A heartfelt bathrobe

I absolutely should not be writing a blog post right now- I should by writing my talk for church tomorrow, or practicing my flute part for the choir program, or changing the sheets on Brigham's bed because he wet it again last night, so I'll try to keep this short.  I was reading the Washington Post online just now while I ate my lunch and I saw this column by Ann Patchet.  I hate all of Ann Patchet's novels that I've read because they have flat characters and unsatisfying plot lines (especially Bel Canto- I think I've never hated the ending to a book more), but her writing is beautiful and I love her memoir, Truth and Beauty.  Anyway, in the article she tells about a Christmas present her father gave her when she was 10 or 12- he read her a short story over the phone.  The reason she loved the present was because it showed her that her father knew her- that even at that young age she wanted to be a writer- and she imagined him reading the story and wanting her to hear it, so that she could learn something about what makes a good story.  The gift was only evidence of the one thing that I think every child wants from their parents- to be seen, and loved for who they really are, and to be given help to become what they envision for themselves.

Those were the thoughts going through my mind at the fabric store this afternoon (I actually hardly ever go there, it's pure coincidence that I mentioned it in my last post!).  I was picking out fleece to make bathrobes for the boys for Christmas.  Marley was crying and trying to dump her bottle out all over the pattern table.  I was getting hungry.  The line at the cutting counter was growing.  Bad Christmas music was playing.  I needed to pick something and get out.  Instead I stood in the fleece aisle for twenty more minutes, putting bolts in my cart, then taking them back out again.  Eric's was easy- there were lots of basketball prints to choose from.  But Brigham was harder- his talents and loves are not so easily captured on a $4.99-per-yard bolt of fabric.  And I wanted his bathrobe to be just as reflective of his personality as Eric's.  In the end I bought some with fire trucks on it, just because I liked the colors.  As long as I show my children by my actions that I see them as they really are- not who I want them or need them to be- and I love them just because they're mine, I don't think the pattern on their bathrobes is going to scar them for life.  Still, I hope that one day I can give each of my children a beautiful gift that is exactly their heart's desire.  One that says- I see who you are and I love you and will always be here to help you to reach for your dreams.


26.2 in 32.0

We spent last weekend in Charlotte, watching Eric run in the Thunder Road Marathon. He had a rough race and didn't meet his time goal, but still felt good about finishing. We got to meet his cousin Eric and his wife, who live in Charlotte the night before the race. Eric and Eric hadn't seen each other in more than twenty years, so that was fun...even though the boys did absolutely nothing the whole night but eat M&M's out of a decorative bowl like it was the first food they'd seen in days.

We stayed with our good family friends Connie and Charlie in their adorable house that I wish I'd gotten a picture of. When I grow up, and have a real house with an actual guest room in it, I want it to be just like Connie's. They even had a second guest room for Eric to sleep in by himself, which was a good thing because Marley decided to wake up at 2:45 A.M. and stay awake almost the whole rest of the night. I had no idea what to do, not being in my own house and not having a yoga ball at my disposal so I just let her bump around the room in the dark, whimpering and fussing.

We woke up at 5 A.M. and headed to the start line in downtown Charlotte. It was 32 degrees...
But apparently no one told this dude...

About the time that he ran by I started losing it. The boys were miserable, and very intent on making sure I knew it. We were at mile 13, standing next to a lovely woman from Minnesota who was there with her young daughters watching her husband run the 4th marathon in his quest to do one in each of the 50 states. She looked exactly like Cameron Diaz and was annoyingly patient with her kids- playing cute games with them to keep them distracted and getting them excited to cheer for their Dad when he ran past. Contrasted with me- shivering, sleep-deprived, snapping at the kids and not looking like Cameron Diaz in any way, shape or form. I think I looked more like this guy...

After spending an hour at mile 13 waiting for Eric, he finally came down the stretch, right on pace but not looking very good. He told me he was struggling, handed me his gloves and ran on. The kids gave half-hearted cheers and then went right back to complaining while I stood in the street staring after him, hoping he would be okay. He sort of has a history with racing and E.M.T.'s, but that's a whole other story.

I had promised the boys we could go inside the convention center for a little while to get warm, so we headed there next, me speed walking with the stroller and them half screaming/ half crying at me because they were so cold. After a few minutes inside I looked at the course map and realized that we didn't have much time to make it to mile 18, where I knew Eric would be looking for us (even though I had told him to remember who he was dealing with and not worry if we weren't where we were supposed to be when we were supposed to be there!). We ran the last few blocks and made it to the course just in time to see a guy in a jester hat run past, which made me think we had missed Eric, since I remembered this guy being behind him at mile 13. We stuck around for a few minutes, but didn't see him so we headed to the finish line.

The race clock said 2:35 when we got there, so we scouted out a place to watch Eric cross the line, not too long after 3:10, we hoped (because we wanted him to do well and a little bit because we were kinda cold:). But he called me when he passed mile 20 to tell me he was way off his pace and I had time to take the kids inside and warm them up. It turns out we had left the mile 18 corner just before he ran by. We ducked into a Baptist church and listened to them rehearsing for their Christmas pageant. When the race clock approached 3:30 we headed back outside to look for Eric. By this time the boys were warmer and happier so they were cheering for all the people who passed by, telling them to hang in there, that they were almost done. Finally Eric came down the stretch, somewhere around 3:40, I think. I was relieved to see that he looked tired and cold, but otherwise okay...

And you gotta love a guy who runs a marathon in his purple Lands End slippers!

We let him recover for a few minutes and then headed back to Connie and Charlie's. On the way home we stopped in Siler City to see my cousins, Janice and Fred. We had a wonderful dinner with them, and the kids were excited to get some early Christmas gifts. By about 8:00, everyone was turning into pumpkins, so we headed home.

I'm so proud of Eric for finishing the race even when he knew he wouldn't reach his goal. I think it was good for the boys to see him competing on a bad day. He usually places in his age group and has even won a few races, so I'm glad they could see an example of good sportsmanship and keeping your perspective when you're disappointed with your performance. Eric told me after the race that as he approached mile 18, he thought about dropping out, but he really liked the race shirt, and he wouldn't feel right wearing it if he didn't finish. Whatever works! Good job sweatheart- we love you!!



“He’s fine, Katie…he’s with his Dad!”  

