Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Pictures

Too busy having fun to write at this moment--we're going to the Zoo. Enjoy the pictures of my daughters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The End of the Tunnel

In an hour and a half I'll pick Avram up from the airport. Hallelujah! Although the last two days haven't been bad at all; I've worked on both of them. Since I'm at work from 5:30 (or 5:00) in the morning until 4:30 (or 4:00) at night, that's a major chunk of the day taken up. I won't say that I'm always super productive, because when you have four kids to take care who are three and under, and you're not in your own house, there is only so much you can get done. Which is basically take care of kids, and read sometimes (because it's easily interruptible. Easily meaning it's not like interrupting painting a chair, not easy like if it's Avram and not a kid trying to interrupt me I never budge.)

I must say the low point came Sunday, when we didn't manage to make it to church - which starts at 1:30 pm. Also, Lyda spilled wheat all over the kitchen floor (part of the reason we didn't get to church, no one ever changed out of their pajamas, and Lydia made dinner for the family. It's true - I had left out lunche's makings (PB&J sandwiches) on the table, and around 4:30 Lydia came into the living room with a squashed over piece of bread, and sat it on the sofa and began patting it. She soon let me know that it was for me. She then went and got hers from the kitchen - both had some peanut butter in the very center of the squished over bread. Then after we finished our first dinner course, Lydia decided we needed another, and went and made seconds just like the first (except this time I went and sneaked in some jelly on mine). What a sweetheart - and what a lame Mama.

I've realized a large part of why Avram being gone has been so hard for me. One of my five love languages is Time. Actually, I think that's almost my only love language. People I love I show it by spending time with them. In college I always spent all of my time with my various boyfriends from the beginning of each relationship. And although I fully understand couples having separate hobbies and activities, Avram and I like to do basically everything together. That's why I started role-playing; it was one of Avram's hobbies, and what would I do with myself if people came over to socialize with Avram, and I wasn't a part of it? I realize that this makes me sound like I'm weirdly possessive; I'm not. I'm just weirdly co-dependent. They're not quite the same thing.

I'm glad I remembered my love language, because Avram is the one in our relationship who does more traditional romantic things. He writes me love letters. Last Valentine's day he made a scavenger hunt in our home for me, along with little gifts, notes, and cards. Me? I went on the scavenger hunt. That's got to count for some romantic points, right? So now I can say, "I do love you; you can tell because I never let you have a moment's peace without me. That's true love." Actually Avram show love by time too, so we're all good. (And I believe that everyone has two love languages, although I haven't read the book, so this may just be a faulty memory. My second one (out of the five: Service, Time, Physical Affirmation, Verbal Affirmation, and Gifts) is probably verbal affirmation, ie, I love you. Avram's is Service. Man that guy does a lot for me. I'm definitely not a gifts person, either in giving or receiving. That's my biggest struggle with Christmas. I never know what to get for anyone, and so usually just don't want to give anything at all. I'm lame like that. And even getting gifts, while I appreciate it, doesn't do much for me (in a relationship context). I had a roommate who after a disagreement her fiancee showed up with a dozen lavender roses for her. She was thrilled. I was like, "Wait, you're engaged, do you really have money to waste on long stem roses right now? And how does this solve the disagreement?" Well, they're happily married now, so clearly this was mainly my own issues with gift giving as a way of showing love.

Also while I'm stuck in stream of consciousness, I read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson over the weekend. Great book. It's fantasy, but it's refreshingly different, and well written, and clean (something sadly rare among adult fantasy. That's why for years I've mainly read YA fantasy). And he was at BYU getting his master's while I was there for my undergraduate, and although I never met him or even heard of him once while there, it's still like almost being famous and connected to a famou author. So put that on your to-read list after Wives and Daughters.

And you'll also be happy to know that the entire weekend I turned the heat down at night, turned off the lights myself and even (sort of) cooked dinners and the house is (mostly) clean. So, if Avram's plane goes down in a blaze of glory this evening, I will survive (in sha'allah it won't).

(Oh, and I never checked to see if the money worked out or if we'll have to pay a fee. I walk on the edge like that. Avram says he thinks it worked out fine.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guitar Tabs Blog

My step dad, Don, has started a new blog he wants to spread the word on. It's called Mormon-friendly Guitar Tabs, and is all about Tablature for playing the guitar, specifically Mormon songs or hymns. You can learn all about Don and the impetus behind his blog here.

Spread the word if there is anyone you know who likes guitar playing!

(I've also added him to my blogroll, so you can always have the website handy).

More Mad Maundering Thoughts, or, Please Someone Rip this Laptop from me Before You Are Overwhelmed with Pointless Posts

Although I went to bed at the ungodly hour of three last night, I didn't get to sleep until after four am. And I've never been the kind of person who can't sleep when they're troubled. I've always been able to eat, as well (like Charlotte that LM Montgomery quotes in Anne of the Island, who goes on cutting her bread and butter when her frenzied lover is carried past on a shutter). Thank goodness I haven't lost my appetite yet.

And yet I could not sleep last night. I kept on listening for Lydia, and between that and convinced that a ghost might choose this night to make an appearance, just when I have no one to lean on, I slept very poorly indeed. Then Lydia did wake up at 5:30 ish, and so she crying went into my bed, and between her and Elisheva, who had been woken up by Lydia that was the end of my sleeping (although I eventually got Lydia to go play in her room, and she went and only came back every few minutes, so I got cat naps in the middle). Finally at Eight Lydia dragged me out of bed, and I've been avoiding my life ever since.

