretch.

Generally my family has little to say about my painting/organizing/decorating efforts. But this one seemed to impress everyone. People keep opening the pantry door and saying, "This is so much better!"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Betsy, 11 months

God gave me this perfect, beautiful baby, and look what I've done to her.

She took a swan dive out of her high chair while I was teaching Haley how to play Heart and Soul. *sigh*

In better days, our almost one-year-old Betsy looks like this:

Sisters in matching Valentine's outfits from Grandma.
 She says uh-oh, hello, and daddy. She easily stands without support but only occasionally takes a couple tiny shuffling steps. She remains decadently fat. She still nurses several times a day, totally refusing to drink any other way. I can't believe it's time to start thinking about her birthday.