I nodded from the backseat, on my way to the fabric store with two friends, my first outing away from my newborn son.  I felt silly for worrying about my baby when I’d left him with his own father.  So along with the panic and the guilt, there was vindication when I heard my name being called over the store intercom a half an hour later.  I could already hear the tiny screams as I reached across the cutting counter for the phone.  

I felt like a paramedic arriving on the scene when I walked through the door.  Stand back please…I’ll take it from here.  His face was red and sweaty from crying, his arms and legs moved frantically.  I could feel him melt with relief as I nursed him, the sounds of sucking interrupted periodically by post-crying hiccups.

Years later now, when I ask for a hug goodnight he holds his body rigid and breaks away quickly.  Shaggy bangs cover the eyes that used to gaze so unflinchingly into mine while he nursed.  But we play a game sometimes.  I lock my arms around him and ask for the password as he laughs and squirms.  With each wrong guess I tighten my grip and he laughs harder.  Tonight I drag the game out… “Not that one…wrong…nope, try again!”  Concern flickers in his brother’s eyes.  “I think that’s too tight Mama.” 

“No,” he says through his giggles, “Tighter...tighter.”


In my kitchen RIGHT NOW...

...you won't believe it...is a real-live Duke basketball player.  If your name is Eric (big or small), you fell all over yourself preparing for this major event.  Big Eric hurriedly removed the jumble of shoes, dirty socks and candy cane wrappers from the front porch so it wouldn't look, as he said, "so redneck".  Then he swept the floor and shooed me out of the kitchen where I was in the middle of frosting Christmas cookies.  Little Eric brought in his basketball from the driveway, combed his hair and hopped around saying "Is he here yet?  Is he?".  Brigham and I didn't know what all the fuss was about- I mean the poor kid is just a walk-on who needs help with his Econ final.  I'm more excited about the money, frankly.  But it was kind of fun to see them so excited.  He was very gracious and sweet with the boys- Eric got his ball signed and Brigham offered him a menorah he had made out of tin foil.  

This afternoon we went to the park with our good friends the Alders.  As we were leaving another boy asked Eric and Brigham why they had two mommies.  I laughed as his Dad explained that I was their mommy and the other lady was their friend.  As I drove away I understood his confusion- Carson and McKenzie are just as happy to have me watch them do a trick on the swings as their mom.  My kids will ask Linds to tie their shoe or show her a cool bug.  Our friends are truly like family to us and we are so lucky.  It seems like more and more of you are far away from us, but we think about you all the time...

Eric told me last night that he had gotten a $150 ticket for driving with expired tags.  Which prompted me to think that I am also driving with expired tags (but least mine were good until October- his expired in August!).  "They never sent me anything in the mail about it!" is what I said, which is verbatim what I also said to the police officer when this happened to me a year ago.  When will I learn?  Apparently due to cost-cutting measures, the DMV has decided to just stop sending out registration reminders and leave it up to drivers to remember when their tags expire.  I say that's discrimination against people with bad memories.  It's a MEMORY TAX!!  That is so unfair.


Survival of the merriest

Before recapping our weekend, may I just say that it's taking every ounce of willpower I have not to cut this child's hair in his sleep...

We survived the department Christmas party with our dignity intact- but barely. Basically I spent the whole afternoon rushing and snapping at the children so that we could be on time and actually have a place to sit this year. Honestly, us arriving on time anywhere is cause enough for a party...

THIS boy gave me a heart-attack, though it wasn't his fault...
He needed to go to the bathroom partway through dinner, and it being Eric's Christmas party, I offered to take him. As we approached the bathroom, Marley on my hip, I told Brigham he could just come in the ladies' room with me since I had to go too. A man standing in a nearby group of people interjected to say that he would take Brigham in. He looked sort of offended that I would take a six-year-old boy into the ladies' room. I demured, of COURSE, but he insisted and before I knew it he had taken Brigham into the bathroom. I had no idea what to do, so I turned and ran through the crowd until I found Eric and announced "IneedyouitsanemergencyamantookBrighamintothebathroomcomequickly!!!!" We both trotted as inconspicuously as possible back to the bathroom, which Eric found empty. That's when panic set in. Eric went back through the crowd to look for them and I ran outside, bouncing the poor baby's head all over the place, yelling "BRIGHAM!" I saw two teenage boys that I thought I remembered had been talking to the man. I ran up to them and asked if they'd seen a little boy. They looked at me like I was a crazed lunatic and told me he was inside with their DAD, looking for me. Then they indignantly informed me that he was a Duke professor and a father of three, so I didn't have to worry. I thanked them awkwardly and ran back inside where I imagined Eric was by now standing on top of a table yelling for everyone to help us find our son. Thankfully, he had found Brigham without having to resort to anything that drastic. We still don't know who the man was. When I got back to the table and calmed down I gave Brigham the third degree about whether anyone had touched him ANYWHERE, just in case. I thought about it a lot afterwards and decided three things:

1. Six years old probably is a little too old to be going into the ladies' room.

2. I should have firmly said, "No thank you, I'm not comfortable with that."

3. Had the man still taken Brigham into the bathroom I should have marched in after them rather than running off into the crowd.

Had this whole thing happened in a public place, I'm sure I would have done those things. It was the fact that we were at Eric's school party and I worried about making a bad impression for his sake that made me so confused and panicky. But I still think that man was being TOTALLY inappropriate.

But enough of that...Marley got to wear her Christmas dress to church yesterday! Cindy made it to match her daughters, Jenna and Rachel (the female two-thirds of her triplets). Have you ever seen anything cuter!?

You can just see how proud she is to be with the two big girls.

The baby doll shopping went very well, if you consider coming home with two dolls instead of one a success, which Eric did not. I couldn't decide between one that was a baby, and would simultaneously suck and blink when you put a bottle in its mouth, and another doll that was more of a girl, with long brown hair and long eyelashes. I knew that the girl doll was too big (practically the size of Marley) and too heavy for her to carry around, but I wanted that doll. Anyway, I realized that I could just get the bald baby for Christmas and wait and buy the hair-doll next year or for her birthday, but then I worried- what if the doll company that makes it goes out of business before then? You never know in this economy! So I bought them both. And I even made it back to the school to pick up the kids and then to Eric's concert FIFTEEN whole minutes early. What's happening to me??


My early Christmas present...