Avram has always been the one to get up with the girls in the morning. Always (okay, I can think of exactly one time when I got up instead of him. What a great mother I am). Really, I suppose the next few days of blogging will be a testament of my marriage - of remembering not just the large, overarching reasons I married Avram (because I love him, because he's my best friend), but the small ones as well (there was no one to listen to my dreams this morning. And I have no one to tell all of my multifarious thoughts and reactions to blogs I read in the last two days. How am I expected to form an opinion without his input? And I transferred the money today from the Virginia account to the Ohio one. It'll take on Monday, but the big question is, what will take first, the bill or the deposit? I need Avram to answer these questions for me, if only in the theoretical.)

Avram always answers all my questions for me. He's my go-to guy. When I had officially broken up with him, and was awaiting a phone call from the other guy who I was planning to marry, and who hadn't called me for two days after planned for, Avram was the one I spent hours talking to about this. Although his heart was breaking, he reassured me that everything would be okay, that Dennis would call, etc etc, until I felt better. After I had completely and (seemingly) irrevocably broken Avram's heart and moved to Egypt, and then when Dennis asked for some more space, and for me to not talk about marriage all the time (what can I say, I'm obsessive and impatient), Avram was the one I emailed about this, needing his reassurence. Of course, this time he told me to stuff it four ways and feed it to a doozer, although for reasons forever unknown the email that he sent me and the one I received had the bitter paragraph magically excised from it. See, the Internet truly wanted us to be together. So although that time he didn't behave like my personal walking doormat man of dreams, the fact is that receiving his email telling me that I had picked Dennis and had better well suck it up and worry him with my problems STILL made me feel better - because it was good advice, from my best friend. (Err, yeah, and then a couple weeks later I decided to marry him, because I'm smart like that, and Avram took me back, because he's gracious like that and knew that he wanted to be with me more than his justified pride).

See, right about now in the meandering maunderings of my mind I would turn to Avram and say, so are you still happy that you got me? Do you still think I was worth it, even though I dirty all the dishes and like you to wash them and I'm in my PJs and if you were here I would have made you get up with Lydia at O' dark thirty even though you would have gone to bed at the same time as me? Is this what you imagined you were getting when you won me from all the competition? And Avram, because he loves me, will say yes, every time.

All in all I'm actually doing great this morning, considering how much sleep I did not get. Ahh, I remember the single days when I could stay up until all hours and then sleep in....but small children are some of the hardest taskmasters. Now I've reawoken the nostalgic sentimental part of myself, which was only dozing anyway, because I'm a highly romantic person (in the 19th century sense. Not in the "I plan and do romantic things for my husband" sense.)

On My Own, Pretending He's Beside Me

Carrie came over tonight and we watched the miniseries of Wives and Daughters, and it was SO good. Look, I'm even driven to using all capitals. And I wonder, how could Elizabeth Gaskell have been overlooked for so long, in favor of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen?

Also, I let my girls stay up way past their bedtime, and it's almost three am and I'm still up. I'm mainly avoiding my empty bed. Although Elisheva is in it, and knowing her she's probably laid out sideways, so really I won't be alone at all. Avram is always the one who tells me that it's time to get off the computer (because I've been on it for forever, and nothing more is going to happen just because I keep staring at it.) And then he turns out all the lights after I get in bed, and then once he's comfortably in bed, he'll respond in the affirmative when I ask him if he's locked the doors and turned down the heat.

I think I've forgotten how to survive on my own.

I just wanted you all to know that I'm holding up well in Avram's absence, and being sociable and stuff. And eating lots of cake and dove Chocolate. They're very comforting too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lonesome Thoughts on a Friday Night

Whew, it's been a long time since I've written (Avram had a big paper due this week which equals no computer time for Thora). Well, Avram's in Boston, my house is a mess, and our money is in all the wrong bank accounts - that about sums up my life.

I guess I could give some further details....(Hah, like you could prevent me).

When we found out that Avram was a recipient of the Hugh Nibley Fellowship we up and registered Avram for an SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) conference taking place in Boston the week before Thanksgiving. This is the conference in his field, and one where probably in five years he'll have his preliminary interviews for jobs, because this is where they happen. Of the $3,000 fellowship given to Avram for Academics, I thought that it would be good to actually spend some of it on academic pursuits, and hence this conference. Plus Avram hopes to submit a paper for presentation next year (when it'll be in Louisiana), and so it would be good for him to have had the experience of attending before he has to present (and also so he can see what kind of papers are accepted).

Fast forward three weeks, when we still don't have the fellowship money, and the conference is only a week away. By this point we didn't have any of our own stipend money left, because I'm stupid. When figuring our November budget, I included the money from Avram's stipend and from my babysitting to live on. Except we received his stipend October 31, but we won't receive my babysitting money until the end of November, after we already had planned to spend all that money. Yeah, I'm bright.

Plus once we found out that he had this fellowship, I went crazy and did stuff like bought a TV cabinet and desk from Goodwill for our living room (and then a family in the ward gave us their old TV, so all we need now is a DVD player. I feel like I've written this before here....but I'm too lazy to check. So if I have, then just ignore this whole paragraph), and went to Costco (which I had been meaning to do, to buy some staples that are really good deals there.), and so we were really over our budget for the month, although in actuality we weren't, we were just spending money we didn't have yet, since both of these purchases were planned to come out of the fellowship money. Some people might count that as being over budget, but I like to pretend I have good financial sense.

Avram parents floated us a couple hundred dollars to just last until at least one of our financial ships came in, which was a great comfort to us all. Especially as our next bill was our Gas one, which comes due on the 24th, or next Monday.