All week I've been walking around with a general air of excitement without really knowing why.  I tried to guess- is it the Pitchfork's Christmas concert this Friday, in which I get to see my cute husband sing while wearing a tux?  Nope- love the Pitchforks, and my cute husband, but this event- several hundred people packed into Duke's Gothic reading room- not a single one of them with a small child on his or her lap, let alone THREE, is always more stressful than it is fun.  Last year Brigham fell asleep in his chair next to an elderly woman in a fur coat and peed himself in such quantity that I, sitting two seats away, had to stop breathing through my nose for the rest of the concert.  

No, not that then.  The Economics department Christmas party at the country club?  Um, no.  Last year we arrived a few minutes late to find that every single chair at every single table in the club was taken, so we got our dinners and sat in the chilly lobby, where I proceeded to have to nurse my two-month-old in front of the entering parade of stuffy professors and their fur-coat-and-pearl-earringed wives.  I'm sorry, stuffy professors.  I do thank you for your efforts at educating my husband, but I'm just not looking forward to spending my Saturday evening with you.  Let's see then........

Ahhhh, YES.  This Friday night, before the concert, is the annual parent's night out at the elementary school.  The idea is that we get to leave our kids at the school to watch movies and eat pizza while we moms and dads get a chance to do some Christmas shopping without them in tow.  Since Eric will be doing vocal warm-ups and stuffing his pockets full of ding-dongs (don't ask) at that time, I'll have to do my shopping all by myself.  And there's only one person on my list.  Would you like to guess what I'm going to buy?  A BABY DOLL!

Finally, I get to buy a present for my offspring that doesn't have a scowling mechanical face or the potential to be aimed and fired at my butt while I'm cooking dinner!  It has to be the best baby doll in the whole world.  And I want accessory bottles, one with milk and one with orange juice- the kind you can turn upside down and it looks like they're draining.  And if they still make dolls that poop and pee into a little fake diaper, my daughter will have one!  No, of course my mother didn't deprive me of just such a baby doll under the pretense that it was "tacky."  Why would you think that?

Anyway, needless to say, I am very, very excited for my Friday night.  Even though I have a small suspicion that Marley may at this point be more interested in stuffing the baby in the toilet, or down an air vent than she will be at feeding it a bottle. But we must start them young!  All you moms of girls- any tips on where to find the best baby doll in the whole world?


Paris in the fall

*I should note that all of the amazing photographs from France were taken by my very talented photographer-cousin, Laura.

We spent the second part of our trip to France in Paris.  I'll be honest: saying goodbye to the boat was sort of a happy thing for me.  It was fun, but it would have been much more fun without a crawling infant aboard.  And...with a little more room.  And...a normal toilet and a microwave.  Nonetheless, we turned in the keys and embarked on Death March #2 toward Paris.  I literally almost had my arms snapped off in the metro.  I agree with the French that our health care system is barbaric, but so is their metro system!  Eric literally had to pry the doors open to release my arms.  Anyway, I'm sure we afforded the locals a good laugh with our huge group of people, bumbling ways and periodic shrieks of "WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN!?!?!"  and "WHERE IS GRANDMOTHER?!?!?"  I found that the best strategy for moving through the gates was to feed the children's tickets through for them and then yell "GO, GO, GO!!!" in a loud and urgent voice, while pushing them from behind.  I'm sure we were very entertaining.

We finally made it to our hotel in Paris, which appeared deceptively clean and well-kept...more on this later.  For the moment we were just glad to have normal-sized beds and showers that did not contain toilets.  After doing a little celebration dance, we headed out to see Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, two of my top priority attractions.  The Sainte Chapelle was being cleaned, but even so, it was everything I had always dreamed it would be while sitting in a darkened Art History lecture hall in college. 

We had a Joshua Bell moment in the subway, and after reading this article a few years ago, I insisted that we stop to listen just in case these were world-class musicians.  I'm not sure if that was the case, but they sounded pretty amazing to me...

[The video of this special moment is the reason why it's taken me over a MONTH to publish this post!!  I cannot get it to upload, so you'll have to imagine...violins...cellos...French subway- it was cool.]

The next evening Laura very kindly watched the kids for us while Eric and I went out to dinner.  We rode Velib bikes to the Marais district and searched out the little restaurant where Eric remembered eating incredible chocolate mousse on his earlier trip.  If I hadn't been suffering from post-baby level sleep deprivation at that point I think I could remember more details

One of my favorite days of the whole trip was the day we spent almost entirely in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was right across the street from our hotel.  The first thing we did was to rent a little wooden sailboat for the boys to push around with a stick in the fountain- surprisingly entertaining.  

Then we stumbled upon the sweetest playground you've ever seen.  Little Eric tried to join these two French boys in a game of basketball, but they seemed not to understand...(I'm working on figuring out how to shorten the video so I can post it)...

We substituted hot chocolate for lunch at a little cafe a block away and then returned to the park for pony rides (Brigham was disappointed that he didn't get the odd-looking pony with the big ears- actually a donkey, I think)...
...and a puppet show of which we understood about two words...

Then it was back to the Eiffel tower to see it sparkle close-up, where the boys got caught in a freak mini-monsoon.  Laura, Marley and I were waiting on our dinner at a restaurant a few blocks away when we heard thunder and Laura decided to walk down to the tower and check on the guys, whom we'd left waiting in line.  We thought maybe they would stop letting people go up in the event of thunder or lightening and she wanted to tell them where we were in case they needed to come find us.  A couple minutes after she left the restaurant I noticed that tables and chairs were blowing past my window.  She returned a half an hour later soaked from head to toe, to report that the tower was open for business and she hadn't seen the boys.  Indeed, we found out later that they were up on the second level when the storm hit and had watched the wall of rain come toward and then engulf them.  I think that might have been the highlight of their trip.  Either that or the small snail they found in the subway.  

We returned to the hotel that night happy, but exhausted and excited to be going home the next day.  I curled up in bed and read for a few minutes while Eric checked our flight status in the lobby.  Just as I was falling asleep, I felt something sting my neck and I quickly turned on the light to find a giant bedbug on the sheet.  Well.  After the worst night's sleep of my entire life (and that's saying something), we packed up our stuff and Eric headed down stairs with three sample bedbugs on a napkin, where he got the manager to give us our rooms for free.  It was about this time that we all started to itch.  After a long flight home, during which we entertained ourselves by mentioning our encounter with bedbugs and then observing the panic in people's eyes, my aunt and uncle met us at the airport in Baltimore with a box full of trash bags and a roll of duct tape.  We sealed up everything except our wallets and car keys and a few diapers and drove home, where we faced the task of de-bugging everything.  Anything that could be washed Eric took to the laundromat, and the rest of it we either submerged in soapy water, froze or heated in the oven, including the lap-top, i-pod and cell phones.  I think it's safe to say by now that we're bedbug free, but I can tell you that I will not be staying in a hotel for a very, very long time!