Meanwhile I had stopped checking plane prices for a couple weeks, because we didn't have the fellowship money yet to buy them, and when I checked a week ago the prices had gone up a hundred dollars. Very depressing.

At this low point I emailed my brother Soren and asked to temporarily borrow enough for Avram to attend the conference, since we'd already sunk his registration fee for it. I also asked him to send it to us by Pay Pal, since that method worked great when people sent us money in England. (Now I'm beginning to sound like a Charity case, which I guess I am.) Soren, being the dear that he is immediately send the half grand via Pay Pal. Where it sat for almost a week because it turns out Pay Pal is not the greatest thing when you can use checks and the US postal service. So at this point it's Wednesday night, and we've decided that Avram won't go to the Conference at all.

Then once last time we checked plane tickets, and Avram found out that if he flew into Providence, Rhode Island he could pay only $184 total for his ticket, versus $309 to fly into Boston. With a ticket that cheap, we could use the $200 his parents floated us, and so we bought him tickets. Meanwhile the Pay Pal money arrives (hooray!), but Avram thinks to himself, "Oh, I'll put it in our other, Virginia bank account, for good keeping." And so our Pay Pal money is sent there, where it'll arrive tomorrow. Unfortunately, our Ohio bank account is the one we have direct payment for our Gas bill from. And there will be no money in the Ohio account on Monday.

Sometimes, my brain wants to explode.

Meanwhile with all of this brewing over us, yesterday I had the urge to bake a cake. Not to clean the house. Not to pack my husband for his trip. Not to be productive. No, to bake an Orange Cake from Scratch with a "White Mountain" frosting and rich orange filling. So Avram comes home from School to find all the dishes in the house dirty, me desperately trying to frost the cake before he comes in the door, and both our girls crying, probably through the neglect of their crazy mother. Plus I couldn't do any dishes because I had burned myself on the filling (which is exceptionally delicious. I took pictures, because our battery came that I ordered because I gave up on ever finding the lost battery. But now our picture sizer reducer thingy isn't working. And my tech help is in Boston).

Plus last night I had to go to an Emergency Preparedness Group meeting, and Avram had hometeaching - both of which occurred after the Girl's bedtime. So we ate chili and cake for dinner, hurriedly packed, and then went off to do both, then came home at nine at night with our conked out girls in arms. At which point I decided that I had to send Avram off with homemade (and homeground wheat) whole wheat Apple Sauce or Pumpkin muffins (with no oil in them. They're very wholesome and healthy and most importantly yummy.) But I didn't have any flour ground up yet from the ancient wheat grinder I borrowed from a sister in the ward.

Avram brought the wheat grinder in, which weighs a ton and is truly ancient, and we set it on the kitchen floor because the sister said that it spilled a lot. Fun. After fifteen minutes of trying to get it to work, and failing, Avram came in and helped me and we finally got it up and started...where it took ten minutes to grind about three cups of flour. Hey, it still works better than no wheat grinder would....

Finally at 10:30 pm the muffins were done (I did six Pumpkin ones and six applesauce (which was also homemade from Jonathon Apples, and tastes absolutely AMAZING. Yes, I am a domestic goddess. Minus the state of my kitchen.), so we went to bed. Of course we had to get up at 4:00 to take Avram to the airport.

In all of the craziness of his last night at home, not a single dish was done. And the laundry from Wednesday afternoon at the Laundromat also hadn't been folded. Although Avram did find out yesterday that the Check for his Fellowship is ready for him here, but that the bursar is out until after Thanksgiving - so we won't get it until the beginning of December. Figures.

So....that's why at this point Avram is in Boston, our money is in the wrong accounts, and our house is a mess. Although today I have put away the clothes, planted a bunch of narcissus bulbs in the freezing wind, and done all the dishes. I just haven't done the final touches, like vacuuming, or sweeping up all the flour and fallen wheat kernels off my floor.

I'm glad Avram is at the conference - it'll be good for him to meet with BYU people, and say things like, "Hey, I really like BYU. In fact, I'd love to work there as soon as I graduate. I promise I'd stay forever because my wife has family in Salt Lake, and if I ever took her to Utah to live again she'd kill me before moving out of state again." Ok, not really, but that's what I'd say to them at least. But I am lonesome.

That's why I have to write this long and boring post - because Avram isn't here to listen to all of my meandering thoughts, so you all have to.

Which reminds me, while I somewhat have your attention. Don't ever read One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Blech. I could go on for a long time about how I don't like it, and all of my legitimate reasons for doing so, but I'll spare you. Just take my word for it.

Also, Elisheva is proto-crawling. She makes all the motions, and can lurch around, but her stomach never leaves the ground. It's like Garfield when he grows so fat his stomach touches the grouch when he walks. Except Elisheva is a lot cuter. Also, two days ago while making Applesauce, the "Why" game began at my house with Lydia. "Why are you cutting apples? Why are you taking the seeds out? Why are you cooking apples? Why are you making applesauce?" It's cute for now, but I know a few months ago when everything is still, "Why, why, why?" I'll want to pull my eyebrows out. Hey, enjoy life while you can, I guess.

That is all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ye Shall Always Rejoice

Although I did much better on Friday and Saturday, I still felt unfulfilled in life and mind. I wasn't stuck in the Doldrums, but the wet, rainy late Autumn weather still reminded me somewhat of my wet and rainy life.

On Saturday any conversation I had I felt like I wasn't really saying anything. That my words poured out in a meaningless babble that instead of sinking into my listener's mind in sincerity just floated around the room. Little bubbles of small talk, preformed phrases and stock ideas that eventually congregated on my living room ceiling. A ceiling full of little bubbles that I knew I could lean over the banister and pop, and little tinny words would leak into the cold air, "Oh, yes, well, that's really what I think, for sure." "We're doing fine, my kids are fine, my blog is fine, my work is fine." "Lydia, stop hitting your sister." "Lydia, be nice to your sister." "Lydia, Elisheva needs a lot of space." All my words would come seeping out again, ready to be collected for further conversations. As I lay on the couch Saturday night and faced my balloons of empty thoughts, I knew that there had to be something more than this.

Then our kids went to sleep, and in a fit of being obedient we read the Doctrine and Covenants together as a couple for the first time in a few days and then we both did our personal scripture study - mine for the first time in over a week. As I read Mosiah 4, it forcefully hit me as a personalized prescription for my life, "As ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God...and humble yourselves, even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith...if you do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God." (taken from Mosiah 4:11-12, italics added).

Right here I had the way that I could not get stuck in the Doldrums of life, not feel as if my thoughts and words float in a meaningless ether. As I read King Benjamin's speech, I became acutely aware of what I had been lacking in this past week; reading my scriptures. Saying truly meaningful prayers. Being repentant and asking for forgiveness on a small, regular basis. When I do all of these things, I don't spend my days waiting for someone, something to pull me out of my self began funk. Not depression, just the blahs. That I can always rejoice in my life. Always rejoice! What a promise.

It never ceases to amaze how many times in my life I have felt out of control, or upset, or lost in what I'm doing, and then something catches me, makes me take notice, and I realize that once again I have not been diligent in my daily oblations, my regular spiritual nourishings. I can't quite pinpoint why spending fifteen minutes reading about people who lived thousands of years ago and silently praying to a deity whom I have never seen (although I know exists) can provide the center, the inner calm and happiness that I need. Truthfully, I can pinpoint the reason - just to Wordly ideas it's too simplistic.

Every day, reconnecting to God through scripture study and prayer centers me in what's most important, in why I am a mother, why I am a latter-day saint, who I am, where I come from, and where I'm going after this life. It helps me to always remember Jesus Christ and to be a witness of Him, and hence to fulfill my baptismal covenants. It blesses me with the Spirit in my mind, so that I have greater (and much needed ) patience with Lydia, so I don't snap at her in frustration. It provides me with the motivation to do nice things for Avram and my girls; to clean and cook to provide a pleasant, calm retreat from the world. And ultimately more than any other "me time" it refreshes my soul. And so such seemingly simplistic actions do pave the way for me to always rejoice.

After I read this? I looked up at the ceiling - and all my empty ideas and thoughts no longer plagued me. I did, and do have something to say, something to rejoice over. And this Sunday has been the best one I've had in a long time. What more can I say? - I love this Gospel, I love being a Latter-day Saint. And mostly I love the Atonement, which allows me to repent and rededicate my life to righteousness - as many times as I need to.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I love Electronic Babysitting

Today while Avram and I cooked dinner (venison steak and mushroom meat pie. Trust me, we don't normally eat good food all the time - it's just that I don't mention the countless days we have burritos or spaghetti) we popped on a DVD of Max and Ruby episodes, a Nick Jr. television show based on Rosemary Weller's books. Lydia before that was "helping" me make pie crust - which is not something a two and a half year old can help with without driving her poor mother crazy. So we had to get her out of the kitchen, and fast, before she tried to help Avram braise the venison at the hot stove.

Lydia, bless her heart, went and faithfully watched several episodes of Max and Ruby whilst Avram and I finished up dinner preparations.

Which brings me to my whole point, which is that I have to laugh when ever I read/hear that as part of good parenting I shouldn't use the television (or laptop and DVD) as an electronic babysitter for my children. Instead I should watch shows with them, and interact about the decisions the character's make, the bright colors, counting and whatnot.


I exclusively use TV/DVDs as a means of babysitting - when Lydia's sick and can't do anything else, when I'm cooking with something she can't be around for, or when I have to nurse Elisheva down for a nap, and Lydia is constantly doing things like talking loudly or screaming in Elisheva's ears.

When I'm free enough to pay attention to Lydia, which is most of the time, I wouldn't use that time for TV anyway; there are a lot more fun and valuable time-using things we can be doing, like drawing all over my belongings, or throwing our little pumpkins we picked around the living room, like they're balls (and yet after a month of this they haven't gone bad yet....).

I'm grateful for TV's ability to "electronically babysit." It means don't worry about Lydia burning herself with dinner, or sitting on Avram while he's doing homework and I'm taking care of Elisheva. Of course, she only gets to watch DVDs like this once or twice a week, and not several times a day.

But when I do hear the strains of "Max and Ruby, Rub and Max!" floating through the air as I finally am able to finish the pie crust, I say a little prayer of thanks for DVDs, and once again wonder how parents who always watch TV with their kids to help them be stimulated ever get anything done.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm feeling much better now. I realized that I had Visiting Teachers coming at 2:30 so I couldn't loll around any more; I quickly ran to the library, and then came back and picked up the living room. And then I made a yummy dinner; Acorn Squash with sausage patties in the center, brown rice with carmelized red onions spooned over top, steamed cauliflower, and a cream cheese and artichoke heart baked dip.

When I describe my meals like I'm a restaurant, it makes me feel so industrious and gourmet, instead of a housewife slopping some grub in front of my kin. While the food was cooking I even washed the dishes. I know, I'm amazing.

Anywho, so now since I actually did something, I feel a lot better. Funny how that works. (Although I do distinctly think that a toblerone bar would also raise spirits; don't feel bad it's not here yet. All the more anticipation on my part.)

Hi-ho-hum. The Doldrums.