So all in all, we had a great time.  There were a lot of very human moments- some misunderstandings, some tantrums, some sleep-deprivation-induced snapping, but with the passage of a little time, those things seem to have faded, leaving us with lovely memories of smiles and looks of wonder on our kids' faces, incredible sights both grand and quaint, croissants, chocolate and boeuf bourgignon.

*My crafting-talented friend Cindy Lynn is starting an Etsy shop- check it out!


Welcome to France

This picture sums up what it felt like travelling through France with three children.  We were pretty much in a perpetual state of breaking some unspoken rule.  Or spoken, as the case may be.  The funny thing is that Laura and I could not figure out for the life of us what exactly was being prohibited here.  Holding hands with kids?  Kids in general?

We went to France to celebrate my Grandmother's 90th birthday.  We drove to Baltimore on a Saturday to attend her birthday party that night at my Uncle Bill's house.  We dined on crab imperial and baby lamb chops and a giant birthday cake made by my Aunt Rachel that actually had ninety candles on it.  The cake was carried out, all aflame, and the guests began to give tributes.  One man rambled on and on and on until we all thought the smoke detectors would go off before the candles could be blown out.  Little Eric stuck close by my side the whole night, as did Marley,  but Brigham worked the room.  We kept hearing from people about how charming and entertaining they found him.  Lucky us, we get to live with him all the time:).

We caught the 4 o'clock flight to Paris the next day.  The kids did amazingly well on the plane.  The only snag was that they wouldn't let (big) Eric on the plane because he (as usual) wasn't wearing shoes.  It seems that you must be wearing shoes when you board the plane, but you're free to take them off during flight.  (Uh...okay...)  We actually had to have a baggage person dig our bag out from the bowels of the plane so that he could get his flip flops out.  The plane was just about ready to take off and there was a lot of grumbling and evil eyeing directed our way.

We landed in Paris at about 2 A.M. our time and my inner monster- the one that hides inside me and comes out when I don't get enough sleep or food- started to grumble as we navigated the Paris Metro in order to catch a train to the small town of Corbigny.  My brother accurately described this leg of the trip as a death march.  I think his exact words were, "It wouldn't be a vacation with Mama if it didn't include a death march."  My mother possesses the uncanny ability to not eat.  Ever.  Thus we did not stop for food until we reached our departure port late in the afternoon.  Let me just drive that home:  Red-eye to Paris...three children...two metros...two trains...two taxis....no food.  

In Corbigny we settled into what would be our home for the next eight days: a houseboat, that we were to drive up the Nivernais canal to the city of Joigny.  The nice French man from the boat company paced around muttering unintelligible instructions and occasionally doing little pantomimes while Laura and I looked at each other with a mixture of fear and hilarity, and Jeff, who was to be our captain, scrambled to write everything down.  Fortunately, we did comprehend the most important lesson: how to flush the toilets.  It was surprisingly involved...
There was a lot of switch flipping and pumping, so that everyone on the boat was aware when anyone flushed a toilet and would say something like: "Uh oh, Grandmom's dropping bombs again...".

The canal was beautiful.  Along the way we passed through locks, where we had to hop off the boat, tie it up and help the lock keeper open and close the gates to raise or lower the water level.  This is what we saw as we puttered along:

And here is a video of a lock filling up:

It was sort of incredible- the lock keepers lived in these beautiful little cottages with flowers and maybe an apple tree in front, and firewood stacked up against the side of the house.  They would let you through and then drive down to the next one or two locks to open those for you, at which point the next lock keeper down the canal would take over.  I admired the French for staunchly clinging to quaint tradition over efficiency and modernization.  We picked fruit from apple, pear and walnut trees and stopped in all the tiny towns along the way, like this one:

My favorite memory from the boat was on the second morning, when Eric and I snuck off for a 5 mile run that took us through two medieval towns and up a hill to a 12th century church that looked out over the Yonne valley.  I also liked falling asleep at night to the gentle rocking of the boat.  And of course spending time with my wonderful family.  

That concludes installment one of our trip to France...more to come!

*Left to right, top to bottom: Eric, my mom's husband Jeff (the fearless captain), my brother Adam, me, Marley, my Mom, little Eric, my Grandmother (the birthday girl), my cousin Laura, and Brigham.

**Post-edit: I just now realized the irony of writing about how hard it is to live on a student budget and then following it with a post about our two-week trip to France.  I'm thankful for a generous Mom who loves to travel with her family!

Mile 18

Last week I came to the conclusion that if graduate school were a marathon, we would be at mile 18 about now. Year 7 of 9. And that's not counting the two years of undergrad we still had left to do after we got married. Mile 18 is not a good place to be, and here's why: the exhilaration and newness of the race has long since worn off and the soreness and fatigue have settled in, gotten comfortable and decided to stay. You long ago abandoned your dreams of a PR and have downgraded to the more humble goal of just finishing the race. And yet. You still have so far to go! The finish line is still miles and miles away!

This time next year we'll be busy dreaming and planning and jetting off to cities up and down the west coast (oh yes!) to woo and be wooed by prospective universities. But right now that all seems so far away and I'm flat out tired of being in school. I do realize, of course, that there are lots of people in the world who are much worse off than we are, but I also think it's important to acknowledge that supporting a family of five on a graduate student stipend meant for one has been a challenge. Seriously- my food budget is lower than what we would get if we were on food stamps.  Yeah, I don't often keep to my food budget- I'm just saying.

Yesterday we decided we needed to hit an aid station and have a little pep-talk. Sometimes (well, most of the time), during these discussions, I try to appeal to Eric's inner economist by using terms like "investment", "utility" and "consumption smoothing". That's the idea that if you think you're probably going to be earning more in the future, it's cool to borrow a little now to "smooth" out your standard of living.  I really like to consumption smooth. But I also know that the money we borrow now will accrue lots of interest by the time we're able to pay it all back. So we're recommitting ourselves to following a budget and living within our means.  We've kept a budget in the past, but it's always been punctuated by little bursts of spending- budget fatigue, you might call it. No more.  We're in the home stretch and even though we can't quite see the finish line yet, this is our chance to really prove to ourselves what we're capable of.