I've hit the Doldrums. The place in life where I'll be going along great, filled with purpose and meaning and accomplishing all sorts of creative/housekeeping tasks. Then suddenly I wake up one day, and I can't seem to get it together to wash the breakfast dishes, and I really aught to go to the library and return an overdue movie, and I'm mildly dissatisfied with all I do, and then I realize that soon passive voice will creep into my life because I am just a bump to be acted upon. And it's gray outside, and I'm gray in my heart. And I'm in the Doldrums.

No, nothing bad has actually happened to me. My house is clean (except the dirty breakfast dishes. And the number Lydia has done one this living room over the last two days of my doldrumness.) I just. I just... need something. Or feel like I need something, or someone. Maybe because it's November, and my favorite season is basically ended. Maybe because I thought I was going to babysit three days this week and I ended up babysitting none, and although I was glad to be home, I still got set off kilter. Maybe because I'm lame.

I want to write happy, up-beat posts, like about how my family doesn't eat cold cereal anymore (for over a month!), but instead has either oatmeal or homemade whole wheat muffins (with no oil) or another whole grain breakfast every morning. I want to post cute stories about Elisheva and her almost crawling and Lydia and her cute speeches that come out of nowhere, like her recent one about bees coming and killing animals and the animals died. I want... I want....

I think that's the problem; usually when I want things I end up thinking that it's someone else's responsibility to make me feel happy and fulfilled in life, instead of my own responsibility. Really I aught to just buck up and feed Lydia and I lunch and go to the library and pick up my living room and do my dishes. Then I should plan something creative to do, and then I should smile some more.

Hmm, it all sounds so active. It's easier to just be passive and lame and in the Doldrums.

And now we've come full circle back to the beginning. Read. Sigh. Repeat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken Cordon Bleu

We had the Sister Missionaries over yesterday for dinner. I made Chicken Cordon Bleu with a mustard cream bechamel (okay, that's just french for a white sauce, but sometimes I like to pretend I'm fancy and Julia Child), with a red potato mash and haricot vert (the skinny green beans, so they're too sold under a french name), along with a salad and tangy buttermilk ranch dressing. Of course, I made the real, fancy kind, where you pound out the chicken breasts flat and then roll them up around Swiss cheese and a slice of ham.

While rolling up these little bundles of meat and cheese yumminess, I realized that we had no toothpicks to actually keep them closed. Avram had the genius idea of using metal sewing pins, and then pulling them out before serving. I quickly fetched my handy sewing tomato pincushion, extracted 8 pins and stuck them through the edges of the four chicken cordon bleus. Then we dredged them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs (yes, in that order; the recipe said so.) By this point for the life of me I couldn't make out any pins, so we decided to pull them out after cooking, and went ahead and stuck them in the oven.

Fast forward an hour.

The four of us plus Lydia are sitting around the table, halfway into our Chicken Cordon Bleus when Avram suddenly exclaims, "The pins!" We had completely forgotten about them. The two sister missionaries found their respective pins and pulled them out, and Avram did as well. I couldn't find mine, though. We looked and looked, and I slowly ate the rest of my Cordon Bleu, but to no avail. The pins were gone forever, and we knew where they had gone, too.

I spent the rest of the night swallowing convulsively, emotionally feeling, if not physically, the pins that were stuck in my throat. I definitely swallowed them, which was embarrassing if nothing else, since apparently I eat like I'm Godzilla and don't chew my food.

They lengths I go through to give the sister missionaries who go stateside weird stories about food to take home from their missions.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Please Rescue Me From My Craftiness!

A few weeks ago I almost wrote a blog post, but then in the never ending circle of life which mostly consists of me never actually blogging about the cool things I do (like going to the zoo this week, and then again to Culver's. Man, I love that place. Plus I went to Costco, and had about twenty samples. Don't try and convince me there's a better activity than free samples) it lost its timeliness. Now, I need to comment on the unwritten post, so first I shall, like the daring archaeologist, recreate the original post out of the tiny ostraca of my mind (hey, I'm reading Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, which is another absolutely amazing book that I've missed my whole life, and so like the author I like to make ludicrous metaphors because it's fun). Hopefully I'll do a better job at it than Howard Carson of Motel of Mysteries (another amazing book, written by David Macaulay, and one which you should have read...yesterday, right after you finished Wives and Daughters.) Okay, okay, enough obscure literary references. For one thing, at what point does a literary allusion transition from an educated shared reference to a obtuse in-joke that detracts from my writing instead of subtly enriching the text with varied levels of meaning?

Original Post, Potentially Called in My Mind, "My Middle Name is Martha Stewart."
I'm really Martha Stewart. Come along with me throughout my day, and I'll show you.

First we went to Goodwill, where I bought among other frames three incredibly tarnished silver plated frames. I knew with a trick my brother in law Samuel showed me, I could brighten them right up in a jiffy (Does Martha Stewart use words like "jiffy?" I wouldn't know because the most I know about her is her homeline at Kmart or Shopko, I can't remember which, and the fact that she went to white collar prison for fraud or something. I've never actually seen her in action.) Then we went to Walmart (Mmm, maybe I should have named this post something different. I don't think Martha would go to Walmart either. Kmart or Shopko, definitely. After all, she would shop where her own line was produced, right? Right?) and I bought turquoise paint to finish a home project which I'll explain more about shortly, and then I realized we didn't have time to make it home in time for cooking the original plans for dinner, so we decided to buy the ingredients to invent our own blond chili to prepare for a chili cook-off for our Ward Halloween Party. Neither of us had ever made a blond chili, and I had never even eaten one, but had always wanted to, which practically qualifies me to invent one. That and my middle name is Martha Stewart.

We ended up making a Cannellini Chipotle Chicken Chili, with a cilantro and creme fraiche infusion and fresh jalepeno infusion. (okay, it was really sour cream dumped in at the end, but I'm being fancy here. While we're at it, the canellini beans were canned, and they were really great northern's). We even reconstituted the chipotle ourselves from its dried state. And it was a very good chili.

Then I spent the evening making a paste of baking soda and water (don't tell Martha it was my spit, because I was too lazy to go into the kitchen) and rubbing all the tarnish off my silver picture frames. Once finished I placed professional pictures (on postcards at one Euro apiece) of three statues in the Louvre from my visit there this past March, and hung them on my wall (which about killed me and I broke one of the glass fronts of the picture with Psyche and Eros and Avram kept on asking me why I was putting myself through this and I kept yelling that I was being creative, like Elder Uchdorf had told me to (this was shortly after the Relief Society Session), and that was a pretty good trump card if I do say so myself. So I kept on keeping on until they all stayed on the wall [being made for only standing upright on a table or something they had no hanging apparatus on the back.]) I also hung another picture by inserting it in front of another professionally matted and hung picture frame, since I couldn't get the original picture out.

Yes, I'm practically this close to Martha Stewart, and will become even closer when I paint the six wooden chairs I bought from Ikea and painfully assembled with Avram and Lydia - I'm going to primer and then paint them with the turquoise paint I bought, and I will be amazing.

Okay, back to regular post.
Over a month later, I still have yet to finish this accursed painted chairs project. I hate painted chairs, and I'm fairly sure they hate me. And I'm officially rescinding my "Martha Stewart" middle name and going back to good old Florence. For one thing, I thought that if I bought the absolutely cheapest chairs at Ikea and then painted them, this would be a good project and they would look personalized and great and everyone would love me.

The reality; when you spend only $20 a chair for an un-assembled chair, you get what you pay for. Avram's dad ended up buying us wood glue because the chairs were so potentially rickety and the wood glue will at least keep them together longer than the few screws alone. And they're made of pine. I have nothing against pine as a furniture wood, although Avram always prefers a hardwood, but these are the softest, softest pine, and practically look like balsawood.

Regardless, since I bought the chairs in a different state than I opened the boxes in (although I should have known that the put together and finished chair with the cute little tied on cushion I saw in the showroom in Ikea would not be truly indicative of what a couple stacks of soft unfinished shaped pine boards on my lonesome kitchen table would be) and since I never like to give up when I make a stupid decision and instead prefer to plough ahead until truly all hope has run home to its mother, I insisted that once we assembled and painted the chairs all would be right with the world. So put them together we did, and although several of the chairs wobble a little straight off, compliments of the high paid efforts of the assemblers (Avram, Thora and Lydia Shannon) we had accomplished on large goal; something to sit on.

Accomplishing the painting has not come together so easily. I found out you need to primer the chairs, so I bought primer and did so to a couple of the chairs. Then I painted one coat of turquoise paint to three of the chairs over a few day period. Then I read the paint can, where it told me that the paint would dry in 24 hours, but that you could not clean it for one to two weeks. Anyone who has a two year old daughter knows that her kitchen chair needs to be cleaned three times a day, and within a two week period should have been cleaned a total of 42 times. I let them sit apart for a few days, but soon laziness and the fact that we only have six chairs for our kitchen, and these are the same six chairs that I'm painting took over and Lydia began sitting on one of the turquoise chairs. Fast forward a week, when I notice that the chair is irredeemably dirty, and when I try and wipe it off the paint comes too. So....we apply a second coat of paint, after first cleaning them off, and then the next day primer and paint a fourth chair with two coats of paint.

Then we only have two kitchen chairs (plus a desk chair) to sit on for the next two weeks as I alternately move the unsittable-on and useless chairs to different areas around the kitchen, where they have equal opportunity to be in everyone's way. During this time we have guests over, and get to eat in the living room, since our chairs are still out of commission.

I also meanwhile check out books on painting projects, and get the idea into my head that I need to stencil the chairs as well as varnish them to protect the paint job. We go to walmart and buy the varnish, only to find out at the checkout that it's $14.00 for two cups worth. A few days later we return the varnish, and the paint woman assures me that since I used semi-gloss paint I shouldn't need to protect the paint, because varnish is included in the paint.

We also go to Jo-anne's, where Avram waits in the car with our sleeping girls while I quickly run in to buy a stencil and paintbrush. Forty five minutes later he meets me at the checkout of Jo-anne's with both girls, who have been awake for ages. (Hey, it was the after Halloween sale, and I realized I have the soul of kitsch as I wandered the isles looking at pre-made felt cut banners and plastic decor. It took me a good half hour to tear myself away without buying the store out; so help me Martha I love kitsch!).

I stencil the first chair, and then leave the stenciling equipment (stencils and paintbrushes) on a dish towel on the stove to stay out of the way. Three days later when Avram cleans the kitchen he picks the stencils up and realize the heat of the stove has melted them together. I decide to try and use it anyway, and stencil one chair that looks like a drunk monkey was the artistic talent behind it. I also forget to rinse out the brushes after I'm done, and so the paint dries on them (I have no mineral spirits).

Meanwhile I have allowed us to sit on the chairs, since the requisite two weeks have passed. On the (only) stenciled chair I notice that the base of it has about a two inch swath of paint rubbed off, and you can see the white underneath. Protective varnish included my mother's maiden aunt!