So, I made a list of my temptations to overspend:

1. groceries
2. eating out

You may notice the absence of clothing. I'm really good at not buying new clothes.  Also, toys for my children. I'm never, ever tempted to buy them stuff that I know I will soon be begging them to pick up and put away. Home decor- this has been a little bit of a challenge in the past, but there isn't a whole lot left to do in our house, so I think I can resist that one.  My problem is is really with food. I really like the way I feel when I eat healthy food and lots of fruits and vegetables. And I like to feel good about feeding my family those things. I also don't love to cook. I don't hate it, but when the weekend rolls around or the fridge is empty, I can be easily persuaded to eat out. Even at inexpensive restaurants, that adds up very fast.

So, the other day I was talking with my friend Becky, who I can only describe by saying that she is a true Home Economist. She relishes creating efficient systems for keeping her house clean and her family well-fed. I got kind of jaded about using systems, because they never seem to work out the way you hope they will and then you feel like you've failed. But I noticed that Becky looks at a system as an evolving entity and enjoys experimenting and tweaking things until they work well for her family. Huh! So that's my new goal for fall: GET SYSTEMS. TWEAK SYTEMS AS NEEDED. WHEN SYSTEM DOESN'T WORK, VIEW AS FAILURE OF SYSTEM AND NOT ME. DON'T GIVE UP!!

Since food is my biggest budget-undoer, I'm starting with a cooking system. I've got breakfast and lunch down, but I really need to work on dinner. I have a good number of recipes that we like, are easy to make, not too expensive, etc., but I don't have a unified system for organizing them. They kind of live all over my kitchen, on the internet, and in magazines that I may or may not have thrown out. I feel like if I had a notebook with categories that our family likes, like pasta, rice, salad, soup, eggs, etc., then I wouldn't feel like I never have any ideas for what to make. Like last night we had oatmeal pancakes which were easy, cheap, healthy and yummy, but in the past I would have forgotten all about them when it came time to plan next week's meals and maybe never made them again. So that will be my first system- a recipe system.

Do you have a system that works really well for you family? Please tell me about it- I need all the help I can get!

*That picture was taken like 7 years ago in Forest Park in Portland.  We went running with some of Eric's high school friends and he had them take a picture of us running past- it was really awkward!


Marley's big day

I've been holding off posting because I wanted to write about things in chronological order, which means first I have to post about our trip to France, but I'm still waiting on the pictures from my cousin (Ahem!), so I'm going to go ahead before all these other thoughts get tired of hanging out in my head and decide to leave.  First up: Marley's birthday...

We spent 9 1/2 hours on an airplane together, which was lovely, but not exactly a one year old's dream birthday, so we had a take-two the day after we got home.

Can you tell how utterly exhausted she is in this picture?  I've decided that although we had a wonderful time in France, the physical deprivations of travel are just too much for me right now.  I need sleep, decent food and exercise and I need for my children to have those things. We're on travel hiatus, so if you want to see us, you have to come here!  

Marley took the brunt of it, I'm afraid.  14 days of nothing but bread and chocolate to eat and 6 hours of sleep a night with maybe a one-hour nap here and there really took it's toll on her.  We've been home for a week now and she is still sleeping a solid 13 hours at night and taking 3 1/2 hour naps everyday to make up for it.  

I've been thinking a lot of "this time last year" thoughts as her birthday approached.   Our family is different after one year of Marley-ness.  Busier, messier, sleepier, gentler, slower, pinker, funnier and, of course, bigger.  I got in the car the other day after Eric had been driving it with the kids and I had to smile.  We just moved Marley to her forward-facing seat, and the rear-view mirror was tilted down, so that I could tell he had been sneaking peeks at her while he was driving- something I've been doing too.  I love those moments when you feel like two peas in a parenting pod.  

I told him that when Marley started crawling a few months ago it was like my nose hopping off my face and turning to look at me from across the room.  I was so used to always having her in my arms that it felt strange and different to see her at a distance.  She still likes to be held and will rest her head on my shoulder and twirl my hair in her one hand- oh I love that.  Her hair is getting darker and thicker and already I'm circling, ready to pounce with the bows and barrettes, if she'll only have pity on me and leave them in for more than two seconds.

She's a climber- I'm sure she'll outgrow the crib soon, unlike little Eric, who stayed in his crib until he was 3 1/2.  One day his friend Tucker was over and unwittingly demonstrated for him how to climb out of it.  I thought for sure the crib days were through, but you know what he did?  After that, if there was something he wanted, he would climb out, get it and climb right back in!  Marley is cut from a different cloth, and I can already tell that she will be hard to contain, in every way.  Yesterday, at her one-year-old check-up, she had to get her finger pricked.  The part that evoked a sustained, 90 second, ear-splitting scream was not the prick but the fact that the nurse would not let go of her finger.  

Bella-girl, you are beautiful and bright and strong.  I promise to always try to be your rock but not your cage.  Already I can see our differences, but I hope that we can use them to teach each other.  You have already taught me so much in one short year.  Happy birthday sweet baby.


This month's visiting teaching lesson:

I have to start this post by saying that I've always been blessed with amazing visiting teaching companions who teach me so much about so many different things. I met my current companion in the bathroom at church just after we moved here. She told me right up front that she hadn't been visiting teaching in over four years. She had a good excuse though- she's a mother of triplets, plus three other kids. I don't know how I got to be the lucky one who was assigned to her when visiting teaching became a possibility in her life again, but we have had a lot of fun together over the past four years (and nobody had better try to break us up!).

This morning we had an appointment to visit one of our sisters. Cindy was coming from a physical therapy appointment at the other end of town. I dropped the boys off at her place so they could play with her kids while her husband worked from home, then drove to meet her at Jackie's. Sometime after I arrived (as I was basking in the glow of actually having gotten there first even though I was 20 minutes late!), the phone rang. It was Cindy, and she had just gotten out of her appointment and was not going to make it in time. I heard through the receiver, "So enjoy your visit with Katie!" and then goodbye and that was it. Jackie and I had a great visit, and then I went to pick my kids up at Cindy's, where she was just arriving home. I couldn't help but notice how un-bothered she was that she had missed the appointment. I knew that if I had been in her position I would have berated myself for HALF THE DAY. But not Cindy- her appointment had run late, and she seemed to understand that it was physically impossible for her to be in two places at once, so she called to let it be known and left it at that. And it really wasn't a big deal at all! Like I said, we had a great visit without her and all was well. The sky didn't fall, we didn't say terrible things about her behind her back, and the Church is apparently still functioning. So that was my visiting teaching lesson this month: you can't be in two places at once, life goes on even when you can't make it, and there's no need to beat yourself up over little things that are just not your fault. Beautiful.