At this point, I decide to chuck my chairs out of my kitchen window and have a good cry. Okay, not really, but I am decidedly less excited about any future crafty project in the future. The next morning at breakfast Avram notices that Lydia's thumbnail is blue - from all the scraped off paint lodged in it.

I realize that a two-year-old's destructive powers on a poor defenseless chair are mightier than any protective action I can give. Avram helps me by saying that Lydia was just trying to help our chairs look popular today by giving it the ageing "pre-stressed" look.

On Friday we go back to Jo-anne's and Avram runs in this time and re-buys the same stencil.

As of today there are still two completely unpainted chairs, one chair that needs another two coats (at least where Lydia de-stressed it), and only one and a half chairs have been stenciled. And I still have no way of protecting the chairs from the paint all coming off when I'm done.

I tell you, I thought that I could be crafty, but this project is killing me. The hardest part is thinking that it's all for naught anyway since my children will destroy them two weeks after they're done. So do yourself a favor. Don't ever try and be like Martha Stewart. Buy everything pre-made. Except for felt kitsch, that is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shrodinger's Funeral Home

Next to our library is a funeral home called, "Shoedinger's Funeral Home." Every time I see the sign, I (accidentally) read it as, "Shrodinger's Funeral Home." And then, every single time, I have to ask myself, "So do you not know whether your loved one is alive or dead until you look in their casket?"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In Which the Enjoyment of a Book Comes About

I "finished" Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell today. I couldn't actually finish the book, because Gaskell had the misfortune to up and die before she finished writing the book. The audacity!(Footnote one) It's almost to the end - far enough to know what the end will be, but not where everything has worked out yet, so I'm left emotionally hanging, not narratively hanging. Although since this book is character driven, and not plot driven, I've always known how it was going to end. I've enjoyed it so much because of its gentle, unhurried, and so all the more rich and detailed descriptions of day to day life, interactions, and the growth (or not) of characters in the book. And that there is no cure for.(Footnote Two.)

I am going to watch the miniseries next week with Carrie, who also gave me the book for my birthday, and they ended it, so I'll have some resolution at least.

Anytime after I read a book from yore, I always go through life mentally describing my life, surroundings and speech in a Victorian flavor. Yesterday Avram spoke to me on a subject, and I shortly answered back, and then in my head narrated out in proper 19th century Literary style how I kept part of my answer back, and this lack would grow between us, a foreshadowing of...and then I mentally laughed, and said what I hadn't said before. The entire day I mentally thought Victorianese. I love it. I wish I could reproduce it at will on my blog.

My favorite time period for literature is the Victorian age (and the regency period). I love Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and (some) Dickens. A couple of years ago my friend RoseE mentioned an author, Elizabeth Gaskell and a book she wrote called North and South, about industrialization in England. RoseE raved about the book, but I never got around to reading it until I lived in England myself and focused on British books for the year. Until I began actually reading the book I thought that Gaskell lived in the modern day and wrote historical fiction, but no, it turns out she was a contemporary of Dickens, and wrote six novels (I think) and was quite famous in her time. I loved North and South, and I've loved Wives and Daughters even more.

All of you my readers, I command you now to put down whatever drivel you might be contemplating (or Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire) and immediately pick up some Gaskell.

I don't know how I managed to go 24 years of my life without ever hearing about Gaskell, and 25 without reading her. She's great. She's like Jane Austen, but more real somehow. She includes details like how "fresh" a dress is (how many times its been worn; how "fragrant" it is), and a million and one other more concrete details of life. I hope that literature is undergoing a Gaskell revival, because I'll be right at the front of it.

I should take this literary moment to say that I still am using my list of recent books that I've read that I recommend, but that I hadn't read any books for three months, in between the Wheel of Time series that I finished at the end of June until Elantris, that I read mid October (I wanted to read Wives and Daughters first, but Elantris is shorter. Which is saying something; Elantris was enough of a dog-killer itself). As my mother likes to call me, I'm a book-a-holic, and once I start a book, come hell or high water I'll sit in my rescue boat with my couple worldly possessions and my two daughters - and my book, which I'll still be reading. In fact today while finishing Wives and Daughters Lydia rolled in a multicolored inkpad while naked and then tore off the paper wrappings from a pile of wool yarn. My sister Tali and I (sort of, on her side at least) had a game growing up where she would see how much she could do to me/how outrageous she had to be before I would notice her or break off reading to look at her. I've stayed up all night on numerous occasions to finish books all in one sitting, and I've read entire series that most decent people spend months on in a matter of a week or two.

However, I am also a wife, a mother and a homemaker, not to mention now a babysitter (I'll be working Monday through Wednesday for the rest of the month), and alas, the foregoing exploits in the land of fiction are not conducive to a well kept, or even a badly kept, home. Children must be dressed, diapers must be changed, food must be made, and the living room and kitchen must at least be pretended to clean.

So currently in my life I tend to feast or famine on books, because as long as I'm not reading, I'm okay. I can go a long time without beginning any books; it's just once I've begun that I can't stop. I thing that blogging also takes up some previous reading time, because since I can only read up to what people have written thus far, I also can't stay up all night to finish it. Unless I go back and read a blog from its induction. Which I may have done a couple of times. Ahem. Someday I have a goal of being able to pick up a novel, read for a couple of chapters, and then put it down again and be productive. Until that time, expect my recommended reads to grow in fits and starts.

Footnote One: Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, also up and died on me, without finishing the final book of his twelve book series. The nerve. Luckily it's being finished by Brandon Sanderson, who wrote Elantris, which said book I read and thoroughly enjoyed, so all is well.

Footnote Two: If I were my friend RoseE I would finish the book anyway by writing it myself as fanfiction. RoseE, I commission you to finish Wives and Daughters. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Brain Is Going to Explode from Being a Good Citizen and a Babysitter

It's almost ten at night, and I've spent hours and hours looking at candidates. Not the national ones - no, the 25 other ones that I have to vote on. I didn't realize there were so many offices being voted on. It's like all those dreams I've had where I find out that I have to take a final for a class I didn't know I was enrolled in. Of course in the dream I've never attended any lectures, and haven't the faintest clue what the test is even talking about. As an official two month resident of Ohio, I've spent all night long trying to determine the history, background, platforms, voting history, etc, etc, for over fifty candidates.

Did I mention that I also have to get up at 5:45 tomorrow morning, and that I woke up at 5:00 this morning, because I got a babysitting job for a family in my ward part time, and for this week at least it starts early? And that I worked 10 1/2 hours today? While I'm hallucinating at the computer, let me also tell you about the heart stopping moment I had today when I got locked out of the house while two children, Elisheva (thankfully napping) and Elliot, an 18 month year old were inside, and Lydia and Isabella (3) and I were outside. That was fun. Especially because Elliot has a feed tube, and he got distatched from it the second after I became locked out (they have a sun room, and I went out into it to sweep up some dirt Lydia and Isabella had dropped on the floor, when Elliot shut the door behind me, and I hadn't known it was locked because the knob still turned from the inside.) I watched his formula start pooling on the wood floor as visions of expensive lockspmiths and irate parents who fired me on the first day floated through my head. After running all around the house looking for loose windows or screens and praying fervently for help, I ended up knocking on neighbor's doors until one came out and let me use her phone and phonebook.

I realized at this point that I didn't actually know who to call - I don't have any local phone numbers memorized (next step in life; memorize the Mother's cell phone number). I looked up a member of the ward, Marci, who lives the next street over, and thankfully her number was listed, and she's a stay at home mom, and she answered the phone (she almost didn't because there have been so many political calls today). I was on the verge of tears at this point, and she calmly helped me by giving me Michelle's (The mom's) phone number, and then she volunteered to come over for moral support.

I then called Michelle, who thankfully answered the phone, although she's an airline stewardess, and so isn't always available. She wasn't upset at me at all, and instead sympathized; she had once been locked out at had to call the police department to get back in. She told me of a hidden key, and with her help on the phone I found it, and got back inside. Where I have never been so happy to be in my life. I think the essence of true despair is looking through a door into a house you're locked out from with two unsupervised children that you're responsible for and who are too young to help you get back in, not to mention be left alone at all.

Marci still came over, and after being locked out for about 20 minutes I still appreciated the moral support, even after being back inside. And otherwise the first day went well. Besides the potty accident Isabella had. And the teething diarhea of Elliot. And the fact that he cried a lot because he doesn't know me. And Isabella and Lydia's sharing issues.....

Okay, so it was like the first day of most jobs; kind of frantic and crazy, because you're just getting settled in. On the plus side, I only work part time (a couple to three days a week), which I find I need so I can re-energize at home. And when I finally do have four kids of my own it'll be old news on how to manage a home with that many (the secret is pretending you know what you're doing, and maybe eventually you'll convince even yourself). And I really like the children I'm watching.

I think that the childcare workers of the word deserve a medal, because it's all underpaid. I don't think you could pay childcare workers enough, because it's like being a mom, only for other kids, and you can't quantify being a surrogate care giver with the love and the diapers and the despair (when you think Elliot pulled his tube feed out) and the joy (when he didn't). Okay, you can quantify the diapers - there were many. I for one know that one reason being a Mom is such a great job is that you can't think to yourself; I'm getting paid this much for what I do. It's all from the heart. And babysitting is from the heart too, because for what babysitters make, if it were about the money, I'd dump my kids in babysitting and get a "real" job. But I love keeping my girls with me. And I love having only a part time job.

Okay, must go and look for obscure websites for the remaining candidates.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Just Call me "Boss" Tweed

I never thought I'd talk politics on my blog. Who am I kidding, I'm still not talking politics, I'm just talking about me (with tiny bits of periphery politics as it applies to my self centered life.)

The sad truth is, after we've both spent hours looking at the candidates and the issues (Footnote One), Avram is voting for one presidential candidate, and I am voting for the opposite one. Yes, sad. I have a mixed marriage. One night last week we stayed awake for hours in our bed, "discussing" the issues. The more we "discussed" in a "calm" and "rational" manner, the more that I wanted to never vote again. It's come between me and my husband. Today on the way to church I attempted to buy Avram's vote. Not because I hate his candidate, and can't imagine him president. No, not at all. More that I can't stand that Avram and I are canceling each other's votes out. That's what drives me crazy. So I figured that since Avram isn't actually tied very much to that candidate as much as he is generally tied to that one side of the spectrum, maybe I could buy his vote off. It's not Tammany Hall if you're married, right? Avram says his vote is un-buyable.

I don't know; letting your wife pick the candidate, in exchange for her cleaning the bathroom for two months? Three months? If I could muster myself to be willing, I think he might crack if I bring dishes into the deal. That's the real question; is having who I want for president worth doing all the dishes for a month? I think all of America should do the dishes test. I'm not sure he could trust me to actually keep that promise. I'm not sure I could trust myself to do all those dishes. It would be like all the candidates and Lumiere (for him it's wooing girls), "Promises you don't intend to keep...."

Footnote One: I have nothing against voting for a third party. I myself in a presidential election have done so before (but I can't tell you who it was because then you, like Avram already does, will make fun of me voting for Ralph Nader.) However, when I checked out the third parties, my issues with them were larger than any issues I had with the two major parties and candidates.