*Cindy- How can it be that I have not a single picture of us to go with this post!?


I carried a watermelon

I thought I would take the very sad occasion of Patrick Swayze's death to blog about my obsession with the movie Dirty Dancing.  It always has been and always will be my favorite movie of all time.  When I was younger, my friend Christina's mom taped it off HBO and edited out the commercials and the racy parts so that we could watch it over and over and over again in each other's living rooms.  We knew all the lines:

"Look, spaghetti arms!  This is my dance space, this is yours."
"Go back to your playpen- Baby."
"Where is my beige, irridescent lipstick!?"
"If you love me, you have to love all the things about me."
"Me?  I'm scared of everything!  I'm scared of what I saw, of what I did.  Of who I am.  And most of all, I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling, the rest of my whole life, the way I feel when I'm with you."

and the classic...

"Nobody puts baby in the corner."

Christina and I practiced the lift on our sofa cushions.  Oh we SO did!  The lift has to be the best moment in all of moviedom.  Both the lake scene and the final scene.  And oh, when she misses it when they do the Shelldrake and she does that funny thing with her thumbs!!  And the soundtrack- don't even get me started.  I'll just say that Hungry Eyes is a very integral part of my running mix.  I think I may have to watch it again, you know, out of respect for Patrick Swayze and all....


My personal hymn looker-upper

In Relief Society yesterday the opening hymn was Love at Home.  I always feel a little self-conscious when we sing well-known hymns since most people who've grown up in the Church know them by heart and I usually still need a little help from the hymn book.  When the singing started I had to peek over the bench at someone else's book to find out the page number (What?  Listen when they announce the hymn number and turn to it right away?  Huh?).  I started to think about my friend Eva, who always used to flip my hymn book to the right page for me when I was brand-new to the Church.  Even when the number wasn't announced, she knew every single one by heart.  

We kept singing Love at Home and I kept thinking about Eva and her family.  I thought about the time I had to stop by her house late at night to get something for school the next day.  When I looked past her into the living room, there were her parents and brothers and sisters, all in pajamas and with hair still wet from the shower, reading the Book of Mormon together.  I remember her mom's homemade jam, and how one time they decided to remodel their kitchen, so they checked out videos from the library to learn how to do it themselves.  Who does that!?  And here is a picture of my wedding cake- made by Eva's mom (and I REALLY appreciate her decorating skills now that I have tried my hand at wedding cake baking!)

I was so happy when Marley was born on Eva's birthday.  Her two little girls are so lucky to have her for a mom- someone to teach them, love them and flip their hymn books for them:).  I love you Eva- Happy early birthday!


Fun Facts About Fleas:

1.   An adult flea can live 3 months without "feeding" (on your blood).
2.  NOTHING can kill a baby flea egg.
3.  Baby fleas eat what is called "flea diet", which is adult fleas' poop.
3.  The number of fleas you observe crawling on your dog represents about 5% of the total flea population currently residing in your home.
4.  A diaper pail full of stinky diapers is like a little flea Disney World.

So I took the dog to the vet a few weeks ago.  Several days later I was brushing him and I noticed bugs crawling around in the brushed-off fur.  I had a little freak-out on my front porch.  I still have vivid memories of contracting head lice on a trip to Egypt when I was five.  My mom tried various methods to get rid of them and the only thing that worked was a dip in the Atlantic ocean.  And we can't afford a trip to the beach right now, much as I would love to take one.  I can still see the red handkerchiefed head of the maid who infected us.  I don't think my mom has forgiven her yet- I bet she still remembers her name.  Anyway, because my past trauma centered around lice, and because I had never seen a flea before, I assumed that the bugs were lice.  

An internet search reassured me that canine lice can't be passed to other species, and that all I had to do was bath Mustang with a lice shampoo and that should take care of the problem.  So that's what I did.  Except they came back.  So I bathed him again and they came back again and I bathed him again and they came back AGAIN.  I remembered a story that my grandmother used to tell about when she got head lice in college and they wouldn't go away and someone told her the only thing to do was to shave her head.  I contemplated shaving the dog.  My grandmother told me not to do it because he would be "terribly embarrassed".  That I would have liked to have seen.  But I decided to call the vet first, just to make sure that there wasn't some other, less drastic solution.  The vet said I needed to burn the dog's bedding.  Our bedroom carpet is the dog's bedding.  I am not setting fire to my carpet.

So two nights ago Eric and I were getting into bed and I saw a black speck on the sheet and it hopped.  And I knew then that Mustang did not have canine lice, he had fleas.  About this time I also figured out that the little bug bites all over my legs and tummy were actually flea bites.  

It took the entire afternoon and evening to vacuum every inch of carpet, every baseboard, every piece of upholstered furniture.  Then we sprayed the house and the yard and washed every curtain, towel, sheet and article of clothing not in drawers.  Today I mopped the floors twice and they are still sticky with extract-of-chrysanthamum residue.  It does smell kind of good though.  There are still several loads of laundry to wash, curtains and bedskirts to iron, more vacuuming and possibly another round of spraying ahead.  I'm thinking of buying a special kind of dirt that's made of either crushed up seashells or microscopic freeze-dried plants (depending on which online source you trust) that will kill any more fleas who venture into our yard.  The crushed up seashells/plants make tiny cuts on the fleas' bodies which causes them to leak fluids, get dehydrated, get constipated and die by fecal poisoning (all completely true).  I almost feel bad for them.  No I don't.



A morning prayer-

Me: Heavenly Father, can you please help me to get more sleep?
HF: No, not right now.
Me: Well can you at least help me to find a good under-eye concealer?
HF: Okay, sure.
Me: Thanks.

A bedtime conversation-

Me: What is the DEAL!?!?  Why can't I make a decent chocolate chip cookie for my son's school party?  All the other mothers will think I'm stupid!
Eric: I think you need to relax.  Do you think you're being too perfectionistic?
Me: NO.  I'm not being perfectionistic- it's not even my fault.  It's the universe's fault.


Thanks for the clarification

So I was getting the kids ready for school this morning and Brigham asked me to read him the lunch menu so he could figure out if he wanted to take or buy.  If he hears the words french fries, cheese sticks or "chilled fruit bar", he buys, otherwise, he takes.  Today's choices for entrees were: country-style steak with gravy, and pork chop.  I noticed a little star next to pork chop, so I looked for the footnote to see what it meant.  "Contains pork products".  So glad that Child Nutrition Services could clarify that for me!

Thanks for all the advice on the anesthesia question- it sounds like getting put out is the way to go.  I'm still a little worried about it, mostly because I was assured that one of the medications in the IV will erase my memory of the whole thing.  Why do I need my memory erased if I'm going to be asleep anyway?  That seems strange to me, but oh well.  It sounds preferable to cracking, grinding and sucking, at least.


Adventures in Oral Surgery

Today I went for my pre-wisdom-teeth-removal consultation. I was, of course, running late. I had dropped the kids off at school at nine and planned to stop at the grocery store before the 10:30 appointment. I got sucked into the mouthwash isle on the way to the checkout. Who can tell what to believe? Alcohol-based or Alcohol free? Is it worth the extra 3$ for "nighttime protection"? I stood there imagining a little army of plaque-warriors doing battle in my mouth while I slept. I picked up a 6$ bottle that's supposed to be able to dissolve the "biofilm" of gunk that brushing and flossing alone can disrupt, but not completely eliminate. I put it in my cart. I turned back to the shelf and reconsidered. I heard a crash. I turned around to find the $6 bottle on the ground, gushing clear liquid. Marley was smiling sweetly at the pharmacist, who had witnessed everything. I apologized and asked for some paper towels, and stood awkwardly while he refused to let me help clean up the spill. I was going to be late to the oral surgeon! But I couldn't just walk away while the poor man cleaned up my mess! I had to stand there and "help" by making small talk! By the time I got in the car I had 10 minutes to make it a distance I knew would take me 20.

I arrived at the office 13 mintues late (had to get lost at least once, or I might have an identity crisis). I saw on the door that the doctor's first name was Uday. Not a good omen. The lobby was sort of disturbingly plush- more like a nice hotel lobby than a dentist's office. Hi! So sorry I'm late! No, I didn't print out the paper work online. Mind if I change my baby's stinky diaper on the floor? Can I hold her screaming in my lap while he looks at my teeth? Thanks!

Actually, Uday turned out to be not sadistic at all, and even very nice. And Marley was mostly calm, having already accomplished her morning's mischief. Now I just have to decide whether or not to be put under. All four wisdom teeth are coming out, and I'm told they don't look like they'll present any special challenge. Eight shots or one IV? My hatred for IV's is strong. I'm also kind of scared to be put under, since the only time I've ever seen someone come out of anesthesia was when Brigham had his tonsils out and he was like a posessed demon-child for a good hour afterward. I really don't want Uday to see me that way. I jokingly told him that 8 shots couldn't be worse than giving birth, right? He said that some women have told him they'd rather give birth. Really? Reeeeeeeaaaaally? Have any of you had this done? What did you do and how did you like it?


Dear Brigham,

One day I hope you are cursed with a child who is as stubborn and picky an eater as you are.  I will never forget sitting at the table with your brother while we heard from the bedroom:  spank #1..."Briggie are you going to eat it?"....spank #2..."Now will you eat it Briggie?"....spank #3....it took four spanks to break you.  You have been spanked only a handful of times in your life- all the other times for doing something dangerous to your immediate health and well-being.  We don't like to think of ourselves as spankers, but when your eating repertoire dwindled to about five foods, Daddy felt it was time for drastic measures.  I condoned it, I don't mind saying.  Only because you would not be bribed, bullied or cajoled into eating your dinner.  Spinach feta risotto, I think it was.  That was kind of a mean thing to serve a four-year-old wasn't it?  

Well, your spanking days are, I hope, well behind you and yet you remain a picky eater.  Last night I made Thai roasted eggplant salad.  You sat at the table for an hour and a half.  I sent your brother to sit by you and eat candy corn from a bowl, hoping that would motivate you.  The rest of us went outside to play croquet on the lawn and still you sat.  Finally I allowed you to join us, but there would be no food unless and until you ate your dinner.  You would not touch it.  

Around 5:00 this morning you came into our room and announced, pitifully: "I threw up."  My heart ached a bit when I saw that all you had in your stomach was about a half a cup of slimy green bile.  You slept all morning, finally waking up around 11:00 and demanding gatorade and/or rice milk.  I snagged Marley by the foot as she crawled by on her way to some mischief in the kitchen and we headed to Kroger, where, you said you had seen rice milk many times and you could direct me to the exact isle that housed it.  When we got to the stop light I noticed the "Mexican pupuseria/taqueria/convenience store" on the corner and pulled in.  We purchased some horchata mix and headed home.  

You drank your mexican rice milk slowly, as instructed and then began to do what you always do when you recover from the stomach flu: wax poetic about food.  All kinds of food you would never consider eating if you hadn't just starved for twenty four hours.  Once I was chopping an onion and you asked me for a piece of it.  This morning I vetoed your first five suggestions because we either didn't have them or they didn't exist (like "cheesy cereal").  We finally settled on "fried toast overflowing with butter".  You had one large piece and are now asking for a second. 

Something tells me tonight you'll be back to your old ways, sitting slumped in your chair, mouth clamped, digging in for a long night of negotiations over the amount and composition of your dinner.  But it's been nice to have your alter-ego here for a few hours.  I'm really going to miss him.


Eggwatch ***Updated***

Our chicken eggs are due to hatch today, tomorrow and Thursday. When the boys got home from school just now they checked the incubator to find that three or four have already pecked little holes in their shells. I'll take pictures and keep you posted!

5:49 P.M.-
We took the eggs out of the automatic egg turner and put them on the floor of the incubator so they won't get tangled in the little cups when they hatch. We can hear them cheeping!  Here is what they look like at the moment:

7:19 P.M.-
Chick #1 has hatched!  The boys named him Underdog, because he was the smallest egg and the first to hatch:

7:52 P.M.-
Chick #2 (named Superman/Supergirl) hatched...he/she looks similar to Underdog, only bigger.  Underdog is getting stronger and fluffier by the minute.  They are stumbling around with the remains of their yolks attached to their bums!

5:44 A.M.-
I've been awake for about an hour and a half now.  There is something making weird noises underneath our bedroom window and I could not shake the bizarre feeling that it was one of the chicks.  Finally I got up and they are all (four of them now) fluffy and warm inside the incubator.  I'm a little worried that no more hatched overnight.  Two of the remaining eggs are "pipped", or have little holes in them.  Guess we just have to be patient and wait and see.

12:47 P.M.-
M and I just got home from a friend's house to find that we still only have four chicks.  The two pipped eggs (don't you love that word!) have made very slight progress.  One of them is poking around a little with his beak but he seems very weak.  If he makes it I'm going to name him Pipper.  I'm worried about the rest of them, though I don't know if I should be.  The eggs weren't technically supposed to hatch until tomorrow, but doesn't it seem like if four of them hatched early then the rest should too?  I guess I'll just have to watch and wait and trust in their chikenly wisdom.  I found out what the strange noise was last night.  A cricket.  Not a chicken death-song.  The things we convince ourselves of at 4 in the morning.

2:33 P.M.-
I've been trying to clean my bathroom for the past hour, but haven't gotten very far because I keep stopping to watch the chicks.  Pipper just hatched- he's little, and at first I thought his feet were all balled up (this happened to one of Eric's class' chicks last year and he died after a few days), but I think they're actually okay.  The other chicks are stepping all over him- hopefully that's okay.  And he is gray as all the other ones are!  How will we ever tell them apart?!

8:06 P.M.-
Nine chicks and counting!  One was named Houdini because he escaped from his shell without cracking it all the way in half.  Two others are named Jenna and Rachel, after our triplet friends who came over tonight just in time to see them hatch (while their brother Jared was at Scouts- of course we'll name one after him too).  We have 23 eggs in all.  The hatch rate for chicks is usually 50-75%, from what we hear, but we may get even more than that.  Anyone need a chicken or two?  

8:28 A.M.-
Nineteen chicks and counting....I was serious about that offer.

11:45 A.M-
All but three of the eggs have hatched now, and one more looks like it might hatch today.  They seem to like to hatch in the afternoon and evening.  I'll have to start thinking now about what we're going to do with all of them.  The box we were going to keep them in until they can be outside isn't big enough for this many, but I don't want to give any away until we can tell which ones are hens.  This afternoon we'll take them out of the incubator and start giving them food and water.  I've given up hope of telling them apart, as they're all grey and not a mix of colors like we had last time.  I think I know which one is Underdog, since he has a white bum and two white-tipped wings.  

Why I did not complete my daily household task today:

I have a bad habit of sitting in front of the computer while I eat breakfast and lunch.  I need entertainment while I eat, so if I'm alone, I content myself with email and friends' blogs.  So....I was looking for Megan's blog to see if she had paused in her house hunting in California to update all her broken-hearted friends in North Carolina.  I knew that her blog address was some combination of her and Paul's names, but I had to go through about 4 iterations before hitting upon the correct name-order and nickname usage.  Along the way I found several gems that enhanced my lunch-eating experience greatly:

Failed attempt #1 produced this:


Hi People! Welcome to my site. Guess what, I have a HOTboyfriend named PAUL!! We have been going out for like a month and a half! Me and him have sooooooo much in common :)! 

Failed attempt #2 introduced me to a lovely couple living together in Cincinnati, OH.  They have two pugs and just got pre-approved to buy a house.
At detour #3 I got to check out the details of another couple's recent bathroom remodel.  I noticed a link to the blog of a girl named Keturah, which is a name I've liked ever since I read the book Keturah and Lord Death (which I highly recommend, unless you're squeamish about eyeballs doing things they're not supposed to do, in which case you should skip it).  Anyway, I actually looked up Keturah on wikipedia two nights ago, where I found out that she was one of Abraham's concubines, (some people think that she and Hagar are the same person), which made me not like the name quite so much, but still enough to follow the link on Paul and Megan from Portland's blog to Keturah's blog.  Her cat has diabetes.  She just moved to California.


Someone get me a cocoa-baba

I sat on the couch this morning while I brushed my teeth and looked out the window for the gold Honda Pilot to drive up our street one last time. Eric was taking our dear friends Paul and Megan to the airport for their 12:00 flight to California. Tears were running down my face as I tried to picture life in North Carolina without them. Without Harry coming over to play with the boys while Eric and Paul go running; without dinners at their house that felt so comfortable and warm and sometimes more like home than our own house; without our frequent trips to the beach with Megan always finding the biggest and most beautiful beach house for a steal (or a "still", as she would say), without Harry's ubiquitous cocoa-babas and Eli's little dimples; without my partner in lateness. For three years, we have built the foundations for our families side by side- buying houses and having babies and going to school.

The boys looked at me uncomfortably and Marley squirmed in my arms as I stood in the driveway crying and waving after them. I hate to say goodbye to people I love, though I guess I'm not alone in that. I know that life will be good to them in California. I'll picture them in an exact replica of their North Carolina house, except with a red-tile roof and a palm tree in the yard. Meg, I wanted to print this poem and give it to you before you left, but I never had time, so I'll post it here for you:

On Friendship
Kahlil Gibran

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.


Better than Christmas

Marley is PISSED today. She woke up in a mood. She gave my hair several hard, deliberate yanks while nursing. Then she spit out her oatmeal all over her cute onesie that I had just put her in. (Apparently onesie is not a real word- thank you spell checker.) Anyway, I had even put an extra spoonful of strawberry jam in it! Which only increased its stain power of course. I tried a big old dose of tylenol. I gave her my sunglasses to play with. She threw them on the ground and reached for my ipod which is, amazingly, still functioning after its foray into the toilet. Okay then. Bring it on- horrible, no-good, very bad day- I can take you! Know why? Because I have these:

Did you ever really want something but you knew you couldn't afford it, so you resigned yourself to dreaming about it until your husband finally gets around to finishing grad school? And then, somehow, it fell into your lap completely free of charge and you knew that someone, somewhere, was looking out for you? I've noticed over the past few months what seems like a new trend: regular people are getting amazing family pictures taken and posting them on their blogs for the rest of us to drool over. I mean the kind of pictures that capture the soul of your family. The little looks and the complexity of relationships and the depth of love. Some of us possess such a talent (and such an expensive camera), some of us have husbands and sisters with such a talent (you know who you are!). And some of us have new people move into their ward who are photographers and need to try out locations in their new town and ask if anyone wants a free session. That would be me. Thank you Melissa!!! They are amazing and we will treasure them always!

Marley has tired of my ipod and is reaching for the fish-in-a-bowl that Brigham painstakingly colored and cut out at school yesterday.....I'm afraid it will have to be sacrificed.